April 23, 1997             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS              Vol. XLIII  No. 12


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

 

Statements by Ministers

 

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, in celebration of the Cabot 500th Anniversary, I am pleased today, to announce the criteria for the Provincial Student Summer Employment Programs: $4.5 million including $2.5 million in provincial funding and $2 million in federal funding will be available through three streams of employment programs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J. M. AYLWARD: The Student Work and Services Program, or SWASP, as we call it, will make up two of the streams, for post-secondary students, with the third being a High School Student Program. Mr. Speaker, the amount of funding we have available this year is more than we have been able to offer in each of the last three years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Between 1994 and 1996, the Province and Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) participated in SWASP, a cost-shared program designed to deliver a summer student employment program which provided meaningful summer employment. It introduced the concept of a wage subsidy/stipend for students, complemented by a tuition voucher redeemable at any recognized post-secondary institution in the country.

An independent evaluation of SWASP, as well as general public approval, indicated that it was an effective program model. Between 1994 and 1996, over 7,300 students participated in SWASP and since 1994 it has been piloted in other provinces based on our model.

The SWASP components of the Summer Employment Programs will include a $1.7 million Paid Employment stream to be delivered through the Department of Human Resources and Employment at the district office level. It will also include a $2.3 million Community Service stream which will be delivered through the Community Services Council. Eligible students include those who will first attend or will be returning to a post-secondary school prior to January 31, 1998. The $0.5 million High School Program is new and it is targeted at the high school students currently in Levels, I, II, and III.

Mr. Speaker, these programs can create over 3,000 jobs for students this summer. Students can promote themselves to employers under the program. However, the application process is employer-driven.

The Department of Human Resources and Employment will deliver the SWASP Paid Employment component and the High School Program. Staff will be trained by the end of the week and will be concentrated in six district offices. They include: St. John's (the Water Street office), Harbour Grace, Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, Corner Brook, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. General support will also be available in other district offices. The SWASP Community Service component applications will be available through the Community Services Council (CSC). The Department of Human Resources and Employment is also exploring the potential for a pilot project with Memorial University.

The SWASP Paid Employment component will include a wage subsidy of $2.25 an hour, with the employer paying at least $3.00 an hour. The student will also receive a $50-per-week tuition voucher. Eligible sponsors include private sector employers and non-profit enterprises. Employer applications are available immediately through my office and further information is available through a toll-free line 1-800-563-6600. Applications for employers must be received no later than May 16.

The SWASP Community Service component will include a $50-per-week stipend for the students plus a tuition voucher up to $1400 at the end of the job placement. Eligible sponsors include community agencies and non-profit enterprises. The Community Services Council will be the primary third party contractor and will create over 1,000 student jobs including 400 for social assistance recipients. Social assistance clients will be able to retain their earnings in addition to their social assistance.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Applications for this component must be no later than May 23.

The High School Program component will include a government-paid subsidy of $2.25 an hour for private sector employers and $5.25 for non-profit enterprises. Non-profit enterprises will also receive a ten per cent fee for EI, CPP and Workers Compensation premiums. Private sector employers will pay $3.00 per hour. Eligible sponsors include private sector employers and non-profit enterprises. Applications are immediately available and employers must submit them to Human Resources and Employment no later than June 20.

Mr. Speaker, as we celebrate our Cabot 500th Anniversary, government is providing thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience while earning money to further their education.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, in responding to the minister's statement, I say it is indeed good news that government has provided more funding than it has in any other summer for students in this Province because there is a definitive and definite need for student employment this summer and each and every summer hereafter.

Mr. Speaker, also, with respect to the programs that the minister announced, being a new member in the House and a new minister, the SWASP program has worked effectively over the past two to three years. It is a model that has been used for the country and is a model that students themselves have embraced. But what I am waiting for, more importantly, is a statement from the Minister of Human Resources & Employment - for the minister to stand up in this House and say how she will correct, what measures this government will take to address the exodus of thousands upon thousands of people from this Province, which is the real problem.

While we look at stopgap measures over the summer for students to be employed, providing them with some assistance, not nearly enough to provide for their education, that at the end of their programs, whether they be two- or three- or four- or five-year programs, the only thing that this government has been providing to those people is a one-way ticket out of this Province. And unless we begin - all of us - to address that problem and recognize fundamentally that it is a problem, there will be no solution achieved.

I applaud the statement and what it means for students today, but I implore the minister to seriously look at the exodus from this Province, what it will mean not only to the Budget of this year and the next three years, but what it will mean to health care, what it will mean to education, and specifically and most importantly what it will mean to rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I welcome, of course, any news of jobs for some students in the Province this summer, and it is a program that has received widespread interest around the Province. I note that the minister is, in fact, recognizing that at least 400 social assistance recipients are students and will need support and need jobs. It is a fraction of those who are there.

I was looking forward to the minister saying that she was not going to force these same students, when they go to school in September, to borrow money from the Student Loan Program to feed their children. I am looking forward to that from this minister because women, especially with children, are having to quit school and not continue with an education because of this very serious problem.

Mr. Speaker, it is time for this government to take a page out of the proposals being made by the New Democratic Leader of Canada in imposing and starting with job targets for students, employment targets for people in this Province, the same as the Minister of Finance is engaged in providing deficit reduction targets. It is time that this government and this minister started telling the people how many jobs are going to be created by this government. When are they going to start reducing the unemployment rate? When are they going to start insisting that projects deliver jobs and reduce unemployment, not only for students, but for all Newfoundlanders?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to draw to the attention of Members of the House of Assembly something I regard to be an historically significant development which is now being announced by the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans respecting the shrimp fishery of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Honourable Fred Mifflin, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, is at this time, as I speak, announcing that the 1997 quota for Northern shrimp is being increased by 21,450 metric tons -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: - over the 1996 quota of 37,600 metric tons and, Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to report - and this is important because remember, this quota is an offshore quota, with offshore licences shared throughout the entire Atlantic Region - I want to report, Mr. Speaker, that at long last the principle of adjacency has been fully, for the first time acknowledged with respect to this quota.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Ninety per cent of this quota increase representing a $100-million fishery is being allocated to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, what is equally important is that for the first time ever, the in-shore sector is being granted access to this growing stock adjacent to our coastline and, Mr. Speaker, this is something the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has been seeking for many years; this is the first significant quota increase in this stock that we have seen, a dramatic increase; there have been incremental increases up to this point in time. We have made representation as a Province with the large size of this increase that now is the time to see that this stock is brought back to Newfoundland and Labrador and benefits directly the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I see one of the great fishermen and one of the great former legislators of the Province, Harold Small, in the gallery today on this historic announcement -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: - and Larry Short sitting right beside him.

Mr. Speaker, the quota increase announced today, along with the participation of the in-shore sector, presents significant economic and employment opportunities for people along the north-east coast of the Province and of course, in Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, as members may be aware until today, only offshore vessels have taken this quota. There are seventeen existing offshore licences, only eight of which were in Newfoundland and Labrador, total landings of 30,000 metric tons in '96 at a market value of $120 million. However, Mr. Speaker, the benefits to Newfoundland and Labrador were limited because the in-shore fleet did not have access and for that matter, significant amounts of shrimp were not being landed for processing either on the Coast of Labrador or on the coastline of Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, today that is changing. As I said, the estimated value of this increase could reach between $75 million and $100 million. Similar increases are expected for employment. For each 1,000 ton increase in the quota, about 150 individuals will be employed in the harvesting and processing sectors combined. The northern shrimp resource has the potential to employ between 2,000 and 3,000 people who traditionally have made their livelihood from the fishery.

Mr. Speaker, the increase in the northern shrimp stock has been attributed to the decline in northern cod, a major predator of shrimp. If that is true, then it is appropriate that the boom in the shrimp quotas should benefit those who lost their livelihood when the northern cod stock closed.

Mr. Speaker, I know I speak on this occasion, even though we have differences frequently in this House, for every single member of the House, and I know I speak for every single citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador, when I say to Fred Mifflin in particular, the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, that he has made an historic contribution today to the future livelihood of the fishing people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is an announcement with historic positive consequences for all the people of our Province and we give him our thanks.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: It is always good news. In fact, certainly, Mr. Speaker, it was anticipated that the announcement would be in the 20,000 to 30,000 metric ton range, and from information revealed that the shrimp stocks are very healthy out there, and it is tremendous news to see an increase. In fact, it is possible scientifically that it could have gone much higher too and wouldn't have any danger to the stocks that are there. That is very positive news.

I will look forward to seeing a copy of the statement, the details, a little more, an opportunity to see what is involved. I'm certainly aware about what the Premier stated today that 90 per cent, he indicated, of that increase will go to Newfoundland and Labrador, he stated, which will be over 18,000 tons.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Certainly it is reason to rejoice. But when we receive 100 per cent adjacent to our shores - we should aim for no less. Ninety per cent I can say, Mr. Speaker, is certainly welcome news. In fact, whether it is on the eve of a federal election or not it is still good news for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are having a tremendous amount of good news. It reminds me that almost a year ago here in this Province we had an overdose of good news and we are still paying the price today, when you see the gatherings around this Province. You see people today are finding out what the real truth of this good news is.

But on the surface I have to say an increase was anticipated. It is welcome news, and we want to see jobs in further processing here in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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. Of course everybody in this House welcomes the news. In respect to the praise of Fred Mifflin, it kind of begs the question: If it is such a good idea, why didn't the former Minister of Fisheries and Oceans do it a year ago, given the size of the quota that the scientists have now found?

The challenge here is to make the maximum use of this resource. We have had experience, of course, with shrimp licences in the past, and they have been particularly beneficial to the Labrador Shrimp Company and the Torngat Cooperative. The challenge has always been to make sure that further processing, that the maximization of that resource, I'm sure takes place, as well as the harvesting sector. I look forward to our Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture when he returns to the House to tell us what plans he has to ensure that the provincial government is going to be doing its bit to make sure that we maximize this resource here in this Province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Oral Questions

 

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Premier. The Premier stated yesterday that more people will be hired at Voisey's Bay. The Premier believes that an increase in jobs will mean less profit for the company and therefore less mining tax for us. Does the Premier believe that those over 1,000 people more working are going to produce nothing?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, these are such tough questions. We just had an announcement of a dramatic increase in the shrimp quota, and 90 per cent of the stock increase coming to the Province, and the Leader of the Opposition complains about the 10 per cent we never got, even though it means thousands of jobs for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We had a statement yesterday that the development of a mine site in Labrador means not 600 jobs but upwards of 2,000 jobs, and the Leader of the Opposition is trying to find problems with that as well.

I say to the Leader of the Opposition that when there are positive developments in the Province the Leader of the Opposition should find something, anything, positive to say about it.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Premier hasn't admitted that those 1,000 or more people are going to be productive. Well, I will draw that conclusion, I say to the Premier. If these people are productive why do you expect the profits or the mining tax to decrease if these people are productive?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, again with his fixation of seizing upon any way of trying to take something positive and turn it negative, is putting words in - well his own mouth but he is certainly trying to put words in the mouth of the members opposite and he cannot succeed in doing it. The fact of the matter is, all we have said is we now have a positive update from the company on the total number of jobs to be created at a mine site. The company has issued a release saying somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 jobs, permanent jobs, direct jobs on the mine site, will be the result of a development including both the ovoid and going underground. Now obviously if you have more people working that is in the best interest of Newfoundland and Labrador by far but it means that your cost of production is going to be a little higher. If the Leader of the Opposition is having trouble figuring that out we will send him over a briefing note that he can study after hours.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is not the Leader of the Opposition that wants the briefing note, I can say to the Premier.

Premier, these people will have to be employed at some time. All we will be doing now is we will be extracting it faster if we extract from the western extension and the eastern deeps along with the ovoid. Now why is the Premier so suddenly surprised at inevitable employment that would have came anyway? Now if the Premier is that confused about employment I ask him to withdraw himself from negotiations in this process.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, with the greatest of respect, I am going to go home tonight and study the transcripts of this question. I am sure there is a point to them but it will take me a little longer to figure it out. The fact of the matter is, the Leader of the Opposition should not be upset today. The fact of the matter is, we are talking about an employment impact which is positive for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. There is no better benefit for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador than having another 1,500 people working at a mine site and a mine development and the Leader of the Opposition should stand up and applaud it!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Just as the Leader of the Opposition should applaud the news today that we have additional shrimp quotas contributing tens of millions of dollars of employment to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians! Just as the Leader of the Opposition should applaud the fact that the Minister of Human Resources and Employment has just announced the biggest summer youth employment program ever in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador, putting our young people back to work!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: I say to the Leader of the Opposition, he is walking around with a permanent black cloud over his head and he should try and remove it!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A supplementary, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is precisely what the Premier has stated, his inability to figure out an answer to a simple question that disturbs me. That is exactly the reason, Premier, I don't want the people in this Province to find out in ten years time or even in two years time, I say to the Premier.

Now the Premier admitted yesterday to a mining tax versus royalties respecting a percentage of ore. I ask the Premier now, what percentage is being looked at? Will this percentage be applicable only to Inco and Voisey's Bay?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I think we all know that the Leader of the Opposition has a gathering, an annual meeting, an annual convention of the Progressive Conservative Party happening, not this weekend but next and we all know that as a consequence he has to have a sharp and vigorous, aggressive performance in the House to stir up the troops. I tell him, we wish him every luck in stirring up the troops and retaining his position for many years to come as Leader of the Opposition and I assure him he has all the qualities for the job.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition does not need to stir up our troops, the Premier is doing a good enough job of doing that, I can tell the Premier. He is doing an excellent job.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: The Premier refuses to answer about what the percentage will bee. The Premier is now having a memory lapse. He is not the person we want to see in negotiations, Mr. Speaker, not the person we want. I will repeat the question if he would like me to repeat it, and I will say it quite slowly: What percentage is being looked at and will this percentage be applicable only to Inco and Voisey's Bay?

