May 20, 1997              HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS               Vol. XLIII  No. 28


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin the routine business of the day, there are a number of groups that I would like to welcome to the House of Assembly today.

First of all, I want to welcome to the Speaker's gallery, Senator William Rompkey and his wife, Carolyn.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: As well, we have fifty students from Grades V to IX from the Port de Grave Pentecostal School in the District of Port de Grave, accompanied by teachers, Mr. Junior Taylor, Mr. Keith Russell, Mr. Calvin Stride and Ms Karen Janes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: We have forty-five Grade V students from Vaters Academy in the District of St. John's North, accompanied by their teachers, Mr. Ralph Cann and Ms Roxanne Rideout.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: As well, we want to welcome twenty-two Grade IX from O'Donel High School in the District of Mount Pearl, accompanied by teacher, Mr. Mike Sutton.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Statements by Ministers

 

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, certain members of the Roman Catholic and Pentecostal denominations, with the support of the Roman Catholic Archbishop and Bishops and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador have commenced a court action against government and the school boards of all ten districts in the Province.

Broadly stated, the court action attacks the validity of the amendments of the Schools Act passed by the Legislature of the Province in December of 1996, as well as the validity of the school boards as presently constituted and any designations made which adversely affect any Roman Catholic or Pentecostal school in the Province.

They have asked the court to grant an injunction that would essentially stop the education reform process which is currently under way.

Mr. Speaker, over five years ago in March of 1992, government received the Report of the Royal Commission on Education, Our Children, Our Future. This report recommended the reorganization of the primary, elementary and secondary education system in Newfoundland and Labrador to permit government to administer the system in an efficient manner. The Commission proposed the creation of a single interdenominational school system encompassing the four separate denominational systems currently in operation.

Since then, government has been attempting to restructure the education system of the Province, along the lines recommended in that report. Because certain religious denominations held constitutionally protected rights dating back to the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada in 1949, restructuring could not be carried out without either church consent, constitutional change, or both. To that end, extensive discussions took place with the churches over a period of almost three years beginning in the fall of 1992.

After nearly three years of discussions, government and the denominational representatives were not successful in reaching agreement on a restructured school system. In the fall of 1995, government sought the approval of the people, in a referendum, to amend Term 17 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada, in order to proceed with the restructuring plans. That approval, Mr. Speaker, was granted by a 55 per cent majority of the votes cast, and the amendment to Term 17 was proclaimed after approval by this House and the Parliament of Canada.

On December 19, 1996, this House of Assembly passed a new Schools Act and a new Education Act and the ten new interdenominational school boards assumed responsibility for the administration of schools. The student registration process has been completed throughout the Province for the next school year. School boards summarized the information contained on the student registration forms and identified the numbers of students whose parents prefer that they attend uni-denominational schools. All school boards have been advised of their teacher allocations for the 1997/1998 school year. Educational planning for the consolidation of schools and designations for nine of ten boards has been completed.

Mr. Speaker, after overcoming many obstacles, education reform is well under way in Newfoundland and Labrador. Any action which would impede the reform process would negatively impact on the system and cause undue stress to the students.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is committed to three principles: The first is that each and every child in this Province should have access to the best educational program possible with the tax dollars that are available; the second is that students of all denominations have a right to religious education, activity and observances in each and every school in the Province regardless of its designation, and the third is that where there is a demand for a uni-denominational school which can reasonably and practically be accommodated, that demand should be met.

Government, Mr. Speaker, is confident that the Schools Act provides an appropriate and legally correct basis for the implementation of these principles; therefore, government is prepared to defend it before the courts.

The school boards will be represented by their own lawyer in this matter. Over the next several days, government will be designating and instructing its legal counsel. The matter is before the Court, and it is there that the case must be presented and the arguments made. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is unfortunate that with such an important issue before the Province today that I've just received this very important and critical ministerial statement just moments before the House commenced this afternoon.

I would like to state that what I don't like about this statement is that this statement attempts to shift the blame, to shift the responsibility for the confusion and the chaos which we have in Newfoundland and Labrador today with respect to education reform, to a particular group in this Province, namely the churches. I say that this is unacceptable.

What we really have in this Province today is the majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are completely fed up and at their wit's end -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: - with the disgraceful way that the reform process has been carried through, beginning with the previous Administration, and being adhered to as well by this present Administration. The students of this Province deserve better, the parents of this Province deserve better, educators and administrators alike deserve better. All of us deserve better, and to attempt to shift blame and to remove the focus of blame from government is most inappropriate and completely unacceptable.

I have asked repeatedly to have the minister intervene. He has refused to do so. He has allowed education reform, or so-called education reform, to go to the point where we are today, namely, before the courts of this Province. That too is unacceptable.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I say to the minister it is not too late. What is wrong with a resolution or a settlement prior to a decision being made? What is wrong with the minister playing an active role in attempting to bring all sides together to attempt to alleviate the confusion and to resolve this dispute in the interests of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is of course within the rights of the Roman Catholic and Pentecostal peoples to seek the interpretation of the courts as to whether or not the new schools act conforms with Term 17. I think all Members of this House relied on the law officers of the Crown to ensure that the Schools Act that was devised after the passage to changes to Term 17 was in compliance with it but of course it is within their right to seek the interpretation of the court as to whether that is so. It would be regrettable if the process of reform were to be totally disrupted as the result of such an action but nevertheless this is their right.

Of more concern I think to the people of this Province who have gone I think well beyond the issue of denominational education and are now into fighting themselves for what the minister calls his first priority, that being a quality education for all and the best educational program possible for their students. That these people have to come to the House of Assembly and fight with the government because the school boards are not listening, the government is not listening and people are not listening to the commonsense approaches that people of this Province are taking and are demanding answers from this government. Mr. Speaker, I hope that the government is not going to continue to wash its hands of this responsibility here. The responsibility lies with the government

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: - with the minister and with the Premier to resolve these problems.

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

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

I am pleased today to inform the hon. House of Assembly that I have received the report of the consultant whom we appointed on December 16, 1996, to make recommendations on an employee/employer framework for labour relations on offshore oil production platforms that come under provincial jurisdiction.

Mr. Morgan Cooper, the consultant, engaged in dialogue with numerous stakeholders on this matter. Mr. Cooper met with nineteen of the twenty-eight organizations that submitted written briefs. He also met with selected representatives from government, business and labour, in Nova Scotia and Alberta as well as in the UK and Norway. The report is well presented and contains a total of twelve recommendations, many of which will require amendments to the Province's Labour Relations Act to specifically address the labour relations processes that are to be applied to offshore oil production platforms. These include bargaining unit configurations, access in union representations.

Mr. Speaker, government supports the report in principle and will be closely examining Mr. Cooper's report over the summer with a view to introducing the appropriate amendments to the act in the fall session of the House to give effect to the recommendations. On behalf of the government we want to personally commend Mr. Morgan Cooper on a very thorough job and thank him for his dedication to this very important and challenging task. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I cannot stand today and say we either support or not support the document that the minister speaks about because we have not seen it yet. I can say and take the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to offer some constructive advice to the minister and government that the recommendations contained in this report or the direction that government will proceed with respect to a labour relations framework with respect to production platforms in the offshore oil and gas industry is very important.

I urge the minister to walk cautiously but strongly, and I urge the minister to ensure, Mr. Speaker, that when a labour relations framework is put in place that it is one that the stakeholder agree with to the greatest extent possible. Most importantly, from a practical point of view, that dispute resolving mechanisms be put in place to ensure that any disputes arising out of this industry

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. E. BYRNE: - are solved in an -

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

MR. E. BYRNE: - expeditious and immediate manner. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I had hoped the minister was announcing he was going to table the report so we can all have a look at it and study it over the summer months as well.

We are at a crucial point when the government starts changing labour relations legislation, particularly the crucial offshore sector, that we make sure the democratic process is still at work. We had an incident recently where a special agreement was negotiated by people outside of this Province, two groups outside of this Province, which is going to control labour relations at the Bull Arm site over the next while.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: That is a very dangerous precedent, and I hope it is not going to be repeated in these particular circumstances.

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I am pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Doreen Neville as the CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information. In the recent provincial health forum, participants told us that information sharing and evidence based decision making was a key direction for long term planning in the health system. This appointment is the first step in providing government, health care providers and the public with the information they need to make sound decisions about health care.

We are very pleased that Dr. Neville has accepted this position as her qualifications are exemplary. She brings with her twenty years of experience in the health system to this challenging new role. Beginning her career in the nursing field, Dr. Neville has extensive experience in ICU and psychiatric nursing. She has since gone on to become involved in all aspects of administration and program development in the health sector. Dr. Neville is also a graduate of the Harvard School of Public Health. She is currently an assistant professor of Health Policy and Health Care Delivery at Memorial University. I ask hon. members today to join me in welcoming Dr. Neville to this very exciting new position.

As CEO for the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information, Dr. Neville will be responsible for developing a strategic plan for the new organization and providing administrative leadership.

The establishment of the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information was announced in October 1996. It will help improve the long-term health system of the Province by bringing together existing health information systems into an integrated and comprehensive information technology system for health and social services. It will incorporate data related to the Department of Human Resources and Employment in recognition of the determinants of health such as income, employment, social support networks and housing, among others.

The Centre will be located at Southcott Hall under the authority of the Health Care Corporation of St. John's and will be reviewed after two years. It will have responsibility for co-ordinating, monitoring and analyzing data Province-wide. Currently, various information systems exist separately. In bringing them together, we will improve the future of health services in the Province by co-ordinating evidence-based health information which will assist government, health providers, consumers and special interest groups in making more informed decisions about health care.

Mr. Speaker, through the Provincial Health Forum we heard that government needed to identify where health resources could be most effectively placed based upon timely, accurate, and reliable information. This Centre will provide government with the ability to make sound financial decisions based upon proven health outcomes. It will also ensure effective utilization of health services and assist in carrying out sound financial and human resource planning.

We look forward to seeing the results of an integrated information system. I am confident, Mr. Speaker, that the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information will carry out its mandate in a timely manner under the competent direction of Dr. Neville.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On behalf of the Official Opposition, I congratulate Dr. Neville on this new appointment with the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information. I am sure her expertise would bring a lot to this position and, it is so important today that we do have an integrated information system so we can have long-term planning for health care in this Province.

We have seen too many decisions, Mr. Speaker, that have been short-term, band-aid approaches to health care in the Province. We have seen a recent announcement of sending fifty to sixty people out of this Province as a short-term solution; we hope it is only a short-term and does not become a long-term solution to the export of health jobs out of the Province.

It is important that when the information is assembled, it will be an ongoing process and I am confident it will be, but it is also important that we use that information and that the political will and the political commitment be there to ensure that decisions are going to be made to make this information all the worthwhile. If we do not have that, if we do not have a commitment from this government, we will never have an improved health care system in this Province and that is important. That is what has been lacking in this Province, Mr. Speaker. There has been sufficient information in many areas in health care available to us but we have not had anybody, we have not had a minister or the government with the political will to do something about it. So I look forward to adding to the data base; to do the integration of information so we can have a long-term plan that could serve us well into the future.

Thank you.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I welcome the appointment of Dr. Doreen Neville to this position. She is a woman of terrific experience and qualifications, as the Minister pointed out, and has achieved a remarkable degree of educational achievement in her own right. Here is another nurse, I might say after Nursing Week, who has demonstrated her astounding capability in the field of health care.

On the issue of the new centre, though, I hope we are not just setting up a bureaucracy. The people of this Province, Opposition politicians, community groups, citizens, doctors have been informing the Minister of Health and the government for the past six or eight months about the crisis in health care. It took an awful lot of informing to convince the minister in fact there was a problem and to start doing something about it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: So I hope they will be acting on the information that is being provided to government so that we do have some good solutions in our health care system.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the hon. members of the House of Assembly of the substantial initiatives my department has committed in the area of silviculture for 1997.

