April 22, 1997             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS              Vol. XLIII  No. 11


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: (Snow) Order, please!

Before we start our routine proceedings today, the Chair would like to rule on a privilege that was raised on March 25th by the hon. Minister of Social Services, respecting questions asked by the hon. the Opposition House Leader concerning confidential information, allegedly supplied by persons within the Department of Social Services to a private sector company.

The hon. minister in making her point of privilege is requesting the hon. Opposition House Leader to provide her with details of the source of the information so that the allegations can be investigated.

This is the substance of the hon. ministers comments in support of her point of privilege. While it is indeed likely as the minister has said that the remarks of the Opposition House Leader may have caused some concern in the disabled community. The matter raised by the minister appears to be more in the nature of a request for clarification than a point of privilege and the Chair rules that a prima facie case has not been established.

 

Statements by Ministers

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today that Mobil Oil Canada, Chervon Canada Resources, Petro Canada and Norsk Hydro Canada Oil and Gas have announced today their plans to drill a delineation well on the Hebron area of the Grand Banks, three kilometres northeast of the Hebron 1-13 discovery well.

With this announcement today Mr. Speaker, there will be two wells drilled and a seismic survey completed on the Grand Banks this summer 1997.

Mr. Speaker, this latest announcement of a second exploratory well is tangible and concrete evidence of increased confidence in the oil and gas sector in the Province. The announcement today of this new Hebron well further supports our belief that there are more oil and gas resources to be discovered on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador. Companies are once again Mr. Speaker, enthusiastic about our offshore petroleum resources potential and are taking steps to discover more oil and gas.

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time in over five years that oil companies will drill exploratory wells on the Grand Banks. We are seeing a renewed interest in the Grand Banks because of the development of Hibernia and the Terra Nova oil fields and of course the preparation that is now being done for While Rose as well, and Mr. Speaker we are seeing this renewed because of the generic oil and gas regime which was put in place last year, as well. The regime as been well received by the oil industry and it provides for certainty for the companies that were involved.

The Regime has been well received by the oil industry and it provides certainty for the companies that we are inviting to invest in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore.

Mr. Speaker, government is also pleased with the other Grand Banks exploration plans which have been previously announced by Amoco, Husky, and by Petro-Canada.

These include Amoco Canada's intention to drill next month, the West Bonne Bay prospect, approximately 15 kilometres northeast of the Terra Nova field, using the semisubmersible Bill Shoemaker drilling unit. This well will be drilled on the acreage which Amoco picked up in 1995 for $90.3 million.

The Bill Shoemaker unit will be also used to drill this new Hebron well. The well will be spudded sometime in September, and Petro-Canada will be the operator on this particular site on behalf of all participants in this consortium.

As well, Mr. Speaker, Husky Oil - acting on behalf of a ten-company partnership, this year, that includes Husky, Petro-Canada, Chevron, Gulf, Murphy, Mobil, Talisman, Parex, Norsk-Hydro and Mosbacher - selected PGS Exploration, a subsidiary of Petroleum Geo-Services ASA, to conduct a major 3D marine seismic survey on the Grand Banks, commencing in May of this year, Mr. Speaker, next month. The program will cover an area of approximately 1100 square kilometres and it is, at $30 million, the largest ever offshore seismic survey in the Jeanne d'Arc Basin off the Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, in addition, Petro-Canada have stated that they have future plans to drill the Riverhead prospect, one of the larger undrilled prospects located on the Grand Banks. Petro-Canada and its partners Mobil and Chevron successfully bid $64.9 million for this prospect.

Present estimates, Mr. Speaker, are that recoverable reserves in the Jeanne d'Arc Basin are at 1.6 billion barrels. It is estimated by the private sector itself that another 5 billion barrels of oil reserves now wait to be discovered.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, Pan Canadian has just last week indicated its intention to proceed again, once the study of data has been completed, for development on the West Coast.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to share this information with the House today and in light of the possibility of other circumstances internationally which may change the place of some members who currently sit in this House, notably the Member for St. John's West, to thank that member, who as Minister of Mines and Energy, has created a regime that is creating wealth and opportunity for all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am quite pleased too, and the official Opposition, to see activity off our shores in oil and gas which has the potential for tremendous opportunities and returns in this Province.

The Premier goes on and mentions the oil regime, the generic royalty regime as well-received by the oil industry, provides certainty for companies involved out there and sobeit; it should, but I am very concerned too, even more concerned with what it is going to provide to the taxpayers and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is no point in having the largest - the Premier said: the largest and the biggest seismic survey. We had another large and big development in Churchill Falls and what did our Province get? So it is not the size, it is the benefits that accrue to this Province that concern me most, Mr. Speaker, and not the rhetoric and the flow and the paid political announcements for the Member for St. John's West to refuse to bring in a regime to let Voisey's Bay off the hook, and Inco, on billions of dollars for this Province. That is what I am more concerned about, Mr. Speaker, and I welcome any exploration; it means jobs - and to see them coming now and the Premier to ensure that this development will ensure there are jobs for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, not jobs for people in the rest of the world I say to the Premier, that is what counts and that is what people in Newfoundland and Labrador want.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think all Newfoundlanders welcome some activity on the offshore particularly if the oil companies are spending their own money and not that of the taxpayers which provided the exploration monies to discover the oil there in the first place; but I think the question that we all have to ask ourselves, and I don't think we really yet have the answer to the question, is, what are the benefits to the people of the Province of Newfoundland of that exploration and indeed of the development, for example, of the Terra Nova prospect?

There is not enough information in the public and I do not hear the government talking about the benefits of the Province except in some vague way. With an unemployment rate, Mr. Speaker, officially at twenty, really at forty or more, we should be talking about a regime that will only be acceptable if it does something about the unemployment rate in this Province, and I have not heard the Premier really talk about that or start a public discussion or allow a public discussion on the true benefits of the offshore oil regime.

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, as minister responsible for housing, I rise today to announce a new Canada-Newfoundland Social Housing Agreement. This morning, Premier Tobin, the hon. Diane Marleau, Minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and I signed this new agreement.

Over the years, some 13,500 social housing units were developed in this Province under various programs, 9,400 of which are under the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation's (NLHC) administration, and 4,100 under CMHC's direct administration. This agreement consolidates administrative responsibility for these units under NLHC. This new partnership will give the Province the flexibility to deliver housing programs best suited to the specific needs of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the federal government, through CMHC, will continue to maintain its financial commitments for assisted housing in this Province. The federal government currently contributes $55 million annually which, over the term of this agreement, will amount to approximately $1.5 billion.

This agreement is a good one for this Province, for those in need of assisted housing, and for taxpayers generally, and it will result in more efficient and effective operation of social housing.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I would like to say to the minister that I would like to see more details of this particular arrangement. We want to know more of the specifics. What we have here is really designed more to give the minister a media clip after Question Period than it is to give any kind of details. We want to know if this is more federal downsizing and more downloading to the Province. We would like to have more information on how the changes will impact upon those who are now living in social assisted houses, and also what it is going to do about the 800 families in this Province who are waiting to get into housing, either of the co-op nature or into housing provided by the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, we would like to see more details. We would like to be able to offer approval, but we certainly do not want to jump on the bandwagon here until we see how it is going to affect the people for whom it is designed, or whom it is supposed to help.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The announcement of the minister today merely indicates an administrative change. He does not say anything about what he is going to do to answer the desperate need that so many people have for housing today. I think all members of this House, particularly on this side, have requests on a daily basis for people who are desperate to get housing and do not have adequate housing. He has not addressed that need in his statement and I do not think his department has any plans to address that in even this session of the House.

 

Oral Questions

 

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Premier. Today, the people of the Province are speaking out in protest; and, if you look around us, this Province is in the state of chaos. We have a health care system that is collapsing; we have an education system that is out of control; unemployment is rampant in the Province; the Province is selling off people's land, and we have just seen 17,000 people leave our Province, some of the brightest and youngest people that our Province had.

Premier, you did not consult with the people of the Province, and your Red Book did not contain anything about this. You have misled the people of the Province, and you have been arrogant about it. Now, I ask you to start listening and responding to their pleas, and stop washing your hands of your responsibilities.

I ask the Premier now: When are you going to start listening to the people and start facing up to your responsibilities instead of running away from them?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

[Loud applause from the gallery.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I want to say to our visitors in the gallery today that members of this House are always pleased to welcome them here, but I have to inform them that participation in any way or form in the debate is not acceptable, that approval or disapproval of any of the proceedings here on the floor of the House of Assembly is not condoned. It has been a long Parliamentary tradition that only members who are duly elected to this House speak in the debate, and I ask them to respect that Parliamentary tradition.

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I welcome back to the House, the Leader of the Opposition and others who have been away from the House during the period of the break.

Mr. Speaker, I take advantage of this opportunity to welcome the new Sergeant-at-Arms to her first day on the job, the first day of carrying the Mace into the House on behalf of all members of the House.

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has made a statement which is largely political in nature. He has not put a specific question to the government. I say to the Leader of the Opposition: We know, on this side of the House, that some of the decisions that we have made are decisions that are difficult for the people who are affected by those decisions, be they decisions regarding the future of education reform in this Province, be they decisions reflecting on our capacity to address all of the needs and all of the desires for health care, be they decisions that reflect upon our capacity, for example, to respond to all the needs for capital works or road construction in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we know that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador want to work. They want an opportunity for themselves, and they want an opportunity for their children.

I say to the Leader of the Opposition that to the best of our capacity - and that capacity does not extend to being able to respond in twenty-four hours to every request, or respond within a period of twelve months of being elected to every expectation - we are doing our job to face up to the tough issues, and yes, Mr. Speaker, to make the tough decisions, because they are not easy to make.

I remain confident, as confident today as I was a year ago, that Newfoundland and Labrador - because of the development of our resources, offshore oil and gas, Voisey's Bay, because of the slow but important recovery in our fishery, because of new investment in areas like the IT and aquaculture sectors, new investment in the mining sector on the Baie Verte Peninsula and elsewhere in this Province - is developing a stronger economy. Mr. Speaker, of course, we have had a loss of population between 1991 and 1996, and that is what the Leader of the Opposition is referring to. That is the period in which the Northern cod stock and every other fishery in this Province collapsed. Rebuilding that is not easy, but I say to the Leader of the Opposition, it will take more than rhetoric to do it. It will take hard work, it will take tough decisions, and it will take a belief in a steady course.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If rhetoric would have it done, it would be done now, Premier, I can tell you. You tell the 17,000, yes, the net loss of 17,000, the tens of thousands more than seventeen in Alberta and Ontario, and the families in this Province who are hurting because you did not tell them the truth, I say to the Premier. You misled them.

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

The hon. member is now using some language that is unparliamentary and I ask him to withdraw it.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I withdraw that remark. There seems to be money, I say to the Premier, and if the Premier would bring in a royalty agreement, we would have money here in this Province. There is plenty of money, hundreds of thousands for your travel for photo ops across the country and around the world. You find money for that. You find millions to increase the size of your Cabinet when people of the Province are hurting. You can find over $100,000 to create a new position for your brother-in-law, but you cannot find money in this Province for people who are hurting out there.

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

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the Premier: Rural Newfoundland has been decimated by your actions as a federal minister and as Premier of this Province. Instead of running like a coward, will you stand here -

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

MR. SULLIVAN: - in this House and admit -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Again the hon. member is being unparliamentary.

MR. SULLIVAN: I withdraw the word `coward', Mr. Speaker. Instead of running -

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. member to get to his question.

MR. SULLIVAN: Instead of running, will you stand here and admit that your real scheme is the same one as your predecessor, and that is to shut down rural Newfoundland and Labrador?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, neither I nor any member on this side of the House is running or is a coward. We are facing up to the difficult issues and questions that face this Province, and in so doing, Mr. Speaker, we do not lower ourselves to the kind of gratuitous insult that is being offered by the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: No call names and we do not drag members of somebody's family onto the floor of the House in the totally unfair manner -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: The Leader of the Opposition has now, several times, raised the question of somebody who has been a federal and provincial public servant in this Province for over a decade and somehow tries to create the impression that that individual, who has been a senior public servant, both federally and provincially, is a new hire and it is false. Mr. Speaker, raising that kind of question, looking for that kind of comment is pure demagoguery. I do not say to the Leader of the Opposition that I spend hours of my time meeting his brother, who is a major manager in the fisheries business of this Province and receiving his representations because his brother is doing a good and serious job to try to create jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I have time for his brother!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: I would say to the Leader of the Opposition, if he took a page from his brother's book, he would spend more time concentrating on the facts, less time concentrating on insults and more time making a contribution, a real one, to Newfoundland and Labrador!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, I hit a nerve with the Premier. He created a new position here in government at over $100,000, more than one, I say to the Premier, with taxpayers' dollars.

