May 6, 1997               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLIII  No. 20


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

 

Statements by Ministers

 

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present to the House of Assembly a status report on one of the most progressive environmental initiatives ever undertaken in this Province.

On January 15, 1997, the Provincial Government launched the Green Back Trash to Cash Program for beverage containers. This program is fundamentally a deposit-refund system for beverage containers. Consumers pay a deposit at the point of purchase and receive a refund when the empty container is returned to a Green Depot. This initiative will reduce litter, add to our recycling efforts and create jobs. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say today that there are thirty-six Green Depots in full operation throughout the Province employing more than 100 people.

In addition to the Green Depots, a number of mechanisms have been established to provide residents of the Province with access to the program. For example, in Labrador, in addition to the Green Depots in Goose Bay and Wabush, there is a satellite depot in Churchill Falls. As well, we are making special arrangements with schools in coastal Labrador.

Mobile collection systems are established in various regions around the Province. There is a mobile collection system providing service to communities on the Port au Port Peninsula, and there is another mobile collection system providing service to communities along the Burin Peninsula. The depot operator in Port aux Basques has started mobile collection for communities from Rose Blanche to North Branch. As well, there is a mobile service to communities along the Gander Bay Loop.

Mr. Speaker, another mechanism for servicing rural areas is the sub-depot, also referred to as a satellite depot. Many of the Green Depot operators have established satellite depots in surrounding communities and provide regular pick-up service. Satellite depots are being established in communities throughout this Province where a licensed Green Depot has not yet been established. In all, we expect that before the summer we will have over 100 collection points around the Province.

Mr. Speaker, schools in this Province have always been active in recycling and this new deposit-refund program provides an excellent fund-raising opportunity for schools, youth groups and other organizations. Depot operators have arranged pick-up service for the schools throughout the Province.

Mr. Speaker, in the coming months we will begin our evaluation of this program. At that time we will assess the need for more depots or other changes to the program. This government and the beverage industry in this Province are committed to providing the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador with an efficient, effective and affordable recycling program, and we will continue to work towards that objective.

Even though this program is still in its infancy, I say to my colleagues that we are making tremendous progress in delivering this initiative. Mr. Speaker, as of last week, 16 million beverage containers have been returned for recycling.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: To date, Mr. Speaker, 160 tractor trailer loads of empty beverage containers and other materials have been shipped to various locations and processed for recycling. At this rate, we will surely meet our first year goal of a fifty per cent reduction in the amount of beverage containers going to landfills.

Mr. Speaker, the Trash To Cash Program has also been received favourably by the people of this Province. About a month ago, I received a letter from a seven year old boy in Goose Bay. This is what he wrote:

"Dear Honourable Minister: We love the recycling program that has been set up in Goose Bay. We would like to do more recycling. So could you put in a recycling newspaper spot, also? And could you put in a recycling milk carton spot as well?

I'm seven years old and I love to recycle. So, please do everything I ask. Oh, yeah, and one more thing. We recycle all our cans and bottles, and we recycle all our food scraps in a compost heap in our garden."

Sincerely,

Daniel Hayden.

Mr. Speaker, I was in Goose Bay for the official opening of the Green Depot with the member, the hon. Ernie McLean and young Mr. Hayden was at the official opening and he was a proud young fellow, I have to tell you.

Mr. Speaker, there is truth and wisdom in these comments from one so young. It is the youth of this Province who urged us most to implement this program and it is the youth of this Province that will benefit most from this program. I say, as well, that it could not have come at a better time. As we continue to prepare ourselves for Cabot 500 celebrations, this program will provide additional incentive to ensure that the Province is kept clean and beautiful.

Mr. Speaker, the deposit-refund program implemented by government focuses on beverage containers at this stage, but the Multi-Material Stewardship Board will soon begin to develop programs for paper, milk cartons, used tires, used batteries and other consumer packaging.

As the program matures and more people are provided with access to Green Depots and drop-off points, the popularity of this program will increase. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report on the steadily growing success of this program, a program that has countless benefits for the Province from an environmental, social and economic perspective.

To conclude, Mr. Speaker, the money collected from this program is used entirely to finance the deposit-refund system, which includes payment to depot operators, transportation, processing and administration.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the beverage industry in this Province have worked closely and co-operatively to bring the people of this Province an efficient, effective and affordable recycling program. The Trash To Cash Program is a successful recycling program for the Province which will benefit our people for years to come.

Thank you.

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

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

I would first like to thank the minister for sending over a copy of his statement before the House sat - I appreciate it.

The minster states that there are thirty-six Green Depots in the Province and 100 people employed through this program, and I must say, that that looks positive at first glance. The minister also talks about Green Depots in Goose Bay and Wabush and a satellite depot in Grand Falls with special ranges in schools in Coastal Labrador. I would say that is hardly enough for the geographic area of Newfoundland and Labrador, and especially when people do not have access to this program, they are paying for a service that they do not have. Also, Mr. Speaker, the minister says satellite depots are being established in communities throughout this Province. He does not say how many and that comes right back again to the problem of access for many people in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The minister also says, schools in this Province have always been active in recycling. I have had calls from schools, Mr. Speaker, when this program came into being, advising me that the depots are refusing materials that the schools collected before. They brought them to the depots and they refused them. I brought that to the minister's attention and he said it would be addressed. Hopefully, it will be addressed, Mr. Speaker. The minister says, in the coming months there will be an evaluation of this program and they will assess the need for more depots.

When this program was first announced he talked about 80 per cent of the containers being returned. Now, they are talking about 50 per cent, and with 50 per cent return there will be something like $5 million to $6 million put into the system by people for service they are not getting. So, that has to be addressed.

The minister talks about this program being an efficient and effective program, Mr. Speaker. Well, I have to ask the question: How is it an efficient and effective program when large numbers of people in rural Newfoundland and in Labrador do not have access to the program? He says in this release that it is an affordable program. I tell you, Mr. Speaker, many people have said to me, for the consumer, it is not an affordable recycling program. Mr. Speaker, many people told me, they thought it was a rip-off, that they are paying for service they are not getting.

He also says: At this rate we will surely meet our first year goal of 50 per cent reduction in the amount of beverage containers going to the landfills. But what is happening with this program is, some of the materials that were being accepted before, as I earlier stated, are now being refused. So you are robbing Peter to pay Paul; therefore, this program defeats the purpose.

Also, Mr. Speaker, he talks about the Multi-Material Stewardship Board will soon again -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave?

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Just to clue up, Mr. Speaker?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes or no, make up your mind.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to clue up?

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, I am about to clue up, Mr. Speaker.

The minister says, the Multi-Material Stewardship Board will soon begin to develop programs for paper, milk cartons, used tires, batteries and the like, Mr. Speaker.

Now again, Mr. Speaker, there will be more money out of the consumer's pocket to pay for a program, and if it is the same type of program as this, Mr. Speaker, they will be paying for a service that they don't receive.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the trash to cash program is a very successful recycling program, the minister says. Well, Mr. Speaker, all I say to that is the jury is still out. Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In the last provincial budget, government committed $2.6 million in new money for salaried physicians in rural areas of the Province. Today I am pleased to announce the details of this salary increase for rural doctors. This new money will substantially raise the salary scales for rural physicians and allow Newfoundland to be competitive with other jurisdictions in Atlantic Canada.

Increases in salaries will be based on the same model as the isolation bonus system, which has been in place for the past two years. Under this model, rural communities are divided into three categories based on the degree of isolation. Physicians practising in the most rural areas of the Province will qualify for the largest salary increase. Mr. Speaker, those doctors practising in the Group 1 category will receive an additional $31,200 per year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, this is in addition to the $10,000 annual isolation bonus. For example, this will bring the income level of an Assistant Medical Officer's average salary in Group 1 category from $77,121 annually to $118,321 when the geographic supplement is applied and the isolation bonus is included. Rural physicians in the Group 2 category will receive an additional $23,400 annually plus the $7,500 annual bonus, while physicians in Group 3 will see an additional $15,600 annually, plus a $5,000 annual bonus as well. Isolation bonuses are payable upon completion of two years service in a rural area of the Province.

The $2.6 million in new money amounts to an increase in the annual income for rural doctors of between 15 and 35 per cent -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: - depending upon the location and the current salary step. When the isolation bonus is included, the increase in annual income ranges from 20 per cent to 50 per cent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, government is committed to solving the rural doctor shortage by addressing both the financial and lifestyle concerns. Government will continue to work with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association and the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Care Association to improve access to medical services throughout the Province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First of all I should express gratitude that the Premier has come back and that he has had a long chat, and obviously now all the people of the Province know that we have a problem in health care and now we can see that we are getting some results.

A couple of things I want to note. First of all, it says that: "Isolation bonuses are payable upon completion of two years' service in a rural area of the Province." I make the assumption that anybody who is going to get extra money under this particular program won't have to wait two years in order to get that money. Although the sentence might be misinterpreted as it is written there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I also say to the minister that it has taken since March 20 when it was in the Budget to get this kind of system in place. It is regrettable that we have had to wait until we have had such a major crisis in rural Newfoundland, to have the minister intimidating doctors as he did last week, family practitioners, telling them that they should serve in emergency wards of hospitals for the privilege of practising in rural Newfoundland. That kind of intimidation is counter-productive, I say to the minister, and so he should stop that, get on with the business, start listening to the people in rural Newfoundland, and maybe with this kind of incentive we might be able to solve some of the problems. But this is not necessarily the panacea for all the ills that are in rural Newfoundland today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Before we proceed to Oral Questions I would like to welcome Mayor Harry Cooper of Twillingate to the public galleries today. As well, we have Mr. Clayton Locke, chairman of the Central West Health Board of Central Newfoundland.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Oral Questions

 

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Recently the former Minister of Mines and Energy announced last fall in questioning that the Province really does not have an energy plan. Some time in January the Minister of Environment and Labour on a radio noon program was asked directly: Does the Province have an energy plan for the future? His response was: No, as such we don't have an energy plan. What we do have is an Environmental Assessment Act. Any project comes in, `we throw that project at the act and then Cabinet might want to make a decision'.

So I ask the Premier, who I understand is responsible for energy: Why doesn't the Province have an energy plan? And if it doesn't, what plans do they have for future development of energy in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the former Minister of Mines and Energy never announced what the member opposite just alleged he announced.

As for questions to the Minister of Environment and Labour, he is here and quite able and happy to answer them.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Let me ask the Premier this, as I asked the Minister of Mines and Energy last fall: Does the Province have an energy plan? Can you outline what that plan is, and where that energy plan will take the consumers, shareholders, businesses alike, into the future?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is looking at all of the possibilities for energy development in the Province, including the possibility of further development in Labrador, perhaps in collaboration with Hydro Quebec. In fact, we have two working groups on either side now looking at a variety of questions to see whether or not collaboration is possible.

I think the member opposite knows very well that this has been a major initiative for the government, and he knows very well that there have been two working groups in place since after the Team Canada mission in January, when the Premier of Quebec and myself agreed to examine all of these questions.

In addition to that, hydro has already sought interest in further hydro development or other electrical development here on the Island portion of the Province; and, finally I can say to the member, we look with interest for expressions of possible development in the area of natural gas.

For example, the White Rose oil well has a 1.5 trillion cubic feet gas cap. We are asking the question - we are raising it when we meet with members of the energy industry - whether or not there are some potential commercial projects there. In fact, when I was in Vancouver a week ago Monday and spoke to the Annual Mining Conference of Petroleum Producers, I raised that very question.

I say to the member, there have been some expressions of interest. It is very early in the day, but we are looking at energy production, in short, to summarize, on a variety of fronts. These include natural gas and oil, these include hydro development, and these include potentially other thermal developments.

Now, if the member is suggesting that there should be one rigid approach to energy development and no other, I say to him, `I disagree.'

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my next question specifically dealing with hydro development, outside of natural gas, outside of oil and gas but the development of lakes and streams in the Province because I believe there is a plan to put in the hands of private interests, there is a plan to put in the hands of non-utility generators the ownership of our lakes and streams. Now would you agree Premier, that handing out development projects to non-utility generators in this Province, all we are doing essentially is handing out regulated monopolies to a private interest and individuals that stand to make millions off our resources, the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the member is making a very broad statement. First of all, let me be very clear, there is no plan and if the member thinks that there is a plan to hand over the lakes, rivers and streams to private sector developers, I would like him to produce something to support that allegation because I can tell you there is not a single member on this side of the House, in this Caucus or in this Cabinet, who has ever heard of such a plan. If you are going to make those kind of dramatic statements you have an obligation to substantiate them even a little tiny bit.

Now, Mr. Speaker, my next comment is to say this, is the member saying in any case, with respect to development, that we ought not have the private sector, for example, developing the Hibernia oil field or the Terra Nova oil field or the Whiterose oil field or the Voisey's Bay deposit or Richmont Mines deposit or any other deposit or pulp and paper deposits? If the member is saying that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador deserve to know that and the private sector deserves to know that. What is the member saying?

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

MR. E. BYRNE: I trust, Mr. Speaker, that since the Premier has asked me a question that he affords me the opportunity, through you, Mr. Speaker, to answer the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary.

MR. E. BYRNE: First of all, Mr. Speaker, my question was directly related to the lakes, rivers and streams of the Province. There was no suggestion otherwise that the private sector should not be involved in oil and gas.

Now the Premier has asked me to substantiate, that I should elaborate or substantiate why I make that claim. Right now there are unprecedented numbers of projects before Cabinet. My understanding is the Minister of Environment and Labour is looking at, through the environmental assessment project that are coming through it - that are coming towards Cabinet for a possible development of lakes and steams. The Upper Humber River is an example, I say to the Premier.

MR. J. BYRNE: He is answering the Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, from Newfoundland and Labrador's Hydro Environmental Policy Department, on the Humber River, it suggests that these sites were investigated originally and are looked at as being relatively expensive and should not proceed because environmental problems are foreseen because of water use conflicts in populated areas. So my question is, why is government even considering such projects to put lakes, streams and rivers into the hands of private developers?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, let the public record show clearly that when challenged to produce even a smidgen of evidence, even a sniff of evidence, even the whiff of evidence to substantiate the quite serious and wild allegation made, that the member opposite could not produce any evidence whatsoever of the notion that there is a plan to privatize the lakes, streams and rivers of this Province, not a single word.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, it is quite normal and more to the point, it is appropriate that whenever there is a proposal for development of a hydro source that that proposal should go to the Department of Environment and Labour to be properly assessed. It should not be assessed on the floor of the House with me saying it is right or it is wrong or the member opposite saying it is right or it is wrong, it should have a proper independent environmental assessment. Mr. Speaker, whenever it is appropriate, that is exactly what is happening in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, let me be clear, I want to certainly be clear on this issue, is the Premier saying that there are no projects from the private interest before Cabinet or before the Department of Environment and Labour for assessment, that government is not considering the development of private lakes and steams in this Province, is that what the Premier is saying?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the member is now attempting to be clear he says but he still has not substantiated this quite serious and I submit, very wild allegation that there is a master plan -

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: - to turn over, quote unquote, all the lakes and rivers and streams to the private sector.

Mr. Speaker, there are no projects before the Cabinet today for consideration. There are some submissions before the Department of Environment and Labour, and if they can survive the environmental review process at one point they may be taken up by Hydro, I don't know. But I can tell the member this notion, this latest charge of a master plot or plan, is totally unsubstantiated here today, and I would ask the member to withdraw this allegation.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, it is a credible line of questioning, I submit to the Premier. When the Department of Environment and Labour released last week that there are some sixteen projects from the private sector that are before the minister's department, that they are reconsidering certain aspects of that project, it says two things. It says, one, that government does not have a policy that our lakes and rivers are not up for development by the private sector, and that it would prefer Hydro, as our Crown utility, to pursue it. The second thing it says is that there is a project in the Province already that has received the okay of government, in terms of Star Lake, by private development. The Premier's assertion is not necessarily right either.

The only question I'm asking and trying to determine from the Premier is: Is there a policy of government that says that the privatization or possible development of lakes and streams in this Province by private sector is not a policy thrust that this government will pursue?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the member is now struggling to make something out of his questions, having failed to produce anything to substantiate the statement that we are out to privatize all the lakes and streams and rivers. The member knows that there is a process through the Department of Environment and Labour that must be gone through. He knows that if a project can withstand that kind of assessment, and if it is accepted by Hydro for development, he knows that development is possible, as is the case with Star Lake. Getting up and establishing there is a Star Lake and that it is being developed by the private sector, and then somehow suggesting that is a big surprise or something new, quite frankly is a bit unusual.

There is no policy to privatize either Hydro - in fact, there is clearly a policy not to privatize Hydro under this Administration in Newfoundland and Labrador, and there is no plan to privatize our lakes and rivers and streams. I would ask the member to accept that and quit making wild charges to the contrary.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are for the Minister of Justice. Parents and grandparents in Badger have been served an injunction which essentially prevents them from expressing their opposition to the education restructuring decisions and process in their area. The Avalon West School Board took similar action against the people of Brigus.

Does the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of this Province feel it appropriate that parents and grandparents, frustrated over the school reform process, and having no other recourse for making their voices heard, are now faced with the choice of either keeping quiet or else subjecting themselves to the prospect of arrest and imprisonment at the hands of law enforcement officers under the minister's jurisdiction?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, it was not my decision to make. The judge gave an injunction and it was enforced. I will say this. I can see nothing that would justify keeping a child out of school, and I'm glad that the judge behaved the way he did. I know that the people in Badger and Englee and in various parts of this Province are having difficulties with the reforms that are taking place in education today. But there is no excuse under the sun to keep a child out of school, and I'm glad that the law worked the way it did, and make sure that children in this day and age, who get little enough time on tasks as former teachers in this House will agree, nothing should be done to keep them out of school and I support the action.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Does the Minister of Justice see an interventionist role for himself as Minister of Justice at this point so the government can balance the need to preserve order with the need to ensure people can effectively express their opposition to a government action as is their right in any democracy? Does he see himself intervening to avoid unnecessary conflicts involving parents and grandparents throughout the Province who after all are only acting in the best interests of their children in maintaining the positions they are maintaining?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I can't believe what I'm hearing. I can only hope that someone has written the question and the hon. member is reading it. To suggest that the Minister of Justice would interfere in the legal system of this Province? If we were to push that to it's logical conclusion, we would remove every Tory or every non-Liberal from any appointment which is made in the justice system - can you imagine what would happen -

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DECKER: - if an elected politician were to start interfering in the justice system? The very basis of justice in our democracy is that the whole judicial system operates at arms length from government. I cannot believe what I am hearing my hon. friend suggest. The man who is a lawyer himself, to suggest that an elected politician would interfere in judgements, totally unbelievable, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister is making an effort, at this point, to twist the point that is being made by the thrust of these questions.

I know full well that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General in this Province cannot intervene with the judicial of this Province and he knows darn well that that is not the thrust of this question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: The thrust of this question is the continued position taken by the Minister of Education, who is saying he will not get involved in the educational reform process in this Province, leading to the disruption that we have in the educational process in this Province and I say to the minister that is what this is about -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: - and with his expertise in education, was the Minister of Education, I say Mr. Speaker, at the time that this whole educational reform and chaos was introduced in this Province, will he see to it, in the absence of the Minster of Education, to take a leading role in resolving the concerns and the problems with respect to educational reform in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DECKER: I am glad the hon. member has changed the tack that he was taking and acknowledges that there is no place for politicians to tell the justice system how to work.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DECKER: And I commend him for the decency that he has to clarify his position on that.

No, Mr. Speaker, I will not intervene at this stage. People in this Province, as any other democracy, have a right to protest in the way that they see fit. I disagree with them when they keep children out of school. As for the way that the educational reform is proceeding, I am very proud to see the way it is proceeding.

The hon. member knows that ever since confederation, it was boards in this Province who decided how the school districts should be arranged and that has not changed. The Minister of Education, on many times has said, that during his consultation he heard it quite clearly, the people wanted local input and they wanted to make local decisions. That is there, Mr. Speaker, I am in total agreement and I have no doubt in my mind that when this all settles down at the end of the day, we will have achieved the reforms that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians voted for when we voted in the referendum. The reforms are proceeding quite well, the boards, by in large, are doing an excellent job. There are some places where they have some problems, people are protesting and they have a right to do that, but that can be worked out.

MR. J. BYRNE: So, the answer is no.

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

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

My questions are to the acting Minister of Human Resources and Employment and they deal with dental care for social services recipients.

I am wondering if the acting minister, I see that we are looking around to see who is the acting minister, will confirm that in the 1997 budget there is little or no money in the departmental budget to assist social service recipients to obtain dental care, such as the cost of having cavities filled and that kind of thing.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is a mild level of consternation as to trying to identify who the alternate minister was and in the context of that, I had difficulty hearing the hon. members question, in as much as I know they are pretty thin on the ground over there today, I am sure the hon. member would like the opportunity to repeat that question, it will help him get through Question Period and it will give me the benefit of hearing what he said, if I can hear it again.

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

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

While the minster stalls for time, I will repeat the question.

The question is particularly relative to the citizens of this Province who are recipients of social service benefits and their need for good dental care.

Would the minister confirm that there has been no money provided in the 1997 budget to assist people who are recipients of social services and who have need for dental care such as cavities filled, etc.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

No, on the contrary, actually, that is partly a health question. We do carry $5.12 million in our budget this year as we did last year for a dental program that takes care of the dental needs of children of this Province and all other social services recipients who have need for services and who qualify on that basis so the program is in place, it is the same as in the past two years, it is functioning very well and it meets the needs of the social services recipients this year as it has done very well in the past.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you very much.

I would advise the hon. ministers not to thump too hard on their desks because the minister does not have a clue what he is talking about in his response.

Mr. Speaker, will the acting minister confirm that extractions are covered but dentures are not covered for the adult population? Not always covered I should say; in other words, a person on social services has a choice, he could suffer the pain or have his teeth extracted without little hope of ever being able to obtain dentures as a replacement.