PREMIER TOBIN: What percentage?

MR. SULLIVAN: The mining tax versus royalties on that nickel, the copper and cobalt that is in Labrador, I say to the Premier.

MR. FITZGERALD: I thought you were going to take over Rex's portfolio, boy. You do not know anything about it.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, if the Leader of the Opposition and his troops are making the case that we need the continued presence of the Member for St. John's West in the political life of this country, as the new Member of Parliament for St. John's West, we on this side agree. If the members opposite are making the case that the member has done an extraordinary job of laying the groundwork, laying the foundation to build an exciting new industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, we on this side agree. If the member opposite is making the case that Mr. Charlie Power would be a poor substitute for a man of the quality of the Member for St. John's West, we on this side definitely agree.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if the Leader of the Opposition wants to know the nature of a mineral mining tax regime, he should look at Bill 43.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is the very Premier who, when he came here in January of 1996, withdrew that bill and refused to bring it to the House. He should look at Bill 43. The former Premier had it on the Order Paper of this House to be passed, and it is this Premier and this minister who withdrew it and squashed it. Now, I say to the Premier, he is the one who should look at it.

Now, Premier, you are looking for some of the royalties up front; you are again mortgaging our future - I would not want to have to repeat my question twice; I will let the Premier finish his briefing session and then I will ask the Premier the question.

Premier, you are looking for some of the royalties up front. You are again mortgaging our future and lessening our bargaining power. When will the Premier admit that he has given away this wonderful resource of ours? When will he admit that he now has another Churchill Falls fiasco because of his actions?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I say to the Leader of the Opposition that he really should try to be consistent from one week or from one month to the next.

I recall - and I would challenge those who follow these things and keep the records, to go back and find that the Leader of the Opposition, somewhere in the last number of months, suggested at one point that we should look at advancing payment for the Province on revenues against Voisey's Bay, that that might be a very good thing. He is now describing that very suggestion which he himself has made, as mortgaging the future for the present; and I would only say to the Leader of the Opposition that I hope he will stand up and explain the flip-flop he has now done on the floor of the House on this very question.

Let me say to the Leader of the Opposition, the record of he and his Party on resource development is the following: When it comes to dealing with foreign overfishing that Party said it could not be done, said they would not even attempt to do it. We did it. When it came to the transshipment facility, that Party said it would be announced for Nova Scotia, seven days after the election and, Mr. Speaker, it is being built in Whiffin Head today.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: When it came to the construction of the smelter refinery complex -

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

PREMIER TOBIN: - that Party said it could not be done. It is being done today.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I conclude by saying, when it comes to a mineral mining tax regime and benefits for Newfoundland and Labrador, that Party once again says it cannot be done and I say to the Leader of the Opposition: Count on us, we are going to deliver a solid regime for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can tell the Premier, there has been no flip-flop on this side and I will stand by what I have said here in this House. It is the Premier who is on the run, I can tell you.

Premier, you say you are planning to maximize the benefits of Voisey's Bay. You said: We do not know how much ore is there. And you have said: We do not know what we are dealing with. That is what the Premier said. I ask the Premier: Do you now know? On that basis, are you planning on receiving tax based on profit, or based on a percentage of the value of the ore, or a combination of both?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is really not doing a service to anybody with the kinds of questions he is asking. With great respect, they demonstrate no knowledge of the subject at hand. For the Leader of the Opposition to stand up and say: I am appalled that the government has suggested we do not know the full extent of the mining deposit at Voisey's Bay - the fact of the matter is, a great many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians this year are going to be working in Labrador, in a $30 million exploration program to fully prove out the size of that deposit. Does the Leader of the Opposition want that program cancelled? Does he want us to say that we have all the answers now, we do not need to do more? I would like to have $40 million- or $50-million-worth of exploration in Labrador. That is the job of government, to take the time to get all the facts, to get all of the information and make the right call. And we are not going to be rushed or pushed by anybody into a fast deal, because there will never again be another Churchill Falls deal in this Province, not under this government.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The biggest flip-flop we have seen in this Province is `a better tomorrow'. Back in December, I asked the Premier, on the amount of exploration: Why are you permitting Inco to reduce exploration efforts from twelve rigs down to six, cutting in half the exploration in Voisey's Bay? And the Premier could not answer it. He could not answer that question.

Now, I asked him, in reference to the Minerals Act - and it states very clearly that where it is economically feasible, smelting and processing of minerals mined in this Province must be undertaken here. I ask the Premier - and back to maximizing benefits, when will the Premier table in this House this secret viability report undertaken by government with respect to the processing of copper smelting here in this Province on our copper reserves that are in Voisey's Bay?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I have to say to the Leader of the Opposition that all of this public posturing is no substitute for thoughtful public policy; and the Leader of the Opposition does not have, clearly, any other policy with respect to any development in the Province other than criticism - shallow criticism and not well-thought-out criticism, at that.

With respect to a consultant study, the consultant study is in the process of being done. When it is done and we have had a chance to analyze it, we will make the results public. The Leader of the Opposition should not talk about secret studies. We have publicly announced that we are doing a study. It was on the front page of the Telegram. If you regard that as a public secret, I have news for you. There are people who get their newspapers regularly, read them carefully and do a better job of analyzing the facts than has the Leader of the Opposition today.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: I would like to add, Mr. Speaker, were it not for the Member for Bay Verte, talking about a smelter for copper, which the Premier laughed at in November, there may not even have been a study ordered in the first place, I say to the Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: One of the most disturbing trends in the Province today is the out-migration of people from this Province. Recently, Statistics Canada released that in the last five years the population has declined by 2.9 per cent for a real population decrease of 17,000 people. The Premier articulated last week that he has met with his officials or was about to meet with his officials to determine what the impact will be on this year's Budget and the subsequent three-year forecast. Does the Premier have any information to deliver to the House today on what the impact will be financially on equalization as a result of declining population in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: No, Mr. Speaker, we do not have the - I know that the hon. member is attempting to ask a question. The Leader of the Opposition does not want him to get any coverage here today. There is a convention coming, but you should let the question he has asked - by the way very well asked, be answered because the member has asked, I think, one of the most important and relevant questions heard here in some time, contrary to that we have heard prior to his rising in his place.

The fact of the matter is, the member is right. The population of Newfoundland and Labrador has declined year over year in the census division, Mr. Speaker. It is the only Province of Canada where that has occurred. It is perfectly consistent with the collapse of the ground fishery. It is a graphic illustration of just how seriously this Province have suffered because of the collapse of that fishery, and it points out how important it is to put our people, particularly in rural communities, back to work. That is why the shrimp announcement is so important, but it also illustrates the size of the problem when we are trying to deal with the continuation of an education system where we have the lowest birth rate in the country, a declining enrolment, which is one of the highest, if not the highest in the country, and the only population over the census period since the collapse of the fishery anywhere in Canada that has declined. I say to the member opposite, no, we do not have an analysis yet from Ottawa, because what happens now is Stats Canada takes a period of about sixteen months and it goes back and does an adjustment province-by-province on all of these numbers. Traditionally, what happens is, the numbers get adjusted upward slightly, usually by 5,000 to 10,000 and, on the basis of a final number, they then make an assessment on future equalization.

I am quite prepared to offer the member who has asked the question, and who has the important job of Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, a full briefing by the Department of Finance, by Beverley Carter and her team, on both the numbers and, when we have a better analysis, on the equalization impacts.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I am surprised, actually, by the Premier's comments on the recent article, because he indicated on April 16 that he would have to meet with officials to determine what the impact would be.

Economists in this Province, people in this Opposition, have been warning the Premier since he was elected what was coming. How is it that previous to the Budget of March 20, that the provincial government was not able to factor in - based upon its best guesstimates - what the impact would be? How is it today, based upon current formulas offered under transfer and equalization, that the Premier or the Minister of Finance cannot today stand up in the House and tell us what the impact will be upon the Budget this year and for the next three years? I really do not understand how the Premier cannot do that today.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, another good question by the member. He is asking very good questions. He should be spending more time on his feet asking questions because, in fact, based upon our own analysis we did factor into the Budget an expected decline in equalization payments, and that is part of our three-year Budget projection.

When the member says to me, `Give me a number', what he is really saying is: Tell Ottawa what we think would be an acceptable reduction in the rate of equalization.

We are prepared to negotiate to keep every dollar we can but, based on what we now know, these numbers are about what was forecast. We have built into our Budget projections, in our Budget plan, what we think could be a reduction in the rate of equalization, and that was put in the plan in the Budget announced last month. So I say to the member: Thank you for the question; I am delighted to give the answer.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Well, let me ask the Premier, based upon his response, now you are saying that the analysis was done prior to the Budget, and that you did factor into your Budget documents as to what the decline in population would mean in terms of actual dollars, so that then meeting with your officials will not be nearly as bad as you anticipate it to be. So what you are saying is that the reduction you factored into the Budget will not have an impact in this year's Budget or the next three years. Is that what the Premier has said?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: What the Premier is saying is that the government has done its job, that we have been aware...

If the Leader of the - if the member opposite - a Freudian slip, of course, the Leader of the Opposition - if the member opposite has not been aware of the population decline over the last number of years, they have been reported publicly by Stats Canada. What you are getting here is a five-year census division report. The actual public reports of population decline have gone on for some time. We have made our own projections.

You will recall that last summer we had a debate at one point between ourselves and Stats Canada as to what the proper numbers were, and we called into question their numbers. So yes, in our forecast -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: I think the member wants an answer.

In our forecast over the next three years government has anticipated the population decline and has made provision in its planning for perhaps a reduction in transfers, but we would argue to minimize, with the federal government, that reduction in transfers. And we would argue further that if there is any retroactive adjustment, that as has occurred in the past, that adjustment should not be put in place.

The member will know, as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, that in past years Ottawa has forgiven adjustments to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we would hope that Ottawa would forgive us again and improve our fiscal position.

MR. E. BYRNE: A final supplementary, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

The Premier would know that throughout the course of any given year there are several adjustments that take place between the Province on the one hand and the federal government on the other hand. So if I am to assume...

Under the current formula - and the Premier can correct me if I am wrong, but I hope he can deny this figure; it was a story that was released from Stats Canada on February 26, 1996, three days after he was elected Premier - it says: Based on the current formula, if we lose 15,000 people - and we have lost 17,000, not 15,000 - our transfers could stand to be cut by $52 million under the current equalization formula.

Can the Premier say to me, and tell the people of the Province today, that the impact of a 17,000 out-migration due to population will not have that severe of an impact on our Budget and will not, in fact, be $52 million? Is that what he is saying to the people of the Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition that he should listen to the question and he should listen to the answer. The question that has been asked is: Will there be a $55 million impact on -

MR. E. BYRNE: Based on the current formula.

PREMIER TOBIN: The answer is no. Because the formula is not based only on population. As you know, the formula is based on a wide variety of factors, and population alone does not determine the rate of equalization. The relative strength of our economy versus the national economy really determines as much as anything else the rate of equalization. The fact is, if our economy stays flat or declines somewhat or marginally, and the national economy improves, then our equalization, if anything, goes up. The reality is, just before the last Budget, literally weeks before the last Budget, we had an increase in equalization for this fiscal year. It went up by another - prior adjustment was what?

MR. DICKS: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: We actually had a prior -

MR. E. BYRNE: (Inaudible) provincial economy (inaudible) -

PREMIER TOBIN: I'm trying to answer but -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: - the member can't speak and listen. We had a prior adjustment of more than $30 million. That is one of the reasons we were able to announce some of the important programs we announced: like paying off all school board debt, like investing $2.5 million in computers for our schools, like investing $2.5 million in improving our hospital program, like investing the dollars necessary for renal dialysis in Grand Falls, like proceeding with the James Paton Hospital.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Like proceeding with Harbour Breton.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Like a youth employment program.

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

PREMIER TOBIN: For all of those reasons we are looking after our dollars and cents and investing in the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Premier and concerns the announcement yesterday on Voisey's Bay. While we all welcome the job projections of increase in the number of people to be employed in Voisey's Bay, the Premier's statement yesterday was a very disturbing one. I want to ask the Premier why he chose that occasion to say to the people of this Province that we can expect less in royalties from the Voisey's Bay mineral corporation.

Why did he do that? Is he trying to soften us up for a royalty comeback? Is he trying to send a signal to Inco and the Voisey's Bay mineral company that the Newfoundland government expects less from them? Why did he do that? Why did he not just say that we are delighted to have more people employed in Labrador than (inaudible)?

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

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I say to the Leader of the NDP I don't expect less royalties at all. I expect the maximum benefits both in terms of jobs, in terms of supply, in terms of services, and in terms of royalties.

One of the reporters made the point that if you have a lot more people working that means the cost of development is going up. I said - and I would ask somebody to look at the transcript so there is a degree of fairness here in representing what I said - I said: I suppose you could look at it that way, that if you have more people working your cost of production has gone up. But for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, any time you have more people working that is good news. Obviously people working are paying income tax, people working are not on UI or not on social assistance. People working are consuming in this economy, people working are building houses and purchasing automobiles and spreading money throughout the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador.