This year, Mr. Speaker, we will see a grand total of $12.4 million spent on silviculture-related work across this Province. This represents an important investment made by the Provincial Government, the two pulp and paper companies; Abitibi Price Consolidated Incorporated and Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Limited and a combination of Federal-Provincial Government investment through the transitional jobs fund.

Mr. Speaker, as the result of this combined investment, over 15,000 hectares of forest land will be treated in 1997. This represents an increase of approximately 1,000 hectares over and above the 1996 silviculture program. In total for 1997, we will see 8.5 million seedlings being planted.

Mr. Speaker, the Province will be directly responsible for about forty-five projects involving site preparation, planting and thinning to be conducted on Crown land plus other projects related to research and development. Industry will carry out approximately another forty-two projects which will be undertaken on forest lands within the company limits.

In addition, the transitional jobs fund is entering year two of a three-year program which will result in approximately another fifty projects. This fund also has a segment to foster a value-added forest products program. Through this program, approximately $640,000 will be applied to improve employment opportunities in the saw-milling and secondary manufacturing industry.

In total, the efforts under these three particular initiatives will result in 14,759 person weeks of employment. However, this number does not include any silviculture projects traditionally conducted through the Department of Social Services, now called the Department of Human Resources and Employment. As a department, we are creating the same number of person weeks of employment as in 1996. This has been achieved by prioritizing our projects in order to maximize employment opportunities.

These silviculture projects are created throughout rural Newfoundland and Labrador and they will provide employment where it is most needed. This level of investment and activity, is proof of this government's commitment to a sustainable forest for the future. Mr. Speaker, this continuing dedication to long-term forest development programs will ensure the viability of the forest industry for the benefit of all the people of this Province. Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I want to commend the government for its initiatives in silviculture. However, I want to point out to the hon. the minister, as he already knows, that the management plan, the twenty-year plan that was announced some weeks ago, show that our forests are being over-harvested to the tune of about 50 per cent. In other words, we do have a crisis developing in our forests.

Mr. Speaker, we also say to the minister, in his budget for this year, we see that silviculture has been reduced by about $500,000. So I ask the minister: Is this a signal that we are reducing our commitment rather than increasing it? We compliment the industry, we compliment the government for its share; however, it is not enough, we have to do more. Because if we do not do more, then we are going to have at risk of happening in the forest industry what happened in the fishing industry of this Province.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to say that the importance of silviculture, reforestation and commercial thinning of our forest cannot be over-emphasized. We obviously have to ensure that our forests are there for the future, so our forest industry can be protected.

I do wonder at times, Mr. Speaker, and perhaps the minister can address this on a future occasion, as to the success of these programs in actually achieving a reforestation. I know they spend a fair amount of money and perhaps members want to see reforestation in their districts for political reasons, but I would like to see at some point, a good solid study of these silviculture projects as to how successful they are.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

 

Oral Questions

 

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Minister of Education.

Today, in our Province, we have total and complete chaos in education. We have parents out there, and we have students who are more alienated in this process than ever before. And these are representatives from the school councils that were here in the lobby and here in the House today. They are expected to represent the concerns of the people in those areas and that is exactly what they are doing, and the minister knows full well their concerns.

I ask the minister: Will he not only address those concerns, but also act upon them and restore some form of stability to education here in our Province?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think it is important that everybody understands and everybody knows, because they are in the midst of it, that there is major change occurring in the school system, K to XII in Newfoundland and Labrador this year, and I think when people look back in perspective, in history, in time, in a few years, they will realize that maybe there is more change going on in the schools of Newfoundland and Labrador this year than in any one year that anyone could understand or even comprehend or even contemplate might have occurred.

So, I understand some people wishing to refer to it as chaos and so on, we do not describe it as chaos at all. There is major change occurring, change is always difficult, and in fact, we are going to meet with representatives of the parents, probably at the conclusion of Question Period and have a working meeting as to dialoguing again, but exactly what their concerns are with respect to possible impacts in the classrooms and on the educational opportunities of the student themselves.

But Mr. Speaker, we should not confuse everybody's concern with that issue with respect to another major issue that is going on in the Province for one time only this year, the first time ever in history, which is again, a designation process going on in the schools, new legislation that was supported a few months ago by members opposite and the fact that now we have a court case launched in the Province that will run its course over the next period of time.

So, there are several things occurring, all of them tremendously important for the improvement and advancement of education in the Province and we will certainly meet with the parents, as we have done at any time, and go forward from there.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, and our side proposed twenty-six amendments, too, I say to the minister, that government did not support, on the schools Act and the minister should be well aware of the concerns in education.

It has been five years since the report of the Royal Commission on Education was brought down in this Province, and we are continuing today to still deal with infrastructure, we are dealing with designation instead of curricular improvements in education. Parent-student involvements and equality of educational opportunity for all people in this Province, I say to the minister. Why is reform taking a back seat to this chaos and confusion that is occurring today? It is the children who are suffering as a result of this. When are you going to bring this reform process back into the classrooms of children here in our Province where it belongs, I ask the minister, and to allow students from all parts of this Province, whether it be rural areas or urban areas, to have an equal access to a quality education?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I might point out again, that while the Opposition critic and members opposite did indeed introduce some twenty-six amendments to the Act that were considered and some of them approved by this Legislature, none of them had to do with the kind of rhetoric the member was just talking about and they were very much more technical amendments than the substance. Because the big plea - and I heard in the response of the Opposition critic to the statement by the Minister of Justice today about the Minister of Education getting involved. There was no suggestion of an amendment by the Opposition that we should change the Act and have the Minister of Education make decisions about which schools should operate in areas of the Province. As a matter of fact, the Opposition fully supported the notion that those decisions should be made at the local level by school boards. I know it is nice and convenient to jump up now and say: We want the minister to make these decisions. This group supported the notion that the school boards should make them.

There are two things that are going on at the same time. One clearly is the whole notion that was a matter of the statement today, a court case that has been launched. Because the key administrative issues about reform which are being taken to the court have to do with who controls and administers the system. The people of the Province have clearly spoken. They want less church control in administration of the system. They want a denominational influence in the schools. That is what this court challenge is largely about.

On the other side, whether we were having education reform based on the new Term 17 and the new legislation or not, every year - the seventeen years that members opposite were in office and the eight years now that we have been here - every year -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the minister to draw his answer to a conclusion, please.

MR. GRIMES: Yes. Mr. Speaker. Every year governments make decisions about how much money they can afford on any of the program in government. We have a commitment this year in education that is second only to health in the Province, and we hope to maintain that into the future.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is utter nonsense for anybody here to pretend that anybody would believe what the minister is saying. Before one speaker on our side got an opportunity to debate certain readings of the bill, a closure motion was introduced, I say!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: Before we had one speaker!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: It was a closure motion! A closure motion was introduced.

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

The hon. member is on a supplementary. He ought to get to his supplementary immediately.

MR. SULLIVAN: We presented an amendment asking that savings be reinvested in education. If you do not consider that important, we do, I say to the minister.

Education reform was supposed to save millions, but you and your government took $100 million out of education the last three years in this Province. Why have you taken $100 million out of education, I ask, in this Province, instead of redirecting the funds back into the classroom where we can see a benefit? Why, Minister, did you do that?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I understand that the hon. member every now and then gets a bit excited and raises his voice and suggests to people that these things are very important to him and his party. They are very important to all of us.

The reality of it, in correcting a couple of the points made, in and during the debate the time allotted to members opposite under the rules of this House was not used to its maximum. Because they can say what they like. They supported the schools Act as it is now written. That is the record of this Legislature. For political reasons now they can suggest that they disagree or maybe now they are wavering on their support for the reform of the education system. Maybe they want to go back to a time where the denominations and the churches had more administrative control of the system. They strongly supported this legislation, and that is what the record suggests.

In fact, the reference with respect to the monies from education - what the Leader of the Opposition said is not correct in terms of the monies being reduced. He tries to give the impression now that we are dealing with questions with respect to Kindergarten to Grade XII, and he lumps in funding reductions that have occurred at the University. Because there have been some transfer reductions from the Federal Government related to post-secondary education. There have been some reductions with respect to the community college system. He lumps all of that in now to try to suggest that hundreds of millions of dollars have been taken from education.

The reality is it has not occurred, and he knows, in the Budget that is currently still before debate in this Legislature, that the plan of the government over the next three years is that funds provided to school boards to run the 430 schools in the Province that serve children from Kindergarten to Grade XII will be maintained at their current levels -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: - for the next three years.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: Only when there is a decline in enrolment

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

MR. GRIMES: - and a closing of schools will there be some money from the administrative side reduced. Because the fact is, the system is shrinking at about 4,000 students a year. It is getting smaller -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: - it requires fewer schools -

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. the minister to take his seat -

MR. GRIMES: - it requires fewer teachers, but the money directly spent on students -

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

MR. GRIMES: - will stay the same, Mr. Speaker, for the next three years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It shows how much he is in touch. He does not even know the Budget is already dealt with in this House. He does not even know that! That is his commitment to education in this Province, where have you been, Minister? It is not we who have failed in reform, it is you. You and your government have failed in education reform in this Province.

I want to ask the minister: This House introduced legislation that created a French first-language school in this Province and this legislation has provided for parental involvement in selecting their interim school board, I say to the minister. In fact, it says that appointments to the interim Conseil Scolaire shall be made on the recommendation of the Federation of Francophone Parents.

Now Minister, this is a good process and we support that. The minister himself said in debate in this House last week that, this process is more democratic than the Province-wide process that is out there today for the rest of the schools.

I ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, why the double standard? Why can't other school boards in this Province be given the same opportunity, why do they have to be hand-picked by you?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate the hon. member raising this issue as well because it is a very important distinction being made.

With the ten school boards in the Province that serve some 430 schools that will likely be less than 400 next September, Mr. Speaker, we did appoint ten interim school boards, they will all be elected at the end of September this year. We had a debate, Mr. Speaker, in this Legislature as to whether or not for a one-year period, because we did this last year, we should spend $1.8 million to have an election or whether we should wait a year. The decision was made to wait one year. We appointed, Mr. Speaker, school board members, the vast majority of them by the way, who went through an election process before; they were elected under the old legislation and then they had served some period of time; they are experienced school board members, they have offered their time as volunteers in the Province, some of them for as many as eight or nine years, Mr. Speaker. We trust and appreciate their work, effort and consideration.

With respect to the French language, could we have used the model for the rest of the system that we are using for the Francophone School Board? Here is the difference and the big difference, Mr. Speaker: The ten school boards run 430 schools; the new legislation just brought in the establishment of school councils. We are going to have school councils for the five Francophone schools as well, not 430 but five. They are well-established, they are already there; they will name their council representatives and from their council representatives, Mr. Speaker, they will then choose their provincially-based school boards. They have to deal, Mr. Speaker, with five schools, all of which, already will have a school council. We were dealing with 430 schools, Mr. Speaker, less that 100 of which had school councils.

So now, maybe the Leader of the Opposition, in his brilliance, can suggest to us how we might decide which of those less than 100 of 430 schools that had councils, should be allowed to name people to the school boards. We are going to have an election. The election, Mr. Speaker, will occur in September of this year, co-incidental with the municipal elections, the same as has been done in this Province ever since we have had school board elections because, we used to have 100 per cent appointed school boards, Mr. Speaker, at the whim of the denominations, then we went to partial election -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. GRIMES: - partial appointment (inaudible) were elected and they will all be elected again in September, Mr. Speaker, an election that coincides with the municipal elections in the Province.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The legislation was passed in this House last fall and the minister knows full-well that now, there is no opportunity for parents to have input to an elected board, it is an appointed board, and I say to the minister: What do you say to the people who are out there today and are here and most of the people have been forced to fight for a fundamental right, I say to the minister, their children's education. You cannot turn your back on them now; you have not given those parents a right to have a say in the education of their children, you are going to give them the right after you make your decision.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister: Why have you turned your back on them throughout this entire process?