Now back in the 1980s we did a great thing here in Canada, we agreed to abide by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms here in this country and in this Province. The Premier keeps telling us he is committed to women - he said, put four women in the Cabinet. Tell the health care workers, those that you have driven a knife into their backs and now are turning it even deeper, that you are not willing to stand up for equal pay for equal work here in this Province, instead contest it in the Supreme Court. Now, will you tell women in this Province today that you will fight for them and not against them to ensure that there is equal pay for work done by women in this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the people of Newfoundland and Labrador - because that is ultimately who we are speaking to in this place - to reflect upon the words of the Leader of the Opposition today. The word `coward' has been used, the word `running' has been used, the words `knifing people in the back' have been used - all kinds of pejorative language, all kinds of insults, which is the mark of somebody who does not have a substantive argument, to start hurling insults across the floor.

Now, we just had the Leader of the Opposition stand up. He wants the government to find money for health care. We know that because he has been talking about it for weeks. He wants the government to find extra money for education. We know that because he tells us he is concerned about it. He wants us to find money for parks and more money to maintain existing parks because he just said that outside a few minutes ago. Now, he wants the government to find $80 million, right away, to pay it out on the basis of a tribunal ruling, without a test before the courts, because he tells us we should find that right away.

I want to ask the Leader of the Opposition - because is the Leader of the Opposition, and, in taking on that responsibility has to be prepared, Mr. Speaker, to say where he would find the money - to tell us where he is finding all of this additional money in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador? I say to him that the way to governance is to build the economy, not to raise false expectations, to do the best we can with the resources that are available and to grow the wealth of this Province. You do that by diversifying the fishery and we are doing that with our wild stocks and with our aquaculture stocks. You do that by developing our offshore oil and gas regime and, Mr. Speaker, that regime is going to create an oil play which will make Newfoundland and Labrador the centre and the capital of the oil and gas industry for this country and one of the centres for North America. Mr. Speaker, you do that by developing Voisey's Bay, by creating a smelter refinery complex in Argentia and by creating, not the 600 jobs that have been announced by Inco, but 3,000 jobs in Labrador by Inco. We are following that course of action and I ask the Leader of the Opposition, if you have one - and I finish, Mr. Speaker

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to finish up.

PREMIER TOBIN: - if you have a serious suggestion, we will consider it. We would welcome it. But give us more than insults and rhetoric, Sir, if you are serious about your business.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I told the Minister of Health a year ago where to be saving money. He made an announcement last week they were going to do it. Do you believe when you said re-invest money in education, you sold the education reform program? Did you tell the people of the Province the truth? Do you believe when you said re-invest money in education, you sold the Education Reform Program, did you tell the people of the Province the truth? Did you know the truth, did you tell them the truth, I say to the minister? I will ask you something that will put revenue here in our Province. You stand in your place now and tell the people of Newfoundland and Labrador when you are going to bring in a royalty regime and take away the ten-year tax holiday on Inco, involving billions of dollars to this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, you know, it is amazing to me because the record will show, and I challenge anybody who is an observer in this House to look at the record, how many times the Member for St. John's West has stood in his place and told the Leader of the Opposition there is not a ten-year tax holiday going to be offered to Inco in this Province. More to the point, how many times has the Leader of the Opposition been told that, through the process, the preparation required to make sure we bring in the best regime, that this year, we will bring in the regime for Inco; not Churchill Falls I say to the Leader of the Opposition.

There is a smelter refinery complex, the most technologically advanced and all of the associated jobs being built in Newfoundland and Labrador because we stood our ground, and your Party, in the last election said: it would never happen. Well, it has happened. That is the fact, Mr. Speaker. There is a transshipment terminal worth one-third of a billion dollars being built out at Whiffin Head which your Party said would never happen but it has happened, Mr. Speaker, and, Mr. Speaker, in the last federal election, the Conservative Party said: Nobody would dare go beyond the 200-mile limit and put an end to foreign overfishing but that has happened as well, Mr. Speaker -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: - and, Mr. Speaker, we are going to rebuild this economy and create jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

PREMIER TOBIN: - and if the Leader of the Opposition wants to help, give us one, solid suggestion and we will celebrate it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is easy enough to know when you hit a nerve with the Premier. He refuses to answer your questions because he feels guilty that we are giving Inco a ten-year tax break.

It is nice to come here and spout rhetoric in the House of Assembly, but you talk to the people in Newfoundland and Labrador who are feeling the effects of your policies that are wreaking devastation on this Province. You have a responsibility as Premier, and I ask you again: When are you going to take away the tax holiday that was brought in in this Legislature in 1994? We have been asking for two years to have it changed. Your former minister and you refused to do it and are going to give Inco a carte blanche ten-year holiday on billions of dollars. That is where the revenues go - you are talking about hope for the future, I ask you to deliver now and have the guts to do it.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, if I had to have all the guts that the Leader of the Opposition suggests I have in every Question Period, I would have enough to fill the slaughter house.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you know, these kind of comments mean nothing. The Leader of the Opposition has been told many times there is no tax holiday, no ten-year tax holiday for Inco, and if the Leader of the Opposition wants to say that he believes such is going to occur, then I ask him to put his seat on the line in making that accusation, because I will put my seat on the line that there will be no tax holiday and there will be a regime this year that will maximize the benefits for Newfoundland and Labrador. So, put your seat where your mouth is.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Call an election, put your seat (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, are for the hon. Premier.

The Province's Education system today, in this Province, Mr. Speaker, is in a state of chaos and yet the Minister of Education, the same minister appointed by the hon. Premier and the Premier himself, have both abdicated responsibility and have delegated responsibilities to the interim appointed boards.

Given the fact that the unprecedented changes in education which are now being made are so critical, Mr. Speaker, so fundamental, so far-reaching and long-lasting and that the impacts on our children and communities will be serious and quite possibly permanent, I would ask: why won't the hon. Premier and his minister get a grip on the reins of educational change and become personally involved and accountable for the state and chaos of Education in our Province today?

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I rise today as the alternate Minister of Education in the absence of the minister.

I would like to say in addressing the question about school re-organization and school reform that, throughout the last year and during all of the public consultations which were conducted by the Minister of Education and his department, parent groups and school boards requested greater autonomy in the administration of our schools. Government acted on these recommendations and ensured that the new Schools Act gave local school boards the jurisdiction that they requested over the ways that schools are being organized in our district. This includes the right to decide the number of schools.

I think we all know that these schools will operate. The location of the schools, the grade levels to be taught, and the designation of each school, is up to the local decision-making process that was put in with great consultation by the Minister of Education through the Schools Act to the school boards.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the acting minister, with all due respect, it is simply not working. It is not working, Mr. Speaker. Just simply ask the parents of Englee; ask the parents of Port au Port; ask the parents of Brownsdale; ask the parents of Brigus; ask the parents of Jacques Fontaine, many of whom are here today. They are simply not satisfied with what is happening in educational reform in our Province; but I am going to make a proposal. And my question would be for the minister and for the Premier - hopefully the Minister of Education and quite possibly the acting minister to consider - and my proposal is this: For the appointment of an educational ombudsman, somebody who would be seen as impartial and independent.

Right now we have an impasse in education. The boards have closed debate -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Parents and communities feel they cannot get a response; there is nobody who will listen.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am asking the hon. Premier to give serious consideration today to the appointment of an educational ombudsman, somebody - like the calibre, for example, of Dr. Len Williams, who wrote the report on educational reform several years ago - somebody who can listen to all arguments, can listen to parents, can listen to people who feel that their communities are dying, can listen to the board members themselves.

I would ask the hon. Premier to give serious consideration to such a proposal in an honest effort to break this impasse -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I believe the hon. member has asked his question.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: - and to bring some solution to the crisis which exists today in our Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the government is quite prepared to give consideration to any and all proposals that come forward that look -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: Well, the Leader of the Opposition is now making sarcastic comments about a proposal given by the member who has just spoken.

The government is prepared to consider any proposal that is honestly put forward to facilitate the process of educational change. The fact of the matter is that everybody in this House and everybody in this Province knows that there is a will in this Province to proceed with education reform. Everybody in this House, without exception, and everybody in this Province, knows that it has been a long and difficult debate. And there is still in this Province today - and I would ask all members to consider this carefully in the context of the unanimous resolutions that have been passed here, and in the context of the fact that all members of this House, when this legislation was put through, all members - including the member who has just spoken - supported the legislation and supported the drive toward reform. Indeed, all parties were represented in Ottawa in asking Ottawa to proceed with the constitutional amendment.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say this because I believe it is important.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: I want to say this because I believe it is important. I know that there are many communities who have heard from their boards that their school is either going to lose a number of grades, or in some cases the school is going to close altogether, and that this is a decision which causes frustration, which causes anger, and in some cases causes fear. I understand that.

Mr. Speaker, it is very easy for any one of us to stand here and every time somebody is either angry, frustrated or fearful, to want to identify with that fear or anger and frustration and to want to be their champion, when volunteers - because that is who they are, and I want us to reflect upon that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the bottom line, and every member here knows it in his or her bones, volunteers have come forward; they receive no pay whatsoever; they get no benefit whatsoever; they have only one thing in their minds, to improve the quality of the education system, to improve the quality of life in Newfoundland and Labrador, and they are making decisions. It is easy to stand here on either side of the House and second guess those boards.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, Please!

I ask the hon. Premier to conclude his answer, please.

PREMIER TOBIN: The government will not second guess those boards and I say to the members opposite that when you stand and do that you do not serve the Province or the volunteers; the citizens who have taken those difficult decisions.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I requested from the Minister of Tourism on March 4th, under the Freedom of Information Act, the following information: the total amount of public money put into developing, servicing, upgrading or otherwise enhancing our parks and attractions, their sites and facilities over the years.

The minster has provided very limited information. Mr. Speaker, she has provided information on seven parks from 1993 to 1996. Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister when is she going to comply with the freedom of information request, which is now almost three weeks old, and provide the owners of these parks, the people of our Province, the people who are constantly saying they do not want these parks privatized, with the total investment into each of these parks throughout the years.

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, my department have started the response, as you know, as the hon. member pointed out, we have started the response and given some of the information as requested. We are in the process of gathering the rest of the information. The letter does not outline how far back the hon. member wishes us to go back. This could take several years if we have to go back from the very beginning and look at all of the records to determine what has the total investment been in the parks since they were created. So, we are doing our best to provide the most current information available on all of the parks which are in the provincial park system at this time.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the minister what she is basing her assessment of the value of these parks on when she is considering proposals for the take-over of these parks if she does not have this information readily available. Mr. Speaker, how can she have possibly decided under such short notice to privatize these parks when she does not know the total investment into these parks by the people of our Province?

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, we are basing our assessment on the current assets that are in the parks and the current costs of operating the parks.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is obvious Mr. Speaker, that the people of this Province do not want these parks privatized. The minister has in her hand seventy-seven proposals for the take-over of these parks. We have in our hands tens of thousands of petitions against the privatization of these parks.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister when she is going to start listening to the people of this Province, the people who own these parks and reverse her decision on privatizing the parks.

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, this government has acknowledged over this budget period and through the program review period that tough choices had to be made in this Province. This was one of the choices. We are working with the ninety-two employees that are being displaced. Already we know that thirty-five of them will be re-employed into the core park system, the thirteen parks that are left in our system. We have twelve people who will be retiring, we have others who will be going through the voluntary exit package. In the seventy-seven proposals that we accepted on April 4th at the end of the proposal phase, ten of these were from employee groups. We have also noted that in dealing with the business proposals and the components that are coming to the top of the list, many of them are proposing also to employee or re-employee some of these displaced parks workers.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Opposition House Leader.

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

My questions are for the Minister of Human Resources and Employment. Families of persons in group homes were quite shocked in recent weeks to learn the decisions relative to the future of their loved ones were being made without adequate notice or consolidation.

Why madame minister did you decide to proceed to dictate to those families in such an autocratic manner the closing of existing group homes and the restructuring of the cooperative apartment alternatives. Why did you fail to seek input before the decisions were made, and why did you not consult with the families and the care givers?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think many of the people who have been around for a while recognize that the group home model is a transitional model for people moving from institutions into the community. In the past, in 1990 and 1991, we closed sixteen group homes. We involve the families in the process, we use consultation with the behaviour modification specialists, with the social workers, with the families. The process that we will be using this time is exactly the same.