That is good news, and I don't anticipate for one second - and I wish the Leader of the NDP wouldn't suggest to Inco that it can expect any kind of an easy ride whatsoever based on the notion that more people are going to be working in Newfoundland and Labrador. I tell you, the unionized workers of Newfoundland and Labrador won't stand for that kind of comment by the leader of the socialist party. He should be ashamed of himself.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It was the Premier who suggested it on the front pages of the paper, and he didn't take any opportunity when questioned by the Leader of the Opposition to deny that statement!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, the message of the Premier in the paper yesterday was that Inco can expect this Province to back up - will the Premier do the Province a favour and reconstitute the Select Committee of this House to study a royalty regime for Voisey's Bay? Will the Premier do that so there can be some input into this process and not have the kind of things (inaudible) being made publicly by the Premier affect the negotiations without the people of this Province having some say?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, if the member is going to quote from the paper and use this as the basis for his sense of outrage, let me read the full quote. `Any time somebody tells me we are going to have an extra 1,500 jobs, well paying, long term jobs, I am not exactly unhappy about it.' Now I say to the Leader of the NDP, he knows it is mischievous and he knows it is misleading and I would have to hope it is inadvertently -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: CBC? You're quoting CBC? Well you were just quoting the paper a moment ago but you should quote the full story. Mr. Speaker, the long and short of it is, we are having a Question Period dominated by questions from members opposite who are doing their best to try and cast a cloud of negativity over positive developments in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Leader of the NDP should stand and applaud the notion that there is going to be an extra 1,500 jobs, not try and find something wrong with it. Of course, all I can say is, he is copying the formula for success being practised by the Leader of the Opposition and they are about the same place in the polls.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Premier.

Mr. Premier, today in this Province we are faced with a very serious health care situation. It has gone on too long, Premier, and no longer can the status quo be accepted in this Province. Doctors are expressing serious concerns from all areas of the Province. The system is collapsing. Premier, will you please intervene and do something to help the people of this Province and will you do it today?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I think, as was pointed out very clearly in the paper this weekend, the system is not collapsing. We recognize the problems that are in the system, Mr. Speaker. We recognize the valuable and hard work of our front-line staff. We recognize the challenges they have. We recognize the difficulties we are having in this Province and right across this country, of recruiting rural physicians to meet the needs of our citizens but I think, Mr. Speaker, we do not want to instill panic in our communities, in our society. Our front-line workers and our health care system is providing a very good service to the clients of this Province and I think we need to state it as it is.

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

MR. FRENCH: Might I say, Mr. Speaker, oh what a year-and-a-half can do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Now Premier, again I am asking you today to deal with this very crucial situation. Will you please utilize the funds from the contingency reserve, put them into the health care system immediately, particularly in areas that are suffering drastically in the last several months in this Province? We have doctors from Port aux Basques, doctors from Western Newfoundland, doctors from Central Newfoundland, the chairperson of the Health Care Corporation who are all saying that health care in this Province is in great difficulty. I don't care what the minister says and I won't ask the Minister of Health any more questions because most of the time he is somewhere else anyway but today I ask you, as Premier of this Province, to intervene on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, on behalf of the people of this Province and put some money into the health care system in this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I think that everybody in the Province recognizes that Newfoundland and Labrador has a challenge to maintain its fundamental programs and fundamental services, in particular social policy in the area of education and the area of health care. This is not something that happened yesterday. This is not something that suddenly sprung up a year ago or six months ago or six weeks ago. We are a Province with the largest public debt per capita in Canada. We were a Province - it is not the case today - with the largest annualized deficit in the country. We have the highest unemployment rate. We have the highest rate of taxation and it has been that way, Mr. Speaker, for decades.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: I would ask the Leader of the Opposition to at least let me answer. It has been that way for decades. Change is not going to happen overnight and it is going to take some hard work, some discipline and some perseverance to bring change about, Mr. Speaker, but I am confident positive change is happening today. I wish it could happen quicker. I cannot make it happen quicker.

I say to the member opposite, who is usually a diligent member, I would ask him to recognize this, there is more money - if it were available - that could be used in the health care system. The government will look, on a continuous basis and review the health care system and where we can find the additional dollars to spend, we will.

We announced significant investments in the Budget, and as we can afford to spend more we will spend more. It does not help the health care system to constantly talk about a system that has collapsed, to constantly talk about crises, and to seek in a very transparent and political way to use the challenges - and they are real, and the problems in some of those are real - to try and score cheap political points on the floor of the House of Assembly.

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

 

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

 

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the Report of the RNC Public Complaints Commission, which covers the period from April 1, 1996 to March 31, 1996. This is in accordance with section 39 of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Act, 1992.

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wish to table for hon. members, two different matters dealing with several finances of the Province. The first is a list of the temporary loans raised under Section 48 of the Financial Administration Act, since the last report to the House. These are loans, essentially Treasury Bills in amounts discounted from $30 million from May 16, 1996 through to and including March 5, 1997. This is, in essence, our Treasury Bill Program.

The second matter is the matter of a pay-out under a provincial loan guarantee; it is a Fisheries Loan Board guarantee. The Province had provided a guarantee of $76,500 to the Bank of Nova Scotia on March 16, 1989, on behalf of Mr. Vincent Hughes vessel. There were problems with the vessel. It was subsequently sold in 1995. The proceeds were less than necessary to satisfy the loan and the Province paid out $50,475.99 under the guarantee on May 14, 1996. So we paid out a little bit over $50,000 on a total guarantee of $76,000.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would now like to table those.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are those loans now forgiven?

MR. DICKS: They are not forgiven. We have made a pay-out. As to whether or not there is any recourse under the guarantee against the individual, is not part of the report to the House and that would be a matter to take up with the minister responsible for the Fisheries Loan Program, whom I now believe is my colleague, the minister responsible for rural development.

The government, in some cases, Mr. Speaker, if I could respond to this, where it gives guarantees, does have recourse in the nature of shareholders loans and various securities, guarantees, cross-guarantees of companies. In some circumstances, like many circumstances when the company goes bankrupt or an individual experiences difficulties, it is not always easy or worthwhile to realize (inaudible).

In this case, I do not have the particulars but I am sure the hon. member might provide that information if it is a matter of public interest.

AN HON. MEMBER: The government will pay off the loan if there is still (inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Yes. We might very well try to collect if it is feasible to do so.

 

Petitions

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Harbour Main - Whitbourne.

MR. WHELAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I stand in this hon. House today to present a petition on behalf of the residents, parents, of the communities of Marysvale, Brigus, Georgetown, Cupids, Roaches Line, Makinsons, many of whom are in the galleries here today.

I will begin by reading the prayer of the petition:

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of the District of Harbour Main - Whitbourne, humbly sweareth:

WHEREAS Bishop O'Neill Collegiate in Brigus, a twenty-four-year-old brick building which, as a K to IX school, would have a population of 436 students and can offer excellent programming and would be much more cost-efficient with regard to busing students 8.5 kilometres to Bishop O'Neill as compared to 22 kilometres to Amalgamated Academy in Bay Roberts; and

WHEREAS the Avalon West School Board has determined to keep open a number of underpopulated older wooden structures, some of which are in much closer proximity to more modern facilities; and

WHEREAS our proposal will keep seven communities centralized at Bishop O'Neill and Brigus with much less busing-time for children and a quality education for all;

WHEREFORE we, the concerned parents of the District of Harbour Main - Whitbourne, petition the government to review our case and resolve it to our satisfaction in granting a K to IX school system at Bishop O'Neill and Brigus. And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray. Dated, April 23, 1997.

Mr. Speaker, there are 789 names on this particular petition. We have had many issues placed before this House of Assembly, but I believe one of the most important issues facing us today is the issue of education. I do not think there is anybody in this particular House or anybody in the Province - and I know there are many people here in the gallery who have signed this petition - who do not realize that there has to be restructuring.

The Premier mentioned a few minutes ago that we have a decline in population and I suppose there is very little argument that can be made for not decreasing the size of the education system. We have school boards throughout the Province who have been mandated to make various decisions with regard to school re-alignment and student re-alignment and all the decisions that come with the new school system that we are about to have - fine, educated, upstanding people, fine human beings.

I think, Mr. Speaker, the operative words there are "human beings". As human beings, many of us are subject, and sometimes prone, to making mistakes. They have had hundreds of choices and decisions to be made over the past number of months, all very hard decisions. Not a big lot of time to make them, in some cases, and probably for that reason - I do not know, it may not be - some of the choices and some of the decisions that were made may not have been the best decisions that could have been made, given the circumstances.

With all due resect to all these school boards in the Province, I believe that probably one of the issues that should be reviewed is the issue of closing the Bishop O'Neill school in Brigus. There are two schools in Brigus. There is St. Edward's school, an older wooden structure, and Bishop O'Neill, a more modern brick building, one that has had just last year $100,000 spent on a new computer room, state-of-the-art computers. Probably most important of all -and it may not be an issue that was considered, I am not sure - but probably one of the most important issues of all was the fact that they have set a very high standard in the Bishop O'Neill school. The results of their exams year after year are public knowledge. In some cases, they have had 100 per cent passed in 100 per cent of the subjects. I know of parents in other areas who have taken their kids out of different high schools and put them in the Bishop O'Neill school in Brigus for that very same reason - a very well-respected school.

I believe that further discussion, further communication, should be initiated. I have tried my best in the past to do that, with some success - obviously with not enough, because we are here today. I find that this is probably one of the last resorts that I have to bring this -

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: By leave?

MR. WHELAN: Just a minute to finish up, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. WHELAN: Basically, what I have left to say is that I call on - it is an onerous situation, an onerous problem within the Province. I think the onus is on all of us, the responsibility is on all of us, to look after the future of our children. That is the most important point, that is the bottom line in this Province. I think that we, as a government, we as parents, we as a population here in Newfoundland, should do all that we can to see that the right decisions are made, to make sure that in ten and twenty years time the children we are making decisions about today do not suffer because of the decisions we have made.

I am hoping everything possible is done on the part of government, the school boards, we, as parents, to see that this situation is rectified.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave?

MR. OTTENHEIMER: By leave, Mr. Speaker, to respond to the petition?

MR. SPEAKER: There is no necessity for leave to respond to a petition.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Oh, it is 3:00 p.m. Do we have leave to respond?

MR. TULK: Sure. I wonder if we could perhaps stop the clock in order to give the Opposition a chance to reply to this petition?

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreed?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to make a few comments, if I may, in response to the position taken and the wording of the petition as read by the member opposite. As indicated, there are some 789 names to this petition. I am quite familiar with the specifics of the circumstances concerning the people and the parents of the communities in the Marysvale and Brigus area.

I, personally, along with my colleague, the Member for Cape St. Francis, went to Brigus approximately ten days ago and joined with them in their protest with respect to the closing of their school, namely, Bishop O'Neill High School, in Brigus. And it could be clearly seen, Mr. Speaker, that there is a lot of passion and a lot of concern on the part of the parents and the students in the Brigus area. They are deeply concerned about the closure of their school.

I must say, I applaud the member opposite, who has taken the view today, Mr. Speaker, to really challenge the very words of his leader. Because his leader had indicated in the past that he would not interfere with decisions by these appointed school board members. It is certainly a pleasure to hear what the member opposite has to say about this, because he is representing - because I heard what the people had to say in the Brigus area. He is truly representing what the people in this community truly mean. And what they want, Mr. Speaker, is the continued opening of their school, no longer as a high school, but as a facility which will accommodate students from Kindergarten to Grade IX.

It is a fine facility. I, along with my colleague, viewed the facility. It has a beautiful gymnasium; it has a computer room which compares with any other computer room in this Province. It is a viable school. It has a population which can easily support the continuation of this school.

So, there are circumstances - and I say to the Minister of Education and to the hon. the Premier, there are special circumstances which require in this Province a second review. And it is not only Brigus, it is in Brownsdale, it is in Englee, it is in Jacques Fontaine, it is in Port au Port. There are a number of communities in our Province which require a special look and a special second consideration. The people and the parents in Brigus and Marysvale and surrounding area are saying: We want somebody to listen. Under the conditions which have been set down by the hon. the Premier and by the Minister of Education in this Province, there is nobody who will listen, and that is completely unfair and unacceptable, Mr. Speaker. We need somebody in this Province who will listen. There are, indeed, special circumstances.

This is a very unique year in education. There are decisions which are being made which will be long-lasting, if not permanent, and clearly, one fell swoop cannot satisfy for everybody in this Province what is the end result in terms of educational opportunity. There are special circumstances which require a special consideration, a second review. I say to the members of this House, that what the people in Brigus and Marysvale are saying, represents one of those special circumstances, and I would ask the hon. the Premier to intervene. Unlike his Minister of Education, I would ask him to take an active role in participating in the decision-making in this particular instance and to give some accountability to the people of the Brigus area who require, certainly, at least that much.

Thank you very much.

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

MR. HARRIS: Do I have leave to address the petition, Mr. Speaker?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. HARRIS: I just want to say a few words, Mr. Speaker, in support of the petition. The petition presents a unique problem for this House, in that we have a group of people who came here to protest once before and protested out in their community for several days. I spoke to those people, and despite the name of the school, Bishop O'Neill Collegiate, named after a Roman Catholic Prelate, this is not about denominational education. This is a community school and the people of these communities want this Brigus school to remain. What I am afraid has happened, Mr. Speaker, is that what people voted for when they wanted education reform is what they would expect to happen in Bishop O'Neill School and in Brigus, that there would be one school that all the people could go to in Brigus.

