May 8, 1997               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLIII  No. 22


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

The Chair would like to welcome sixty-two students, Level I and Level II from the Discovery Collegiate in the Town of Bonavista. These are Law, Democracy and Canadian issue classes, and they are accompanied by their teachers Tony Power, Jeff Piercey, Stephanie Gould along with bus drivers Allister Hicks and Louis Street.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Oral Questions

 

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the new minister on her appointment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: I would also like to tell the minister that the portfolio has changed but the critic has not.

AN HON. MEMBER: It will.

MR. FRENCH: That's a matter of opinion from the man from Topsail who usually says nothing.

The new Minister of Health, when she was President of the Nurses' Union challenged the government to provide more funding for health care. Now that she is in a position to do something about it, how long will the people of the Province have to wait before we see more funding?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I think that with the announcement most recently by the federal government of raising the floor of the CHST, I think we have been very clear that we are anxious to hear the issues and concerns that are brought forward by their front-line health care providers and that we will be making any necessary changes that are within our realm of possibility. We believe because of the change in the federal funding that we will be able to look at some initiatives in some way to deal with the issues as they have been presented to us to date, and also in more detail after we go through our forum this weekend.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When changing his Cabinet today, the Premier said the people of the Province have expressed concern for the integrity of the health care system. He certainly reinforced this when he relieved the minister.

With thousands of people frightened about the deterioration of our health care system, what do you intend to do differently, Minister?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to, if I can, in answering the member's question and his comments - and I would expect the member to participate in the House with his usual grace and good will today, and it seems to be somewhat lacking in some of his comments - I would like to reflect upon the words of the Newfoundland Medical Association who issued a release that said two things: One, welcoming the appointment of the Minister of Health this morning. It says: The association looks forward to working with her, through the joint management committee, as we strive to meet the challenges before the health care sector.

The same release goes on to say that the association went on to express their thanks to Minister Matthews. Over the last three years the hon. Lloyd Matthews has worked hard in the interest of health care in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: We wish him well as he assumes his new responsibility with the Department of Works, Services and Transportation.

Mr. Speaker, there is one reality today in this Province, and that is that the job in this Province, or any other Province of Canada, of maintaining the responsibility of the health care portfolio is an onerous one. It is a challenging one, and it is a difficult one, and it takes a measure of courage and commitment to carry it through over any extended period of time.

Minister Matthews was the second-longest serving health care minister in Canada. He went at the job with a heart-and-a-half. He served this Province with distinction, served it well, and I am proud and pleased to have him in a new role of responsibility.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, as we review this weekend the health care system with front-line - front-line - health care providers, it is appropriate that a former front-line health care provider, former health care educator, and former President of the Nurse's Union, will take the lead in assuming that new responsibility with new initiative, new energy, and with a new outlook. Mr. Speaker, I would hope that all members would welcome that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a public forum in Corner Brook, where I was allowed to enter. I sat and listened for awhile to concerns of people in that community. I guess one of the things that really struck me last night Premier, and to the Minister of Health, and the members from that particular area, was when the cardiac specialist for Corner Brook, Dr. George Grebneff, stood on his feet and looked around the room. I was there, and there were two or three other MHAs from both sides of the House there -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Again I remind the hon. member that he is on a supplementary, and no preamble should be required.

MR. FRENCH: His question, Mr. Speaker, was very simple. He said: There are MHAs in this room tonight, and I would really like one of them tomorrow in the House of Assembly to stand on their two feet and ask the question. I told that gentleman I would ask that question. That question is: How many deaths are too many before something is done for cardiac patients on the waiting list?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think it is a very unfortunate question I guess to be asked across the House of Assembly, but I think it has to be answered very clearly that even one death is too many. I think that we have been very clear in our direction over the last number of weeks. We, in collaboration with the Health Care Corporation, have been actively pursuing meeting the needs and the requirements of people of this Province as it relates to cardiac surgery. We are hoping to have an announcement on that next week to be able to outline how we plan to address those issues, and how to reassure the public that even one death is too many. We will be working very hard, and we compliment the Health Care Corporation in its efforts, and we look forward to that announcement next week.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will certainly inform the doctor of that answer. I will also just inform the House that Dr. Grebneff did a survey in the Corner Brook area and in the past several months - and I have the statistics here - he has had reported to him that there have been five deaths, and that is certainly five too many.

Minister, the issue concerning rural doctors is critical. Particularly critical is the fact that the workload is being dumped on some of our nurses. The minister has been in Cabinet for fifteen months and knows the fear and concern that the people in the Province are experiencing with regards to health care.

The minister knows full well what is going on. Does she believe that the nurses in the Province are stretched to the breaking point, and what will she do to ensure that more nurses are hired?

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

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

I think, as an active nurse, I can say there are no nurses who would ever consider what my hon. colleague has said, that something is being dumped on them when it comes to patient care. I think there are stresses in the system, there are difficulties in the system, we acknowledge them and we commit to address those in the coming weeks. I do know that nurses and other health care professionals have approached the Social Policy Committee over the last number of months and have asked that we consider how we can maximize use of their abilities and maximize their role; that is something we will be looking forward to hearing more about on the weekend. We will be addressing whatever issues and priorities we can within the best of our ability and we look forward to hearing from the front line health care providers on those very same issues.

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

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, I have just returned from two public health care meetings on the West Coast, one in Port aux Basque and one in Corner Brook. I have spoken to people who sincerely fear for their lives. I have watched people cry, as I am sure my colleague from Port aux Basques did the other night. I have heard the anger in their voices, and your government has to start feeling what these people are feeling.

They feel that your government, both provincially and federally -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Again, I have to remind the hon. member that supplementary preambles are not permitted and I ask him to get to his question.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

- have let them down.

Minister, what do you say to the people in Corner Brook and Port aux Basques and Port Saunders who have reached their limit with this issue?

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

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

We, too, are very concerned about what we are hearing and seeing out there, right now, and I think that is one of the main reasons why the Premier, last week announced, and very quickly, has help put together this hearth care forum this week from our front line health care providers and other professionals.

We are concerned, as well; we have acknowledged that there are difficulties, that there are stresses in the system and that they need to be addresses and we will be doing that. We will be doing that to the best of our ability in the shortest possible order and we give you that commitment.

I think, Mr. Speaker, it is very important to state for the people of this Province, that we do have problems in our health care system, but we do have a lot of good things happening in heath care. We have a lot of very hard workers, our front line nurses, doctors, social workers, OTs, you name them, the people who keep our hospitals clean, the people who serve in the ORs. They are doing good work and I think it is only fair that we support them through this time.

There is definitely a need to address issues, but I think we have to recognize that while doctors are a very integral part of our system, they are part of a team when we help deliver the best possible health care to the people of this Province. I use the issue, Mr. Speaker, of what is happening in Labrador and in the Northern Peninsula of this Province, where we have seen other health care providers work very closely as part of a team to develop services, in many cases without physicians, and in many cases with close collaboration with physicians. This is a team approach, this is a team effort, and we will work as best we can and will continue to deliver quality health care. We know there are problems, they have to be addressed, and we will do that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just like to tell the minister that I have also had the opportunity over the past several days, in Port aux Basques and in Corner Brook, to meet with doctors and nurses, and believe me, these people are very, very serious. They have reached a breaking point in their jobs and I think the quicker we can do something for these people the better. Will the minister reverse the decision of her predecessor and ensure that both the general public and the media have an opportunity to participate in the health forum this weekend? Surely the minister will not close the door on the people who may have solutions to this critical problem? These are people like pharmacists and the ambulance operators who have both asked for standing at this particular hearing and were both denied.

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

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

I think the main issue here, the issue that is being addressed by the people of this Province, is that we identify clearly the issues and priorities by the front-line health care providers. We are doing that with a forum. If I remember correctly, while the minister may have changed, the critic has stayed the same, and the critic did not see the need for a major health care forum but wanted us to get on with the issues and try to solve them. That has been our commitment, to meet with these people to try to deal with the issues and to recognize that while we have problems in the system we have to work within our means, and we will do that, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not have the pleasure of directing my questions to a new minister. My question is for the Minister of Education. Yesterday and today, over 1,000 teachers have received lay-off notices. The mood is sombre, and once again, as has been the case in past years with this Administration, chaos will be created as final exams approach. What will the minister do to ensure a successful year end for our thousands of students, despite the chaos?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As much as the hon. member might try to suggest that there is total chaos in the system, nothing could be further from the truth. There is no question that there is a significant degree of change occurring in the structuring of the school system for next September. There have not been changes in the classrooms themselves throughout this school year. In fact, I think I tried to make it clear yesterday that while it is very unfortunate, extremely unfortunate, that over 1,000 teachers and their families yesterday were faced with a lay-off notice when there was absolutely and entirely and completely no need of it - largely and almost entirely because the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association, that represents those very teachers, decided consciously that they would not adjust a notice date in the collective agreement for the most historic year of educational change that we have ever witnessed.

When that proposition was put directly to them, so that we could spare their own members the anguish that they are going through - and I do understand that some teachers find this very difficult and very troublesome and it may, in fact, have some impact on their ability to teach with their normal degree of enthusiasm in finishing up the school year - but in the final analysis, there can be no doubt that there was an option offered to the teachers' association so that these lay-off notices would not have to be actually given as they were. The teachers' association itself, for its own reasons, that they have not explained to me - they felt, in their best interest and their members' best interests -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. GRIMES: - that they would not make an adjustment. Therefore, you have the notices, but no one should try to suggest that is causing massive chaos in the education system and risks a successful conclusion to the school year.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister that he should not be shirking his responsibility. We do have over 1,000 teachers in this Province who have received lay-off notices. They are asking questions like: Should I sell my house? Should we pack up and move? Should I apply for new jobs in other parts of the Province? Is it necessary, like many other thousands of Newfoundlanders, to apply for jobs in other provinces?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: When will he determine a date for final decisions, to ensure stability for those teachers and their families, in order to allow them to focus on educating our youth?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am just really glad, I guess, that in my opinion, the teachers have a lot more sensible approach to this than the hon. member is trying to suggest.

The teachers in the system know full well what has happened now, and they know that it is a mere administrative technique that the boards are using to protect themselves against the possibility of having to keep more teachers on the payroll than they will have funding for. In fact, the President of the Teachers' Association yesterday, who had received a lay-off notice himself, with over twenty years of teaching experience, and who knows full well that it is just a notice for purposes of protecting a clause in the collective agreement, he knows, like over 800 of the 1,000 know, that they have a job.

There is no widespread panic amongst teachers. There are no teachers going around asking: Should I sell my house? That is an absolute fabrication by the member opposite. He should really do himself the service of checking with the President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association, because they understand what is happening now, their members understand what is happening now, and in fact, there are 468 fewer teachers going to be teaching in the Province in September. Everybody has known that for two or three months now. But, in reality, since almost 300 have retired voluntarily there will, in fact, be fewer than 200 actual lay-offs.

The teachers know that, they know it is a seniority system that works. The teachers with fifteen and twenty years of experience who have gotten notices know exactly what is happening. They know their jobs are not at all threatened. It is really unfair that the member opposite would try to come in here and suggest that there is any kind of widespread panic amongst the professional teachers of the Province over an administrative arrangement that was conducted yesterday, because he knows the difference, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, this morning during the Estimate debates on education, the issue of the Royal Commission implementation was raised, and the hon. minister indicated that he had assigned the responsibility for the implementation of the Royal Commission matters to one of his officials.

I am just wondering, and I ask the question of the hon. minister. It is the students that reform is about, it is about these very people around us here this afternoon. We have, as a result of the designation process, the closure of schools; we have, as a result of the designation process, the closure of schools, which means no schools whatsoever in our communities; and, I say to the minister, we have uncertainty and instability with respect to the fact that over 1,000 teachers did get their dismissal and their notices.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to get to his question. He is on a supplementary.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I ask the minister: Has he given the same consideration, as he did with respect to the Royal Commission implementation, to make sure there is a senior official in his department to ensure that the well-being and the interests of students is being taken care of, and to ensure that because of the poor morale, their best interests are not being forgotten?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I might point out that the students have nothing to fear with respect to the successful conclusion to a school year as a result of what is occurring. The hon. member again should know the difference, and I guess maybe that is part of the difficulty. As the critic, he obviously does not know the difference.

There are two things occurring in the Province administratively at this point in time. One of them is a designation process for schools that is happening for the first time in the history of the Province. It is new legislation. Boards are dealing with it for the first time. That is whether schools are going to be single denominational or multi-denominational for next spring. That has nothing to do with how many schools actually operate.

The number of schools that school boards are choosing to operate for next September, being some sixty-two or so less than this school year, has nothing to do with education reform, has nothing to do with the new legislation, has nothing to do with Term 17. It has all to do with the fact that for fifteen years now the student population in our Province has been in decline to the point that it has now gone from 170,000 students down to 102,000.

