March 18, 1997              HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS             Vol. XLIII  No. 4


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin our routine business I would like to welcome to the gallery, on behalf of all members, Mayor Walwin Blackmore from the Town of Grand Falls - Windsor, Deputy Mayor Bob King, Mr. Mike Pinsent, Town Manager of the Town of Grand Falls - Windsor, along with Mayor Oliver Rose from the Town of Bishop's Falls, and Mayor Lloyd Thompson from the Town of Botwood.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair would also like to welcome to the gallery today, thirty-two Level II students from Coaker Academy, in the District of Twillingate - Fogo, accompanied by their teachers, Gerald Peddle, Ann-Marie Dalley, Guidance Councillor, Chaperon Jo-Anne Lilly, and bus driver Danny Rice.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair would like at this time to rule on a point of order that was raised by the hon. Member for Terra Nova on Friday. The point that was raised by the hon. Member for Terra Nova had to deal with an exchange that took place between the hon. Member for Conception Bay South in response to an answer given by the Minister of Health.

The Member for Conception Bay South stated: Mr. Speaker, I really and truly do not believe what I just heard. It is not the courts whose job it is to set the policy for the government, I say to the minister. It is the job of the fifteen Cabinet ministers who sit opposite.

I want to quote Beauchesne, page 149, 491, which says: "The Speaker has consistently ruled that language used in the House should be temperate and worthy of the place in which it is spoken. No language is, by virtue of any list, acceptable or unacceptable. A word which is parliamentary in one context may cause disorder in another context, and therefore be unparliamentary".

It appears, in the context of the remarks that the Member for Conception Bay South made, he did not impute intentional falsehood to the minister. The member's view of how the minister and the Department of Health carried out responsibilities with respect to the Broderick case appears to be different from that of the member, and therefore I rule there was no point of order.

 

Statements by Ministers

 

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, on February 5, 1997, the federal and provincial governments announced the creation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation. One million dollars was invested from the Canada-Newfoundland Agreement on Economic Renewal to spearhead development of this relatively new industry in the Province over the next five years.

The Corporation has been charged with the responsibility to direct the growth of the indigenous film and video industry and to market the Province, both nationally and internationally, as a competitive place for on-location shooting of films and videos.

I am pleased today to inform members of this House of government's appointments to the Board of Directors of this Corporation.

The film industry within Newfoundland and Labrador is organized into three umbrella industry groups. Government sought nominations to the Board from each of these three organizations and has accepted the names brought forward. Ken Pittman will represent the Producers' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (PAN), Jennie Ripley will represent the Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers' Co-operative (NIFCO), and Lisa Porter will represent the Film Crew Association of Newfoundland (FilmCAN). All of these individuals have a distinguished track record in promoting the development of the local film industry.

Robert Joy, who currently resides in New York City but is a native Newfoundlander, will serve on the Board as a member-at-large. Mr. Joy has been involved in both the performing and business aspects of the industry in Canada and the United States, and will bring an external industry perspective to the Board.

The federal and provincial governments will also be represented on the Board by two senior individuals. Edna Hall, Director General of Heritage Canada in Newfoundland and Labrador, will serve on behalf of the federal government. John Scott, Deputy Minister of Development and Rural Renewal, will represent the Province.

The vice-chair will be Katy Binden, Principal of the School of Fine Arts at Memorial University's Corner Brook campus. Ms Binden has brought a strong businesslike approach to the affairs of the School of Fine Arts and possesses a broad-based knowledge of the film industry as a whole.

The chair will be Danny Williams, a well-known lawyer and successful businessperson.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: Mr. Williams is President and CEO of Cable Atlantic.

The Board of Directors has been mandated by Government to be aggressive in its efforts to develop the provincial film industry to its fullest economic potential, and is expected to operate on private sector business principles to achieve this objective.

As a relatively new sector of the provincial economy, the film industry offers exciting new prospects for diversifying the economic base of our Province, attracting new investment, and generating significant new jobs within the private sector for the benefit of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I also wish to inform the House that, members of the Film Development Corporation and I met with a number of key industry players in Los Angeles late last week. The purpose of this mission was to pursue a number of new business opportunities for film production in the Province and to promote the establishment of the Corporation itself.

Contact was made with eight major film production companies, the Los Angeles Film Development Commission, as well as an independent production company based in Los Angeles. Meetings were also held with the Canadian Consulate to make them fully aware of the Province's new approach to development of the film industry and to seek their support and assistance within the Los Angeles area.

This was a very productive mission and reflects the seriousness and commitment which government attaches to this new initiative, as well as its determination to be proactive and aggressive in attracting new investment and economic activity to this Province.

On behalf of Government, I wish to publicly thank the individuals who have accepted to serve on this board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We see in this announcement today the names of some very reputable people within our community however, I have to ask the question, when forming the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, is this a matter of too little too late? Clearly we have seen a track record of many of our producers have been forced to leave Newfoundland and Labrador in the past. We have seen many members of the acting community again being forced to leave our Province and we have to look at where the national standards are here, Mr. Speaker. Where is the national commitment? We see cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation seemingly being endorsed and fostered by the federal government and presumably also endorsed by this government when one listens to the silence coming from this government with respect to those cuts. One has to ask questions as well, Mr. Speaker, where is the infrastructure within our Province to ensure that producers and those within the film industry can adequately perform their task here in Newfoundland and Labrador? I support those individuals, I wish them well however, Mr. Speaker, I truly submit that this is a case of too little too late. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to say without reservation that this announcement today is a very positive one for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. As one who - prior to my entry into politics - has been involved in an attempt to develop feature films in this Province, I know what a great struggle it is. The people who are on the names of this board, particularly those who have been involved in the industry, the Producers Association, the NIFCO group and the film crews, are all very experienced in trying to develop an industry in a Province where the scenery, where the locations, where the creative talent and the imagination is there and now there is an opportunity for the government to be involved in a direct way in supporting this industry. I think the people who have been involved in the development of this corporation regard it as being, the fact that it is being done now, believe that it is being done right because they have had time to look at other operations and I think it is very positive -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: - all of the people who are on the board are very credible people and I wish them every success in the development of the future of films for this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

It gives me great pleasure today to announce an initiative of this government to better provide quality service delivery to clients. The Department of Social Services has committed $175,000 to enhance the staffing component in the Post Adoption Services area. This will serve to eliminate the long waiting list and ensure the delivery of a more timely service to applicants.

The post adoption services provided by the Department of Social Services deliver services to adoptees, birth parents and relatives to adoptees, and adoptive parents. These services include the provision of the person's medical and general information. The Department conducts individual searches to determine the whereabouts of the natural parents and provides counselling to help bring about a successful reunion between birth parents and the child. The process follows four stages which include the registration, summary compilation, individualized searches, and reunification of adoptees and their birth parents.

This program is delivered on a Province-wide basis from St. John's. Currently, the program has a significant waiting list, and we are pleased to be able to provide this service to the many people who have been trying to find their birth parents for many years.

Additional funding is being provided to the Department to eliminate the backlog and the long waiting list for services. We recognize the current waiting period is too long. This initiative is in response to the need to address this very important component of Child Welfare.

The Department expects to erase the waiting list for service requests within one year of positioning the new staff to work on the elimination of the backlog. This will improve service to the many adoptees, birth parents and relatives to adoptees, and adoptive parents, in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and equity.

Finally, if monthly referrals remain relatively stable, then the program will be able to be maintained by the current level of staffing. This initiative should ensure that the future waiting time for post adoption services will be more in keeping with the expectations of people who need these services. Mr. Speaker, this is a positive step to address the long waiting periods encountered by many adoptees seeking reunification with their birth parents.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I commend the minister for her initiatives, however, I have to say what is needed in this Province is an overhaul of the overall adoption procedures. As the minister knows, in the Province of British Columbia they have done just that. With adequate consultation they have made a greater openness about adoption. In fact, the minister should know that of the 50,000 adoptions in British Columbia from 1924 to 1996 only 12,000 people registered a disclosure veto. That tells all of us that people today want to know more about their birth parents, and every child has a right to know the names of his or her parents, in the same way as all the rest of us, if they are adopted.

Mr. Speaker, we want a trend towards greater openness. We thank the minister for that. She did not say whether or not the new procedures will have a price tag attached to them. We do not know whether it is going to cost something for these searches to occur. That was not said, so I assume there is no cost to the individual for the searches.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: By leave?

MR. H. HODDER: By leave for a moment?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, as well, we wanted to say that we want the minister to look at what is happening in other provinces, look at what is happening in Europe, and work towards new adoption regulations and procedures in this Province, and make sure that our adopted children are treated in the same way as all the rest of us are.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Oral Questions

 

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Premier. The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation stated on Friday that the Auditor General's report on Cabot 500 has been turned over to the Minister of Justice for an assessment. We recalled this is the same minister to whom government turned over the Trans City file for an assessment of whether an inquiry was warranted: a blatant conflict of interest for a minister who was in that up to his ears.

Will the Premier assure us that the Cabot file will not go into the same black hole that the Trans City file went into? Will the Premier assure us that this government will order an inquiry to get to the bottom of the administrative mess that led to the abuse and waste of millions of taxpayers' scarce dollars?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, neither the Minister of Justice nor any minister in the Cabinet nor the Premier determines, in the case of an investigation by the Department of Justice, or for that matter, an investigation by the police, whether or not further action is required. That decision is made entirely independent of the government, the Minister of Justice, every member of the Cabinet, and every member of the Legislature and that is the way it is going to stay, no matter what the Leader of the Opposition may suggest to the contrary.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier does not listen very well at all. Your minister said it has gone for an assessment. We did not indicate it is gone for an investigation; it is gone for an assessment to your department. That is your responsibility and your department's responsibility, I say to the Premier. Maybe the Minister of Justice can tell us whether the RCMP is investigating government accountability. Is it investigating breaches of the Public Tender Act? I ask the minister. Since the minister knows full well it is not the RCMP that is responsible for setting and evaluating and correcting government policy and administrative practices, will he immediately order a public inquiry to get to the bottom of this entire Cabot 500 Corporation fiasco?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I do not -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I do not know what the Leader of the Opposition was doing on the weekend, on Friday, but I understand that the RCMP have issued a press release indicating that in fact they are investigating the matter now in question.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Will the Premier confirm, then, that the police are investigating government accountability and whether the Public Tender Act was broken? Is that what I hear the Premier saying?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is not interested, obviously, in seeing that there is a fair and unbiased examination of the facts here. The Leader of the Opposition is interested in trying to play political games with an issue that is being dealt with in the proper way. The fact of the matter is, within a day of the government being made aware of the report of the Auditor General, the matter was referred to the Department of Justice.

AN HON. MEMBER: That was back in November.

PREMIER TOBIN: Back in November. The Department of Justice has referred the matter to the police and the police have announced they are doing an investigation. The proper procedure is being followed.

What is improper is to try to take a matter of justice and a proper investigation and proper accountability and turn it into a political football on the floor of the House of Assembly as some kind of desperate measure to try to raise one's political profile. I say to the Leader of the Opposition, he should take advice from the Justice critic in his own party and allow justice to unfold as it properly should, without favour or fear or interference by any Member of the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is nonsense. The Premier should know by now, it is not the role of the RCMP to question government policy and administrative practices. It is your responsibility, Premier, as the leader of this government, to investigate lack of accountability by your ministers, by ministers of this government, in doing the job they were elected to do. That is not the RCMP's responsibility.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: The Auditor General lays out many reasons why the Public Tender Act was violated. I ask the Premier: Does he realize that if the Corporation was indeed subject to the Public Tender Act, then it broke the laws of this Province? We all know what happened in Trans City, I say to the Premier. I ask him: How are the Premier and the Minister of Justice going to determine whether in fact the Corporation was subject to the Act or whether it was not?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is really stretching it a great deal across the floor of the House. The Leader of the Opposition knows that we are talking about a corporation that went out of existence in 1995. There is no reason for this Premier or this government to stand and be worried about having a proper investigation by the proper authorities into the facts.

The Auditor General has brought forward a report. Instantly the report was brought forward by the Auditor General and the information made available to the Cabinet, the matter was referred to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice has taken the appropriate action, and the RCMP have now said, to the extent it is appropriate, they have an investigation under way. This is into a corporation that disappeared out of operation in 1995.