Brigus is one of the oldest communities in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and, Mr. Speaker, perhaps what has happened is that out there in the bureaucracy of the school boards, out there in the bureaucracy of education, some centralizers have taken over this agenda of school reform and are using it to pursue something that perhaps they have been thinking about for years. What the people of Brigus and Marysvale want is a community school and they have a community that is big enough to support a school. They have a population of schoolchildren that is enough to support a viable school, and they have a building that is there, workable, ready to go. What they are asking is not something - they are not asking to turn back the clock on education reform. They are not asking for a uni-denominational school where one is not viable. They are asking that their community school be possible.

I agree with the Member for St. John's East, and the Member for Harbour Main - Whitbourne, that there has to be a second look. It is not enough - and I understand that the Premier and the government do not want to get involved in disputes over religion, disputes over all of that. We understand that. That decision has been made. Term 17 has been passed; it has been accepted by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, I think Term 17 itself has probably been accepted by the churches. What we have going on here is something entirely different. What we have here is school board bureaucracies now taking over the agenda, and apparently being given a carte blanche, a total power, that this government is saying: `We do not want to interfere with; we are not going to have anything to do with.' And I think that is wrong.

These are appointed school boards; these are appointed officials with sort of game plans that have not really been subjected to adequate consultation, certainly not in this particular area, and now, the school board is defending decisions they have made and the government has virtually said: You can do what you like. It is not going to be reviewed, so you are okay.

I think this is a sincere request by the member, a sincere request by the people of this area, to have the Province reconsider the life of the Brigus community in having a school for Brigus. I think it is time that the government had a second look, and I implore them, on behalf of these people here, to exercise that second look and exercise a little bit of flexibility in that policy. Do not revisit Term 17, but certainly provide an opportunity to revisit the plans that are being imposed on the people of this Province against their will.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Private Members' Day

 

MR. SPEAKER: It being Private Member's Day, I believe the resolution today is that of the hon. the Member for St. John's South.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We have a motion today on the floor to debate the provincial parks issue.

WHEREAS the people of the Province own the provincial parks the government is now trying to privatize; and

WHEREAS the people of the Province who own these parks were never consulted by government about its decision to privatize their parks; and

WHEREAS the people of the Province are expressing loudly and clearly that they do not want their provincial parks privatized; and

WHEREAS the government's rash, last-minute decision to privatize the people's parks without their prior knowledge or consent is fostering chaos and confusion which puts at risk the Cabot Celebrations and the most important tourism year in our history;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this Honourable House urge the Provincial Government immediately to stop its efforts to privatize the people's provincial parks.

Mr. Speaker, I have gone over this Program Review several times in the House, and the highlights of the Program Review, and much to the minister's dismay - I do not know; she perhaps has not read the Program Review prior to her decision to privatize these provincial parks. But, Mr. Speaker, in the department's own Program Review, they state very clearly that provincial parks provide a higher quality of outdoor recreation opportunities in a safer environment than the private parks throughout the Province, and that the provincial parks are legislatively protected and policy-driven.

Mr. Speaker, private parks will be profit-driven, not policy-driven. Private parks in this Province will be looking at the bottom line, looking at whatever ways they can save money and generate money as opposed to servicing the tourists who come to our Province and giving them a good experience, an experience that will make them want to come back, an experience that will have them go back to their own home provinces, or down to the states where they live, and tell their friends and relatives and neighbours what a great experience they had in our Province.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, I am not saying that the private parks in our Province are not operated at high standards. Some of them are, some of them are not, but our provincial parks we know are operated at high standards and we are not taking a gamble with our provincial parks. Some of the private parks throughout the Province are operated at high standards and I am not knocking them but, Mr. Speaker, by keeping our parks legislatively protected we ensure that tourists who visit our Province have a good experience.

Mr. Speaker, we have been told by the government that they cannot afford to pay the costs of maintaining these parks and wages and so on, yet nature and eco-tourists have contributed $150 million to the provincial economy in 1995 according to the program review put out by the department. So, Mr. Speaker, while they paid out $1.8 million on one hand, they are taking in $150 million on the other hand. There were twenty-eight parks removed from the provincial park system in 1995 with the promise that the money saved through the privatization of those parks would go back in to enhance the provincial parks that remain in the system. That has not happened, Mr. Speaker. There was $1 million, as promised, in 1995, there was $500,000 in 1996 and in 1997 the minister, in one statement, has given a very swift and fatal blow to the employees of the parks, to the visitors of these parks and to the provincial park system itself.

The program review states very clearly that private park operators either do not have the financial resource or the desire to operate the private parks at the same standards that our provincial parks are operated at. It also states that 1997, being the Cabot 500 celebrations, it would be an unwise decision to experiment with privatization during 1997, yet the minister has taken it upon herself to privatize twenty-one of our provincial parks as well as the sites that she is privatizing.

Mr. Speaker, the unfortunate reality here is that the private park operators are going to have to increase their fees or they are going to have to block the parks with amenities in order to be able to afford to operate these private parks. If the government say that they are unable to afford the cost of maintaining these parks how does the minister expect a private park operator to operate these provincial parks and pay a bank loan because the minister is offering a fifty year lease on these parks in order for the new operators to obtain bank financing? How can the minister expect these new private operators to afford to operate these parks and at the same time pay a bank loan without raising the prices at the gates or without blocking these parks with amenities? That very clearly, Mr. Speaker, is something that the people of our Province do not want.

Now the private parks that are out there with amenities are very good. Some of them are very good. Pee Wee Park, Splash n' Putt, Trinity Loop and so on, these parks are very good, very well operated, Mr. Speaker, but the question is, if you put another twenty-one parks blocked with amenities throughout the Province, are we going to jeopardize these businesses that are presently in place? Are we going to over flood the market with private parks that are blocked with amenities over and above the fact that the people of our Province say that we have enough private parks? We have enough parks with amenities. We want our parks to remain provincial parks where we can enjoy nature, where we can go out and pick blueberries, where we can go out and take our families for a swim. How can somebody go into a private park and take their family for a swim without fear of being run over by a sea-doo or a bumper boat, Mr. Speaker?

Some of the small communities throughout our Province that have these provincial parks within the community boundaries rely on these provincial parks for their very existence. We all know of the stories of out-migration, we all know of the stories of small communities struggling to survive. If these private parks put convenience stores within them, what happens to the convenience stores that are in the communities that rely on the traffic through the provincial parks for their existence?

What happens if the park closes, which is not outside the realm of possibility. We have seen it in 1995. What happens if these parks close? Do the communities die? The minister is providing the new operators of these parks with one month. She has told me that she is going to come out and tell the public and tell the new operators what operators actually are taking over these parks by the end of April. So she is going to give them a month to put in place a business plan, to make sure they have their financing arranged, to hire staff, to be up and running at the same standards that the provincial parks are operating at by the opening of this tourist season. That is not possible. That is simply not possible, and the minister herself knows it.

I have to ask the minister a question, and I fully expect her to get up, and I welcome the Member for Grand Falls - Buchans to get up and provide comments, and I welcome the Member for Windsor - Springdale to get up and provide us with their comments on this debate today, and I expect them to get up. The public expects these people to get up. The question I have for the minister - she has told me last week in a telephone conversation that they now have it reduced to a short list on all of the parks. There is a short list now in place on all of the parks, and that they are having meetings within the next couple of days with the people who have presented proposals who are on that short list. Anybody who is not on the short list won't be having a meeting, there is no need for a meeting. I wonder if the minister can tell us when the last of those meetings have taken place, if they have all taken place.

The people in this Province have a fundamental right to utilize and enjoy our provincial parks. They are our provincial parks. I've requested from the minister information pertaining to the total investment gone into our provincial parks, the total investment by the people of our Province throughout the years into these provincial parks that are now being privatized. One would expect that the government would have this information at hand before it made a decision to privatize these parks. It would simply be unacceptable to the people of our Province to sell off one of these parks for $10,000 or $15,000 after the people of our Province have invested tens of thousands of dollars into one of these parks, and maybe more.

The fact that the minister could stand in the House yesterday and tell us that this information is not available is unacceptable. That she has not done her research, that she has not determined the total investment gone into these parks throughout the years. Because if we were in government and we were to make such a rash decision, I can guarantee you that we would have our research done before we would make a decision such as privatizing these twenty-one parks. We would know the total investment gone into these parks by the people of our Province. We wouldn't be basing it on the current assets in the parks. We would base it on the total investment by the people of our Province, the owners of these parks, before we made a decision to privatize; because I would not expect you to invest $150,000 into your home and then turn around tomorrow and sell it for $15,000. You know that is unacceptable, and I know it is unacceptable, and anybody in their right mind would know it is unacceptable.

To take a park that we have invested tens of thousands of dollars into, that we have invested our culture into, and much of our heritage into, can we afford to sell these parks for $10,000 or $15,000?

I would like for the minister, when she stands in defence of this motion today, to tell us exactly in detail what she is basing her decision on, and to ensure us that we are going to get fair value for these parks, because I don't believe we are going to. I certainly don't believe that the people of this Province are going to get the value back when these parks are privatized.

Furthermore, on a fifty-year lease, what guarantee, if a private operator is unable to pay the bills and pay the bank loan, the bills that the government say they are unable to afford to pay, if for some reason the private operator is unable to afford to meet the demands, does the bank then take over control of the balance of the fifty-year lease? And, if so, do we have any control over who this bank then would pass control of the park to? Would we have any control at all on whose hands the bank would turn these parks over to?

Mr. Speaker, there has been tremendous chaos and confusion created through the privatization of these twenty-one parks, and it has been created because there has been a lack of information provided by the government. There has been a lack of response by the government. There has been absolutely no consultation by this government whatsoever, absolutely no consultation by this government at all, and yet this government wants the people of the Province to trust them.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This afternoon I stand to talk about the privatization of our parks and to respond to the motion by the hon. Member for St. John's South, opposite.

In listening to his discussions, and already hearing him through the media greatly over the last few weeks, he talks about the chaos and confusion caused by government. And in listening to his remarks this afternoon I realize that much of the chaos and confusion has been caused by the hon. member's comments.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS KELLY: I would like to point out to this House, and to the hon. members opposite, there has been very strong interest in the privatization of these parks.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS KELLY: We have obtained seventy-seven good proposals on these parks, which we are at the moment evaluating.

I would like to say to the hon. member - he asked a question as to where we are in the process - we have been detailing, on a weekly basis, where we are with the privatization process. We have, as of yesterday, completed all of the short-listed interviews with the proponents who have risen to the top in looking at how these privatized parks will be run in the future.

I would also like to say, when the hon. member points out that `we have no public park system, we are privatizing all of our parks', we have thirteen good, core, public parks left in the system. We also, very proudly in this Province, have two National Parks in Gros Morne and in Terra Nova.

I am also wanting to point out today the total lack of regard that the member opposite has been pointing out for the private sector in this Province, and not just the private sector. We had ten excellent proposals out of the seventy-seven from employee groups, and I have to tell you that they were very good proposals, and some of these were, in fact, short-listed. We had ten proposals from employee groups on seven parks.

I would also like to say to the hon. member that he has been ranting and going on and on about how tough this is on our Province. We had to make tough decisions in this last budget. I have not heard the hon. member in all the times he has been on the open line shows and talking to the media and talking in public meetings, I have not once heard him give a solution whereby we could have the cost savings. Would he like us to shut down yet another school, a hospital ward? These are the types of decisions that we have to make here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS KELLY: And I have to say through all of his comments about struggling rural communities, yes our communities are struggling, has he ever stopped to think that these parks could in fact be opportunities for our rural communities? Why is it that every time we talk change or we move ahead and do things differently, must the hon. members opposite always think that it has to be negative?

When I have been reading through and looking at these seventy-seven proposals, I realize the strong business background and the good work that was put into those proposals and I have great fate that many or all of these parks will be successfully privatized.

When he talks about just one month left for to put together a business plan, what did he think we were going to people asking for? These seventy-seven proposals that we received are good, solid business plans. He says only one month to create a business plan. The business plans have been created.

The private sector also can implement certain efficiencies, partnerships and concessions in the parks that it is not appropriate for government to do. He said all of these parks will have amenities in them. My goodness what about we have some electrical hook-ups, some sewer hook-ups and a few bumper boats and that. The public want these types of parks. The public also wants good core public parks which we are providing. You know we have to offer a diversity of experiences to both our own people who want camping experiences in this Provinces and to visitors who are coming to our Province.

The Cabot 500th celebrations, the hon. member makes it sound like it is terrible, we are having a lot of tourists come, we are not going to be able to take care of them. We have parks systems, we have private camp grounds, we will have more private camp grounds now. We have enough camp grounds in this Province that even if these twenty-one parks were not privatized we would have an adequate number for the extra twenty per cent tourists we expect this year. We have a very large number of very good camp grounds in this Province, in our public parks, in our national parks and in our private parks. We have some very good private parks. He alludes to, oh yes, we may have a few good private parks. We have a lot of good private ones and to ensure that as our parks are privatized and to ensure that our private parks are also kept up to standard we will work very closely with the industry. We are putting in place an inspection process this year and we also, through the upcoming year, are working very closely with Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador to put a rating system in place for our parks similar to what we have done for hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts.