I say to the minister: Does the minister believe that this policy of not covering the filling of cavities but only covering extractions and maybe you will get dentures, there is a long waiting list, a lot of criteria to be met, is this a sensible policy and, is it fair and responsible action towards people who have to rely on social services?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, the policy with respect to what is covered under the dental program that covers both social services recipients and children in this Province has not changed over the past - it has not changed in my time of three years in health actually. We cover today what we have covered historically. The program works very well; there are instances I acknowledge when dentures are not universally covered, that is a separate issue; I think the hon. member knows the policy with respect to that and if he is not entirely clear, I certainly will undertake to ensure that my colleague the minister who is responsible for social services will communicate to you, in great clarity and in considerable detail, what the policy in fact is, for your benefit.

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

MR. H. HODDER: A couple of years ago we did have a policy under the former minister but that policy has been changed, I say to the acting minister.

Let me draw on an example. A constituent of mine has a dental problem, in fact he has a lot of cavities. His family doctor prescribes pain killers and medications to control the infection. The government pays the entire costs including the doctor's fees. Furthermore, the drug the gentleman takes may result in further medical complications.

Given, Mr. Minister, that the taxpayer pays far more in total costs, health care dollars, than the total costs of the cavities that would be filled therefore we are paying the money anyway. Would it not be better for public policy to be proactive to fix the gentleman's cavities in a sensible manner than to pay all the doctor's bills and the pain killers and the medications that kind of thing; we are paying far more than we would pay if we handled it in the right way.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health.

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, when a doctor prescribes medication for a person's condition as a result of a consultation, we pay what is appropriate for medication. When a doctor prescribes dental services such as in the order of extractions or fillings -

AN HON. MEMBER: No, not always (inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: When a doctor prescribes let me tell the hon. member, we act on that basis. The program has not changed in the past three years and I am sure about the line of questioning the hon. member is getting on with; I do, for the benefit of the hon. member, want to say to him that there were some issues around medication versus the application of the dental program that I have been recently discussing with the Newfoundland Dental Association. I had a meeting with them oh, one evening about six o'clock a month or so ago, and we were discussing you know, what the program does and does not cover, and as far as I know, the Newfoundland Dental Association is quite comfortable with the policy in as much as it is the policy of government and it has not changed.

If there are idiosyncrasies about the policy that applies to a specific constituent of the hon. member, let him bring that forward to either me or the Minister of Human Resources and Employment and we will deal with that specific issue but simply put, the plan has been in place for years. The plan, in terms of its parameter has not changed, the Budget-line item has not changed and I would think that the hon. member should be very pleased to hear and know and understand that, that is the case.

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

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

I am wondering if the minister would undertake to appraise the front-line social workers of the Province, because as of two hours ago they gave me information that says that they do not cover the filling of cavities. They will cover extractions. My information was correct as of two hours ago.

I say to the minister: If his program is in place, he should have it communicated to the social workers of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am wondering if you would undertake to do that.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will undertake to look into the situation that the hon. member puts forward if he will give me the specific facts. I will undertake, in great collaboration with my able colleague, the Minister of Employment and Human Resources, to bring considerable clarity to the mind of the hon. member with respect to how the program operates and, too, if and as is where necessary, take from him what might be appropriate advice.

We are not above taking advice over on this side of the House, and if there are constructive, suggestive type propositions put forward by the hon. member to improve the dental plan, I would be the first to want to hear his suggestions. I look forward to his communication.

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

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

Will the minister confirm that the information provided to my office on capital budget expenditures for the provincial parks from 1992-1996, and for the operating grants for provincial parks from 1993-1996, are inaccurate?

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

MS KELLY: No, Mr. Speaker, I cannot confirm that.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

She obviously has not done her homework; I have done mine.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, I have been told by very reliable sources that Jonathan's Pond Park, a provincial park in the minister's own district, had a capital budget expenditure of $20,000 for 1995 to renovate and extend the cabin in that park. The information that was provided to my office states that there were no capital budget expenditures on Jonathan's Pond Park from 1992-1996. Will the minister confirm that there was indeed an expenditure of $20,000 in 1995 under the capital budget program?

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I would be very pleased to check these facts for the hon. member and I can get back to him with the specifics. I do not keep facts like that in my head, but I can certainly check them very easily and within twenty-four hours I can confirm whether $20,000 was spent capital-wise on Jonathan's Pond Park last year.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is quite obvious that the information that she signs her name to is not very accurate. Mr. Speaker, how can the people of this Province have faith in the privatization of our provincial parks when the information that is provided by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation in the tendering packages on operating programs and capital budget programs is misleading?

When will the minister comply with the request under the Freedom of Information Act and provide the information so that the people of this Province are fully aware of the investment in these parks and the expenses and expenditures on these parks over the years?

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, the people of this Province can have faith in the information that was given in the packages as we were privatizing the twenty-one parks. If there has been a mistake, as I have told the hon. member, I will check and get back to him within the next twenty-four hours about whether or not the accurate information was provided on the capital works that might or might not have been expended at Jonathan's Pond Park.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It was not only the capital budget program that was inaccurate; it was the operating budget as well.

Mr. Speaker, the 1995 information that the minister provided to me is seriously inaccurate. In 1996, as well, those figures are seriously inaccurate.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: How could she possibly have made a mistake, not only on capital budget but also on the operating budget, on the information she provided?

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I can certainly ensure that not only do we check the $20,000 on the capital budget, but I can check the figures on the operating budget. I will consult with the hon. member to see specifically what he is referring to so that we can provide accurate information within twenty-four hours.

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

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

My question today is for the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, my buddy. On May 1, I asked questions in the House regarding the infrastructure money and the approving of $1.43 million, for the Town of Clarenville. The people in the area now are referring to it as `Powergate' or `Brennex.' In light of the response and contradictions to the minister

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. J. BYRNE: `Brennex,' Bren Power, see? Figure it out, boys. You did not know his name, did you? In light of the response and contradictions to the minister's statements regarding the municipal support for the facility, will the minister admit to blatant partisan politics and political patronage?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, the only thing I can do to expedite matters here - I have, I think it is thirty, here in the application, and I do not mind tabling the application. There are thirty letters of support from every town council in the area. I will also provide to this House the statement and the presentation that was made to every council in the area. I will also table in the House the support of the Progressive Conservative Party for this proposal.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. the minister to quickly finish his answer.

MR. A. REID: I do not know, Mr. Speaker, if I should table it, but I will certainly make it available. I will make it available to the hon. member so that he can sit down on this and leave this alone before he gets himself in trouble, and his Party, and the decent people who are living in the Clarenville area.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has ended.

 

Notices of Motion

 

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following private member's resolution:

WHEREAS the Provincial Government, in its 1997 Budget, announced that effective this September students with dependants will be required to access the maximum available student loans, and social assistance will only be available to supplement where living requirements exceed the living allowance provided under student aid; and

WHEREAS this and other initiatives increase the end cost to the student of pursuing a post-secondary education and serve as impediments that deter student-parents from realizing their potential for employment, productivity and personal fulfilment; and

WHEREAS government should be encouraging and assisting student-parents, most of whom are women, to pursue post-secondary educational opportunities;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this hon. House urge the Provincial Government to restore its post-secondary funding arrangements for students with dependants to those that were in place immediately prior to the 1997 Budget; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this hon. House urge the Provincial Government to undertake greater efforts to make post-secondary education more accessible to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

Petitions

 

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I again stand to present a petition against the privatization of provincial parks. We have presented many, many petitions. I presented many myself, even yesterday, alone.

Mr. Speaker, the people of our Province are not in favour of the privatization of provincial parks. All the members of the House, on this side, are against the privatization of provincial parks and even one member on that side of the House and possibly others, are against the privatization of provincial parks; one, indeed, has spoken out.

Mr. Speaker, it is very certain to us, based on the number of names we have gotten on petitions and the number of people who have called our offices and written us, that the majority of the people in this Province do not want their parks privatized. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, those seventy-seven proposals on the parks - after there were 400 enquiries on the parks, the minister has gotten back seventy-seven proposals on the twenty-one parks and seven sites. Mr. Speaker, I would venture to say, if those tendering packages provided the true operating costs of those parks, there would not even be seventy-seven proposals. If the true operating costs were provided on those parks, there would not be seventy-seven people willing to take over those parks.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand and represent the people who have signed these petitions against the privatization of provincial parks and to support the petition, because of all years to privatize the parks, this is probably the worst. The decision was made in haste. All evidence points to that but, Mr. Speaker, whether it be this year, next year or the following year, some of the parks that are being privatized have to be - the motive behind that has to be seriously questioned. Mr. Speaker, based on that, I gladly present this petition and support the people who have signed it. Thank you.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, to support the petition as presented by my colleague, the Member for St. John's South, with respect to the opposition to the sale of our provincial parks as part of our provincial park system.

This petition is asking the government and members opposite, Mr. Speaker, to reverse the decision to privatize the parks, as the petitioners feel it was made in haste and without consultation with the people who own the parks, namely, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

There has been a lot of evidence presented over the past number of weeks and certainly immediately on the forwarding of the decision with respect to the sale of our provincial parks. A lot of information has been presented to government members by way of public protest but, unfortunately, members opposite have not seen fit to give consideration to reversal of this decision, despite the pleas of hundreds and, indeed, thousands of Newfoundlanders who take the position that it is their property. They have a proprietary interest. It is something which they, themselves own, which we, ourselves own, in Newfoundland and Labrador, which is now being taken away from us.

In addition to that fundamental issue which has been the basis of the ground swell of opposition, we see the issue of the loss of ability to promote tourism to the degree that we could, in terms of being public, open the people's parks, as opposed to parks owned by private individuals, corporations, or consortiums, those business interests which simply, for monetary value and profit, want to put forward their best efforts in promoting the parks in this Province.

We have the loss of significant numbers of jobs in the public service, Mr. Speaker, those individuals who committed their time and effort over the years to the promotion of parks and the upkeep and the maintenance of parks within our park system.

Mr. Speaker, I stand today in support of this petition, and again we join the thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have voiced their concern over the past number of months, and who, as can be seen by these petitions, are continuing to do so.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Orders of the Day

 

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 3, Concurrence Motion of the Government Services Committee.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

As we begin the Concurrence Debate today, I would like to offer my thanks to the members of the Estimates Committee. I held the privilege of chairing that particular Committee, and I tell you, it certainly was a pleasure, and it was certainly enlightening. I would like to thank my vice-chair, the Member for Cape St. Francis, the Members for Placentia & St. Mary's, Trinity North, Port au Port. I would like to thank the Members for Kilbride and Conception Bay South. I enjoyed serving in this House in this capacity, and it certainly was an experience for me.

The Government Services Committee considered the Estimates of the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, the Department of Government Services and Lands, the Department of Finance, and the Public Service Commission. We certainly had some of the most important departments of government, if not the most important departments. Of course, during those Estimates certain questions were raised. I must say that all the ministers handled themselves quite eloquently, and were very detailed in their presentation, their answers.

Mr. Speaker, it would be remiss of me if I did not mention some of the things that arose out of the Estimates.

For instance, during the review of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, questions were raised concerning the proposed pilot project on road maintenance and repairs, which is not unusual. Some concerns were recognized, especially by me. I have a number of people in my constituency who have concerns, and understandably so. I must also say that the minister did advise us that before the department would undertake any project, all financial and logical analysis would have to be completed and presented to Treasury Board for approval before any final decision on the matter could be made.

I must say that this issue came about in an innocent enough fashion, when the minister of the department wanted to inform the employees of Works, Services and Transportation through an information circular that went out to them outlining the results of Program Review, and the Budget's impact on the department. The department felt the employees should know these options of contracting the service was under active consideration and they deserve to be kept informed of the developments in this matter. NAPE representatives were advised of the key issues and the internal analysis being undertaken by the department.

Of course, Mr. Speaker, the minister felt it was appropriate and it certainly was in the spirit of open communication and consultation fostered by this government, to make workers aware of the analysis being performed because, Mr. Speaker, I am certain the government wants to be open and frank in all it's discussions and it certainly makes for a good working relationship, if all employees of government are aware of the initiatives of government, so that they too can have an input into all that this process may unfold.

As I said, the departments that were reviewed by Government Services Committee, it went quite well, some members of the committee certainly went through the estimates line by line by line and understandably so.

MR. J. BYRNE: Who did that?

MR. WISEMAN: Now, the member from Cape St. Francis is asking who did that and he knows full well that I would have to say that the member from Cape St. Francis certainly did a detailed analysis of all the departments being reviewed by the Government Services Committee. Mr. Speaker, I should commend him for the job that he did and I know that through the course of this debate, that the member from Cape St. Francis will have more questions that he would want to put to the departments that he received.

I must also say that most members of the committee were quite pleased with all the answers given and they were quite pleased with the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs and the infrastructure and capital works carried out by that department this year.

MR. J. BYRNE: We were not pleased with all the answers.

MR. WISEMAN: Now, Mr. Speaker, the member from Cape St. Francis says that they were not pleased and I said earlier, when I had said that he was very detailed in his analysis because it was very factual, that he was very detailed, but when he says, that the committee was not pleased, I said that most members of the committee, most members of the committee were pleased with the infrastructure and capital works program being carried out by the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. He himself may not have been pleased and he has indicated in this House on several occasions with the allotment that he received for his area, but when the hon. member from Cape St. Francis sits back and does the analysis of the needs of this Province and he thinks about whether he should put in twin ice services to skate on or whether we should put in water and sewer in towns in this Province, I am sure that he will come to the conclusion that water and sewer is much more important to the lives of people in this Province, then twin ice services to skate on.

Now, Mr. Speaker, from my perspective, I am quite pleased with the allocations of monies for my district, quite pleased, quite satisfied. I have been quite satisfied for years, Mr. Speaker, even though I had not been here as an MHA. I was somewhere up there in the galleries looking down as an executive assistant, enough times to know what took place in this hon. House, but I must saw that I am quite pleased and offer my congratulations and thanks to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs for the strong commitment that he has made to my district over the years and he has made a difference in my district. There has been a tremendous amount of need up there and, Mr. Speaker, I can say that the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs has certainly made a difference in eliminating those needs.

Now, Mr. Speaker, he may not have satisfied everybody in this House of Assembly but when the Liberal government took over in 1989, they said that we were going to do things based on need and I believe that that is the course that should be followed. We should try, all of us, on both sides of the House, to be reasonable and rational and realistic about what we can accomplish. I know that my colleague for Conception Bay South is extremely pleased with the monies that we have had over the years up there in that area, and I do not mind saying, Mr. Speaker, tens of millions of dollars have been invested in Conception Bay South, the Town of Paradise but nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, we still have a problem and there is not enough money in one year's Budget to take care of the needs that exist in my district and that is why, Mr. Speaker, I have raised the issue of private/public partnering because I believe that in order for us to correct the problems that exist up there, the government should take the initiative to try and find the way with private/public partnering to correct that need, because if we don't, Mr. Speaker, if we don't do that, ten years from now we will still have a need.

Conception Bay South and Paradise are probably two of the fastest growing communities in this Province and, Mr. Speaker, without the infrastructure, then it does not help our cause to be continuing to construct houses and dwellings in an area where, at the end of the day, the taxpayers will have to pay for that infrastructure. But if we do it now, Mr. Speaker, if we go in there now and put in the infrastructure, then anybody constructing in the future will just go in and hook on to the infrastructure and as part of the cost I suppose more simply said, in doing business.

Mr. Speaker, as I had said earlier, the Estimates Committee of Government Services Committee did go well. Members were detailed in their questions, ministers were detailed in their answers and we were fully satisfied that they could provide the details requested and if they did not have it at their fingertips, Mr. Speaker, they undertook to supply to the committee the details of all the questions asked and that is the way it should be, that any member of this House can go into a committee, ask the questions that they want to ask and receive the answers they deserve. Because, Mr. Speaker, this is the people's House, it belongs to the people of this Province and these are the people whom we represent and, Mr. Speaker, we know that they want honesty and integrity. They want to ask us a question and know that the answers provided are accurate.

Mr. Speaker, when the government changed in 1989 and came in here, they had quite a problem on their hands to try and sort out the problems that built up over the years, and it was no easy task to inherit a monstrosity; a monstrosity in a sense, what do we do with it and any time that you want to make a change, then you know full-well that you are going to impact on the lives of people and nobody on this side of the House - and I am certain there is nobody opposite - who would want to do anything that would cause any hurt or pain to any Newfoundlander; but we don't have the revenues in this Province to meet the demands of the people, so adjustments have to be made.

We have said time and time again that our priorities should be health, education and human resource development. Since I have been here, a little over a year, and I have worked with my colleagues and talked with ministers, I have been assured - and this House can be assured - that all of us on this side are certainly committed to doing what is in the best interest of the people we serve.

I have said that any decision we make is going to have an impact on somebody somewhere. Does that mean, then, that we don't make a decision, that we don't make a change?

Mr. Speaker, day in and day out I see members opposite bring in petitions on privatization; don't privatize our parks. When you think about the needs that we have in health and education, human resources and development, and you hear people who want to subsidize camping to the tune of $1.8 million, then something is wrong with the logical rationalization of how we should operate in this Province.

I can understand their point of view. I understand from where the Opposition is coming. They are coming from Opposition, and I suppose their role in this Legislature is to oppose, but I believe that if the government is doing something that is right and worthwhile, then I believe they are a lot better off supporting the government's initiative; because to say that we should subsidize camping at a loss of $1.8 million, while we have great difficulty in trying to get people into health care, then there is something missing.

I believe that the people opposite have as much compassion for people as we do on this side of the House; let there be no mistake about it.

MR. H. HODDER: More.

MR. WISEMAN: The Member for Waterford Valley says, `more', but no way; there is no way. The difference is that the people opposite don't have to make a decision. They don't have to sit at the table and decide where they are going to get the monies to meet the needs of the people. So all of us should review where we are going and what we should do.

I am not going to say to the Opposition, `Well, don't oppose it', because they are not going to listen to me anyway.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: They are not going to listen to what I say. I have been here now and I have listened to them ask questions. They don't even listen to the answers from the ministers, let alone listen to me.

I believe that this government, under the leadership of Premier Tobin, will lead this Province to a better tomorrow. We didn't promise an immediate `better tomorrow', and I don't believe for one minute that there was one person in this Province who believed that we could produce an instant `better tomorrow', because, Mr. Speaker, it takes time -

MR. H. HODDER: Any eight-year-old will tell you, tomorrow is the time (inaudible).

MR. WISEMAN: Now, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Waterford Valley is looking for attention again. He wants to try to disrupt what I am saying, because he knows in his own mind that what I am saying is realistic and better for the people of this Province if we do privatize parks. He has to know that, Mr. Speaker, because he, himself sat around the table in another capacity and has had to make decisions. I suppose you have to give him credit because he has made quite a contribution to Mount Pearl; and I remember his being with the St. John's Metropolitan Area Board. Of course, I lived in a community that was under his jurisdiction. I never always got satisfaction out of him, but he tried.

MR. H. HODDER: You were a thorn in our side.

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, he is saying I was a thorn in his side. It is true, I was a thorn in his side, because we wanted people to be treated fairly up in Topsail Pond and Three Island Pond. And, of course, oftentimes the member agreed and oftentimes he did not, but that is the way it is. He was in a position to say no, Mr. Speaker, and he stuck to his guns. He does not want the government to make a decision and stick to its guns, but I do, Mr. Speaker. I support the initiatives of this government and I believe we are on the right track.

MR. J. BYRNE: How long can you go on, another couple of hours?

MR. WISEMAN: I believe we are on the right track and that if we state a course, we will make it, Mr. Speaker. As I said a few days ago, when we came in here in 1989 we were paying $550 million in interest in the monies that the Province already owed. Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, what we could do today with $550 million and we did not have to pay any interest?

MR. H. HODDER: Why do you not see John C. Doyle and get it back?

MR. WISEMAN: Now, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite talks about John C. Doyle, but I have never heard him raise in this House the deal that was made on the Roads for Rail agreement, a fifteen-year agreement that caused the Province to lose $400 million. Every fifteen years, Mr. Speaker, because of the deal made by the crowd that was in there then, we lose $400 million.

Mr. Speaker, the railway was generating $80 million a year to this Province. The former government went and signed a fifteen-year agreement for $800 million over fifteen years. That means, Mr. Speaker, we are losing $400 million every fifteen years. They have never mentioned it, Mr. Speaker. But, Mr. Speaker, we cannot correct all the mistakes that were made in the past and there were some that were made by all governments.

If we had not come in in 1989, Mr. Speaker, can you imagine what the debt would be today? If we had not gotten a handle on the debt when we came in, what would we be paying - $800 million or $900 million a year in interest? We could not borrow our way to freedom.

MR. H. HODDER: Your Premier said he cannot cut his way to prosperity.

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, nor can we cut our way to prosperity, but we have to manage with what we have. We have to try to manage with what we have. We have to find the best possible solutions to the problems we have. And I do not expect we will get much help from the Opposition. All I hear from the Opposition, Mr. Speaker, is `we should not do this, we should not do that, we should put money into this, money into that.' So, Mr. Speaker, where is the money coming from? People only have so much to pay. You can only tax the people so much.

Just the other day, I was talking to an individual who said, we do not have middle-class people anymore. There are the rich and the poor. Because the middle-class is paying that much out now, that at the end of the day or the month they do not have any money left. They said they can no longer pay the burden of supplying the necessary taxation to government to fund all the programs we have. It is only natural that this government would have to make adjustments.

That is why they did a program review to look at the efficiency and the effectiveness of all departments of government. It had to be done. But I can imagine the difficulty of those people, after getting the results of Program Review, knowing full well that they had to make a decision. I know that not one of them on this side of the House would do what they had to do, if they had a choice not to do it. Not to do it is to stay with the status quo.

The people of this Province told us that they are not satisfied with the status quo, that we have to look at change, we have to be more effective, we have to be more efficient. I believe that we will be. There is going to be some pain getting there, and it is sad. I do not want to see anybody being laid off, and I do not think anybody on this side of the House would want to see anybody laid off. But we must adjust, we must regroup, we must reform, we must change. There are no choices. Because if this government does not change, then the people will make a change.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) drunken sailors - spending like drunken sailors.

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I have heard many times in this House that the Tories spent like drunken sailors, but nobody believed they did. I tell you, when we came in, in 1989 and looked at the books, we believed that they did and we knew that they did, because of the monies that they had borrowed, the monies they had squandered and spent.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who got the money from Hydro?