So I say to the Leader of the Opposition, let the appropriate authorities do their job. Once we see the outcome of that assessment, we will see what if any further action is required by government. In the meantime, the Leader of the Opposition should get on with trying to bring some constructive and responsible opposition and critic's role to the floor of the House of Assembly and stop, in an irresponsible way, playing these kinds of reckless games with the administration of justice in this Province.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Your own minister confirmed in this House on Friday, in case the Premier was not aware, and I notify you, that it is still a legal entity and it has not been dissolved from its legal entity. The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation stated that in the House on Friday, I say to the Premier. Maybe you are a little behind, Premier. Maybe the Premier is a little behind.

Now, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation pretends that the Cabot Corporation for its mandate operated at arm's length from government. That is what the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation indicates, but, Minister, that is not the way it is. I want to ask the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation: Will he confirm that a high-ranking representative of the minister's office was present at each and every meeting of the Cabot Corporation executive and was a voting participant on behalf of government in all decisions regarding expenditures and all other decisions that are now under scrutiny? What assurance can the minister give us that this investigation will go right to the top?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I want the people of the Province to reflect upon the nature of the questions being asked by the Leader of the Opposition. He is asking about an entity that went out of operation in 1995 - went out of operation before the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation was even a member of the House, let alone the Minister of Tourism. This is a matter that was brought to the attention of the government in November and instantly it was referred to the Department of Justice and was referred by the Department of Justice on to the RCMP for their proper deliberation. They have now indicated they are going to investigate some of the matters raised. What is wrong with allowing the RCMP to do their job without having a political debate in the House about the matter in question, Mr. Speaker? Why the Leader of the Opposition finds it necessary to doubt the impartiality of the RCMP or, for that matter, the public prosecutor, to look at this matter in an impartial way, I do not know. I do not know why we would want to have a kangaroo court on the floor of the House of Assembly with the names of all of the members, all of the members of that board, all volunteers, in advance of waiting the outcome of the investigation. I would really ask the Leader of the Opposition to pause and ask himself whether this is responsible representation across the floor of the House.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is not the volunteers that are my concern, I say to the Premier, it is your ministers that are the concern, ministers sitting here in the front benches. The question is about accountability, I say to the Premier, just as the Premier right now is evading accountability to this very question. I ask him: Why do you not put forth a new three-year plan of accountability to parallel your accountability and your budget for the next three years? Will you commit to tabling in this House a three-year parallel plan of accountability that will address the documented concerns that the Auditor General gave in this report?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the concerns that have been raised by the Auditor General is being addressed in the appropriate way, by the appropriate individuals, both the officials of the Department of Justice and, in the case of the need for an investigation, by the RCMP. I do not know what more thorough review, an objective review, could occur than that. Mr. Speaker, if anybody is going to suggest that you are going to have a thorough and objective review across the floor of the House of Assembly with respect to a matter involving justice in this Province, surely they have to be kidding. Now, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, if this government called a Royal Commission of Inquiry every time the Leader of the Opposition called for one, we would have full employment and everybody would be working on Royal Commission of Inquiries in this Province.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If you had had one on Trans City, we would not have wasted hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars trying to fight it at all levels of the court, and that was six years ago when this government and this Minister of Justice -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the Premier, what is he going to do to investigate the report that Bill Hogan, a well-connected Liberal -in fact, I believe a brother-in-law of the former Premier and a former Cabinet colleague of members sitting here in this government - applied for a 1-800 call centre number five weeks before the announcement of a tender call. Now, what is the Premier going to do to weed out the pork barrelling and the nepotism and restore the faith of business and integrity in the Public Tender Act?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker.

If the Leader of the Opposition believes that this is the way to improve his public standing, then I wish him well, but I tell him I doubt very much it will meet with any success whatsoever.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Health. Mr. Minister, how many more pieces of evidence do you need before you acknowledge that the people are suffering because of cuts you have made to systems you were appointed to administer? How could you look people in the eye last night on TV while they are crying out to you for help and tell them their cries are pointless because the system is adequate?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To answer the members question rather concisely, let me say that I have no difficulty in looking him or the people of this Province in the eye. Speaking on the very serious and important issue to all of us, health care, this is a government that has many times said, we have recognized that health care, on behalf of the people of this Province, is the single, most important thing to them, to all of us, at what point we need health care services, and the commitment that we have given as a government to the people of this Province, is that we will put forward the maximum effort humanly and fiscally possible to ensure that there is a sustained health care system in this Province that is there to meet their needs and to respond to the services that they need, at what point they have a difficulty with health care. Health care is important, health care is a priority for the people of the Province of the highest order, and I can assure the hon. member that health care is of the -

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: - highest order priority in terms of public services that this government delivers.

MR. J. BYRNE: Every question has the same answer.

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, I wish the minister would get a -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wish the minister would get a new recording.

The minister says that resources in the health care sector he administers are limited, so what does he say about one of his hospitals delivering significant amounts of medication? Two Fridays ago, in a brown paper bag marked `pharmacy', left it out in the open in a corridor of an apartment building for a gentleman who used to live there. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, the gentleman had not lived in the apartment for the past seven months. Is that what the minister would call appropriate administration of our very limited health care dollars?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I recognize, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. member on the other side of the House who has been appointed by his party to be the health critic for the Province, has a responsibility to bring forward significant concerns, and I look forward to hearing his concerns and to addressing them.

If the hon. member has information that I do not have, that alleges or indicates or otherwise may point to something inappropriate being done in terms of the expenditure of health care dollars, I say to that member, let him bring forward the information to me and this minister, on behalf of this government, will be on the top of the file, at the very moment the information comes to us to ensure that we investigate and if necessary, take remedial or corrective action.

I am not aware of the proposition that he has put forward and so I am not prepared to speak to an hypothesis that may or may not in fact be something that happened or did not happen, but if he wants to put the information forward, he can be assured and he can rest well tonight and sleep very well with the understanding that this government takes it and deals with it in an appropriate manner.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A copy has already been delivered to the Health Care Corporation. The gentleman who wrote the letter, Mr. Minister, and sent it over, when the doctor replied from the Health Care Corporation, just about took this gentleman's head off, because he dared bring it up. This afternoon -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. FRENCH: I will certainly see that you get this information.

The minister may be interested to know that the drugs in question were AIDS medication, expensive medication worth in excess of $1,000. That is not just something to toss on the floor and walk away -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. FRENCH: - it could have been stolen or lost had the superintendent not discovered it.

Mr. Speaker, I ask this minister: When is the minister going to pull his head out of the sand and admit that the cuts he denies he has made to the people's health care system have devastated health care in this Province and are causing needless suffering and grief?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, let me again say to the hon. member that, if he has information that inappropriate expenditures are taking place, that inappropriate dispensing of pharmaceutical products are happening in the health care system or that people who work in the health care system are giving an inappropriate -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: - response to a question that is put forward or to an issue that is raised let him put the information on the table and I will be the first to deal with it through the Health Care Corporation or whatever structure is out there that is responsible for health care. But to the points that he is raising specifically, I cannot deal with information that I am not aware of, I cannot deal with propositions that are laid out in general terms, in generalities, I ask for the information and I assure you that there will be a response.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the deadline for proposals for taking over a provincial park is April 4. Does the minister honestly believe that this gives sufficient time for new operators to put in place an operating plan, to put in place financing, to put in place a staff, and to operate these parks at an acceptable standard for this tourism season which is opening in the very near future?

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, the date is April 4, as of today. The first employee meeting is being held today here in St. John's, and there will be others held in the next couple of days, and we are assessing, with people who are requesting proposals, whether they need more time. We will know by tomorrow if we will extend the date to April 11, but as of today the date stays at April 4.

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

MR. OSBORNE: A very well laid out plan.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OSBORNE: The applause is from the only people who support this in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, on March 7, 1995, twenty-nine parks were closed and offered to private operators. I ask the minister: How many of these parks were actually operated as a business in 1995? And of the operators that actually eventually opened, which were very few, how many of them were actually in a position - or how long did it take them to actually put in place a service that they could offer to the public?

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I could easily get that information for the hon. member. I would have to go back and evaluate and look at each of the records because I think the numbers, the days or the weeks, would be very different for each of them. But if it is information that is of interest to the hon. member, I can certainly get it.

Of interest to my department right now is a very successful privatization of the twenty-one parks. We have received over 450 inquiries, and are working very closely with employees, municipalities, tourism associations, and private operators to ensure that all of these parks are up-and-running for the year that we anticipate ahead of bringing in thousands of extra tourists. We are focusing on the success of the Cabot celebrations, and working with the people of this Province to ensure that this is a banner year, that it will be the most successful year our tourism industry has ever experienced.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister, I was at a meeting last night and people concerned about the privatization of these parks asked me to ask you: Why, if this was a well laid out and methodical plan on your behalf, you did not consult with them, the people of our Province, before you put this plan in place to privatize the parks.

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to my hon. colleague that we have been consulting with the people for one year. All through the pre-Budget consultations we have consulted with people. We have, in all of our parks, an information feedback whereby we ask questions and do surveys, and we have been continuing to do that in the parks all throughout this past year, and we have evaluated every response from the public from both in-Province tourists and non-resident tourists.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a question for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, but in his absence maybe I will direct it to the Premier.

Would the Premier inform the House as to the status of a report commissioned by the federal Minister of Fisheries? The Fishing Industry Renewal Board was to make recommendations to the federal minister on allowable size ranges for replacement fishing vessels. Would the Premier inform the House if this report has been completed and if his minister has received the recommendations?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I cannot give a detailed answer today. I can only tell him that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is indeed looking at all of the recommendations from the so-called Cashin Report, and I know on a broad range of those matters, particularly those involving questions of quality, with respect to questions of establishing a core plant criteria, and also questions surrounding the future of some of the shell fisheries, notably crab, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture will be coming forward in a matter of days to make a more detailed announcement. With respect to the particular

AN HON. MEMBER: Answer the question.

PREMIER TOBIN: I understood the question - with respect to the particular question that the member has raised I am sorry to inform him that I cannot give him a more detailed answer because I do not have the information myself at this time.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Premier, my information tells me that the federal Minister of Fisheries has had this report in his possession since way back in November. That is five months, now. This is ridiculous, and your government remains silent. Will the Premier inform the House if he has been in touch with Minister Mifflin's office regarding this report and what are his recommendations? Here we have fishermen who are trying to get their fishing boats ready to take part in a fishing season that is just about upon us, and up until now they have no idea if they are allowed to replace their boats or if they are allowed to make sizes to them. I ask the Premier is he would respond to that because it is certainly not something that is outside of the normal and not something that is too much to ask?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, on the question which the member is now putting: has the government made representation to the federal government, has the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture made representation to his colleague the federal minister, the answer is absolutely, yes, and we agree entirely with the observation of the member opposite, that the Government of Canada needs to move very soon to clear the air and to allow fishermen to plan this season.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Premier, so you are saying today that you support the fishermen's recommendation that they be allowed to go outside government policy, if you would, and replace their vessels with sizes that they feel their industry can support, that they feel their enterprise can support, and government not interfere in such replacement, whatsoever? Is that what you are saying you recommend?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: No, Mr. Speaker, that is not what I said. What I said was we concurred with the view that if fishermen are going to be ready for this year, and are going to have the appropriate time and notice to be ready for this year, whatever decisions are going to be forthcoming from the federal minister have to be announced very soon to give the fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador a chance to gear up with whatever gear size, or boat size, they are going to be allowed to us.

Mr. Speaker, we are awaiting the decision of the federal minister, and we are urging the federal government to make that decision known without delay.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: I totally agree with you, Mr. Premier, because here we have a situation where government should not be involved at all. It is time for government to get off fishermen's backs.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: They are not looking for handouts. All they are looking for is to be allowed to go and fish and return in some degree of safety and comfort. I ask the Premier if he today would get in touch with his federal cousin to have this release put forward, and if it is not supporting the fishermen to speak out in favour of that so as they may be allowed to look after the size and the replacement of their vessels?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture has been in touch with his colleague in the federal government a number of times on a variety of subjects, including this one, over the last number of weeks and I am sure if he were here could give a detailed update of all of the representations that have been made. Suffice it to say we will continue to make representation in seeking an early declaration of federal government policy in this area.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, my questions are to the Minister of Social Services. I am wondering if the Report of the Strategic Social Plan Committee is ready? It was promised in November, promised in January, and promised last week. Could the minister give us the time and the date that it will be released publicly?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am happy to report to my hon. colleague that the report was dropped off at my home late Saturday evening. To remind again, this House, that this document, of course, is a government document which was prepared by an arm's length group comprised of a number of community representatives and community leaders. Our intention at this point in time is to refer the report to Cabinet, and in the overall period of time we will use this report to help the government write a Strategic Social Plan.