We have targeted a number of cooperatives, a number of individualized living arrangements. As well, we have also targeted some alternate family homes, and we will use exactly the same process now as we did then. The families will be involved. They were involved then and they will be in this time. We have sent out recommendations, we have sent out notifications to our staff, and we will be meeting with the families on an individual basis to decide the proper place for their loved ones to live.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The families I've talked to would have benefitted from the consultation prior to the strategy being announced. I say to the minister the memo of April 4 tells families that there will be fourteen cooperative apartments throughout the Province providing residential services to forty-two individuals. I wanted to ask the minister, where will these cooperative apartments be located? Will it mean that extended family members who are now able to offer family support to their loved ones by way of visitations on a regular basis, will it mean that these persons will now be moved away from their local communities where visitation on a regular basis will be impractical or impossible?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We always endeavour when we are dealing with individuals to try to place them and accommodate them as close as possible to their families and to their loved ones. That process has not changed and we will be endeavouring to do that. Our target is thirteen cooperative living arrangements. Right now we have cooperatives of one, cooperatives of two, cooperatives of three, plus group homes. We are trying to work on an individual basis as well as trying to standardize some of the living arrangements. Each person will be assessed individually with the families, with the individuals, with all the professionals that are required. We will use the same process, and we will hopefully try to keep them in the same areas if that is possible.

MR. SPEAKER: Supplementary, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The memo of April 4 clearly indicates that the primary focus of this change is budgetary in nature. I say to the minister, four days after you became Minister of Human Resources and Employment, and after you had gotten elected on a campaign that said we can't cut, cut, cut our way to prosperity, your memo in effect gives lay off notices to dozens of employees who work in those group homes providing alternate care. How can the minister rationalize what she is doing in terms of her mandate to the individuals living in the group homes, and also for responsibility to try to make sure that we keep employment as high as we can in this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I guess it is rather unfortunate that when we came in to assume government we were left with a very significant debt and we had to make some very significant choices. I would like to say that to say this was not partially due to improving our efficiencies would not be accurate. Efficiencies in how we deliver services has been a very honest and open approach to all the decisions that we are making. We will continue to involve the families, we will do it in as cost-effective a way as possible, but keeping in mind we are dealing with individuals and that we will work with their families and the professionals to make the best choice.

If I'm hearing from my colleague across the way that a family environment is not the proper environment in which we all live and where we would like other people to live, then I have a serious question to ask. Group homes were always meant to be a transitional home. It is perhaps unfortunate that some of them have been there a lot longer, but decisions will be made on an individual basis keeping individuals' needs in mind, working with the families, and working with the professionals. We have not started to do that process yet. We have identified our direction and we will work with families, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Question period has expired.

 

Notices of Motion

 

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I shall on tomorrow move, and I understand that I am asking for leave to put the motion now:

A) That the following heads of expenditure be referred to the Government Services Committee: Finance; Works, Services and Transportation; Government Services and Lands; Municipal and Provincial Affairs; Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation; the Public Service Commission.

B) That the following heads of expenditure be referred to the Social Services Committee: Human Resources and Employment; Education; Health; Environment and Labour; Justice, and

C) That the following heads of expenditure be referred to the Resource Committee: Fisheries and Aquaculture; Forest Resources and Agrifoods; Tourism, Culture and Recreation; Industry, Trade and Technology; Mines and Energy; Development and Rural Renewal.

Mr. Speaker, I am asking leave to put that motion.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

All those in favour of the motion, `aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, `nay', carried.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, with leave, I would like to give notice that on tomorrow, it being Private Members' Day, that the Notice of Motion which has been tabled in the House by my colleague, the Member for St. John's South, relative to the proposed privatization of the provincial parks be debated. The intent of that motion is quite clear. I do have copies of the motion if the Government House Leader would like to have one. I think it might be printed today as well.

Mr. Speaker, that is the motion that will be debated by this side of the House in tomorrow's session.

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

MR. TULK: It is your turn anyway. (Inaudible).

 

Petitions

 

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

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

Indeed there is a petition. There will be a lot of petitions. I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, whom this is directed at today, that in the last couple of weeks during the rounds of my district, I had the experience of driving on one of those buses over one of these roads. I will read part of the petition and then make a few points.

First of all, I ask the House of Assembly to accept the following prayer:

To the honourable House of Assembly in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador: We, the undersigned residents of the District of Baie Verte, do hereby petition the House of Assembly to upgrade and pave our roads. The deplorable and unfit conditions of the roads in our area make travelling to and from school unsafe for our children, as well as jeopardize the safety of the travelling public. It hurts economic growth opportunities and, most of all, it portrays the lack of commitment to rural Newfoundland and this Province.

Now, what I did, Mr. Speaker, was take the advice of a gentleman who said you had to walk in a man's shoes before you really understand where he is coming from. Well, I took that literally, I say to the minister, and I sat in the back of one of those buses. I went with a twelve-year-old in the back of a bus over twelve kilometres of dirt road, and then went onto paved road. When I got off that bus, a parent was there to greet me and ask me what I thought of it. I say to the minister, I did not think I would say it but I said: If my child - who, by the way, is seven years old -had to go on that bus to go to school, I would be teaching her at home. She would not go on that bus.

Mr. Speaker, no way - and I want to make it quite clear in this House, as the media sometimes twists it a little bit - I do not support the idea of having children stay out of school and hurt their education; in no way do I do that. But I do understand what those parents were saying to me that morning when they asked me to travel on that bus to see it firsthand. Those kids were bounced around on that bus, and when I came off, I was literally sick from the bumps as I went over that road.

So the parents, as a last resort, I say to the minister, a last resort - I know a lot of those parents. It is the first time I have ever heard them speak up on anything. They said: The last thing I want to do is keep my child out of school. Exams are about to start, and so on, but if I have to do what I do, I will do it.

Mr. Speaker, what I am saying here today is that this particular petition is from the people of Pacquet and Woodstock, and more petitions are coming tomorrow from other parts of the district, Middle Arm, Burlington, Smith's Harbour, Westport. I could name the twenty-one communities out of thirty-three in my district that still travel over dirt roads. I do not care how you cut it, and I have met with the minister and I have said it publicly and said it to the Premier... As a matter of fact, the Premier alluded publicly a day after I debated it in this House, that some of the roads money that is being spent now in the Roads for Rail money, when we see $116 million for a ring road, when we see double lanes through Grand Falls, when people from Grand Falls themselves have called me to protest the double lanes that went through there, we cannot get a gravel road paved.

Also, the Premier knows - and I am glad he is in the House because he knows the district. He knows the dirt roads and the conditions of those roads.

Mr. Speaker, the minister knows, that district is one of the worst for gravel roads and we should seriously consider the shifting of some of the allocations of the roads for double-lane highways through this Province and so on, and go back to the grass roots of this Province and tell them that: yes, we are going to commit to paved roads. Mr. Speaker, in one community, in one week -let me give one specific example; I will not name the community because there are lots like it.

Their hospital was full, they could not get their parents and grandparents up to the hospital; the had an announcement that their school closed down, and not only that, Mr. Speaker, they could not even get up over the roads. I went to that particular highway, Mr. Speaker, this road, the picture was in the local paper, and if I were moose-hunting in a four-wheel drive, I would have turned back and not gone over that road, that is how bad it was. I am not exaggerating, not one little bit, Mr. Speaker, because the RCMP sergeant drove right behind me, in a four-wheel drive and he was ready to turn back. And in their protest that morning, he said to me: if my child were to travel on this bus, I would not allow him, for safety reasons. So the roads in my district, Mr. Speaker, are far behind, they need to be done. We do not expect the 112 kilometres to be done, but I say to the minister here today that, that eleven kilometres for my entire district was not enough, Mr. Speaker, not nearly enough.

At that rate, Mr. Speaker, by the way, it would take eleven years for the district to be paved, to get its first coat of pavement and here we are, hearing about other districts that are going to be resurfaced. Mr. Speaker, the point I want to make here today, in this petition, the people of Pacquet and Woodstock and the other communities that are protesting, this has hit a nerve with them and they are finally saying: enough is enough. Yes, we will take the loss of our school; yes, the hospitals are full, but if we cannot have a bloody road to travel over to go to these services, then it has gone too far. And, Mr. Speaker, they are speaking out loud and clear; I am here to support them today and to say that I am going to speak up for the people in my district who gave me my job, because my job is to represent them, and as long as they send petitions to this House and as long as the House will allow me, and the minister stands here, I will do it time and time again, and, Mr. Speaker, I will stand on the roads with them to protest. They have every right to do so and I applaud them.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Just a minute to clue up, Mr. Speaker?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. SHELLEY: Just to clue up, Mr. Speaker. It has hit a nerve with people, and I say it constructively, that when they look up their highway and know they cannot get people to the hospital anyway because it is full, but they would like to be able to drive up over the road - it was impassable and the worst part of all, Mr. Speaker, is that their children are being affected. I sat with those children that morning on that bus, and when I got off and saw that parent, I said: I support you on holding your child out of school. It was a hard thing to say, because I do not want to see children being subject to that, but I can understand, going over twelve kilometres of bumpy road, how they felt when they got off that bus.

So I support the petition, Mr. Speaker, and I am asking the minister and the government to reconsider any re-allotment of funding that can go into these small roads and show rural Newfoundland that this government is committed to rural Newfoundland.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise to support the petition put forward by my colleague and to say that it has been nearly fifty years since we joined Confederation. I read a book one time, and we have all seen the book, called The Road to Confederation and, of course, the truth of the matter is that Confederation as such has not arrived yet in some parts of this Province. So, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about roads, we are talking about basic services; we are talking about very fundamental services. We are saying that every parent should have a right in 1997, forty-eight years, a few weeks ago, since we became part of this great country. All parents have a right to say that their children can go to and from school without having to go through mud holes and without having to say that they need to have a D-6 tractor come alongside to pull them out of the ditches.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen the television clippings; we have seen what it is like, and certainly, if you look at a petition like the one I am now holding which comes from the communities of Pacquet and Woodstock and is signed here by nearly - I am sure it must be every single resident in those particular communities. So we ask the House: Is it fair, in 1997, to say to the communities of Pacquet and Woodstock: you do not have an expectation in the near future to be able to drive over some basic services and be able to avail of good roads.

So, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the petition because very few parts of this Province now have conditions like we have witnessed and which are the subject of this particular petition we have here. Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister, what is it that we can do? What is it that we can do in 1997 so that we can assure these people of basic decent services by way of roads in the next year or so? Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS BETTNEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are a number of points that have been put forward in presenting this petition that I would like to address, as the Minister responsible for Transportation in the Province.

The hon. member spoke to the conditions that exist in other parts of the Province and I believe his statement was something to the affect that there are very few parts of the Province and roads within the Province that still have the kind of conditions that are spoken to in the petition that is being presented. What I would like to say to my colleagues is that there are many parts of the Province where there are still roads that have conditions similar to the kinds that are being experienced on the Baie Verte Peninsula. I will accept, in receiving this petition and in commenting on it here today, that there are certainly very, very difficult conditions on the roads in this area, particularly at this point in time. I would also have to say - based on an assessment that my department completed during the past year - that there is also a significant amount of roadwork that is required throughout the Province to the tune of $250 million worth of road upgrading, of provincial roads, not the Trans Canada Highway, not the regional trunk roads but $250 million worth of upgrading required for gravel roads and other roads that are paved but have been paved for such a long period of time that they now require extensive upgrading. So this is a very large problem for this Province and it is something that will certainly take a certain amount of time in order to address.

The member himself commented on the fact that there are over 100 kilometres of gravel road on the Baie Verte Peninsula. That is a fact, there are 112 kilometres of gravel road which require paving. That is a significant amount of paving and roadwork that will have to be addressed over the next period of time but it is certainly clear that that amount cannot all be done in one year, it cannot all be done in two years. This year we have made a start in paving the road that will lead to Ming's Bight. There are other areas of the Province, as I say, where we certainly have to continue with the roadwork that is required there as well.

I would say to the member that I have met with residents, the town councils, representatives from Pacquet, from Burlington, from a number of the other communities in his district and I have heard from them firsthand the same kinds of concerns that the member has represented here today. I have explained to them the nature of the problem as I am doing here now and the action which my department is planning to take. We certainly have a plan in place that we will be addressing in terms of the long term solution to this problem but more importantly, I recognize that people are concerned about the short term problem. The problem that they are experiencing with their roads today, this year and next year.

What I have committed to the representatives that I have met with in this area is that we will look at this issue from a maintenance perspective, as a department, to determine what kind of improvements we can make in the immediate future to try and alleviate the worse of the conditions that people are experiencing right now. Again, I would have to say to you that this is a process that we are having to go through in other parts of the Province as well. That there is only a limited supply of funding that is available either for capital improvement or for maintenance. We will be determining where the highest priorities exist and we will be allocating our resources accordingly to try and make the improvements that are necessary.

Specifically for the residents of the areas mentioned in the petition, and other areas on the Baie Verte Peninsula, we will be determining the specific maintenance that will be conducted over the summer months by my department, with a view to trying to earmark and specifically focus that improvement on the areas where it will have the most benefit over the next year or two for people who have to drive those roads. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the hon. Member for Bonavista South I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of all members, to welcome to the Speaker's Gallery today a former Member of the House of Assembly for the District of St. George's, Mr. Larry Short.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to present a petition from approximately 400 residents of Bonavista South and Trinity North. The prayer of the petition is not exactly as what the Speaker may want to see presented here, but the spirit is certainly understandable.