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

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, I would not go as far as to insult and degrade the 180 volunteers on the ten school boards who are currently doing a very difficult job and we appreciate the fact that they accepted (inaudible) because many of them have been on school boards already for seven, eight, some as long as ten years, very experienced, Mr. Speaker, doing this and people need to be reminded doing it for absolutely zero remuneration, no pay. These are members of the community, Mr. Speaker, and I am always surprised when I meet with the parents after, I guess I will say the same thing as I have done in some twenty meetings throughout the Province in a public consultation last fall.

I am always surprised when the Leader of the Opposition or anybody else would suggest that these volunteers on the school boards, because they accepted appointment and were not elected, are making improper decisions or that there would be different decisions had we gone through an election before. These people, Mr. Speaker, these 180 dedicated volunteers who have sat on these boards for years, many of them will likely offer themselves again in September and many of them I expect will be elected and I am delighted that they have given this particular effort. These people, Mr. Speaker, are the same people who are our neighbours. They are neighbours of the same people who are on school councils. They know them intimately in the communities and for someone to suggest that because they agreed and accepted an appointment that the quality of their decision making and that their value as a volunteer is different or diminished because they did not go through an election process, I won't say that, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. GRIMES: - for any of the 180 members of the school boards in the Province. The Leader of the Opposition can go and insult them, Mr. Speaker, if he wants to, it is entirely up to him.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister can try to twist things whatever way he wants. There are good people on school boards and he knows it as well as I do. What I want to ask the minister, quite simply, is not a reflection of anybody who is on boards. Why are you, as minister, denying the parents of children in this Province the right to have a say in the education of their children?

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

MR. GRIMES: I don't know, Mr. Speaker, why. I really don't know why he would even ask the question, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: We weren't allowed to get up and debate.

AN HON. MEMBER: You were.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition has asked a question, I ask that the minister be given an opportunity to answer it.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I don't know why he would ask the question because we just answered it. In fact, there are 180 parents currently, who are on school boards, making decisions on behalf of the rest of the parents and children in their geographic areas as to how education should be organized in the best interest of the students that they represent.

The only distinction that has been made here today, Mr. Speaker, that I can recall, is he is suggesting there will be some difference in the level of decision-making had we gone through a $1.8 million election a year ago instead of asking these people to serve by appointment. Mr. Speaker, we had that debate last year. These people are making the decisions. The school councils, Mr. Speaker, are also very involved in decision-making with their school boards. The parents are more involved than ever in the schools of Newfoundland and Labrador and, Mr. Speaker, this final point in conclusion, when this issue was addressed in the Legislature last fall and with twenty-six proposed amendments by the Opposition, there was no such suggestion that there should be any change in terms of the structure of the school councils or the structure of the school boards or that there should be further parental involvement.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: It did not happen, Mr. Speaker, and he can play to the audience all he likes, he can play to the gallery all he likes -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to quickly draw his answer to a conclusion.

MR. GRIMES: - he can play, Mr. Speaker, to anybody he wants for political reasons. The fact of the matter is, he supports this legislation and he knows now that what is happening is what has to happen in the Province in order for us to proceed this spring with the changes that must occur in the Province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question I guess is really a follow-up from the ministerial statement as read by the Minister of Justice. Come next September parents, students and teachers are expecting to have a new reform system of education. Teacher's careers are at stake, parents lives are in turmoil and the children's futures are being jeopardized. My question, Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister of Education. In view of success in the churches application for judicial intervention, if the churches are successful what contingency plan does the hon. minister have in place to deal with the proposed intention for educational reform come September?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

At this point in time all of our energies are being placed in terms of providing information and working with the Department of Justice to defend the case before the courts with the full expectation and hope, Mr. Speaker, that we would be successful in the defence and that the petition before the courts would fail.

If, in fact, as the member points out, there is the event that the injunction and the request for the injunction could be successful, then we will certainly look at working with the boards as to what the outcome could be. I can only speculate at this point that the most likely unfortunate outcome would be that school boards themselves - and I've addressed this publicly in the media before - would likely have to spread their teaching resources more thinly than they currently plan to do, and therefore there could likely be some more detrimental program affects in the system than are currently contemplated with the arrangements that the boards now have planned for next year.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: One last point, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member has really just answered the question I'm about to ask. He has indicated he is prepared to deal with the boards at that time should that situation arise. That is essentially what I'm getting at. Why isn't the minister prepared now to intervene? Why is he not prepared to sit down with school boards, representatives, his officials, in a real genuine effort to resolve this dispute, in a real genuine attempt to put aside these differences and to get on with education reform? Why not intervene now Mr. Minister and not when required to do so at a later date?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I guess the hon. member in responding to the statement today indicated he hadn't had the statement for a long time. The statement clearly indicates that the government believes the legislation is sound, and that it will be found in the court that the decisions that the school boards have made based upon the legislation will stand. We don't see any reason why we should be going around trying to deal with the myriad of complaints that are registered in the court documents. Because it ranges everywhere from suggesting that the boards are improperly constituted to the statement that the individual decisions taken about individual schools by individual school boards are incorrect in law.

There is nothing for us to talk to school boards or the people involved with the court action at this point, and there is nothing for us to get involved with. Because they cast the net so wide in terms of the complaints they want adjudicated by the court that it would be hard for anybody to know that if you dealt with this issue would that satisfy you, or do you have to deal with about 150 issues to see if that would satisfy anybody. As the Minister of Justice has indicated, the matter will go through the courts. We will see how it unfolds. We would hope there wouldn't be any decisions at the end of the day that would be detrimental to the students in the Province and their educational opportunity.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Minister of Health. Minister, as recently as this morning the Health Care Corporation of St. John's was reporting it had not identified sufficient emergency room physicians to allow them to open the Grace Hospital emergency room in the evening hours, following the unexpected resignation of several doctors. Minister, what is being done to identify doctors to work in the hospital's ER, even on an interim basis, and is the minister satisfied the remaining ERs in the city are capable of accommodating the demand for emergency services during this period?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. For clarification purposes, it isn't the intention of the emergency department to be open twenty-four hours a day. The intention is that we will maintain the existing hospitals - the Health Sciences Centre, St. Clare's and the Janeway - with twenty-four hour services, and we will continue to provide maternity care to patients at the Grace after 10:00 p.m. Prior to that it will be regular emergency departments. The patients are very aware of the process that has been in place over the last year.

In respect to the second part of your question, the staff were informed on Friday of the impending situation. The Health Care Corporation will be meeting with general practitioners over the coming days. To assist doctors make that decision they will be offering an ACLS course, an Advanced Cardiac Life Support Course, to assist doctors who haven't worked in emergency departments for a number of years. I think also it is important to note that we have about sixty-six physicians, general practitioners, in the area of St. John's who have consulting privileges. If we were able to attract even one shift from each of these sixty-six physicians who are now practising, we would have the Grace Hospital emergency room covered for the next two months.

We are working. We are also working with the medical school to contact the new graduates.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS J.M. AYLWARD: I'm answering the question that has been asked, I say to my hon. colleague

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister, Dr. Eric Parsons has publically raised the spectre of permanent closure of the Grace Hospital emergency room, if new ER physicians are not identified and if the impact is not too great.

When will a decision be made on whether to permanently close the Grace Hospital ER? Who will make that decision? What specific criteria will be used to make a determination of the impact of such a decision and what is the ministers continuance plan in the event that such a decision is made that the Grace ER is taken out of the system?

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

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

I think first thing's first. I think my colleague would agree that the most important part is communicating to the staff and that is what we have done first through the Health Care Corporation. The Health Care Corporation, as I have previously said in my previous response, is planning to meet with the general practitioners, will be offering an advanced cardiac life support system to enable physicians who have not worked in the emergency departments recently, to do so and I think it is important to stress the fact that we do have some time, we are concerned certainly because we have to meet those deadlines, but the Health Care Corporation in conjunction with the Department of Health with the medical school will be working to try to resolve the problem.

With respect to what will happen, I have been speaking with Sister Elizabeth with respect to long-term plans with the Grace, right now our immediate concern and our immediate priority is to meet the needs by putting physicians in the emergency room and that will be our priority on the short-term.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister, the Grace Hospital is slated for closing in the next year and this administration and the former administration have assured us the emergency room capacity that now exists will continue to exist in the new system as beds are transferred to other facilities, but in light of the physician shortages and the ER closure this weekend, what assurances can the minister now give us that ER capacity in this region will not be demised following the restructuring of the areas hospitals?

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

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

I think what the Health Care Corporation has put in place over the last year is a very important part of the process of completing the plan. When the emergency was closed last year to all but maternity patients, those people requiring services went to the other three existing emergency departments. I think it is obvious, when you look at the number of people that are visiting the emergency department now at the Grace compared to the other ones, that we are meeting those needs, but we have said that we are going to try to staff the emergency room at the Grace. That is our plan and for the record, we are working with the Health Care Corporation and the medical school to identify ways of staffing the emergency on the short-term and looking at the bigger process of emergency room physicians, which I might add Mr. Speaker, we are hoping to have an announcement in the coming days that will help address the whole issue of emergency room physicians and staffing emergency departments in the Province.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Minister, skate fishermen in zone 30 have to stop fishing due to the high bi-catch of cod. Less than half the quota of skate have been harvested and cod is being found in abundances in depths of water from sixty-five fathoms to 200 fathoms. Those fishermen are using twelve inch gear and from what I understand in conversation with them are catching cod fish in access of thirty pounds each.

Minister, since the cod stocks in this particular area were never considered to be in trouble, will the minister now influence the people at DFO to increase the bi-catch limits so those fishermen might be allowed to continue with this particular fishery?

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

MR. EFFORD: Actually Mr. Speaker, the cod that they are catching is averaging forty to fifty pounds, not thirty pounds.

But anyway, Mr. Speaker, the last information that I had with the skate fishery, just a couple of days ago, was that is was not a factor of the large amount of bi-catch because the mesh they are using is a twelve inch mesh and in fact, the last fishermen I was talking to had 50,000 pound of skate and they had twenty cod fish which weighted a total of 800 pounds for twenty fish, that was not a ten per cent bi-catch. The biggest problem with the skate fisheries out there, that DFO closed the skate fishery because they think that the quota of skate is caught. In the meantime I have my officials meeting with DFO now, as we are talking, to find out all the problems with the skate fishery because I think it is like most species out there, it is overregulated.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, it was only this morning that I met with five fishermen who are carrying out that fishery and they have their boats tied up today with only 50 per cent of the skate being caught, I say to the minister.

Inshore fishermen Minister, are permitted to use 5.25-inch mesh for the 1997 turbot fishery. DFO has issued a small-fish protocol. If more than 15 per cent of turbot caught in those nets are less than 17.5 inches, the fishery will close. Minister, you certainly know that this measure is totally inconsistent with 5.5-inch mesh size and virtually guarantees a major problem with small fish. Is the minister aware of this problem and if so, is he satisfied with DFO's decision?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the problem. I, like the fishermen out there in the area have concerns with the regulations that have been put in place, not only the turbot fishery, the skate fishery, the cod fishery and all other fisheries. We are meeting with DFO now to discuss the concerns that these fishermen have; we are concerned about the by-catch in all instances, we are concerned about the size of mesh that is being talked about in the turbot fishery and other fisheries, but I tell you, Mr. Speaker, the one thing that is uppermost in our minds and everybody's mind in this Province, is not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The other concern I have is the micro-management. The micro-management of the fishery.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. EFFORD: You have to have a bookkeeper aboard your boat now to go out to the fishery with all the paper work that is there so we are concerned about it and are meeting with DFO to try to lessen the problems in the fishery.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has ended.