Licensing the new operators in these parks will not be a rubber stamp process. You seen to imply that we are just passing over these parks with no standards. We have always had standards in this Province and we will continue to have standards. Businesses who will be going into these parks, whether they be municipalities, tourism associations, development associations, employee takeover situations or private business, will all have to adhere to the tourist establishment act. We also have to ensure that each operator, and we will ensure, complies with the clear regulations set out by other departments, the Department of Health and the Fire Commissioner for example.

The tourism industry as I have said is working towards a rating system for camp grounds, not unlike the system we have in place for other tourism operations. So, for our part a camp ground that does not get a license, will not operate.

Moving on to a discussion about the park employees who have been displaced by this process, we have been working very hard with our employees all through our department. We have sat down with the union, we have sat down with employees, we have sat down with concerned groups all through the system. There were ninety-two seasonal positions impacted by this park privatization initiative. Forty-five new positions have been identified in the thirteen core parks. We have approximately ten to twelve people who will voluntarily go through the normal retirement process. We also have a voluntary retirement program that we are discussing with our employees now and already we know that three have exited through that process and we may have as high as ten to fifteen. We know that we have three employees who have for normal reasons that we lose some employees every year, gained employment in other areas in other jobs.

We will also expect that some employees who have been displaced will be taking over parks, that their business proposals will be successful. We will know that in the upcoming days. I also notice, in many of the proposals that were put forward by the various private entrepreneurs, by development associations, tourism associations, municipalities that they are indicating that they want to employ these previous park employees. They know that these employees have the experience, the education and the know how to run these parks properly this summer. It is my anticipation that most, if not all of these employees will have alternate employment or be retired or, will work through the privatized system in our Province. So I stand here today, to say to you that we are on time with the process of privatizing the parks; we are on schedule and we intend that these parks will be open this summer servicing the public as in previous years because this will be a banner year for tourism in our Province. This is the best time in our history to do this.

Do you think it would have been best that the end of the season when the big opportunity was gone and the larger influx of tourists this year - this is a banner time to start a new business, a new tourism business, and we hope that all of the privatized parks, the ones that have previously been privatized and in fact all of our tourism businesses this year we know will have the ability to rise to new heights because this year is our jumping off point for a brand new tourism industry for this Province; and this will, in the future, I am sure, as was pointed out in the Province's Strategic Economic Plan several years ago when we identified that aquaculture, information technology and tourism would be the three bright spots in the three new areas of business growth in our Province and that is why we planned these Cabot celebrations, mainly to celebrate 500 years of history. To also look forward to the next 500 years and to celebrate our land, our culture and our people. Our public parks, our national parks and our privatized parks will all play a great role in that celebration.

Thank you very much.

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

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

I am delighted today to rise and make a few comments on this because the House has been closed I say to the minister and we have not had the opportunity to debate it so I am glad that my colleague put forward the motion so we could speak in the House here, because I have heard it all too, I say to the minister, from all over the Province, especially as you travel around this Province, from the employees to the people who live in these areas where they used these parks over the years and I do not agree with the minister on one particular point. I think it is the worst timing.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I will go so far as to say maybe it is a good idea to privatize some parks down the road. Maybe it is, and I say to the minister as a solution, that if you had taken that approach, and I will give alternatives today, not just criticize but I will give some alternatives, some in which we use some logic. For the one thing, Mr. Speaker, I think the timing was lousy. I think with the Cabot celebrations upon us and so on, with some planning, and if we looked at different parks around the Province that maybe, some were best for privatization.

I will ask the minister this: Who decided on core parks? Was it a Cabinet committee, was it a small group somewhere in Confederation Building? Who decided, why couldn't the people who had the parks closed down have a say, maybe justify their cause for keeping their parks open? They did not have a say and therein, Mr. Speaker, lies the root of the problem. There was no say. There was no consultation.

When the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board went around this Province looking for consultation on the Budget and so on, how many times did the minister raise that the parks - by the way - your parks may be privatized in this Province? He did not raise it, Mr. Speaker. There was only one group who raised it and that was Hospitality Newfoundland; there was no consultation and therein lies the root of the problem, I say to the minister, which is a mistake as are a lot of the policies of the government. Consult, but not just consult for the sake of listening to people but actually take heed and listen to what the people have said. The employees of those parks will have given the best advice I would say, Mr. Speaker.

Secondly, the people who live in that particular area - for instance in my area, a beautiful park at Flatwater. No, it isn't crowded, yes, there are some things that could be improved there. But I have people in that area, who come in from Grand Falls and I can name lots of places, who come every year to visit that beautiful little park. They don't want big rides in it, they don't want bumper boats. They like the pristine environment, they like the campfire site, and so on. I've had these people come up and talk to me.

What makes sense to me, and as an alternative to the minister, and constructively I say to her, is that the real process should have been: Okay, there may be some merit to this whole situation. Let's take a year, let the Cabot celebrations begin. Not throw it into turmoil. There should never be that situation is the point I make about that, and most people I talk to agree. Let's look at it for a year, let's go out and consult, let's ask the employees how their parks can be improved. They almost live there during the summer, they work there all year round. I know people personally who work in the parks. He had suggestions for me of how that park can be improved. To me they are the experts on the park, not a Cabinet - with all due respect to us in the House of Assembly here, or Cabinet committees, with all due respect to us, I would rather sit around with park people, and add a few people in who use these parks every year. They would be the experts on parks.

I use the analogy of the fishery. We talked about scientists and people in Ottawa and in buildings in here with DFO deciding the fate of the fishery. The real experts were in the boats. The same thing as with the parks. The people who worked there year after year - and like I said, people I know personally -, the people who used the parks - and these are the people I really feel sorry for. The employees themselves who know the parks best, and for the people like for instance when I was in Grand Falls for a public meeting, I had an old couple walk up to me and say: Mr. Shelley, we use these parks every year. We take a route and we take four or five, and we take our grandchildren with us, and we visit those parks, and we like them just the way they are. That is what they said.

Those are the people I say to the minister who I would like to see protected. I will add to that by saying that if we want to take some of those parks in a year from now after we have listened to the employees, after we have listened to the advice of the people who use these parks every summer - I don't use them every summer. Not as regularly as I probably should.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) go to Splash-and-Putt.

MR. SHELLEY: Go to Splash-and-Putt. No, I don't go to Splash-and-Putt, I say, but I do frequent the park in Baie Verte, Mr. Speaker, Flatwater Pond Park. Indian River Park, another beautiful park in Green Bay.

MR. H. HODDER: And what's wrong with Splash-and-Putt?

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, I do frequent those parks, but not as much - that is my whole point - as the frequent users, the people who can't afford to go to Florida, or can't afford to go to P.E.I. for that matter.

MR. HARRIS: Who can't afford to go to Splash-and-Putt.

MR. SHELLEY: Or go to Nova Scotia. Or can't afford to go to Splash-and-Putt, exactly my point. These are the people, like that old couple who walked up to me and said: I use these parks every year. We go there and there and there, and they gave me some (inaudible) about some of the parks in Central Newfoundland that they love. They said: This is our regular route. We don't ask for a lot, we just take our grandchildren and we frequent those parks. They are really upset at the possibilities, Mr. Speaker, where these parks could end up.

I'm not even sure about this, but I ask the minister: Are the regulations solid, air-tight, so that the long term, in five years from now, we don't see a private enterprise person say to us: We spent all kinds of money in this park but it isn't working, so now we want it for some private interest. That is a fear. Can the minister assure us 100 per cent that private interest in five years from now -

MR. HARRIS: Are they going to allow them to mortgage the parks to raise money for (inaudible)?

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, that is what I say to the Member for... what (inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. SHELLEY: Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi. It changes so often I can't keep it straight. Mr. Speaker, it is the ministers responsibility as the minister for this department. It is to ensure not 90 per cent or 99 per cent, 100 per cent that these parks, long term, will be there for people to enjoy. If she can't guarantee us that 100 per cent then we should call it off until we do the proper consultation, speak to the employees, speak to the people who use the parks.

We throw up this argument a lot of times about priorities, and the minister mentioned something about keeping open hospital beds and schools. We know that the parks compared to that aren't a priority. Education and health are the priorities, we know that. But people, what they are talking about, if the amount of money that keeps these parks open is money well spent. Because it is an investment into our culture, our heritage, over years and years.

I spoke to the man in Grand Falls who was the first person to enter the Beothuck Park out there. I forget his name. I wish I had it here. Maybe the Member for Grand Falls - Buchans -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Mulroney. Yes, Mr. Mulroney, in Catamaran Park I think it is?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: In Beothuck Park. I spoke to that man, Mr. Speaker. If the minister wants some good advice, sit down and talk to that man. Eighty-odd years old who could tell us how that park started right from the first tree that was cut there and how people first went camping there. These are the kind of people I want to see their questions answered. The minister said now there are going to be twelve or thirteen parks left open. So I want all of you people around your parks, who work in the parks, who use them, I want you to have a chance to put forward your argument for keeping the park open in your area. Now I think that would have been a sensible approach. If the minister wants alternatives and suggestions instead of criticism, I say to her, that is the sensible approach. Delay it for one year. The potential is still there. The parks are not going to run away. They are still there but will utilize people -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Pardon? Would I do what? You should ask me that again because I would like to answer it.

Mr. Speaker, I will utilize my salary to go against the priorities in this Province with the health care and education, I say to the minister, I will do it very quickly. We talked about priorities a few minutes ago and let me say it first, so we don't jump up and down in the House, Rick Hansen, a national hero, a hero of mine, Mr. Speaker. I am very much in support of Rick Hansen and the movement across this country but I wonder, Mr. Speaker, was the priority for Mr. Hansen, who I have supported over the years personally with donations, or are the priorities for people in this Province, more directly? When you give about $500,000 for that and - what is it, $1.8 million for all these parks to stay open for a year? We have to sort of question that, Mr. Speaker. You have to question it, where are our priorities?

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I could go on for an hour here in this House today and talk about priorities in building elevators out there, renovating our offices and other things. There are lots of priorities, Mr. Speaker. So we should not get into that debate today, I say to the minister, because - we could all go back and forth like we do in this House for hours and hours on priorities.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you want leave?

MR. SHELLEY: I would need leave, I say to the member.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) and we would have lots of money.

MR. SHELLEY: I can make a lot of examples in this House today. I know all members could and we could get up and go back and forth about the Tories before that and the Sprung Greenhouses. We can go back to Churchill Falls and we could talk about private elevators. We could do a lot of that but the bottom line in all of this, Mr. Speaker, is that the process again, is a vintage example of this government and how they say they consult but actually there was no consultation whatsoever here. It is no good to consult and have a plan, Mr. Speaker, if you don't listen to who gave you the suggestions in the first place. Therein lies the problem here, Mr. Speaker, that indeed some privatization of some parks could actually work and work good. I would support it but what we should have done is gone back to the people who are the real experts, the people in the parks, the people who use them and the people who work there.

I say to the minister too, what a ridiculous statement that came out when this all started: By the way, we are going to give the employees in the parks a chance to buy them and take them over. Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't know what proposals the minister had and maybe she has a few employees involved somewhere along the way but I am going to tell the minister that the majority, the vast majority and the people that I have talked to who work in the parks, do not have two cents to rub together, Mr. Speaker, let alone go and buy the park. It is such a ridiculous statement. Yes, we are going to give you a chance to buy the park. As soon as you get your stamps together and you pay off your electricity bill, which has gone up with the HST and your children's clothes and everything else, we are going to give you a chance to buy the park. Well unless you are giving it to them for ten cents, Mr. Speaker, I doubt very much, in this Province, there are too many employees rushing and beating down the minister's door to buy the parks. So if you are going to be straight with them then tell them upfront.

The truth is, there is going to be privatizing into private hands and we don't have airtight regulations in place so that in five or six years from now we don't have to turn to the minister, if she is still there, and say to her, look, they are turning this into a private abode for some people who are coming up from the States or coming from Europe because they are going to use that land, that pristine environment. Remember, Mr. Speaker, that these lands, where these parks are, are pristine. They were picked years ago because they are good areas. There are rivers running through a lot of them. They are beautiful.

In my area, I know the Flatwater Pond Park is one of the best places on the peninsula. Indian River Park, a beautiful river flowing through there. Imagine that being turned over to private individuals? What we have to do in this Province is get back to the basics and stop believing that we are the experts when it comes to all these changes. When you say consult, it really means actually sitting down and listening to somebody talk to you and then put it into action because no plan is any good unless you execute it. You can have the best plan on paper, from a football team to a hockey team. You can have the best plan there is. You can have the best players there are but if you cannot execute the plan, the plan goes nowhere. Mr. Speaker, all we are saying here is that this should have been delayed. It should have been set back. It should have been used properly. Thirteen core parks now, you say minister. You should have given the people around the Province a chance to justify their existence and their parks, so they could come forward and say, `We want to be one of those thirteen.' But you did not do that, and it was not fair. It was not fair to the people of the Province.

If tough decisions have to be made - we all know tough decisions have to be made. This was not a tough decision, this was an unnecessary decision. That is what it was, Mr. Speaker. It was not tough - $1.8 million in your budget, this summer to throw the parks into turmoil and chaos, and get everybody excited for no reason at all, when for next year, we could have sat down throughout this summer and made up a good plan.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: $1.8 million is what it cost annually.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: $1.8 million or $1.7 million, somewhere in that area.

Mr. Speaker, I travel across other parts of this country and go to parks, and Newfoundland parks are very unique. They are quiet; they have just a small fireplace; they have a campground; you have tent sites, and that is what the people love. And the people I referred to earlier who frequent these parks, you cannot put a price tag on that for them. There is not a price tag that this government or anybody could put on that park for this elderly couple to take their grandchildren and enjoy a couple of days in Indian River Park. You cannot put a price tag on that. That is why we have to go back and ask these people -

AN HON. MEMBER: Smell the salt beef and cabbage.