The government has announced repeatedly that it has adopted a policy of allowing the size of the teacher workforce to track the size of the student population. Therefore we announced some two-and-a-half months ago that there would be 468 fewer teachers in the system next September than currently are in the schools. As a result of that, which is a function of declining enrolments and the teacher allocation, had nothing to do with whether we ever changed Term 17, nothing to do with whether we ever changed the legislation, it is a function of the number of students we serve in the Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: The school boards, Mr. Speaker, have determined -

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. minister to quickly conclude his answer.

MR. GRIMES: Yes, Mr. Speaker. The school boards have determined that it is in the best interest of the students to meet the needs of those students next year in sixty-two less buildings with 468 less teachers, that has nothing to do with the designation process. I thought, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. member who is the critic who had proposed some twenty-six amendments to the new legislation -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Again, I ask the hon. minister to take his seat.

MR. GRIMES: - understood the difference but it is obvious I guess, that he does not.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Forestry Resources and Agrifoods.

Would the minister inform the House if it is his government's intention to pay the total cost or part thereof to relocate ten poultry farms on the West Coast to a location on the East Coast of the Province?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. gentleman as I have said to him on a number of occasions in the past week-and-a-half, that the government of this Province is concerned about the amount that it is costing the government from the taxpayers of this Province to be involved in the chicken-processing business. It is a business that we do not believe we should be involved in; it is costing some $6 million to $8 million a year of taxpayers money, which is not available for health care and education and other things and we are at a set of negotiations that are ongoing with IPL which is made up of the chicken producers, and I have told him that until those negotiations are complete, I am not in any position to say what that agreement will be. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, it would be ludicrous of me to stand up here and say the agreement is going to be this when the negotiations are still ongoing. I have to inform the hon. gentleman that all will be known at the right time.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, it is kind of hard to get answers on this particular transaction.

Would the minister inform the House if it is his government's intention to erect infrastructure such as grain silos in the Harbour Grace area to accommodate the needs of IPL using taxpayers dollars?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Forestry Resources and Agrifoods.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, if this is question B, then I have to say to him that the answer to question B is the same as it was to question A.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wonder if the minister will inform the House as to the total cost to government for production overtime expenses at St. John's, since the minister closed the Corner Brook facility?

Minister, sources tell me that in excess of seventy employees are working five hours a day overtime, being paid at time-and-a-half in order to meet production schedules. I ask the minister if this is a responsible way to conduct a business and, is it a responsible way to spend taxpayers dollars?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Forestry Resources and Agrifoods.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, the same answer applies. I have to say to the hon. gentleman that no, we recognize we should not be in the chicken business. I have to say that to him. Now I ask him a question: Does he want us to now close down the St. John's plant? If he does, he should stand up and say so.

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

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

My questions are to the new Minister of Human Resources and Employment and I take the opportunity to congratulate her on her new appointment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. H. HODDER: I am sure she will bring the same competence that she has brought to other offices that she has held in the past.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the minister: In view of the decision of your government to close the group homes in the Province and restructure the whole system of providing care for particular groups of individuals and the decision to proceed in a rather autocratic manner, would the minister be reviewing that whole procedure and, would you give a commitment to the House that you are willing to examine the whole rationale in the next short while?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BETTNEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am certainly very delighted to have the challenge and to be provided the opportunity to serve as the Minister for Human Resources and Employment. It is a very large and a very diverse department which has many responsibilities, and the group home issue, the group home responsibility is one of many that this department has responsibility for and one of many that I will be getting familiar with over the coming days and weeks as I get totally briefed and familiar with all aspects of this department.

A great deal of thought and planning has gone into the reformation of this department and it is a new direction for the department that I am particularly pleased with; I believe that in moving the department towards looking at and bridging social and economic issues, that we are bringing a new vision to this aspect of our public service for the people of this Province. As we move in that direction there are many challenges that we are going to face. We have difficult decisions that we have had to make in all aspects of the budget, not only associated with this particular department but with all aspects of government in providing public service to the people of this Province. So I will, as the new minister, be picking up where the previous minister has left off. I will be taking the foundation of reform that has been put in place for moving forward in this Province and I will be doing my best to try and move this further along over the coming weeks and months as part of a strong team of government who has a vision for what they want to see for this Province and for the people of the Province. That will be the kind of energy that I will bring to it and I want to compliment my predecessor on the planning work that has (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I say to the hon. minister that of the buzz words out of this government, two stand out, one is consultation and the other one is grassroots. Well today I have had people call me, crying on the phone, telling about the fact that they feel the new structure is not sensitive to their needs and to the needs of their families. I ask the minister - in view of the fact that the Premier himself has been written by numbers of people throughout the Province and asked if he would come to various homes to visit, to be part of the dialogue, to listen to them - I ask the minister if she would have a public forum on this particular issue, let's say in St. John's and Grand Falls as per the request? If you are going to listen to grassroots, going to have consultation, then we are asking you if you would go out as this request is here, spend a day in a group home in St. John's -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I believe the hon. member has asked his question.

MR. H. HODDER: - and one in Grand Falls and listen to what the people have to say?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, there is a process that we are currently involved in, as a government and particularly as a department, which involves developing a strategic social plan. Now one of the elements of that plan will certainly touch on and include dealing with issues associated with group homes. So there is a high degree of consultation and planning that will go into this aspect. Of course in my general approach to these duties and responsibilities, as the minister, I can say here that I will be listening to what people have to say on this issue, that I will be consulting and dialoguing with all of those who are involved in any way, touched by, served by, have concerns that they wish to express. That avenue will be open as it has been in the past for people to express their concerns so that we can benefit from that in developing our policies and pursuing our programs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

 

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Twillingate & Fogo.

MR. G. REID: The Social Services Committee have directed me to report that they have received and approved without amendment the estimates of expenditure for the Departments of Education, Health, Human Resources and Employment, Justice, and Environment and Labour.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the committee members for their participation.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

MR. CANNING: Mr. Speaker, I wish to present the report of the Resource Committee.

The Resource Committee have directed me to report that they have reviewed and approved without amendment the estimates of expenditures of the Departments of Development and Rural Renewal, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Forest Resources and Agrifoods, Industry, Trade and Technology, Mines and Energy, and Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

During Question Period today, in response to a question from the Member for St. John's East, the Minister of Education looked at the member and he said, "That is an absolute fabrication by the member."

Mr. Speaker, in Beauchesne, page 145, the word `fabrication' is clearly deemed to be unparliamentary, therefore, I guess the words `absolute fabrication' is a little more unparliamentary than the word `fabrication' alone.

I ask, Mr. Speaker, if you would ask the member to withdraw that particular statement.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair will take the point raised by the hon. member. I will review Hansard and address the point of order, tomorrow.

 

Petitions

 

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of a number of residents of the Province, who are asking the House of Assembly to urge and direct the government to establish a school lunch program throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, a number of schools in the Province have either a school lunch program or a school breakfast program, but the petitioners here are asking the government to establish a universal school lunch program, so that every school in Newfoundland and Labrador will have a school lunch program to provide schoolchildren at least one nutritious meal a day.

Now, I noticed there are a number of students here in the gallery today, who may or may not have the benefit of a school lunch program in their schools. What they may not know, and what many people in this Province do not know, is that a very high percentage of children in Newfoundland and Labrador go to school hungry. They go to school hungry because their families do not have adequate finances to provide sufficient food, to ensure that each schoolchild has a full stomach, when he or she goes to school. It is a problem that is kind of hidden, Mr. Speaker. A lot of people do not want to talk about it, children do not like to talk about it. Schoolchildren especially do not like to talk about it because they do not want to be seen by their fellow-students as being somehow stigmatized by poverty, but the reality is that more and more children in this Province live in poverty.

Just to use one statistic, in 1989, the Canadian Council on Welfare had established, based on the poverty rate, that about eighteen per cent of Newfoundland children live below the poverty line. That rate changed in 1995 to twenty-six per cent. That is a very significant, substantial jump, an almost fifty per cent increase in only six years. What that probably means, Mr. Speaker, is that twenty-five per cent, at least, of schoolchildren in this Province are living in poverty and are part of the group that is going to school hungry.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we understand that community efforts have been made in various places to have a school lunch program and the School Lunch Foundation had devised a way to have a school lunch program that is stigma-free. In other words, any student participating in the program is not identified as to how they are participating. It is a program that is universally available and it becomes, in fact, a part of ordinary school life that everybody in school stays for lunch and enjoys a hot meal, provided at the school.

Mr. Speaker, that is what we are talking about here. What these petitioners want is for government to use some of the money that is being saved in the educational changes that have taken place as a result, in particular, of school reform - that some of that money be used to establish a comprehensive universal school lunch program. It is something that is absolutely necessary if we are to give every student an equal chance to participate fully in the school program. It has been demonstrated without any doubt by experts, by educators, and indeed, by common sense, that a hungry child cannot concentrate his or her attention on school work. It has been demonstrated that children in these circumstances do not get to participate fully in the school program, do not get to learn in the same way that others do, and are therefore going to be kept behind their fellow-students in terms of achievement, in terms of opportunity for the future. It is one way to try to end a cycle of poverty and a cycle of circumstances that keeps certain people behind and allows others to go ahead.

We do want to see a continuation of a situation where some people and some families seem to do okay by the school system and in life, and so many others are left behind and are faced with much less opportunity and much less chance in life to do well and to participate in the great opportunities that exist across the country. It is only one building block in an attempt to eradicate poverty, but it is an important one, and it is one that is achievable in the short-term, because we do have significant changes taking place in our school system. Significant savings have taken place in the operational costs of schools and school busing as a result of the big changes that are taking place in education today.

I ask hon. members to support the petition and to urge government, and direct government, to establish a universal comprehensive school lunch program for every school in Newfoundland and Labrador to help end child hunger and to give our children a better chance.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise again today to support the petition brought forward by the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

The prayer of the petition is well known to the House. We have had this particular petition day after day, and we shall continue to present the petition. Because poverty in this Province is epidemic, when we have 40,000 children who go to school every day hungry. We know that we have the stats on what poverty is as it relates to single-parent families. We know, as well, that poverty is a problem that inhibits greatly the achievement levels of students in the school system. We know that students who are going to school hungry are at risk of not being able to perform as well as those who are not in that particular situation.

We know that the drop-out rate for children who come from poor families is much higher than it is for those children who come from average or middle-income families, or families with sufficient funds to be able to provide good nutritional meals for their children every day. We know that we should be having more interventions by way of school lunch programs. We know that the community at large is trying to address this problem, and we commend those organizations and those business groups which are out there saying: We must do something about this problem of child poverty, in particular as it relates to child poverty in the school system.

Mr. Speaker, as a former teacher, I know that children in my school walk the corridors at lunchtime rather than be able to go the cafeteria and buy a lunch. The sad part about it is, many of them did not have anything at home to bring a lunch with them. I say that I taught in a rather middle-class community. We know that the problems are real. The studies that have been done attest to it. As the hon. member just said that 18 per cent of Newfoundland families, or over 38,000 children, live below the poverty line. How can we expect them to perform in the school system?

As one of the ministers said the other day in responding to this, the Member for Port de Grave, he visited a school on two occasions and witnessed the changes that had occurred in some of the students who had been observed before they were offered a good lunch program and then after they had a good nutritional meal at lunchtime.

Mr. Speaker, we know that children are in jeopardy. We know that if the children today are in jeopardy of not being able to fulfil their potential then they, in their turn, are likely to find themselves in circumstances whereby their children will be in similar circumstances. So there is a cycle to this poverty.

We have to be aggressive, we have to be bold, we have to take strong initiatives to try to overcome it, and no one group can do it alone. We are not saying to leave all the responsibility to the government. We are not saying that. We are saying that as a community, made up of the government, made up of church groups, community groups and working with aggressive policies at the community level, then we certainly hope that we can altogether: (a) recognize the problem; and, (b) start to do something about it; because if we don't do something about it... We have to remember what has been said on many occasions, that if you have a hungry child today you have a good probability of having a hungry parent twenty years from now. So the cycle of childhood poverty just keeps going on and on and on.

Mr. Speaker, we want again today to bring to the attention of the House, as we have done on many occasions before, the real risk to educational achievement and personal fulfilment that is imposed on children if they are unable to have good meals and if they live in families where poverty is an everyday feature of their lifestyle.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Before recognizing the hon. minister, I would just like to welcome to the galleries today, on behalf of all members, the mayor and a delegation from Centreville, Wareham and Trinity.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have just a few comments in support of the initiative contained in the petition put forth by the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

Mr. Speaker, I have said many times over the past number of years, and especially since I came into public life in 1985, that we live in the greatest country in the whole world. The United Nations has said that Canada is the envy of the whole world, and people all across the world choose Canada as the best place in the world to live.

I have said many times, in addition to that, that we live in the greatest Province in all of Canada, a population of 550,000 over a vast region four times larger than the country of Japan - we with half-a-million plus people, Japan with 100 million plus people.