The Chair would like to welcome to the Speaker's gallery today, Dr. Noel Murphy, a former member of the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Notices of Motion

 

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

WHEREAS the minerals of Voisey's Bay belong to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and the primary beneficiaries of the development of those resources should be the people of Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act, subsections 4.1.1 and 2 - 4.1.1 states: a person may in the current taxation year deduct from the amount payable under Section 4, the amount payable to the Province under the Income Tax Act in respect of mining income in the Province for that year; and 2: Subsection 1 shall apply only for each of the first ten years after the achievement of commercial production in the mine from which mining income is derived; and

WHEREAS even though the hon. the Premier stated in this House on November 20, 1996, that there would be no ten-year tax holiday for Inco, yet there is nothing in the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act or any other legislation to exempt Inco or its subsidiaries or operations at Voisey's Bay from these provisions; and

WHEREAS the Provincial Government has, to date, given the people of Newfoundland and Labrador no opportunity to understand, evaluate or have input regarding the various royalty regimes that may be under consideration with respect to Voisey's Bay minerals; and

WHEREAS the mineral Act states in paragraph 31.5(c)(6), that a lease issued under the Act is subject to the condition that the leasee shall, where required to do so by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, complete primary production in whole or in part in the Province of a mineral or a mineral ore extracted or removed under the lease;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the House of Assembly urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to act promptly to ensure the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that they derive maximum benefit from the development of our resources at Voisey's Bay; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the House of Assembly urge the government to act promptly to amend the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act by adding in subsection 4.1.1 immediately following the words, `a person' the words, `other than Inco and its subsidiaries and operations at Voisey's Bay'; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the House of Assembly urge the government to hold an open consultation process with the people of our Province with respect to the various royalty regimes under consideration regarding Voisey's Bay minerals and do so prior to the finalization of any such royalty regime; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the House of Assembly urge the government to do everything it can, as is required by law, to establish a copper smelter refinery in this Province to process as much as possible of the Voisey's Bay copper resources here in this Province.

 

Petitions

 

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

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

I rise today to present a petition which I will read for the record: To the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland in legislative session convened, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador - approximately 7,000 names - that

WHEREAS the variation of gasoline prices throughout the Province is wide and unfair; and

WHEREAS we want to ensure that all people within the Province pay a fair and equitable price for gasoline regardless of the geographic region of the Province;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to introduce the appropriate amendments so that gasoline prices in this Province will be regulated by the Public Utilities Board.

Mr. Speaker, this has been a thorny issue and a sore point for many people in the Province, myself included. In 1989, members of the present Liberal Government campaigned on a promise that they would look at regulating the oil and gas industry dealing specifically, Mr. Speaker, with home heating fuel and gasoline prices, but today we see in Trinity, where you pay 60 cents to 70 cents a litre, in Corner Brook you may pay less than that, in Grand Falls it is higher, in St. John's it is something else. People fundamentally are asking the question: Why? A very legitimate question. There is no sound or just reason for the variation of prices per litre in this Province to be taking place.

It is important to note for the record that in 1990, the Minister of Mines and Energy at the time, with the commitment of the Premier of the day, Premier Clyde Wells, commissioned an internal study of regulation of the gasoline industry with the possible view that two things would happen: one, that where inequities existed they would be corrected; and two, that a more stable plan be put in place for the regulation of gasoline prices.

People of that day, the Premier of the day, the Minister of Mines and Energy of the day, fought an election on the issue. They said that the only appropriate manner in which gasoline prices could be stabilized - to take it out of the realm of politics, to depoliticize it, if you will, to put it into an arm's length independent board that would look at the industry for what it is, and make recommendations that would be binding in law - would be to send it to the Public Utilities Board.

We do that today. We do it with energy. In terms of the heating cost, electrical cost, that we all pay as electrical consumers, each time that Newfoundland Power or Newfoundland Hydro wishes to have a rate increase or an increase in prices, they have to make application to the Public Utilities Board. It is that simple. Once they make application to the Public Utilities Board, a hearing commences, a hearing which allows the public to have their input, a hearing and a process that allows a consumer advocate to present the views of the public and to balance, to provide a counter-argument, to the argument of the industry.

Seven thousand people signed this petition in and around the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. What they are asking for is very legitimate, very simple. They are not asking for gasoline prices to be so low that it would put companies out of business. What they are asking for simply is that if you pay 55 cents a litre in Corner Brook that you pay 55 cents a litre in St. John's; that if you pay 55 cents a litre in Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador, that you also pay it in Badger and Grand Falls.

Mr. Speaker, I support their aim, I support the petition, and I urge government to strongly consider the recommendations in this petition that would put forth to the Public Utilities Board a process by which, when gasoline prices are supposed to go up, that it go to the Public Utilities Board for a fair hearing so that the public will know clearly why we are paying such dramatic differences for gasoline in the Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to support the petition put forward by my colleague, the Member for Kilbride. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I presented a similar petition here that was circulated in my district. I indicated at that time that within a short distance of something like thirty kilometres there was a difference of something like six cents a litre. Now, if somebody can tell me or convince me that that is not price gouging, then I do not know what is.

The argument the oil companies continually put forward is the cost of transportation. I am not convinced that the people in Bonavista should be paying six cents a litre more for gasoline than the people, say, for Trinity, thirty-five kilometres up the road. It is not uncommon to be able to come here in the St. John's area, fill up your car, and save in excess of $8 or $10 on a fill-up, one tank of gas, compared to what you pay in rural areas. In a committee meeting I brought it forward and raised a concern with the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. He indicated that it could not be regulated, because if you regulated gasoline, then everybody would be paying more than they are paying now. I do not accept that.

Everybody agrees that you should be able to make a profit in business today, but it is certainly unfair for one gasoline dispenser to be selling his gasoline in excess of 70 cents a litre and somebody else to be selling his at 62 cents and 64 cents a litre, totally unfair, and I suggest that government react to the problem immediately and bring in regulation so that everybody in this Province will be paying the same price for this commodity which is not a luxury, but that people use in order to go to work, to visit a doctor, to go to a government office. Every time you move today, you have to use some form or mode of transportation and gasoline is certainly a necessity. So I implore the government to look into the suggestion as put forward by the petition and react to the needs of the consumers in this Province.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

Mr. Speaker, this is one of the series of petitions, and I understand there are more to come, calling on government to look seriously at the issue of child hunger in the Province which has been recently identified as having increased by 50 per cent from 1989 to 1995.

Mr. Speaker, the government seems to be pretending that the only child hunger in Newfoundland exists in St. John's but that is very, very far from the truth. It is a problem throughout this Province and has been identified in many communities throughout the Province and in fact, it is a hidden problem. It is a problem which is hidden because people do not like to talk about it; parents do not like to talk about it because of reasons such as stigma and also the concern that, if they talk about their children being hungry, the Human Resources and Employment department might be interested in coming after them to see whether or not they are properly looking after their children despite the fact that they get inadequate funds from the Department of Human Resources and Employment.

Mr. Speaker, we have to address this problem through government action and the amount of money being given by the government to the school lunch foundation is not at all adequate, it is a very paltry amount when one considers the problem. It is pretty obvious that the government is saving and intends to save many, many millions of dollars. The figures that have been bandied around is upwards of $100 million as a result of changes to the education system in the next couple of years and over the last year or so. With teacher allocations changing, with schools closing, with busing changing, there is a lot of money being saved in this Province, some of it unnecessarily saved, I might add. Parents are here having to fight government to recognize the need for community schools and many schools in the Province and are fighting for quality education for their children. But this is one area, Mr. Speaker, where government can act, and can act with some of the money they are saving, and ensure that each school child in the Province has access to a nutritious meal every day they are in school so that they can participate in the educational opportunities that are available to them and hopefully, hopefully improve their chances in life and their chances in school. This is of utmost importance, Mr. Speaker, and I urge, along with the petitioners, the House of Assembly to direct government to follow these petitioners' request.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to support the petition put forward by my colleague, the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the House that this petition has been before the House now almost every day since this spring session began. We know the evidence is out there that says that many children go to school every day in this Province and they have insufficient nutrition.

Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a concern that is quoted in Volume 1 of the Report of the Strategic Social Planning Public Dialogue, Newfoundland and Labrador. Let me read what it says on page 10. It says: When parents deny a child food, clothing and shelter, it is considered abuse, yet, when governments do it, it is called fiscal responsibility and, Mr. Speaker, that is where we have difficulty, in a situation where we know there are 40,000 children who went to school this very day in this Province, and stats will show that these children had insufficient food. We know the relationship between good nutrition and learning. That has been established; therefore, why are we continuing to fail as a Province to address the issue? We compliment those agencies, those private businesses, the church groups, the community groups who are out there saying: We have to do something about this very very important problem. We have the studies put forward, like the study I hold in my hand now called, Special Matters; a report of the review of special education, Dr. Patricia Canning's report. Mr. Speaker, all of chapter three talks about poverty and education. It draws the relationship between how children are fed and how they achieve in school, and I have to say to the government, as I have said on many occasions, the results of the study are self-evident. We do not need to have any more studies. We want, now, action. We want to say to the government, in their budget they talked about bold initiatives. We have not seen any. We have not seen those bold initiatives, have not seen any evidence of any great deal of planning. We just talk about the problem, and on this side of the House, that is all the power we have, every day to bring it forward. And I regret I have to do it, but every day that we bring forward this motion, I will continue to support it, because when you have that number of children who are going to school every day hungry and knowing the relationship between achievement and the nutrition of the child, we cannot do anything of any greater order in this particular Legislature than to try to address that fundamental question.

So, Mr. Speaker, all of the evidence is there. We know what should be done, we call upon government to increase your activity, to increase the commitments that you have towards the issues of child poverty in this Province. We commend the Federal Government for their initiatives, but do not forget that when we talk about these, they are just the beginnings. Canada has a crisis in child care, it is called, child poverty, and in Newfoundland and Labrador we probably have as great or a greater problem than anywhere else in this country. Mr. Speaker, we have to do something about it, we call upon the government: before September, this year, show some leadership, show a commitment and do something about child poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you very much.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to the Opposition House Leader and the NDP member in the House - there were a couple of ministers who missed a step on the Order Paper when you called for Presenting Reports - and they have agreed to give us leave to table two reports; we do have leave, I take it.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave of the House, we revert to Reports.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the minister responsible for the Status of Women, I hereby table the status report on the implementation of the Prevention Strategy Against Violence. The Prevention Strategy Against Violence, I believe, is a successful example of co-operation between five partner departments of government and the community, the schools, (inaudible) prevention of violence and improvement of service delivery to victims of violence.

Mr. Speaker, I table the report. There is also the 1996 Annual Report of the Department of Environment and Labour, the Labour Relations Divisions. I table it on behalf of the minister.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I want to rise to present a petition to the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador in legislative session assembled. The petition is from residents in the St. John's region.

Mr. Speaker, the petition reads:

WHEREAS a number of mentally handicapped young adults have resided in certain group homes for ten to fifteen years or longer; and

WHEREAS the uprooting of these people would be very traumatic and could lead to very serious regression; and

WHEREAS the only reason for this move is to save government a paltry sum of money;

THEREFORE be it resolved that the proposed changes to group home care program be deferred pending public consultations with front-line workers, family representatives and social workers to determine the validity and reliability of the restructuring proposals as to whether or not these changes represent the best interest of clients.