MR. SHELLEY: That is right. That is a good example. The Member for Bonavista talks about when you are driving through the park, or walking through the park, and smell a boil up over in the corner, some campsite with the salt beef and cabbage going, you cannot put a price tag on that stuff. Although I do not get to the parks very often, that is what I do - or to smell the bacon frying in the morning at somebody's campsite, or walk around and get waved in by somebody to come in for a cup of tea at their site.

That is the real Newfoundland spirit, and that is the real Newfoundland heritage. That is why this is so valuable and, I say to the minister, that is why this has hit a nerve. You might have thought it was just a small thing, $1.8 million in the budget, nobody was going to get upset about it, but that is why it has upset people, because you hit a nerve. You hit the old Newfoundland nerve that says: Do not go stepping - you are taking away everything else. There are cuts and cuts and cuts, and the HST is here, there is new taxes; you are going to close our schools; our hospitals are going down, but they are saying: Do not touch our parks. That is part of our heritage; do not touch it.

At least - now, this is my recommendation to the minister today - at least delay the process so that we give people a chance, especially the employees and frequent users of these parks, adequate consultation so that they get input on the future of these parks down the road; so that a minister does not have to stand up and say, `Five years ago we made a mistake. We sent our parks to privatization and now they are ruined.' You cannot take that back. That is what you say. That is why, for the short-term fix, in this particular case, I disagree. It was not the right approach to take.

Remember what I say, and I will have this on record in the House. I do not necessarily disagree that privatization of some parks would not work. I believe they would. The point we have to make is that the process from the start, the consultation process, was not taken into consideration, was not used properly, and we did not listen to those people who know it best, the employees and the people who frequent the parks.

So for the sake of Newfoundlanders - a plea from the people I spoke to in Grand Falls and Central Newfoundland and Western Newfoundland over the last couple of months about this issue, it has hit a nerve with them and they are saying: Back off. You are closing down everything else, but we want to be able to take our old camper, our old clunker, and go up to Indian River Park and put on a feed of salt beef and cabbage, and leave us alone. That is precious to us.

That is what they are saying. That is what you should listen to. Because you can close a school, you can degrade a hospital, you can have dirt roads, but do not touch something that is very dear to us, something that means a lot. That is my plea.

MR. WISEMAN: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: The Member for Topsail would not know what a park is, I do not think. The legal beagle from Topsail would not know what a park is, I do not think. The legal beagle from Topsail would not know what a park looks like.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, just to conclude, I would like to say to the minister: Consider that as a process and as an alternative to what she is suggesting.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just like to have a few words to say about this particular motion, and make it very clear that I intend to vote against this particular motion, the motion being, of course, that we call upon the Provincial Government to stop its efforts to privatize provincial parks.

Why would I want to speak against what has appeared to be a very popular move, or a very popular uprising fermented by the Opposition. If we were in a time, Mr. Speaker, when we were in the land of milk and honey, when we were in the land of $100 million- and $200 million-a year deficits, where we could go out and borrow on the bond market any amounts of dollars that you want, I probably would be one of the first to argue that perhaps we should find the funds somewhere in the budget to maintain our provincial parks. Having come from a twenty-five-year, going on twenty-seven-year background in resource management, public consultations, environmental issues, you would not expect me to be one of those who would advocate privatization, closure sale of parks. Let us be very clear, Mr. Speaker, I am not in favour of closure of our provincial parks.

However, such is not the case, Mr. Speaker. In this day and age where dollars are very restricted, we have to be very careful as to how we spend our moneys, we have to make very conscious decisions as to whether or not we have the funding to fund project A or project B. We have to make decisions as to whether or not we are going to keep, in this case, provincial parks in the public domain open or are we going to pursue other areas of expenditure, i.e. health care, social welfare, education, you name it.

I would just like to reflect a little bit, Mr. Speaker, on some of the events of the last number of weeks and months since the decision was made to privatize the provincial parks, to privatize some twenty-one of them. I would like to make some reference to meetings that were held in my own district, the district of Humber East. They were meetings organized by the Opposition in Corner Brook, meetings which I attended because I firmly believe that any meeting that is organized in my district, whether by the Opposition, public interest or whatever, this member will be there. I went to that meeting, not because I thought there was a great deal of protest in my district against the issue. Because, up until that point, I had not received one single phone call from a single resident in the district of Humber East. That was not entirely surprising, Mr. Speaker, because there were no parks in my district that were being closed, but we are a very urban area and many people have their campers, they have their trailers and they do go forward each weekend to the provincial parks and spend some time; therefore, I expected some comment from those people. There was not one call, Mr. Speaker, from anyone within the district from that day up until the night of the public meeting.

On the night of the public meeting there were some twenty-four people in attendance, twenty-four people. There was myself, my assistant, there were two members from the press, there were twenty members from the public in attendance. As the meeting progressed and people got up and had their say, it became quite clear that most of the people in attendance were not from the Corner Brook area at all. Most of them, in fact, were park employees who had come in from White Bay, from the Northern Peninsula, down the coast. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, during the course of the little mingling that happened after that, I said: Well, let us see how many people at this meeting are from my district. How many people are from the Corner Brook, Humber Valley region? By this time, I had narrowed it down to about two people, maybe, because the rest of them I had identified as to where they were from. When I spoke to those two people, I found one of them was a park employee who had not taken the time to speak at all, there was one resident of the Corner Brook area in attendance at that one meeting, one person. I had a chat with that individual and I told him that up until that time I had not received a single phone call from anyone in the district. Of course, predictably, the next morning I got one phone call from that one individual.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why are they not calling you?

MR. MERCER: Because it is not an issue in my district.

AN HON. MEMBER: No!

MR. MERCER: The second point, Mr. Speaker - this individual then took it upon himself to form another public group in the Corner Brook area. He convened another meeting, and this time, seven people showed up, a grand total of seven people. And from that day to this, Mr. Speaker, I have still received one phone, not even one of the seven people who showed up for that meeting has had anything to say. So, I only make that point, Mr. Speaker, because we hear a lot from the Opposition. We hear a lot from the hon. the Member for St. John's South. I am not exactly sure where he is receiving it all - it is certainly not from Western Newfoundland, it is certainly not from the Districts of Humber East, Humber Valley, Bay of Islands.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell them how accurate your information is.

MR. MERCER: The member on the other side wants to talk about accuracy of information and, Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the issue I now wish to turn to. At each of these meetings I understand that a document called: Save our Parks was distributed. I certainly have a copy of one that was presented at that meeting. And, as we have heard many, many times, this particular document calls itself: Program Review Highlights.

Now, only the hon. members opposite know where this document comes from; only the hon. members opposite know that it is not the official position of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. Only the members opposite know that it came from the officials within the Parks Division, which is what the minister and her department had done during Program Review, They had asked each of the individuals in charge of different programs to put together their thoughts on the various programs they were delivering. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, is it any wonder that the Program Review that was being touted by the Opposition states things like: the standards of provincial parks tend to be higher than the private sector equivalent; that the Province provides higher quality facilities than the public sector and that many of the park operators have expressed financial difficulties? Is it any wonder that people who are charged with the running of a provincial park system, in charge of putting together this document, would say such things? I do not think so, Mr. Speaker.

When you look at the individuals who had put this together, people who had worked in the park system for the best part of their working lives, people who are in fear, perhaps, of their jobs - would you not have done the same things? Would you not have made the same statements? Would you not have put your best foot forward? Of course, you would. I would. I have been there, I would know how to write such a document. I would certainly do everything in my power to convince the minister of the day not to take an action in which I would perhaps have some vested interest.

But that having been said, Mr. Minister, I think the members opposite must know that in any bureaucratic system, people make recommendations; recommendations move up the line; recommendations are reviewed, recommendations are acted upon, and yes, Mr. Speaker, sometimes recommendations are rejected; and I suspect and say to you, Mr. Speaker, that this is exactly what has happened in this particular case. This is not an official position of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, and this has been said many times in this hon. House, Mr. Speaker, the hon. members know this. They choose not to believe in what is true.

Another point that was made in this particular document, Mr. Speaker - it says, back in 1995, of up to twenty-eight parks removed from the system in 1995, only eleven were operational during the summer of 1996, factually correct. Of these eleven, only six were operated by individual entrepreneurs. The document goes on further to say, Mr. Speaker, that based upon the results of the 1995 divestiture, it appears that few individuals are willing to invest in the camp-ground business during these economically depressed times.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you reading that?

MR. MERCER: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am reading such a challenging document I have to read every word of it, I have to digest it; I have to get every nuance of every word.

The point I am making, is, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite know that when the divestiture proposals were made in 1995, yes, there were twenty-eight parks put forward, there were only twelve for which proposals were received. Not surprisingly, Mr. Speaker, not surprisingly at all, because at the time, I would suggest to you that the parks at the lower end of the scale were the first to be privatized or to be offered for privatization but yet, Mr. Speaker, of the twelve proposals that were accepted, and of the twelve parks that were privatized, eleven of them were still operational in 1997 - not a bad success rate. Over 90 per cent of the parks that were actually privatized, put in the hands of the private sector in 1995, are still operational today - not a very bad record for the private sector, a sector of which some members of the Opposition think it will be chaos if any of the remaining parks fall into their hands.

Another point made in the particular document - and here we get away a little bit from the Program Review Highlights, and we are getting into something that is called: Facts to Focus On. I would like to key in on the words facts.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MERCER: Well, focus we can do pretty well. One of the things that is said here - it starts off with a very factual statement: "21 of your public parks will be privatized." One for one. Another states that privatization will result in the "Loss of our ability to promote tourism in Newfoundland and Labrador." How does that follow, Mr. Speaker? How does it follow that just because the government ceases to operate a park, or it ceases to operate an abattoir, or whatever, we have now lost our ability to promote something? It is silly.

Obviously, what the Opposition is saying is that they have lost all faith in the private sector to be able to operate and to make a meaningful contribution to the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. I hope that is not what they are saying, but that is what they appear to be saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MERCER: Mr. Speaker, I am simply making these points because a lot of the information that has been spread by members of the Opposition, unfortunately, is misinformation. I find that very regrettable. I did not enter public life to spread mistruths or misinformation. My role in politics, as it was in private life, was to lay information before the public in the best way possible and allow them to make their decision. If they make that decision in your favour, great; if they make a decision against you, too bad, but that is the way the game is played.

I think the Opposition has a very valid role to lay before the public information which is factually correct and to allow the public to make a decision. Unfortunately, much of what is contained in this document, Program Review Highlights, Facts To Focus On, is really a misrepresentation of the facts.

Just one last point. There are many others in this document which we could speak on at great length. It states here as well: "Complete closure of some parks" - as a result of closure of some of these parks - and keep in mind we are not talking about closure, we are talking about privatization, here we are talking about closure of parks - as a result of their being closed - privatized is the right word - these "will become unprotected ecosystems, open to environmental damage."

Now, what the heck does that mean? They revert to Crown land, they become the Crown land that you and I go out and skiddoo on, cut a bit of wood on? Unprotected ecosystems open to environmental damage? This is pure nonsense. To be suggesting from time to time that our provincial parks are pristine ecological reserves, exquisite examples of ecosystems and so on and so forth, I think these people on the other side need to take a look at what the provincial parks are. They are very nice places to go, to hike, to camp, they are not pristine ecosystems. They are not designated as such in Newfoundland or recognized by any Canadian or international authority.

With these few words, Mr. Speaker, I speak against the resolution and will be so voting in the negative. Thank you.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today just to make a few comments in support of the private member's resolution which has been put forward by my colleague, the Member for St. John's South.

It is an issue which has sparked a lot of emotion and a lot of debate throughout our Province during the past number of weeks and certainly months since this proposal was put forward by the hon. minister.

We read in the resolution that the people of the Province own the provincial parks that the government is now trying to privatize. That word `own', Mr. Speaker, a short word but perhaps is maybe the most important word in this entire debate, which is why this debate has become so emotional, which is why the debate has sparked the interest and the reaction which we have witnessed here in our Province over the past number of weeks. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that we, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, have what is called a proprietary interest in these provincial parks. In other words, we have an ownership interest. We have felt traditionally and historically, Mr. Speaker, that these parks were ours. These parks represented a little bit of every Newfoundlander and every Labradorian.

When the proposal was put forward - and there may in fact be, in some cases, some logic and some rationale which supports, in part, what government is trying to do. I am not saying there isn't. There may in fact be some rationale and justification for, in part, some of the decision which is being made. However, what this does, it encroaches upon what most people in this Province feel to be theirs. It is a proprietary interest, an ownership interest, an interest that something is being taken away from us. That is essentially, Mr. Speaker, why there is so much emotion and so much reaction to the proposition that the parks will now be put out for public display for individuals, private interests, who are in a position and have sufficient capital to simply take advantage of and capitalize upon this option of the selling of these parks. That is fundamentally why the outcry has been as large and as loud as it has been.

We have the workers in the parks, who obviously are directly affected and obviously have a vested interest in the parks in this Province continuing to be what they always have been. They have a real, genuine and vested interest in their own careers and they are in a state of flux right now. The workers in our parks are not sure exactly what the future has in store for them. One can only sympathize and support them when they stand up and say to the government of this Province, `What about us? We are getting lost in all of this. We do not know where our future lies.'