We will rely very heavily on the recommendations that are coming forward, that will be going forward to my Cabinet colleagues in the very near future, and we will decide at that point in time exactly how we will be putting forward the report. But we are quite anxious to start working on that report and we look forward to putting forward a new Strategic Social Plan at our earliest convenience.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

We understand that some reports gather dust with this government after they are released. This one, I think, is gathering dust before it is released, because we understand from people who served on the committee that it has been ready for a great number of days.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: When will her government be ready to release this document? Again I ask that. How long will it take for your government to prepare its presentations? And is there any truth to the commentary that has been made that your Cabinet colleagues have instructed you to rewrite it in precise terms and to put in a budgetary figure of about $300,000 as the allocation to implement it?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

I do not know if my hon. colleague is implying that my house is dusty. I only got it on Saturday, and we are going to refer it to Cabinet as soon as we can.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: I think it is quite obvious we are very committed to writing the report, but I only got it on Saturday and we are very anxious to move it along. This is not a plan; this is a consultation plan, and from that we will develop a strategic plan for the Province. That is our intention - it has not changed - as soon as we can, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, if I could return to, in the same theme of the Strategic Social Plan, last week the minister, in talking about child tax benefits, mentioned that she would be taking the child tax benefit away from the poorest people in this Province. I asked her a question relative to the people who are on social assistance but are unable to work because of health reasons or any other circumstance. Is it the minister's intention to take money from the children of these families who have parents who are unable to work for various reasons, and to spend that money in implementing programs to assist the people on social services who are able to work to find jobs?

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

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

As I said when I answered this question in the previous two Question Periods, I also started off by saying that every government across this country has supported the National Child Benefit. Ralph Klein and Mike Harris' government, even our right-wing NDP, B.C. government, who imposed a residency rule, are supporting the National Child Benefit.

I will say again, in response to the question, that we are not taking money away. There is no decrease in the amount of money that will be coming forward. The payers will change, but the amount of money will not change. And yes, Mr. Speaker, we will use it to develop new programs and services for the people who need it. Indeed we will!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

 

Notices of Motion

 

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Ways and Means to consider the Raising of Supply to be Granted to Her Majesty.

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

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, if I could, with leave, and members can have ample time to prepare for the debate tomorrow, give the House notice that the Private Members' Motion to be debated tomorrow, Wednesday, is the one which stands in the name of the Member for Ferryland - so all members can be adequately prepared.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

WHEREAS poverty and its effects are serious problems for so many in this Province and things are getting worse not better - now more than one-third of Newfoundland and Labrador children live in families on social assistance; and

WHEREAS child hunger and child poverty are a sad reality which hurts children today and their chances for the future in education and in life, hungry children cannot learn; and

WHEREAS a universal school lunch program would provide a stigma-free way of ensuring every schoolchild a good nutritional meal every day; and

WHEREAS school reform and other changes to education in the Province will result in very significant savings in education costs, thereby making funds available to improve the quality of education and the quality of student lives;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that this House of Assembly direct the government to establish a universal comprehensive school lunch program for every school in Newfoundland and Labrador to help end child hunger and give our children a better chance.

 

Petitions

 

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of All Saints Primary School in Foxtrap. The petition reads:

To the hon. House of Assembly, 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 monitoring program for all school buses in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We find that students are presently unsupervised and are at risk in their safety going to and from school on school buses. The safety of our children is being compromised. We ask the hon. minister and his government to show compassion, leadership and understanding to ensure the safe transportation of our children.

Mr. Speaker, I present that petition today on behalf of All Saints Primary School, and certainly, in presenting the petition, not only present it but support it as well. I know of people who have signed this petition who have had the unfortunate incident of having a child killed in a bus accident while coming from school. I think that one child is one child too many.

School bus safety is a very critical concern to the residents of this school. They find themselves in the primary school with no adult students, of course, who could serve the role as bus monitors. They also find themselves with a number of parents - the two parents in a lot of the households are working and find it very difficult for a bus monitoring system where the bus monitoring system is voluntary. They just do not have the people to support such a system.

Therefore, they ask this House and this government to install or to hire immediately, people who would serve as full-time paid monitors to ensure that the safety of their children, and indeed, all of our children, is granted to them and to all families who have children, especially small children, Mr. Speaker, attending school in this Province.

This committee encourages all persons concerned, of course, with the school bus safety issue to become very, very vocal in this matter. We had a very tragic incident last fall in Paradise, Mr. Speaker, where, again, a child lost his life because of a bus accident. I had an opportunity - I do not know if you would call it an opportunity or not - to talk to the gentleman who drove that bus, and believe me, he will be a long time in his lifetime getting over the effect that this very tragic accident had on him and on his family. It is something that he will never forget and it is a tragedy when you see what happened to him in this particular incidence where he had a busload of children and himself trying to do the job of bus monitor and everything else. When he had thought that the children were no longer in sight of the bus or near the bus, he moved ahead, and a very tragic accident occurred.

Again, I have to say to the government, it is time we looked at this. I do not think, Mr. Speaker, that the cost would prohibit such a service being offered and I would urge this government, and especially the Department of Education, to look into doing something in this matter. Now, we said some time ago that the money saved in education would go back into education. Well, I say here, Mr. Speaker, what better way - when we are taking money out of education, what better way than to put a very small amount of it, a mere pittance of it back into the educational system of this Province where it may save the lives of other children.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. FRENCH: I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I certainly support this petition.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to support the petition of my colleague, the Member for Conception Bay South. I am pleased to support the petition and the subject matter of this petition as it relates to a call for a paid bus monitor service in our Province. It is a very sensitive issue. It is an issue which is very dear to the hearts of thousands and thousands of parents across our Province, and indeed, the students and children of these parents.

We have seen unfortunate incidents in the past and there is now a cry by the parents of these children in this Province to have our Department of Education do whatever it takes, Mr. Speaker - do whatever it takes, to place first and foremost the safety and the security of young children. Unfortunately, this Department of Education thus far has not seen it important enough to place the security and safety of the young children of our Province as a priority. We only have to see in recent decisions and announcements by the minister, in fact, even a decision made by the minister and an announcement in this House several months ago that he did not see within the education budget the possibility of a paid bus monitor service, and that, Mr. Speaker, is regrettable. That is why, when there is a petition such has been brought forward by my colleague, the Member for Conception Bay South, when there is a petition which deals with the very livelihood, life, protection and security of young children, I will stand in support of that petition. Mr. Speaker, it is shameful that this government has acted so cavalierly to this whole issue. It is shameful that this government has neglected to listen to petition after petition on this issue. It is shameful that they do nothing about it, Mr. Speaker, and we will, as an Opposition, continue to impress upon this government the importance and the sanctity of this very important matter in our system.

Thank you.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of a number of Newfoundlanders who are petitioning the House on the issue of a school lunch program. Mr. Speaker, the petitioners ask the House of Assembly to direct government to establish a universal, comprehensive school lunch program for every school in Newfoundland and Labrador, to help end child hunger and to give our children a better chance.

Mr. Speaker, these petitions that have been presented thus far, and I understand there are many more to come, represent a concern in our Province about the ability of children who have improper diet and nutrition to be able to properly participate in the learning experiences at school and to enjoy the benefits of school and in fact, enjoy the benefits of a full stomach, Mr. Speaker. It is shocking, and many people in this Province and even in this House, do not want to hear about it, do not want to talk about the reality of child hunger every day in the schools of our Province, in the homes of our Province and, in particular, the young children who are affected by this and whose ability to learn in school is affected by it as well.

Mr. Speaker, one of the groups who have taken an interest in the dietary needs, the nutritional needs of the people of our Province, is the Newfoundland Dietetic Association. They have recently released a report in which they express very grave concerns about the household food problems in this Province, and the grave difficulty of people on low income and social assistance to be able to provide a nutritious diet for their families.

One statistic which I find quite interesting - they have managed to do a survey and have determined that the basic cost for a basic, nutritious food basket for a family of four, costs in St. John's, just over $120 per week, and that is taking advantages, now, of all the specials that are available, economy packaging and all sorts of other advantages. If you shop wisely and you are in a situation like in St. John's where you do have some choice that is the cost in St. John's, $120 per week. That, Mr. Speaker, represents almost 85 per cent of the basic social assistance allowance for a family of four in this Province, 85 per cent, just to get enough food on the table to provide a nutritious diet.

Mr. Speaker, if that is the case in St. John's, you can imagine what the cost is in your district or in the districts of members even far more remote than yours because of transportation costs, because of the lack of choice and variety and the higher cost for lower volume in smaller stores. You can imagine, Mr. Speaker, what the cost would be in more remote areas of the Province.

One thing which I think all members in this Province will find interesting is that the cost of food in St. John's is comparable to Yellowknife, that people in St. John's - this is again, not going outside of St. John's where transportation is more expensive -

In St. John's alone, the cost of food is comparable to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. We have some serious issues to examine here in this Province but, Mr. Speaker, one of the means of addressing some of these problems, is to use some of that money that the Minister of Education is saving. He is talking in recent days about saving many millions of dollars because of the number of school teachers who are not needed because the number of children in our schools has gone down, and he is going to save 448 teachers; that is going to save considerable millions of dollars. I do not know the exact figures. I have heard the NLTA use figures in the range of $20 million.

The school bus savings, Mr. Speaker, the school consolidation savings as well as teacher reduction savings in our education system - perhaps the Minister of Education will address this, as to what he is going to do with all of that money. A small proportion of that money would be all it would take, Mr. Speaker, to guarantee a universal, comprehensive school lunch program across the Province. What the minister has done so far is increase the cost of education to parents by charging them for school busing in places such as St. John's, Gander and Labrador - increasing the costs, not decreasing them.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just briefly like to comment on the petition as presented by the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, an issue about which he is obviously passionate. He has raised it on many occasions in this hon. House; and it is an issue which I, obviously, as critic for this area, have no difficulty in supporting.

A program such as being envisioned by the hon. member is one that, like the previous issue in dealing with the protection of children as it relates to school transportation, is an issue which ought to be given some priority by this government. And, like the previous issue, it is one which apparently continues to fall on deaf ears. One has to ask the question: How can that be? When we have issues dealing with the security of children, or the very issue of poverty as it relates to some 40,000 children within our Province, how can it be that this type of issue does not have an appropriate response by the members opposite?

I used the word `shameful' before, and I will use it again. This is an issue which has been raised repeatedly by members on this side of the House, in particular by my colleague to my right, and it is one which this government has to treat seriously.

I strongly endorse the content of the petition, and it is an area which I would ask this government to again carefully reconsider.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today to present a petition on behalf of a number of people in my district, and actually outside of my district. It is concerning the parks issue.

To make sure that we do not upset the Minister of Education - he is pretty sticky on the wording of these petitions - I will read the petition:

To the honourable 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 asks for the House of Assembly to accept the following prayer.

A good job? The minister shakes his head; a good job.

We, the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador wish to petition the Provincial Government, the Minister of Tourism, and the Premier, to immediately reverse the decision to privatize the provincial parks, as they are the people's resource.

We feel that this decision was made in haste without any consultation with the people who own the parks, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I have signatures on this from Fleur de Lys, St. John's, the Goulds, Torbay, Bauline, and Flatrock.

Mr. Speaker, last Monday night, a cold winter's night, I had approximately sixty people attend a meeting in my district in Torbay. To be talking about parks in Newfoundland on a cold winter's night, and have sixty people show up, I think in itself speaks volumes and volumes as to what people want in this Province.

After the minister announced that this program or this policy was going to take effect, I went on one of the Open Line shows and made a number of points. There are a lot of people out there picking up on these points now, across the Province, and it is starting to grow and grow and grow.

One of the points I made at the time was the backtracking of this Administration on this policy. If this were a well-planned, well-thought-out policy, of course, there would be no backtracking on it, but within days the minister was in the media backtracking. She had stated in her press release that they were going to privatize Middle-Cove Beach and Topsail Beach. Now, these are federal properties, the shorelines, from my information, and they talked about privatizing these beaches. I was one of the first to bring that to the attention of the public and, of course, immediately the public got onto it. The point I was making was that we have people from all over the Island on these public beaches. They go down to Middle Cove. I am sure the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi has been down to Middle Cove Beach with his rubber boots on catching caplin. There is no doubt about it. The point I was making, what would be the cost of just a single beach to the Province, Mr. Speaker? Very little money!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, I am getting to that. The point I was making is that it is costing the government nothing. I fought for a couple of years to get them down there to do some work on it, and they went down last year, put down a bit of gravel and did the road up and whatever, probably after ten years. Now, they are going to privatize that beach. What could they charge for it? I do not know, not very much. They put a gate across the beach, not costing any money at all, a couple of hundred dollars, and then anybody who wanted to go down to Middle Cove Beach, the only access to it was down this little narrow road and you would probably pay $1, $2, or $5 to a private individual, probably a buddy of this Administration, who would own the park, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Jeff Stirling walked around the shore -

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, he could do that, I suppose, the man who owns the land next to him could walk to get to the beach free. There is no doubt there, but that is beside the point. The problem is the masses, the public, and the people in this Province who go to that beach. We have Topsail Beach, we have Bellevue Beach, and we have other beaches, but the one I am most familiar with is Middle Cove Beach.