We are the envy of the world with the resources that we have in this little, sparsely populated Province, resources in our marine life and resources on land; but even though we are the envy of the whole world, even though we have such a great country, and even though we live in this great Province, we still have a problem when it comes to the children going to school, our younger people, doing without food, nutrition, because of the inability of the system or the parents to provide adequate incomes for themselves and to feed their families.

Is it a problem that is going to go away quickly? Absolutely not. I remember back in 1989, when I was appointed Minister of Social Services, it was one of the first problems that I dealt with as minister, to begin to work with the community organizations to initiate the School Lunch Program. It has come a long way since 1989 but it is not yet - I should not say `not yet' - but it is a long ways from being satisfactory. We will never be satisfied until we are totally aware or totally understanding of the fact that no child is going to school - or getting up in the morning, whether going to school or not - without the proper food in his body. But it is not going to work by a government order. It is not going to work by a government, provincially or federally, saying that it is going to happen. It has to be the total cooperation, the total understanding of the community, of industry, of governments and of people in general to address this major, major problem. We have a lot to offer but I don't think that it is fully understood how serious this situation is. I just want to say to members opposite that we are aware of this situation. The School Milk Program this year, I think it was in excess of $200,000 of monies put into the school lunch programs but more needs to be done provincewide, more, much more.

AN HON. MEMBER: The School Milk Program.

MR. EFFORD: I just mentioned the School Milk Program but it is a partnership that is making it work. It is a partnership that is making it happen and improving - the beginning, the step in the right direction. The day that we can see a resolve to this very, very serious problem, I tell you, we would all applaud and all sit down with great satisfaction with that. It is a problem that we can all accomplish as a community at large. When will that be done? Let's hope, Mr. Speaker, as soon as possible in the future. We look forward to it but we have to stop talking about it. We have to start putting our cooperation, our understanding, our heads together to get things done. I think action is needed, Mr. Speaker, and action is what must happen and organizational structures must focus on the very, very serious problem.

As I said last week, when you see firsthand - as I did and I am sure many more other people seen firsthand - visiting schools, being pointed out by the staff at the school, children who are doing without food and to see the way that they are separated from the rest, they are laid back and not being involved in the day to day routine of their education or sport activities, I tell you it is very, very sad. So I will not back away from it and I will say to members opposite, I will be a part of doing anything that is possible to help alleviate and solve this very, very serious problem that many children in our Province are faced with.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate the compliments from the best Forest Resources and Agrifoods Minister in the House of Assembly.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: You did a good job.

Mr. Speaker, another petition on the parks privatization issue.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

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

Mr. Speaker, I will soon be able to write a book on the fight against the parks privatization. I have stood and asked that many questions, presented that many petitions, gone to that many meetings, Mr. Speaker, and spoke with that many people, accepted so many phone calls and letters and petitions being mailed in, over 15,000 names on petitions now on this particular issue. I have here names from Grand Falls - Windsor, Badger, Lewisporte, Brown's Arm and Bonavista Bay. We have presented names from all over the Province because this is an important issue and the people of our Province are clearly against the privatization of provincial parks. The people of our Province are clearly against this government taking our parks, parks that have had tremendous investment into them and privatizing them.

Catamaran Park, just to name one, for those in the House who remember, Mr. Speaker, back in the late '80s there was a terrible forest fire out in that park and the government spent over $500,000 in one year alone refurbishing that park and bringing it back to an acceptable standard as a provincial park. So I would hazard to guess, Mr. Speaker, that perhaps there has been in excess of a million dollars, well, well in excess of a million dollars, in the last ten or fifteen years, spent on Catamaran Park alone and yet, the government are prepared to take Catamaran Park and privatize it and get from the public, from a private operator, maybe $20,000? I mean, clearly, that cannot be considered a good return for the public. Clearly, that cannot be acting in the best interest of the public on that park - and there are many parks. Little River, Mr. Speaker, has had hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in the last decade and yet we are going to take maybe, $20,000?

Mr. Speaker, the people of this Province have a right to know the investment into these parks. We have asked for that information in the House of Assembly on a number of occasions. I have asked the minister through the Freedom of Information Request process for that information and she still has not provided the information, and that was over two months ago. She is clearly out of bounds in that regard. She has clearly broken the Freedom of Information Act because she has not provided the public of the Province, who own the provincial parks, with the information necessary for the people to decide whether or not we are getting a good return on these parks.

Mr. Speaker, every member in this House, every member, if he were to speak honestly, would say that we are not getting a fair return for the investment that the people of the Province have put into these parks, and that, in itself, is a strong enough reason to fight the privatization of provincial parks.

MR. TULK: What is going on (inaudible), Baie Verte mines, (inaudible)? Tom Rideout was down there and the Premier was down there.

MR. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, I honestly cannot give that answer because I was not a member of the House at that time.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today to support the petition put forward by the Member for St. John's South.

The Government House Leader just asked a question with respect to Baie Vert mine and how much money was wasted. I have a list in front of me, Mr. Speaker, of how much money has been wasted by this Administration in the past five or six years, and I have said before in the House of Assembly so I really do not need to get into it, you know - I am looking at Trans City, maybe $40 million bucks and that is nothing to the Government House Leader, obviously; but there is a list, so I can go on and on.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Over the life, over the term, it is true.

MR. TULK: No, it is not.

MR. J. BYRNE: It is.

MR. TULK: This government did not waste that money.

MR. J. BYRNE: Who did?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, the previous -

AN HON. MEMBER: The government (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: A technicality. A government which that member is a member of - how is that?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Liberal Government, the Liberal Government since 1989, and do you sit on the Liberal side of the House, I ask the Government House Leader? Yes or no?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: You do, so point made, Mr. Speaker.

The privatization of the parks: We have been, on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, presenting petitions with respect to the privatization of parks for some time now, and it seems to be like water on a duck's back with respect to the minister and members on that side of the House.

What amazes me is the point that there is no one on the other side of the House getting up to speak to these petitions. I know for a fact that there are people going to see members on that side of the House; they are, because after having meetings with members on that side of the House, they came and spoke to me about it, saying they are not getting anywhere with this issue.

I want to talk about the Marine Drive Provincial Park down in Pouch Cove. The minister has made statements that employees will certainly be given first choice at the privatization of the parks if they put forward a business plan. The employees would be given first choice, Mr. Speaker, and they would be given assistance so they would not be out of jobs. Well, I had people in my office, employees from the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, who put forward a plan for the park on Marine Drive. It was a very good plan considering the time frame they had - they only had two or three weeks to put it together. Most people know, especially in business, that to put together a good, comprehensive business plan, you are going to take a few months, possibly. These people got together, Mr. Speaker, and I have a copy of the business plan in my office today and it is a good plan. The employees tried but obviously they did not get anywhere with it, because they have been told now that in the near future, within the next two or three days, Mr. Speaker, the successful applicants will be notified, those who got the parks in the Province.

I spoke to people from tourism yesterday, Mr. Speaker, on that very issue. There is a concern there now, because normally many parks open up in Newfoundland and Labrador over the long weekend, the 24th of May weekend as it is referred to, and that weekend happens not to be tomorrow, Friday, but the following Friday. Now, we are going to have people being told, maybe Monday but not likely, I was told, Tuesday not likely, but sometime next week, possibly Wednesday, who are the successful people and businesses that have those parks. So, that will give them approximately forty-eight hours to prepare and put things in place for the opening of the long weekend.

Now, Mr. Speaker, is that any way for this administration to put forward a plan to privatize? We have been asking questions all along. Why the rush? As a matter of fact, we know now that there was a study done by that administration last year, and it was strongly recommended in the review that they not privatize this year, 1997, because of the Cabot Celebrations and the impact it might have on the tourism potential this year. We may end up getting people into the park business and into the tourism business, Mr. Speaker, who are not familiar with the business and, in actual fact, could cause some problems and make some people upset. So they went 180 degrees reverse of their own recommendations. After what they paid, by the way, to have an opinion given to them, they ignored it, Mr. Speaker, as they have ignored many opinions they have paid for the past.

For example, we spoke here the other day with respect to the boundaries in this last boundary change, with respect to the number of districts in the Province. The final result was forty-eight, but it was recommended by a commission, I think, forty, then forty-two or forty-four. It ended up, of course, at forty-eight; again ignoring paid advice, public hearings that went across this Province where people gave their opinions. It was ignored.

Again, we have the same situation here now with respect to privatization of parks.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

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

MR. TULK: Take thirty seconds.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Government House Leader.

So we have the same situation here now, Mr. Speaker, where this administration is ignoring the advice that they have spent probably thousands of dollars for with respect to the privatization of the parks in Newfoundland and Labrador.

So I would advise them, Mr. Speaker, to back off on this, because they are going to create havoc in the tourism industry of Newfoundland and Labrador this summer

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Orders of the Day

 

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before I move to Orders of the Day and put the motion to move us into committee, I had a discussion with the Opposition House Leader to move a motion that it is necessary to put the contingency fund in as a supply item.

Mr. Speaker, I have also asked them for leave to give notice and put the motion at the same time and he has agreed.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow, and tomorrow will be today, move that a further estimate of expenditure related to a contingency reserve in the amount of $30 million be referred to Committee of Supply; not that we are passing it but just referring it to make it possible to put it into supply.

MR. SPEAKER: The House has heard the motion

All in favour, `Aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Opposed.

Motion carried.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply.

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I think the Minister of Finance is ready, I know he is willing and I am certain that he is able, to take us through the Estimates on Executive Council.

CHAIR (Mr. R. Woodford): The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, I rise today to comment briefly on the Estimates for the Executive Council. I had thought, of course, that the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board would have seized the opportunity to stand before the House and tell us all of the details of the various expenditures. I certainly would be most willing, now that he is settled in his chair, to yield the time so that he can rise and speak for the first ten minutes. It certainly must be worth a ten-minute address to the House of the introduction for this particular debate, that the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board would go and explain all the various estimates.

I note that in the first part of the Executive Council estimates, we have the Lieutenant-Governor and his expenditures. There is a great deal of debate in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador as to whether or not the Lieutenant-Governor's expenditures are inconsistent with what the views of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are, relative to the maintenance of the establishment we call Government House.

If we look at the detail of the salary estimates, we find that there is still a fair bureaucracy that is supported by the taxpayers at Government House. In fact, the total there is $482,200. It has changed a little bit from last year. In fact, it went up by somewhere around $23,000. Mr. Speaker, we wonder why, in this time of restraint, would you be spending $23,000 more at Government House than you were spending last year. I say to the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, when he gets his chance in a few minutes and wants to get up and give us the details, he might want to comment on why the expenditures for Government House have increased by $23,000. It is not a big percentage, but certainly, at a time when we know we are cutting back everywhere else, when we are -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Government House is on page 15 of the Estimates.

MR. DICKS: (Inaudible) exact subhead (inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Yes. The total for Government House is under Section 1.1.01.

MR. DICKS: If I may -

MR. H. HODDER: Sure.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The simplest way to deal with this, if my hon. colleague does not object, is, if there is a particular issue, I will try to answer it as you go through, rather than make a list of them. We can go back and forth, if you like.

MR. H. HODDER: Sure.

MR. DICKS: Are you referring to the revised figure of $459,000 that represents an increase from $443,200? Is that what the member -

MR. H. HODDER: What I am looking at, in particular - if you look at Salaries, they went from $381,400 to $$401,300, Salaries for Government House. Also, you will see that the total for Government House went from $459,000 up to $482,200. Salaries went up by about $19,900.

MR. DICKS: Yes. I can answer that for the hon. member. There was a new secretary there. The former secretary resigned and the new secretary was a former Commissioner for Members' Interests. Because of our structure in government, if a person is moved to another position, that position might have a lower salary, as is the case of a Secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor. In this case, Wayne Mitchell, who had been the Commissioner, had a higher salary level. His salary was preserved and that represented an increase of some, I think - the difference in the salaries is the difference between his salary and that of the former Secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor. Wayne took his salary with him, in effect.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

In looking again at the Government House figures, we find the category of Employee Benefits that did not exist in last year's Budget, and I was wondering why we would have no expenditure under Employee Benefits last year, but this year, although it is a little small amount, it comes in here as $500.

Two questions, one is, why there was no recognition of employee benefits last year, and what has happened there to have to add that particular category in this year?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

That is a fee for a conference that is going to be held. I know when Mr. Mitchell was the Commissioner for Members' Interests, he was a member of various organizations. I cannot say specifically, but it may reflect on that. It is a fairly minor amount that relates to a conference fee to be paid this year.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

Moving along again into the same particular category - because again, I am asking for more information relative to a lot of these particular expenditures. Because many people in the Province are asking very serious questions about the level of support that we give to this particular establishment. And we are not saying that we should not have the office of Lieutenant-Governor - that kind of thing is part of our democratic system and I would not support that particular proposal at all, but I am asking for a detailed analysis of rationales.

For example, the next particular expenditure is Transportation and Communications. It was up to $16,700 in the proposed budget for last year, and it has been revised down to $16,200. I ask the minster: What kinds of transportation and communications we are talking about here? Is this a detailed breakdown of that?