It reads: We the undersigned wish to express our concern for the quality of ice control used on the Bonavista highway. Large numbers of vehicles are receiving glass and paint damage due to the rock contained in the present ice control mixture. We urge the department to give serious consideration to the immediate elimination of the existing mixture which is causing untold expense to the motorists.

Mr. Speaker, this is a situation that I've brought up in this House on other occasions when there was another minister in charge of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, and it was never ever taken very seriously. I can assure you that it is a very serious situation, not only on the Bonavista Peninsula, but I would say in a lot of areas in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. I'm not suggesting that what we are seeing are boulders or crushed stone. I say to the minister it seems like there is a lot of small rock within the salt and sand mixture.

The former minister would always say that you are driving too close to the vehicle in front, but that isn't the situation at all. Normally you get the damage when you meet a vehicle. When you see the Department of Works, Services and Transportation out doing its duty, ploughing snow and laying salt and sand, it is almost a situation where motorists today say: We have to wait now for awhile until the rocks get off the road before we go to do what we normally do.

I've known of situations where people have gone out and had their windshields broken as often as three times between Bonavista and Clarenville, I say to the minister. I've known of examples whereby motorists have (inaudible) Works, Services and Transportation department vehicle and have had the paint damaged on the sides of their cars. I don't know what the problem is. From what I understand in talking with people, this year the salt and sand mixture on the Bonavista Peninsula met the requirements but only very iffy. I also understand from talking with the department that this year there will be no such mixture used from the present location where they normally go and obtain such mixture to mix with salt.

I know it is a problem. I know you can't go and have all real fine sand to mix with the salt because then it all clams together and it doesn't do the job that motorists want done. But I think that there should be some rules and regulations and there should be some quality control whereby we can do away with those quarter-inch and half-inch rocks that appears on the road. It is a real problem to the motorists here, it is costing them untold dollars in insurance claims. At one time you could go out and you could break all the windshields you wanted and it wouldn't affect your insurance. Now you go out and for most insurance companies if you have two claims or two collections on comprehensive then you see the price of your insurance going up.

It is a real problem, I say to the minister. The minister nods her head because I'm sure she is aware of it. I hope she does not take the lackadaisical approach that the former minister did.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who was that?

MR. FITZGERALD: The member for Port de Grave. I hope she does not take that approach. I know she will not, I know she is responsible. And while I am standing here, I thank the minister for responding to the need on Route 235, Mr. Speaker. I thank the minister for at least making a start on this particular road. She has done that in one of the worst areas, it is on a bus route where we have had many problems. It will not be the be-all and the end-all, Mr. Speaker, of what is needed on that particular route, but it is a beginning. And that it what people said right from the very beginning: We do not expect it all done at one time, but if you never start, you never finish. So, I thank the minister and I ask if she would respond to this particular petition, because is it a real concern and it is a real problem, at least on the Bonavista Peninsula.

Thank you.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to rise in support of the petition presented by my colleague, the Member for Bonavista South. I, as well, have had some calls from that particular area, I say to the minister, concerning the sand, or supposedly sand, that is being used, the damage it is doing to motor vehicles in that area. I would certainly ask the minister to investigate that, to find out exactly what they are using. I believe we should be using sand. Sometimes, maybe, the grade of sand is not what we would wish it to be, but I understand from the people I have talked to from that particular area, that there are rocks in it as big as your fist and it certainly is not the material that we should be spreading on our roads. It is doing damage to cars and probably, in the end, doing damage to the roads. I ask the minister to intervene in this particular thing to - hopefully, all our snow is gone for this year, and if it is, then I would ask the minister to ensure that next year, the same thing does not happen again.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition on behalf of a number of petitioners who are asking the House of Assembly to direct the 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, there have been more and more of these petitions coming in, and I will be presenting them to the House over the next number of days as they come in.

As the people of this Province reflect on the circumstances they find themselves in, each day, more and more bad news coming from this government and Ottawa in terms of changes to government support for families, government support for individuals, government support of the TAGS program, for example, all of these changes are seriously affecting the ability of people to properly look after our children.

Mr. Speaker, this is not a panacea. It is not something that will solve all the problems of the people of this Province; but it will do something that needs to be done, and that is to give our schoolchildren better opportunity to take advantage of the educational programs being offered in our schools.

It has been clearly stated, not only by members of this House, but by nutritionist, by researchers and commissioners appointed by this government to produce a report - for example, Dr. Patricia Canning produced a report for this government called Special Matters, which identified the very serious problem of child poverty and child hunger that exists in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we all know that this government is performing a very comprehensive task of reforming the school system in Newfoundland, in fact they are using Term 17 as an excuse. They are blaming Term 17 for the kinds of wholesale school closures in this Province that they are asking the school boards to undertake and are passing on the blame to them.

In the process, Mr. Speaker, they are saving millions and millions of dollars - we do not know exactly how many millions of dollars, but I will give you one example. The previous Minister of Education, the current Minister of Justice, told the people of this Province that there was savings of $8 million available in school busing alone, as a result of the changes to the denominational education system. We have had figures of $25 million used by the Royal Commission, I believe, back a number of years ago, and we see the decline in school enrolments, of course, resulting in the reduced expenditures on the overall cost of educating our children.

Some of that money, Mr. Speaker, ought to be used to provide a school lunch program to ensure that each child in this Province can attend school in a stigma-free environment and receive the nutritional requirements that allow him or her to learn. That is a very simple request. But it is a request that requires the political will of this government to act, not to pass it on to some other volunteer sector to have it as a charity, to have it as something that may well be able to be provided in certain communities under certain circumstances, but will not reach the places where the need is greatest; because the resources in those communities are also the least sufficient to be able to accommodate that need. This must be a collective effort, it must be a universal effort, and it must be established by government through the existing school system and the existing school budgets to allow this program to exist and to ensure that it is a comprehensive and universal program for all schools in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I do not know how many times I have presented these petitions, but I will continue to present them as long as they keep coming in, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that the voices of these people who are asking for government action on this important issue are heard.

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

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

I rise to support the petition put forward by the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, because the issue is so important to me. I say to all hon. members of this House that when we deal with children we have to ask ourselves: What is it that we can do to make sure our children have an equal opportunity to everybody else in this country?

All the research has been done. It is rather conclusive. It does not matter whether it was done by the Department of Education in 1991, done by the Department of Health in 1987, and done again in 1992. It does not matter whether it is done by Dr. Patricia Canning as a background to her report called Special Matters: The Report of the Review of Special Education. The conclusions are consistent, they are the same. They are saying that there is a direct relationship between poverty and a level that a child will potentially achieve in the school system.

We know that far more children of parents who are experiencing poverty repeat grades in school. In other words, if you are from a poor family, the probability that you will repeat a grade is far higher than if you are from a well-off family. We know that more children from families who are in poverty end up in special education. We know, as well, that more children from parents who are a poor - the children drop out of school early. So whether it is drop-outs, whether it is because these children are not as prepared when they enter school, all of the data is conclusive. If a child goes to school hungry, the probability of that child finishing school with his age-grade relationship the same as his peers, becomes less and less potentially possible because that particular family is poor.

Mr. Speaker, 25 per cent of our children are growing up in poverty. That is not new. We know that is old news. What we say to the government is: What are you going to do about it? It is not enough that we rely on industry, not enough that we rely on the volunteer sector. We have to have some funding put in place. We have to have it established as a priority.

This government said that the savings from education reform would be spent in education at the classroom level, but they did not deliver. When the time came, they said: No, no, no, we must examine this in a total budgetary analysis.

Therefore, the tune changed when it came to selling education reform. They said: We are committed. We are going to put the money in the classrooms, and we are going to address issues like child poverty. We are going to address issues like small schools, and that kind of thing. We are going to make sure that the curriculum is in place to handle these individual circumstances.

But when the time came to deliver, they did not do it. They said: No we cannot do that now. Sorry about that. Understand us, but we are not going to put the money back into the education system.

Mr. Speaker, poverty is not just an issue of being poor. Poverty is an issue that affects the educational potential of children. As I said one time before when I was quoting the federal Minister of Finance in the federal Budget - he talked about this and said: `The opportunities lost in childhood are opportunities lost in adulthood.'

So if we do not address the issue when children are young, we will pay the price for it. We are paying for it now.

We know what happened when we had the change in the fishery. We found out that our population was not well-educated. We have been trying to educate people in their thirties and forties and fifties, and we know the problem. We have to do something about the issues that say, `We have to handle that up front. We have to be interventionist. We have to be of a preventative nature.' But we certainly do not see that kind of direction coming from this government.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

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

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

AN HON. MEMBER: `Paul', where did you get your suntan? Boy, you are all tanned up.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was in the lovely community of Bonavista, and it was quite pleasant this last week or so.

May I say, Mr. Speaker, I did not know if the members were finished petitions but I wanted permission of the House to revert to Presenting Reports. I have some materials that have to be filed today.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that we revert to Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

MR. SPEAKER: Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees.

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, to be very brief about it, I have six copies of seven Special Warrants that I am about to table. They relate to last year's Budget. They total $37,400,000 on current, and $38,300,000 on capital, for a total of $75,700,000. I will briefly detail what these are.

It is $10 million to provide funds for the Voluntary Departure Program; a Special Warrant of $12 million to provide funds to facilitate privatization and divestiture activities, which included $3 million in that category and a capital grant to Newfoundland Municipal Financing Corporation of $9 million; a Special Warrant of $10 million to provide funds to ENL; a Special Warrant of $32,800,000 to provide funds in respect of four subheads of services. One of those, firstly, was Teaching Services, $16 million, which really was the advance of the teachers' payday into last year, or really where it should have been originally, and $9 million to retire school board debt; $2,500,000 for computers; $5,300,000 for the MUN Opportunity Grant.

There was also a Special Warrant of $3.5 million for health. One million of that was to fund the rural physicians payment of bonuses that would have taken place April 1, in any event, and secondly, was the $2.5 million for the health care facilities equipment.

There was a Special Warrant of $4 million for additional funds for the City of St. John's and Corner Brook for transition for the fire protection services, and finally a $3.5 million Special Warrant to provide funds to NLHC to offset a budgetary shortfall for 1996-1997.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, the total amount of those warrants was $75,700,000. All of these were mentioned in the Budget that I read on March 20, and it is, of course, pursuant to our rules and regulations and to Section 28.2 and 28.3 of the Financial Administration Act, that have been tabled.

I am also tabling six copies of three Orders in Council, as required by Section 26.4 of the Financial Administration Act. These respect pre-commitments for this fiscal year. The first relates to three payments in education; one for $25,000 for a progress payment, another for $50,000 and another for $250,000 for this fiscal year next and the succeeding fiscal year, for the purchase of student text books and a teacher manual for Grade IX integrated religious education. The second is to authorize the Department of Works, Services and Transportation to enter into contracts for road construction services with a total payment of $40.9 million. The final is a pre-commitment in the amount of $1,150,000 to pave 10.3 kilometres of road in the Bonavista area where I recently was getting a tan, Mr. Speaker, and 2.3 kilometres in the town of Trinity.

I should say, I believe that all of these matters are known to members of the House and I table them in accordance with our Financial Administration Act. Thank you.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a petition on the privatization of the provincial parks which 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 government to reverse its decision immediately on the privatization of the provincial parks, as we feel that it was made in haste without consultation with the people who own the parks, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I have already presented hundreds and hundreds of petitions. Today, I have approximately 14,000 names on petitions that we will be presenting. We have an additional 4,000 or 5,000 names coming in over the next day or so as well on petitions. It is quite evident, Mr. Speaker, that the people of our Province do not want these parks privatized. Mr. Speaker, we have gone over, on a number of occasions, the program review conducted by the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation which indicates quite clearly that the department itself believed that the privatization of provincial parks was not a good idea, especially in 1997, our Cabot year. The program review also goes well into detail in saying that our private parks are not operated at the same standard as our provincial parks and that the private park operators either do not have the financial ability or the desire to operate these parks at the same standards as our provincial parks.

Mr. Speaker, how the minister herself can go against the program review is something that we, on this side of the House, cannot understand but even more importantly, how the minister can go against the people in the Province who have voiced their concerns very loudly - through editorials in the paper, call-in shows, and through numbers of meetings throughout the Province. The demonstration that took place today in our lobby - how the minister can turn her back on those people and basically say that their opinions, their concerns are not important, is something that is even harder for the people on this side of the House to understand.

Mr. Speaker, it is also evident through the questions that I have asked today and the responses by the minister, that the reason the minister did not comply with the Freedom of Information request - that she is now three weeks late with - is because she does not have the information. So what makes this even more astounding, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that the minister has nothing to base her assessment of the value of these provincial parks. She is going to accept proposals on these provincial parks by the end of the month without even understanding or knowing or having any concept of the value of these provincial parks to the people of our Province. What is even more startling, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that not only does the minister not know the investment into these provincial parks by the people of our Province, but she may very well let these parks go to private operators for far less than the investment that we have put into them, which means that, through our deficit we will continue to pay off these parks that are not even an asset to the Province once they are privatized.