Of course, the minister then got in the media, right away, and said, no, the beaches would not be privatized, that it was a mistake in The Evening Telegram.

AN HON. MEMBER: Was it a typographical error?

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, the minister made a statement that The Evening Telegram made a mistake in saying that the beaches would be privatized - Middle Cover Beach and Topsail Beach - but it was actually right in the press release. Now, there are one of two things happening, either there was a typographical error in the minister's release that should not have been there and that was not properly checked, or in actual fact, it was the intention but when the people got up against it, they backtracked. So that will tell you how much planning and thought went into this project.

Also, Mr. Speaker, there was a review done by the department on privatization of the parks this year, but it was recommended the officials of the department to stay away from privatization of the parks this year because of the Cabot celebrations. Yet, again, they ignored the recommendations of the department, just as they ignored the recommendations of the people on transshipment.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the member's time has elapsed.

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

MR. J. BYRNE: No leave? Mr. Speaker, the government of the day hate to hear the truth.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Justice. Does the hon. the Minister of Justice wish to speak?

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker.

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I thought we had him. I thought he was going to stand up and support the Member's petition. If he had any sense he would do it. I thought we had him, Mr. Speaker, but we did not.

MR. DECKER: What is the prayer?

MR. E. BYRNE: Would you like to hear it?

AN HON. MEMBER: He should have been listening.

MR. E. BYRNE: `To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador ask the House of Assembly to accept the following prayer:

We, the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, wish to petition the Provincial Government, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, and the Premier to immediately reverse the decision to privatize the provincial parks, as they are the people's resource. We feel that this decision was made in haste without any consultation with the people who own the parks, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.'

Mr. Speaker, the petition is not only correct in the Parliamentary sense, it is correct in terms of a public policy issue. The reality is, Mr. Speaker, that when the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation on behalf of the government made the announcement on the privatization of the parks, there was a number of reasons, good and solid, that she put forward, in her own view, for the privatization initiative. One, she has said publicly - she said at a press conference and she has said on numerous occasions - that it is certainly in line with government's philosophy that it will not jeopardize the ability of incoming tourists to be able to stay in those parks this Summer, and that it would strengthen the private sector.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to examine some of those points. First of all, will the parks that are privatized be ready for this tourism season? The minister has said they will. She has offered on behalf of government no tangible evidence to that effect. The only evidence that we have, and the only thing we can look at to determine if those parks will be ready in time for this tourist season - which, by the way, is the most important, according to government, because of the upcoming Cabot celebrations - is the more recent privatization of parks some two years ago.

Let us ask the question: Of the parks that were privatized two years ago, did the privatization initiative take place in a timely manner, a timely manner according to the schedule the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation has put forward on behalf of government? that timely manner being between now, the end of March, coming up on a new fiscal year, and the May 24th weekend when the parks are opened. Will those parks be ready then? Two years ago they were not. In fact, it took some nine to twelve months for the privatization of parks two years ago, to leave government's hands on the one hand and to get into the private sector on the other hand, and then, for the private sector to get those parks ready for upcoming tourists. So there is no evidence whatsoever being put forward by this minister on behalf of this government that those parks will be ready for this tourist season, because they will not.

The other question that must be asked, and it is a fundamental question that we must ask about this issue: Has government gone against its own advice? In terms of program review, did the program review process recommend that these parks be chopped, that these parks be sold off at bargain basement prices? The answer is, all indications are that program review said: Not during this season, that these parks should not be privatized during this time; that it would be not only costly, bad timing in view of the Cabot celebrations, but signalled correctly that in view of the fact of late privatization, these parks would not be ready in time for this tourist season. Certainly, that is an issue.

Let us talk about the minister's other statement, when she talked about: `These parks surely will remain open.' There is no guarantee. If the minister has any guarantee that has been provided to her by people who are interested that all of these twenty-one parks will remain open, then I would ask her to table it. I suspect that if she had those guarantees and if she had the evidence to put forward that they would remain open, we would already see it. But we have not, because the minister is not in a position to guarantee that. She can only go as far as she can, to the greatest extent possible within the boundaries of governing can she do that, but she cannot ultimately guarantee that. She knows it.

Let us talk about the parks that were privatized two years ago. How many of those parks are open today? All of them? Are they all open? All the parks that were privatized two years ago, is every one of those parks open today?

AN HON. MEMBER: They are.

MR. E. BYRNE: (Inaudible) no, they are not.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. E. BYRNE: Let us talk about employment, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: All the employees who were employed in those parks two years ago, are they all working today in those parks?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. E. BYRNE: No they are not, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up

MR. E. BYRNE: There is no reason for this initiative to proceed, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you very much.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I, too, have a petition to present on the privatization of the provincial parks.

The prayer of the petition reads:

We, the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, wish to petition the hon. House of Assembly to voice our concerns over the government's decision to privatize our provincial parks. We are asking the government to immediately reverse its decision to privatize the parks, as we feel the decision was made in haste and without consultation with the people who own the parks, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, as many of the Members of the House of Assembly know, I have gone to a number of meetings now to consult with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador on the privatization of the parks, to consult with the employees of the provincial parks, to consult with people who camp in our provincial parks - basically, in a nutshell, to consult, something that the government has not done, something that the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation has not done. The Minister of Tourism has not consulted with the people of our Province on the privatization of our provincial parks. She made a statement today that they have been consulting with people now for a full year. Mr. Speaker, I did not see any meetings advertised on the consultation of the provincial parks. I did not see any meetings advertised asking people to come out and voice their concerns on the privatization of the provincial parks. This decision to privatize the provincial parks was a very quick and hasty decision.

Mr. Speaker, we have had a number of meetings now. One of the meetings we had was held last night, and the room was blocked. There were over 100 people in the room. The room was blocked solid - there were people standing in the hallway. As a matter of fact, we were told there were people turned away because the room was over-blocked. We were told that there were people turned away and that the management of the hotel were actually considering clearing out the room because there were too many people in the room. It was filled beyond capacity, beyond the allowable limit accepted by the fire regulations.

Mr. Speaker, the thing here is that the Minister of Tourism has made a number of statements that she has had to retract. She has made a number of statements and said that people misunderstood her statements; people made a mistake, that is not actually what she said.

Mr. Speaker, the minister made a mistake in announcing she was going to privatize these provincial parks. There were twenty-eight parks put up for privatization in 1995. There are only ten of those parks now still operating. Based on that ratio of these twenty-one parks up for privatization now, can we expect that in two to three years time there will only be seven or eight of those operating?

Mr. Speaker, the stark reality of this whole proposal is the fact that there is just simply not enough time for people interested in taking over the operation of these parks to put together a proposal and to put together financing, and to put together a staff and an operating plan, and to successfully operate these parks to a standard that is acceptable by the people of our Province, a standard that is commonplace in our provincial parks today. There is just simply not enough time.

Mr. Speaker, the decision to privatize these parks was made in haste, without any consultation with the people of the Province. It was a rushed decision. Just days prior to the decision being made, each one of the members of the House received information on how students in our particular districts -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. OSBORNE: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

No leave.

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I am glad to see the Minister of Education over there pounding his desk for me. He usually does.

Mr. Speaker, I stand in my place to support the petition put forth by the Member for St. John's South on the privatization of parks in this Province. He talked about consultation, a very good word, a word that is thrown about a lot this day and age in politics.

We talk about this Administration during the last election, in February of 1996, going around this Province talking about how they were going to have consultation on this, consultation on that, consultation on everything, and we see no consultation. We see consultations on absolutely nothing, Mr. Speaker, from this administration.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, and the Member for St. John's East just told me what is going to happen next, they are going to have consultation on consultation. That is what is coming down the tubes, Mr. Speaker, a lot of wind, a lot of gas but nothing of any substance from this administration.

Now, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the parks, as we said, a few years ago we saw a number of parks being privatized in this Province and the whole intention then was take the money to enhance the new public park system.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I know, what can I say?

And to enhance the new public park system, that was two years ago. Now, Mr. Speaker, we have the minister coming out and they are going to privatize so many more parks, Mr. Speaker, more parks being privatized and they are going to save I think thirteen parks, core parks or whatever the name they have on them. Some fancy name, Mr. Speaker, and -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Core it is, it depends on how they are going to use it. So there are going to be some core parks but at the meeting that I held last week in Torbay -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, at a meeting in Torbay one very important point was brought up and that is this, we see this now happening in step progression. So are we actually going to get out of the public park system in this Province? Are we going to see someone that is coming into this Province, Mr. Speaker, or maybe some Liberal buddy maybe? I am only asking the question now, I am not saying it is going to happen, Mr. Speaker, but are we going to see some Liberal buddy come in and make an unsolicited proposal to government to take over the remaining parks in this Province -

MR. GRIMES: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Minister of Education wants me to keep my voice down. Well, Mr. Speaker, we see the Minister of Education over there nodding off when there are members up, especially when there members up on this side speaking. So I just wanted to keep my voice up a bit to keep the minister awake and to keep him alert so he might want to ask some questions of us on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, and if he asks questions to us on this side of the House he will get answers. He won't get answers like the Minister of Health gave last night in an interview on CBC which were non-answers, Mr. Speaker. Today the should be Minister of Health asked a question, the Member for Conception Bay South, the should be Minister of Health asked a question to the Minister of Health and got no answers again, Mr. Speaker, the same old answer all the time. It all boils back to cuts and to tell you the truth I am getting sick and tired of hearing the word cuts and the people in the Province are getting sick and tired of hearing the word cuts and cutting.

There are people now, Mr. Speaker - and I brought this up in the House of Assembly two or three years ago - talking about morale. I want to put it on record that the Minister of Education, says no cuts associated with the budget on Thursday. Now last year, Mr. Speaker, we heard the same thing. We heard there was no tax increases. It is all related to finances and the reason why they are cutting the parks is because they are going to save $1.8 million. So it is all relevant.

MR. GRIMES: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, the Minister of Education says the parks will all operate. Now that is not necessarily a true statement to make. He may think that it is a true statement but in actual fact it may not be a true statement because we know that there were twenty-nine parks privatized two years ago but they are not all operating today. So now we have another twenty-something going to be privatized. So you can't tell me - you don't know who is going to make proposals to government. Are they going to be the employees or is it going to be some people out in the public? We don't know who is going to be evaluating the proposals. We contacted the department and asked: are these parks going to be privatized? The answer that was given was: well they may not be privatized for park purposes. Now, Mr. Speaker, what does that say? What does that mean? That is a very big statement to make. That is an all encompassing statement. That means they may be not privatized at all, it means they may be privatized for parks, it means they may be privatized for something other than parks, Mr. Speaker. So therefore there is a lot of doubt out there. People in this Province -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: - people in this Province have major concerns, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the privatization of parks.

Thank you.

 

Orders of the Day

 

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 2, Committee of Supply.

On motion, that the House resolve itself into Committee of the Whole, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Barrett): Order, please!

Shall the resolution carry?

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible) now.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

I rise today to speak on the Interim Supply Bill what is referred to as the Interim Supply Bill and I am going to get immediately into the parks issue, because the Minister of Education has requested that he wants to hear me speak on the parks again.

Now I can get into that but before I get into the parks issue and it is all related of course, but the question on this Interim Supply Bill, Mr. Chairman, is that they are asking for $1,019,465,700 -

AN HON. MEMBER: `Jack', it is not enough grocery money for the Government House Leader for three weeks.

MR. J. BYRNE: It is a wonder they don't have two cents in there - and two cents, Mr. Chairman, because they don't have two clues to rub together over there. This request, of us, two or three days before the Budget's coming down, two or three days -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, $1,019,465,700 and two cents. Mr. Chairman, someone made a comment over here that, that would not be enough to feed the Government House Leader for a month. What? I can't believe it. No, he does not eat that much, no way my son. Those braces straps are going to burst any day I say to the minister.