That is a legitimate concern, Mr. Speaker, but above and beyond that, above the direct impact that this move could well have upon the many park employees in our Province, it has an emotional and indirect impact upon all of us and that is because, Mr. Speaker, of the so-called propriety interest which we, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, have enjoyed for many, many years. It is the taking away of something which is ours. It is as simple as that. That is why there has been emotion and that is why there has been a reaction of the sort that we have witnessed over the last little while.

The second point I wish to make, Mr. Speaker, is with respect to the obvious spontaneity of this decision. It cannot be argued by government that this decision to privatize our parks was done over a course of debate and over a course of assessment and over a long lasting review of what was in the best interest for our parks and those who work within them. No. It appears, Mr. Speaker, that the decision was spontaneous and to support that we have a statement by a minister which was given in this House and I would like to read from Hansard dated March 24, 1994, when at that time the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology gave the following statement, and I think it is indicative as to how the government of the day, which is the same government as today, it is indicative as to how the government three years ago felt about the importance and the sanctity and the protection of our parks in our Province, and I would just like to refer to it briefly:

`I would like to inform members of the House that 1994 marks forty years of provincial parks in Newfoundland and Labrador. In 1954, government preserved the land surrounding Big Falls on the scenic Humber River by establishing the first provincial park in the Province, the Sir Richard Squires Park. In creating this provincial park, government preserved and protected sixteen square kilometres of the Humber River and the adjacent land to provide quality recreational angling opportunities for Atlantic salmon anglers.

`Over a span of forty years, the provincial park system has evolved from small rest stops along the Trans-Canada Highway into a diverse system of provincial parks, wilderness reserves and ecological reserves. Many provincial parks offer a diverse range of outdoor recreational and environmental educational opportunities for our visitors.

`In celebrating the 40th. Anniversary of our provincial parks, the goal is to inform Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and visitors to this Province, of the variety of unique experiences available through parks and reserves, and to demonstrate the vital role that these sites play in preserving our natural heritage. In connection with the anniversary, a series of events are being planned that will enable visitors to celebrate our natural heritage. I encourage all resident and non-resident travellers to take part in the activities scheduled, and to help celebrate this natural heritage and to congratulate the employees of the department who give so much time and energy to make these parks such worthwhile areas.'

This was a statement that was read in this hon. House approximately three years ago by the then Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. It is a statement of support. It is a strong statement of support for the parks system as we have known it historically in Newfoundland, and for the workers in those parks who have obviously performed well in the carrying out of their duties.

Why the change? Where is the evidence of the planning and the assessment and the overall weighing of all factors in determining whether or not it is in the best interest of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to carry out a sale to private interests? Where is the evidence of that assessment?

I say to the members of this House that the evidence is not there. What we have is evidence of a decision which has been made spontaneously and without adequate aforethought as to what, in fact, is in the best interest of Newfoundlanders. And what is in the best interest of Newfoundlanders is the retention of allowing every person in this Province to feel that those parks represent a little bit of themselves, that proprietary interest which I referred to earlier, that feeling that `that belongs to me', and that is essentially very important to every single Newfoundlander and Labradorian, and that feeling or that ownership value is lost. Even in a park which may ultimately be run very efficiently and perhaps satisfactorily to many individuals, whether they are resident Newfoundlanders or tourists themselves, nevertheless that interest of ownership and belonging has disappeared, and that essentially is why Newfoundlanders today have difficulty with this. It is that sense of belonging which has disappeared without adequate explanation and rationale and justification from the members opposite.

So, Mr. Speaker, it is for those reasons and they are perhaps only two of many, it is for those reasons why I do support the resolution which has been put forward by my colleague, the member for St. John's South. It for those reasons I feel that the government must reconsider the decisions which have been made. It is for those reasons the members opposite must carefully review and before any decision is being made which affects all Newfoundlanders indirectly and certainly a number of Newfoundlanders directly, namely the employees, before any such decision is made, it must be clear. The government must be clear that it has before it all of the relevant information, a proper analysis and assessment has been carried out to ensure that this decision or indeed any decision reflects what is in the interest of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

With those few comments Mr. Speaker, I understand my colleague the member for Bonavista South may wish to make a few comments or some member opposite.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just like to take a few moments to speak on the resolution. I almost accidentally said the revolution, Mr. Speaker, and there were some members over there who were just having a discussion about that very thing, about the revolution.

The resolution, Mr. Speaker, is one that I can support because I have no concerns about supporting a resolution which apposes the privatization of our provincial parks. I listened to some of the previous speakers talking about, in particular the member for Baie Verte, talking about the cost to individuals to go to parks, to go to amusement parks, to go other places and I was reminded of a song, Mr. Speaker, 'There's no price tags on the doors of Newfoundland', it is a famous country song, I think it was Ray Price, some of you people -

AN HON. MEMBER: Sing it.

MR. HARRIS: I am going to sing it, I am going to leave all the singing in this House to the Government House Leader because I know he has to sing for his supper around the cabinet table and he sang so loud -

MR. TULK: You will never get the opportunity to (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: - he sang so loud in the last administration that he ended up almost through the wall on the back benches, so I am not going to get into singing or talk about the hon. members singing. I want to talk about the price tags on the parks of Newfoundland that will be there when this government is through -

MR. TULK: Roy Payne, `There's no price tags on the doors of Newfoundland'.

MR. HARRIS: Roy Payne. The price tag on the parks of Newfoundland after this government is through with their privatization plans and that is the concern that I have. That we have already invested a fair dollar into the creation of a parks system and the parks system that we have is a good one. It offers an opportunity for people - people in this Province in particular - to travel around the Province and enjoy provincial parks.

Now, some of the parks, the minister is not privatizing, one of the first parks that I remember that the minister is not privatizing is Sir Richard Squires Provincial Park. Now, I do not know why they picked out that park, maybe it was because of the name of the park, maybe they like the name of the park and they wanted to make sure that there still was going to be a Sir Richard Squires Park because they liked the name, maybe that is the reason, but that is a fine park, should not be privatized. Neither should Windmill Bight Provincial Park, Mr. Speaker, lovely park, delightful park, a wonderful piece of our heritage Mr. Speaker, a nice salmon river flowing down into the ocean, Windmill Bight Provincial Park. I am sure the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has been there, it is leading out to a wonderful site in Cape Freels. There is lots of -

MR. TULK: Beautiful place there for a golf course.

MR. HARRIS: I do not know about a golf course, the big sand dunes, I would say the sand will blow onto your golf course pretty -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: It may be a natural place for a golf course Mr. Speaker, what I liked about it is the current natural beauty of the place. Now I do not know what is being done by this government to protect that. We have a very fragile ecosystem out there on the

Coast of Cape Freels and when I was out there the year before last, what I saw was dune buggies or ATVs destroying the ecosystem out there very close to Windmill Bight provincial park. What we need to encourage, Mr. Speaker, is not that kind of amusement and use of our natural heritage itself, what we have to do is, make sure that we preserve as much as we can some of the natural sites that we have through our provincial parks and I don't see this policy as promoting that at all.

But I do have a question. I know that some members on this side of the House have spoken on this but I have a question for them really. I know where the government stands, the government wants to privatize these parks. I am not quite sure where the Official Opposition stands, I am not quite sure, and maybe the mover of the resolution will clarify it for us when he speaks. I am not sure whether they are against the privatization of the parks only this year and are quite happy to do it next year, I am not sure about that, because the Official Opposition may say: well we could privatize it next year or the year after but not this year though.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: As long as we don't privatize them this year, that is okay. I think that is one of the positions that they are taking. The Member for Baie Verte just said: well, we could privatize some of them but not the ones that you want to privatize and we have the Member for St. John's South, but he is the Mr. Anti-privatization, he does not want to privatize any of them so, I am just a little confused as to where the Official Opposition is coming from on the issue of privatization in general.

Now, we have the Leader and we are not sure where the Leader is today on this issue, the Leader of the Opposition, I am not sure where he is today on the issue. I understand he made some speeches around the Province to various clubs and organizations talking about his philosophy on privatization but on this particular issue here, it seems that the Member for Baie Verte is satisfied to privatize some of them next year, possibly, maybe. The Leader of the Opposition used to be in favour of privatization, liquor stores whatever, a sort of general Conservative philosophy; you know the Conservative/Reform Party/Liberal policy.

AN HON. MEMBER: You won't be allowed to speak on Ministerial Statements again if you are not quiet.

MR. HARRIS: Oh, I am being threatened, Mr. Speaker, I am being threatened.

AN HON. MEMBER: This is your last leave buddy, (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I am being threatened, Mr. Speaker, I am being threatened. All I am just saying is that I know there are other people thinking the same thing as I am thinking so I know that before five o'clock there will be an opportunity for the Member for Baie Verte to clarify his point and for the Member for St. John's South to clarify his. But I want to say to them that I support their resolution. I am against the privatization of the parks of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I am against the privatization of Newfoundland Liquor Corporation; I am against the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro; I am against the privatization of the snow ploughs that the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation is going to announce tomorrow when she lays off the snow plough operators tomorrow; I am against that. I don't know if the minister will be here to make the announcement, she might be in Mexico, we are not sure but I am against the privatization of our roads and our public services so we will have another privatization debate after tomorrow or the next day. I think it is coming I don't know if the Cabinet has discussed it yet. Perhaps they are discussing it tomorrow morning and are going to do it tomorrow afternoon but I am against privatization because I think that we have to have a higher degree of public services in this Province and even liquor stores, Mr. Speaker, you know, there is a good argument made. I know the government has hired some fellow who used to work for the board of trade and he promotes privatization and I know the government has hired Malcolm Rowe who gave seminars on the subject in Ottawa on privatization, and I know the government has sort of adopted this privatization policy and it is part of the policy of government and I know if they are going to make their friends in the board of trade who give them money for their elections happy, they are telling them: look, you know anything that we can do -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: They gave you guys more. The unions gave you guys more.

AN HON. MEMBER: The unions?

MR. HARRIS: Yes. Look at your book, go see Mr. Jenkins and ask him for a copy of his book. I know the government is stuck with the privatization scheme and they are going to try and privatize liquor stores and what they will be doing basically, is telling the people who work in liquor stores: you are being overpaid. You know, you job can really be done by someone on the minimum wage so why don't we get rid of you, let you retire, become redundant, be gone somewhere or other, retrained, after working in a liquor store for fifteen, sixteen, eighteen or twenty years; let you work in a liquor store and then we will lay you off and you can reapply for your job when somebody else takes it over, but you will only be paid the minimum wage. And you won't have the kind of benefits that you have now. You won't have access to a government pension plan; you won't have access to the kind of benefits that you get through Blue Cross and other attributes. What is essentially a decent job.

It is not a highly paid job, but it is a decent job. It is a standard for the workforce that we want to preserve in this country, not get ourselves in some kind of race to the bottom with the Third World or with Mexico or with the southern United States. What we want to have is a decent standard of living for our workforce. We have to have a decent standard of living for our workforce, and $5 an hour in an minimum wage just doesn't cut it. It is not appropriate. It is not something on which you can raise a family. It is not something on which you can live, so the minimum wage is not a living wage. And if the government pursues this privatization policy, whether it be in the area of parks, whether it be in the area of liquor stores, or other areas, what we are going to be doing is driving down the ability of our working people to support themselves and their families. That is what we are doing. That is exactly what we are doing, and I think it is a grave mistake, a very grave mistake. We have too many people with no ability to look after themselves, with the job that they can get, to be able to support themselves and their family.

You take the parks, for example. We are not talking here about people making megabucks. We are talking about a group of people who have seasonal work for the most part. But these people, with this seasonal job, with perhaps a spouse working at another job, whether seasonal or full-time or part-time, with the bit of unemployment insurance in the winter and perhaps another job as well if work is available, depending on where they are, that enables a family to survive and live and stay in this Province - stay in this Province. Note the last statement, Mr. Speaker, because if you take this job away from them, or reduce it to the point that it is not a serious possibility for them to be able to, along with other things, support a family, these are the people who are going to be leaving. They are going to be on the next boat to the mainland, trying to make a life for themselves and their family, because that is the kind of people they are.

The people who work in our parks are the people who are out there working away who are going to move, who are going to go somewhere else, because they need to make a living to support their family, and that is not what we want. We do not want these people to leave the Province, to be replaced by people who can only make the minimum wage at a concession in some park that the rest of the people of the Province can hardly afford to go to because of the cost.

The vision that this government has is no vision at all. It is a vision of balancing their own books at the expense of the people of this Province, and I am afraid for the future of this Province if that is the kind of philosophy that this government is adopting and projecting throughout its policies and programs.

If we hear the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation come into the House tomorrow and say that we are going to contract out the salting of the roads and ploughing of the roads, and we are going to contract out snow ploughing in the wintertime, we are going to lay people off, is that the kind of approach that we want to see this government take in terms of the workforce and the labour force of this Province, the lowering of the standards that will result from that?

The report, for example, on the privatization of liquor stores in Alberta, the result of that was that the average wage of people working in liquor stores went down by $7,000, a $7,000 decrease in wages as a result. The price of alcoholic beverages went up, and the selection being offered in the stores was diminished considerably.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Government revenues did not change. The government got the same revenues as it got before. So the people who lost out were the people who were working in the liquor stores, the people who were looking for selection in the liquor stores, and the people who gained were a few entrepreneurs who gained this at the expense of the employees who were working in the liquor stores.