Mr. Speaker, I want to support this petition. We know that there has been a great deal of dialogue in the Province, after the announcement was made by the Minister of Human Resources and Employment, on April 4, about the proposal to restructure all of the home care facilities in this Province. We know that many parents and many of the brothers and sisters, in cases where parents are no longer able to care for their loved ones, have come forward and said: We want to be assured that these changes to group homes are in the best interest of our loved ones.

Mr. Speaker, I can only say to you that many of these parents - I have had calls from parents who are now in their senior years, and it grieves me greatly that mothers who are well into their eighties have been crying, and asking: What is going to happen to my daughter? In her lifetime, she has been at home, a patient at the Waterford Hospital in the last few years.

In one particular case, the mother said her daughter has now been out in a group home.

They are afraid that what is happening is not in the best interest of the individual. What they are asking for in this petition is not that we change the thrust of what we are attempting to do. I will read it again. It says: that we defer the proposed changes to the group homes pending public consultations with front-line workers, with family representatives, with social workers, to determine the validity and the reliability of the whole restructuring process, to make sure that the changes that are being made are in the best interest of the people who are involved.

Mr. Speaker, for the most part, these are people who cannot speak for themselves. We have to be their advocates. We have to be the people who will speak up for them. I want to say to the hon. House that today we ask this House: Will you put a hold on those changes that the government said are going to be all implemented by September 30, 1997? That is the date that has been set.

We say to the minister, we are not judging here as to whether or not this is a good initiative or a bad initiative. We are saying, talk to the real people, talk to the front-line workers, talk to the people who care for these people, talk to the siblings, talk to the parents, who want to be reassured that what you are doing is in the best interest of the people involved. What will it matter if we delay the changes by two months, three months? If we cannot show it is in the best interest of the individuals, then we should cancel it altogether.

Let us wait until we can have a proper public consultation so that we can show to those care givers, to the workers who work in those homes, to the family members, that the proposed changes in the group homes in this Province represent a step in the right direction, and they represent more than merely an effort to show budgetary restraint. Because we, certainly, in this Province, do not want a situation to arise where we are going to balance budgets on the backs of some of the people to whom we should give the greatest level of care, namely, people who are unable to care for themselves.

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the prayer of the petition, and I ask the hon. House if the government through the minister would listen to its prayer. Because this particular prayer makes a great deal of common sense.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to give support to a petition which has been signed by a number of people in the St. John's area, including a number of people in my own constituency of Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

I want to relate to you a story about a couple who are residents of one of these co-operative housing activities, group homes, or co-op homes, who are living together. The two women, former residents of Exon House, had a difficult time there, and spent a number of years in foster homes after Exon House was closed.

Recently, and when I say recently, that is over the last seven or eight years, as a result of this program of group homes and support for independent living, these two women, who have been together now for some twenty years, and are friends, have difficulties - they have difficulties with mental handicaps - but they are working. Both of them are working. They are, in many respects, self-sufficient, but they cannot live on their own. They do have some support provided by employees of the Avalon Community Accommodations Board and they are able to live pretty happily as a result of this program. These women, Mr. Speaker, are now crying themselves to sleep at night, wondering what is going to happen to them because they have been told by the Minister of Social Services that they have to get out of their house for which they are providing rent money, get out of their house that they have enjoyed the kind of accommodations and living arrangements that most people in society have come to expect, Mr. Speaker, a degree of independent living where that is possible. All the petitioners ask for is that there be a public consultation to talk about with the care givers, with the residents themselves, with the relatives, with the people who are directly involved in the situation of these individuals to see whether or not there is some other way that these families can be accommodated or these individuals can be accommodated without the kind of drastic solutions that are being proposed - because basically they are cut off the program - and whether or not the changes that are being made are in fact in the best interest of the clients of this program or indeed of the public interest.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that the government has been through a fairly rigorous program of so-called program review where government has forced departments to go through their programs and their books and identify savings of an incredibly substantial amount. This is downloading, Mr. Speaker. This is part of the downloading of the federal government deficit on to the provincial government. The provincial government is downloading it, in some cases on the municipal governments but in other cases directly on the individuals, such as students for example who are now having an increased debt load, social assistance recipients who are being asked to borrow money to - in the case of single parents - feed their children, clothe their children and pay interest on that over the next fifteen or twenty years. Downloading to individuals.

Here is another example, Mr. Speaker, where the individuals are going to bear the burden of the national deficit passed on to the Province, now being passed on to individuals, are innocent people whose lives are going to be dramatically affected for the worse for government programs of this nature. Now, Mr. Speaker, it is time to start to up-load some of the responsibility and the blame for what is happening to people. People of this Province are going to come in here every day to protest and they are saying that they have enough of the ill affects of government cutbacks, that the deficit is a problem that has been foisted upon them and not being dealt with properly at the provincial and national level. How much pain do we have to cause, Mr. Speaker? How much pain does government have to cause to people before they realize that there must be an end to this? The people who I have talked to, Mr. Speaker, said: Don't they know? Don't they understand?' or then they say, Well don't they care? The conclusion that they have reached, Mr. Speaker, in many cases is that government just does not care of the pain and suffering that is caused to individuals.

There is an awful lot of signatures on this petition, Mr. Speaker, and they seem to all have been obtained in a period of one, two or three days which is obviously a lot of concern about this issue throughout the region where the petition was brought. It is obvious that a lot of people are very, very concerned about what this government's policies are doing to individuals who need to have the support of group homes, who have had that support for ten or fifteen years. A change, Mr. Speaker, from the institutionalization of the past to a more pleasant environment, a more reasonable environment, a happier environment in fact, for these individuals who are now being forced to take a step back into the unknown but certainly much worse circumstances as the result of this change.

I ask - I more than ask, Mr. Speaker, I beseech the government to reconsider the drastic nature of this program decision -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: - and to reconsider it and go through a consultation process.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have another petition to present.

It is: To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland, in parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, ask for the House of Assembly to accept the following prayer: We, the undersigned, give our support to Student Parents for a Better Tomorrow in their efforts to address the affects of the provincial Budget on student parents attending post-secondary institutions. Effective September of this year, student parents attending post-secondary institutions whom previously received financial assistance from the Department of Social Services will be forced to take on additional debt to cover the basic cost of living, for them and their children. Compensation for this denial of social aid will be the eligibility for maximum student loan allocation from the Department of Education's Student Aid Division. Students graduating from Memorial University, for instance, will be weighted with debts as high as $52,000.

Mr. Speaker, this particular petition is signed by hundreds of student parents and their family members throughout this particular Province. We know that the Province in its wisdom or lack of it in the provincial Budget said that all student parents must take the maximum student loan. We have had consultations with the student parents who are attending the post-secondary institutions in the St. John's region, particularly those who are at Memorial University, and they tell us that this change in policy is going to mean a tremendous disincentive for these parents in their ability to be able to continue their education.

We know that these parents can stay at home, and they will be paid the full social services assistance program. They will get their money from the department by staying home and doing nothing. But if they happen to say: We want to go to the University, then what the department says is: We are going to now say to you we are going to cut off your social assistance. We are going to say to you: Now all your money must come from student loans. Only when you have maximized all your student loans will you be able to get any further help from the Department of Human Resources and Employment.

What that means is that we are going to ask those young parents, primarily young mothers, if they will go and take on this additional debt load. Instead of having a debt load of, say, $20,000 or $25,000 at graduation, they are going to have a debt load of $40,000 or $50,000 at graduation. We are going to say to a young mother with one, two or three children, and I do know cases where people are going to university who have three children: When you graduate we are going to expect you to, in addition to trying to care for your three children - who by that time will be three teenagers -, we are going to say to this mother: We are going to victimize you further. We are going to say to you that we are going to make you not only care for the physical needs of your children, but we are going to say to you we are going to make you start paying back on a loan of $40,000 or $50,000.

We ask the government, where is the compassion, where is the fairness, where is the rationale for that kind of decision making? What we are doing really is we are balancing a budget on the backs of the people out there who we should be encouraging. We should be applauding them. We should be saying to them: We hope that there are more people out there who are on social services who want to go to post-secondary. We should be out there saying: Here are the incentives, here is what we will do. It isn't going to cost us any more than it was costing us before. We will continue to assist you.

But no, we don't say that. What we say to them is: If you want to go to University, you want to go to post-secondary, we are going to say to you, first of all, we are going to cut you off on social assistance. We are going to make you then take all of the full student loan component. Only if you need more money after that will we then go and give you any help through social assistance (inaudible). We are saying that is fundamentally flawed, it isn't good educational policy, it isn't good human policy, and certainly it is the wrong message we are sending.

We are saying to people out there today who are parents who want to go to school, want to better themselves: We would rather - and indirectly, because we aren't giving them any encouragement - we would just as soon you stayed home and stayed in the particular difficulties that you are now in. These parents here, because they have initiative, they want to get ahead in the world. As I said, they are primarily women, and very often when divorce occurs, it is a case of where it is the mother who is left with the children, it is the mother who has to try to get her life in order; it is the mother who has to say to her three children: I am going to try to make life better and then, when she decides to go back to school to try to make it possible, the government says: Yes, there is a penalty for that, we are going to make you absorb all the costs. So, Mr. Speaker, we find that this is not a good policy for a whole lot of reasons and we say to these student-parents, we regret again that this government has put fiscal responsibility here in balancing the Budget on the backs of some of the most defenceless people in the community -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: - in this particular case, on the backs of the student-parents who can ill-afford to take on this kind of burden and responsibility.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to support the petition presented by the Opposition House Leader. It is an issue that is of great importance not only to the individuals involved but to the Province in terms of its social policy.

We are dealing here fundamentally with women. They call themselves student-parents because they want to be inclusive because there may be one or two men involved but 99.9 per cent of the people involved here are single women on social assistance who, if they do not get the kind of support they need are probably going to end up staying on social assistance and, Mr. Speaker, the government has decided to treat them equally, equally with everybody else who applies for student loans.

I think, what has to be realized, Mr. Speaker, is that equal treatment does not always deliver equality. Equal treatment does not deliver equality when the results of that equal treatment are to burden these particular individuals, almost all of whom are women, with an unacceptable and impossible level of debt for them to be able to pursue an education. I think the minister responsible for Human Resources and Employment and also the Status of Women ought to consider both of these issues when she is looking at this policy.

Now this policy, Mr. Speaker, represents forcing women - and some of them are young women in their early twenties, some of them are in their late forties and early fifties in some cases - with children whom they are trying to support and at the same time trying to improve their education and their job prospects.

Mr. Speaker, if the department persists in pursuing this policy, it is going to force many of these women to abandon their careers, some of them will continue of course, but many others who find themselves in the same circumstances as these women are not going to even pursue it at all, Mr. Speaker, they will not pursue post-secondary education because they cannot face the prospect of having to go through several years of either university or other post-secondary training and borrow the money to pay for diapers; borrow the money to buy baby food; borrow the money to buy clothes for their children and then face the prospect of paying interest on that for years and years and years to come, on the amount of money that is so large, that has to be beyond their comprehension of them having the ability to pay it back.

I remember, Mr. Speaker, when I went to university and, Mr. Speaker, you too probably had the advantage of a fairly generous student loan and grant program, that I think I managed to at least get one year where tuition was in fact free, and I was able to get a university education and the Opposition House Leader got a salary.

MR. H. HODDER: One hundred dollars a month.

MR. HARRIS: One hundred dollars a month. The Opposition House Leader got $100 a month for going to university.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we have not been able to do that today, but we are going so far in the opposite direction so as to make university education inaccessible to all but the most well-off students or the people with the best prospects for the future and, Mr. Speaker, students are starting to realize that they are being treated unfairly, all students are being treated unfairly by this government, by governments generally, and in particular these students who are struggling to change their lot in life from that of a recipient of social assistance, a recipient of society's beneficence to a contributor, by getting a proper education. They are being asked to bear an unconscionable burden and they are being forced in many cases, to stay on social assistance. It is an awful, awful regressive step that is being taken by this government, they think they are going to save $2 million, they may save $2 million of their budget this year, they may save $2 million of their budget next year, but I will guarantee them that they may be paying social assistance to more people for longer periods of time and that $2 million is going to look paltry indeed, when they see themselves with an ongoing obligation for many, many, many years to come to provide support to these single parents and their families.