Also, Mr. Chairman, we wanted to note that under Property, Furnishings and Equipment, there has been double the amount spent this year that there was last year. Is that because there has been a change of the occupant at Government House? Again, it is only a rather piddly amount, but it does represent further expenditure and a realignment of expenditures.

I was wondering if the minister, when he gets a chance, might want to comment on the overall position of the government relative to the concept of maintaining the present facility. It has been a debate every year about whether or not we should maintain that present facility. I would like to ask the minister, if there has been any analysis done as to the cost to maintaining that facility.

I recognize that if we were not to use that facility at Government House, we would probably have to find some alternate use for it. Have there been some consultations done? Looking at the experiences of other provinces, we are probably the only Province now that maintains this kind of facility for the Lieutenant-Governor, as a resident and also as a - in our case, it is an historic site, as well, and it carries on a tradition of the democratic system. But many people have commented on the facility. The have looked at other more wealthy provinces - Ontario, for example, which does not have such a facility anymore.

Also, we know the experience of Alberta and other provinces, where they have made decisions that are different from what we have made. Whether it is by public perception or not, many people in the Province really wonder if we should be continuing to support that particular structure for the purpose that is served. That is distinct and far different from saying that we do not believe in this kind of system that we have in terms of having a Lieutenant-Governor, or anything like that. We are not saying that at all. What we are saying is that if more wealthy provinces have come to the conclusion that they cannot maintain an elaborate structure, how can we in this Province justify the maintenance of a structure that other provinces, more wealthy than we are, have decided they would not support by way of a further infusion of funds from the Public Treasury.

I am wondering if there have been any studies done, or any comparisons done, and if the minister would like to share some of that information with us.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The hon. member raises an interesting issue which is debated periodically in the Province and elsewhere. It really has two parts. The first is whether or not we need a person in the role of Lieutenant-Governor.

It is interesting that you are either in a parliamentary system, as we have, or a republican system. In areas where they have opted for a republican system, or a system of republic rather than a monarchy as we have, or a parliamentary system, they still have a person who, in effect, equates to that of Lieutenant-Governor. In that case, he is called the President. They still have a Prime Minister who is in charge of the day-to-day affairs, but each country has what is, in effect, a Head of State. So whether we had a Lieutenant-Governor or some other person and called him or her President, we would still have that personage, and it is a necessary working of the state. I am sure one could envisage other forms of government but, for whatever reason around the world, it is one system or the other, it appears to me.

I do not think the hon. member is questioning the person so much as the establishment itself.

MR. H. HODDER: No, not at all.

MR. DICKS: The second thing is the necessary functions of that particular office.

The part of it that seems to generate the most interest and debate is the establishment of Government House itself. The Lieutenant-Governor's residence is rather an exceptional, unusual, and admirable building, for all of us who have had the privilege of being there, and for the general public who have seen it.

The first issue, I guess, is: Does it have an alternate use? I suspect we could probably sell it and we would have someone interested in using it as an hotel. We could tear that down and forget about 200 years of history associated with it.

MR. H. HODDER: No.

MR. DICKS: The hon. member is shaking his head, and I share his view. It is an historical resource, and if one has respect for history and tradition, they come with a price tag and a cost, but it is one that countries around the world have chosen to bear in the interest of their heritage and the furtherance of other aspects of culture and heritage, and also from the simple point of view as to who and what we are.

Perhaps a more critical question to be answered is: If we accept the view that this building is a natural part - not a natural part, an artificial part in the sense it is a construct as opposed to some gift of nature, and if we see its value and choose to preserve it, how should we do so? We have chosen to preserve it as a residence for the Lieutenant-Governor.

I think part of the charm of Government House is that it is still a residence and the people who have been in there - and my first acquaintance with it was under Jim McGrath, a former Lieutenant-Governor - have developed a real affection for it.

One of the issues that most people may not be aware of, is that most Lieutenant-Governors, in effect, subsidize the establishment. I know one of our recent Lieutenant-Governors - it actually cost him close to $50,000 out-of-pocket from his own resources and his family's own resources to provide for the receptions that are held there, and the entertainment, and his own travel expenses. I find that admirable, and it is fortunate that that particular person was a man of some means. He chose to do it and, I think, made very much of his office.

So, Government House is a house, but it is one that is used for many public purposes. The Lieutenant-Governors, themselves, from time to time, honour charitable groups and individuals who really deserve recognition, who probably otherwise would not have it.

On the item of cost, we have done an analysis. We have looked at, and we have weighed the cost of shutting Government House against its other uses. We would still have to use it for some other purpose and I suggest it might be a museum and some other resource or I suppose put some archives there and so on but when you cut through it all, there really is not a significant savings there. I think its highest and best use would be some sort of quasi-museum or official reception house for the government because on the other side of it you do save costs. If we did not have Government House we would be paying a hotel bill somewhere else and so on.

The view that we have had of it and we have looked at - in my term in the last two budgets - is that what, if any, savings we would have would be marginal. We would still have to provide security and we would still have to heat it. If we are going to use it for receptions we would still need staff there and from my personal view, if we use it for a museum for example, we would probably have to renovate it extensively. You would have a lot of wear and tear on it which is much greater than you now get and my own view of it is that it would probably cost us more to fit it up properly as a museum. So I would not disagree that there might be other uses. I am just not sure that any other use would be less cost efficient. Having said that, I guess it comes down as to whether or not the people of the Province are prepared to maintain one person and/or his spouse and perhaps members of his family in a style that seems lavish by some people's standards. I don't accept that view. I think it is an important office and I don't begrudge the Lieutenant-Governor having a bed to sleep in, in what is a lovely residence. Given the fact that any alternate use would cost us much, it has been a lengthy part of our heritage and one that I think is worth preserving.

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

Continuing on with the same Heads here, another part of the Lieutenant-Governor's establishment is of course the protocol office. I note that there have been significant increases in the salary allocation and in the transportation and communications budget. This whole office this year and we recognize that two things are happening, one is the Cabot 500th celebrations and the Royal visit. I am wondering if the minister might want to give some more detail on the various subheads? For example, we note that the salary allocation for this subhead has gone from $119,300 to $150,300. We also note that the transportation communication here went from $35,000 to $132,000, about four times as much. Again, supplies have about doubled and purchase services have gone up from $77,000 to $331,000. In other words, in this particular category here we have had more than a doubling. I am wondering if the minister might give some detail as to what the cause would be and what proportion of this would be very specific to the Cabot 500th celebration and if there are any other factors that are involved here other than these celebrations, combined with of course the visit in June of Her Majesty the Queen?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

As the hon. member indicated, the majority of these expenses relate to the visit of Her Majesty the Queen which takes place around Discovery Day. As you know as well the President of Italy and the President of Ireland will be visiting as well. I suppose one alternative is to say: thank you very much and stay home out of it, we cannot afford to have you come. But given the fact that it is our 500th Anniversary and that associated with our celebrations this year and having Her Majesty and other foreign dignitaries attend, is that it is an occasion of great interest to people in North America. You have heard the tourism potential surrounding this and the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador has been designated the tourist best attraction in North America. So the expenses related to it, there is a modest increase this year, in salaries for example, it has gone from $108,000 to $150,000. We have three permanent people and one temporary. So it is not a large increase in staff. That takes the whole staff, including what is there but there are a lot of duties associated with this, in terms of organizing the visit. As the hon. member knows as well, the transportation and communications involved with security and so on are increased as well. Around this whole issue there is a substantial increase.

Salaries have gone up about $42,000. Transportation and Communications and related travel, getting people to and from various events and sites, has gone up substantially this year, approximately $100,000. Supplies have increased marginally. In absolute terms they have doubled. In effect, the Purchased Services - virtually all the categories double. As the hon. member knows, when you bring dignitaries here there are official events, there will be banquets, lunches, dinners, things like this. If the hon. members behave themselves well they might get invitations, in point of fact. We consider that it is money well spent.

It is a great year for the Province. I don't know if any of us will be around, but we may see another 500th anniversary in due course, and at that point the government of the day may choose to double its protocol account for that year as well. But considering the fact that it has grown by slightly more than $300,000, I think it is money well spent. I'm sure the hon. member agrees we will see a huge increase in tourism. As the hon. member may be aware, we had the MuchMusic thing at Marble Mountain this year, which was a great success. That event alone, we have estimated, gave us approximately $1.5 million worth of free advertising just from the play and the number of people who listened to it.

I know all hon. members rather are concerned about expenses from time to time, but I'm sure the hon. member will agree that these are among - it is a reasonable investment for the encouragement of tourism, and the necessary expense associated with accepting visits of well-known dignitaries and the associated publicity and profile that comes with that for our Province.

CHAIR (Penney): The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I probably will ask my colleague here for Bonavista South, he has indicated that -

MR. DICKS: That ardent monarchist.

MR. H. HODDER: - he wishes to address some questions or comments on this particular subhead, so if I could ask him. If he wishes to speak, now is the right time for him to share with us his viewpoints -

MR. DICKS: His ardent monarchial support.

MR. H. HODDER: - and tell us how he feels about any expenditures under this particular category.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: My views on the Lieutenant-Governor's establishment, Mr. Chairman, are certainly well known, and I think many people in this Chamber share those views, including probably the former premier of this Province.

MR. DICKS: The former premier?

MR. FITZGERALD: Including the former premier of this Province. In conversation one day, Mr. Chairman, as I was talking about the Lieutenant-Governor's residence, he looked across and he nodded his head and said: Probably not a bad idea. The only thing is, you can't get rid of the Lieutenant-Governor because in order for that to happen so many provinces have to agree, and one province alone can't unilaterally say that the Lieutenant-Governor is kind of done away with.

It is certainly money that can be spent much better in another direction. It is certainly money that can be channelled into health care or education or social services that we can get I think much greater results from than having a Lieutenant-Governor's residence that the people of this particular Province pay for. There is no way we should be able to go out and speak on the need for providing somebody who is making $98,000 a year with a residence. I'm not sure, and the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board can correct me if I'm wrong, but I ask the minister, is the Lieutenant-Governor's salary taxable?

MR. DICKS: Yes. But the Governor-General's salary is not taxable. I think the Lieutenant-Governor's salary may be taxable. I think that is the way it works. I'm not sure.

MR. FITZGERALD: I'm not sure if it is, and obviously

MR. DICKS: The Governor-General's is not. I think the Lieutenant-Governor's may be.

MR. FITZGERALD: The Governor-General's salary is non-taxable -

MR. DICKS: Not taxable. The Lieutenant-Governor's may be.

MR. FITZGERALD: - but the Lieutenant-Governor's salary is taxable.

MR. DICKS: I think it is. (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Okay. The Lieutenant-Governor's salary is paid from the coffers of the federal government, from what I understand. We pay for the upkeep of the House and we pay for the employees and their benefits, and the furnishings and the Purchased Services. When you look at just about $500,000 to have a representative of the monarchy put up in a big building here in this town, I think it is certainly not money that is well spent, not money that we are getting the full value for in this Province here today.

MR. DICKS: I wonder if I might interrupt the hon. member for a moment.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you.

I share his concern with the cost of all of these royal things that are associated this year. Perhaps he might comment on the Province's investment in Bonavista, in redoing the stadium there, and the work associated with it, well in excess of $1 million to provide for the visit. Do you think that is money well spent, or should we perhaps not have bothered with that expenditure and asked Her Majesty to stay away?

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Minister.

It certainly is money well spent, I say to the minister.

MR. DICKS: I would agree. Thank you.

MR. FITZGERALD: It certainly is money well spent. It is a facility that provides recreation, it is a facility that provides competition to the young people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and that is very important.

MR. EFFORD: Did you hear what the students said about you today?

MR. FITZGERALD: No, I didn't hear what the students said, but I am sure it was positive. I am sure it was positive, if they had anything to say. They praised me out in the corridor. It is too bad the minister wasn't there to hear it.

When you look at the recreation centre, sure it is a good thing, I say to the Minister of Finance. It was only this morning, in fact, I was listening to Sergeant Ike Mercer of the RCMP out in Holyrood talk about the mayor raising concerns out around Avondale and Colliers, and those places, with the problems they are having with the young people there because they have nowhere to congregate; they have nowhere to go. So is the stadium important? Absolutely. Is the Bonavista stadium important? Absolutely. Is the money well spent? Absolutely. Here is a facility that was built back in the early 1960s and not a dollar spent on it, other than refrigeration, from that time up until now.

I have to put credit where credit is due. Only for the royal visit into that community, into that town this year, in all likelihood within a couple of years you would have seen that facility closed, because the money would not have been there in order to maintain it and upkeep it.

Mr. Chairman, if anybody went down there and saw that activity that is carried out in that particular facility in the winter months, it would do their hearts good to see the teenagers and the students from the schools in the area going there and competing. The banners that they have hanging from the roof show how good they are, and the enthusiasm of the parents in coaching those particular teams speaks volumes for the community and for the people and their belief in sports.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: There is lots of wastage there, I say to the minister, that is for sure, but the minister doesn't have to have a long memory when he looks at the millions of dollars spent by his government doing similar foolish things, where they would not listen.