MR. WISEMAN: Now, Mr. Speaker, he wants to know who got the money from the Hydro deal. People have been asking who got the money from Sprung, and who got the crushing contract, and all this old...

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) John C. Doyle, now.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) tell you about Frank Moores, too.

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

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, we can raise all kinds of issues about failures of the past, but the failures of the past are history. We cannot change history. What we can do is make changes for the future so that we can provide for our people, so that we can have monies to help them over rough times. Government is not the answer to all the problems in this Province. There is no single government anywhere in this world that can solve the problems in this Province, but we are trying and, I must say, we are doing a good job. We are doing a good job with dealing with the problems that we have. Now, we are not perfect, but we are trying.

I mentioned earlier about the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs who came to Cabinet, I think, in 1993. He recognized the need of the Town of Conception Bay South and the Town of Paradise, and he has made a commitment since then to help the people of that area. When I stand here today and say that he put tens of millions of dollars up there, I am not exaggerating; because that is what it takes, a government that recognizes a need, a need that has to be addressed.

I recall when I was involved in the area in 1986-1987, when councils in the area just spent money wherever they felt like it, looked after their buddies and put water and sewer in Tory councils - there is one sitting over there now on the other side of the House. They spent money like drunken sailors, no plan, no direction of where they were going. They spent it because some fellow came in and said, `I have a problem with water and sewer.' `Yes, no problem, buddy; we will look after that for you.'

Mr. Speaker, when we came in, in 1989, and realized what was going on, we said: Enough is enough. Before water and sewer goes in anywhere, approval would have to come from the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, it caused quite an uprising in my town, the area in which I live, but it was the right thing to do. Then what we did was have the Department of Health go in and do a study on the area, and look at the exact areas where that need was. It was a professional job, so that they could come back and report to the government exactly where those problems were.

Mr. Speaker, I must say that the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs has stuck to that plan because that is the way in the '90s that things should be done. We have all the technology that we need to find the answers to our problems. We just need the will to do it, and I believe we do have the will to do it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Would the hon. member take his seat for a moment?

The Chair is seeking direction from the House Leaders on both sides. Is there an understanding that the debate time would be fifteen minutes per member?

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, the procedure has been, over the past number of years - and I think the Standing Orders actually speak to it; I have not checked today. I think if you look at the second-last page in your Standing Orders, you will see for Estimates Committees - and we use those same numbers here, that the opening speakers would have fifteen minutes each and then we would go back and forth ten and ten. Anyway, if it is not in the Standing Orders, that is the agreement.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The agreement is that members will speak for fifteen minutes and then -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

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

MR. TULK: The agreement always has been, I think, that the opening speaker - the chairman of the committee, when he introduces the motion, should speak for fifteen minutes. The person replying will speak for fifteen minutes, and after that we will go to ten minutes back and forth, or between speakers, or whatever you wish.

MR. SPEAKER: Very well. I remind the hon. member, then, his time is up.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Topsail, by leave.

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

I guess there is not a lot of enthusiasm on the other side of the House to speak, but let me finish before -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, what I had said was, there is probably not a lot of interest on the other side of the House to speak, but also they might be fair enough in their minds to realize that I am a new member and they want to give me an opportunity to get up and speak in the House. I would like to think that is why they want to do it and I am certainly pleased that that is what they want to do.

Now, as I was saying about the water and sewer services in the towns that I represent, we had put in place a health study to go in there and look at all of the towns and determine, once and for all, where those great needs were. And we did it, Mr. Speaker. We went in, all the information was compiled and the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs ensured that that is what was done. Before that, I saw a main line run up the Conception Bay highway costing some $3 million, and not a house - not one house hooked up to that line.

I was not surprised yesterday when I picked up the local paper to see that the member opposite for Conception Bay South was not pleased with the water and sewer funding, not pleased because through somebody's fault the main line - this year we have to install another main line along the bypass road, so that they can get sufficient water pressure up the other end of the town. The water pressure is low, it is a major problem, but yet, when the member opposite was on council, he saw fit to run a water line up the town without hooking a house to it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who was that?

MR. WISEMAN: I do not want to name him, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes do.

MR. WISEMAN: The hon. the member from Conception Bay South. He is in the news now: It is a measly amount - a measly of money put into Conception Bay South this year for water and sewer. Well, Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that there never was as much money put into any town in this Province than has been put into Paradise -Conception Bay South.

I recall, before this government changed in 1989, that the Town of Paradise had received from the Tory government $50,000 for water and sewer. Fifty thousand dollars - that is what they had received under the Tory government, and they talk about patronage. I tell you, Mr. Speaker, there was no great lot of patronage given to the Town of Paradise. But I can tell you, when the government changed and we came in here in 1993, the Town of Paradise had received up to $9 million for water and sewer and roads.

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible), Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: Now, you be good or I will withdraw leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis withdrawing leave?

MR. J. BYRNE: No, let him go ahead.

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

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

I would like the opportunity to tell the House what had gone on, without malice. It had to do with poor judgement, poor judgement on the part of the people who had the authority to act in good faith, to represent the people that they served. And I can honestly say today, that when I look at the amount of money we received in the Town of Paradise and the Town of Conception Bay South, I have to be satisfied, Mr. Speaker. I have to be satisfied because I know there are other areas of this Province that have a need. And I believe that all of us in this House should have the decency to look at this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in totality, not just look at it in terms of our own little niche, our own little district.

As I said, I am pleased about the efforts that have been made by this government to try to meet the demands in the Town of Conception Bay South and Paradise, but we must move on to private-public partnering. That is what we should do, Mr. Speaker. With private-public partnering, we can service the Town of Conception Bay South and Paradise in two to three years. It is done, it is over, we do not have to come back here year after year and look for monies to put in badly needed infrastructure. We are talking about putting in a sewer treatment plant that will meet the needs of people for the next twenty or thirty years. We need to expand the sewer treatment plant in Topsail, we need to put a new treatment plant in the Kelligrews area and, Mr. Speaker, we need to connect the Town of Paradise to the Town of Conception Bay South.

We have a responsibility to act in the best interest of the people whom we serve, and I firmly believe, with private-public partnering, that we can accomplish what no government can do, and that is, Mr. Speaker, to meet all the needs of all the people in this Province. There is no way - so we have to look at alternate ways of meeting our needs and it is not easy, but, as I said earlier, in 1989, with interest charges of $550 million, which works out to be about $12,000 a minute, the people before us did not have a lot of vision. I recall talking to some of those people and all they said was: Don't worry about it, it is only paper debt. Mr. Speaker, can you imagine - it is only a paper debt!

Well, in 1997, Mr. Speaker, it is no paper debt, it is a reality, and all those figures that add up to a deficit and all those monies borrowed must be paid back. They have to be paid back. And who has the responsibility of paying them back? The people of this Province, they have the responsibility of paying back those monies. No foreign nation is going to come in here with a shipload of money and say: We are going to take care of your debt.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we have a lot of opportunities in this Province. I do not have to mention the Voisey's Bay mineral discovery, but I find it ironic that sometimes in the media, they talk about this $4 billion that Inco paid for the rights to mine the minerals in Labrador, and they are saying: But we did not get one cent out of it. No, Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a different law.

We are talking about somebody selling their rights to a mine to another company who has the money and the will and the way to develop it. But I guarantee you, Mr. Speaker, that this government will have a fair deal. We will have a fair deal for the people of this Province because that is why we came here. We came here as Liberals to put this Province on the right track to prosperity and, Mr. Speaker, we realize, the sad part about is that in doing that, we cause some pain. As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, anytime that you make a change and anytime that you make a decision, it is going to affect the lives of people. And it is sad, Mr. Speaker, that we have to do it.

MR. J. BYRNE: Withdraw leave, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WISEMAN: But, Mr. Speaker, we are confident -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Is it my understanding that the hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis is withdrawing leave?

MR. J. BYRNE: That is right.

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

MR. WISEMAN: May I move the Concurrence Debate before I sit down, Mr. Speaker?

MR. J. BYRNE: We have been trying to do that for the last ten minutes.

MR. WISEMAN: Okay.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place to say a few words in the Concurrence Debate with respect to the four different departments.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Topsail and Chairman of the Government Services Estimates Committee was up speaking for about forty-two minutes when he was only supposed to speak for fifteen. We saw fit to let him go on and speak as long as he wanted, but he abused it, of course, which is normal on that side of the House, to abuse any leave that we might give. They do not request it very often, mind you, because they are never on their feet speaking; only a minister or two every now and then, and when we get them upset enough to get up and speak. One of the worst for that, of course, is the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mr. Speaker.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) John.

MR. J. BYRNE: He is the only one who gets on his feet, when he gets upset enough to speak on any of these speeches that we make on this side of the House, I say to the Government House Leader. He is the only one. None of the back benchers will get up to speak. I do not think they are allowed to speak over there on that side of the House.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: I agree. He should never let you fellows get him upset.

MR. J. BYRNE: I would like to thank the members who sat in on the Government Services Estimates Committee. I have to say again that the members of the Opposition were the people who were asking the questions, other than a few questions, of course, that were set up by the government members, for the minister, to give them a chance to say something positive. Now, I am going to pay the Member for Topsail a compliment. Seeing that he gave me a compliment, I am going to say that he is the Chairman of the Committee and he did a reasonable job. I cannot say he did a good job. He did a reasonable job, and I thank him for that. At most of the meetings he was agreeable to the Opposition on the questions we wanted to ask, and in giving us leeway to ask the questions, and working out the system by which we would like to ask the questions.

I would also like to thank the ministers. Most of the ministers were quite co-operative with their answers. They had their staff also. I would like to thank the staff they had in place, sitting in the seats in the House of Assembly. That is where we had our meetings. I would like to thank the staff for the answers. They had the - well, they had answers, I will give you that, and they had the information at the tips of their fingers. Now, some ministers, of course, are more informed, I would say, than others, and they could answer the questions without having to go to their executive and to their staff all the time.

One the minister who I thought was best able to do that, and I give credit where the credit is due, of course, is the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. Madam Minister, for a person first-time-elected and only in the department just over a year, I have to say, that minister knows her stuff, she does her research before she comments, and I have to give her full marks on being well-informed of what is going on in her department.

Of course, we all know that the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board also is well-informed, and he will certainly give you the answers. He will try to jump around, skate around the issues every now and then when he does not want to give you the answer, and he is good at that, but generally speaking he will give you the answers.

Other ministers - the Minister of Government Services and Lands, again, is a new minister. He has his staff in place, who help out with the answers - no problem there. I usually come to these meetings quite prepared, really. I go through the Estimates of each department. As the Member for Topsail noted, I probably asked more questions than almost anybody else on the Committee, of the various departments. I come quite prepared.

I asked the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs a number of questions. Again, give credit where credit is due, the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs is pretty well informed on what goes on in his department. He and I do not see eye-to-eye on occasion, and that may be something to do with personalities, I do not know, but I give credit to his staff in the department. Again, they come quite prepared to answer any questions, and they do answer the questions that are put forward to them. As I said, the minister and I, for some reason or other, seem to get each other going on occasion. That is something he has to learn to live with, and certainly I have learned to live with since I came into this House of Assembly and since he became minister.

When they were pushing amalgamation a few years ago, I did not agree with that. We have been at loggerheads on a number of issues over the past few years. One of the biggest, I suppose, or the most contentious, was the St. John's regional fire-fighting department that was set up by the minister - well, actually, it was not set up by the minister, it was the previous minister, but he certainly supported it - and the issue with respect to the regional fire-fighting in the town of Logy Bay - Middle Cove - Outer Cove. But now the Town of Logy Bay - Middle Cove - Outer Cove has written the minister and asked him for permission to get a loan to set up their own volunteer fire department. I would imagine that is the route they are going to take because, of course, the rates that are being charged to the Town of Logy Bay - Middle Cove - Outer Cove are outrageous, to say the least, and it seems like there is nothing they can do to stop it. The minister is certainly not going to step in and help out.

The Member for Topsail who spoke, the Chairman of the Board, spoke for something like forty-two minutes on this topic today and said that most members were pleased with the answers. I suppose that is a correct statement to make, that most members were pleased with the answers - not all members. I was pleased with some of the answers, but I was not pleased with other answers. I am not going to get into which I was pleased with and which I was not pleased with, but let me tell you there were some.

I have to address one issue. I wasn't going to, but the Member for Topsail brought it up. He talked about the twin ice surface that was applied for by the five towns in the district in the Northeast Avalon. When the minister was answering questions the other day he referred to one town, the Town of Torbay, which is not the case. The facility would have gone in the Town of Torbay, but it was an application by five towns, through the infrastructure program, for twin arenas in the Town of Torbay, which would be a true regional facility. The thing is that you have to compare this with this facility in Clarenville, which is nothing more than pure political patronage.

The minister, the other day, stood on his feet in this House of Assembly and made a statement that he had a letter from the Town of Clarenville supporting this facility. We know since then that the Town of Clarenville, and the council and the mayor, have been in the media making statements that they have opposed the facility in the Town of Clarenville, that the $1.43 million was not applied for - they didn't consider it to be applied for - through the infrastructure program, whereas the facility in the Northeast Avalon was applied for by five towns.

The minister produced a letter here in the House of Assembly on November 7, 1996, signed by the town clerk, to Mr. Bren Power. Now in the House today I made comments with respect to people in the area of Clarenville referring it to `Brenex', and the members on that side of the House could not pick up on it; they didn't understand where that was coming from, and `Powergate'.

For the record, I am going to read this letter. This is what the minister tried to use to cover up or to hide the fact of this pure political patronage. Here is the letter that he used in the House of Assembly on May 1:

Dear Mr. Power: Your presentation to council at their meeting on November 4, 1996, for a proposed sports complex for the Clarenville area was very interesting. A facility of this nature is something that is certainly needed and would be an asset to not only our town but the entire region. Council fully supports your project and your efforts in obtaining funding for the complex. Letters of support for your project will be sent to the appropriate agencies. In addition, lobbying with government departments to facilitate your application will be undertaken. We would like to commend you for your interest in providing athletic and recreational opportunities to our residents and would like to wish you well with the project. Sincerely... The town clerk signed it.

Obviously there was no mention of the infrastructure program in this letter. This letter was signed on November 7, 1996. The infrastructure program was not approved at that point in time; therefore, the council - when this went to government for approval, of course, the council did not even understand that this was going to be made through the infrastructure program, and they publicly stated it. So we have to question why it was approved. Now, of course, we know that. The minister says how it is up to the Town of Clarenville to say yes or no to that money, and there is a possibility of two other projects in various towns to which it is up to the councils to say yes or no. Therefore, there is no comparison between the two facilities.

Mr. Speaker, I had not planned to speak on that today but the Member for Topsail brought it up and I just wanted to get it clear.

Also, the Member for Topsail talked about this side of the House presenting petitions on parks, and he disagrees with the fact that we should be presenting petitions on parks in the House of Assembly. I say to the Member for Topsail that the people in the Province have a right to be heard on any issue on which they would like to be heard, and the privatization of parks is a very serious concern with many people in this Province.

The Member for Topsail also said that he couldn't agree with the government subsidizing $1.8 million for the -

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs on a point of order.

MR. A. REID: I think the hon. member is misleading this House in making statements pertaining to that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is trying to hear what -

MR. A. REID: Well, I certainly can't use the word l-i-a-r, so I am going to say that he is misleading the House.

Mr. Speaker, I offered to provide information -

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, I offered to provide information that would nullify what the hon. gentleman is saying in this House. I offered it earlier today but he has not taken the opportunity to come and ask me. I say to you quite honestly, I have a document in my hand, a presentation -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I will ask all hon. members on both sides of the House if they would give me the opportunity to hear the point of order that the hon. minister is presenting?

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, the point of order is that I don't think the hon. gentleman should be up making statements in the House knowing full well that information is available to him, contrary to the statements that he is making to this House. I have the information here in my hand. He made a statement referring to the sportsplex in Clarenville, he said the town council did not support it. I have proof here in my hand that it does. I say to the hon. member - come over and do what I asked him to do - come over and I will provide the information to you but to allow him to stand and continue to carry on this charade that he is carrying on is not right and it is not doing this House any justice.

Mr. Speaker, the letter to the council, `with council's commitment to facilitate our application for funds under the Canada-Newfoundland Infrastructure Program.' That is a letter addressed to the town council of Clarenville and in reply to that letter the town council of Clarenville wrote a letter -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. A. REID: - so I think he is misleading the House, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis, speaking to the point of order.

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, for a starter the member cannot use the words, `misleading the House' in this House of Assembly. I had to withdraw that the other day because I used it. Well I will tell you right here and now, Mr. Speaker, that that is the man who is misleading this House and deliberately misleading this House because two minutes ago I asked him for that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I will ask the hon. member to take his seat.

It has been ruled, in this hon. House, on a number of occasions that it is not unparliamentary to state that a member is misleading the House but it is absolutely and certainly unparliamentary to state that a member is intentionally misleading this House. So I will ask the hon. member to my right to withdraw.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, okay I withdraw. That member -

MR. SPEAKER: And I will ask that the member withdraw unconditionally.

MR. J. BYRNE: I unconditionally withdraw.

The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs is misleading this House. Five minutes ago in this House I asked that minister to give me a copy of that application. He just stood in this House, stood on his feet and said that I could have went over and got it but I did not ask for it. Now if that is not misleading the House, what is? That man is trying to be smart all along with respect to this issue. He knows whose political patronage is on this issue. He knows the political partisan politics that went on with that issue in this House of Assembly. He knows it but he will not admit it and everybody on that side of the House knows it because I had members from that side of the House come to me and say it.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the hon. member still speaking to the point of order or is he back to the debate?

MR. J. BYRNE: I want him to withdraw the remarks, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, to that point of order. The hon. gentleman is beside himself, he is getting excited and he is getting carried away because the facts, as the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs has given him, are irrefutable. He has given him the facts here today. He has offered to table everything in the House and now, Mr. Speaker, he jumps up on a point of order saying that it is unparliamentary to use the word, `misled.' Your Honour knows full well that it is in the rule book unparliamentary and parliamentary to use the word `misled.'

If you look in Beauchesne, pages 144-146, on page 146 you will see that it has been ruled unparliamentary to use misled or mislead. On page 148 you will see that it has been ruled parliamentary to use the phrase. It depends, Mr. Speaker, quite simply on the context in which the word is used. The hon. gentleman in this case - and I don't think anybody heard the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs say deliberately misled or knowingly misled or anything of that nature. The truth of the matter is, all he said was, `misled.' Mr. Speaker, I would say to you -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the Government House Leader that I have already ruled on that point of order.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the point of order raised by the hon. gentleman.

MR. SPEAKER: And I have ruled on that one as well.

MR. TULK: So you should not have allowed me to stand up.

MR. SPEAKER: Probably not.

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

Now back to that topic, Mr. Speaker. I am going to have to stand in my place a number of times today, obviously, to get this straightened out. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs knows that the facility -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. members time is up.

Is the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs standing to engage in a debate?

MR. A. REID: Yes, I am.

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. minister has ten minutes.

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis, on a point of order.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I have a meeting at 4:00 p.m. that I have to attend, I would appreciate if the minister would wait until I get back possibly 4:20 - 4:30, so I can hear his comments because he is going to say when I leave that I ran out and that is not the case, I have a meeting I have to attend to.

MR. SPEAKER: That is certainly not a point of order.

MR. J. BYRNE: I know that.

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

MR. A. REID: This is not a significant enough issue for me to worry about whether or not my hon. critic is in the House or not, to be honest about it. It is an issue, that at the present time, is being dealt with by the Town council in Clarenville and they will decide at the end of the day whether that project will go ahead or not and it will be the Town Council in Clarenville that will decide whether it was for patriotic reasons or patronage reasons or what ever you want to call it. It does not matter to me one way or the other.

MR. FITZGERALD: Little Catalina will get the money.

MR. A. REID: And you never know, Little Catalina might get the money.

The only thing about it is, let me say to the hon. member and I say to all the House, that if the money is not spent in Clarenville that $1.3 million, we have to wait until after the federal election is over to decide then where we are going to spend it. So, don't go getting anxious.

Mr. Speaker, I was caught in sort of a vise on Friday, a grip on Friday, in trying to appease and I suppose promote the idea that I have been promoting as the minister for the last four and a half years. Now, I would like to see municipalities have autonomy in what goes on in their communities and I have been preaching that around this Province with the sanction of the Premier, the sanction of Cabinet, the sanction of the Liberal Party, that we believe that municipalities should be the makers of their own destiny or whatever you want to say.

So, on Friday, I guess most of us heard there was a number of comments being made by the federation of municipalities and by some mayors around the Province and then in the local newspapers there was criticism of me and the government and patronage and all the other things that when along with it. My hon. critic over there did not help the matter any by abusing me, I suppose, on Thursday in the House on the issue. So, in consultation with my cabinet colleagues, we decided that look, if there is any town in the Province that did not want capital works or infrastructure money put anywhere, whether it be the private sector or their own, then speak now or forever hold your peace.

This morning, Mr. Chairman, he just left here a few moments ago, he was with me for this morning, the mayor of Gander came in, made a special trip in to see me and categorically, brought a letter saying that the federation of municipalities was not speaking for his town. The opposition critic was not speaking for his town. Sam Synyard or Randy Simms was not speaking for his town. He is the mayor of the town and he is the one who is designated to speak for his town and categorically he said, I want that $1.5 million and I do not care what anyone else says in the Province, Mr. Reid, I want it and I hope you live up to your commitment. No, problem. I send the man off, quite happy and I said, that is all I wanted to hear, put it in writing and I will reinstate the program in Gander.

Well, you can imagine what happened to me on the weekend, I happened to go home on Friday when all of this broke loose and of course Mel Peach, the illustrious mayor of Carbonear, a good friend of mine, my political foe, the man I defeated in 1989, who still professes walking up and down Water Street in Carbonear with a big PC banner on his back continuously day in and day out, day in and day out, if there is any patronage in any of this, Mr. Speaker, was the fact that I gave the Mayor of Carbonear, who is a PC, $2.4 million for a civic centre!

Now don't sit in this House and say that what I've done or what this government has done with capital works or infrastructure has anything to do with patronage, because that is malarkey and (inaudible).