Mr. Chairman, two or three days before the Budget comes down, now this is approximately one-third I think, of the Budget of this Province. Why do they need so much money at this point in time? If the Budget is coming down in a few days, if the Budget is going to be that good, they would assume I would imagine, Mr. Chairman, that there would be no opposition from this side of the House, that we will agree with the Budget and it will go ahead; no problem at all, that we would not have any questions whatsoever to ask but, that is not the case. Obviously, if they are asking for $1 billion, they must be expecting a lot of questions from this side of the House. They must be expecting a lot of questions and concerns from the public out there so they know that the Budget is not going to float automatically through the House of Assembly, and it is not going to, I would say to members opposite, Mr. Chairman.

As I said earlier, this Premier who sits in this House today made enormous promises during the last campaign, enormous promises, promises that people knew he could not keep but, he rode in on the white horse, he almost walked across the Straits. The media had him built up that much that they believed what he was telling them in the last election and leading up to the last election and he made promises and the one that sticks out in my mind the most, Mr. Chairman, and has really hit home to the people of this Province, is the fact that he said: You can't cut, cut, cut your way to prosperity.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is right.

MR. J. BYRNE: That is what he said, Mr. Chairman, and the Minister of Education over there is agreeing that is what the Premier said, and he did. But what have we seen ever since, Mr. Chairman? We have seen people being laid off in the civil service and that had repercussions in the private industry. Now preacher, don't get going because I will get going on you.

Anyway, Mr. Chairman, that had repercussions in private industry. We saw people in private industry being laid off; we saw the effect that it is having on municipalities in this Province so, it is having a chain effect and Mr. Chairman, millions and millions of dollars have been taken away from the municipalities. The health care - the health care in this Province and they are asking for $1 billion - and by the way, I expect what is going to happen in the Budget - it just popped in my mind- with this $30 million slush fund, was it?

AN HON. MEMBER: What?

MR. J. BYRNE: Thirty million bucks that the government put aside for emergencies last year, in the Budget -

AN HON. MEMBER: Slush fund.

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, well that is what I referred to you know, thirty million bucks that they could have to spend on anything without having to come back to the House for approval, $30 million so they will come down now in the Budget and say: Well now, Mr. Chairman, it looks better than what we had anticipated. Oh yes, that is what they may say but, Mr. Chairman, we have other factors too to factor in here.

The Minister of Government and Services and Lands, last year, in the Budget, was expecting to take in $6 million on the conversion of Crown lands, cabin lots and recreation leases and what have you and residential grants, and -

AN HON. MEMBER: Tax grab.

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, the Minister of Education is over there saying that it is a tax grab and all I can do is agree with the man, he obviously agrees with me. I have said it before. - he said it was $6 million but, Mr. Chairman, I did the number crunching and it was $21 million and the Minister of Government Services and Lands did not disagree with that.

He is over there now going through his satchel or whatever the case may be looking for the facts and figures, I suppose, to see what actual money was taken in and what percentage of application was made of the potential that could be there.

What may be coming down the tubes is that in actual fact they will want to stay the course and they are going to be tightening their belts. We have to attack the deficit. The deficit is something that we have to address. To me, I think that the people not only provincially but federally, have gone overboard with the deficit. The deficit is used as the big bad bogeyman in this Province and in the country. The deficit has to be attacked; we have to do this and that because of the deficit. Every minister will stand in his or her place and use that. If you answer questions with respect to financing or what have you, it generally comes back to the deficit. The people in the country are getting fed up with it, I would say, they are getting fed up with the cuts to the transfer payments, health care, municipalities, education.

Education in itself, that was a farce, the way that has been handled. The Minister of Education will sit in his chair and he will smile and you get up and you will ask him a question and he will go on for ten minutes before he finishes saying hello when you ask him the question. He will get on. He is pretty smooth, I will give him that, he is probably the smoothest over there when it comes to answering questions, there is no doubt.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) sharp as a bowling ball.

MR. J. BYRNE: As sharp as a bowling ball but he is smoother answering the questions. He is smooth with rolling around the answers, Mr. Chairman. That is what he does. The bowling ball. You bowl a bowling ball; you roll it down the alley. The Minister of Education rolls around questions. He won't answer questions.

To get back to the seriousness of education in this Province, what is going on? Two years ago we had a referendum. What happened? We put the people in this Province - you had a potential to rip this Province apart like it was done back in the 1940s when they talked about Confederation. You can see at that point in time, two years ago, a year and a half ago, the polarisation of the different groups in this Province. What was it all for? To do things that could have easily been done without an amendment to the Constitution.

We are looking at busing. We had agreement on the number of school boards, from twenty-seven down to ten, I believe. We had agreements on the - in actual fact, we had situations within the Province that were developing naturally with respect to the....

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Give us a copy, Beaton, boy, give us a copy.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Make no wonder, yes. Mr. Chairman, that is a bill. It is the only one, is it? The Government House Leader is over there saying I'm the only one who held the bill in my hands when I got up to speak on interim supply. How can anyone not hold a bill like this in their hands? I mean, $1 billion. I find it hard to believe, I say to the Government House Leader, that there is no one on this side who has held this bill in their hands. Because they told me about it. I was speaking to these guys before and they told me all about this, they knew.

Just look at the breakdown, the head of expenditures. Now, let me see. Well, Finance, $12,034,500. That is to pay, I would say, overtime. You got all the people working to prepare the budget, $12 million I would say. Government Services and Lands is looking for $7,521,000. Sure, he took that much money in extra money from the converting of the cabin leases, the Crown leases, to grants. The Legislature, well, $2,634,100. The Public Service Commission, $407,000. Works, Services and Transportation, $155,700,500.

AN HON. MEMBER: What?

MR. J. BYRNE: One hundred and fifty-five million for interim supply, two or three days before the budget comes down. They know that it is such a good budget it is going through like that; it is going to go through in probably two or three days. So they are planning on spending $1 billion within a month or two. Wicked!

The Department of Development and Rural Renewal, $14,001,800. That was supposed to be a department that was going to regenerate, rejuvenate, and get rural Newfoundland going in this Province. What have we seen in this Province with respect to rural Newfoundland? Massive out-migration, Mr. Chairman. You drive through the communities now and you will see windows boarded up, houses vacant and what have you, across this Province.

I've been preaching this for the past four or five years about the resettlement program. There was an article in the paper not long ago that I read and it was like I should have written it. It was with respect to how - what is the right word? Behind the scenes, how quiet, aversive I suppose, the program is to resettle people in Newfoundland. And we are not only talking about resettling to the major centres like St. John's, Gander, Corner Brook, Grand Falls, and the major communities. I think there is some kind of a plan afoot, and I don't know if these front benches are even smart enough to realize what is on the go in the Province, but it is on the go that they want people resettled out of this Province. There is a plan somewhere, and someone knows about it, to resettle people out of this Province to get our numbers down.

That in itself is going to have a negative effect on the Province because, of course, we have a Liberal administration in Ottawa that all they want to do is cut, cut, cut, to the provinces. We have transfer payments being cut, and if we have a smaller population we get less money in this Province; so that, in itself, is having an adverse effect, I suppose, on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is having an adverse effect on the people who are putting this Budget together.

The Minister of Education says that we ran out of questions.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave, Mr. Chairman?

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No leave.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Education and Training.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: I just want to take a couple of minutes in this particular debate to point out why it is that there is a continuing confidence in the Province with respect to this particular government, and the fact that if the people of the Province were asked to vote on this Interim Supply Bill it would be unanimous. They would say: By all means, give them this money and more because they have done such a good job they should have more money.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. GRIMES: Because basically what the people do when they reflect upon whether or not they have confidence in a particular group that they have elected to govern them, is they look at very non-partisan documents like this one, The Record To Date. They like, every now and then - I have found it in three elections so far - to have little things that they put upon their refrigerator as score cards and report cards. I have been invited into people's homes where they have said: Look, here is the list of promises you guys made and the other fellows made in the last election. We have them all ticked off, and that kind of stuff, and it is all done or all not done.

Over the years, when I was thinking about politics, I used to go into homes and people had little lists up there from the days of the Progressive Conservative administrations - Premier Peckford and others - and they used to have a report card up there and there were all Xs or blanks because there was nothing done. There were a bunch of promises made and they were either Xed because they did not keep them, or just blanks because there was nothing done.

Mr. Chairman, just let me give you an example of five or six things that were referenced a year or so ago with respect to education, just as a small example. I guess in this Interim Supply we are asking for the money for education again in the tune of $219 million for about one-third of the year, so we certainly expect to spend a lot more than that in a full year, and people think we should. As a matter of fact, I believe the members opposite have been crying out that we spend more. They would like, I am sure, if they were to rearrange this sheet, if they were ever to become the government, they would probably put more in education and less in some other places.

In fact, if you look at a few of the specific statements made just over a year or so ago when there was a campaign in the Province about who should be given a vote of confidence to run the affairs of the Province for the next four years or so, it talked on education about the fact that people had already spoken in a referendum and that education reform will proceed.

Here we are, just over a year later - as a matter of fact the group opposite exercised some really good judgement before Christmas and unanimously agreed with the government in terms of bringing in the new Schools Act, the new Education Act, and going forward with the changes in education based upon the referendum, based upon the new constitution that passed through the Parliament of Canada, and the group opposite even gave us three or four really good recommendations that we incorporated into the new act because the Opposition critic took the time to seriously examine the bill, and we incorporated a number of issues in there.

So the people of the Province know that education reform is very well under way, very close to full implementation, and we have all been reaching a target and stretching and striving to reach a target that says before we leave school this year in June people will know what kinds of schools and how many will be open in September. So there is a little bit of work left to do but with the support of the Opposition we know that the people of the Province will give full marks that anybody who has their little report card or their little check list up on their refrigerator they have absolutely marked a tick in that block saying it was a promise. Was it kept? Absolutely, done! Not in a four year term, not in a three-and-a-half year term, not in a five year term, almost instantaneously. If they were asked then would they vote $219 million to the Department of Education for Interim Supply, the answer would be unanimous, unquestioned, absolutely, do it and give them even more.

Then, Mr. Chairman, we talked about in the campaign a year ago in the red book, as it was called, compared to the blue book that talked about opening up fish plants and all those kinds of things and a few other things of that nature, then it said that we are committed, the government would be committed to dialogue and discussion on all elements of implementing education reform before decisions are made and we did that, Mr. Chairman, in spades. The group opposite was involved with us in lobbying in Ottawa. We travelled around the Province, had probably the most sense of - arranged and series of public meetings held on any issue in the Province and came forward with the changes that the members opposite participated in and gave us unanimous support for before Christmas dealing with the education legislation that came as a result of that dialogue.

Mr. Chairman, members opposite get up from time to time and they will talk about an issue now like the parks for example, and they say: done without any kind of discussion. Big surprise! The issue about privatization and running parks through the private sector instead of running them through government has been in the Strategic Economic Plan of the government for over five years. The Strategic Economic Plan was developed through the most extensive public consultation ever undertaken in the history of the Province. It states right in there because as a matter of fact, Mr. Chairman, a couple of years ago we did the first phase where we took ten or fifteen, we offered them to the private sector, they are still running and now we are at Phase II. We are implementing the Strategic Economic Plan which was in fact arrived at, at the urging of the people of the Province and we have heard from the Opposition. We have heard from the great infiltrator of the open line programs that works full time for members opposite as a researcher in disguise -

CHAIR: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: If I could ask the hon. Minister of Education that if he gets a chance, while he is waxing eloquent here before all members of the House, to elaborate somewhat on what the people in his area think about the eighty-eight teacher positions that are going to be eliminated from his area of the Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, talk about.

CHAIR: No point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

With respect to the parks issue, we are at the second stage of implementation and we have heard from, as I indicated, the open line queen who also gets paid full time to be a researcher for the Leader of the Opposition because he can't do any researches himself. He knows nothing. He pretends in the House he knows everything about everything so he had to hire the queen of the open line to come in and do some research for him so that he could get on with some gossip and speculation the same as they do on the open line shows. Mr. Chairman, if the researchers actually looked at the public consultation and the development of the Strategic Economic Plan, private/public partnering and privatization in the provincial parks - we did Phase I a couple of years ago because that was the direction that was urged upon the government, Mr. Chairman, by the people of the Province. We didn't go out and say: we want to privatize, we want to do this. The people of the Province, Mr. Chairman, came forward and said: Stop doing that government. You don't need to do that. We want to do this. We want to run some parks because we think we can do it better.

Mr. Chairman, everybody should take a lot of comfort in the fact that these parks will be operating this summer. There will be all kinds of things available to the hundreds and thousands of additional visitors that we will have in Newfoundland and Labrador and we have heard from the people who unfortunately think they might be out of a job. They are overstating the case because most of them, Mr. Chairman, will in fact be accommodated somewhere in the system.