You can hang your hat on the cucumber facility all you want. I know nothing about that. I know no more than you know about the Churchill Falls development and the money that was wasted there. That is all from the dark days of politics. We are going to move away from that and we are going to correct it, I say to the minister; and if we are going to move we should move all the way, not part of the way.

I suppose the question I should ask the Minister of Finance, and I don't know if it has already been asked by my colleague, but I say to the minister: Would it be an insult to the office of the Lieutenant-Governor, would it be an insult to the gentleman who occupies that particular position now, to say that we are going to do away with Government House and we are going to provide you with a suite of offices on a floor here in this building? Would that be an insult to that particular office, or would it belittle it, I ask the minister? I ask him for his honest opinion, because I don't think it would.

When you see what is happening in Alberta and Ontario, two provinces much richer, with many more dollars, many more resources than the poorer Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, when you see those two provinces saying: Yes, we believe in the monarchy; yes, we are going to maintain a Lieutenant-Governor, but we are going to do away with the big establishment, we are going to do away with all the pomp and padgentry and we are going to have the Lieutenant-Governor an office where government will pay a nominal fee for rent.

So, I ask the minister to express his opinion and if he is a strong believer that we should maintain this residence and if he is looking for ways to cut back and save money, $500,000 is certainly a lot of money, Mr. Speaker, maybe he can give us his views on that particular topic.

When you look at the number of people that are employed there, we see that there are thirteen people employed at that particular establishment and there is one argument and the only argument that I have ever heard from the other side, is you are interested in doing away with thirteen more jobs. You are interested in cutting back and doing away with thirteen jobs. I say to the minster you give me the $500,000 and I would employee a lot more than thirteen people and I would pay them a decent wage, I say to the hon. minister.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is a pure waste of money. I think it is money that could be spent better in any other government department. I do not think it would be a slight on the Lieutenant-Governor, in fact I think he fulfils probably a very important function if we are going to believe in the monarchy and if we are going to expect the queen to come and visit, then we need a representative, but before too long, I think you are going to see this particular subject addressed right across the Country.

In England, Buckingham Palace where the Queen resides, it is probably one of the biggest tourist attractions in all of Great Britain. People go there to see the queen. A trip to England without visiting buckingham palace is the same thing as coming to Newfoundland and not going to Bonavista. You have not been there. You have not experienced it. There is no doubt about it, that everybody, when you think of England that is the first place that they want to go, go to the queens residence, visit buckingham palace. It is a card drawer. It is a tourist attraction.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where?

MR. FITZGERALD: Buckingham palace in England. Big tourist attraction. They make money on buckingham palace, at least they get some return.

AN HON. MEMBER: Bonavista is going to be a bigger tourist attraction this year (inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: This year, absolutely in years to come, certainly, I say to the minister and so it should because it is one of the most unique towns, one of the prettiest towns and the drive to it is probably the most scenic in all of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a beautiful town and the view going down around route 235, if you do not get sick on the bumps and the hollows in the road going down, you can fly there like the former minister did, but you do not really see it unless you take the drive, experience the wonderful good will and hospitality of the people there and view the beautiful sights all the way down through.

So, I would ask the minister if he would give me his honest comments without putting himself on the line of those couple of quick questions.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

A few comments, the hon. member has indicated in the House on several occasions his preference to discontinue, I think, the role of the Lieutenant-Governor and the position itself. Is it interesting because for historic reasons, I think, many people (inaudible) share that viewpoint, but it is interesting that having been to Ireland, that Ireland in itself, not only has a president, as well a prime minister, but also maintains a separate residence for its prime minister, so even the government structure in Ireland echoes that of the British tradition, as well.

As I said earlier, it is not easy to escape from a separate presidential or state role as opposed to that of the legislative one, but having said that and more to the point, I think the hon. member asked whether it would be an insult to the Lieutenant-Governor that he should be deprived of this wonderful residence and relocated elsewhere. I accept his inference and it certainly would not be an insult, but there are some other words that perhaps might be an indignity, I do not think that would be the case either. More appropriately would he be rendered ineffective and I do not think that is the case either, but to suggest that he be housed in government quarters somewhere and perhaps having said that, I think the other address would be that, that would not be either inexpensive or inappropriate. We would still be left with the structure of Government House and how to run it. He mentions the people who are employed there, but the jobs are as valuable to those people as others elsewhere and secondly, people who are employed at Government House do perform a certain vital function and they do serve the public in their own way in as much as people who are at hotels have to serve in various ways for people who go there.

Perhaps though, more to the issue as to where the Governor should be housed, I think it would be inappropriate for him to be housed in a government building in as much as I don't think governments or judges or the judiciary should be too closely associated with the executive and legislative wing of government. I think it is appropriate that the Governor be housed elsewhere and for other reasons as I said earlier, government house perhaps. I would not say necessarily its highest and best use would be to house the Lieutenant-Governor, but certainly it is as appropriate as most other current usages that we have which is not to say that of course, you might not be answered otherwise at other times.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, I am not suggesting that we house the Lieutenant-Governor somewhere else. I am suggesting that we provide office space; let him provide for his own house, let him look after his own accommodations.

MR. EFFORD: How much money did you waste on the Ryan property?

MR. FITZGERALD: Another perfect example I say. It has been brought up to me many times and my answer to that I say to the minister is -

MR. EFFORD: Is what?

MR. FITZGERALD: If somebody said to me I am going to give you $8 million and I took it and spent it on the Ryan Premises, it would be a waste of money, it would be a pure waste of money.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: No.1, I did not have any input into the money going there, it was your cousin up in Ottawa who directed the money there and No. 2, is that, that particular money was directed for that type of an establishment. If it did not go to Bonavista it probably would have ended up in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick so we might just as well take advantage of it and bring it here to our community. So, is it a waste of money? Absolutely. Should we have put it in Bonavista? Certainly we should. If the money was there, go after it.

Mr. Speaker, we saw fit to close down the Premier's private residence. The Premier had to go out and buy a residence himself, pay for his mortgage and I don't think we should treat the queen's representative differently. We should be able to put the Lieutenant-Governor in a suitable office and let him look after his own accommodations, let him look after his own keeping like every other Newfoundlander does in this Province.

The other thing, Mr. Minister if you would, and you may have answered this question before but I did not hear it and that is under Supplies, $35,600 for the Lieutenant-Governor's Establishment. I wonder if the minister could answer that question as to what those supplies are. We are not supplying food to that establishment, are we?

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) he has to eat. Are you saying that the Lieutenant-Governor shouldn't eat?

MR. FITZGERALD: Would the minister explain what the $35,000 Supplies are, under heading 1.1.01 (04), Supplies? I wonder if the minister would address that and let the House know what that particular cost is for?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Those are the sort of supplies I am sure the hon. member's own office expends on things like a certain number of things, probably stationery and things like that in the normal -

MR. FITZGERALD: Not for food?

MR. DICKS: No. The hon. member asked about supplies and it includes a number of things, routine office supplies was the first area which is covered there and also household supplies: uniforms, linens, cooking utensils, cleaning supplies, there is a greenhouse there, fertilizing the grass. The hon. member may not need as much fertilizer for his premises as the Lieutenant-Governor does for his for various reasons of course, and other necessary implements running Government House.

MR. FITZGERALD: The minister has a way with words today.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Humber West..

MR. DICKS: It was suggested to me by one of my colleagues that the hon. member might even be a supplier for the fertilizer for the Government House at times.

MR. FITZGERALD: I think, Mr. Chairman, the Lieutenant-Governor might have had a supply of that this morning when the Premier went and took some of his ministers down. The grass should be pretty green from here on in.

Mr. Chairman, those are the only comments I have to make on this particular topic. I think we should move to do away with Government House. I think we should move to have the Lieutenant-Governor, if there is a need for such a position, established in suitable office space somewhere here in this town, and have it supplied at a reasonable price to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The time has come when we can't afford those frills. We can't afford to go spending $500,000 in order to have one person with the pomp and pageantry that goes with the particular office. We should not -

MR. EFFORD: One question. How much (inaudible)?

MR. FITZGERALD: How much - I have no idea what the minister is talking about.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: You should have been there, I say to the minister, you could have been there. Could have been there, I say to the minister. The minister feels, Mr. Chairman, that he should have been in the Premier's chair and I agree with him. He had a chance. If he had the gall to run, if he had the guts to run when he did, he probably would have been in the Premier's chair. He would have won it by default, I say to the minister. You will get into all that when you get the - what's the name of that boat again?

MR. EFFORD: The Companion.

MR. FITZGERALD: When you get the Companion out on the high seas, Mr. Chairman. Those are my only thoughts and comments on this particular topic, and I will sit and let somebody else pass their (inaudible).

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm pleased today to stand in my place and ask a few questions of the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board. I have a number of these questions written down here so I'm going to have to read them, if you people don't mind that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture says I can't read. We shall see, Mr. Minister. Now, what way are we going to do this? Can I ask a question and you get up, and I ask a question, you get up, whatever? Is that the way we are going to do it? How long can I go? Ten minutes, twenty minutes?

CHAIR: Ten minutes, but you can stand in this hon. House during this debate as often as you wish, just as long as there is an intervening speaker.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I ask the minister: What the total cost of the Hay system, step progression, to government this year? In other words, how much in total will government employees see this year in raises that occur not because of wage hikes but because of step reclassifications? Incidentally, how much has this step progression policy cost the government since wage restraint was imposed in 1990? Has it totalled $80 million we owe in pay equity?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Are any employees in the Premier's office receiving step progression pay increases or reclassification this year over last year? Are there any employees in the Executive Council, how many, and at what total cost? Does the Premier think it might be fair to consider freezing those progressions for a time in light of the fiscal circumstances and cuts to the public servants, so employees are not getting an increase in spite of the compensation cuts?

The Premier's travel. This is on page 16. Do all the travel expenses for the Premier covered by the public treasury appear under the Transportation and Communications subhead of the office? How many trips has the Premier taken at public expense since coming to office? Will he table a detailed breakdown of all expenses claimed from the public treasury related to those trips: travel, rentals, fuel, accommodations, meals, entertainment and gifts? Are there any more trips planned to sell the world on redoing the Upper Churchill contract, and where is the money allocated? Was the Premier in Hamilton during the by-election won by his friend Sheila Copps, and did the taxpayers pay for that trip?

MR. EFFORD: Sue wrote that question.

MR. J. BYRNE: I don't care who wrote them, I'm reading them. You just said I couldn't read them. I'm doing a good job. Go back to your own seat and then open up your mouth, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. You aren't supposed to open your mouth if you aren't in your own seat, are you?

Anyway, Premier's expense, page 16. Does the Premier get the $20,000 entertainment allowance that the former premier enjoyed? Has the amount been adjusted to account for inflation? Where in the Estimates does this expenditure appear? Would he consider in these tough times, lay offs (inaudible) and education cuts, relinquishing this allowance? Surely guests of the Province would understand our need for restraint by the Premier given the tough economic times. Would the Premier table a detailed breakdown of how his entertainment allowance has been spent in the past year?

Are you getting all these now, I ask the minister? Or do you want me to sit down for awhile and you can answer those?

MR. DICKS: Do you know the ones I am going to answer?

MR. J. BYRNE: Do the taxpayers pay for any cleaning, upkeep, renovations, catering or other activities in the Premier's personal home? Does the Premier use a chauffeur, how often, under what arrangements, at what cost? Does the Premier use the service of a bodyguard, as the former Premiers have, and at what cost?

MR. DICKS: What was the last one, Jack?

MR. J. BYRNE: Does the Premier use the services of a bodyguard, as the former Premiers have, and at what cost?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank the hon. member for his detailed questions, some of which I cannot answer. Obviously the member knows some of these require a fair amount of detail.

Step progression, first of all, in the public service. All public servants, as far as I am aware, have step progression with the exception of members of this hon. House. Under collective agreements, where we bargain, those are set out. For example, the hon. member may know that the NLTA for example, has a grid of seven steps or seven levels over grade one, two, three and so on, ten years bringing you to the maximum. The hon. Opposition House Leader is probably more familiar with that and some members of this House than I. It is a common factor of all government systems that there is a step progression that relates to the number of years worked for a government and in the case with teachers and others, educational attainment.

As well, the people outside the collective agreements have step progressions as well. What the cost is, in any given year, very much depends on the maturity of the workforce and the turnover. What has been happening in the last number of years is that I don't believe our step progression costs have been that significant because of course there is very little turnover in the public service and the amount is going down each year because most people are reaching the top of their step progression levels.

Secondly, the hon. member asked about step progression in the Executive Council and the number of employees. The answer is that yes, executive council members - the same as every other government employee - have step progression. In the political staff as well there are step progression and that is true of the hon. member's secretary and the six people I believe who work for the hon. Leader of the Opposition. I must say that I was very impressed with his colleagues at the Internal Economies Committee when they made an impassioned plea after the last election that notwithstanding the reductions in the Opposition ranks opposite that we not reduce, any cause whatsoever, the number of people who work in the Opposition offices. I believe we felt and there was some discussion whether or not it should be reduced to three or four considering there were six there previously. They were like loaves and fishes, they divided and subdivided and positions were amalgamated and so on.