That, Mr. Speaker, is the result of this policy. It is cruel, it is unconscionable, it is discriminatory against women and it is short-sighted and it ought to be changed.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Orders of the Day

 

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before I move to Orders of the Day, I move that the House not adjourn at 5:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved that the House do not adjourn at 5:00 p.m. All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Order No. 6, Mr. Speaker, second reading of a bill "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Association Act".

MR. SPEAKER: Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Association Act" (Bill No. 19).

The hon. the Government House Leader introducing the bill.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I believe that this is a fairly simple bill that has been put forward and it is being done, I think, at the request of the NLTA in which they have asked us to change references in the Teachers' Association Act from an annual meeting to a bi-annual meeting and they have also asked us to amend section 9 of the act by requiring a bi-annual meeting or convention of the association, rather than an annual meeting and to reduce the executive membership, I believe, from fifteen to twelve and in addition, would make the immediate past president of the association an executive member of the association.

I think, Mr. Speaker, those are the two main things that this bill requires and it is being done at the request of the teachers' association and of course, those people who have been teachers in the past would know that you would want to cooperate with them in every way, shape and form that is possible.

While the Minister of Education is busy solving problems with -

AN HON. MEMBER: Creating problems.

MR. TULK: - education in the Province today, it gives me great pleasure to introduce this bill for second reading.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to speak on Bill 19 to amend the Teachers' Association Act. My first inclination was to oppose the bill, Mr. Speaker, and force them to meet every year, so that the Minister of Education would have to face the music every single year and not get off the hook, but when the minister first introduced the bill I thought that he was doing it in a self-serving way to avoid confronting the reality of having to talk to the teachers at least once a year, now he only has to talk to them every second year, but I say that slightly tongue and cheek, Mr. Speaker, clearly the NTA ought to be the master of its own constitution and if the teachers have decided, under the appropriate provisions of their constitution, of their association to have a bi-annual meeting as apposed to an annual meeting for both the teachers' association and the pension association, there is no reason why this House ought to interfere with that.

There is also the concern that the number of executive members be changed in conformity with the associations request and also to add the immediate past president as a member of the executive and certainly, if that is the wish of the teachers' association there is no reason why this House should interfere with that.

While I am on my feet and we are talking about the teachers' association, I heard a disturbing comment today, from a letter sent to some teachers out in the Avalon West District where the protesters who were outside in the lobby of the House of Assembly before the House met, were talking about the concerns about education that were being expressed in communities around the Province and many groups were there today from the Burin Peninsula, Bonavista, from Fogo Island, from Badger, from the Trinity - Bay de Verde area, Mr. Speaker, from Brigus. All concerned that their issues and their interests weren't being properly aired before the school boards.

One of the groups of people they were hoping would be able to be involved in public discussion and public debate about these issues were the schoolteachers and principals themselves. But I was shocked to have quoted to the gathering outside a letter from the executive director of the Avalon West school board, directed to teachers and principals, telling them that if they spoke out publicly - I don't have a copy, but I wouldn't mind having a copy of it - on issues involving the school board they would be considered to be guilty of a disciplinary act, and potentially insubordination, apparently, supposedly, undermining the authority of the employer.

If a teacher speaks out against a school board's policy they have been under threat by letter from the chief executive officer, who doesn't seem to be happy enough to meet with people. He takes pains to write a letter to all the teachers and principals in his district reminding them that to speak out could be considered disciplinary action.

I haven't heard from the NLTA on this. I -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: This is a directive, yes. But I'm just concerned that not only this directive but - this comes from the NLTA - but I'm wondering when we are going to hear from the NLTA about this letter that was sent to teachers and principals out in the Avalon West, basically telling them that they aren't to speak out about school closures and school designations. The NLTA is in fact, by a bulletin sent out April 22, warning people that they may have a problem if they speak out publicly about school closures and school designations, because the employer may regard that as insubordination.

Mr. Speaker, that to me is one of the most undemocratic approaches to public policy in this Province that I've ever heard. I understand the employment relationship, if you are dealing with corporate operations and that sort of thing, but this is a matter of public policy. A schoolteacher is not only a schoolteacher, as you know. A schoolteacher is also a member of the community, and as a member of the public has every right to speak out on public issues affecting his or her community. Has every right to run for public office, as Your Honour did, and got himself elected, and a number of other people here did too.

If schoolteachers can't speak out on public issues how can they participate in the public discussions that are going on in this Province about education? Whether it be denominational education, whether it be community education, whether it be issues affecting the school closures and designations in their area. How can they participate in that, as members of - not only employees of the school board, but as members of the community?

I thought that that day had gone. I thought we had gone past the day when schoolteachers were frightened to speak out because the priest or the minister or somebody might see that they lost their job because they weren't playing the game, they weren't being who they were supposed to be, they weren't carrying the right flag at the right time, or attending the right church, or doing the right things in the community. I thought that that day was gone - one of the reasons why so many people supported the changes to Term 17 in this Province - and many teachers supported it as well, both publicly and privately. Because they believed that the time had come for schoolteachers to have more personal freedom in terms of not only their opinions, but their activities and anything else associated with their life in the community.

Now we have a situation, Mr. Speaker, where school teachers and principals are being threatened with disciplinary action if they speak out and speak their mind. Now why is that, Mr. Speaker? Perhaps because they might have a little bit of credibility on these issues because they are school teachers and they know more in many respects than some certain lay people about the issues and how they are going to affect the quality of education? Is that why they don't want them to speak out? Do they want to keep them quiet because they are concerned? Is this a directive perhaps from the Minister of Education? Has the Minister of Education told them this is the way to keep them quiet? A very good question, Mr. Speaker.

Now the Minister of Education is not here to respond to that so I won't leave it hanging in the air but that is a very good question. I think it is time that the Minister of Education made a public statement denouncing that kind of comment from a chief executive officer of a school board or a school superintendent - director I think they are called now under the new act - but that is not the kind of statement that we want to see made to teachers and principals in this Province, that they should keep their mouths shut less they be subjected to disciplinary procedures for disagreeing or commenting on the school closure or school designation within their district. So I am hoping that the Minister of Justice will look into this. It is a very serious matter. Perhaps he can talk to his colleague the Minister of Education and perhaps something could be done about this.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Government House Leader speaks now he will close the debate.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I would move second reading of Bill No. 19.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Association Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill No. 19)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, second reading of Bill No. 9, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statue Law". I don't believe the Leader of the Opposition has spoken. I believe that he wanted to ask some questions. We would ask him to adjourn debate and move on today.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a few comments and when we get to the committee level we will have some questions that the minister will hopefully be able to provide some answers to. It is very lengthy. There are numerous different amendments and numerous different acts. There is a whole galore of those out there and -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I did not raise any yet, Mr. Speaker. The Opposition House Leader made reference to numerous sections and so on. I just looked at some of the more troublesome ones and had an opportunity to run through some of these and I am still in the process of digesting a couple of them that I had to rush through. So I have an opportunity to look at a few of these. So I will just have a few general comments overall and then when we get to committee we will be able to ask some specific questions and get answers then. It will be a better forum than doing it during second reading.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, that's fine. I will keep my comments fairly brief here.

Overall the Opposition House Leader listed numerous sections the last day that some concerns or someone answered questions or some reasons why they are doing what they are doing and in some areas here we are looking for an explanation. I see nine specific areas. There are seven clauses in question. There are a few of these dealing with the Financial Administration Act, the Hydro Corporation Act and other acts. The Hydro Corporation Act again in another point. I think those are the clauses I believe on these. I will just make reference as I go through them generally. Clause 21 makes reference to the Financial Administration Act and clause 31 is the Hydro Corporation Act and it mentions other acts there, the EPC and so on. Clause 32, the Hydro Corporation Act again. Then it mentions Clause 45, the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act. Clause 56, the Provincial Parks Act. Clause 65 deals with the Securities Act and clause 70 deals with the subordinate legislation revision and consolidation. That is clause 70.

So, they are some of the ones that are of some concern, the retroactivity, and maybe the minister will have an acceptable answer on some of these. There are always concerns with retroactivity, and going back and dealing with so many the one time; and there is something happening at various points that another act is kicking in and doing the same things and I think that happens with the Hydro Corporation's act in clause 32. For instance Bill No. 9, is really amending and I will just use one example: It is amending the 1995 act, An Act To Amend The Hydro Corporation Act, The Electrical Power Control Act, 1994 and other acts, it says: To remove reference to 44 (4) and 47.

In other words, what is happening is, 44 (4) and 47 are unrepealed I guess, effective the same day that the limitation act kicks in, the appeals end April 1, 96. So I am just wondering what is the point of the amendment overall, you know, for instance, why would we be unrepealing 44 (4) and 47 retroactive to the very same day that they are being repealed by another act, and the use of retroactivity in this instance, can add some confusion to the process here and I am wondering if there is a specific reason why this amendment will be needed then if another act is supposed to do it or, is it done so the limitations act is not repealing a section and subsection that does not exist? So that adds a little bit to the confusion there and I am sure I have added a little bit to it too, I say to the minister but, they are some of the points

I see the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation is smiling, I am sure he knows all about confusion, I say to him. Those points for example, and I will not put these into question form but, in clause 32, the Hydro Corporation Act, it talks about, you know, on behalf of the Province, giving the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, who had the power, but it also adds in his or her deputy minister or another minister whom the Lieutenant-Governor in Council may designate and that signature is added there must be engraved, lithographed or whatever. In other words, it adds to that approval list, they can designate the Deputy Minister of Finance. I mean, is that just an error, an anomaly or is that a policy change? Are we now going to invest certain powers in the deputy minister that have ordinarily been invested in the minister?

I mean, that could be significant, that is clause 32 and I am just wondering whether that itself is an anomaly and we can consider an anomaly. Maybe some powers we do not want to invest and maybe we should I suppose. We invest a lot more in the deputy minister I say and I will invest in the minister, maybe you are on the right track but, the deputy minister was not elected, he is not the minister who represents the department even though I have great respect for him, he is doing a tremendous job but it is his minister with whom I have a big problem.

There is clause 45 also I made reference to, the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act, which we are all so familiar with that one; that is the one with the most recent amendment which was the ten-year give away of tax, where, they can write-off their income tax against their mining operations tax; your income tax at the corporate rate for mining is 14 per cent and mining operation tax is 15 per cent so we can write one off against the other for ten years, which is a big mistake. The former Premier saw it as a big mistake and realized and brought a Bill No. 43 to this House to correct that problem which we supported changing. We called for changes for months and months, since the spring of '95 and we have been calling for it for the last two years and we have been told: no need to worry and you know what happened since then. A company called Inco went out and reached down in their account and on behalf of the owners of the company paid out a cheque for $4.3 billion in August of '96 I think when the litigation with Freidland had finally cleared and any outstanding challenges in the court, wrote a cheque for $4.3 billion well after the legislation tells Inco they have a ten-year tax holiday.

Now, put yourself in that position; If you bought a company for $4.3 billion or $4.3 thousand and you found that the Province was giving you a ten-year tax break, they changed that tax break and they told you you were not going to get it, you said: I bought that company knowing that was going to be there, the laws of the Province said it is there. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, the future Minister of Mines and Energy say it is nonsense, the future minister, I am not so sure. The future Minister of Mines and Energy says nonsense.

AN HON. MEMBER: Rex will be back.