Mr. Speaker, the fact that the minister has seventy-seven tender packages received on the twenty-one parks, is nothing to boast about. We have gotten, so far, almost 20,000 names on petitions, Mr. Speaker, and that there speaks very clearly to me that the number of people who believe these parks should stay as provincial parks controlled by the Province, and assets of the people of our Province, far outweigh the numbers of people who have a desire to take over these parks.

Mr. Speaker, I will continue to present petitions in the House protesting the privatization of our provincial parks because I very strongly believe that it is a bad decision.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I want to support the member's petition concerning the efforts being made by Newfoundlanders across this Province to save the provincial parks from the policies of this government.

What we are talking about here, is an attitude by this government that the only true citizen is the corporate citizen. The only true citizen is the one who can pay his or her own way in our society, can pay their way into a private park or can take over a park for the purpose of profit, take over part of our natural heritage for the purpose of profit, take over our natural resource for the purpose of profit and the rest of us can go begging, be objects of charity, be objects of voluntary offerings of our fellow citizens, the offerings for those who want to get involved or, have the freedom, have the ability, have the time and resources to offer their time voluntarily to help their fellow citizens. That is what this Province is coming to with the kind of attitude that this government has as reflected in the privatization of the provincial parks.

This is a system that has been recognized as providing a different kind of resort, a different kind of alternative to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and to our many visitors, an opportunity to get close to nature, to enjoy the resources, the beauty, the natural environment that we have to offer. We have, for example, in Catamaran provincial park, a situation where that park was devastated by fire some years ago. Government's response to that was to clean up the park, to replant a large area of that park with Red Pines, to attempt to regenerate part of the natural beauty of that park for the purposes of enhancing our natural environment, for regenerating the Red Pine which is fairly rare in our provincial environment today. That is one of the parks, Mr. Speaker, that is going to be turned over to private entrepreneurs, turned over to I understand, to somebody who wants to turn it into an RV park, a trailer park; presumably a replacement for some of the gravel pits that the minister keeps threatening every now and then to close down and denies it when she is challenged on the point.

Mr. Speaker, to take Catamaran park and turn it into an RV park is not my idea of the enhancement of our natural resource. There is a process that goes on in nature when a forest fire takes place and causes what appears to us to be fairly devastating results, but it is part of the natural process of regeneration of forests which our provincial park system is enhancing and helping by planting trees, Red Pines, to regenerate that part of the forest and allow our citizens to understand how this natural process works and as the Minster of Forestry and Agrifoods, I would suspect that the Government House Leader understands this process and believes in this process, while he and his colleagues are at the same time cutting loose all these provincial parks and putting them into the private sector.

The people of this Province are opposed to that Mr. Speaker, the minster knows that the people of Newfoundland are opposed to this policy and that is why he is trying to divert me into the support for the great Newfoundland pony bill that he brought in last December, but I will not be diverted Mr. Speaker, I will not talk about the Newfoundland pony, I am talking about other aspects of our heritage now. I am talking about the Provincial parks and I suspect Mr. Speaker, that if we maintain our Provincial parks we would also have more respect for other parts of our natural working heritage, such as the Newfoundland pony. Where as, the minister and his governments policy -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. members time is up.

MR. HARRIS: I ask hon. members to support the petition Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

 

Orders of the Day

 

MR. TULK: Motion No. 3, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion No. 3, the hon. Minster of Justice.

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, there is one principal among many of course, one principal which is held very sacred in our democracy, is the separation between government and the judiciary. It would not make much sense if government were able to interfere in the role of the judicial system of the Province. I suppose if you had the right government or the wrong government you could have influence to tell judges how to do their work.

However, Mr. Speaker as you know, judges like all other people are entitled to receive some remuneration for the work they do. For all 25 or 30,000 people who work with the public service throughout the province, government by various means and processes decides on what amount of pay they shall receive, sometimes there are unions involved and what have you. In order to maintain the separation of judiciary and government of course, it is felt that it would be inappropriate for government to determine that judges should receive a certain amount of pay. So, a few years ago there was a process put in place whereby a tribunal would be put in place by this House of Assembly and the tribunal would look at all the benefits that judges should be paid and this Mr. Speaker of course is a very fair way whereby we can deal with that, the payment that we give our judges and at the same time keep them arms length from government.

Just recently we put a tribunal in place. It was chaired by Dr. Peter Roberts, Ms. Leslie Galway was a member and Mr. Justice Seamus O'Regan and that tribunal Mr. Speaker, I should say they did their work without getting any pay for doing this. Just after the report came in or just after we announced that the tribunal was put in place I started getting some e-mail in my office from various people around the Province, they were accusing us of political patronage and that we had appointed the brother of a former cabinet minister to chair this tribunal and they were demanding to know how much money we were paying Dr. Peter Roberts and his tribunal for doing this work. Now, the legislation would have allowed us to pay a per diem, but when we constructed the committee we made it perfectly clear that they would not be paid so I sent back to the people who sent me the e-mail and said that they would not be paid.

However, the report of the tribunal came in and I am required by law to table it within so many days and the House has to deal with it within thirty days after it has been tabled in the House, Mr. Speaker, of course this is the last day that we have to deal with it. Before the House rose for the Easter break, I tabled the resolution which we are now debating and that is that the House would vary the report. Now I said earlier that we clearly believe in the separation of government and the judiciary. However, the House as Mr. Speaker knows is superior to government, government is made up by the cabinet who runs the day to day operations of government. However, this House takes precedence even over the government. But the government has put forward a resolution to this House asking us to vary the recommendations that the Tribunal made. The Tribunal recommended that the judges would receive an increase in pay which would take them from the current $85,000 or $90,000 to put them up to $102,000, and eventually go on to $112,000.

Let me make it perfectly clear, Mr. Speaker, that government agrees with the Tribunal when the Tribunal points out that our judges are the lowest paid in the country, that our judges did not have step progression. A lot of members, people who work with the public service, although their wages and their salaries have been frozen for years, yet the vast majority of them had step progression. So even though their salary might have been frozen at $50,000, because of step progression over the last five years they could be making $55,000. The judges, because of the Tribunal process of course, were caught. They never did get it, so they have been frozen at the $85,000 or $90,000 level.

Government recognizes there is a problem with the way judges are paid and in due course it will have to be dealt with. We would certainly hope that in due course we will be able to address this inequity. But in the last Budget, which was a very tough budget, it talked about laying off many hundreds of public servants. It did not talk about any major increase in pay for the average civil servant. Government felt it would be appropriate for us to ask the House - in view of the fact that the vast majority of people who receive their pay from government funds are not getting any substantial increases at this time, we thought it would be appropriate to ask the House of Assembly if the House would vary the report so that this increase in pay would not be given at this time.

That is why I'm asking members of the House, when they vote on this resolution, which has been recommended by government, and the House has the authority to of course accept or reject, and we are asking the House, in its wisdom, if it would support this resolution.

However, when I brought the resolution in I inadvertently failed to address an issue in the Tribunal report. The Tribunal report recommended many things. Government wants to (inaudible) maintain the status quo for the time being. The report of the Tribunal recommended that we would increase pay, but also the report recommended that we would discontinue the practice of paying severance pay to judges who quit or judges who retire. The resolution which I brought in did not address the resolution concerning severance pay. So if my resolution were not amended we would have the effect of treating judges in the worst of all possible ways. On the one hand we would be denying the recommendation that they get a pay increase, but we would be accepting the recommendation that we abolish their severance pay.

That is unfair. What I'm suggesting now is that the resolution which is on the table would certainly - I would ask Members of the House to support that resolution - but I also would want to put forward the amendment, seconded by the hon. Minister of Human Resources and Employment, that we would delete recommendation 4(b). By deleting recommendation 4(b) we would effectively maintain the status quo, Mr. Speaker. I would certainly encourage members to support the resolution and the amendment to the resolution which I have put forward.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on this resolution now before the House. It arises, as the minister has stated, from the Provincial Court Act 1991, which is designed to take the calculation and determination of the pay of Provincial Court judges out of the hands of government and put it in the House of Assembly after consideration by a Tribunal. The principal reason for that - as stated in the report of the tribunal itself - is to provide a means for a determination of what the salary of judges ought to be for a group of people, some thirty in number, who are outside of the normal types of processes whereby individuals can negotiate their salary.

What the report says is that this leaves a small but highly significant group of publicly funded workers without any means of promoting their own interest. In fact, when a board or when a House of Assembly or a government does not accept a tribunal's recommendations it undermines the most basic intent of the whole process which is a free and independent judiciary. That is judges, and indeed the society, serve no means of achieving the desired judicial independence and security other than processes used in common wage disputes, negotiation, arbitration, threat of job action, lockouts or resignations, all of which are unseemly, unpalatable solutions to the problem of securing a free and independent judiciary.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the minister talked about the independence of a judiciary and the necessity of keeping it independent of government. These are just mere words, Mr. Speaker, in the face of the resolution of the minister himself which says that the result of the report and the result of the resolution is that salaries of the provincial court judges be maintained at their current level pending further consideration by the Minister of Justice and the chief judge and judges of the provincial court. So what he is saying is that in order to maintain the independence of the judiciary he is going to sit down with the judges and come to some conclusion about whether or not they should increase their salaries.

The resolution totally flies in the face of the principle of the independence of the judiciary because it puts the minister himself, sitting down with the judges, as the determining body as to whether or not and what type of increase and remuneration there ought to be to provincial court judges. It is astounding, Mr. Speaker, for the minister to get up in his place in this House and make the statements that he did in the face of this resolution, which basically says that there is going to be a discussion from here on in between the minister, the chief judge and the provincial court judges in which their salaries will be determined, whether there is going to be any increase to their salaries. That is so totally opposed to the whole principle behind the legislation, totally opposed to the principles adopted by the Tribunal. I say adopted but it really seems that they have been reiterated by the Tribunal. They established four principles that were recognized in their report and listed amongst them an emerging consensus which equates the remuneration of a judge with that of a professional deputy minister of a similar jurisdiction, which is accepted by this board.

Mr. Speaker, we know that in 1991 the government passed a public sector restraint act. While it might be considered in 1991, where legislation is being passed which in fact rolled back public sector wages 4.5 per cent for everybody, including members of this House, that judges would be similarly affected. I think most of us can accept that. That is not the circumstance that we are under today. We don't have legislation affecting all people affected by government wages being legislated in it to a standstill, legislated in reverse. We may have a budget which does not provide for increases but we have a collective bargaining process that is still operating - whether for teachers, whether for public sector workers generally or whether for public sector workers who are paid by hospitals and others - who have, through the negotiating process, through the collective bargaining process the means to affect their wages and remuneration.

The point that is being made in this report, Mr. Speaker, is that provincial court judges don't have that nor do we want them to have that because we expect that they are to be independent of that type of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I oppose this resolution and I am going to vote against it. I think that the recommendation that the Provincial Court Judges of this Province be paid on the same basis as the average of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is reasonable. I suspect the cost is in the order of about $300,000 a year, not an enormous amount of money, but the principles of judicial independence and the principles of trying to reach some accommodation to the principle that there be judicial independence, that the salary bases for judges be adequate to attract people to the bench who are experienced and able, and in keeping with the provincial deputy minister's salary, although I don't think that even this would do that, are valuable principles.

I do have a technical point that I hope the minister will address, because it seems to me that perhaps in addition to the mistake that was made in including the recommendation of removal of severance pay, that in passing this resolution the Province is also accepting the other recommendations of the Whelan Report.

I refer them to page 6 of the Report of the Tribunal where the Tribunal members say, `In reaching the position that the remuneration of benefits for the Provincial Court Judges must improve, this Tribunal reiterates and endorses the recommendations of the Whelan Report. We recommend that government reconsider these recommendations and implement them with consideration of the additional points mentioned below.' Then they list four points.

Mr. Speaker, I frankly do not know what this resolution supports because we have not had tabled before the House the Whelan Report along with this resolution, because this House is now being asked to endorse the recommendations, which includes the Whelan Report with the four additional points which are being modified. So it will be interesting to see after this resolution is passed, which I assume members opposite will dutifully pass after being asked to do so by the Minister of Justice, what other recommendations have been accepted along with those that are contained in the four paragraphs that are specifically endorsed here, including the very dubious one which, instead of making the report one which adopts a standard, or the House adopting a standard, is turning over the powers back to the Minister of Justice.

I would wonder whether such a resolution, in the face of the legislation that intends to give the House of Assembly the power to accept or vary the report, I would wonder whether or not this resolution - and I have not done legal research on the point, but I am sure some of our Provincial Court Judges or their assistants or associates may well be interested in doing so - whether this resolution in fact is outside of the powers of the legislation itself, and itself flies in the face of the independence of the judiciary principle which the minister reiterated in his speech.