So I say to the hon. member that in recognition of the fact that yes, it is certainly necessary in the case given the hon. Leader of the Opposition's problem with the people he had with him, that we should certainly make sure he has sufficient staff to do the job of a Loyal Opposition and the hon. Opposition House Leader knows that we turned a very kind ear to the plea and certainly maintained the staff at the level. So let me just say that all six of those employees have step levels, as far as I am aware, as do people in executive council -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Oh absolutely, yes but as the hon. member knows, it is a function of government employment with the exception of the people elected to this House, that there are in fact step progression and that is true of hon. members opposite, the Premier's office and elsewhere.

Travel Expenses; yes, Mr. Chairman, the hon. Premier travels at government expenses to do the work of the Province. In fact, I was delighted to hear the Premier say that it is such a vital part of the operation of government that even the Leader of the Opposition has seen the Premier to see if he could have a special travel allowance as well because he finds it is -

MR. J. BYRNE: And so he should.

MR. DICKS: I see and I don't disagree with the hon. member but I do agree with the principal that hon. members of this House have to have a right and are funded with travel, certainly the Premier does and figures are there for all to see. He certainly has done a good job doing that. In as much other hon. members of the House, including the hon. member who asked the question, has made such an excellent case for it.

Entertainment Allowance; Mr. Chairman, yes, the Premier is called on to entertain officially - as the Lieutenant-Governor - and to invite hon. members. I think in fact on Friday of this week there is a function that all hon. members are required to attend and yes, there are some expense associated with that.

Bodyguards; no, Mr. Chairman. The last Premier to have a bodyguard was the hon. Brian Peckford, Premier of this Province and since then we have not seen fit to - in fact, not only have we not seen fit, we have not found it necessary for the Premier of this Province to have a bodyguard. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

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

I say to the Premier, here is the question I asked and he didn't answer: How many trips has the Premier taken at public expense since coming to office? We all know he has to travel - that is a specific question requiring a specific answer - and will he table a detailed breakdown of all expenses claimed from the public treasury relating to those trips - travel, rentals, fuel, accommodations, meals, entertainment and gifts? That is a specific question requiring a specific answer.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The answer should not be hard to find. I don't have it with me, but I can assure the hon. member that periodically The Evening Telegram sends in a Freedom of Information Request, every three months or so, and that information is made public.

I am sure that the hon. Parliamentary Assistant would be delighted to provide the hon. members with copies of those articles as they appear from time to time and to update them. It is a regular matter, quarterly or whatever. Offhand I don't know what the number of trips are. I don't read the papers as faithfully as the hon. members opposite find it necessary to do, but I am sure he would be delighted to provide you with that information in due course.

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

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

The Minister of Finance just said he does not read the papers very often. That is not where you get the answers. He should have the answers at his fingertips.

I also ask the minister: Does the Premier get the $20,000 entertainment allowance that the former Premier enjoyed? That is another question that you can answer the next time you are up, if you might.

Premier's renovations - has the Premier's office been renovated or in any way altered since the Premier took office in January, 1996? Could you give the details and costs? Are these costs specified under the Premier's Office subhead or placed elsewhere?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I say to the Government House Leader, leave him alone. He is paying attention to some good questions being asked, and he needs to make notes to remember them.

Also, have there been any renovations to any offices owned by the Executive Council? The Economic Policy Analysis Branch moved to the ground floor from the tenth. Give details of the move and the total cost. What is the total bill for renovating the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh floors? Have any furnishings in the Premier's Office been replaced since this Premier took office? Have any furnishings in the Executive Council been replaced? What is the destination of the old furnishings? What is the source and cost of the new furniture? And has the Premier charged any renovation to his personal home to the public treasury?

AN HON. MEMBER: You are going too fast; you have him lost.

MR. J. BYRNE: Has the Premier charged any renovation to his personal home to the public treasury?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: The answers, by and large, are: no, no, no, no, no, no, yes, no, no.

MR. J. BYRNE: Okay.

MR. DICKS: As the hon. member knows, there has been an ongoing capital works program in my colleague's department, my new colleague's department, my same colleague in a new portfolio's department, as matters presently stand. The floors have been renovated here going on up through, but since the Premier took office in January of 1996 there have been no renovations to the eighth floor.

There have been renovations, as you know. The main structure here in the tower was unstable and as they went through it they had to put some sealant in. There have been no cosmetic or other renovations.

I think the most recent area completed, interestingly enough, was the fifth floor where the hon. member holds an office. Now I don't know what the cost of that was but I notice the Clerk is here and it was funded through the House of Assembly.

I respect the hon. member's questions. Is there any improper or inappropriate or lavish use of taxpayers' money? There is nothing I have seen with any evidence of that. Certainly the Premier has not had his home renovated at the taxpayers' expense; nor would he.

In the ordinary course of government we have had to renovate this building because of its age and some structural deficiencies, and if the hon. member is displeased with his office space he can certainly petition the hon. House for some more appropriate space for himself and we will certainly consider it in the normal course of government business.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: I say to the Minister of Finance, he would be lost without the Opposition, wouldn't he, for answers?

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I would rather be the moon man than the fool man sitting on that side of the House, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Anyway, Mr. Minister, you never answered the question with respect to the $20,000. Is he or is he not getting it?

Does the Premier use a chauffeur? How often, under what arrangements and at what cost?

I am just seeing which questions would be appropriate, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Okay, Cabot 500.

MR. DICKS: If I might reply, Mr. Chairman. There is no chauffeur for the Premier. We have not had one for quite a number of years.

MR. J. BYRNE: Treasury Board, page 24. Which public sector negotiations is the government preparing for? Can the government give us details and dates for upcoming negotiations? Funding has dropped. Is there any reason to believe demand for Treasury Board services may also decline this year, or is it possible we will end up spending more than budgeted, as we did last year?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Three questions, I believe, Mr. Chairman. Is Treasury Board preparing for negotiations, and which? We are preparing for all of them. It is interesting to note that we met with all our unions as recently as last fall. All of them indicated they did not want to commence negotiations. I remember specifically meeting with Dave Curtis. The only ones who did indicate they wanted to negotiate were the NLTA, and we did enter into negotiations with them.

Secondly, the question - Were the expenses expected to decline, I believe was the question, something to that effect. We have downsized by 40 per cent in Treasury Board the number of employees, so we have had a substantial reduction there, and we are changing the nature in which we perform business at Treasury Board. We are basically delegating a lot of the functions that were centralized in government to the various departments. Because we believed that too many of the day-to-day decisions were being handled at our level and, to some extent, cluttering the system, and that it was poor micro-management that is not necessary if we have responsible, conscientious management at the departmental level. To encourage that, we are basically decentralizing and putting a lot of those responsibilities for decision-making back in the departments.

I do not know if you had a third question. I did not get it if there was one. I thought there were three. Essentially, yes, we are preparing for negotiations.

MR. J. BYRNE: But Treasury Board declined (inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Yes, 40 per cent over the last two years.

CHAIR: Order, please!

Before I recognize the hon. member I would like to read for the benefit of all hon. members the three questions that will be debated in the Late Show this afternoon.

Number one, from the Member for Cape St. Francis: Mr. Speaker, I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs concerning my question regarding infrastructure money.

Number two, from the Member for Bonavista South: Mr. Speaker, I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Premier re my question on unemployment and out-migration of Newfoundlanders.

Number three, from the Member for St. John's East: Mr. Speaker, I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Education re my question on reform.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: I will ask hon. members to ignore the first question that was read out. I have been given a new one.

From the same member, the Member for Cape St. Francis: Mr. Speaker, I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Environment and Labour concerning my question on the Argentia base.

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

To the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board again. Under Cabinet Secretariat: Why does the government foresee spending more money next year on Salaries under that subhead than they did last year?

MR. DICKS: Under which subhead?

MR. J. BYRNE: Cabinet Secretariat. Why are they projecting more money this year than last year?

MR. DICKS: Do you have the number of the subhead?

MR. J. BYRNE: No I do not. Cabinet Secretariat, page 16. It has to do with, I think, a certain individual hired on up there.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In Cabinet Secretariat we have done consolidation there and, in effect, there is a savings overall. We consolidated the Economic Policy Analysis Board, and I will just give you some details.

The Ministerial Support, in last year's estimate was $57,500; that is combined with the Executive Support and Cabinet Secretariat sub-program of $16,700 and Financial Administration sub-program of $40,800. What we had here, Strategic Social Planning and Advisory Group on the Economy were combined into one group so we have done some consolidation there into a new one on advisory groups on Social and Economic Policy. That is now down to $226,000, which is down $327,900 from the original vote. What we had done last year, was the Economic Renewal Agreement was budgeted in Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat, so the implementation for that is reflected in the estimates for the new year.

Just one final note that the hon. member may find helpful is that the overall revised cost for Cabinet Secretariat is down by $410,000 from the original allocation and what we have in that is a block funding of $300,000 under the Economic Renewal Agreement for anticipated projects and the management of them. We did not have to use those funds because of the delay in getting some of the Economic Renewal programs up and running and we had a savings of $110,000 as a result of managing the positions more efficiently and filling them later, so we only fill them as and when needed.

So overall, in terms of consolidation that is going in government, that represents an overall decrease in government spending, although it represents, as the hon. member has said, an increase in some of the subheads here. The hon. member may note that the total last year, was $2,078,000, this year it is down to $1,664,000, so the overall spending is actually decreased rather than increased.

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

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

I want to ask the minister a question with respect to the gasoline for vehicles.

In November of 1996, exceptions to the Public Tender Act indicate Executive Council spent $40,172 on October 31, 1996 to purchase gasoline dye directly from the manufacturer in Quebec. We were told it was the only available source. How much gasoline dye was purchased, and why? Was this a justifiable expenditure of public funds? What is the total number of ministerial vehicles and their cost and, what is the total number of Executive Council vehicles and their cost?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I suspect what the hon. member is referring to is the dyed gasoline program. We have in the Province, a number of businesses which are exempt from the gasoline tax. We do not do it on an individual basis, go out and inspect them and give refunds, what we do is we allow people to purchase it at a reduced price, that is, the price at which it would be retailed less the tax. In order to ensure that there is no cheating, which in fact, there is, we dye the gas and this is why we have gasoline tanks inspectors who inspect vehicles that are of another type of motorized - boats and other types of conveyances that are allowed to use this gas.

Also, for some commercial premises, diesel trucks and so on, for example, are allowed to buy at reduced rates and different forms of taxation. So the dye to which the hon. member is referring, I suspect, is the dye that we use to mark the gasoline that is not subject to the tax. That is why that is and the reason it was an exemption to the Public Tender Act was that there was one supplier. If the hon. member can come up with a cheaper source, we would be delighted to patronize that instead.

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

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

A question regarding the Premier's letter in the tourism package: The November 1996 exemptions to the Public Tender Act indicated Tourism, Culture and Recreation -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: It was not mine. Tourism, Culture and Recreation spent $10,598 on November 13, 1996, printing the Premier's letters for the Cabot Marketing mail-out. The reason given: `Pressing Emergency', immediate requirement for the inclusion of the Cabot 500 mail-out to residents and non-residents. There were four quotes received and the contract awarded to the low bidder.

With people dying while waiting for surgery in the health care sector, the Premier has an interesting way of defining `pressing emergency'. Obviously, all the Premier's expenditures are not covered in his own section head. Was this letter requested by the Premier or by the department? Do you know anything about that?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: You do not know anything about that?

MR. DICKS: It was a frivolous question.

MR. J. BYRNE: The Minister of Finance says it was a frivolous question and he does not know anything about it.

The Upper Churchill - are appropriations made in anticipation of resuming negations on the Upper Churchill and where?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: To my knowledge, Mr. Speaker, the negotiations that are ongoing between Hydro Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, those are funded through the normal activities down in Hydro, I do not think they would show up in our estimates in any specific form. To the extent that it is necessary to involve other government officials that would be a normal allocation, people we employ in our executive council to attend to fairly high level negotiations. So, there is no specific amount set aside of the Churchill Falls negotiation that I am aware of.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you.

With respect to Women's Policy Office, page 23. Part of the functions of the Women's Policy Office outlined in the estimates is to enhance the economical and social status of women in the Province. With the Province's refusal to pay the pay equity amount they owe to the Provinces women, would the government take that as a failure of this office and would that be his reason for cutting the funding by fifteen per cent this year?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Quite the opposite, the Province has just settled, as the hon. members knows, with NAPE the whole question of funding for pay equity which has been the outstanding issue and the hon. member remembers the discussion and the press conference that we had here in the building, which he, I am sure, so loudly applauded last fall. What the hon. member, I think, is referring to is the decision as to whether or not government was obligated to pay it from 1988 to 1991. The matter was decided by the board of arbitration by Mr. David Alcock and were -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Yes, because in our view the decision as we have advice is wrongly made by the arbitrator in that case. Interestingly enough, the two nominees both descended from the opinion. So, it would be interesting to see, but obviously government owes a debt, we will pay it. It is our view, at this point, that that has not been clearly defined, given the fact that there is no unanimity of opinion and even if that opinion were contrary to government position we would have serious reason to doubt that that was the case.