I did say that the hon. Mayor Mr. Peach came to me and he said basically the same thing as the hon. Mr. Elliot from Gander said. Wanted a civic centre. No problem. My, what a relief on me. You remember last week I got up and apologized to this House for taking $2.4 million for a civic centre in Carbonear, but under my breath, Mr. Speaker, and I'm sure you never heard me, I said: But you aren't getting it back.

So Carbonear is back on track, Gander is back on track, and I'm hoping - and I'm not going to say very much about Clarenville, because as of last night at 8:00 the town council in Clarenville plus members of the Federation of Municipalities were served with a writ. Because they have been served with a writ I am not going to sit in this House and debate whether or not that was the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do in Clarenville. That is a situation now that has to be dealt with between the parties, the person who served the writ and those who he served it on. At this point in time I am not going to debate that question, whether it is right or wrong or indifferent, and to me it doesn't matter.

Because call a spade a spade. Whether or not Clarenville - (inaudible) hon. member was here - gets a $1.3 million sportsplex - oh, he is here - what difference does it make to me? What difference does it make to me if Clarenville gets a sportsplex? What difference does it make to me if Mount Pearl gets $900,000 in paving? God bless them. Wrap their arms around them. Let the MHAs and the people who are living in the area get up and clap their hands and say; Great! But basically, what does it mean to me, to a member who is living on the West Coast, other than the fact that it is adding to the infrastructure of the whole of the Province. Not particularly in Clarenville or in Carbonear or in Gander or in Marystown. It is adding to the total picture of the whole Province, and if it can make somebody within the whole Province a little happier and maybe create a few jobs, then I guess as a minister I have to take that responsibility.

I have here in front of me the proposal that was presented for the sportsplex. There are over thirty - I believe, I'm not sure, don't quote me - but I believe there are over thirty recommendations from groups and organizations all around the Clarenville area. I also have the two presentations, the one that was made to the town of Clarenville, and the one that was made to all the other town councils in the area, Glovertown and the other groups, that supported this proposal.

AN HON. MEMBER: Table it (inaudible).

MR. A. REID: I just gave your friend the copy. I have that. Mr. Speaker, I don't know why the Federation of Municipalities or anyone would question us on any of this. Because anybody who knows anything about the infrastructure program - and I'm going to tell you this, and this is a fact. Here is a standard application for infrastructure funding. This application was created by ACOA, the federal people in Ottawa. This is a federal application.

Just listen to this, here is what it says: Name of applicant, mailing address, postal code, contact person. Number one. Project information. Name of project, location of project, and, surprisingly enough, Mr. Speaker, it says here: What is council's priority? The first question that is asked on the infrastructure program application is: What is the council's priority? Whether it be private industry, whether it be council's application, it doesn't matter. What is council's priority? Written on this application was: Please see support letter.

Mr. Speaker, there is the support letter, and there, Mr. Speaker, is the presentation he made to get the support letter. Now I don't know what else I can provide to the hon. member across or to any of my good friends on that side and I will say that I made a mistake earlier today, Mr. Speaker, and I have to withdraw it for the record, for Hansard.

In answering a question earlier today, I said: That the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador supports it, the application; it was a sitting member of the House of Assembly, an MHA who supported the application, okay? I am not going to name that person. I do not have any problems and no intentions of naming that person, and I really don't think it makes a lot of difference but, I will say, Mr. Speaker, that if I were that member, whoever he might be, and something like that came in front of me whether that was Tory, Liberal or NDP or Communist, I would have supported it and I have no problems in saying that; and it would not have mattered to me and I think that is the way he looked at it as well.

So, Mr. Speaker, to say a few words about our Estimates, I sat in the House the other night, we had the Estimates done for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, that was finished in twenty minutes, a record time for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, and it took us approximately an hour-and-twenty minutes to do the Municipal and Provincial Affairs and as far as I was concerned at the time, Mr. Speaker, I answered all questions and those questions I could not answer, the answers will be provided to the members of the committee but I don't think there were any problems. In fact, Mr. Speaker, we did not start until seven o'clock and twenty minutes after eight, we were going out for coffee next door.

So, Mr. Speaker, we did have a good Estimates Committee meeting and I will say that the Chairman of the Committee and the Opposition members who sat, two of them, the Member for Conception Bay South and the Member for Cape St. Francis, they are versed in what is going on, they are people who were involved in municipal affairs for years themselves, asked some good questions and I think I gave some good answers, but the bottom line, Mr. Speaker, what hurts me more than anything else in the world and these fellows know, every hon. member knows in this House, there is no fairer person when it comes to trying to divvy up the few dollars we have and I have done that as often as I can.

Mr. Speaker, I was appointed as minister four years ago and let me say something to you, Mr. Speaker, prior to that -

AN HON. MEMBER: Almost four years.

MR. A. REID: No, longer than that. It is over four years isn't it? Four years and, Mr. Speaker, in those four years, not once did the Opposition ever stand in this House and say: the Liberal districts had more proportionately than the PC districts because my hon. friends across -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. A. REID: I will finish it up.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. A. REID: Okay. I will finish it up. - because the hon. members know that for twenty, twenty-five years in this House, every year when the capital works came out, it was the same story. The Liberals complained about the Tories taking all the money, the Tories complained about the Liberals taking all the money but since I have been here, I think I have been fairly free, fairly honest. Bonavista is a prime example when you look at all the money we put in Bonavista last year, not because the hon. member was a Progressive Conservative but we knew what was going on in Bonavista this year, we needed to put money in Bonavista.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) those dark days.

MR. A. REID: What dark days? You spent more time in my office, you walked into my office the other day and walked right into my main office and put your arms around me and told me the wonderful fellow I was and now, all of a sudden you are saying that, and the member can't deny that because the Member for Conception Bay South was with you, and the two of them - but I would not let him put his arms around me because I was afraid he would squat me to death, but that was beside the point so don't use that on me. I have been a fair minister.

Mr. Speaker, this whole question of the sportsplex in Clarenville rests now with the Town of Clarenville. When and if the Town of Clarenville writes me a letter saying that this can proceed, then I will, but I have no intention of going against the Town of Clarenville on this particular application. If the Town of Clarenville does not want this, then the Town of Clarenville is not going to have it.

Thank you very much, Sir.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker -

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, if I could, just for a minute, I would like leave of the House to move a motion that, rather than wait ten more minutes, that we not - I know it is customary to go back and forth across the House, but I would like leave, if I could, to introduce a motion that we not adjourn at five o'clock.

MR. SPEAKER: The House is familiar with the motion. All in favour?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yea.

MR. SPEAKER: Opposed?

Motion, carried.

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

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

I would like to stand just to make a few comments to what the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs just said, but before I do, I would like to preface what the Member for Bonavista said when he talked about the dark days when he wasn't allowed in the minister's office, and that is absolutely true. But it seems, from what the member has told me anyway, that since the last election there has been a significant change in attitude from the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. That has changed. Isn't that right? He said: What a change in an attitude, and what a change in one individual since the last provincial election.

I want to say that by way of record, and I am sure the Member for Bonavista South will articulate that as well.

The minister talks about the situation with Clarenville with respect to the sports arena, and he has tabled documentation, presentations that were made to his district, supporting letters that came from the town, etc., but the minister himself must have been surprised and somewhat shocked when he saw the news program the other night when the mayor of the town and people within the town said themselves: That was not our priority.

What he was saying, and what he has said here this afternoon, is absolutely true, and I have no reason to doubt that it is - no reason whatsoever - and I am certainly not going to say that it is not, but he must have been as surprised and shocked as anybody else when the people of Clarenville, when he saw the mayor on saying: This is not our priority. We have roads that need to be paved. We have infrastructure that needs to be put in the ground. We have a tremendous need for a health care facility for seniors in the area.

On the one hand you cannot stand up and criticize a member for asking a question when publicly he has seen, and is critic for that minister, what the leadership within the municipality said publicly and what the minister had said the day before were contrary to each other. There is nothing irresponsible about asking that question. As a matter of fact it was fairly responsible, I would submit to the minister. I hope that the clarifications that the minister himself has put forward today, and the documentation that he has tabled before the House, certainly clears up the issue, but time will tell. Time will certainly tell.

Mr. Speaker, on infrastructure, it is an important issue and there is no way that any government, I suppose, could ever in one budgetary year garner all the money required to solve everyone's infrastructure problems, but it is very, very difficult for people to see sportsplexes announced, and other recreational things announced. I understand the frustration, and it should be noted, and I am sure all hon. members do, especially those who are representing districts where the needs are significant and where the needs are great, where sewage is running in the streets, running in ditches, where there are not safe water systems, where some water reservoirs in the area certainly are not up to scratch because of what is running into them. We have seen that over the last three or four years. So when people see an infrastructure program that is announced, and we see it going into areas other than basic infrastructure, obviously there are concerns.

What is wrong, I say to you, Mr. Speaker, and to members of the House, with articulating those concerns here in the House of Assembly to the appropriate ministers who are responsible? If it further highlights the issue, if it further brings attention to it so that the explanations provided are clearer than what they previously were, then so be it; the process has been served.

We go through it in the Public Accounts Committee. The Auditor General, in many ways, shapes and forms, outlines her concerns - the present one - of either Crown corporations or government departments, and provides recommendations. Sometimes they are scathing, but we have found ourselves, I say to my hon. vice-chair, that in the exchange of questioning, the asking of pertinent questions and frank questions, that the answers we receive sometimes are not in line with what the Auditor General has put forward, and the same analogy can be applied to the House of Assembly here. When members ask question - today as an example, some thought that some questions were not very serious.

But if you had 400 or 500 people who are being affected, well they are serious. There is nothing wrong with asking the questions. If government is so competent and so confident in its belief that the decisions it has made are the most appropriate and are on the priority areas as it sees fit, as it thinks they are, and believes they are, well then it further highlights that issue or any other issue. It brings more attention to the fact that a decision has been made, and made for either the appropriate reasons or not the appropriate reasons. Where decisions have not been made for the appropriate reasons, then people have to answer for that. But where they are made for the appropriate reasons, fair enough. That is the way this process works, or at least is supposed to work.

I say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs that when the Member for Cape St. Francis as municipal and provincial affairs critic stands in the House and asks a question related to a particular sports complex, in a particular district, this district being in the Clarenville - Trinity North area, based upon public comments made by municipal leaders that it is not something they wanted, then he did the job he should be doing. If he didn't do it he wouldn't be responsible.

I can't say that for the Minister of Education. I'm going to leave him for another ten minutes, about 4:45 p.m., if he is here at all. This is a minister by the way, Mr. Speaker, who takes great enjoyment of administering probably one of the biggest budgets in government, second biggest next to Health, on its way to become the third or fourth biggest if he continues the way he is going.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Well, may be, if he is allowed to continue the way he is going. Takes great enjoyment -

MR. H. HODDER: Out of inflicting misery on the children of Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. E. BYRNE: No, I wouldn't say that, wouldn't go that far. I'm biased but I'm not that biased, I say to my colleague for Waterford Valley. I'm very partisan, but not to the extent that I will make derogatory comments about individuals. In terms of his professional approach, it seems to me as a member in this Legislature, and as a person in the Province, that he is taking great enjoyment out of absolving himself of the responsibilities that he was elected and appointed to do.

Viable schools in the Province, setting up councils around the Province to, on the one hand, what would seem practising the politics of inclusion. What would seem to be and what has been directed to be practising the politics of inclusion, by involving stakeholders. But he hasn't let the boards be elected yet. He hasn't made any public announcement on when that is going to take place. But what happens when the Minister of Education stands up and says: I didn't close your school, and the Premier stands up in Grand Falls and says: It wasn't me who closed your school, it was the school council that closed your school.

AN HON. MEMBER: Board.

MR. E. BYRNE: School board that closed your school, sorry. Thank you for the correction, I say to the minister. It was the school board that closed your school. They go to the school board, people in different areas around the Province in rural Newfoundland, and they take on the school board. They say: The Minister of Education and government told us that you closed our school. The school board says: We didn't close your school, government took funding away, they closed your school. I mean, it is like some of the football games I've witnessed. It is the quickest hand off of responsibility that I've ever seen.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: More teachers going, according to your speech down to the NLTA, from what I hear. Don't get afraid, get afraid now, I was told you said.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Get frightened. Oh. I didn't mean to quote you out of context. I certainly apologize to the minister for that. I hope I carried the spirit of what you said. Get frightened now. I understand you took your speech on the way down and you were wondering: Should I read this speech or should I do something else? Went to the speech, and I'm going to lay it on the line to them. That is what you did, wasn't it? Another 1,000 teachers over the next three years. Maybe not so bad, though.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, I'm asking. Maybe not so bad, because of the heightening of the Canada Health and Social Transfer Act but still a significant realignment coming. What we are seeing today is not even close to what is going to take place over the next two or three years.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's called being honest.

MR. E. BYRNE: No it is not. It is not called being honest at all. It is called not telling all the facts. It is called presenting one part of a little picture, that is what it is called. It is called deferring responsibility to people who should not have it in the first place, that is what it is called. It is called government spin-doctoring. You know all about it, I say to the minister. This is a minister -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Well it is one, Sir, that you practice well, I will tell you that, very, very well. This is the same minister who today said to the Government House Leader: ask the question again Harvey, you love to talk. This is the same minister who says to Harvey Hodder, the Member for Waterford Valley: ask again Harvey, you know how to talk. Let me tell you, if there is one man in this House who knows somebody else who knows how to talk it is the Minister of Education. Even his own colleagues would have to agree. I have watched him, Mr. Speaker, I have watched him for four years. I have been his critic on a couple of occasions and again now. I have watched him coach new ministers, with not a great deal of success I will add. On some occasions yes but for the most part no. I am not going to get into who and all that sort of stuff but if there is one member who knows how to go on and on and on it is that member right there.

MR. H. HODDER: Better than me.

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, I have to say to my colleague from Waterford Valley, even better than you, Sir. Even better than the member and it takes fifteen minutes to say good morning to him -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. E. BYRNE: - I can't imagine how long it would take to say good morning to you, I can't imagine. Sorry, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

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

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just a few minutes to participate in the concurrence debates that was my privilege to serve as part of the Government Services Committee that reviewed the estimates concern. I think the matters were dealt with expeditiously and certainly I would like, on behalf of the committee and myself, to thank and commend the different ministers and their staffs for the fine manner in which they presented the facts and responded to the questions which were raised.

My colleague, the Member for Cape St. Francis, in his opening remarks made reference to the fact that we on this side of the House who sit in the back-benches really, in participating in these committees, just really sit there, ask set questions and really don't participate. Just to respond to that for just a second if I could. I find very often members opposite engage in that sort of rhetoric in terms of referencing the members in the back-benches that somehow the people who sit here, who come in out of genuine concern for their districts and certainly each and every one of them are doing their utmost to represent to the best of their ability the people who sent them here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SMITH: I do at times find it somewhat offensive that people opposite are constantly throwing barbs, questioning their motives and challenging, `Why don't you stand up and speak out?' As if it takes great courage to stand up and always be speaking out and taking the only good side on every issue that is out there. I mean seeing which way a parade is running, then jumping out in front and leading it. I don't see personally that that takes a great amount of courage. The hon. members opposite who have talked on a number of issues in recent days, issues that each and every one of us have had to deal with in our own constituency. For example, to stand up and to berate and to castigate someone opposite for not having done what some hon. member feels that he or she should have done is not too difficult to do. To always be in a situation where you feel you can be on the right side of every issue.

In my own district there are issues that I have had to contend with. Meeting with parents and students of a school that is being closed is not pleasant. Going and sitting down with these people and listening to their concerns and seeing the pain and concern in their faces is not easy, and I certainly sympathize with every hon. member who has to do that. But, also, what we have to realize is that being part of government means giving leadership and making some very difficult decisions and making some difficult choices, choices that are not always easy. It is very difficult to have to be confronted with that sort of thing, but it is something that has to be done.

I envy members opposite that you do not have to take those kinds of difficult stands, that you do not have to be out there in the forefront, bearing the brunt of the kinds of opposition that a lot of the other hon. members here do - and then, to have to sit down here opposite and listen to some hon. members like the Member for Cape St. Francis saying: Well, really, we do not hear from them, they do not say anything.

One of the other things I learned very early in life, as well, that I was taught, and I guess it has become a part of my own personal philosophy, is that you only stand and speak if you feel you have something worthwhile to say. It is too bad sometimes that everybody does not subscribe to that, because I think sometimes that perhaps -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SMITH: I think if we all did that -

MR. H. HODDER: (Inaudible).

MR. SMITH: I say to the hon. the House Leader, if you want to participate in the debate, I am sure you will have your opportunity, and I am sure you will be able to do so from your position. The only point I am making is this: I do not question the motives of anyone in this hon. House. I respect that everyone who has been sent here from whatever district they were sent from, they had the respect of the constituents who made that decision, who sent them here because they felt that here was the person who could best represent them at this point in time. I never question the motives of anyone, whether he be opposite or whether he sits on this side of the House. I respect them for who they are and what they are trying to do, and I think, in that context, I just wanted to state that, Mr. Speaker. Personally, from time to time, I find it rather offensive that we get these broad, striking statements saying: Well, why do you not speak out more? Why do you not stand up? I can tell you that, personally, I do not feel that I need to take lessons from anyone when it comes to taking a stand on a certain issue. I have done that the whole of my life, and I certainly will continue to do it as long as the people in the district that I represent choose to continue to send me here to serve them.

Mr. Speaker, speaking to the issues that were dealt with at the Committee stage and the departments that we reviewed, there is no question, I mean, all of us - for example, when I look at my district in terms of the needs that we have and the kinds of things that I want to see happening there, I am not fully satisfied that every department of government at this time around, dealt with me in a way that I am happy with. I would have loved to have had more money from the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs; I envy my colleague from Clarenville with all of the money that he has. But perhaps, at this point in time, the needs of his district have been determined to be greater than mine.

Also, in terms of Works, Services and Transportation, I represent a district - and I sympathize with the hon. the Member for Baie Verte when he stands and speaks about the situation in his area. It is not very pleasant when you have people travelling over roads that are not in good condition. I can relate to that because I have travelled over such roads for the whole of my life and I still do it today and we try - I guess I am grateful this time around that we are beginning to address some of the serious concerns that we have with regard to the condition of the roads in my district.

I remember last year in speaking to my constituents - when last year's total budget, I think, was $6 million for the whole of the Province, I remember being at a function out in my district where someone asked what was happening in our district this year. Well, my response was that I needed the full $6 million and they could not give it all to me, so we did not get anything. But I mean, it was true, because really, the $6 million that we had last year in total, I could have used in my district, and it would not have solved all of the problems that I had. I am sure there are many districts around that are into similar conditions, and we recognize that we do have some significant needs out there. The only thing that we can hope is that we are gradually working towards that.

Mr. Speaker, the only thing that I am grateful for, in the time that I have been part of this political process - and it certainly was not something that I came into blindly. This was not an easy decision or something that I got up some day - as, I am sure, with all hon. members here, it was something you thought long and hard about before you made the decision.

People have said to me, `You do not have to be crazy to be in this business, but there are times that it helps.' Certainly, I guess, right now in this time in our history, there are times and there are days when you are so battered that when you fall into bed in the evenings you kind of have second thoughts as to whether or not your previous existence does not all of a sudden look awfully appealing.

Mr. Speaker, back in my home, where I still have my principal residence, from my home and the office that I have in my home, I can look out and see the school where I was principal for twenty-two years. I can tell you, there are days that I am there and I am inundated with a number of concerns that are coming at me from my constituents as well as from other issues throughout the Province, when I look out at the school, it looks awfully appealing. There are times that you are almost tempted to go up and knock on the door and ask: Do you have a job here? Is my position still here?

Mr. Speaker, seriously, we have gotten into this because all of us genuinely feel that we want to be part of trying to improve the situation here in this Province, that we want to be part of the process that is going to turn things around. The thing is, we can sit here day after day and talk about what went wrong in the past, but we will accomplish nothing as long as we continue to dwell on the past. What is past is past. What we have to be concerned about is what we are going to do as legislators tomorrow, the day after that, and the day after that. We are the ones now who can make the difference. We have to accept what happened before us. We cannot change that. That is the way history is. This is it; we accept what we find today, but we try to move on and try to improve on that.

As to where, I guess, the crystal ball gazing, we have people in this Province who are self-proclaimed experts, and we all have occasion from time to time to see them, whether it is in the media or wherever, who can really crystal ball gaze and tell us, `This is where we should have been six months ago.' Well, from what I remember from my early days, and especially as a child, when I was concerned with matters dealing in magic - and it is too bad I did not excel at it, because there are some people around today whom it would be great if you could make them disappear. But, unfortunately, I guess we grow beyond that. The thing is, I always thought, gazing into the crystal ball, that you were looking forward. You were forward-looking and you wanted to see what was coming down the road. Really, you did not need a crystal ball to see what happened six months ago. That was pretty obvious and apparent to everyone.

Mr. Speaker, there is no one denying, no one on this side of the House and nobody in my district - I represent a district that has some significant challenges; there is no question. The district that I represent has not known prosperity since the mid-sixties when the American base in Stephenville closed down. That is in excess of thirty years. We have had people out there who have struggled on and have battled to try to improve their lot for the last thirty years, and it has not been easy. And, yes, we have lost some battles and we have not won a lot. We have had a lot of our young people leave the area.

For example, I was talking to my hon. friend just a few days ago about the situation in my district as it relates to school closures. And when I spoke to the parents and students some weeks ago dealing with the announced school closure in my district, I related to them: When I first went principal of the school in Lourdes, my hometown, back in 1970, I was principal of a K-VIII school. There were 721 students. I left that school in 1993, when I came here to sit in this hon. House. At that time it was a K-VI school and there were less than 200 students.

So, yes, there is no question, there are factors that have been happening and have been impacting on us in the last number of years. In my own communities the populations are in decline. Coupled with that, an area that was recognized for years as having large families, that is no longer the norm. Right now a family of one or two children is the norm in Port au Port just as it is anywhere else in the Province. These things do impact upon us and they do present, in and of themselves, significant challenges insofar as they contribute towards the kinds of situations in which we find ourselves.