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that the Supreme Court of Canada is about to make some pronouncement in a case now before it regarding, from another province, the remuneration of judges and the independence of the Provincial Court Bench which may well cause this minister to look once again at this resolution to see whether it complies with the requirements of the law of the land with respect to the independence of the judiciary; and in doing this, Mr. Speaker, I am taking no special brief for the members of the Provincial Court Bench. I am doing it, Mr. Speaker, in response to the need for this House to recognize that the principle of the independence of the judiciary must be honoured by this House, by the government, and not become the kind of empty rhetoric that we hear today from the Minister of Justice who, on the one hand preaches the independence of the judiciary, on the other hand presents to this House a resolution which takes that notion of the independence of the judiciary and turns it on its head by giving the power back, from this House to the minister, in consultation with the Provincial Court Judge and the Chief Judge.

In other words, the salaries will remain the same unless the minister and the judges consider otherwise, and I know why the minister is doing it. He is doing it because he and his government have been criticized because the legislation itself says that the salaries cannot change for four years after the acceptance or variation of the report, because in section 28, subsection (a) of the legislation says: that a report or varied report implemented under subsection 7 shall be in effect for a four-year period, commencing on the expiry of the thirty-day period referred to in subsection 7 which is today so, Mr. Speaker, if the government rejected the report outright, rejected any salary increase, it could not be revisited without legislation for a further period of four years from today.

What the minster has done, is, passed over the power to vary a report, passed over the power to vary the salaries of Provincial Court Judges to himself, in consultation with the judges and that is exactly what the principle of the independence of the judiciary tries to avoid and exactly what this legislation was designed to avoid when it was passed in 1991. Mr. Speaker, this is a serious point. It is not merely a question of whether or not Provincial Court Judges ought to get raises and what percentage raises they ought to get, this is a point which is far more fundamental than that and has to do with a principle that Provincial Court Judges and others in our country have been fighting about for a number of years and I am afraid that that principle of the independence of the judiciary is very far from being realized in this Province when it comes to Provincial Court Judges as is evidenced by the resolution that is now before the House.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just a few brief comments, Mr. Speaker, on the Notice of Motion and resolution which were put forward today.

Mr. Speaker, the principles of course, with which we are dealing with respect to this whole issue of the recommendations of salaries and benefits of judges to the Provincial Court of Newfoundland, are obviously the unique role of the judiciary in our democratic system. The whole concept of the independence of our judiciary which was explained to some degree by the Minister of Justice, the fact that compensation paid to judges is an essential way in which this judicial independence is maintained, and also, that the process was established to assure, Mr. Speaker, that the determination of judicial compensation is free from arbitrary interference. So clearly, the principles are well established in terms of why there ought to be review and reassessment of benefits which are given to Provincial Court judges of this Province, and indeed, every province from time to time. Section 28, Mr. Speaker, of the Provincial Court Act requires the Lieutenant-Governor in Council to appoint a tribunal "to recommend the salaries and benefits of judges and the chief judge" of the Provincial Court. In fact, this was done and a report was submitted to the Minister of Justice in February of this year, 1997.

The question has to be asked: Why is it that recommendations and findings of an independently appointed tribunal are not taken into account by government? Why even go through the process? If the recommendations, upon a broad and thorough investigation of all issues, has been completed, why even bother with the appointment process pursuant to Section 28 if, in fact, the recommendations, as found by the tribunal, are not respected and considered?

Mr. Speaker, the concern I have now with what we have here, as a result of this resolution, is that we have these very same issues, these very same resolutions, going back to the hon. the Minister of Justice for review. Again, the whole process appears to me to be somewhat cyclical, somewhat circular, and at the end of the day, does not accomplish what in fact the legislation has contemplated: namely, a thorough review by an independently appointed tribunal.

I have difficulty with the fact that the recommendations which are found in the report have not have been accepted by government. I have difficulty with the fact that the process, in my view, appears to have been circumvented. From that point of view, I obviously cannot agree to the resolutions as they have been brought forward by the hon. minister this afternoon.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I assume I am closing debate on the resolution. I have already spoken.

I thank the hon. members, the Leader of the NDP and the Opposition Justice -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would like to clarify. We are debating a motion, so that comment is not necessary coming from the Chair. When everybody has finished, whoever wishes to debate, the question will be put.

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

If I could for a moment, just to clarify matters for the Minister of Justice. It is not the intention of this side of the House to put up any more speakers, therefore, he can treat it as his closing comments, unless he has people on his side of the House who intend to address this particular resolution.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

MR. DECKER: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. members for the comments that they made. I should say, though, I am a little bit amused to see the Leader of the NDP over there arguing that we should pay the judges more money. The Justice critic is also suggesting that we should pay the judges more money. Normally, both these gentlemen would be saying: Let us not pay any money to people who are making fairly big salaries, let us give it to people on social assistance and what have you.

I do not know why they took the position that they did, that they want to pay extra money. I do not know if it is because they are so used to being against everything that government puts forward that no matter what we recommend in this House, they are going to vote against it. That is a possibility.

But I rather suspect that there might be another reason. Both hon. gentlemen are lawyers, and maybe somewhere in the backs of their minds they are looking forward to some day when they themselves might be elevated to the bench. Therefore, they want to make sure that if they are ever elevated to become judges, every cent it is possible for them to get, they will get, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to suggest any motives on the part of my friends in the Opposition, but I must say, I am a little bit amused.

AN HON. MEMBER: They would make fine judges in Mississippi.

MR. DECKER: I would certainly recommend, Mr. Speaker, that members of the House support this resolution.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

We are now voting on the amendment.

Shall the amendment carry?

All those in favour, `aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Those against, `nay'.

For further clarification: Shall the amendment carry?

All those in favour, `aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Those against, `nay'.

I declare the amendment carried.

Shall the motion, as amended, carry?

All those in favour, `aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Those against, `nay'.

I declare the motion carried.

The hon. the Minister of Justice, Motion 1, the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board to 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.

Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I understood you were going to call Motion 1 and I have temporarily mislaid my - I understand we are going to Committee of the Whole on Ways and Means to do the Budget Speech.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

That is the way it is worded in the printed motion, but the Speaker does not leave the Chair when the Budget is debated.

MR. H. HODDER: So, Mr. Speaker, just to make it clear, you will be staying in the Chair and we will continue with the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, that is correct. It is the intention of the Speaker to stay in the Chair while the Budget is being debated.

The hon. Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to take some time this afternoon to talk about some issues. Especially, I am going to run through several things. Certainly, first of all, I am going to talk about parts of my own district. I hope during this debate, Mr. Speaker, while I am speaking, I can get the member for Topsail to his feet as well to support some of the things I am going to say. Do not expect him to agree with me 100 per cent, but I hope that he would certainly be involved in some of it.

Mr. Speaker, for quite some time in the district of Conception Bay South, and I will include all of Conception Bay South and as well, out towards Holyrood, there has been a massive problem with water and sewer. This problem has gone on for a number of years and we have piecemealed water and sewer today to where we are in the community of Conception Bay South. And we have serviced parts of it, Mr. Speaker, but we certainly have not served all of it and I guess, today, there are many homes out there that have unfit drinking water, that certainly have unsafe sewer systems. When you have people who come to your home bringing you socks that were white, that are now yellow, when they tell you that they have a small child and the child cannot drink the water that is in the house and they have to bring water day-in and day-out, it makes me wonder, Mr. Speaker, if we are living in Canada and in Newfoundland and Labrador or if maybe we should be applying to the U.N. for some aid, like a Third World country. I will not go so far as to say we are like that, but we certainly have these massive problems with water and sewer.

About a year or so ago, there was a proposal that went forward, I know, to Cabinet, concerning private partner funding which would involve, of course, the town taxpayers, it would involve the Provincial Government, and it would involve maybe even the Federal Government. But a lot of the money would come from an institution whereby the government of the province would borrow the money. Of course, the money would be repaid over a twenty- or twenty-five-year period by the municipality.

I do not know where or how - maybe one of the reasons was that there were some problems, I guess, with some of the councillors out there and we kind of got off the rails, and I guess that is what happened to this particular proposal. But I think it is time that we brought this proposal back to the table so that districts such as mine, and that of my colleague, the Member for Topsail, can get serviced over the next couple of years. At $1 million or $2 million a year, or even $5 million a year, we are looking at somewhere between twelve and fifteen years to service the district of Conception Bay South with water and sewer; and that, for the largest growing town in the Province, is very sad.

Now, any developer who wants to go in there and develop a subdivision, of course, is responsible for their own water and sewer services, their own street paving, their own sidewalks, their own curb and gutter and so on. Of course, while we are going to do that, it is fine, and we can get the development that way, but if we are going to ever service the Town of Conception Bay South from its boundaries in the east to the west, then we are going to have to have a larger influx of money than we have today. So I would hope that this government would put back on its table the private partner funding.

I have had opportunity to talk to some of the ministers over there about this particular project. I would like to see all the nuts and bolts of it, but from what I have seen, I think it can be a very good project which could see water and sewer brought into my district in a very short period of time, maybe a two- to three-year span, but it would then see at least 95 per cent to 97 per cent of the whole town serviced, and I think that is about the only way we are going to get it done. If we are going to give the Town $1 million or $2 million or $3 million a year, then in actual fact we are going nowhere, and we are going nowhere, of course, in a hurry.

It is totally unacceptable, I believe, to the residents of my town and my community, and I think it is time that we really sat down and had a very long and hard look at private partner funding. I would urge the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs - and I am glad that he came back in - to again have another look at this. Again, I would ask him to certainly have discussions with some of his Cabinet colleagues, as I know he has done in the past, and I would ask him to do it again. I would certainly join with him in any fight that would see my town serviced, and serviced within a matter of two to three years.

I say that today, trusting that the government will have a look at it. I have had the opportunity of talking with both councils in the area. I have talked with the Town of Conception Bay South and they are very, very interested in this particular proposal. We have a new group of people there with new ideas, a very aggressive council and I think a very good council. They are very interested in this particular proposal, as well as, of course, the Town of Holyrood, which is also very much in need of water and sewer, funding and financing. I know in parts of my district, and I'm sure the members from Topsail, when you see an open sewer that is running into the ditches in 1997 it leaves much to be desired. That happens in my district every day, winter and summer. I mention that, Mr. Speaker, and hopefully, as I said, the government over the next little while will take the time and the opportunity to again get back on track and discuss private-partner funding.

Again I have to talk about health care. Health care in this Province is in a state of chaos. I noticed again on the weekend of course that the minister doesn't believe that it is in a state of chaos, and I have no difficulty understanding why he says that at all. I'm not so sure he is around long enough to really know what is going on in health care.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: He looks exceptionally healthy himself. It is time, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Health in this Province came clean with the people of this Province. We talked about Harbour Breton. Goodness knows I've had some calls from Harbour Breton about the construction of a new hospital for that community, and fully support, by the way, that initiative. I have one fear. If we can't get the doctors and the people to do the work in the hospitals that we have now, how in the name of goodness are we going to do the same thing for the people of Harbour Breton?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: I know they do. But if we are going to build a bigger and a better hospital, I say to my colleague opposite, if we are going to do that then somebody had better open their eyes, somebody had better realize that there is a problem. I say that to the Minister of Health as I have on a number of occasions in this House. I've pointed out on a number of occasions in this House various problems in health care to him. I'm not so sure most times he listens, but I guess somewhere down life's road the people of this Province will be the judge of where he is going and what he is going to do with health care in our Province.

I happen to think, Mr. Speaker, that health care is in a mess. I hold this minister fully accountable for that mess. The calls that I get are no longer from my own district; the calls I receive today are from all over this Province. From Labrador, from every nook and cranny of this Province, I receive calls day in and day out about health care in this Province. I raise issues in this House day in and day out about health care, and yet the Minister of Health in this Province really doesn't seem to care. There will be a day coming when he will care. There will be a day coming when he will pay the price for that.

We talked about more money for doctors in rural areas. Yet we listened to I guess the executive director last night on television again talking about the problems in recruitment, and yet this minister really doesn't seem to care. That is a shame. If we are going to do in health care what we have continued to do, when the chairperson of the St. John's Health Care Corporation tells the minister: We need another $17 million, and I wonder how long more these people will continue to try and do their work in this hospital. I have raised on a number of occasions incidents in our health care system, but again they go unnoticed. I've written the minister letters, given him names of people who have certainly suffered in the health care system of this Province, and yet it really doesn't seem to make any difference.

I guess if we could run our health system from Florida maybe we would be all right. Maybe we would be okay if we could do it from Florida and I have no problem saying that, when we have a minister who can spend four or five trips or six trips a year to the sunny South, then I am not so sure that he should be Minister of Health in this Province. I say that, Mr. Speaker, and I mean that, Mr. Speaker. I knew that eventually I would hit a nerve, he would not be asleep over there all afternoon. I knew eventually, suntanned up like he is, I guess he got sunstroke probably, he certainly got his comeuppance this morning and he will continue to get his comeuppance until one of these days the Premier gives him the Royal Order of the Boot, Mr. Speaker, and he won't be Minister of Health any longer and I trust-

AN HON. MEMBER: He would be the Minister of Wealth.