MR. SULLIVAN: If the laws of the Province -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Clear notice. Where is the notice? Table it in the House. Where is the clear? To me legislation is clear, Inco in a room or meeting is not clear. Let's see the proof. To me there is nothing clearer than the law, that is written in the legislation of the Province, that is the clearest indication of intent anyone could ever want is what is written in the laws of the Province. What is written into the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act, even the member representing - it is now Windsor-Springdale, who did represent and does represent mining in the area would even know the importance of legislation takes precedence over what we might have said in a back room meeting or in a front room meeting or in some other form. Legislation takes precedence, the law takes precedence over other matters.

Even the minister now would not admit to anything being any different than that, I am sure. A person who aspires to be the next Minister of Mines and Energy in the Province is going to try to tell us that he is going to ignore the laws of the Province. They did that with Trans City and look what happened. They did it with Atlantic Leasing and look what happened. Now they are in court again. My god the record in court is not very good, I said before, you should either fire your legal advisors or fire the ministers if you keep pushing - if you are spending tax payers dollars unwisely, unwisely because ministers make a political decision, you should fire them. If the legal advice is not good and you keep losing, you should fire the legal advisors. It has to be one or the other in that case. I certainly would not call upon the government to defend me if their track record is that bad, a multi-million dollar case and this is a matter here, not a matter of whether Inco may take us to court, it is a matter whereby they can use that to their maximum advantage in negotiating, they are big players on the field, we are only a spot on the map of this world.

Inco is bigger then us, they have annual sales higher than the revenue of this Province, we are only minor compared to them and on that we get a big chunk of that from the federal government. We only generate revenues less than $2 billion of our own in the Province, the rest of it comes in transfers under transfer payments and under Canada health and social transfer and other areas, about $1.9 in that range. I can pull out a little thing called estimates here and give an exact figure if the minister wants it, but we raise only half as much money as Inco raised before some of the recent expansions. I think the last financial statement I read, the statement showed sales of about $3.5 billion, I believe, in that ball park. That was about a year ago or more, I do not know what it is now, but they are double the revenue that this Province raises on their own and they are more than the Province counting transfers.

So, it is a big outfit, big players, play a touch game, stand up for their shareholders and do not kid yourself, they do not represent the interests of people here in this Province, so if you happen to be a shareholder and have shares in Inco, then they will represent your interests, not the public interest.

So, I say to the future minister, no I do not have shares in any companies that deal in Newfoundland and Labrador. I even divested myself of all of by business interests when I got in politics and any shares or anything that dealt with the Province. I do not even want the perception of conflict, not say the potential of conflict here, I will say that, unequivocally that is the fact. I took my hundreds of millions then and threw it aside with the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, probably sitting there with his millions, out there earning great rates of return. He should have loaned it to the Province. We are out paying 14 per cent on some of our loans in the Province. We should have gone to him and hopefully he might have been a little more generous but I don't know if he has that much confidence to loan his money out to the Minister of Finance, who sits over there. I am not sure that he would want to take a chance on that minister. I am not sure he would want to do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, I am not sure, talk is cheap. Money talks, when you move it that speaks volumes. Money and mineral rights tax act, other than giving away the shop - and we heard that before, `... sold the shop.' That's right, `...sold the shop,' that's what he did. It sounds great doesn't it? It sounds great but we paid a price. We are still paying it on Churchill Falls. That atrocity

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: That's right, he went out to BC. Sold the shop and then closed the shop. That is basically it, he sold the shop and then hightailed it out of here.

MR. TULK: He was a good Newfoundlander.

MR. SULLIVAN: Sure he served his time like everybody. I don't have any qualms with -

MR. TULK: And he was a good Newfoundlander. In many ways I admire him.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: There have not been many. There have been three - there is one back here practising now, coming back to the Province and there are two gone.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: As far as I know he has been doing very well and my colleague from Baie Verte is not there. He is a bright fellow, I can tell you. He used to be a Liberal at one time and then he became a PC. He's a real bright guy. I have no doubt he could pass his law exam if he figured that one out. Yes, he is a smart person. I would imagine they are finished now by April. I think they are back here as of this month, as far as I know. I have not spoken to the man in a year or more or a year-and-a-half so I don't know his whereabouts but I am sure it is unfortunate - it is not only the former Premier's colleague that Industry, Trade and Technology made reference to out of the Province, there are a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, I can tell you, gone out around this country looking for jobs and it is a sad commentary. It is a sad commentary when people have to take up roots and go out of here. Almost everyone is affected by that. Most families are affected in some way. Now there were always a lot of people who went out of the Province. That is not - part of it is not always new.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I guess with what they are doing here to the pharmacists, I don't see there is great hope to come back. The Minister of Health took care of them. He cut that back on a level playing field between here and the rest of the country. We are getting in the mail order drugs business now because there is no money in it here. We have not done a good job of maintaining Newfoundlanders and Labradorians here. We have been really kind to the airlines. One way tickets we have been issuing here from this government, one way tickets.

Under the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, he is halfway there. You are halfway there I say to the Government House Leader. You are halfway there in the battle of wits. If you keep at it -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) Ed Roberts.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, in a battle of wits he only came half-armed I think is what he said. Yes, that's right and I have always said the former Minister of Justice was always a bit of a wit. I admit that.

MR. FLIGHT: He was a bit of a myth too.

MR. SULLIVAN: The Member for Windsor - Springdale said he was a bit of a myth. I did not say that. I am telling you, he was no myth when he was over there. He made the Member for Windsor - Springdale or Windsor - Buchans toe the line, I can tell you. He did what he was told. He said if you don't support this legislation leave the House. He said that, or not stay here. That has happened.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Well he could be now. He could be. I have nothing to say about him. I can tell you, he did not dump ten bills on us in two days. He came with a legislative agenda. He did not beat around the bush, the former Government House Leader, if you did not have your bill here, leave it for the next session. Don't pour it on top of us on Thursday and Friday - bills flying out of your ears everywhere. Read a bill and expect to pass all three stages in one day and get leave to introduce it. We have been pretty generous. We gave leave to introduce bills and to get into first reading. We have been cooperative.

But they wouldn't try that trick with the former Government House Leader, I tell you. He would say: Bring it back again, if you're not organized... I wouldn't blame the Government House Leader for being the root of the problem, but for tolerating the problem it is just as bad. You should have given the heave-ho and said: Deal with it at another time. Anyway, I won't -

AN HON. MEMBER: The day is not over yet.

MR. SULLIVAN: He will still have time to make amends. I would say that phone call went out this morning. The phone call went out this morning for advice, I'm quite sure. I'm quite sure we will get a lot of advice coming back on how it should be done.

Under the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act, under this bill, there are four subclauses there. Under clause 45, (1), (2) and (4) seem to be a little more straightforward, I say to the Minister of Justice. It seems to me more straightforward. It allows the minister to prescribe the form of payment of taxes instead of having the form determined by regulation. Number (2) in that section simply takes formal payment out of the list of things on which Cabinet has the power to regulate. The last one, (4), gives the minister the power to "`prescribe forms for the use in the administration of this Act.'" I suppose that is not too critical there. I guess the minister should have certain powers to prescribe forms for use in administration of the act. That isn't something that would be too alarming.

But clause (3) says: "`(3)Notwithstanding subsection (2), regulations made under subsection (1) and gazetted on or before July 1, 1997 may be made with retroactive effect to a date stated in the regulations of more than 12 months before their date of publication in the Gazette but in no case shall those regulations be retroactive to before January 1, 1995.'."

I mean, we are looking at retroactivity going back a considerable period. The existing subsections there - there are numerous ones, I'm not going through these - and certain aspects there can be of major significance there, and changes within the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act. Why are we making changes? Are they anomalies and errors? If they aren't, why the specific changes? We should get an explanation of that. I think it is incumbent on the minister to give an explanation of all of these changes there that are happening.

Clause 56 deals with the Provincial Parks Act. That is one also. Why would they be changing creating parks by the use of an order instead of a proclamation? Maybe the minister can answer that when he gets an opportunity. The Explanatory Notes say: "Clause 56 of the Bill would amend the Provincial Parks Act to reflect the change effected during the Regulatory Reform Project of creating parks by the use of an order instead of a proclamation." What it said originally was: The Lieutenant-Governor in Council may by proclamation published in the Gazette and so on, and may by proclamation increase or decrease the area of a provincial park.

The amendment makes the following change. In subsection 4(1) the word "proclamation" is twice replaced by the word "order." Why is it necessary to have this retroactive? For instance, back to I think November 8 1996. Why is it necessary to make retroactivity from an order to a proclamation? Is there a reason for that? If there is, we would like to hear it. I mean, is there something in the past they did now that they are trying to change, or trying to wipe out some past error? If it is, tell us what it is. It makes us suspicious when we don't know, and of course you wouldn't want to see us in a suspicious mood there. You would like to see us (inaudible) very trusting and confident in your ability to have legislation.

Maybe it is an error in the statute law, or in government's adherence to it, that is being addressed by this change, not an error in that particular thing. That is under the Provincial Parks Act, clause 56. I'm sure the minister has gone out now to get all his advice on these.

I did not get a chance, I say to the House Leader; The Securities Act - I just had a very cursory look at that. I am not going to comment on that one, but these are some of the points overall. Maybe in Committee I will get a chance to scrutinize a little further in a couple of the others, but these are just some of the generalities there and the specifics in cases that we do not know why. And even if something was an anomaly or an error and you want to change it, well, our House Leader made reference to many of these that we acknowledge as coming in that category. But even if there were an error or an anomaly and we disagreed in the beginning with the reason for having that legislation in, and now, you want to correct an error in legislation that we disagreed with, we could, technically, take point with that particular clause now, that we did not agree with in the first place, another opportunity to put forward our concerns, but we did not do that. We went on record in the past with any of the things we disagreed with and made reference to that. Also, my colleague indicates that is under the Securities Act and I will just add this here, a few little points.

Under the Securities Act, we gather in clause 65, that is on page 40, that section 141 (3) of the Securities Act is repealed. In other words, government will no longer be liable in respect of certain torts arising with respect to activities to which the Securities Act pertains, that is by repealing that section. I ask the minister: Is this the correction of anomaly in law, as the explanation note indicates there, by repealing that or, does it mean the government wants to take itself off the hook for any damages, even if it leaves some people more vulnerable to harm or to loss in that instance?

AN HON. MEMBER: And we know what is happening there.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, we certainly do know what is happening, I say to my colleague.

The government should give us a detailed explanation of why passing this particular amendment here is prudent, what constitutes the removal of an anomaly, what exactly will change and who may suffer as a consequence of repealing clause 65 of this Act, on page 40 of the Act? I mean, who is affected by it? We would like to know. We know fully well the problem with lawsuits and liabilities; we saw it first-hand with Trans City. We are seeing Atlantic Leasing in the courts now. We have seen rulings made on equity. They do not want to recognize the right of women to get the same pay for the same work as men; we see that out there, we see lots of these areas. Now we are talking about the education one. I mean, we have an atrocious track record there and I cannot blame it all on this Justice Minister, not at all. I cannot blame it all on him. I would blame a large part on him, I say, but not all - a lot happened with the previous Justice Minister, but something needs to be done when all of this is happening. How many cases out there are we winning, buying time? The concern is: why are you tying up hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars in cases we are losing? You pay to go out and win it but to go out and lose that is a concern.

Anyway, apart from that, the Securities Act, we need an explanation as to why that has been repealed. Why are they pulling that section out altogether? Who is going to suffer as a result of it? Why is government doing it? Is it an anomaly? if so, why? Explain it, give us a reason why it is, in this particular instance. So with that, Mr. Speaker -

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh no, No. 7.

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, No. 7. Okay, there is another one here I did not comment on, No. 7. I made reference to it but I did not get into it.