Mr. Speaker, the one thing that I am grateful for - and even in the darkest days when I was out working as a volunteer in Port au Port, serving as President of the Port au Port Economic Development Association, trying to attract development to our area, the one thing that I always was able to sustain, and I would hope it is something that all of us are able to be, is that I have always been happy with the fact that I am by nature an optimist. I think that is the one thing, when I talk to Newfoundlanders generally, because I have never in all of my days ever spoken to anyone from the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador who does not genuinely believe that things will be better tomorrow.

I very seldom talk to people who have been dealing in absolute despair. Most of the people that I talk to can see light at the end of the tunnel. They can see that there are better days ahead. And, Mr. Speaker, today, as I look to the future of this Province and as I look at the kinds of developments that I see on the horizon, I think there are more reasons now than there have been for a long while, for all of us to be optimistic.

I think one of the challenges for us is to try to instill and to carry that feeling of optimism beyond this House to the districts that we represent, because I genuinely feel that there are better days ahead. We are coming through a very difficult time, there is no question, there is no one denying that. I would be the last person to try to convince the people of my district that all is well, and I do not try to do that. I talk to them and I share with them the pain and concern that they have. I also, try to pass on to them that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that there are better days ahead and if we hang in there and if we hang together, then we are going to see ourselves through the challenges in which we presently find ourselves.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I am always interested to hear the Member from Port au Port when he stands on his feet, because I think he comes to issues with a great deal of sincerity. I understand the frustration he has articulated today, because I feel it, too, as a member in this House. I felt it when twenty to thirty people came to me about two years ago, about jobs on the Hibernia site. They were qualified industrial electricians, who could not get on that site, while people from outside the Province who were brought in by a contractor, were put to work ahead of them, when they were clearly qualified. I understand that frustration. But what is even more frustrating, I say to the member, is when you articulate those concerns here - and as a member on this side of the House, I do not have the responsibility, because the people of the Province have not given it to me. The responsibility they have given to me, as a member of the Opposition, is to raise issues in this House that are of a concern to them, critically, in a way and in a fashion that puts the question to government, that makes government explain why they have made a certain decision.

I think there are many times, I say to the member and all members, that serious questions are raised by this member and other members, too, but I can only speak for myself, when issues are put to the floor that are of a very important concern to the people of the Province. When the facts, as they are, for all to see, not ones that I have fabricated or not ones put forward, but ones as they are, and somehow, over the course of time, resolution has not been brought forward.

When I look at decisions made by the Canadian Offshore Petroleum Board, with respect to that decision on Ozark Engineering, when people in this Province, who had no work, who are clearly qualified, who had no income, who had no UI benefits, and we saw government stand by and not take the appropriate action to ensure that they got it - yes, I am frustrated with that. And I do not mind standing in this House and asking questions on those people's behalf, and I do not consider, I say to the member, I do not consider myself irresponsible or being not an optimist by asking those questions, because they need to be asked.

I also share the member's concern about the process - and it must be difficult. I have said many times, and I mean this sincerely, it has to be the most difficult position in this House, to sit as a member of government and not be a member of Cabinet. Now, that does not mean that you cannot represent your constituents. That does not mean that members are not working diligently in a very constructive way, and it does not mean that members are not putting in seventy to eighty hours a week, like I would assume most of us do, but is has to be the most difficult position. I mean, there is some sense that is not here, that should be here. There is some sense of oneness that does not exist in this place. I have seen it rarely in four years. Maybe the member for Bonavista North has seen it more, I do not know. But there are forty-eight of us here, and I do not think there is enough degree - I agree with you. I do not think the structure of this Assembly allows for enough interaction between members. And it is not always either us or them - none of us have a monopoly on what best represents the interests of the Province, none of us.

At the same time, from the position where I sit here, and members here, we have a responsibility, too, to ask questions. Sometimes they are not probably put forward in the best manner. And it is not only members on this side of the House, but members on all sides of the House, who impute motives to other people. That is the nature of politics. But as I said earlier, and I will reiterate, if questions are asked, whether in Question Period or not, clearly, in asking them, they raise the issue or it should raise the concern and the issue that we are talking about to a higher level, such that, if decisions have been made appropriately, fair enough, and nobody should be embarrassed about that. Nobody should be embarrassed about asking them, whatsoever, and nobody should be embarrassed about answering them.

Simple, you would think. Some of the greatest debates and issues that are raised in this House of Assembly never get covered publicly. The most important stuff that we do here comes from legislation. It is not Question Period, in my mind, but it comes from legislation. We have sat down here and debated many bills in the last four years. The Member for Port au Port and I were elected the same time, May 4 1993, four years ago on Saturday past. He has participated in many of the bills that have come before the House, which are really the essence of government, which show what government's priorities are, which clearly establish what priorities government have established for themselves, and show what direction government is going in. But I am sure he would agree, as would other members, new and old, that the majority of the debates that take place in this House which should be covered are not covered. That is where some of the greatest debates have taken place, and some where the most serious concerns have been raised on a number of issues.

The privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Computer Services, was a bill that had tremendous debate in the House, and at the end of the day was an example of where suggestions made from here on this side of the House to government were implemented and supported. Debate on Hydro is another example of where public debate took place in a long-term fashion over an extended period of time, but it was important for it to take place. Because the will of the people was expressed in this Assembly. I know at the time, too, that there were many members on the opposite side who spoke their minds just as eloquently, just as forcefully, behind the scenes as members did on this side publicly. I understand that, and I respect the role that you had to play on that specific piece of legislation.

So, I share the member's frustration. When he says that nobody talks about a better tomorrow, I understand that, I understand where you are coming from. That is what you called reality, that you are talking about; that is what you call truthfulness, that you have talked about; that is what you call complete and abject honesty to the people of the Province, what you put forward today.

The Minister of Health - and I do not mind saying it, I am not being political. If four weeks ago, the Minister of Health had stood and said: Yes, there is somewhat of a crisis in health care. We understand that. We are going to do whatever we can to implement changes to ensure that it will be taken care of - half of the public discontent on that issue today would not be happening. If he had stood and admitted that because of the Budget, and because of the free-fall in equalization payments coming to this Province on the Canada Health and Social Transfer Act, and it has put the system to such a point where things are starting to crack -then there would not be half the public concern today. But you cannot stand, I say to the member and all members, on one hand, and publicly say that there is no crisis in a certain situation, when clearly there exists one, with any degree of credibility. You cannot - it is impossible to do. Because the people on the ground who are in the system know the difference, and sooner or later that comes out.

I will clue up by saying I understand what the member has said, and I share many of his concerns. I hope I have shared some of mine with him, because they are important issues, and we do, all of us, bring a deal of sincerity here. I do not question why people got into politics. I know why I did. I did not even plan it. If someone had to tell me five years ago that I would have spent the last four years in this Chamber as the Member for Kilbride, I would have told them they were absolutely nuts because I did not see it coming. Situations sometimes line up and make decisions, you put your foot forward and it is some privilege that people in the district elect each and every one of us to come here and represent them to the best of our ability. I have had that privilege like other members. Two elections and I hold that privilege. I try not to abuse it. I try to deal with it in the best way that I can representing to the best of my ability, first and foremost, the concerns that are raised to me from the district and secondly, as critic in the Opposition who has a legitimate and effective role to play in the governing of this Province. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

AN HON. MEMBER: Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. E. BYRNE: No, Waterford Valley it is.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. Waterford Valley, thank you.

MR. H. HODDER: The beautiful Waterford Valley. People who have great, great common sense there to elect the member.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon to have a few comments. I have enjoyed the exchanges between the hon. Member for Port au Port and the Member for Kilbride. I would like to say to both of them, and as my colleague just mentioned a few minutes ago, that it was four years ago on Saturday past that three of us anyway, were first elected.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the Member for Port au Port that we on this side understand the role that is played by all members opposite. I think we understand the frustrations of the members in the back-benches however we also have to say that we on this side have a responsibility, as part of the British democratic system, to put forward issues.

I was surprised that the member apologized that the better tomorrow was not going to come very quickly. We probably suspect that because since the election of last year there has been gradual putting into the future the better tomorrow as any eight-year-old would tell you that the word `tomorrow' is a day that never, ever comes.

When the people of this Province elected the members opposite a year and a few months ago, they expected some delivery of a better tomorrow a lot sooner than years and years. Therefore the people of the Province expect some delivery on a better tomorrow. They don't want to wait until the people who are now in school are grandparents for it to happen.

Mr. Speaker, therefore the better tomorrow was intended to be somewhat in the immediate future. Yet when we see the cutbacks that have occurred in the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs by way of municipal operating grants, and the statement in the Budget that next year they are going to take the municipal operating grants and decrease them by 20 per cent every year until there is no such thing as a municipal operating grant, then we have to ask: What is that going to do for a better tomorrow?

In the Budget, in the three-year program, we read into the Budget Speech this year what the consequences are going to be for municipalities two and three years from now, five years from now. When you look at the money that is there now for municipalities by way of MOGs, and then you read the statement made by the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, you have to have concerns. We are responsible to raise those concerns in this House. Therefore that is what we do in the Estimates Committee. We ask the government to look at the consequences to the municipalities, particularly those smaller municipalities.

My colleague for Baie Verte mentioned in the House the other day the fact that he has thirty-one communities in his district, and to get to something like eighteen or nineteen of them you have to go over dirt roads. That says there is a great need in that district. Therefore I say to the government members opposite that when we are apportioning infrastructure money, it is difficult for the Member for Baie Verte to stand here and to be complimentary to that process. Difficult for that member, because he knows that every time he goes to visit his district he is faced with those problems. Perhaps in this Province, with maybe one or two exceptions, in some parts of Labrador I'm sure, this member has probably the highest proportion of his local roads that are still gravel roads.

I cannot speak for the fact that I do know that the district has changed its structure a bit. There is a lot of the area that is now included in that district that was not included before. In fact, I understand that the configuration of the district has changed dramatically. Whether that is the factor -

MR. GRIMES: Territory now covered by Tom Rideout and Brian Peckford and neither one of them paved the roads (inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Both of them.

Therefore, I say to the government opposite, when my colleague here stands up and says that he is not happy with the amount of infrastructure, he is speaking very sincerely. He is a very dedicated member for his district, very much involved in the district. In fact, I visited the district just yesterday. I was in the District of Baie Verte for a reason that is probably not well known but certainly deals with a family matter.

MR. GRIMES: It didn't attract a lot of media attention.

MR. H. HODDER: No, it was a family matter and therefore would not.

Mr. Speaker, I do say to members, however, that when you look at other things that were included in the budget this year you have to be concerned. For example, the present cost-sharing structure of 65 per cent provincial versus 35 per cent municipal has changed as well. The new municipal share of debt servicing cost for municipal water and sewer will be increased from its present level of $343 per household to $400 per household in 1998 and a further $50 per household each of the two years to $500 per household by the year 2000.

Mr. Speaker, what that means is that the cost of getting local services is going to be more and more the responsibility of the local resident. Saying that cost is going to go from $343 per household for the local cost for municipal infrastructure in a larger community, from $343 to $500 over the next few years, is not unreasonable, you might say, if the local economy can support it; but when you have communities that have 80 per cent and 90 per cent unemployment, and you say to them: We will put in water and sewer, basic services, but you are going to have to come up with more money and we are going to be adding more and more to that over the next number of years, you have to ask yourself: Is government really committed to rural Newfoundland?

Mr. Speaker, I do want to compliment the government on one thing. They do have a commitment to cleaning up the St. John's harbour, and I was pleased to see funding put in there for that. I want to give recognition though, that the incentive for that money came from municipalities. It was not until the municipalities said: we are going to put in money from the infrastructure program, that the federal and the provincial governments decided that they would try to match it.

So, Mr. Speaker, I say to the municipalities of this area, particularly St. John's, Mount Pearl and Paradise that they did put forward their money, they did recognize that there was a need to make a local commitment and some of them have put forward some of their infrastructure monies and some of their local taxation revenues, put forward to clean up the mess in St. John's harbour, we commend them for that.

Mr. Speaker, there is a whole lot of other things that we wanted to address in this particular set of estimates, we have got the whole issue of the proposal to privatize, on an experimental basis, road maintenance under Works, Services and Transportation. There is still a great deal of uncertainly about that program. The minister has said that she wants to do that without having any layoffs and that kind of thing and we kind of wonder about that because once you privatize something, after a while you are not going to have a great deal of control over how much will occur by way of layoffs and restructuring and these kinds of changes that will occur.

Mr. Speaker, we want to say to the government that when they restructure, they should be looking as well at the human costs. People are going to be laid off, people are going to loose their jobs and as the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs said when he looked at the Town of Trepassey some weeks ago, he said that he knew down there that no jobs meant that houses were virtually unmarketable and so when you look at a local community like Trepassey, where there is such a high level of unemployment, there is certainly a great deal of concern.

So, we really question the commitment of the government of this Province to rural Newfoundland. The people of rural Newfoundland are very concerned about it and when you see the cutbacks that have been announced by the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs we think that that certainly gives them great cause for concern, great fear that their lifestyle is in jeopardy.

So, Mr. Speaker, I want to comment on these few things and maybe if I could just flick the pages here for a few moments, particularly this applies to municipal and provincial affairs, will find that we have some other things happening as well.

Mr. Speaker, last year we had the policy of the government when it virtually scrapped the planning division of urban and rural planning. That used to be a significant component. I'm afraid that in some parts of this Province today we already see some of the consequences of scrapping that particular division.

We say to the minister today that one of the big things that is happening in rural Newfoundland today, and throughout the Province, is the consequence of not being able to enforce, not being able to give the kind of support to rural Newfoundland, to smaller municipalities, by way of planning, that we used to give a few years ago. We still have a broad planning perspective, but on an individual basis for municipalities we don't have these kinds of capacities any more. So scrapping the whole -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. H. HODDER: - planning initiative that took many years to build up is going to be, I do believe, a long-term detriment to municipalities in the Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: I understand we are into ten and ten. The hon. member's time has expired.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. H. HODDER: Just to clue up, to say that, just talking again about municipal affairs, that the long-term plan to do away with the MOGs, the scrapping of the planning department, the raising of the household components to $343 for water and sewer costs, to $500 over the next three years, all of these things are causes for concern. It is going to make it less attractive to be able to provide infrastructure services in municipalities.

While we believe that some municipalities should pay a greater share of their costs, we know that the minister is well aware many municipalities in this Province are bankrupt. They would not meet the test if they were tested on any scale of bankruptcy. They would fail and therefore have to go under. I think the minister said one day in the House that there are over 100 municipalities that really should, if they were in private business, be declared as financially bankrupt. Therefore, how can we expect to make rural Newfoundland attractive if our smaller communities aren't being supported by the government?

Mr. Speaker, with these few comments I will yield to one of my colleagues.

 

May 6, 1997              HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS              Vol. XLIII  No. 20A


 

[Continuation of Sitting]

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

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

Mr. Speaker, today I stand once again to say a few words on the Concurrence Debate on the Government Services Estimates Committee meetings. I was speaking an hour or so earlier on this very topic and I had to give way to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, sobeit but, Mr. Speaker, since I was up speaking the Member for Port au Port was on his feet and made a few comments I think that need to be clarified. What I said when I was on my feet with respect to the meetings and the members on the back benches on that side of the House not speaking was that they don't speak as often as members on this side of the House. That is a fact, Mr. Speaker. I say to the Member for Port au Port if he can name one individual or one backbencher on that side of the House that speaks as much as the least person that speaks on this side of the House, the person who speaks the least, I withdraw my remarks and sobeit.

With respect to the committee meetings here, again, Mr. Speaker, I am doing my job as an MHA elected to represent the people of my district and the people in this Province. I ask questions. I ask many, many questions, Mr. Speaker, and look for answers for the people in the Province. If the member can honestly stand on his feet - I assure you that the record will show, if you go back to the minutes of the meetings and see who asks the most questions, Mr. Speaker, I will venture to say that it was the Member for Cape St. Francis and the Member for Conception Bay South. So therefore what I was stating is factual to the point, no ifs, ands or buts about it, Mr. Speaker. So if he can counter that I withdraw, Mr. Speaker.

Now, when I was speaking earlier, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Topsail had spoken just before me and I was about to get into this when I sat down the last time when I took my place. The Member for Topsail was on his feet talking about the petitions that the people on this side of the House are presenting with respect to the privatization of parks. He was basically saying that we should not be presenting these petitions because there are other issues in the Province that are more serious. I agree with the member, Mr. Speaker, there are some very serious issues in this Province, health care being one and that is one of the ones that the Member for Topsail - I will not even read that note, Mr. Speaker, it is not worth the paper it is written on.

Mr. Speaker, the health care in this Province and the Member for Topsail referred to that. Now obviously it is a very important issue but, Mr. Speaker, when people present petitions to us we are going to present them in this House of Assembly. Now the member made a comment: How could we support the government subsidizing the parks at $1.8 million? Where are they going to get the money? Now here is a few places where they can get their money. First of all, people are paying taxes for all services in this Province and there are various people using various services all the time and that is why they are paying taxes.

Now he says, `it is the Opposition's role to oppose' and obviously it is our role to oppose. That is the democratic system but we have constructive criticism here, Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House oft-times. Now he mentioned that there was $550 million interest - Roads to Rails, $400 million lost every fifteen years. Now this is what he is going to hang his cap on, Mr. Speaker, $400 million every fifteen years. Now we have a previous administration here, Mr. Speaker, that we are losing $800 million a year.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. J. BYRNE: Because the Province was not -

AN HON. MEMBER: Can you tell us where we can get the money?

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, I can tell you where you can get the money or where you should have gotten the money. I am getting to that. The Trans City affair, members on that side of the House constantly bring up certain things on this side of the House that the previous administration did ten or twelve years ago. Now, Mr. Speaker, but here we have Trans City affair strip $5 million right off the top. Now that does not include legal fees and -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I am telling you now where you should have the money where you would not be in the mess you are in today if you would have had the proper administration.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education, on a point of order.

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, I was just listening very intently to the hon. member and I am sure that he said that he would lay out for us, where we could get the money and I assume that that is in the present tense, like today, where we can get some money and I understand now that he has changed his mind and he is going to tell us where we could have gotten some money, like a hundred years ago, instead of where we can get some money today. I just followed it intently and wondered if he is going to follow up on his line -

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order and the Chair has reasonable confidence that sometime during the debate the minister may get the answers he is looking for.

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I will address that question in due course.

Now, the Trans City affair, Mr. Speaker, `affair' we should have called it, $5 million a year. I stand corrected, I said $5 million a year, that is incorrect. It was $5 million off the top that went out that should not have been paid out. That $5 million there and apparently over the life of the program, this could be as much as $40 million down the tubes from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Atlantic Leasing; now we know that the courts just recently ruled that there is going to be upwards of $7 or $8 million there that the government may very well have to pass out and quite possibly could even go up to maybe $10 to $13 million, Mr. Speaker, now we are talking $18 million. We have many, many public tender exemptions worth millions of dollars. Cabot 500 celebration where they wasted money on that, the Cabot 500 celebrations are probably a very good venture overall to attract tourist to the Province, but we know now that there were areas there where money could have been saved.

Mr. Speaker, as I said the Cabot Corporation spent $88,443 for brochures that were never used, $176,235 for a television commercial apparently that was never televised. Now, Mr. Speaker, there is where some money can be gotten.

This just comes down a bit further and further, travel, hundreds of thousands of dollars that we know of. Attempts to privatize Hydro a couple of years ago, upwards of $20 million. Not one job created, not a job created, $20 million. Now these are the type of things that have been happening with this administration since 1989. Now, underfunded liability for pay equity program, upwards of $60 to $80 million right there, Mr. Speaker. The HST deal, over $100 million there that is going to cost the tax payers of this Province, that they are going to have to come up with in due course and of course there are other little things that I will not need to mention. So, we are looking at $100 maybe $220, $230 million. Now, Mr. Speaker, if you put that over eight years, you are looking at $15, $20, $30, $25 million a year. Now, if you look at the situation over the past few years, that is $25 million average, so that is $25 million a year that they have that addresses the Minister of Educations concern.

Mr. Speaker, what we have going on in this Province today is probably the improper or what is the right work, misuse, that is not even the correct word, I suppose.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The abuse of the system, the abuse of the financial revenues of this Province, that is what we have happening in this Province today and they are looking for money, the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, the other day asked where he was going to get some money to give to the municipalities. I see the Minister of Education making notes there and I imagine he is going to speak to this and try to deflect the statements that I am making away from the government, but the people know that it is factual, it is in black and white. The courts have ruled that this money will have to be paid on the Trans City affair.

MR. GRIMES: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Now, Mr. Speaker, there is the Minister of Education trying to be smart again with his comments about an individual in our office, who is a paid individual by the tax payers of this Province, a very competent, capable individual, and every time the minister sits in his seat there he refers to this individual in our office. Why, I have to say to the Minister of Education are you that afraid of a lady working in the Opposition's office? I say to the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Pardon?

MR. GRIMES: A good friend of mine actually.

MR. J. BYRNE: Actually, she may very well be. She is a very good, dedicated, well-researched individual and the Minister of Education, obviously has some major concerns that the person he is talking about - I do not need the name, everybody knows who he is talking about- he has great fears for a lady in our office. I don't know why he is bringing her up so often really. I suppose it is because of the fact that she is so well-researched in her -

I can name a few people in the government's office who are running the Province today, that the Premier weighs heavily when this person speaks. I do not know who is the real Premier or not, I mean, if it is the Premier himself or the person who seems to be making all the rules and regulations and dictating to the Premier and the Premier certainly seems to listen very closely to what the individual has to say.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Environment and Labour was up today making an announcement on the Trash To Cash and he sent me over a copy of the statement before he made it, and I made a few comments today but I cannot seem to locate it here now, Mr. Speaker, but can you imagine now that the Minister of Environment and Labour, with what is going on in this Province today, with all the issues with respect to the environment, we have Argentia, we have the smelter, we have Voisey's Bay and he is taking his time in this House of Assembly to stand and talk about the Trash To Cash when many people in this Province feel that it is a rip off. Many people feel that the Trash To Cash is a rip off.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that right?

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh yes, definitely. I mean, it could very well have been a good plan if it had been properly planned and properly implemented.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave?

MR. SPEAKER: By leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave?