MR. FRENCH: Oh I guess he will stay the Minister of Wealth, we won't do anything about that but he certainly won't stay as the Minister of Health. If he does, then heaven help us, Mr. Speaker.

It cannot be allowed to continue, Mr. Speaker, it should not be allowed to continue and the sooner it stops the better. A simple phone call to somebody who has waited six or seven hours to get in to see a doctor in a hospital with their finger cut off, a simple phone call, Mr. Speaker, is not enough. It is not enough for that family, it is not enough for that individual who has suffered.

I mentioned here before, the lady whose husband had had a tumour on the brain and had had an operation and she visited him in the morning only to find him covered in urine. That is not good enough, Mr. Speaker. That is not good enough in Newfoundland and Labrador and this Minister of Health in this Province should be ashamed of himself. If there are no problems in the health care, as I said before and will continue to say, Mr. Speaker, that somebody is living in a dream world.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to touch for a brief minute on Education.

I for one, voted for Educational Reform in this Province. I don't know if everybody on the opposite side did but I know I did, voted for Educational Reform in this Province. I asked a group of parents today, when this whole procedure is finished, will their children be better off or will they not? I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that the answer I got was a resounding `no'. Their children won't be better off.

I listened to my colleague today from Baie Verte present a petition for his district on a bus ride that he took with the children of that area; the conditions over which they have to travel and now, in some instances and in some places in this Province, they are going to force children to travel anywhere from a half-an-hour to an hour and, Mr. Speaker, that is deplorable, that is ridiculous and I think somebody should be looking at exactly what is going on. Somebody should sit back, Mr. Speaker, and take a long, hard look at where we are and where we are going, but right now, Mr. Speaker, I am not so sure we are going anywhere; only into one great, big mess in this Province.

I think that is where we are going, I think that is where we are headed and we are starting to see in this Province, an outcry from people. We saw them out here today, Mr. Speaker, on education. We saw people out here today from the health care institutions. We saw them out from schools, we saw people out here today on TAGS and I had the opportunity over the last little while to talk to many people, and I say to all members of this House who were elected: don't forget who sent you here because those same people who sent you here can also take you out of here and I think, Mr. Speaker, it is time that members on all sides of this House spoke up. There were certainly things mentioned to me today about certain areas of this Province where there was a great deal of discussion and where some members of this House turned their backs on the people who represent them. I think, Mr. Speaker, that that is a shame, that we elect people to this House who don't have the right to stand up for the people who sent them here.

I must say that I looked at the article today concerning the gravel pit campers, a position which I support, fully support with the continuation of that particular program. I don't think we should drive those people out. Again, I have had numerous phone calls at home and in my office concerning these people. I know of one particular area on the Salmonier Line that is probably one of the cleanest areas in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Any weekend you can drive by this particular area and you can see all kinds of campers in a gravel pit. You can see the people who are there - and most of them are there from May 24 probably onwards to Labour Day - make sure that this place is kept cleaner or just as clean as any provincial park in this Province.

So, Mr. Speaker, we have all kinds of problems and the problems are not going away. The problems seem to be getting worse. I think it is time that if we are going to govern then we should govern. We should not have somebody sitting back somewhere with a pen who, in the stoke of a pen, is slashing this and slashing that. That should not happen. It should not be allowed to happen but it happens.

Before I sit down, Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about the people who work in the health care system in this Province and let there be no misunderstanding that I fully support the people who work in the health care system of this Province. They work hard for their money, extremely hard for their money. I only wish that some of the people who are in here worked as hard. I only wish they worked as hard but they don't. There are lots of people in the health care system who work hard for what they do. My colleague relayed a story to me this morning of a hospital that he was in, where he watched a nurse run from one patient to another, to another to feed them, three people at a time but that's -

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: No, I don't listen to you. You're line two or line three, whatever you are. It just comes to the point where you don't accept the fact that there is a problem in health care but you will.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible) people are saying.

MR. FRENCH: Yes, I know what the people are saying about you, I know that. Come up and I will write it down for you, what they are saying about you. Come up and I will tell you what the people are saying about you. I will tell you what is going on in health care in this Province because you don't know but I will tell you and I will let you know what is going -

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: I know as much about health care as you do. At least I'm not in Florida four to six times a year, trying to decide what health care is. I guess if you can do it from Florida you can do it.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, would you ask him to take his seat and gag him if you can gag him because if he wants to talk about small minds I can talk about a pea brain that sits across from me. A pea brain who I can listen to day in and day out, who cannot accept responsibility for what he is doing to the people of this Province and that is sad when somebody can't do that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

To the point of order, I would ask members opposite to respect the fact that the hon. member has asked for the right to debate without interruption.

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly don't mind a bit of badgering back and forth. As a friend of mine said to me one time, Mr. Speaker, sometimes when you are getting information you must consider the source of your information. Then you must consider the mentality of your source and in this case I have no problems knowing why health care is in such a state in this Province, once I listened to the Minister of Health. Hopefully, he will not be there much longer, hopefully the Premier is going to see the light. I do not think the Premier was to happy a while ago when all kinds of questions were going in to the department and nobody could answer the questions. I do not think the Premier would be very happy and I am sure that down the road the Premier will address that, hopefully he will address that anyway.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker that is just a few words for today. I am sure as we get on and on in debate we will certainly be back here again, especially in Question Period, I have lots of questions for the minister since he has been gone. Today unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity, but hopefully tomorrow and the next day and the day after we will have opportunities to question the minister and every once in a while we will send him off a letter and we will give him a few names and hopefully he will have somebody in his department investigate the problem and get back to me, Mr. Speaker, and let me now exactly what is going on, what he has.

MR. MATTHEWS: I have not heard you mention the rate increase for personal care -

MR. FRENCH: No, as a matter of fact, now there you are Mr. Speaker, a very interesting point.

I have eighteen or nineteen personal care homes in my district and the Minister of Health should hear what the personal care homes in my district think of the thirty-four dollars. He should hear that, should hear that from some of them, should hear the calls that I received when the last report that was done recommended some $1120.00 a month. I said it before and I will not be deferred from this, it is the cheapest form of health care, health care homes are giving to the people of this Province. They are giving them great health care and I would challenge any member to say that to these people that they are giving them to much. I would challenge that member to sit down and talk to the person who owns the personal care homes and see if they are being given to much. Talk to the man and his wife who work twenty-four hours a day, one a twelve hour shift and the other a twelve hour shift. Go to that man and tell that man that they are being paid to much and I would be afraid of the consequences Mr. Speaker.

It was a bit of an increase, hopefully if will keep going up, up, up, up and up. Matter of fact I had a call from the speakers district on a community care home and I have to say that it was a very interesting conversation. Anyway, the lady was very concerned about personal care homes and the increase and so on. It was a very interesting conversation I say to the speaker and that was that.

So, Mr. Speaker, on those notes I will sit down and I will leave the Minister of Health alone for the day, that is enough of a going over from me for one day, but he can expect it I guess while I sit here. As I told someone in the health care corporation a while ago, I certainly did not get elected by the health care corporation of this Province and I certainly did not get elected by the minister of this Province, so I guess while I stand here Mr. Speaker I stand to represent the people.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: How about the roads out in C.B.S?

MR. FRENCH: The minister knows well about the roads in C.B.S.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: How much pavement do we need?

MR. FRENCH: We need all kinds of pavement, but we will get around to that another day.

So, Mr. Speaker on that note, I thank you very much for your time and I will adjourn to one of my colleagues.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to take part in the budget debate Mr. Speaker. It is certainly interesting to see my friend from Conception Bay South get the Minister of Healths dander up, a very short fuse. I suppose that is understandable when you consider that he spent the last three weeks down in Florida, lying on the beach in the sun with the sand between his toes and have to come back here and witness the fog and the wind and the rain, I do not blame him for being upset Mr.Speaker, it is a culture shock for him to come back to the Province here and have to face the reality, seeing people up in the galleries, out in the foyer, protesting cuts, saying that what the government is doing is wrong. We want to be heard; we want to be consulted. No wonder the minister is upset. No wonder he is short-fused; you cannot blame him. He is not used to that.

Mr. Speaker, looking at what we have witnessed here in the galleries today, and what we have seen ever since the last election, I would suggest there have probably been more protests in this House within the last year than there ever have been before. I am willing to take a bet on that. I don't think that in any other year you have seen anywhere near the number of protests that are happening right here on this hill.

It is all for a very good cause, and the reason is that the people are not being consulted. They are frustrated; they are unhappy with what is happening, and they would like to have a voice and echo their concerns, because the members that they elected to come here and sit in the House of Assembly are certainly not bringing their concerns and their frustrations forward. They have to come themselves. They have to get on the buses. They have to hire taxis, and they have to get in their own vehicles and drive hundreds of miles to come in here to this House of Assembly to echo their concerns and frustrations - concerns that are not being put forward by the people they elected just a short, short time ago.

I don't know what happens to people when they get elected. They come, and all of a sudden they forget the people who elected them. They forget the reason they are here. They forget that they have to go back and look to those people again to get reelected. I cannot understand it. I would never be able to put myself in that situation. I would never be able to come in here in this House and speak for something that my leader told me that I must speak to, or my party told me that they believe in, if it was going to hurt my constituents and the people who elected me to come here and represent them. I would not have the nerve to go back and face them again. That is why I cannot put myself in the shoes of members opposite. I cannot understand it.

I cannot understand the Minister of Health for not speaking out for the sick of this Province. I cannot understand how he would come and say that we have no problems; there are no problems. The Opposition is fearmongering. There is nobody doing without here in this Province.

You talk about what is happening out in rural Newfoundland today with respect to health care and it is frightening, I say to the Minister of Health.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are frightening.

MR. FITZGERALD: Maybe I am frightening, but I say to the minister: Go down to Bonavista and see what is happening down there in the hospital today. Go down to Bonavista and talk to the sick and talk to the elderly down there in the home and in the Bonavista hospital today, and ask them how they are being treated. Ask them what kind of health care they are receiving. There is something wrong when you see a hospital left without a doctor. There is something wrong when you see one doctor on call, and if that doctor has to leave the particular institution to which he is assigned, to go out on a house call, then there is nobody there looking after seventy residents and ten patients and thirteen other beds in the Alzheimer's unit. There is something wrong with that; it is not right.

The minister comes out and says: We have the solution. We are going to solve the problems. We are going to get doctors from urban areas now to move out to rural areas. What are we going to do? We are going to cut back on MCP charges to the doctors in urban areas. You know what happens; he is taking doctors right from the Province and driving them off to the mainland. That is what is happening, driving them off to the United States.

It was only the other day that I had the radio on and they were interviewing a doctor from the Clarenville area, down in the United States practising now. She would love to practice here in this Province, would love to return. She had a real good business built up, Mr. Speaker, a real good rapport with her patients in the Clarenville area but she jacked up and left here because she was getting no support from the health care of this Province. That is a native born Newfoundlander. How many others are out there? How many others are out there experiencing the same thing and about to leave this Province in order to look for greener pastures somewhere else? Not because they want to, Mr. Speaker, but the policies of this government is driving them outside of this Province and in some cases outside of the country altogether.

Mr. Speaker, Works, Services and Transportation; when I heard the Member for Baie Verte talk about the bus ride that he took the other day and how the children got off the bus and were crying. They were frustrated because of the conditions of the road that they had to drive over. I am very familiar with that. I am very familiar, Mr. Speaker, with the conditions put forward by the member. I know that they are for real because the people in my district, in the Kings Cove area, have been experiencing the same thing for a number of years. A situation where the children can't eat their breakfast in the morning and get aboard the bus and go to school. They can't eat their breakfast in the morning, Mr. Speaker, and sometimes spend the first twenty minutes in the bathroom sick from travelling over the roads.

What are we doing, Mr. Speaker? We are saying in order to save some money we have to start closing down schools. We are going to take students from point (a) and bus them to point (b) because it is not a long way, it is only 30 kilometres or 40 kilometres. Mr. Speaker, that would not probably be a bad idea if they had decent roads to travel over. It might be a way that we could save some money but the least we can do, if we are going to do that with the students, Mr. Speaker, and expect them to compete and excel in this Province today, is give them a decent road to drive over so that they can have a friendly trip to and from school.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Human Resources and Employment; a few short months - well in the last Budget the federal government implemented a policy whereby they were going to take money and put it in the pockets of those who are the least fortunate in our country. They were going to give them, Mr. Speaker - I forget the exact sum but it was certainly an amount that would be helpful to the people on social services in this Province today. What did our own provincial minister do? Take it and claw it right back, Mr. Speaker. Take it right back from them and say we are going to implement new programs instead of giving it to the people who needed it to put bread and butter on the table and to pay their hydro bill. Shame, Mr. Speaker!