The consolidation at the Women's Policy Office, we believe, was fairly modest given the overall necessity of government to review it's expenditures and I feel quite certain that under the leadership of my hon. colleague the minister responsible for the Status of Women, that the office will be functioning very well. In fact she might wish to speak to this because last year we increased funding substantially having to do with domestic violence. She might wish to speak to that, but certainly the efficiencies we found there are ones that are completely justified and we think will result in more efficient operation and we certainly continue with our commitment to fund the whole area of domestic violence as well and if you look at it year over year, you will see that over the last several years there has been a substantial increase in funding in these areas.

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

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

Question to the Minister of Finance on the Constitutional Affairs.

The former Premier always had a little money aside for constitutional issues. Is there any allocation this year for constitutional issues or national unity expenditures in case there is some new initiative to resolve the brewing constitutional crisis in the country after the general election or in case there is new initiative by Quebec that will call for this Provinces intervention? Are we prepared or are we like this governments federal cousins ignoring the crisis in hope that it will simply go away?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: No, Mr. Speaker in dealing with national issues there is no special funding set aside. The only special funding we have is the Premiers salary and we think that is more then sufficient to deal with any urging and pressing matters of national concern.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: I will ask a question, Mr. Chairman, to the Minister of Finance.

Are any ministers of the governments caucus receiving any extra pay for any duties in assisting current Cabinet ministers? Is there any intention of moving to a system of junior ministers or super departments?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: I think the hon. member is asking whether or not we plan to institute a system with pay such as his colleagues had in the late 1980's under the former conservative government.

Mr. Chairman, the structure of government is the prerogative of the Premier, there is no money set aside in these estimates for assistant junior ministers as he called them or parliamentary assistants or whatever.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I ask the minister what costs associated with the royal visit during the Cabot 500 celebrations are the Province prepared to cover, and which will it not cover?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: As I said to my hon. colleague the hon. Opposition House Leader, they are funded under the Protocol office. There is a general increase from $314,000 to $660,000, and if you refer to my answer there I dealt in a little detail with that. We have had to increase the number of salaries from approximately $102,000 to $150,000, and there are other associated expenses with communications and so on, plus there are a number of events planned. The events calendar has probably doubled in cost from around $150,000 to slightly over $300,000. If you look under the protocol vote, I set it out a little earlier in response to two questions from his colleague the hon. Member for Waterford Valley.

It isn't a substantial increase. I shouldn't say not a substantial increase, it has virtually doubled, but in absolute terms it has gone from slightly over $300,000 to slightly over $600,000. That isn't only the royal visit, that is all the protocol activities this year associated with the visit of the President of Italy, Taoiseach of Ireland, and other events that may occur in this Cabot year.

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

MR. OSBORNE: What increase in the Premier's budget will there be as a result of the Cabot 500 celebrations? What allotment is there in the Budget for the Premier's travel, and where will that be shown in the Estimates?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. There is no significant additional allotment to the Premier this year for travel. Most of the travel associated with Cabot would of course be on the Island as opposed to having to venture far afield, so any cost would be relatively insignificant compared with having to travel to the Orient or something like that. The Premier's travel expenses are under the Premier's Office, category 2.1.01. That is under Transportation and Communications. Last year it was $151,600, this year it is $145,000. So in effect there is a slight decrease.

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

MR. OSBORNE: The Cabot marketing mail-out this year that was sent out, there was over $10,000 spent producing at the last minute a letter signed by the Premier to be included with that mail-out. It was done outside the Public Tender Act. I'm just wondering, first of all, with knowledge that that book was going out for several months, why would that go outside the Public Tender Act? Why was there only four bids collected on that particular letter before mail out?

CHAIR (Woodford): The hon. the Member for Humber West.

MR. DICKS: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm not familiar with the letter. I believe it was raised by his colleague a little earlier. The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation might be best informed to answer the question. As to why there were only four bids solicited, I expect that there were probably only four groups, or four different companies, that were able to do that at the time, or at the last minute. I haven't seen the letter, I don't know the quality of the printing required, because the hon. member realizes to produce a large number of letters on short notice requires, in some cases, fairly specialized equipment. I don't have a complete answer for him. I defer to my colleague in Tourism, Culture and Recreation when she is available to answer that question.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. There has been some discussion Mr. Minister about french language training and how that may or may not relate to the office of the Premier. My question is: Is that the case that there is french language training undertaken by the Premier? If not, that is the end of the issue. If so, what the costs of these lessons or training would be to the office.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Humber West.

MR. DICKS: Yes. There is no additional cost to taxpayers if the Premier chooses to have a french lesson or two, Mr. Chairman. The Province has for a number of years funded a french language training program for people within the public service of the Province. It is an initiative commenced several years ago. My recollection is that it was originally cost-shared with the federal government which made it attractive for us to do it. It was at the Public Service Commission, it has since come under Executive Council and Treasury Board. It is in the Estimates, I forget what the exact amount is. It seems to me that it is a fairly modest amount. We have a number of teachers available and members of the executive and so on who can apply for lessons. Those are done in a group and on an individual basis. So whether or not the Premier takes lessons from time to time does not affect our cost structure whatsoever.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Minister, are you saying that there are no additional costs because the services are being provided by the individuals presently employed within that division? Are you familiar with that particular division, Mr. Minister, in terms of the types of translation services which are provided? What is your understanding of what in fact is translated? What types of services are provided in both languages?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Yes, I am not sure I understand the hon. member's question. From time to time the government receives letters from other governments, notably the Government of Quebec that require translation. Sometimes with doing replies, as the hon. member knows, we have had some ongoing consultations. We have commenced some bilateral arrangements with the french government of St. Pierre et Miquelon. As you know, some years ago we were involved in a trade dispute over fishing rights off the south coast of the island which involved St. Pierre et Miquelon. We have several people within our french language program who are very familiar with the french language. One of the ladies I know quite well and she is a native francophone. The other lady had lived on the Island of Miquelon for some time, a native Newfoundlander and she is quite conversant with the french language. So we call on our in-house staff, for the most part, to arrange for these translations. Other than that, I don't know if there is any further point to the hon. member's question. We don't translate our statutes or anything like that. As you know, we are not an officially bilingual province.

AN HON. MEMBER: Sit down (inaudible).

MR. DICKS: I accept the hon. member's invitation but it is certainly at variance with an invitation of one of the other colleagues who invited me to speak and answer a question.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Minister, again in the same area. If services are required for translation by any member of this House I would think that those services may be provided by those individuals within that division, is that correct?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Well we would certainly entertain reasonable requests from any hon. member of the House or any person in government that needed the services but you know if someone shows up with the Encyclopedia Britannica and wants it translated in french, we don't do that kind of thing but certainly yes, we have french language services within government. They are available to a limited number of people. It would be wonderful to extend it to all 35,000 of our employees but frankly we don't have the resources to do it. If there is a reasonable request from any member of government or a member of Legislature to provide some level of translation, we would certainly consider it but I cannot give a blanket statement that we would render any service as requested. We would certainly render any service that is required however.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

If another member of this House, for example, wished to avail of french lessons, is that a service which the hon. minister would deem as being appropriate in view of the fact that that service appears to be presently being extended to the hon. Premier at no additional cost to the Province by the individual so employed in the division?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

It is a matter of cost, Mr. Chairman. My recollection is that the policy is that the services are available to executive of government, it is available to Cabinet as part of the government administration. It is not available to members of the House of Assembly as members of the House of Assembly. The House of Assembly of course not being the government but as being the elected Legislature. Whether or not the House in its budget - and I sit on the Internal Economies Committee - should see fit to impose on the taxpayers an extra burden to provide French language lessons for the members of this hon. House is a fair question but one that a government itself would not answer. That is a question for the Internal Economies Committee to decide is a reasonable expense. Should the members of this House, upon the recommendation of the IEC, decide it is an appropriate category of expenditure then it can certainly be voted by this House.

The language services of government are not provided for the benefit of the Legislature, since the Legislature has its own rights and powers and privileges. That would have to be decided by the Internal Economies Commission.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In anticipation of the possibility, Mr. Minister, of further negotiations with respect to the Upper Churchill, and indeed the possibility of negotiations with the Province of Quebec, have there been any appropriations made in view of this possibility within the next fiscal year?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: No.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to refer briefly to a point that was touched upon by my colleague with respect to the letter in the tourism package, and it was noted in the Public Tender Act. In these Exceptions to the Public Tender Act I wonder if you could, just for my own enlightenment, please indicate what the process is and, for example, what your particular involvement would be as the Minister of Finance in this area, in reviewing the Exceptions to the Public Tender Act and, in fact, the procedure which is carried out, and your involvement as minister in that regard.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board has no role in the Exceptions to the Public Tender Act. The process it that all government tendering is through the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. What the minister does from time to time, and it may, in fact, go to routine Cabinet -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: The discretion to do them, I am advised by my hon. colleague, the former minister - I know the exemptions are all done through the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. I couldn't recall whether or not they had to go through the routine Cabinet. They are not seen by Cabinet; they don't come to Treasury Board. They are handled by the departments and reported to the minister on a monthly basis and reported to the House on a periodic basis, I believe -

AN HON. MEMBER: Monthly reports.

MR. DICKS: - monthly reports that come in here.

CHAIR: Is the House ready for the question?

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, if it is agreeable to hon. members, there being three minutes left, we could call it 4:30 p.m. and proceed to the Late Show rather than get into another series of questions at 4:28 p.m.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

CHAIR: Agreed.

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Mr. Chairman, if you could just refresh my recollection, who was the first question for? I don't recall the order of questioning.

AN HON. MEMBER: Environment (inaudible).

MR. DICKS: The Minister of Environment and Labour, very good.

Thank you.

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

MR. PENNEY: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered the matters to it referred, has directed me to report progress and asks leave to sit again.

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: I believe there is an agreement to call it 4:00 p.m. and we now start the Late Show.

 

Debate on the Adjournment

[Late Show]

 

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

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

On May 6th, I asked questions of the Minster of Environment and Labour, questions regarding the Argentia base and the contaminates out there and the concerns that some of the people in the area have about the site being cleaned up to the proper satisfaction of the people living in the area and to the safety of the people living in the area.

I also asked the minister, if the land in the area would be turned over to Voisey's Bay, would in fact they take any responsibility for the cleaning up of the site or would it be completely cleaned up before Voisey's Bay Nickel Company took over the site itself?

I also asked the minister questions regarding a certain building, a building on the old Argentia base and it has been vandalize and it contains the power plant and the bomb shelter. We know that there was a contract for $54,000 to clean up the PCB's out there in that building and it was terminated after six weeks. We know that there has been 400 drums of contaminated material containing PCB's and bunker, fifty-five and fifty-six, that is still in storage out there and for my information, it costs something like $1,000 per barrel to have those contaminates disposed of.

We also talked about the material being readily available, the building for itself, from what I have been told, that the building that contains the bomb shelter and the power plant is close to the ocean and there are materials within that building itself, that are below the water level of the ocean and that building is scheduled to be torn down and what we were wanting to know, if in fact the materials themselves, or would there be secure measures put in place before that building is torn down or would the building itself be cleaned up?

Now, the minister got up and answered the questions and I think he answered them pretty straight forward, except for the fact that he tried, in my estimation, at least tried to wash his hands of it. He said that the materials themselves in the base and the cleaning up of the base is the responsibility of the federal public works.

That could very well be true to a certain extent, but the minister sitting on that side of the House is the Minister of Environment for this Province and it is certainly his responsibility to see that that site and all sites in the Province that have contaminates in them or are polluted, it is his responsibility to make sure that the various department and the various agencies that are to be utilized to clean up these sites, that they do it in a proper fashion.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Minister of Fisheries is over there at it again, acting like, I will not use the word, I will spell it, f-o-o-l, because I am not sure if you are allowed to say that word in the House of Assembly.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member knows quite well that that is unparliamentary, I ask him to withdraw.

MR. J. BYRNE: I withdraw, Mr. Speaker.

The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs used the word the other day, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Mr. Speaker, he is questioning your ruling.

MR. J. BYRNE: I withdrew it.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are out of order. Mr. Speaker, make him sit down.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Municipal Affairs is out of order, I withdrew the comment, as soon as you asked me to withdraw it, as I would do it normally. So, the Minister of Municipal Affairs is out of order as usual.

The Minster of Environment is trying to again get a little scene going between myself and himself, but he is not going to do it today, Mr. Speaker.