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is our responsibility now to stand and make a few comments on these Concurrence Debates, in particular the debate on government service and, Mr. Speaker, in particular in reviewing -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair does not mind a little bit of interaction among the members, but the Chair must ask for respect for the Chair in terms of how hon. members present themselves to the Chair.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When we have a look at the Department of Government Services and Lands, there are a couple of areas in particular that I would be interested in if the hon. minister would want to make some brief comment at some later date, and I am thinking in particular of the section under Regional Services which now incorporates the Registry of Deeds, Companies and Securities.

This particular area or this particular division, Mr. Speaker, was traditionally, and up until last year, under the Department of Justice however, presumably for fiscal reasons, there was a transfer from the Department of Justice to the Department of Government Services and Lands, and when we look at the actual analysis and the estimates from 1997-1998 compared to the 1996-1997 Revised and Budget Estimates, we do not see a significant change and my curiosity is, what is the benefit or, what are the consequences of the transfer? What are the benefits of these transfers and, what sort of general comment will the minister want to make with respect to the transfer of the Registry of Deeds, Companies and Securities now in this department?

Presumably, from a philosophical point of view, Mr. Speaker, the reason why this change was made, was to have a system in place that services could be provided to members of the general public in a much more cohesive and unified fashion.

So we have a much more unified delivery of service through the Department of Government Services and Lands, and in particular through regional services, replacing the Department of Justice for land management and building, permitting, and inspection functions in the Province. We see an amalgamation, for example of vital statistics registry, motor vehicle registry, the permitting and inspection services, just to mention a few, that now come under the auspices of the Ministry of Government Services and Lands.

Another one of interest is the trade practices and licensing. It is unusual to see this particular branch to be in this department, as opposed to the Department of Justice. Trade practices is a very legalistic division, because we are dealing with the regulation and licensing of businesses presumably under the jurisdiction of the competition act. The competition act is a piece of legislation which is federal legislation which determines exactly what a business may and may not do and how that business relates to the trade practices here in this Province.

One federal act was once known as the combines investigations act, and that particular legislation was repealed. The new act, the competition act, replaced combines investigation, but as we can see, that too is now under the jurisdiction of Government Services and Lands. Trade practices is provincial legislation. The trade practices act again allows companies and any group or organization or association in competition with each other to make sure there is an equal playing field. If not, if there is any deviation from an equal playing field, the minister - presumably, again, not the Minister of Justice but the Minister of Government Services and Lands - may intervene. In fact there may be prosecution under the trade practices act to make sure that there is fair play by those in competition with one another at all times.

Under Government Services and Lands we see as well the Crown Lands division, now a relevant part of this particular department. There was some discussion, we will recall, about a year ago dealing with Crown lands. Of course my colleague the Member for Cape St. Francis is well versed in this area, being the critic for Crown lands. Yesterday in this House was revealed the actual numbers with approximate costs supposedly benefit to the government as a result of the change in the Crown lands policy.

I have a question for the minister as well, and it is something that he could also refer to, in terms of how the services in this particular area have been improved. One would hope there has been an improvement. I have not heard of any improvement, but one would hope, again through the amalgamation of the services through the Crown lands registry, that there is now an improvement to the service and the provision of these services to the general public at large.

The department is a very effective one when it is considered by the general public to be accessible, available, and certainly a department of convenience when these services are provided in timely and accessible fashion to members of the public. We see a uniting of the services, we see an amalgamation of the services, from trade practices to motor vehicle registration to Crown lands and to the Registry of Deeds, these sorts of services which are provided to the public at large. One can only hope there has been significant improvement, and that the minister can hopefully make some comment with respect to his overall delivery of services one year after its incorporation.

I heard with some interest the comments that were made earlier this afternoon by the Member for Port au Port and I simply want to remind him that we have a responsibility, obviously, as opposition members to be vigilant in our various critic areas to ensure -

MR. E. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: And that could very well be, - to ensure that ministers opposite are discharging their responsibilities at all times, making sure that they are accountable to the people of this Province and that they are making representation to the people of this Province to the best of their ability. We, on a continuing basis will challenge the ministers opposite, we make no apology for doing so, we have to raise issues of public concern, we have to ask questions during Question Period, we have to raise petitions on behalf of the general populous of this Province who want their concerns raised, who want to make sure that their representations are heard in this House and I say to the hon. minister, despite the fact that he was passionate in his presentation and many of the points I could relate with, but if it were not for the role of the opposition who would be representing the ordinary Newfoundlander and Labradorian in response to the very critical and somewhat confused policies which are raised in various departments in this government from time to time? Who would be there to raise the issues in health, who would be there to raise the issues in education, who would speak on behalf of the parents when schools are being closed and when there is litigation being threatened in the courts throughout our Province, who would make this representation, who would speak on behalf of the people of this Province?

So, clearly it is our role. It is trite for me to continue saying that this is our role, we know in a parliamentary system what our role is, members opposite in a parliamentary system know what our role is, but we have a responsibility to ensure that the interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are maintained at all costs and we have an obligation to ensure that their concerns and their voices are heard in this hon. House.

MR. SPEAKER: Time is up.

Does the hon. member have leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: It is my understanding that if a member in this House withdraws leave that he must do so from his own seat, not from somebodies else's seat, as the Minister of Education just did.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

No point of order.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I cannot believe that the members in this House would deny another member leave when we have three hours to debate this.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. OSBORNE: The people of our Province face some serious problems today, Mr. Speaker. I understand that sympathy, that members on the other side may feel, but we have an obligation as my hon. colleague pointed out, to bring the concerns of the people of our Province to the House of Assembly and to fight on their behalf and to be advocates for the people of our Province because if we were to sit back and do what the members on that side of the House wanted us to do and not say anything and to agree with everything they said, our Province would be in turmoil.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is in turmoil.

MR. OSBORNE: In further turmoil than it is in already, Mr. Speaker.

With the throngs of people leaving the Province, we all know the out-migration and the results of out-migration and the affects that it has on our health and social transfers and with the numbers of people leaving the Province that is going to create tremendous problems for this government down the road. The reason being is we are getting less money from Ottawa. There is less money here to spend. Unfortunately the people who are leaving are the educated ones but the more people that leave our Province, Mr. Speaker, the less services this government is going to be able to offer and unless we here, as legislators in this Province, start to create employment and create initiatives to keep people here in this Province, Mr. Speaker, the unfortunate reality is that this Province and the services offered by this Province are going to continue to be harder and harder to offer.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen it through health care and the devastation that is caused through the health care system and the decimation of services in the health care system. We have seen it, Mr. Speaker, in the human resources and employment, we have seen it through the privatization of our provincial parks, we have seen it through the sell off of Crown lands. This government is in desperate shape, Mr. Speaker, in doing everything they can to grab that quick dollar. Unfortunately, they are unable to keep up with the demand. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the Premier, when he was in Ottawa, made some decisions that are going to have long lasting drastic affects on our Province, decisions that affected employment insurance benefits, decisions that affected - I see the Minister of Education, Mr. Speaker, is bored with all of this - decisions that affected our TAGS, decisions that affected our health and social transfers. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the Premier now is unable to fight those decisions because he was part of that decision making process in Ottawa. He is in a position now where he should be able to fight but he is unable to because they are the decisions that he himself helped to create.

Mr. Speaker, to get on to the privatization of provincial parks. I raised an issue in the House today concerning the inaccuracy of the information that was forwarded to me by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. Mr. Speaker, I was given information by very reliable sources in the department actually who point out that there was indeed $20,000 spent in 1995 on the upgrading and renovation of a cabin in Catamaran Park.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. OSBORNE: There is nothing wrong with that. I commend the fact that they were upgrading and renovating the cabin but the problem lies in the fact that the minister, when she provided me information on what was spent on the parks over the last six or seven years, did not include that information. So it was unfortunately very misleading.

The other portion here and it happened with each and every park that is being privatized. The operating budgets that the minister forwarded to my office, Mr. Speaker, did not include many items. Mr. Speaker, what I asked for, very simply, no complication, I asked for the total amount of provincial-public money put into developing, servicing, upgrading or otherwise enhancing the parks or attractions and its sites and facilities over the years. It seems to be quite simple to understand, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, what the minister provided to me was the capital budget expenditures from 1992 to 1996 on seven parks. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, that is not the total investment by the public into those parks throughout the years. She further went on, Mr. Speaker, to say that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: She probably has a better chance than the Minister of Environment and Labour's mother had back in '93. She failed at her run at the nomination I believe out in her area.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: Was it '89?

AN HON. MEMBER: No, '89 that would have been Kevin sitting here.

MR. OSBORNE: No, Kevin was sitting since he ran for the nomination.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, to get back to the point of business, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation forwarded to me the operating budgets for each of the parks that are being privatized, the same information that she included in her tendering packages, Mr. Speaker, that went out to everybody who requested a tendering package, some 400 people, and the unfortunate reality here is that those people were very seriously misled because, included in that tendering package were the salaries from 1993-1994-1995-1996 which were indeed accurate, but the part here that was inaccurate, Mr. Speaker, were the other costs.

The other costs, Mr. Speaker, come nowhere near the actual other costs for those parks. They were the other costs that were specifically budgeted to that particular park but, Mr. Speaker, I have documentation which shows that, for example: in Jonathan's Pond in 1996, they say there were no other costs budgeted for that park, yet, Mr. Speaker, in 1996, there was a playground put in at a cost of $3,000; in 1996, there was a parking lot put there at a cost of $1,200 so I don't know who paid for it. Obviously, there was no money in the Budget for those; in 1996 there were twenty-five picnic tables put in at a cost of $125 each.

Mr. Speaker, in 1996, they put an extra $12,000 into finishing that cabin because the $20,000 they put in there prior, was not enough to do it, yet there were no other costs other than salaries in 1996. Somebody made a grave mistake there, Mr. Speaker. In 1996, they put in a propane stove, a wall heater, a hot-water tank, propane tanks and the propane to fill those tanks at a cost of approximately $10,000. To me, Mr. Speaker, that is a heck of a whole lot more money than none, yet the minister would have all of those people who put in tenders on Jonathan's Pond Park believe that there was no extra money budgeted in 1996 other than salaries; that the cost of operating the park was $49,100, the cost of the salaries.

Well those people, if they were to believe that, are probably naive in any event to believe that there were no toilet tissue used, no soap in the washrooms, that there were no axes that needed to be replaced, no chain-saws, no gas for the chain-saws, boy I tell you, that was a cheap park to run in 1996, Mr. Speaker, that was a cheap park to run in 1996.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. H. HODDER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

I wonder if we could, under Standing Orders, No. 3, call a Quorum. There is no Quorum in the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Quorum called.

 

Quorum

 

MR. SPEAKER: Quorum present.

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to take part in the Concurrence Debate. I say to members opposite, it was not my idea to invite you back in because there is nobody who enjoys a meal better than I do. If you want to, go on back out and finish your meal and I will keep it going for five minutes.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to take part in the Budget Debate and after listening to people who stood before me, the hon. Member for Port au Port, people on this side and the Member for Topsail, Mr. Speaker, some very good suggestions, some very good thoughts, ideas and concerns were brought forward. It is nice to see people standing in their place and expressing their frustrations on trying to deal with where we find each other, where we find ourselves.

I can fully understand what the Member for Port au Port is saying when he comes in the House and he does things a little bit differently than we do. I look at being here in the House, Mr. Speaker, as an opportunity to get up and speak on behalf of my constituents to bring their wishes and their concerns forward. I suppose I can no more say that that is right than the Member for Terra Nova or the Member for Port au Port who feel that they represent their district by doing things in a little different way. I am sure they did, Mr. Speaker, and the number of times that this member here sitting in the front-benches has been returned here, I suppose is a testimony to that. If he did not represent his constituents, Mr. Speaker, he would not be back here.

I know the respect that is shown for him in the town where I live and it is shown to him because he is very effective by at one time being a member in Opposition and he got elected many times in Opposition. He did the same thing as we are doing over here, Mr. Speaker, standing and being accountable, being Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition standing in his place, asking questions, taking the government to task over some decisions they have made, bringing forward the concerns of the people who elected him. Sometimes people stand and say you might get your name in the paper every week by bringing forward your concerns or taking on government but, Mr. Speaker, come down in my district and see the money that I can get as a government member. I suppose it averages itself out.

That is why when you see government members go forward to fight an election the first thing you see is a list of the money that was spent in their district. It is probably the first thing they put out and I don't blame them for that. I would do the same thing. There is no way that I can go and say here is the money that I got for my district. There is no way that I can do that, Mr. Speaker, because it is probably - well it is the most unfair way that any government could work in the way that we have our policies, I suppose, or in the way that we run our government and the way we allot funds. It never was and I suppose it never will be on a completely needed basis.

I think our MPs have a lot more freedom to disperse funds and to be allotted money, Mr. Speaker, than we do. When we look at the power that we have here as MHAs, as backbenchers in government and members opposite, when we look at the power that we thought that we might have and the power that our constituents think that we have, Mr. Speaker, you get struck with the sudden reality when you come here. Most of the times when there is money spent in my district or when there is money allotted I know nothing about it until I either read it in the paper or I hear it from somebody else, Mr. Speaker. I know absolutely nothing about it. I used to get upset about that first when I got elected. I used to get really upset about it because I felt that I should know. As the member, Mr. Speaker, as the people's choice in that particular district I felt I should have had some say but I was very quick to find out that is not the case. Sure I think we should. Sure I think if there is money being spent in your district, I think the member should be notified no matter what his colour is, it is the people's choice. If you represent the people, as government is supposed to do, then they should certainly take into consideration their representative in the House of Assembly.

MR. LUSH: If the hon. member will look back at Hansard he will see that I made the statements time and time again that he is now making that is why I am listening so intensely.

MR. FITZGERALD: I have no doubt but you did, I say to the member for Terra Nova.

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing more frustrating then to have to make a call to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs and ask for a meeting with your town council and to be told that if I am going to arrange a meeting with the town council, I will do it through the mayor, not through you. There is nothing more frustrating then to talk to the municipal leaders and to find out that they had just come from the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs and were told that they had no other choice but to go there themselves because the minister of the day said: if you showed up at the meeting them I will cancel it, if your member walks through the door then the meeting is cancelled. The most that I have ever said to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, I have said it in debate here in this House and everybody knows that whatever is said here is said according to the rules of the House of Assembly and it is done in a right a proper way. Sure you criticize, sure you bring forward your concerns and your frustrations.

Mr. Speaker, this such is the action as some of the government ministers opposite. I cannot tar them all with the same brush, many of them over there, the Minister of Education, a prime example, if a minister - give him credit, he has lots of problems now, lots of frustrations, probably down loading his responsibilities to the school boards out in the districts. You have to speak as you find. I remember a few months ago I was experiencing a problem with the school bus situation, that the minister was always there, every time I wanted a meeting, I remember a telephone call being made, 5:00 p.m. and asked for a public meeting down in my district. I did not make the call, I think it was the Parents and Teachers Association President called and the ministers response was: how long will it take me to get there?' Three hours. I will be there by 8:00. The minister did show up and attended a public meeting and so he should, I say to people opposite. He is the Minister of Education, there was a problem and he responded to it. Well, I can tell you such is not the actions of a lot of the government ministers opposite.

Mr. Speaker, when you see the parades, when you see the protests that are happening outside in the hallways of this building now, just about everyday when the House is opened. Somebody better start listening, somebody better look at what is happening and start paying heed, I say to people opposite, because I can guarantee you the schools have closed down in the past, it is not the first time that we have had schools close. In the community where I am from, in that surrounding area I have seen four schools close this past fifteen years. Nobody protested, nobody said a word, they did not protest for the reason because they had a job to go to they had other things to occupy their mind. They had other things that government was trying to do for them and the governments of the day were probable listening and supporting them, but now no matter what happens, no matter if someone gets laid off or there is a fear of cutbacks or if there is a fear of your school closing or a fear of a benefit being taken from you, the only way that people can echo their frustrations because things have built up so much, is to get out and parade and protest.

Mr. Speaker, down in my district, our federal minister today had to close down his campaign headquarters and move away, move out. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans had his campaign headquarters down in Bonavista and today he closed it down. I do not know where he is moving it, but he is gone out of the town because protesters are showing up, 100, 200, yesterday 400 people showed up at his office.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I have no idea who was with them, but I know that they are people from the surrounding area. People from the Southern Shore here have travelled out to go out and protest, Mr. Speaker. Because we are living in a time today when things are so uncertain, we are living in a time today when people are starting to hold their elected representatives responsible.

It wasn't good enough for the federal minister to come out the other day and say: We are now going to make TAGS benefits considered as labour force attachment. He had four years to do that, he had four years to go and make it labour force attached. He didn't see fit to do it until there was an election called to hold a plum before the electors to say: If you elect me, then I will go back and I will do this for you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: I wouldn't do it before.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, this is one time I don't think I want leave. Because other than filling in my duty and standing up and taking my place here, I probably wouldn't be up speaking.

AN HON. MEMBER: Question!

MR. FITZGERALD: There are lots of others, Mr. Speaker, to speak. This is what is happening here in the Province today. People are frustrated. I would be surprised that within the next few weeks if you don't see this Province shut down completely. I will be surprised if you don't see thousands of people parading to this building. It won't be the Government House Leader who will decide that the House will be recessed for the summer. It might be the people who sent us here. I wouldn't be one bit surprised. Because I have never seen people out there so frustrated and so angered as they are today.

People opposite know what I'm talking about. They see it, they hear it. They probably respond to it a little bit differently than I do, and so they should. That is understandable. Different people respond to things in a different way. But I can assure you, out in rural Newfoundland today it has gone as far as it can go. People are about to go the other way. When you hear people talking -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: None of us should condone violence, Mr. Speaker. I for one don't. But I believe people should be listened to. When you see mothers and fathers getting up and talking to you in public meetings and breaking down and crying because their son can't find a job, or because the father, fifty-five years old, doesn't have a job and doesn't have an income, and doesn't want to go away and leave everything that he has at home, I will tell you, that sometimes people resort to doing things they normally wouldn't do.

That is what you are about to see right here in this Province. I certainly wouldn't condone violence, I certainly wouldn't condone some of the things and some of the reasons why people probably protest here on the steps of this building. But it won't take very much to set them off. It won't take any big close down. It won't take a situation where you throw 10,000 people out of work or if you close down an emergency room at one of the hospitals. It might be something very small. What they are looking for is somebody, one person, to come out and say: Let's go. They are ready to converge on this building. I wouldn't want to be the person who would be there trying to stop them, or to try to justify the actions of this government over the past number of years.

We realize that we are living in hard times, we are living in probably the most difficult times we have seen since back in the 1920s and 1930s. I can assure you that people want to be part of the decision making, and I think they would become part of the solution if we gave them the chance. With that, Mr. Speaker, I will sit down and allow somebody else to continue.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We had hoped that maybe someone from the government side might want to get up and have a few concluding words, but there are about eight minutes left, I understand, in this debate; and that being the case, we will do what we are required to do under the mandate that brought us here.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Member for Bonavista South was just talking about the frustration that has been experienced by people in Newfoundland and Labrador, and, of course, I should say to him that we, in the Opposition here, do get an opportunity to go down and talk to the people who come to the building here to express their viewpoints. Just in the last four or five days I have spent a fair bit of it at a convention in Gander and then visiting the District of Grand Falls - Windsor and out in Green Bay. Mr. Speaker, everywhere you go, the word is the same: `We,' they say, - by `we' they mean the people of their own communities - are very disappointed in what is happening to people in this Province, and the words that are mentioned most often are: `Our children are being forced out of our own community.'

The other day, when I was talking to a gentleman from the Green Bay area, he spoke about the number of his grandchildren who had to come from away, to attend the funeral of their grandmother yesterday, from all parts of the country and how it took so long and they had to come so far; consequently, there was some talk about the state of affairs of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, we know that we cannot solve all the problems but, of course, the present government was elected on a vote that promised great expectations. The great expectations that people have were created by the members opposite themselves. They went out and sold a program called: Ready for a Better Tomorrow, and it was the platform of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. Well, you know, the people I have talked to in the last number of days, boy, are they ever ready for a better tomorrow!

They have heard the promises, they have heard the rhetoric and they have waited now for fifteen months and they are still waiting. They are asking: What has happened to improve our communities? They start to add up the good things that have happened, and they do not have to go beyond the fingers of one hand. They are ready for a better tomorrow and are just wondering when it is going to happen or, if it is like the old thing about: you tell an eight-year-old about the promise of doing something tomorrow and, of course, an eight-year-old will tell you, it is a day that never, ever arrives.

So, Mr. Speaker, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are ready for a better tomorrow. They keenly anticipate the time when their communities can have new revitalization and, of course, the Liberal Government, on page 53 of the Liberal Red Book, promised the revitalizing of our rural communities. It is in bold headlines. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are waiting for their communities to be revitalized. They are waiting with anticipation for the time when their children do not have to be sent off to Alberta, and they are waiting for the time when they can see some sense of compassion and understanding from the government, when their children can live at home. As one lady said on the Open Line Show the other morning, she does not want to be packing the suitcases of her sons and daughters and telling them that, you know, I hope to see you in the next five years; hopefully, you will be able to come back and visit us, and hopefully, not too many negative things will have happened to the family between now and then.

So, Mr. Speaker, when we talk to people in this Province, it does not matter where they are, what walk of life they are from; you talk to business people: they will tell you how tough it is to keep their businesses going. You talk to people who just graduated from the University: they will talk about how hard it is to find a job. And sometimes they wonder whether we in here are in such an isolated, insulated catacomb, that we ourselves are even able to listen. They wonder whether or not we, who are elected members, have deserted them. That is why they come here to this Legislature; it is because they feel that the government is no longer listening to them, they feel that their voices are falling on deaf ears, they believe that government is both deaf and unwilling to use the amount of hearing power they have.

So, Mr. Speaker, we anticipate that there will be more and more people who will go to their government offices. Just this very day, the federal member, the member running in Bonavista-Trinity, for the Liberal party, has had to close his offices in Bonavista - close them down, because he said, `I cannot put up with their negativity.'