Mr. Speaker, another situation that has happened with the Department of Human Resources and Employment in the past number of years is whereby when somebody is fortunate enough to have had a job and worked for part of the year - Mr. Speaker, up until this last couple of years if they had a refund coming in income tax they were allowed to keep that particular refund. They would use it to pay a light bill, a phone bill, to buy clothes, to buy something or to pay a bill, Mr. Speaker, that they ordinarily would have to struggle very hard or to have left unpaid. Now, Mr. Speaker, what do the Department of Human Resources and Employment do but reach out and take their refund right back from them.

I told a story here, Mr. Speaker, I think probably the last time I spoke. I have to say it again because it is something that has really hurt me. I had a call from a parent whose son was graduating, was about to take part in his high school graduation. It was a situation whereby this Level III student, after going to school with his classmates for thirteen years, was now going to go and reach the pinnacle of his school career by graduating. His mother went out and brought him a new suit, a new tie and a new shirt. They paid $200-and-something I think for it. So it was certainly a modest suit, a modest shirt and a modest tie. It was not like the money that the member for - I can't say in his absence that somebody seen him the other day buying a $1,500 sports coat and a $100 tie. The member sits on this side but I won't say any more. Mr. Speaker, it certainly was not clothes to that magnitude. Mr. Speaker, it was a situation where she wanted her son to be dressed to be able to go to his graduation, like every other parent in this Province I suppose. It was a situation that she wanted him to go and be proud because he had accomplished something.

The next day she had a cheque come from the Department of Social Services and she had found out that $250 or $260 that she had come back from a refund from her income tax return was clawed back and she had to go and take the suit of clothes and the shirt and the tie and carry it back to the store. She had to take it back, Mr. Speaker, in order to have that amount of money to pay the necessary expenses of maintaining the house. How shameful! How shameful, and if a story like that does not touch you, then you are living in a bubble I say to members opposite. Here was a situation where a student was deprived of going to his graduation. How must parents feel when they have to witness something like that? I know how it affected me, Mr. Speaker.

I have had other situations, Mr. Speaker, whereby people in my district who are terminally ill with cancer - and I am not creating stories - and their medication is costing them $297 a month but because the income earner is making forty dollars more on Unemployment Insurance, Mr. Speaker, that particular lady cannot get a drug card and what is she doing today? She is doing without her medications. Mr. Speaker, I went through the whole gamut of going right to the minister and you know what they say; tell him to take back his truck. He had a pick-up truck that he is paying on and is used for transportation, that he must have in order to be able to go and maintain a job when he is called back to work, or he must have in order to take his wife to a hospital for chemotherapy and that is what the uncaring department puts forward. Tell him to take back his truck, he does not need it.

That is the same Budget, Mr. Speaker, that we saw dozens of people on that side of the House rush to the Minister of Finance and shake his hand. What a wonderful job you have done! A good job! Well I say to members opposite: if that is a good job then you are not in touch with the real world.

AN HON. MEMBER: Sit down.

MR. FITZGERALD: You will be sitting down one of those days when the people out there have caught up with you. I will tell you that right now. The people out in Green Bay, when they have caught up with you, you will be sitting down; the little blurb you have in the papers will not be enough to save you. You are history, you are gone. You are gone my son, you are gone.

The Department of Tourism, Recreation and Culture; we are talking about the Cabot celebrations and all the wonderful things that are happening and everybody is saying that Bonavista is getting this, and Bonavista is getting something else. Bonavista is getting their fair share. That is all they are getting, nothing more, nothing less. The sad part about it is that other communities bordering on the Bonavista side of the peninsula are not getting anything. That is the sad part about it, where we see so many communities being without. The money that was spent in Bonavista is money that was well spent. It was money that was needed, and it is certainly good. I compliment the ministers responsible for seeing fit to spend the money to respond to some of the problems that have been there for the last number of years, and it is only now they are being looked after.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs went out the other day and travelled around the Province meeting with the town councils and the community councils. Well, I guess they are all town councils now because there is no such thing as a community council any more. They travelled around the Province, telling them about the wonderful things that would happen if they brought about regionalization. They would not meet with anybody else; they would only meet with the organized communities.

He had another committee travelling around after, made up of Mr. Synyard and Mr. Boswell and Mrs. Power, I think it was, to go out and preach or put forward their thoughts and listen to the people on regionalization. A prime example of downloading, taxation through the back door; this is what the minister is trying to implement. He learned a lesson on amalgamation; he knows what happened to his predecessor when he tried to bring about amalgamation, and now he is trying to do it through the back door and bring about regionalization. But why would he want to bring about regionalization if he did not want to bring in taxation, I ask members opposite? Why would he want to do that? I have no problem with community councils or town councils or councils that want to form associations to become local service districts. There is nothing wrong with that. I believe in local government. But I also believe that people should have a choice, that those thoughts and ideas of town councils should not be imposed upon them.

The first thing that the minister says is that they are getting a free ride, that right now the communities that are living in unincorporated areas are getting a free ride. But that particular day, before I attended the meeting that was held down in Port Union, I left a senior citizen's house in a community that was not incorporated - two seniors living by themselves - and he indicated to me the price that he was paying for his water... A few years ago if you had five people, and if you decided that you wanted a water supply, the government would go out and dig you a well. Then you would form this committee and you would be responsible for looking after it and maintaining it. It worked very well in every case that I know, it has worked very well. People have went out and they have opened up little bank accounts in order to respond to a problem that they might have with their pump or a leak in their piping or whatever. They all have little bank accounts built up for emergencies. They have good water Mr. Speaker.

So, this particular senior had a similar situation. He had a light on the pole, he had fire protection from a neighbouring community and he had garbage collection, it was costing him $540 a year. Now to me that is not a free ride. To me Mr. Speaker that is paying his own way. He did not want sidewalks, he did not want arts and culture centres or stadiums or anything like that. He was happy with the services that he was getting and the cost of $540 a year, I say to the minister, was quite reasonable I would think, in fact enough to expect that particular family to pay. So, I say to the minister when you go out preaching regionalization, then listen to the people because those people should have a choice. If they decide to live in the Lethbridges or the Bloomfields or the Upper Amherst Coves and if they do not want any form of local government they should be entitled to that. If they do not want the services then they should not have to pay for somebody elses.

Works, Services and Transportation services are not a lot different I say to the minister. When municipalities were incorporated one of the plums that was held in front of them, I am answering it, was we will look after your local roads, your local roads will be maintained. So, we are going to give you $2000 a year, which is what was there, $2000 a year per kilometre for local roads. So, I say to the minister who was responding in paying the $2000 a year back then if it was not every taxpayer in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Now, all of a sudden the minister in his wisdom has done away with the road component grant and he is expecting everybody else to pay for whatever services are provided as it relates to snow clearing.

I do not think the minister would have a problem if he went out and consulted with the people. If there was a certain road where there was only a few houses Mr. Speaker, I do not think the minister would have a problem with saying we cannot afford or we are not going to send the grader there anymore, it is costing to much, here is what it is going to cost you and you must contribute. I think the people would be reasonable. The same as they would, Mr. Speaker, with any other services the government provides.

But they aren't going to go out and pay the costs of the debts incurred by other communities in this Province, and I don't blame them. I'm as strong a supporter of local government as anybody in this House. I believe in local government, I think it can work. I think the only way it can work is if people collectively want it to work, and there is no point in going out and poking it down people's throats just because you think it is right. I think people should be consulted, they should be listened to. People have every right to live -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Conservative.

MR. FITZGERALD: No, I'm probably not. I'm the reddest Tory that you probably ever met, I say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. I believe in representing people, and I believe in people being able to echo their views and be able to live wherever they want to live in the communities of this Province. That is what we take pride in as Newfoundlanders.

MR. A. REID: I agree with you 100 per cent. When they start asking for services for nothing, then that changes things. They can live wherever they want to.

MR. FITZGERALD: That is what we take pride in.

MR. A. REID: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Why do you think Newfoundland - and I single out Newfoundland. Because every time you travel and everywhere you go I hear people on both sides of the House speak so compassionately and so passionately about their Province more than any other province or more than any other people that I've ever met in my life. The reason it is done is very simple, Mr. Speaker.

It is because we can do a lot of things in this Province that we hold very dear. With a little bit of elbow grease we at one time could go out and go in the woods and cut enough logs and build our house and be able to live in it without a mortgage. We could go out in the backyard and raise a few vegetables. We could keep a few animals. We could do all those things and survive, because this is the way that your people, your fathers and your grandfathers, survived in years gone by. Not only mine, but I would suggest 90 per cent of the people in this House. Now the government of the day, including the gentleman who is walking in here, the department that he heads up, is taking away those privileges and saying: Now you must come and you must get permission from the minister.

I say to members opposite, and I've brought this up here before, but how many people know today that if you go in and you get your permit from the Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods to cut a little bit of firewood, how many people know here today that if you have your wife or your girlfriend or your daughter or your son on that skiddoo with you, and you decide that you are going to pick up a load of wood, that you can be charged!?

AN HON. MEMBER: What?

MR. FITZGERALD: You can be charged. You can be taken and carried off to jail. I mean, how silly! How ridiculous! If the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods has no more to do, I say to the minister, than to have people come to his office and say: `Minister, I want you to give me a permit because I cannot get my wood out until next month' or, `Mr. Minister, I want a slip from you, personally, saying I am allowed to have my wife on the skidoo when I pick up a load of wood' - if he has no more to do than that, then do away with the department. How silly! How ridiculous! And this is what is happening in this Province today. It is terrible. This is what is happening in this Province today, Mr. Speaker, this kind of silliness.

We see all kinds of permits. You must have a permit for this and you must have a licence for that. Why? I would suggest that if you look at the cost of administering the licences and the permits and everything else, that you will find there are little empires being built up and it costs more to administer, Mr. Speaker, than the actual income back to government from issuing those permits and licences.

Before I leave the Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods, I have to tell you another one. The Member for Terra Nova is listening. He can relate to all this that I am saying. Mr. Speaker, the art of boat-building is gradually disappearing from this Province. At one time, when you could look out your window and you could see a boat going up the bay, you knew right away who built it, where it came from, the type of workmanship that was in it and everything else by the shape of the boat. It was an art that Newfoundlanders acquired over the years and it was a situation whereby the fishermen could go in the woods, could harvest the timber - cut their knees, cut their stem posts, cut their plank sticks, come home and go in their sheds and build their boats and they saved a lot of dollars. Now, we are getting into the fibre-glass boats. Everybody knows what the advantages are of fibre-glass over wood, that speaks for itself.

But, Mr. Speaker, there are still a few people around the coast who like to build their own boats. There are still a few people out there who like to buy their own boats. I had a call from a constituent of mine a month ago, who wanted to go into the woods to cut fifteen plank sticks to build his boat. He is a fisherman who could save himself probably $1,000 or $1,500 by building his own boat, Mr. Speaker, and you know something? The Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods would not let him go in the woods to cut fifteen sticks to build a boat to retrieve planks from.

Is that what we have taken pride in as Newfoundlanders? Is that why we are proud when people ask us where we are from, or why we can stick out our chests and say, I built that or I owned that or, I do not care how hard it comes, boy, I do not owe any mortgage. It is pretty bad if I cannot keep bread and butter on the table. This is the kind of thing, Mr. Speaker, that this government - these are the kinds of rules and regulations that this particular government has implemented and put out there in rural Newfoundland today and told the people: You must adhere to it or we will take you before a court of law.

That is wrong. I think those kinds of things should be allowed to happen. I do not think anybody should take advantage of the forest, I do not think anybody should take advantage of wildlife, but I do not think we should be getting into this kind of small-mindedness, I would call it.

The cost of Crown lands, I say to members opposite - we saw the Minister of Government Services and Lands just a few short months ago implement a piece of legislation in this House whereby people had to buy their cabin lots. They could not rent them anymore. Instead of paying $75 a year, now they had to come up with $3,000 a year. That might be very well for people who are fortunate enough to have a full-time job. In fact, some people may have wanted to buy their cabin lot, and they should not have been denied, they should have been encouraged to. What did government do? They came out again and brought in a blanket policy whereby everybody now must purchase their land, unless it is a remote cabin lot.

That is wrong. If people want a choice, if people want to lease their land, they should be allowed to do that. By the same token, if there were any advantages to buying it, then I do not blame government for putting that forward and encouraging them to buy, because it would have given them an advantage and I suppose it would have given government some income. I fear what will evolve down the road is a situation where they are going to be taxed for the piece of land that they own.

Mr. Speaker, it being 4:59 p.m. I will now adjourn debate.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move the adjournment of the House until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. I understand that tomorrow we will debating the resolution put forward by the Member for St. John's South.

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

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