The question that I am asking today is the questions that I asked the other day in the House of Assembly with respect to the clean-up of the Argentia base and as I said earlier, the Minister of Environment and Labour, the other day said it is the responsibility of the federal Department of Public Works.

Well, as I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, the minister is ultimately responsible for all of the environment in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and he just cannot say that it is the responsibility of the federal Department of Public Works. He has to see to it that they do the job that they are supposed to do, and he is ultimately responsible for the clean-up at that base. He is ultimately responsible for the safety, the health and welfare basically, with respect to the environment of all people in Newfoundland and Labrador and I would just like him to address that point that I have made, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a pleasure to respond again to the question of the Opposition critic for the environment and I do appreciate the question; I appreciate his interest in the matter but I say to him though, that there is a lot of effort being made to clean up the site in Argentia, a lot of effort being made, a lot of money being spent. A lot of effort has been put into assessing the environmental problems at the site and is probably one of the most studied sites in Canada; it has been evaluated and took about five years and approximately $5 million of funding to assess the site itself. They have looked at the coastline, they have looked at the impact on the water, the fisheries in that area where the couple of landfills are located on the site.

About a year ago, I went down and had a look at the site, visited the site with our officials and looked it in detail and at some of the areas that need to be remedied. There is a full work plan that has been detailed by the federal government, the federal department is responsible which includes Public Works Canada and under the Canadian Environmental Law, they are going to bring it up to Canadian Environmental standards. It is an industrial site and the property will be brought back to where the appropriate sites for clean-up are located will be brought to appropriate Canadian Standards.

We have a commitment of $81 million of federal funding to clean it up; the federal government committed that funding before they had the final negotiations with the US Government and for that they deserve credit for doing that ahead of time and that funding and work plan is now underway. As we look to the bigger industrial development that will occur out there, we are working with the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's, to ensure that the site is properly cleaned up, that it is a proper environmental -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. K. AYLWARD: That was the answer to the question anyway - but that there is a proper environmental clean-up done. I have asked for a report from my officials on the specific information that he asked for yesterday which includes information about bunkers fifty-five and fifty-six; also information about the building No. 4, the power plant and any changes or whatever has occurred there, so I am getting a detailed report and hope to have it on Monday or tomorrow - I think tomorrow the House is closed - but anyway the next day, and we will bring that back to the member and to the House. But I can assure the member that we take our responsibility for the environment very seriously on this side of the House and we are working with the federal jurisdiction here to ensure that the best possible measures are taken, that the clean-up is done appropriately, that it is done to CCME Standards, which is Canadian Council of Ministers of Environments Standards which have been set out for industrial sites, so we are going to ensure that it is done properly and any problems that might arise will be dealt with appropriately.

Officials of both levels of government are on site and will be on site continuously as we go forward and I expect that further work will be done over the summer as the work plan outlines and we will see the clean-up happen. So I assure the member that we take it seriously and we look forward to seeing the site cleaned up. Unfortunately, if the Environmental Assessment Act had been law thirty or forty years ago, or twenty-five years ago, we would not have to go out and look for public money and barter with the US Government. If we had had that act twenty-five or thirty years ago, a number of the industrial sites that we are left with now would have been cleaned up because we look at the example of Hopebrook right now. Hopebrook mine is getting ready to wind down but they are going to spend approximately $10 million that they have set aside because they are required to set it aside to clean- up and remediate the site. That is because of the new environmental law we have in the last ten or fifteen years. If we had it a few years ago we would not have some of the problems we have today.

Thank you.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to repeat some of the questions that I asked the Premier earlier this week in this House and that was regarding, I suppose, the hope and the opportunities for young people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Back fifteen months ago, when people went to the polls, they voted for hope and opportunity. When the Premier went around this Province, he put forward a plan whereby people came out and rallied around him and thought that if they re-elected a Liberal government with the present Premier at the helm that there would be opportunities for the young people of Newfoundland and Labrador who are presently having to leave this Province and seek employment in other areas.

Every day we see protests around the Province. We see them here on the steps of Confederation Building. We see them down in my home town of Bonavista. I think every day this week there have been hundreds out protesting and walking the streets. I understand there is another big protest tomorrow out at the entrance to the Hibernia site. It is a time when we should all be proud, we should all be going out and celebrating, but the people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador are looking at themselves and saying: What do we have to celebrate about? What do we have to celebrate? What do we have to be happy about when we can't find a job, when we can't provide an education for our children, when we can't go out and buy clothes in order to send our children to school?

The Leader of the New Democratic Party stands here every day in the House and presents petitions about the need for a school lunch program. The need that is out there today in rural Newfoundland and Labrador is a need that has never been more evident before. Many of us get calls - I am sure I am not the only one to get calls - from people on the other end of the phone talking about their sons and daughters having to leave this Province to find a job. Many of them are leaving, having to go a greater distance than Alberta or British Columbia. In fact, my own daughter is now looking for a job down in New Zealand, a prime example of what is happening to our educated people in this particular Province today.

What we are doing is taking our young people, educating them - it is costing the government money and costing the parents money - and who is being the benefactor from the education that those young people are getting?

The Member for Port au Port talked about it and touched on it the other day when he got up and debated here in this particular House. It is nothing new for schools to be closing. It is nothing new for factories or small plants to be closing down, but it is something new to have a government that does not listen to the people. That is what is new.

In my particular area I can recall four or five schools that have closed. There was never a need for anybody to go out and protest. It was always a situation where the parents themselves came forward and were involved in discussions and negotiations and consultation, and brought forward their own ideas and agreed with the moves that government made. But that is not happening today.

Then, to add insult to injury, the cousins of the people who sit opposite, their cousins up in Ottawa, went forward and took away a year's salary from 15,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They sent them a letter and said: You are entitled to this program until May 15, 1999. We will be responsible, and here is the money you will get because of the moratorium and because of the closure of the fishery for which we were responsible. That is what has happened today. Then, the same government, after they got elected, came forward and said: We are now going to take a year's benefits away from you.

I ask people opposite how they would feel if they lost a year's salary. I ask the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture how he would feel if he lost a year's salary.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Roger, Mrs. Matthews said I should not live across the road from the likes of him.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mrs. who?

MR. TULK: Mrs. Matthews.

MR. FITZGERALD: Who's that?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: She's dead boy. She's been dead for fifteen years.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: What did you have a seance or something?

MR. J. BYRNE: He's speaking to the dead now! He's speaking to the dead!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: But, Mr. Speaker, I call on the government, I call on the minister to provide some hope. Those people, Mr. Speaker -

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

MR. FITZGERALD: - those people, Mr. Speaker -

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

MR. FITZGERALD: - are not looking for hand-outs, they are looking for a job and the first responsibility of any government should be to provide employment to the people out in rural areas of this particular Province.

MR. EFFORD: You are taking the rules of the House on your back.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, taking the House on his back.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, we have as much interest in the young people of our Province as the hon. gentleman does opposite us. When you look at what we are attempting to do in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, we have put in place twenty economic zones out there. We have regional economic development boards and I don't know if they know it, Mr. Speaker, but on every board we are looking to have a position for a young person so they will have some input into this process.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: They will have a say, Mr. Speaker, in the type of strategic economic plan that is put in place for the zone in which they live. We also have, Mr. Speaker, in each of the economic zones a youth council attached to those zones. That is an organization for each of the young people out in those zones to come together and look at their future and look at what the opportunities are.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: We also have a group, Mr. Speaker, in the Province called `Finally' and there are futures in Newfoundland and Labrador for our youth. These people know that there is opportunity here and they are working very hard with the government and with the regional economic development boards to make sure that they realize these opportunities so that our young people can stay in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We have been working very hard with all of the young people in our Province and we all recognize that yes, some of our young people have been leaving. Mr. Speaker, I say there is nothing wrong with young people leaving and going away if they are doing it by choice. If it is by choice, as my daughter is doing, Mr. Speaker, in Vancouver or as my son is doing in Ontario, I am not going to argue with that but clearly if people want to live and work in Newfoundland that is our objective as well. We are working hard to make sure that they realize these opportunities, Mr. Speaker.

If you want to point to opportunities like offered through Voisey's Bay, through the transshipment terminal, through Hibernia. These are all wonderful opportunities for educated, trained Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and these are opportunities that are out there. So to say there is nothing happening in rural Newfoundland and Labrador is not true, and I think it reflects poorly on anyone who would stand up and say that there is no opportunity in this Province.

I have gone around rural Newfoundland and Labrador and there are any number of success stories out there, opportunities for young people. In fact, the group that I just referenced, `Finally', have come up with a whole series of vignettes where they highlight what some young people are doing in this Province, and one of these success stories is about a young lady who is about fifteen years old. I saw the vignette. She is very articulate, Mr. Speaker, and she has a clothing business going. She learned how to sew when she was nine years old. Her mother taught her how to sew when she was nine years old. She is designing her own clothing, a line of clothing using recycled clothing. So she will take old shirts or old dresses and she will make hats or whatever, and she has found a market for her product.

That is the type of individual, young person out there, who is looking for opportunities, looking for themselves for opportunities, and not relying on others to provide them for them. And the opportunities exist because we have to generate more young people who recognize that they will get further ahead if they develop their own ideas and their own initiatives, but as a government, we have to be there to support these young people. We have to provide the services that will enable them to take a business and run with it. We have to be there to counsel them. We also have to make sure that the businesses that have been successful -

We have a lot of business people out in this Province who have retired, who have made loads of money, who are there now wanting to give something back. What they can give back is they can mentor these young people. They can be there to help them along the way, and that is a process that we have put in place as well, so that we have a mentoring service there for people who want to start their own business.

The other thing we have is any number of staff out in the twenty economic zones, the point being that they are there for anyone who wants to start a business. What we have said to our staff is, `Don't sit in your office and wait for people to come to you.' I want them out there, out in the field, going out looking and speaking to our young people, encouraging them to start a business.

There are any number of employment programs that this government offers, and there is a graduate employment program, so any student graduating from university who would like to start a business of his or her own can do so with our support.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. minister's time has elapsed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS FOOTE: There is a lot of opportunity out there, Mr. Speaker.

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: Agreed.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MS FOOTE: The opportunity is there, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS FOOTE: I can clue up, Mr. Speaker. I will clue up by saying there is hope for our young people, there is ample opportunity for our young people, but we have to work with them, and we have to provide the kinds of supports they need to get ahead in this Province, and to realize that they do have a bright future in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: My question, Mr. Speaker, is for the hon. the Minister of Education or his designate, and it refers to a question I asked earlier today in terms of really where is this government showing its commitment to the young people of this Province.

I referred earlier, as well - when we were in Estimates this morning, there was a particular discussion on the Royal Commission implementation, and how in this year's Estimates there is no provision for an overseer or reviewer of the Royal Commission implementation. It was explained by the minister during the Estimates Committee meeting that a particular official, namely, I believe, the ADM of Education, would have, as a particular responsibility, the overseeing of the implementation of the Royal Commission.

My question earlier today to the minister was: In view of the significant changes which are taking place in education in our Province - namely, the closure of schools, the somewhat chaotic condition which is presently existing in our Province as a result of the designation of schools - and in view of, for example, the proposed number of teacher lay-offs, the question that I was asking the minister, and I understand the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board may respond to this question, is: Where is it within the department, particularly the Department of Education - where is it that a particular individual has been designated the responsibility of monitoring these changes as it relates to what is in the best interest of students?

Because again, we see in education reform, children being overlooked, children being neglected, children being forgotten, as every other issue under the sun in education is debated and discussed. Where is what was the focal point of education reform in the Williams Report, namely, classroom focus reforms and what is in the best interest of children? Where is that particular issue being addressed, and how is it being monitored by the Department of Education?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister, himself, is the keenest monitor of what is in the best interest of children in the Province. The minister and his predecessor have been strong advocates of reform, and that is very much in line with what we believe to be the consensus of thinking in the Province.

We are very concerned with how reform is proceeding. We have entrusted this difficult decision-making task to the school boards and, for the most part, we understand the difficulties that they face. We are also very much concerned that they reflect on the criteria and come to appropriate decisions as regards school closures, designations, busing, and things of this sort.

It is very difficult for us to expect - and I know the hon. member is not suggesting this - that one person in the Department of Education could oversee this whole process. It is a very complicated one. There are some 100,000 students in the Province, and how and where they should attend school is something that we believe, in conjunction with most other jurisdictions in North America, should be a matter of local concern and can best be done at the local level. It is a challenging and difficult task.

No, we do not have one official who is going to be a super hero or a super reviewer, or a supervisor, for that matter, over all of these educational reforms. That is a task that we believe is best entrusted to the school boards, but one which the minister certainly supervised and one with which every member of this House has expressed a great deal of concern, and we hear it from our colleagues.

The matter is well in hand, and it is unfortunate that my colleague is not here to expound on the answer with great wisdom and with great eloquence, as he always does in these matters.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I think everybody recognizes that there is no Legislature tomorrow. There is no House tomorrow, but on Monday we will be going back at this head, finish that one, and then move into the next head that is to be done in Committee of Supply in the House.

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