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. H. HODDER: I say to the member, when you have a federal Cabinet minister who is afraid to keep his office open, when you have a federal minister who says: `I am afraid to face the music, I do not want to be bringing out these Liberal promises', Mr. Speaker, when a federal minister responsible to make positive things happen, and when the federal member today says: `I am going to close my office, I just cannot stand the pressure' - when federal minister Mifflin has to say, `I will not be able to visit Bonavista anymore because we have to close the offices down, that tells the message. And, of course, by the reaction over there, we know that you `protesteth too much'.

Mr. Speaker, that is what is happening. And we listen nationally and we see the Prime Minister campaigning in British Columbia and then a young fellow comes on and says: `Oh, no, I do not believe in any of this stuff, I just wanted to have an opportunity to see myself on television.'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. H. HODDER: I do understand that the time has elapsed.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for this debate has elapsed and the Chair is now ready to put the question.

On motion, report of the Government Services Committee, carried.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House resolve itself into Committee to consider the Estimates under the heading of the Legislature.

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Mr. J. Walsh): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, if I could, the heading that we are going to be discussing in Committee is Legislature, which has to do, of course, with the running of this place, the salaries of members, employee benefits, the House operations themselves, Standing and Select Committees of the House, Hansard, the Legislative Library, executive support and administrative support.

Mr. Chairman, I am not going to take a great deal of time on this. I am just going to let members, if they have questions or points they want to make about this heading, to start making them. I presume we are operating on the basis of ten minutes and ten minutes.

CHAIR: Yes, ten and ten.

MR. TULK: Ten and ten. I would assume that the Chair will call the heads, as appropriate.

CLERK: Subhead 1.1.01.

CHAIR: Subhead 1.1.01.

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

I am pleased to rise again to speak on this particular section of the expenditures. I understand, from the Clerk, that if we consume the forty-five hours that we have assigned for estimates in committee, we have spent five hours and forty-six minutes on Interim Supply, we have now spent three hours on one concurrence debate and there are two left to do that; I believe there are fifteen hours and sixteen minutes in total to spend on the various categories that we are now dealing with at the moment. Therefore, we will begin the phase that we are now going to be (inaudible) spending fifteen hours and forty-six minutes.

MR. TULK: If we use every hour that we have, we will be finished on May 16th.

MR. H. HODDER: I say to the Government House Leader: he sets the times and we make the responses and if he chooses how much time we spend every day, then I should advise him that we fully intend to spend our full seventy-five hours, as he did when he was in Opposition.

MR. TULK: Me?

MR. H. HODDER: Yes. The member knows that the Opposition here are going to spend their full seventy-five hours; that is part of the procedures we have and we shall continue to live up to our role.

Mr. Chairman, I just want to talk about the House itself for a few minutes; I have about ten minutes.

One of the things we note about the House is that we, in this House, have had a reduction in the last few years from fifty-two members down to forty-eight. Our Party has said that we should be looking at that to reduce it even further. Mr. Chairman, one of the Party policy points that we have made in the last number of years, I made in the fall of 1993 when I first made a presentation to the Electoral Boundaries Commission. I said then that the House should have a membership of about forty members and I still maintain, that should be one of the goals of the Party in power, that we should show some interest in further contractions to the size of the Legislature.

Mr. Chairman, I still believe that we have more members in this Legislature in total number than this Province really can afford, therefore, we should be further reducing the number of members in this House from forty-eight down to forty. In fact, there are many people in this Province who believe that we should have thirty-six members. As a matter of fact, when this House was cut before - and this is not the first time that the number of members in the House has been reduced - it was reduced substantially in, I think, 1932.

MR. TULK: How many people do we have in St. John's?

MR. H. HODDER: Well, if we - just let it happen. I say to the Government House Leader, if it means that we would have fewer members on this side or that side of the House, what I am saying is, speaking as one member - and I recognize that going into the election in 1996, it was part of the Party policy that we would have fewer members. I said in the fall of 1993 when I spoke to the Electoral Boundaries Commission: I believe a House of forty members in this Province is sufficient, and I still maintain that a House of somewhere between thirty-six members and forty-two members is sufficient to run the affairs of this Province, and if that means that the district that I represent should disappear or be amalgamated with some other district, then let it happen.

We should be, in this House, if we are going to show real, genuine leadership, if we are going to show the kinds of cutbacks occurring in the civil service -

MR. LANGDON: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

MR. H. HODDER: - if we are going to follow the pattern and say that it is okay to lay off 3,000 -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for -

MR. LANGDON: Is the hon. member saying that we do not need the City of Mount Pearl, we have too many councillors? We have one City of St. John's - use the same logic?

MR. H. HODDER: As usual, when the member does get the nerve to rise -

CHAIR: Order, please! Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, a good ruling.

As usual, when the member does rise, he is out of order. If he had any nerve and sinew and had the kind of resolute spirit that most of the people of Fortune Bay have, he would be on his feet every day. Now he gets up and automatically he is ruled out of order.

When we talk about the size of this Legislature we should be saying here that we should show genuine leadership. Do not do the tinkering that was done a few years ago, from fifty-two down to forty. Make it genuine. Show that we will reduce the size of this Legislature in a real way. You cannot cut, cut, cut the civil service and then say: We are going to exempt the Legislature itself. That is not the way to do it. I said back in 1993 that I would have it reduced to forty. Do you know what? If that had meant that I would not have gotten re-elected in my district, then sobeit.

In 1993 and 1994 we had the tinkering that occurred, we had the gerrymandering, or the `Robertsmandering,' whatever you mind to call it. At that time, the readjustments that occurred with the famous meetings that went on in Clarenville - at one point we had the commissioners' recommendations being rejected and it was called: What can we do for our political survival?

Well, that cannot be a consideration if you are genuine about it. You do not go out and ask: What can I do that is going to support my party that is in power or is going to support my own particular seat that I hold? If you are going to be genuine about it, you go about it and do it right, and let the chips fall where they may. If it means that a particular seat disappears, then sobeit. If we are going to be genuine about the House of Assembly, one of the things we have to do is address the fact that there are forty-eight seats here to be a government for a mere 550,000 people, the whole Province. Of course, we are going down in numbers so fast that by the time they can make the adjustment there will probably be another 10,000, 15,000, or 20,000 people who will have left this Province.

You cannot rationalize it taking forty-eight legislators on top of all the city councils, town councils, and rural district associations to form a governing base for this Province. I look forward to the government of this day saying: We are going to have another electoral boundary commission and we are going to tell them that we are going to reduce the number of seats before the next election from forty-eight down to thirty-six, with a maximum of forty. Then we will have shown some genuine leadership. As I said, if that means that my seat disappears, or the district that I represent now is restructured, be part of another bigger district, then I will take my chances on getting elected. That is if I should decide to contest in the election.

I want to say in this particular debate here on the House of Assembly that we should be examining this thing. I would ask the government if they would consider coming in with another electoral boundary commission so we can again re-examine the membership. Because every time we are able to reduce that number, we save substantial dollars to the taxpayers of this Province. After all, we have to ask ourselves the question: If we were in private business, would we have forty-eight people on the board of directors? The answer is no, we never would. You would never have forty-eight people on the board of directors for a corporation the size that we are here.

But we continue here to perpetuate this kind of number because, I guess, the work that was done a few years ago came up a recommendation. First of all we rejected the recommendations of the independent commissioners anyway -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you very, Mr. Chairman. I shall return.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

MR. CANNING: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

There is an old saying that is probably appropriate: An empty kettle makes a lot of noise.

Mr. Chairman, members opposite know what they are against, but they do not know what they are for. They compare government to a board of directors. We are not running a corporation, we are running a society.

Mr. Chairman, I want to talk and comment about the member's reflection with respect to the number of members of the House of Assembly. Let me say what the Conservative Party meant last time when they said: Have forty seats in this Province. Forty seats means two seats for Labrador. That is what forty seats means. Forty seats means a 50 per cent reduction in the representation for Labrador. I reject that out of hand.

I stand here each day listening to the member opposite talking about how important it is to preserve rural Newfoundland and rural Labrador, but yet he knows full well that if you reduce the seats to forty the people who would be hit the hardest are those who live at the very extremities of this Province. Because he knows that the Supreme Court in the Saskatchewan decision said that you have to have a fair and balanced representation. You cannot reduce in the urban areas and keep the rural areas sustained; you know that. You know that by reducing to forty you will hit hard at the representation for those who need representation the most. You know full well that you would take representation from the people of the North Coast.

You have the audacity to stand up and talk about how great the Voisey's Bay opportunity is for this Province, and at the same time you would stand on your feet and say: Take away the representation, we do not need it, reduce this House to forty. I take that as an affront to those people in the region that I represent.

The fact of the matter is, if we want to we can reduce this House to a Commission of Government. We can do as you suppose, and have a board of directors run this Province for these people. We did it before in a Commission of Government, but people rejected that. They want representation in the House of Assembly. For you to stand and pontificate about the ideals of reducing, because you know that it hits a certain chord in some people, you full well know, too, as a leader of communities in this Province, what that effect has. Do not on one hand say, reduce the House to forty, without expressing to the people in the whole of the Province what this means. Do not say to the people of St. John's and Mount Pearl, I am prepared to lose my seat, because you know full well that if you reduce the seats to forty it is not Mount Pearl that will be affected, it is the Northern Peninsula, it is the Coast of Labrador, it is the Baie Verte Peninsula.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CANNING: He knows full well what he is talking about.

The fact of the matter is, my friend who sits next to me stood up today and talked about how tough it is to represent in a time when we are facing unbelievable change in this Province; and we are, we are facing change like none other has faced. The truth is that the fiscal reality is -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CANNING: Mr. Chairman, in the last few days I have seen many Conservatives, from the Leader of the Federal Conservative Party to the member opposite, who stand all the time with a Red Book in front of them, but I never see them stand with their Blue Book and be proud of it. The fact of the matter is, I would stand any day at all and compare the report card for that book with the report card from your book, and the opportunities that would have flown from the book that you presented to the electorate.

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chairman, they have to recognize that people in the last election made a choice. In elections yet to come they may make a different choice. I do not know. But I guarantee you I will not stand in front of the electorate of this Province on a platform that says, reduce this House to forty, because I know who will be affected the most. It is the people in rural Newfoundland and rural Labrador. I reject that, Mr. Chairman, and I want to go on record as saying so.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to begin by saying that I do not totally disagree with the points that were made by the member opposite. What he is saying is very similar to the points that are being made by the member opposite.

MR. H. HODDER: It is in the ten per cent to twenty-five per cent area.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: And what he is saying is very similar to the points that are being made by the Opposition House Leader, where we are all in favour of a reduced size of the House of Assembly, that is in the interests of the people of this Province and I, as an urban member and as a member of a riding in the City of St. John's, have no difficulty with the reduction of the number of seats in the City of St. John's, or indeed, any other urban area in this Province. I say to the member opposite that I agree with his point, that the more remote regions of this Province and in particular, the Labrador region, need fair and appropriate representation. So, really what both hon. members are saying, the member opposite and the Opposition House Leader, what both members are saying is essentially the same thing. That we need - there is no difficulty and you will have no objections from this particular member in reducing the number of members representing urban areas.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: And I say to the Government House Leader, I do not know if it will happen or will not happen, but it is certainly a theory that I support.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

MR. CANNING: The fact of the matter is, the Supreme Court has ruled in the Saskatchewan issue and said that the number of electors in any riding, from one riding to the other, must be balanced. Those are the facts. The fact of the matter is, you cannot have an urban area with 25,000 electors and a rural with ten. You can only deviate by a certain per cent and it is easy to pontificate and say that we can because the fact of the matter is the case law in the Supreme Court of Canada has said that you cannot.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for St. John's East to the point of order.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: To the point of order. My point in response, Mr. Chairman, is to simply say that within that ruling there is a variation, there are guidelines on either side to allow for a difference in a rural and an urban riding.

MR. CANNING: (Inaudible) the last report.

MR. OSBORNE: Therefore, the benefit can be accrued to the rural riding, sure it can. I say to the hon. member that with that variation there can be a concerted effort to have the benefit afforded to the rural riding, so it does give the benefit to the rural riding. It certainly does.

CHAIR: Order, please!

This is more of a difference of opinion or interpretation of a Supreme Court ruling, I am not sure if it was Manitoba -

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Saskatchewan.

CHAIR: Saskatchewan - more of a difference of opinion on the interpretation of it and not a point of order.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In any event, we live in a Province which is unique. We live in a Province from a geographical point of view that has a significant geography with a very modest population and it has to be kept in mind that representation obviously has to reflect both factors, both population, the density of the population and the geography of the Province, in particular the Labrador region.

We are here today to discuss in debate the Legislature and there is one particular - Mr. Chairman, I am just looking for the page in the Estimates, page 51. It is, in particular, the Estimates of the House operations which deals on page 51 of the Estimates, with the appropriations providing for the expenses of the members of the House of Assembly and associated support staff. We see in this year's Estimates a slight reduction from the revised budget figures of 1996 and 1997. The Standing and Select Committees found on page 52, again we see a significant reduction from the 1997-1998 Estimates and the revised and budget figures of 1996 and 1997. On Hansard, a significant reduction. I understand that there have been some changes with respect to the Hansard office which will allow and explain the reduction in the Estimates this year compared with the revised and budget figures of 1996 and 1997.

Mr. Chairman, an interesting component of the Estimates under Legislature is the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer. We all as members have documentation which is forwarded to us on a regular basis from the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer. It gives an account, of course, of each election or by-election. It gives an assessment of the poll-by-poll analysis of the results of any general election, or any by-election, but it is also, of course, the office which deals with the members' interests in terms of conflict of interest guidelines and regulations.

That particular portion of that office, or that particular representation of that office, provides an interesting account of what a particular member may or may not do, or what particular involvement a member may or may not have. There is what I would consider to be a fairly reasonable request made of each member to disclose in full disclosure form what the particular status of a particular member is, what his duties, what his obligations, are, and in addition, what the expectations are from a financial, fiscal and accountability point of view.

I would suggest, though, that there ought to be perhaps a more uniform method in dealing with this particular aspect of the legislative Estimates. I find that the deadlines or the limitations or the dates are not necessarily consistent. I mean, documentation is going back and forth from the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer to each individual member. There is no specific deadline or limitation period in which a member must return the information. Initially there may be a date, but if information is then requested, or follow-up information is requested, there is no uniform date associated with it.

In terms of tidying up, I would suggest, that particular responsibility of the Chief Electoral Officer in terms of the conflict of interest statement, perhaps there ought to be greater direction and information allowed for the benefit of each member of this House so that the appropriate information in response can be forwarded.

Also, under the heading of Legislature, comes the Office of the Auditor General. This is a particular office, of course, in which my colleague, the Member for Kilbride, would have much greater depth and knowledge, being the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and, of course, dealing with the Office of the Auditor General in terms of reporting on a relatively regular basis. We see, in looking at the 1997-1998 Estimates, again a slight reduction from the revised and budgetary expenses of 1996-1997. It is interesting to note that this reduction does not appear to be explained when we look at the Audit Operations under the Office of the Auditor General. A question that could be asked, and perhaps can be answered in fact even by my own colleague, is what accounts for that slight reduction and variance in the figures for this year, compared to the information which was provided to us last year.

In conclusion, I would simply like to say that there is no doubt in my mind that members on this side - and in fact, it was a part of our party platform, our election platform during the last provincial election - we supported the concept of a reduced House of Assembly. We supported the concept of less numbers in this hon. House. I respect the point that was made by the member opposite. However, I would suggest to the member opposite, and to other members in this House, that there is room for change. It may be marginal, but there is room for change. I would suggest that there can be an attempt made to reduce the number of members in this House. I am on record as having said, and I state again, that if there is some maneuverability, and if there is some opportunity to reduce the number of members in this House, that the focus ought to be on the more urban seats, those portions or regions of the Province which have a more densely populated area. Keeping in mind the Supreme Court decisions that have been referred to earlier by the member opposite, there is room for change, there is room for improvement, there is room for a reduction in the number of members of this hon. House.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

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

Just before I left a few minutes ago - I am not sure which hon. member was talking about the number of seats of representation in the House - the hon. Government House Leader said: How many seats should there be in St. John's? I would say, half of them. That is what I would say to the Government House Leader.

I just want to reiterate a couple of points on that. The problem with the last boundaries commission and redistribution of seats in the House of Assembly was not that there was a problem with one person, one vote, but that there was a problem with the variance within the districts in the Province that had a large geography. Under the old system there had to be a certain proportion of voters in a district, but allowed for - I believe the Member for St. Francis can tell me - a plus or minus 25 per cent. If there were 9,000 people in a district, there was allowed to be 25 per cent above or below that. That gave the so called independent commission the opportunity to be flexible where they needed to be.

For example, the Member for Fortune Bay - Cape la Hune probably has, geographic-wise, one of the most difficult districts to get too, and there are a number of others, Mr. Chairman, a significant number of others. While the government of the day didn't take that into account, they wanted to tighten that up somewhat. They talked about a plus or minus 10 per cent, that did not allow the flexibility required for effective, not only equal but effective, representation in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the larger urban areas it is somewhat easier.

MR. TULK: I am interested in (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I am interested in them too, I say to the Government House Leader. Time is critical. Seek as we may. They are convinced now; that is it, that is all we can do with it, we will have to live with it. Fair enough. You can't say the Member for Kilbride is not trying to be co-operative, I say to hon. members. You certainly cannot say that.

Mr. Chairman, with respect to the notion of equal representation in a Province like ours, we have to be just as concerned or equally concerned with effective representative. It is easier for somebody representing a district in Corner Brook or St. John's to represent a larger constituency. It is easier to get to your constituents. I cannot imagine what the Member for Fortune Bay - Cape la Hune must go through when he wants to get from one end of his district to the other. It is a huge geographic location, representing probably forty or forty-five different communities. How many town councils, local service districts, volunteer fire departments, Lions Clubs, Kinsmen organizations, Knight of Columbus organizations is it possible for one member to deal with? Mr. Chairman, under the leadership of the last government it was seen that it must be equal and representation must be fair.

I can tell you, Mr. Chairman, that while some members may be concerned about redistribution or lowering the number of seats in the House of Assembly, the problem is going to be out of our hands within the next ten years, if out migration continues to the extent that it is.

MR. J. BYRNE: Good point.

MR. E. BYRNE: It will be out of our hands from a federal perspective, because unlike the Province of PEI we don't have a minimum number of seats that are enshrined and guaranteed. Ten years from now we could end up with probably five members. How much time do I have left on this ten minutes, Mr. Chairman?

CHAIR: Five minutes.

MR. E. BYRNE: Five minutes? Five minutes I will talk to the Government House Leader on that?

AN HON. MEMBER: Okay.

MR. E. BYRNE: Okay. We could end up with as little as five members ten years from now representing the Province in the federal Parliament. Very easily, if out-migration continues. We also could, Mr. Chairman, end up with forty-two, forty-one, or forty seats in this House of Assembly by the next independent boundary commission, simply because the out-migration statistics and out-migration will dictate that representation by a certain body or number of people will dictate it to ourselves.

When it comes to the House of Assembly in terms of the appropriations, Administrative Support, House Operations, I think that it is incumbent upon all of us - and I think the Internal Economy Commission, recommendations that I would make as a member of the Internal Economy Commission, are to give it more powers, I would think, more flexibility to deal with the concerns and the evolving realities that members deal with each and every day.

To say that we haven't done our share would be wrong, because we have. Individually we have, in terms of what benefits there are to members, and what benefits there should and should not be. We have taken our fair share and done our part as members. The Internal Economy Commission, and all members know, spent a significant amount of time dealing with allowances, et cetera. There have been a number of representations that have come through the Internal Economy Commission from members in this Legislature dealing with what it has meant for them to take significant cuts in terms of expenses. Some members find it very difficult to make ends meet. By the time you get into the sixth month or seventh month of a given fiscal year expenses that members should not be incurring are being incurred.

If you look at other legislatures across Canada, most legislatures across Canada afford the opportunity for members who live within a certain distance away from their districts allow them to have the expense of having a district office open. I would think it would be a legitimate case, especially when you look at a region like Labrador. The Member for Labrador West, I believe it is, who probably is certainly (among??) the top three people who are furthest away from the seat of government, and being furthest away when he is here, meaning furthest away from his constituents. That isn't easy. Because when that member gets home - how many calls do you get at your house? Every night, every weekend, the impact on family, all of that is not factored in, because people expect it. You should be doing it. They own you, have a right to dictate to you. We all go through that.

But if there was some way for you as a member to use a portion, or if government through its own normal operations afforded you the opportunity to have a - you don't need a big-scale district office, but an officer where you could have somebody there on your behalf. I mean, what good is your assistant here to you? If you had somebody, your assistant, in your district each and every day, then the people in your district would know that they could go up to the member's district, talk to the people who work for him, or the person who is there who works for him. Know that there is a point of contact, they aren't phoning in over the telephone system, or phoning in wondering who they are talking to, if the concerns are duly noted, what is being done about it. It is a more direct face to it. I support that concept for members who represent districts that are, in the first instance, large, and in the second instance, further removed from the seat of power, being in St. John's, right here.

The Member for Twillingate & Fogo. Why couldn't it be possible for you to have your administrative assistant for some part of the year work out of your district? While this House is open is the most difficult time for your constituents to get hold of you. Right? There is no reason why we cannot do that and legitimately you get elected to be here. You serve two functions: to be in the House, to stand for votes, to speak on legislation if you so wish and secondly, you have to get elected to serve your constituents, but it is difficult for people in Fogo, I understand it, difficult for people in Fogo when the House was open, phone the member who is locked in here from 2:00 p.m. to whenever, get prepared for the House. Why couldn't it be that you, the person who's salary you got allocated to you, could not be out there? You have a constituent coming in, it is almost the same as talking to the member, (inaudible) the concern, get it out, fax it in, the member has it on his desk, 6:00 or 7:00 that night when the House closes, gives him some time the next morning to deal with those issues that arose the day before. It makes sense to me.

In most assemblies across Canada that service is provided for members of the House of Assembly. It is not provided to the members of this House and it should be. We live geographically in the largest province in Canada and those are just one area and I can touch on more and I will touch on more as this debate continues, but I will get into it a little bit later. I know the Chair has indicated that my time is up and I will sit down and let the member for Cape St. Francis or anybody else for that matter, who wishes to make a couple of comments on the issue.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. A. REID: Are you the last one Jack to go.