In fact, back to the education issue, Mr. Chairman, where in Interim Supply the point I was making that for $219 million in Interim Supply, if you could get outside the partisan political debate in this Chamber the people of the Province would say don't vote $219 million, make it $419 million, make it $819 million. Spend some more money on education. The members opposite, Mr. Chairman, in fact the critic for education, the hon. member has been up on his feet several times in this House saying: The people want you to spend more money in education.

There would be no doubt that based upon, as I indicated, this very non-partisan accounting of what has happened in just one short year, and taking education as an example, that the people of the Province would clearly check off the items and say: Well done, government. It didn't take you four years; it didn't take you five years. In one short year you have done what you said you would do. You are well on the course to delivering upon the commitments made during the campaign.

The notion that there would be no new school viability rules for September 1996 -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. GRIMES: - didn't happen, Mr. Chairman.

By leave, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No leave!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

AN HON. MEMBER: Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The Chair is well aware of the hon. the Member for St. John's South standing, but the Chair is not going to recognize him until there is some semblance of order in the House.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm glad the Minister of Education got up and entertained us for ten minutes. In 1995 Minister Roger Grimes on March 7 stated that: Government is committed to protecting and preserving the Province's most important natural areas that have been selected to represent the ecological diversity of our Province.

At that time those parks identified to remain in the system were done so under the direction of the 1995 task force. I wonder now has the ecological significance of these areas changed in two short years. Has the Province decided that the wise words of the then-minister Roger Grimes have changed in two years?

CHAIR: Order, please! Order, please!

I remind hon. members that they are supposed to refer to members by districts and ministers by portfolios.

MR. OSBORNE: The Minister of Education who was then the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, I do believe.

Maintaining a world class and nationally awarded provincial park system is the responsibility of everybody in this Province, Mr. Chairman. By privatising these provincial parks we are putting these parks in the hands of private individuals, and we are probably unable to ensure and guarantee, with the same level of confidence, that these parks will be protected in the manner that they are today. There is evidence of that with the provincial parks that have been privatised in the past. We all know of reports of trees being cut in the outlying areas of those parks and so on that probably would never have been done if those parks had remained in the provincial park system.

The first park put into the provincial park service was on February 27 1954, the Sir Richard Squires Memorial Park. From that day up to 1995 our Province worked vigorously to put in place a park system; so much so that in 1987 we received the F.P.P.C award for provincial park systems, a nationally credited award. After forty-five years of dedication to acquire, protect and maintain these unique lands it was almost eliminated in 1995 with the privatisation of twenty-eight parks, and further decimated just last month with the privatisation of another twenty-one parks.

Whose hands are these parks going to go into? Are these parks already assigned, to give such short notice to have somebody put in place a plan and financing and staff, an operating plan for these parks? Do these parks already have special people assigned to take them over? Are we going to find out that they are probably friends or associates of members of the House?

Mr. Chairman, in the provincial park review, or the department review on provincial parks, the minister's own department states that the provincial parks provide high quality outdoor recreation opportunities in a safe and environmentally secure manner. In addition, provincial parks are legislatively protected and policy-driven to ensure that they provide the highest level of service for the nature-seeking tourist. Mr. Chairman, if these parks go into private hands, will the operation of the parks remain policy-driven? While the land will remain Crown land, can we ensure that it will have the same level of protection that they do under the provincial parks system?

Mr. Chairman, I have mentioned in this House and at a number of public meetings that there are $150 million generated by nature and eco tourists that come from outside our Province. In addition to that, there is another $300 million in tourist-generated money from resident tourists as a direct or indirect result of our provincial parks. While the minister states that these parks will remain open, and that this money will continue to be generated as a result of these parks, based on the past performance of the government, twenty-eight parks were put up for privatization in 1995 and ten of them are still operating. Mr. Chairman, of the twenty-one that are being put up for privatization today, can we expect seven or eight to remain open in two or three years time?

There are a number of communities in rural Newfoundland and Labrador that are struggling to survive, Mr. Chairman, hanging on by a thread. And the convenience stores, the service stations, the mini-marts, and the taverns in these communities where the provincial parks are operating depend upon the operation of these provincial parks to remain in business. Without migration in our Province and a downward trend in the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, these communities depend on the provincial parks to survive. Many of the businesses in these communities survive only because the provincial parks are there and attract visitors on an annual basis. Without those visitors these businesses would probably close.

We have to look at the overall picture here, not just the fact that there are ninety-two people going to lose their jobs when the provincial parks are privatized. We have to look at the overall picture. How are the communities going to be affected? How many businesses are going to shut down because the provincial park is no longer operating in that community? The minister states that these parks are going to continue to operate as private parks. Whoop-de- do! I say whoop-de-do, Mr. Chairman.

In the minister's own report, she states that the standards of provincial parks tend to be higher than that of the private sector equivalent. They state that many of the private park operators are experiencing financial difficulties, and they either do not have the funding or the desire to keep the standards of the private parks at the same levels that are commonplace and expected in our provincial park system.

The fact of the matter is, the provincial parks provide a higher quality facility, for the most part, than private park operators. Now, there are exceptions to that rule, and some of the private parks no doubt operate at a very high standard.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. OSBORNE: By leave, Mr. Chairman?

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, just another fifteen minutes or so to clue up.

Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter here is that the provincial government has stated, in their own program review, that the private parks do not operate at the same standard at which provincial parks operate.

Now, all of a sudden, miraculously, the minister, in her wisdom or lack thereof, has decided that the private operators are the way to go, that private operators - all of a sudden, even though on September 27, 1996, her department said that the private operators do not have the financial ability or the desire to operate the parks at the same standard that is commonplace in the provincial park system, that is all of a sudden changed. Now she is singing a different tune because she has a different agenda.

That is the bottom line. That is the stark reality here. Her department is singing a different tune because the minister has given the directive that she has a different agenda and she now wants these parks privatized. What that agenda is, we do not know. It certainly cannot be to save $1.8 million, because there is $450 million a year generated as a direct or indirect result of the provincial park system. So her argument that by privatizing these parks it is going to save $1.8 million is baloney. It is hogwash.

I am probably safe in saying that I, for one, do not believe it. I, for one, think that it is a lie. I am probably safe in saying that is parliamentary acceptable, because that is what I believe. It is unacceptable. It is absurd that the minister can pull out her calculator and say that while the parks are generating $450 million, if we privatize them and they operate at a lower standard we are going to save $1.8 million. What about the revenue that is generated through these parks to our Province? Are we going to continue to receive the same revenue? Is the same level of revenue, $450 million a year, going to be generated to our Province when these parks are operated at a lower standard? Because that is essentially what the minister is telling us.

I am not sure if she feels that we, as members of the Opposition, are naive. I am not sure if she feels that the general public is naive. Perhaps she feels that the park workers themselves are naive, because I can assure you that if the parks are not operated at the same standard at which provincial parks are operated - and I, for one, frequent the provincial parks. I enjoy visiting the provincial parks, and I do so on a number of occasions each and every year. I can guarantee you that if those parks are not operated at the same standard, that I probably will not be visiting those particular parks, and there are many, many people who would feel the same way. Now, that is a logical conclusion.

The convenience stores, mini-marts, service stations, taverns and so on in small communities with very small populations, that are affected seriously by out-migration and the downward trend in the economy, you will see these businesses fold and go out of business. And not only are you putting at risk the $450 million that we are taking in, in revenue generated because of the park system, you are risking employment losses through businesses in these communities; you are risking tax-generated revenue from these businesses; you are risking further out-migration because of the staggering unemployment rate in the Province. Mr. Chairman, the minister should be ashamed. Cabinet should be ashamed to have her in Cabinet and the Liberal caucus should be ashamed to have her in caucus. Mr. Chairman, the point of the matter here is that this is an absurd, ridiculous, outrageous decision that is enraging the people of our Province.

MR. H. HODDER: What did the people of Grand Falls have to say?

MR. OSBORNE: The people of Grand Falls were tormented, frustrated and insulted by the fact that the people in this House - that the minister's department has chosen to close or privatize these provincial parks.

MR. H. HODDER: Did the member come out to your meeting last night?

MR. OSBORNE: No. There was neither member, and that is another issue here. Where are the backbenchers? Where are the Liberal members who have parks closing in their districts? Why are they not speaking out? Why are the Liberal members who have parks in these particular areas that are closing, not speaking out? Are they prepared to consult with the residents of their districts, with their constituents? Because we have not seen it yet.

Mr. Chairman, we have not seen it yet. We have seen absolutely no consultation at all from the other side of the House on the provincial parks issue, and I should submit a bill to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation and ask for reimbursement for doing her job because I am the only one who is consulting with the people of the Province. Mr. Chairman, the program review here states that: revenue that is generated to the Province that is a direct or indirect result of the provincial parks program, make the program affordable.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Bay Roberts in the morning.

MR. OSBORNE: Yes, Mr. Chairman, and we have a meeting in Bay Roberts tomorrow night. We have another meeting on the 23rd in Corner Brook. I have been asked to hold a meeting in Placentia and I have been asked to hold a meeting in the minister's own district.

Now, Mr. Chairman, I am going to give the minister herself the opportunity, so that I do not completely embarrass her the way she has embarrassed and insulted the people of our Province - I am going to give her the opportunity to hold a meeting in her own district, and if she does not, I will. Mr. Chairman, if she does not hold a meeting in her own district to consult with the people of her district - the very least she can do is to consult with the people of her district and if she does not do that, I will.

Mr. Chairman, there is absolutely no question about it. Throughout this program review, there is very strong evidence to show that these provincial parks should remain open as provincial parks, that the standards of privately operated parks, for the most part - not in every case, but for the most part - do not meet the standards of provincial parks. Mr. Chairman, of the twenty-eight parks that were removed from the system in 1995, there are ten still in operation today, and the stark reality of it is that only six of those parks are operated by individual entrepreneurs.

The minister has asked: Where is your entrepreneurial spirit? Is there something wrong with being an entrepreneur now? When there are only six entrepreneurs ready, willing and able to take over twenty-eight parks and there are only ten of those still in operation, one has to seriously question why that decision was made. Now, we can understand, perhaps, the fact that the decision was made in the first place on twenty-eight parks, but the minister has obviously not learned from the mistakes that her government has made in the past. It was only two short years ago that they made that mistake, and there are only ten parks still operating, and now they are putting another twenty-one parks on the line.

Mr. Chairman, unless there is an agenda here that the people of our Province cannot clearly see, this decision does not make sense. Of the twenty-one parks that are going up for privatisation I have to ask, I have to wonder, how many of those are going to go the way that so many other of our natural resources have gone in the recent past, to strong Liberal friends of the party. How many of those parks are going that way?

The minister stated on an open line program to a caller who asked the question: What happens if somebody takes over a park and decides they want to start cutting down trees - do you know what the minister's response was? Not only is the government out to lunch, I think the minister is out to lunch. The minister said: Under the lease they sign they can't cut down trees, but they can reapply to do so. Are we all dummies? I don't think so. Are the people of the Province dummies? I don't think so. The minister is out to lunch! That is the reality here. If there is any dummy here, I won't say who it is, but we can all guess.

The Program Review states that the provincial park system has become an integral part of the outdoor, recreational and tourism sector of the provincial economy. Many provincial parks are considered by rural Newfoundlanders to be part of their community, providing a venue for social gatherings and nature enjoyment. Over the past years Newfoundlanders have come to expect a level of facility development and programs which are comparable to anywhere in the nation and that hasn't happened.

In 1995 the government came out with its Budget and said that because of the twenty-eight parks that were being cut from the system it was going to reinvest into the existing parks $1 million a year over a five-year period. This is two years ago, keep in mind; a million dollars a year over the next five years. It did so in 1996. I'm not going to say it lied, but it didn't do it in - I'm sorry. It did so in 1995. I'm not going to say it lied, but it didn't keep its promise in 1996. It only put $500,000 in. It is now 1997, two years later, and I'm not going to say it lied in 1995, but it has scrapped the program completely now. It is no longer putting $1 million a year in, not even $500,000. It has wiped it out.

Along with wiping out that program, $1 million a year, which was supposed to bring up the level of development of our provincial parks, which would in turn increase the visitorship of these parks by having washroom facilities and shower facilities, which are only in a select few of the parks today, if it had invested this $1 million a year into our parks the visitorship of these parks would be up. Because there would be washroom facilities, there would be shower facilities. Tourists coming to our Province would further consider visiting the other provincial parks that presently do not have these facilities.