That is what we are going to have here, Mr. Speaker; we are going to have a few entrepreneurs. We may have twenty or thirty or sixty or seventy proposals on the table but there is only going to be a handful of people. Let's face it, there is only going to be a handful of people who have these parks. There might be ten or fifteen or twenty different individuals who are going to take over the operation of these parks. They might make a few bucks. They might, they might not. They might lose.

The people who are going to lose are the people who are now working in these parks and together with that seasonal income, together with UI that they might receive if they don't get other work throughout the year, together with perhaps spousal income, they are able to support their family. That is going to be taken away from them. I'm afraid that these people may themselves end up having to leave this Province to seek work somewhere else, to bring their skills somewhere else, to bring their knowledge of parks, of the ecology, of the ecosystem in general, bring their skills and their experience somewhere else.

That is the fear that I have. The people of this Province do not want their parks sold. I noticed the Member for St. John's South out yesterday speaking to the crowd. He is getting very good at public speaking and raising the issues, and hitting the points directly and clearly. The people of the Province do not want their parks sold -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: - and I support the resolution. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

Before recognizing the hon. member I would like to welcome, on behalf of all hon. members in the House of Assembly, to the public galleries today a former member of the House of Assembly, Mr. Fred Stagg.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. WISEMAN: Anyway, thank you very much again, Mr. Speaker. I don't suppose those of us who sit in the back benches get an opportunity very often to speak, but every time we do get an opportunity to speak the Opposition doesn't want to listen. That isn't unusual. They don't want to listen when the Cabinet ministers get up and speak. They don't want to listen to them either. They ask all kinds of questions, they don't want to listen to the answers.

I'm fortunate I suppose in a way that in my district I have one park, which is a scenic park. When the hon. minister made the announcements on the privatization of parks, for some reason the Opposition created a fiasco by saying that Topsail Beach Park was going to be privatized. There never was any intention to privatize Topsail Beach Park. Topsail Beach Park is a scenic park that was under the control of the St. John's East Rotary since 1993. It had a development plan and was proceeding on course with that particular plan. It has done a marvellous job under the circumstances.

We live in difficult economic times. Funding is hard to come by. We have a $9 billion debt. You listen to members opposite. There is no problem with finding money. Sometimes I sit here and wonder if they are actually printing the money. We have all those needs. They want more money for hospital care, they want more money for home care, we want more money for education, we want more money for forestry, we want more money for water and sewer. There is only so much money to go around.

I want to applaud the government for having the courage to make the decision that it made. Members opposite have never had the opportunity of sitting around a Cabinet table. They have never had the opportunity of making a decision that had to be made. Their job, Mr. Speaker, is to criticize. As the hon. Member for Waterford Valley says, he will make Cabinet before I do. Well, Mr. Speaker, never in the history of government has an Opposition member, while he is in Opposition, sat in Cabinet. So my chances of making Cabinet are a lot better than the Oppositions. When I decided to run, Mr. Speaker, I decided to run for the Liberal Party because I believed, and I always have, that they are fair to the people that they represent. Now it is unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, if we have somebody who is truly a Liberal, runs for the Progressive Conservative Party and has to sit in Opposition, that, Mr. Speaker, is a very, very difficult position to be in and a very, very difficult decision to have to live with.

Now, Mr. Speaker, about eleven months ago I publicly asked the government to look at alternate means of providing water and sewer to my district because I believe that we have the greatest need in the Province. Mr. Speaker, since 1989 this Liberal Government has stood behind my district, the people of Conception Bay South and the people of Topsail because they recognize the need that we have.

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate today my colleague the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs for the commitment that he has made to the town of Conception Bay South and the town of Paradise. Mr. Speaker, when I hear the Opposition talking about subsidizing camping to the tune of $1.8 million while people in my district have no water to drink then, Mr. Speaker, I often wonder what makes them come to the conclusions that they do.

I was saying earlier that my hon. colleague from Conception Bay South rose in his place yesterday, eleven months after I had raised the issue for private/public partnering for water and sewer, eleven months later, my colleague from Conception Bay South rises in his place, like he should and seeks the support of the Member for Topsail. Well, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are speaking to the motion as put forward by my colleague the Member for St. John's South. What the member is talking about has no relevancy to the motion whatsoever and I ask that he debate the motion and not the water and sewer in Conception Bay South.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. Throughout the debate today, as is usually the case on Private Members' Day, the debate is very wide ranging.

The hon. the Member for Topsail.

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

This is an example, Mr. Speaker, of the connection that the Opposition can make between the cost of putting infrastructure in this Province and money. They have no comprehension of money and cost. There is no connection in their minds, none whatsoever. They don't realize that it costs tens of millions of dollars to service the town of Conception Bay South and another $15 million or $20 million to service the town of Paradise. Mr. Speaker, it's a shame! It's a shame!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: They should be ashamed, Mr. Speaker, to get up and chastise the government for taking away $1.8 million and putting it to good use. We put $2 million more into health care this year. That is $200,000 more than what we are going to save on the parks.

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. Member for St. John's South trudges around the Province with `Don't sell our parks' signs on his back - some meetings he has five people, some meetings he has ten people and lo and behold today, Mr. Speaker, I see in the paper, he takes out an advertisement in the papers, `I believe your thoughts and opinions are important. As your MHA I want to continue to effectively represent you in the House of Assembly. Public meetings play an important role in helping you determine me, determine the issues that are important to me.' Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, can you imagine?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: He has trudged around this Province, Mr. Speaker, day in and day out, and I believe very strongly that he has at least in all those meetings had a total of 600 people. To all the meetings combined, Mr. Speaker, he has had a total of 600 people. He is in here today and yesterday, and before the House closed for Easter. Can you imagine? Out of a population of 550,000 people he comes in here and tells the government: Don't privatize the parks.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WISEMAN: Yes, somewhere in the vicinity of thirty meetings, I'm not exactly sure of the meetings. I'm pretty close on the numbers of people that he has attracted. He has the audacity to come in here and stand day after day with petitions chastising the government. Don't sell our parks, don't do it please!

Mr. Speaker, it is a shame -

MR. FITZGERALD: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South on a point of order.

MR. FITZGERALD: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, we have heard enough. I've talked to the Member for Bonavista South. We will withdraw the motion.

AN HON. MEMBER: You're the Member for Bonavista South!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. TULK: To that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to note that the hon. gentleman wants to withdraw the resolution. If indeed the Member for Bonavista South wants to withdraw the resolution he should, but I would remind the Member for Bonavista South that the motion is in the name of the Member for St. John's South. I know that the member thinks the Member for Bonavista South is everything and everybody, but I have to tell him that again he is talking to himself.

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

It being 4:45 p.m. and Private Members' Day, unless the hon. Member for Topsail has leave I will recognize the member -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No leave!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

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

The hon. member does not have leave.

MR. TULK: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I am amazed that the hon. gentlemen on the other side will not let the hon. gentleman take a minute to conclude a speech such as we have never heard in this Legislature. I have been here off and on for some twenty years and, I tell you, I have never heard in my life, a speech that comes more from the soul of a person, than I just heard from the Member for Topsail.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I say to the hon. gentlemen on the other side, in the name of all that is perfect, in the name of this Legislature, in the name of democracy, recant and say that the hon. gentleman can have a minute to conclude, by all means.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order. It is the right of all hon. members to either grant leave or to refuse to grant leave. The hon. the Member for Topsail was not given leave. I now recognize the Member for St. John's South.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Topsail, a point of order.

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I had intended, and I think you had said it, that you had asked me to clue up, and I intended to clue up. I was going to say

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. WISEMAN: I am on a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. the Member for Topsail that he has not been granted leave. I ask him to take his seat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: That was not a point of order. There is no point of order.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was tempted to give the minister of evangelism some time, but he would not give me leave today. We had to take our Bibles out over here, right out of the Old Testament. With his sermon over there, I could almost envision a halo, but then I realized it was only the shine off his head.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, the minister stood in her place today and said she was astonished that we would talk about private parks in the way we did. I stood in my place earlier and said that many of the private parks are good parks, but according to the Program Review that was accepted and adopted by the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, which states that standards of provincial parks tend to be higher than that of the private sector equivalent, the Province provides a higher quality facility. `Many of the current private park operators have expressed that they are experiencing financial difficulty. Private park operators may not have the financial resources or the desire to implement standard operational health and safety procedures which are commonplace in the provincial parks.'

Mr. Speaker, I am simply quoting from the Program Review. I, myself, firmly believe that many of the private park operators in our Province operate at high standards. We all agree that some of them do not, and according to the Program Review that the minister has adopted for her department, not only do some of them not operate at the same standards as the provincial parks, they are suffering financially, Mr. Speaker.

The minister stood in her place today and said that not once has she heard me offer alternatives to the cost-savings. Well, Mr. Speaker, I know from speaking to some of the park employees that they have offered - shortly after this announcement, if the minister were to retract on her announcement, they have offered to provide alternative cost-saving measures throughout the provincial park system, and they were denied, Mr. Speaker. So it is the minister herself who has shut the door on these people, that has shunned these people and would not permit them to put forward their cost-saving ideas.

Mr. Speaker, the minister and I appeared as guests on a call-in show, where I put forward an idea that our Province could bring in great revenue, so their proposals that they are now considering on Gisborne Lake, if they were to bottle, label and retail ready that product as opposed to shipping it out as a raw resource, Mr. Speaker, they could take in great revenues. If they had made sure on the Mineral Tax Act that there was a royalty regime put in place on the first whisper of Voisey's Bay being very lucrative as opposed to waiting until it was too late to try to put a royalty regime in place, Mr. Speaker, we could have had the money we needed for the parks and for health care and for education.

Mr. Speaker, she talks about Cabot 500, that we are fearmongering in light of Cabot 500. Mr. Speaker, it is the Program Review that the minister has adopted and accepted that states that 1997 would be an unwise year to close parks or experiment with extensive privatization. Mr. Speaker, it is not us who have come up with this idea, it is the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation's Program Review for the Parks Division. There are many examples of why we should maintain these parks as provincial parks as opposed to private parks, such as the security that the provincial park employees offer to the campers throughout the park if a particular camper were to get rowdy or out of hand, to the training that these park employees have in first-aid and in emergency response, Mr. Speaker, and to the dedication that these park employees have shown throughout the year.

I find it very unlikely that a private park operator would be able to find an employee to work an eight-hour shift at night for a total of $8, a dollar an hour, which is what we are seeing in the provincial park system.

It is not us here in the Opposition who are driven to talk about the provincial parks solely by a political agenda, it is the public, the fact that we have close to 20,000 names on petitions. If the Member for Topsail is correct, that we have only had 600 people out to our meetings, there were far more people than showed up to those meetings who are opposed to the privatization of these parks. We have almost 20,000 names now on petitions and there are still petitions coming in on a daily basis.

The people of this Province are against the privatization of provincial parks and that is very evident, that is very clear. The people on this side of the House are against the privatization of our provincial parks. So are the back benchers over there. I have invited the Members for Grand Falls - Buchans and Windsor - Springdale to stand in their places today and speak. It is unfortunate they were unable to do so. It is unfortunate that they were unable to stand in their places and speak, because I feel those members are against the privatization of provincial parks. It would have been nice to be able to have them stand in the House today and express their opinions. Because I am sure we would have heard that they are against the privatization of provincial parks.

It is unfortunate that the only people in this Province who seem to be in favour of the privatization of provincial parks are the people on that side of the House, and some of the seventy-seven proposals received. Because not all of those seventy-seven proposals received are in favour of privatization. They have submitted proposals to keep their jobs. They are provincial park employees who have submitted proposals to keep their jobs and Mr. Speaker it is a shame that this government would even consider jeopardizing our tourism industry just to save $1.8 million.

Mr. Speaker, on that note I am going to close debate on this issue and ask that perhaps we stand and get a count on who is in favour and who is against the privatization of provincial parks.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is now ready to put the question, all those in favour of the resolution `aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Against, `nay'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: I declare the resolution defeated.

 

Division

 

MR. SPEAKER: Call in the members.

MR. TULK: We are ready Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TULK: If the Opposition House Leader is ready, we are ready. Are you ready for the vote?

You think you are going to get enough in to win do you?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, we on this side are now ready for the vote.

MR. SPEAKER: All those in favour of the resolution please stand.

CLERK: Mr. Hodder, Mr. Shelley, Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Osborne, Mr. Ottenheimer, Mr. Harris.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against the resolution please stand.

CLERK: The hon. the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifood, the hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, the hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, Mr. Walsh, the hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, Dr. Gibbons, Mr. Lush, Mr. Penney, Mr. Langdon, the hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, the hon. the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal, the hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, the hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands, Mr. Oldford, Mr. Andersen, Mr. Canning, Mr. Smith, Mr. Woodford, Mr. Mercer, Mr. Reid, Ms Thistle, Mr. Wiseman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CLERK: Mr. Speaker, six yeas and twenty-three nays.

MR. SPEAKER: I declare the resolution defeated.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before we move the adjournment I should inform hon. members that there will be two Estimate Committee meetings this evening. The Social Services Committee will review the estimates of the Department of Justice in the committee room. I think the number on that is 5083 and the Resource Committee will review the Department of Industry, Trade and Technology estimates in the Legislature. Both meetings will start at 7:00 p.m.

AN HON. MEMBER: What is the order of business for tomorrow?

MR. TULK: The order of business for tomorrow will be the Budget Speech. We will hear the hon. gentlemen on the other side and some hon. gentlemen on this side, who I suspect will do a lot better, but we will hear everybody speak on the Budget Speech tomorrow afternoon or as many as we can.

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

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