MR. J. BYRNE: Well that remains to be seen.

CHAIR: Yes.

MR. A. REID: Well I will give you leave if you want, I cut you off today, remember you had to leave and I never got a chance - I am returning the favour. I will give you leave, go ahead.

CHAIR: The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs relinquishes his opportunity to speak to the member for Cape St. Francis.

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

Just to correct the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, today when he spoke my time was up and he is not doing me any big favour by relinquishing, but I thank him anyway.

Mr. Chairman, I stand again today to talk about the Concurrence Debates with respect to the Legislature and the sub-head in the Legislature, Administrative Support, of course any organization depends heavily on their Administrative Support as do the House of Assembly and I have no questions with respect to the Administrative Support or the House Operations, all seems legitimate to me.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, the other sub-heads is the Standing and Select Committees, Hansard, Legislative Library, Executive Support, Administrative Support and what have you, obviously very important to the smooth operations of the running of the House of Assembly.

The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, the person that was appointed, not the individual but that position I think a few years ago, seems to be to me a fairly important position or operation, but I do have to question certain things that we are responsible to submit to the Chief Electorial Officer. Each year we have to submit to the Commissioner a report of our financial situation of each individual member in the House of Assembly and really I think that the - what can I say, Jack stands alone - but the reports -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The majority of one, that is what they are saying on the other side of the House now. I know they all like me over there a great lot and they support me to the hilt on everything I say and do, no problems there, but back to the Commissioner for the Chief Electoral Office.

Now, we have to send in a very detailed report around the end of March each year to the Commissioner and obviously it is important that he have a general understanding of what the financial interests of the members of the House of Assembly have to the Commissioner and obviously, it is important that he has a general understanding of what the financial interests of the members of the House of Assembly have, but, Mr. Chairman, when they ask you for, you know, life insurances on your children, life insurances on your spouse, life insurance on yourself, where are your retirement savings plans, they ask you how much money you have on your credit card, Mr. Chairman, I think they are going too far with it. I really do not think that information is necessary.

Obviously, I have no problem if you are involved in any businesses that would appear to have a conflict with the government or if you are doing certain businesses, or taking on certain transactions or activities, that is all well and good and I can live with that but, Mr. Chairman, when they ask you also, they may carry it too far with respect to the disclosure I suppose of certain information with respect to your businesses, because people in the Province or people in the House of Assembly here, Mr. Chairman, sometimes have private partners in the business and they may very well object to giving information to the government; those people have not been elected by the public, Mr. Chairman, the sitting MHA has been elected, so that in itself is a conflict and I think it is being worked on or should be worked on.

The information with respect to your children, you know, young children probably in grade school or high school or in university and you have certain insurances on these individuals, and they want to know how much insurance you have on them, the Commissioner, and I think it is carrying it a bit too far. I know when I sit down and fill it out and I say to my wife I have to say how much RRSPs you have or what insurance I have on you, what life insurance or term policies or whatever the case may be, Mr. Chairman, I have to question why that needs to be known.

Also, what other information did he request? Let me think here now. As I said the businesses, the insurances, anything at all, anything that they consider your property, Mr. Chairman, they want to know how much property you have, if you have one piece of land, a house, two houses, ten houses whatever. Now I wonder if it is really necessary for the government to have that information. I sent in my information before March 31 or whenever it was required and the Commission wrote back to me and asked me: What was the value of my house? What difference does it make, Mr. Chairman, what value it is? It is a house on the Lower Road in Outer Cove. I mean, it is the same house, I have been in it for twenty-something years and hopefully, I will be in it for another fifty years; hopefully, I will still be a young man then, Mr. Chairman, I will be ninety-six years old and still be a young man.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: What's that?

AN HON. MEMBER: You are going for immortality, are you?

MR. J. BYRNE: Looking for it and hopefully we will get it. Looking for immortality, I say to the Chair. A lot of people would love to have it, a lot of people have paid dearly for it I suppose to try to obtain immortality but usually we cannot achieve that, Mr. Chairman.

With respect to the House of Assembly itself and the sitting members in the House of Assembly, Mr. Chairman, I believe that most members and you know, we are often tarred with the same brush by the public, they are very cynical towards politicians generally in Newfoundland and generally in the country I suppose, very cynical towards politicians but, from the people whom I have met in the House of Assembly, I think, on both sides of the House, Mr. Chairman, they genuinely try to do a good job in their districts and, it is a very taxing job, Mr. Chairman, especially when the House of Assembly is open and when you have committee meetings in the evenings or in the mornings.

In Opposition I suppose it is even a bit more difficult especially with only nine of us at this point in time, but when you have to attend caucus meetings in the morning, you have to attend committee hearings probably in the morning and one in the evening, sit in the House of Assembly, have Question Period, speak on the floor on issues of concern to the public and issues that we feel should be brought forward, it can be very taxing on your time, Mr. Chairman, but the people out there, do not realize how much time and effort go into being a politician in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Most members, as far as I know, on both sides of the House, attend many functions in their districts, as many as they can attend I would say to you, Mr. Chairman, I know I do in the District of Cape St. Francis and have met members before here, and actually we have worked together on things; the Chairman himself and I have worked on issues within our districts which affect probably both districts, so you can often-times work together. Sometimes, in the House of Assembly, Mr. Chairman, you may believe with the approaches going back and forth and the discussions and the arguments going back and forth between the various members, that we do not co-operate on any issues or that we do not get along at all and that the Opposition just stands and criticises. Not the case.

Often times there are meetings behind the scene with various ministers, as the Member for Kilbride mentioned earlier today, that we have meetings, or the Member for Bonavista South talked about it earlier today. The ministers and members of the Opposition often times sit and chat about their districts, especially in light when the members or the - well, both sides, I say to members. The back benchers on the government side and the members on this side, in Opposition, meet with the ministers to try and get infrastructure for their districts, to get roads done, paving, what have you. So they meet. Often times it is successful, and more times it isn't successful.

I see the Minister of Education looking at me. I went over and had a chat with him not long ago concerning an issue in my district, trying to get a new school in my district, in Flatrock. He put me on the right road, to a certain extent, to try and accomplish that feat. It is something that is desperately needed in our area. As a matter of fact, to address it even further, (inaudible) -

MR. A. REID: (Inaudible) you're the best man they have on that side (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs says that I'm the best man on this side. Now, if that was coming from anybody else on that side of the House, I would believe him. I can't say who is the best man of the House because there are both men and women. So I would have to say who the best person is on that side of the House.

I'm going to depend a bit now on the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal. That is the position now?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Lynn Verge.

MR. J. BYRNE: The (inaudible) -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: There you go. See, I support whoever. I supported Kim Campbell too, by the way.

Anyway, the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal over there. I met with her a while back, and I brought it up in the House of Assembly the other day, concerning an issue in my district, an individual, and she came across the House today to me and asked me a question with respect to that situation. I appreciated that, that she had the - to even remember to come over and ask me about it, and ask me to check into it, and I'm going to check into it. These are the kinds of ministers we have, some ministers - some - who you can work with, Mr. Chairman, and others - sometimes personalities get in the way. Not mine, (inaudible), Mr. Chairman, but others.

Anyway, this debate on the Legislature -

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave, Mr. Chairman. I can go all night.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: We shall see. The Minister of Education says this is going to be the last time he speaks today. That may very well come to pass, Mr. Chairman, and it may not come to pass.

As I was saying, with respect to this Legislature -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: What do I want? Or what can I ask for? What can I ask for, I say to the Minister of Education. A new school? No problem. Can you put that on the record? Would the minister stand and put that on the record, the answer to that question?

Anyway, Mr. Chairman, as I said, in the House of Assembly there are people on both sides of the House, Opposition and government, who work together often times to accomplish things in our districts, and rightly so. Because when we are elected to the House of Assembly, when the government members are elected, and members on the Opposition are elected to the House of Assembly, we are elected to represent the people of the Province overall, and people in our districts in particular.

People in the districts pay taxes, just like anybody else in other districts. Now, of course, when the government is in power - and I suppose it may have happened years ago. I mean, it was thrown up before that the previous Administration were a bit, what's the right word, partisan, I suppose, in distribution of the funds. As I said then, if that is the case, if that did actually happen, two wrongs don't make a right. We have to accept that there are members on that side of the House who are elected and they are the government of the day, and naturally they are going to show a little bit more - it is only human nature to show a little bit more favouritism to their own. That is human nature. We have to keep in mind that we have to treat everybody fairly and try to be equal, I suppose, to a certain extent. I know this can't happen, because various projects cost different amounts of money, but we have to try and be fair to all sides of the House.

The members in the House of Assembly, as I said earlier, as I started out, basically try to do the best for their districts, they try to be fair to their constituents and they work hard for their districts, all members, I would assume. If they do not work hard for their districts the electorate will tell them so in the elections that come up. They say the first time getting elected to the House of Assembly is easy, getting re-elected is the job that most people face a second time around. That is the challenge to get re-elected and when you are getting re-elected and you are running for the election a second time, I say to the Member for Labrador West, that when you are looking to get re-elected the second time around, people have something to look at. They have your record of the past three years, the past four years, to base your performance on and if they should give you an `X' on the ballot box, that is what they have to look at. So, that is why they say it is harder to get re-elected.

Now, there are some veterans in this House of Assembly, the Member for Terra Nova and a few more, that have been elected many many times, obviously they had to do a good job in their districts, there is no doubt about that. They had to do a good job, they had to put in the time, put in the hours on weekends or what have you, Mr. Chairman.

Now, there are people out there, as I said earlier, who are cynical and they figure politicians are paid too much. Once the House of Assembly is closed they are gone off, not in their offices any more, they are gone off on holidays and they just work maybe three or four months of the year and they are getting this big salary. The reason why they believe that I suppose is partially our fault for not putting it out there, I think it is something that most politicians shy away from, but actually I suppose, if you sit down and look at the time that most politicians puts in, when you look at the House of Assembly, various functions, meetings they attend on weekends, in the evenings, they are not being over paid or grossly over paid by any stretch of the imagination. I know some people would have you think they are, but they are not really.

Then you talk about the MHA's pensions and that is a hot issue and I do not even know if we should even talk about it because it maybe carried, but when you look at the time and commitment and what they contribute to their pensions each pay cheque, what they basically sacrifice, their time with their family, especially if they have a young family, the possibilities of getting a job after they leave the House of Assembly, we have people we know that were defeated in the last election, good hard working members of the House of Assembly on both sides probably that were defeated and they do not have a job today, some of them. So, it is not easy to get back in the workforce once you have been tagged with a certain party whether it be Liberal, NDP, PC what have you or Independent.

These are some of the issues and concerns that people have to look at when they are talking about politicians and this House of Assembly. As a matter of fact, I consider myself quite fortunate to be able to represent the people of Cape St. Francis and before that the District of St. John's East Extern. I will set a record, Mr. Chairman, because I am the first MHA for the District of Cape St. Francis, that cannot be repeated I suppose. So, I feel privileged and honoured to have served the people in the district and hopefully someone mentioned to me the other day that I will be in here another forty years.

MR. E. BYRNE: Why would you want to be?

MR. J. BYRNE: Someone said why would you want to be.

AN HON. MEMBER: Jim Walsh must have said that to you.

MR. J. BYRNE: It could have been the Chairman there, the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island, he may have said that to me, but I do not know if I could be here forty years, that is a long time, a long time.

Anyway, I am going to sit down now and let someone else jump up on that side of the House over there, on the government side because they were complaining today that I was talking about them and not giving them enough compliments. So, Mr. Chairman, thank you for your time and I will likely be up again.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I rise to say a few words on the - what are we on, the Legislature?

CHAIR: Yes, page 51.

MR. FITZGERALD: - to say a few words on the Legislature, Mr. Chairman. I suppose the reason why we are here - our own House, Mr. Chairman.

Sometimes I wonder, and when you talk with the people who are in the gallery like tonight, when they are here and they see some of the shenanigans that go on here, I think they leave very dismayed. In fact, my poor, old grandmother who raised me, and did a very good job of it I might say, if she were here and saw some of the things, she would drive me out in front of her I would think and drive me home out of it. But there is -

AN HON. MEMBER: She would drive you across the road and beat (inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: She would drive me across the road with an Alder, like she did a good many times, into the house and up to the cold bed, I say to members opposite and only allowed me out to go to the outdoor toilet, once a day. That happened a good many times.

Mr. Chairman, to revert to a debate that was on here a few minutes ago between the Member for Waterford Valley and the Member for Labrador West, when he talked about the number of seats being reduced from forty-eight down to, I think the member said probably forty-two or thirty-six or something. The only think I can say in response to that is, if we are going to do anything with the number of seats in this House, then we certainly have to look at rural areas. I know in my district and I think I can speak for rural members opposite as well, that we have our plates full right now, and when my secretary came to me at the end of last month and said that I have gone through over 400 telephone calls, so far this month, a full book used up I might add, then that should tell you a story.

AN HON. MEMBER: Twenty days.

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, that is right twenty days. It is not thirty days or thirty-one days, twenty days and 400 telephone calls in one month, Mr. Chairman, and I do not think the hon. members can relate to that and that, is no disrespect but we all know the part that the town councils play, and the city councils and that sort of thing. Being a member from rural Newfoundland, you are a city councillor, a town councillor, a social worker, you are the person who tries to get somebody into the hospital; you are the person who tries to have the washer fixed, the drier fixed, carpet for the floor, fix up somebody's child support payments, wages garnisheed and the list goes on, but those are some of the things in which you are involved. The phone never stops ringing.

I have not taken a holiday in the four years that I have been here. I have not taken one day off. I don't know if there has ever been a day passed that I have not been on the phone talking to my constituents some time during that day, Saturday, Sunday or whatever. In summer time people say to me: why don't you take a holiday? There are two reasons: No. 1, I have never been able to afford to take a holiday and the second one is, if you take a holiday, when you come back you have a month of hard work trying to get caught up and people wondering where you are.

Mr. Chairman, you talk about, maybe the people in rural areas should have some support staff. Well, there is an argument for that too but in most cases, and I think Cabinet ministers know this better than any of us that, when your constituents call, they want to speak to the person whom they elected, and most often they are not satisfied to speak with the secretary or they are not satisfied to speak with the minister's EA, they want to speak with the minister; they want to speak with the person whom they elected. Far too often, Mr. Chairman, members fall into a trap whereby they distance themselves from their constituents, but they should never forget that when there is an election, they have to go back looking again.

I had a lady come into my office some time ago, a lady with political aspirations, would like to run for the team opposite if you would. Mr. Chairman, and she said to me: You know, you should not be involved in the small things that you are involved in; you should not be involved in trying to solve problems with people on social services

You shouldn't be involved in trying to get people into trades school or one of the eastern colleges, as they are called. You shouldn't be involved in trying to straighten out a student's loan. You should be out trying to get industry attracted to Catalina, Port Union and Bonavista. You shouldn't deal with any of that stuff. That isn't your job. I wouldn't touch that.

This is what the lady had related to me. She felt that if she was a member there is no need of her going back to her district any more. She would be down in New York or up in Boston trying to attract big industry to move in and get everybody working. What a sudden surprise she would get if she ever came in through those doors, what a sudden strike of reality she would be faced with.

AN HON. MEMBER: But maybe that is the reason that the urban areas get as much industry (inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: That might very well be. I know that the urban members over on our side, it is no different. They have time to do research work, they have time to do other things. Mr. Chairman, when I came in here in the morning at 8:00 I spent the rest of the day on the telephone. If there is a call that takes any more than twenty or twenty-five minutes then I'm ten calls behind, I say to members opposite. Half of it, when the phone rings you hope it is going to be a simple yes or no in order to solve the problem. Because I believe in getting back to people and talking to people and being available for people, and that is the only kind of member I want to be.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: The Member for Waterford Valley. I was in his office the other day and the phone rang, and he ran out through the door. He thought it was the fire alarm.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: He isn't the only one, I say to the members opposite. I ask the members opposite if it is fair to have a district like St. John's North with 6,800 electors. Is that fair? When the District of Bonavista South, with probably the highest unemployment rate anywhere, or at least comparable to anywhere else on the Island, being the biggest district in all of Newfoundland and Labrador with 9,277 electors, is that fair?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) second?

MR. FITZGERALD: I would say probably the Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: You are, okay, and then right here. There you go. Is that fair? No, it isn't fair, I say to members opposite. It should certainly be done a little bit differently than the way it is. The urban and rural should be at least a plus or minus 25 per cent. We can get as close as we like to that one person, one vote, Mr. Chairman, but it certainly doesn't make sense in a province like Newfoundland and Labrador. We should revisit the boundaries again.

MR. E. BYRNE: Tell him how many calls you got last month, just your secretary, not you. (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I told him, over 400 in twenty days. In five days (inaudible) four weeks.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I'm not surprised. I've got 9,277 electors, I say to the Member for Topsail, the biggest district voter-wise in Newfoundland and Labrador. For an urban district like St. John's North to have 6,800 voters, there is something wrong with that. There is something wrong, Mr. Chairman, when a district like mine, with thirty-five communities, with one representative, has the same privilege, or has no more privileges than a person who represents an urban area with just two-thirds of the electors. There is something wrong with that.

When the Commission was going across the Province I appeared before them, in fact I went there I think it was twice. Judge Mahoney at the time said to me: For districts like yours what we will do or what we will look at doing and what we will suggest is that we will give you some support staff. I say to the Member for Port au Port, how much support staff did he get over and above what he had before? Nobody, Mr. Chairman. There were four seats taken away, an unfairness in the way the districts were set up and I suppose it will stay like that until a review is put forward by government again. I don't know if it is an automatic thing. I say to members is it automatic that you have a review every five or six or ten years?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. FITZGERALD: I don't think so.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. FITZGERALD: It is, and for how long I say to the Chairman, every ten years, is it?

AN HON. MEMBER: I think so.

MR. FITZGERALD: I think it is every ten years but that does not necessarily mean to say that you will have a change every ten years.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: So it is something that we should look at and something that maybe, should be brought about where there would be a bigger difference, Mr. Chairman -

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: - plus or minus 25 per cent.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Cartwright - L' Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just wanted to have a few words on what is being proposed for electoral boundaries on reducing the number of seats in the House to forty and I have some serious concerns about that. I don't believe what I am hearing today that the Opposition would make such a proposal in the Legislature.

I think that by reducing the number of seats in this Province, it will dramatically affect the rural areas of Newfoundland and Labrador, and have dramatic effects on Labrador as a whole, and I cannot believe that this is the same Opposition who stands in this House day after day, representing the people of this Province demanding that government do more consultation -

MR. E. BYRNE: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

MS JONES: - demanding that the people of this Province have fair and adequate representation -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Kilbride, on a point of order.

MR. E. BYRNE: Just on clarification for the member, that we are talking about the Legislature and what people were talking about was allowing a greater variance so that there could be greater representation in rural Newfoundland and Labrador and allow for less seats in more urbanized areas unlike what happened last time. So I think that, what we were talking about, a number of us, was exactly the point that you are trying to make, so that would be for those people who represent larger constituents or larger districts geographically, would have the opportunity not only for equal but effective representation. That is what we are talking about.

MR. CANNING: (Inaudible), Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Labrador West, to that point of order.

MR. CANNING: I would like to speak to that point of order.

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chairman, I stand by what I said earlier, they can have all the views they want, that they can have a wider variance, the Supreme Court of Canada said what the variance is going to be and if people are going to articulate a certain position, they have to take the laws into account, especially the laws as presented by the Supreme Court of Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

There is no point or order, it is more of a supply of information among members.

The hon. the Member for Cartwright - L' Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I say that, if the Opposition finds it necessary to change the variances for urban areas in this Province and they feel that the urban centres are over-represented, well they certainly have my support in trying to do that, but they do not have my support in trying to reduce the representation of people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: A few years ago, the people of my district almost lost their representation. We went through this with the boundaries commission and fought it, and were lucky that we were able to maintain our seat. I do not want to have to do it again today.

I represent an area in this Province where we were going to be thrown in, half of our district with Happy Valley - Goose Bay, half of our district with the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, totally different issues, totally different type of environment and people's issues that are being represented, and that is unfair, I say, Mr. Chairman.

I think it is wonderful and yes, it would be a great concept if we could get offices set up in our districts and we could get that type of service for the people whom we represent, but I do not think it is fair to do it on the backs of representation in this House for the people of this Province.

I want to say, that in Labrador, we have only 30,000 people there and if we were to look at changing the electoral boundaries in this Province, looking at these variances, we would be left with two seats in the House of Assembly.

We fought for years to try to have a member of Parliament for Labrador and we were finally successful in getting it. We had to fight once already to try and maintain those four seats of representation for Labrador and I hope that we do not have to do it again. The issues there are complex, the people need this type of representation, they need to know that there is someone there looking out for them and it is fine and great that if we could have these other services that are being proposed, but at this time I know that it is fiscally impossible. I would have to say that based on the variance levels that are there now and what is being proposed with the forty seats for the Province, that I would totally be apposed to it and that I would fight to maintain the representation for rural areas of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, subheads 1.1.01 through 3.1.01, carried.

On motion, Department of the Legislature, total heads, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, if it is agreed that we will call it 8:00 p.m. I am ready to make up that much time. We do have to have so much time in this House in order to get Estimates through and if it is agreed to call it 8:00 p.m., then I would not call any other head, if it is not agreed I am afraid I have to call another head in order to make up some time in the Legislature.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, by agreement with my caucus on this side, we agree to call the clock 8:00 p.m. and if that is satisfactory for the Government House Leader then we can probably adjourn for the day.

CHAIR: It is agreed that the clock be 8:00 p.m.

Order, please!

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I would assume that the minutes of the House will show that and I move that the Committee rise and report progress.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

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

MR. WALSH: Mr. Speaker, the Committee has asked me to report that it has made progress with respect to the House of Assembly Estimates and that they have passed them without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee reports that the Committee has considered the matters to it referred and direct them to report progress, and that the Estimates were carried.

On motion, report received and adopted, Committee ordered to sit again on tomorrow.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. As I understand it, we are debating the private members' day tomorrow, a motion put forward, not a very good motion, by the Opposition House Leader, I believe. I move that the House do now adjourn.

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