Not only has the minister insulted the people of our Province by wiping clear the promise that they made in 1995, by eliminating that program to invest into our Province, to invest into our provincial parks, to enhance our provincial parks, she has further decimated the provincial parks and insulted the people of our Province by taking twenty-one more of our provincial parks out of the system.

Now she will stand in her place and proudly boast that we have three core parks and ten camping facilities. Again, whoop-de-do! There is less than one-quarter of the provincial parks going to be in our system as compared to what was there three or four years ago. This Province is going backwards in protecting our ecological areas, in protecting our provincial parks, and in enhancing our tourism.

Mr. Chairman, tourism is outlined as one of the major industries in the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. One would think, based on the 1995 Budget, that this government would keep its promise, that this government would invest a million dollars a year into our provincial parks, considering our pristine environment, considering our ecological areas, considering the fact that many of the tourists who come to Newfoundland and Labrador come here specifically to see our natural areas, one would think they would have kept that promise and reinvested and redirected money back into our provincial parks to enhance our tourism industry; but no, we cannot count on that. We cannot count on the Minister of Tourism at all. The only thing we can count on her to do is to tell us how proud we should be that she is cutting our system away.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is shameful.

MR. OSBORNE: It is shameful. It is unbelievable. The people of our Province cannot believe what is happening.

AN HON. MEMBER: We saw it last night.

MR. OSBORNE: We saw it last night. The people were enraged.

I was happy last night; more than ever I was happy to be a Tory, because if my stripe had been red I think they would have run me out of town! If the Minister of Tourism had ventured her way into that meeting last night, I think she would have been the sacrificial lamb.

Mr. Chairman, the Minister of Tourism should be ashamed, and her Cabinet colleagues should be ashamed to allow her to do what she is doing. The people of this Province are frustrated, they are tormented, and they are upset. The morale of the people of our Province is at the lowest level that it has been in decades, and why? I can tell you why. Just look over there. I can tell you why, because the Minister of Tourism is wiping away our provincial park system, because the Minister of Tourism is cutting our provincial park system away to nothing, in a Province that should be priding itself on tourism, on the natural areas that we have, on our salmon rivers, on our beaches, on our trouting ponds. In a Province that should be attracting tourists here because of our nature, because of our provincial parks, we are saying, or - I should rephrase that - the Minister of Tourism is saying, because, as I have stated earlier, we on this side are not stupid, the Minister of Tourism is saying that although in September of 1996 her department believed that the standard of private parks was not near that of provincial parks.

Then all of a sudden they are going to be, and that although the tourists that come to our Province, the vast majority of those tourists, rather than visiting private parks, or visiting provincial parks, that is going to change. All of a sudden they are going to prefer to go to a park that is not as clean, that the facilities are not as good, that the programs are not as vast, that have Sea-Doos running over the swimmers, that have Sea-Doos knocking down children on the beaches, that tourists coming into our Province are rather going to see Sea-Doos and miniature golf courses than to go and experience our natural pristine environment.

The only thing that the tourists and the residents of our Province have really asked for in our provincial parks were washroom and shower facilities, and the Budget of 1995 basically gave us the impression that by enhancing our parks, by investing $1 million a year for five years into our parks, that that was a close reality. Well, now not only is it not a reality, not only is it not a reality, but the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation is making it so far from reality, is taking away all possibilities of our provincial parks being enhanced, that not only is she not going to invest the money back into these parks, she is cutting the parks away from the system altogether.

Mr. Chairman, in 1997, according to the minister's program review, which she now is trying to tell us is not accurate, is not valid, is the most recent program review. I asked her that myself on Friday. It is the most recent program review. Sure, they are in the progress of conducting another one. Why? Because the accurate one, the one we have here right now, the most recent one we have does not fulfil her mandate and does not fulfil the mandate of the Premier, so they are in the progress of conducting another program review. They want to change the answers because they have changed the questions. They have changed the rules.

Mr. Chairman, according to the program review they stated that in 1997 Newfoundland and Labrador will play host to the world during the Cabot 500 Celebrations. An influx of tourists is expected into the Province. Adequate accommodations are going to be needed and recreational activities are going to be needed to accommodate these tourists, and will be crucial to the enjoyment of their visit. The park system will no doubt be utilized to its limits in response to these demands. For these reasons it would be unwise to close parks or to experiment with extensive privatization during the 1997 camping season.

That seems pretty clear to me, Mr. Chairman. That seems pretty clear to all of us on this side of the House, not only our party but the other party and the independent as well. That seems pretty clear to us. It seemed pretty clear to the people I had at my constituency meeting in St. John's South. It seemed pretty clear to the people who my hon. colleague for Cape St. Francis had at his constituency meeting there to discuss the privatization of provincial parks.

It seemed pretty clear to the people who I had at the St. John's meeting, inviting all residents of St. John's to come out and talk about the privatisation of provincial parks and to express their dismay at the fact that the provincial government was going ahead with this plan. It seemed pretty clear, Mr. Chairman, to the people in Grand Falls - Windsor. It seemed pretty clear to the callers of the night line program which I hosted for two and a half hours. It seemed pretty clear to the night line and open-line programs that I've listened to. It seems pretty clear to me that the only people who are in the woods in this House are the people on the other side of the House.

The language in this program review is pretty clear. It states that the option of privatising provincial parks is not recommended for implementation following the conclusion of the program review. Yet that no longer fits the mandate of the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation or of the Premier, so what are they going to do? They are going to change the rules. They are conducting a new program review. I have absolutely no doubt that that program review is going to have a completely different face than this one, because they want it to. All of a sudden the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation and the Premier are going to find a whole new host of answers that they couldn't find last September at the conclusion of this program review.

The program review I have no doubt will be very different than the program review which was concluded on September 27 1996. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that because the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation and the Premier want something different that it is going to appear on paper. After all of the studies and all of the consultation with the park employees in order to complete this program review, which outlines very clearly that provincial parks are a much better standard than private parks, that private park owners are experiencing financial difficulty, that private park owners neither have the financial resources or the desire to implement the standards we have come to expect and are commonplace in the provincial park system - it is very clearly outlined in the program review. There is absolutely no doubt about it.

It is very clearly outlined in the program review that the parks are affordable. We have had people on the other side of the House bellow out: Where is your plan? Outline your plan. How do you think we are going to be able to keep these parks open? You hear people on the other side of the House, most especially the minister, responding in the public, in the media. She feels as though she has the public over a barrel by saying that if we keep these parks open we are going to have to close more hospital beds. Nothing could be further from the truth.

AN HON. MEMBER: How do you know?

MR. OSBORNE: Because it says in the program review that these parks are affordable because of the $450,000,000 generated as a direct or indirect result of the parks.

AN HON. MEMBER: How much?

MR. OSBORNE: Four hundred and fifty million dollars are generated as a direct or indirect result of these parks, and that makes these parks affordable. Yet the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation feels that the people of this Province are so naive that she wants them to believe that if she doesn't close these parks she is going to close hospital beds, she is going to close hospitals.

Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter is the minister doesn't have the people over a barrel; the government doesn't have the people over a barrel. Quite frankly we heard last night, at the meeting in Grand Falls - Windsor, that the people of our Province are tired of hearing the same old argument: If you don't close these parks you are going to close the hospital beds. They are tired of hearing that, most especially now that they know that this program review has said that these parks are affordable. I took the liberty to make sure that every one of them had a copy of the highlights of the review because they should know the truth. If they are expected to sit back and listen to the garbage that is spewed out from some of the people that are trying to mislead the public of our Province by telling them that these parks are not affordable they would not question it. The people of our Province have a right to know what this program review states and that is quite clearly that these parks are affordable.

Mr. Chairman, these parks are affordable because they generate $450 million a year in revenue. These parks are affordable because they keep the convenience store, in the community that these parks are in, open. These parks are affordable because the standards of these parks are higher than the equivalent of the private sector. Mr. Chairman, these parks are affordable because the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have paid taxes to have them there because, Mr. Chairman, it does not matter what municipal park you go to in the City of St. John's they are not there to generate surplus revenues. No matter what municipal parks you go to in Gander they are not there to generate surplus revenues. No matter what municipal parks you go to anywhere in this Province they are not there to generate surplus revenues. They are there because they were put there with the tax dollars of the people of those communities and the same goes for our provincial parks.

Our provincial parks are put there by the tax dollars of the people of our Province. They are put there to be enjoyed and utilized by the people of our Province and they do generate some revenues and they would generate further revenues, greater revenues if they had washroom facilities and shower facilities. They are going to continue to generate more revenues if they are advertised and if they are promoted and if we advertise and promote our tourism industry for what it is, a natural pristine environment. Our provincial parks should be an integral part of that process, Mr. Chairman. Our provincial parks should be a part of that process but instead, Mr. Chairman, the minister and the Premier have taken it upon themselves to cut short our provincial parks program and not one of the backbenchers over there that have provincial parks in their areas have stood up and spoke out against it, not one of them.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not even the Member for Topsail.

MR. OSBORNE: Ralph agrees with it? Mr. Chairman, the legal beagle agrees with it.

Mr. Chairman, not one of the backbenchers in this House has stood up and fought on behalf of the constituents of their area. If we could attract so many people to our meeting last night then it is quite obvious to me, Mr. Chairman, that this is not a good decision. That the elimination of provincially run, provincial parks that government run and regulate and legislatively protect the provincial parks, the elimination of that is not a good idea, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter here is quite clear. The fact of the matter is that the minister's decision is not being fought by the backbenchers. The minister's decision is not being fought by the members who sit in the areas that are affected by this decision. The minister's decision is not being fought by anybody on that side, the reason being that the people who sit on that side of the House are the only people in the Province who agree with this.

Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter is that the people who sit on that side of the House are the only people in our Province who agree with the privatization of our natural resources, of our provincial parks, of our waterways, of our salmon rivers.

Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter is that if we were to privatize Humber River and Star Lake, and every other pristine area in this Province that is able to generate a tourism business, then we are going to need our provincial parks because there will be nothing else left.

Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter here is that the minister made a mistake and she should be removed from Cabinet, and the people of this Province should be consulted on this decision before it goes any further, because it is quite clear that the people of this Province are against the privatization of our provincial parks.

Mr. Chairman, the Members for Labrador have not spoken out against this. The Members for Labrador have not spoken out against this at all. The thing is, they are cutting away half of the parks that are in Labrador. There are only two up there and there is only going to be one left.

Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter here is that the people of our Province are against the privatization of our provincial parks. They are not in favour of it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: We have a survey conducted. Don't you worry; we already have that. You guys have the same survey. What is it, 82 per cent I believe the number was.

Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter is that the government has not consulted with the people of our Province on whether or not the people of our Province wanted to privatize our parks. They have not gone out in the public; they have not opened up and asked for public meetings, they have not invited people out to ask for input. There were no public meetings, inviting people out to ask their opinion on what should be done.

Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter is that this decision just does not make any sense at all. It does not make any sense to the people of our Province. You are hearing it every day on the call-in shows; people are clearly against the privatization of provincial parks.

Mr. Chairman, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the people of this Province want to keep our provincial parks legislatively protected and operated and governed by the government of this Province. The people of our Province own these provincial parks. There was land for a number of these parks donated by private families, to be utilized and enjoyed by the people of our Province. There are salmon rivers in some of these provincial parks that are up for privatization. There are public beaches in some of these parks that are up for privatization. Clearly, this decision was made in haste without any consultation from the people of our Province. Not only are we on this side of the House against the decision made by the Minister of Tourism; the people of the Province are.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I will sit down and gladly let one of my colleagues stand up and speak on this bill.

Thank you.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I think my colleague from the District of St. John's South has certainly said what there is to say about the parks, and the disagreement and disappointment that exist in our Province, Mr. Chairman, as a result of the decision which has been made recently concerning the privatization of many of our parks. I can vouch for the fact that there is significant public support for many of the points that have been raised by the Member for St. John's South. I personally attended a meeting several nights ago in his district, which was attended by some sixty people who were unanimous -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please! Order, please!

The Chair is having difficulty hearing the hon. member.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: - who were unanimous, Mr. Chairman, in their opposition to the decision which has been made. So many of the points that have been raised throughout the past number of minutes by my colleague to my left, are indeed substantiated I would say by the public because the public has spoken loudly and clearly in their opposition to the changes which we are about to see and I understand the date is now in early April with respect to the privatization. But I say to this government, Mr. Chairman, that this is a growing and developing movement, and it may very well be that April 4th, we will not see the changes.

We may very well see in this Province, Mr. Chairman, so much public outcry to this particular issue that members opposite, in particular those decision-makers opposite, whose authority it is to make changes may reconsider; and I would suggest and recommend to members opposite, Mr. Chairman, that they take these voices of dissention and voices of opposition into consideration and seriously consider re-focusing I guess, the intent of this move and making serious change to the reform to the park system which is scheduled for early April.

The public has spoken and it is clear, Mr. Chairman, that what the public is saying is, that we do not want to see changes in the park system in our Province. As one gentleman put it at a public meeting that I attended recently: `the parks are ours', simple as that, and that reflects the sensitivity of the issue and reflects the emotion which is being stirred and caused as a result of this public debate.

I am intrigued by this book, Mr. Chairman, a book which is entitled The Record To Date, the book, which at great public expense has been drawn up by this government to somehow convince -

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you read it?

MR. OTTENHEIMER: With great interest, I may say to the hon. member. With great interest, Mr. Chairman, have I read this book, and the government has made an attempt, but this is what I found interesting, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to read briefly from the release which was attached to The Record To Date. It says: We do not take these commitments lightly, said the Premier. We told the people of this Province that we had a clear course of action and we are delivering and we will see on Thursday, Mr. Chairman, exactly what this government will be delivering and what will this government be delivering on Thursday. It will deliver massive, public sector layoffs. That is one commitment, that is one feature of The Record To Date, Mr. Chairman. What is this government going to be delivering? It is delivering No. 1, massive public sector layoffs and it states from today's edition of The Evening Telegram that sources within Confederation Building say that jobs are between 700 and 800 general service workers could be in jeopardy as a result of Thursday's Budget Speech.

Seven hundred to 800 public sector jobs, Mr. Chairman, so when we now look at The Record To Date, we know exactly what The Record To Date means, when the Premier is quoted as saying: We told the people of this Province that we had a clear course of action and we are delivering, and we can see clearly from the predictions and the speculations that are out there, within our community, we can see what the delivery will be. It will be the termination of hundreds and hundreds of public sector jobs in our Province.

That figure does not include the announcement of approximately two weeks ago when 468 teachers in our Province were laid off, and there could very well be more. We have 100 provincial government park employees who are now gone by the wayside as a result of the government's recent announcement to close some twenty-one parks in our Province.

We can see exactly what this government is planning on delivering, Mr. Chairman. It is delivering bad news. It is delivering the end of the road for literally hundreds, indeed a figure in excess of 1,000, of public sector employees, park attendants, park employees, and teachers in our Province, and that is probably only a start. For example, speculation continues to state that if taxes aren't raised or spending cut, the Province's $9.5 billion debt is expected to rise by some $545 million over the next three years. That is the speculation; that is the prediction. That is what the people have in the store for them in this Province.

We see the Province's plans to slice into municipal operating grants which help towns pay for municipal services, such as water and sewer. How had these grants been affected in recent years? Municipalities received some $29 million from provincial revenues for 1996-1997. Some four years ago, 1992-1993, that figure was at $41.5 million.

It is constant reduction, it is constant reducing, it is constant slashing and slicing. However, when we read what the record is to date the Premier himself is quoted as saying: We are delivering. When we look very closely at what the Premier and this government are truly delivering we will see clearly what that is come this Thursday when the people of this Province will be devastated because of reductions in expenditures, because of cuts, because of lost jobs, and because the morale of the people of this Province will once again be destroyed. That is what this government is delivering, and that is what The Record To Date sadly reflects.

It also states in that same release that we have made more progress in our first year than we had expected. What sort of announcement or pronouncement can that possibly be? With the announcements which are being speculated upon, and certainly what the prediction is for Thursday coming in terms of the Budget Speech, and when we look at a so-called Record To Date, in which it is stated that we are delivering what we said we would, the Premier has stated in the press release that we have made more progress in our first year than we had expected.

What a statement, I say, Mr. Chairman. What a travesty when we carefully analyze and scrutinize exactly what the status is in this Province, what the reality is in this Province, what the reality is for thousands and thousands, indeed tens of thousands, of Newfoundlanders who again will be affected so negatively by Thursday's Budget. However, the government is not without its good news announcements, and we saw recently some good news announcements and I was pleased to speak to some of these announcements; however, some of these announcements have to be carefully reviewed.

We saw last week an announcement of a committee which was formed in this Province, made up of representatives in this Province who would sit on this committee, a financial resource committee, and we look at the political affiliation of these members. It is a sad reflection to see that what this government has done once again is exercise an extreme example of patronage in the appointment of individuals who are clearly the supporters and contributors to the Liberal Party of this Province. That is what it is. That is the sort of delivery this government is talking about. It is talking about taking care of our friends, taking care of our supporters. The delivery is to those individuals. It is not to the public at large. It is not to the electorate at large. What is being delivered to the electorate at large in this Province is just a constant litany of bad news, a constant litany of desperate announcements, and this will be confirmed, I would submit, when we sit here and when the galleries are full, and when the televisions are being looked at on Thursday coming, the 20th of this month. That is what is being delivered by this government and it is again a sad reflection on the reality in which we live in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I understand, Mr. Chairman, when I spoke last that you were having some difficulty maintaining order and control in the House. I was not sure that some of the points I was making had been properly heard, so I thought I might try to repeat just one or two of them for purposes of the record.

As I was pointing out, Mr. Chairman, in fact, in Interim Supply we are requesting just over $219 million for education. I know that members opposite, as I was saying, and not only the members opposite, but if the public generally, could have some say about this, they would be saying do not stop at $219 million, please vote some more money for education. Because, Mr. Chairman, the members opposite have already asked for that. I am sure in Question Period some time this week or next week they will be up again saying we should have more money in education.

There was an issue today before the House with respect to a petition about bus monitors and so on, where the Opposition has changed its mind, because their first statement from the critic was clearly: No, no, you did not need to pay for that. It would be a great thing for parents to volunteer in the true spirit of the interest and the safety of the students.

Mr. Chairman, I was pointing out as well that when the people look at a totally non-partisan document like the Record to Date, which just lists what has happened, just a very factual recounting of what has occurred in one short year, Mr. Chairman, and if you take the education matters in this book - I do not know who put it together, Mr. Chairman, but there are all tick marks for education. They are all ticked off as being like done. So that even surprises me, Mr. Chairman, because I know it was not because of anything I did. It probably happened in spite of me instead of because of me, but it shows again that when the people of the Province - as I indicated in my last few remarks, Mr. Chairman, they put these little report cards and these check lists on their refrigerators. In Exploits District now, Mr. Chairman, in fact, they are holding the check marks onto the fridge with a little fridge magnet that has my picture on it and phone number, saying: If you have any concerns, call your member. And we do get the occasional call, Mr. Chairman, and when they get over the compliment about `Thanks for the magnet,' and `Thanks for making sure you were accessible,' and those kinds of things; sometimes there are some serious problems that we still try to deal with.

Again, Mr. Chairman, when they look at this particular document - and I know that hundreds of people are calling in looking for this document, because they want to know what happened in the first year - they look through it and they see these matters. Like a situation that said: There will be no change in current times for busing students. This was a big issue, as members will recall, during the election last year. Because there was some suspicion that all the bus times were going to change, students were going to be up before daylight and not get home till after dark. There was going to be absolute chaos in the system. Members opposite jumped on it and thought they were on a bandwagon going down a hill, and said: Let us get on this one, boys. This is good; we have something good going here. They did all this kind of stuff.

Of course, we just came out and said: Listen, there is no intention for September 1996 to change any of these bus times for students. It will be part of a public consultation. Even members opposite, and to their credit - the Opposition critic for Education, the Leader of the Opposition, the Member for Conception Bay South, travelled long distances around the Province to attend public consultation meetings hosted by myself as the Minister of Education.

The `old coppertop' himself showed up at a meeting in Baie Verte and was absolutely astounded at the public interest. We had a gymnasium full of people who wanted to deal with some issues. As a matter of fact, I will give the hon. the Member for Baie Verte his credit, too. We came to a very good resolution in a meeting that he organized with the group out there. We dealt with the busing issue. Because there was a little bit of confusion at the time, and it was clarified. I believe the people of the area gave the member and the minister credit for dealing with the issue and resolving it sensibly. Because it was done, the thing that should have happened in the first place did happen, and it was a good session.

So there were no changes. We spent some three weeks travelling the Province having public meetings. The legislation that again I give credit to the Opposition for supporting unanimously before Christmas, with some changes that were put forward by the Opposition critic - that we could not help but accept because of the good sense that was in the amendments. It was obvious that there was some research done by the Opposition. I am not sure whether `Mrs. Open Line' was the official researcher then or not, but somebody did some good research on education, and we actually adopted several of the amendments that were proposed, because it was seen to be an improvement upon the work that we had done up to that point in time.

As a result, the new legislation was put in place unanimously before Christmas. It is being actioned now. One of the things with respect to busing times is that we will be allowing the school boards, in consultation locally, to arrange the busing schedules for students in their area. Again, with the unanimous consent of this House and with the approval of the people of the Province we have indicated clearly that there is really only one rule with respect to busing. We want the general rule that is applied for busing to be that appropriate busing should be supplied to the nearest school that can meet the educational needs of the students. Members opposite agreed with that point of view, members publicly in consultation agreed with that point of view, and it shows obviously as a tick mark in the record to date because it said there will be no change in current times for busing. This is a statement that was made last January and February. There were not any, and any that will be made will be made locally on further consultation as a result of a new piece of legislation that leaves those decisions to the local decision makers because they know best which bus systems to put in place to meet the needs of the students that they have to serve in their local areas.

That is a real change, Mr. Chairman, that people are applauding and when they look at the totally non-politically biased, totally non-partisan record to date - I do not know who did it yet, but I would like to find out who did it because I believe they did some good research. They checked to see, and sure enough, it said there would not be any changes made in busing, and what do you think happened, no changes made to busing. Will there be some this year? Maybe so, and if there is how will it happen? It will happen the way it was described in the public consultation which government committed to, we would consult.

As a matter of fact I have indicated to the Premier for the public record, so that people opposite would know, that we have consulted so much, and we have listened so much in just one short year, that if the party opposite was smart at all, and they wanted to try to look out and find some kind of political niche to carve out for themselves, they should say, elect us and we will not consult, because the people of this Province are getting sick and tired of consultation. There has been so much consultation that maybe the group opposite should say, we are a group and if you elect us we will take the mandate and go with it. We will consult during the election, no more consultation, but I do not know if they are going to do that or not, Mr. Chairman. We will find out in due course.

Now, we have the version of public consultation that they have, of course, and again they believe they have found some kind of bandwagon going down over some kind of hill, related somehow to parks, so sure enough they are out hammering on, the fellow with all the parks. The most parks in Newfoundland and Labrador are in St. John's South and the Member for St. John's South with all those parks at risk is out trying to jump on a bandwagon. He was out in Central Newfoundland and Grand Falls - Windsor for the first time in his life and somebody had to show him where the hotel was, Mr. Chairman. He has never been out there.

The overpass syndrome was alive and well. He got just outside the overpass and thought he was still heading west. Somebody said, yes, follow Trans-Canada number one, keep heading into the sunset and you will end up out there somewhere, and sooner or later you will see a sign that says, `Grand Falls - Windsor', and when you get there somebody will show you where the Mount Paton Hotel is.

When he got into the hotel, sure enough, he went around to the meeting rooms, because there are several of them, and he looked for the biggest crowd. Sure enough, there was not even the biggest crowd. There were three other meetings in the hotel that had a bigger crowd, and they had to show him to the one where the meeting was about the parks.

Mr. Chairman, it is nice to see that at least he is getting over the overpass syndrome. He is trying to jump on the little bandwagon. We know that all the people of St. John's South support him because there are so many provincial parks in St. John's South that are at risk. No wonder the member should take great offence and be very upset about it, because it is something that strikes at him personally, and he takes it so seriously that I am delighted to see him out there on the bandwagon.

The consultation is going well, and I wish them well.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. GRIMES: By leave, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: I think we are in Committee. I will just sit down and finish my time and the Committee will rise, I expect, Mr. Chairman.

On motion, that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again, Mr. Speaker returned to the Chair.

MR. TULK: Copies are available from the whip and I presume that we are going to have an excellent debate tomorrow that has something to do with taxes and low income families and I am sure that there is a number of people who will be here tomorrow morning by nine o'clock. The whip on this side will have people lined up at the door wanting to speak and defend the record of this government.

AN HON. MEMBER: They won't be lining up the next day to defend what is coming.

MR. TULK: What is your problem? Because you have gone up in the polls you have got right lippy.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at two o'clock.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Wednesday, at two o'clock in the afternoon.