With reference to clause 70, I will just find it in the bill and take a look - yes, the Subordinate Legislation Revision and Consolidation Act.

When this was brought to the House in the fall of 1995, in this specific one, we stood and expressed concern about it, about your approach to regulatory reform, as our House Leader can acknowledge. In fact, what we said at the time was: While the aim of reducing regulations was one we supported, we had concerns with giving government carte blanche approval to go ahead and wipe out hundreds - in fact, I think it was in the thousands of regulations, certainly in the hundreds, I forget the number at the time; I think it was in the thousands - to wipe out those regulations without seeing what happened. And we said this approach was backwards - It would be safe to eliminate only those that are not needed; and let us work from what we have and eliminate those that are not needed, rather than say, as of today, everything is gone and we have to start putting in new ones to take effect.

MR. H. HODDER: They had all kinds of (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I think I said on record in the House at the time: "no one individual or no one group are really infallible. We all make mistakes. And I think it is important to do it right." That was a statement on the same piece of legislation, and we were told by the Government House Leader of the day and the Premier of the Province told us, that everything was in good hands. Where were we then? A couple months later he was not even with us. The people who said we were in good hands, the Government House Leader and the Premier, were gone -

MR. TULK: What was that?

MR. SULLIVAN: You should be paying attention, I have to say to the Government House Leader. If anyone in this House should pay attention, it should be the Government House Leader.

- and it turned out our concerns were well-founded.

MR. H. HODDER: We are quoting Roberts again now.

MR. SULLIVAN: And it is not Roberts rules of order. We made reference to it back in 1995 when it was debated here in the House. There were a lot of concerns. Many of my colleagues, I think, spoke on it at the time and we made some effort to go back to some of the statements here in the House, I am sure the House leader has copies of some of the things we said - I made reference to some of it.

MR. H. HODDER: That is what Lynn Verge said.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, that is right - said what the Premier's technique involves is something quite different. It involves killing all the regulations, killing 2,358 sets of regulations, and then we are going to go out and re-seed and start to build it. And we said at the time, and I say it to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, who I am sure is very interested in this: Why kill all regulations, why not just prune out all of the ones we do not want, get rid of them, combine them, and then get approval for them, rather than make them all ineffective on that date. There are so many sets of regulations, I mean, it is confusing; when you have 2,358 sets of regulations in government, it is too much government, too much bureaucracy.

My colleague brings to my attention another point.

MR. H. HODDER: House proceeding on November 6, 1995.

MR. SULLIVAN: November 6, 1995. Who made that statement?

MR. H. HODDER: The Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: The former Leader of the Opposition made this statement in the House: `Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier why he doesn't carry -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, it is a very good statement, whatever it was; it depends on what side of the fence you are on. On this side it was good times, your side of the fence it was bad for you.

`I ask the Premier why he doesn't carry out the objective of sorting through government regulations and continuing only those regulations that have a public purpose now acknowledged by him and his colleagues through the usual Cabinet process.' The Government House Leader was not a happy man, I tell you. It was not good for him, no way. He was told -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: That is right. He was an unhappy man, he was a long ways back, we could not even tell the colour of his eyes in the last session at the time. He was even in the gallery at times, I say to the Government House Leader, he was not even there. And he knows fully well, his former Premier and Government House Leader - no wonder he said it was bad times, if there had been room to get him back any further, they would have had him back behind the former Member for Eagle River, Danny Dumaresque, the only member who sat in the same seat for over three years. And then when he got down there close, it went to his head, and look what happened to him. The Member for Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair can answer that. And the Member for Labrador West now is taking the same footsteps as the former Member for Eagle River, I can tell you. Is he not behaving the same way, doing the same things? He jumps up in the House, tries to say things to be in the good grace of the government, he gets down the line a bit, there is no (inaudible) -

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

MR. TULK: I tell the Leader of the Opposition, there was a time in this House when I felt like I was going to be looking in through a set of eyes cut out here somewhere.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not only that, you are going back to that.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. H. HODDER: Two years from now, you will be back there again.

MR. SULLIVAN: Do not worry, I will ask him to reserve that space back there, do not take it away will you? Do not take away that space. Can you keep it going?

MR. H. HODDER: (Inaudible) the Member for Kilbride.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, we will get to Kilbride in a minute. But the former Leader of the Opposition asked: `Why does the Premier want to take the extraordinary measure of legislating the end of all the regulations with the risk that some needed regulations will not be continued, will not be reintroduced, whether in the original form or in a modified form?' My colleague, the Member for Kilbride, had some enlightening comments here. He said: `I have a great deal of concern in passing this government a blank cheque to say that we will take every piece of subordinate legislation that is before the House right now, make them all null and void, and then reintroduce all of them on January 1 or whatever the date is or whatever ones we want.' Who would want to give that supreme confidence in a government to trust them with 2,358 sets of regulations to make them how they wish? We all know too well, I say to my colleague, the Member for Cape St. Francis, we all know too well what we said when they were looking at ATV regulations. We had public meetings - and we said: Go out to the public, meet with the public, then draft the regulations and deal with it but no, they would not listen, would not at all. They went out and brought in legislation and they were back amending that legislation. Within months there were proposed amendments and changes.

MR. J. BYRNE: The committee report - we never heard the report to the House yet.

MR. SULLIVAN: We are still waiting for the committee report. So, they have the cart before the horse. What you have to do is go out and listen to the public, make regulations that are in tune with the public, bring them in. You have to protect the environment, we all acknowledge that - that is important; and then you bring in regulations. You do not bring them in, get everybody upset and then go around afterwards and make changes, unproductive use of time on that. Let us do it right. Let us hear from the people. Let us bring it in. It is the people's House, the people elected us. Should legislation not reflect the wishes of the people of the Province? Should that not be the purpose of legislation - to reflect the wishes of the people of the Province? If the people want their money spent in a certain area, if people want their money spent in a certain manner, should people not get that? Is this not democracy we are dealing with here in the Province? It is democracy we are dealing with. The people should have a say.

MR. FITZGERALD: Your own comments on page 1757.

MR. SULLIVAN: Another comment here that was made at the time. Yes, and a comment I made. So we are not back here today, I say to my colleagues in the House - we are not back here today saying something that is new, it is a different stand. It is something we said before on the record. On November 6, 1995, I stood in my place and said, " So I think it is important, even though we don't have any say in repealing these, I think it is only fair that when we go through such an extensive review, and I support that review, and I am delighted that we are down to only half the number there, but I would like to have a copy. At least, each member in their critic area here would be able to break those sets of regulations down in their areas, take a look at them, become better informed, be aware of what regulations are there, and be able to determine and do their own follow-up, too, in case something needs to be brought to the attention of government, in case they may need to include something there." It goes on then, "... because no one individual or no one group are really infallible." I said in lots of legislation there are positive aspects. The Minister of Finance suggested - and it barely went through - an amendment. He agreed that the legislation probably did not exactly reflect the intent of what they wanted to do so there was an amendment. He agreed with that. The Opposition can propose some amendments, we did on education. We proposed about twenty-six on the schools Act but nothing was done.

Many of my colleagues rose in their place in the House. The Member for Cape St. Francis said: `...I certainly support the intent of the bill when it was brought in at the time.' He said, `...I do have some concerns with respect to carte blanche dropping of over 40 per cent of the regulations that are in place in this Province now, with just 1,000 regulations being dropped.' The Member for Cape St. Francis said. And we did not even -

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I am just speculating on - I am just looking ahead there, I say to my colleague; not at all.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the government have explanations for what they did. I am sure they have answers that are going to be satisfactory. They have not been providing satisfactory answers to a lot of issues out in the Province today. We have more unrest out there in education.

Before I got elected to this House of Assembly the Williams royal Commission reported. That was five years ago, before I even came into this House. Here we are with more turmoil, confusion and chaos in the Province than ever before. We have a minister, and we have the current Minister of Justice who was minister. I've heard him in public standing and saying: We have to reform education, we have to get rid of the church-controlled education, because our achievement levels are below the rest of the country. Even last year, right after the referendum and into last winter, they stood and praised how great our system is, still under the same system. They tell you something when they are trying to sell something, and then they say something completely different again when the moment passes.

The Minister of Education and the former premier of this Province mailed out a brochure to every householder in this Province telling them they would invest dollars back into education in the Province. They said they would reinvest it. I went to Ottawa with the Premier. The Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi was there. He had a media kit, he had a kit for the people. In that he was talking about: We need this reform to reinvest the savings back into education. That is what he said, that is what was in it. When we got to Ottawa we weren't allowed to meet with the Liberal-dominated House of Commons. He met with them. We weren't allowed. They were the ones who voted against it. Eighty per cent of the people who opposed it were their own Liberal back benchers voting against this particular bill.

Now here we are. Sells it, tells the people we want reform so we could put money back into education in the Province, and what happens? They get it passed, and they took $35 million or more out this year, they took $50 million out the previous two years, took $100 million out of education in the Province, and told us: We are going to put it back in if you pass Term 17. Where are we to now? We don't have any reforms completed.

[There was a commotion in the gallery.]

MR. SPEAKER (Penney): Order, please! Order, please!

I remind members in the gallery that the general public are more than welcome to sit in the public galleries of their House at any time, but they are not permitted to engage in any way in the debate. They are not permitted to demonstrate in any way either. Any further outbreak and I will ask that the galleries be cleared.

[There was a commotion in the gallery.]

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

I remind those people in the public galleries that they are not permitted under any circumstances under our Standing Orders to engage in any debate or to demonstrate in any manner.

[There was a commotion in the gallery.]

MR. SPEAKER: The House is now recessed.

 

Recess

 

MR. SPEAKER: Before recognizing the hon. member, on May 16, the hon. the Member for Labrador West rose on a point of privilege with respect to comments made by the hon. the Member for Waterford Valley. Having reviewed the answer, the Chair finds that there was no prima facie case of privilege and that the member's complaint is in the nature of a difference of opinion between two hon. members.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was speaking on education issues. There are people around this Province, government may not realize are not being heard; their voices are not being heard, an example of the frustration here today. The opportunity to hear people. I did not vote for any right to deny parents an opportunity to sit down and have their cases heard, I did not vote for that. I expect

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

We have a problem with it, they are speaking from both sides of their mouth. They promised to put dollars into education and ripping $100 million out in three years, that is why people are frustrated, because parents cannot get a meeting to put forth legitimate cases. I have in my possession an in camera minutes of a school board meeting in Labrador whereby they called, in the in camera minutes, Mr. H. Marshall,and they are waiting to hear back from him. I have them in my office, in camera meetings. Tell me politics is not playing a role in education decision here in our Province. I will produce that for the media if they want it, in camera minutes when you gave the meeting outside the open meeting, when they gave the open meeting that was left out, but someone, by mistake had provided an in camera copy and I have it, and I can tell you politics is playing a major role in decision-making in this Province, and it should not. It should be the parents.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, you won't. I speak with consistency I say to the Government House Leader. I will speak consistently when I speak on education. I speak with consistency.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Did I?

MR. TULK: Yes.

MR. SULLIVAN: Look back at the record, it will speak for itself I say to the minister.

We proposed twenty-six amendments, they were all defeated, all defeated I would say and what is wrong -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I supported Francophone votes; I supported where it gives the parents the right to recommend to the minister who is there but I disagree and my colleague, the Member for St. John's East and Education critic said: Why should not people in this Province have an input into decisions involving their children? They have not had a fair forum and many members know that. The parents have not had an opportunity to have a real say; decisions were made and the minister permitted appointment boards and he tried today to say that we do not respect appointed people in the system.

That is utter nonsense. I have the highest regard for many people on school boards in this Province today. Many people play a passive role on the boards, some play an active role.

That isn't the question. It isn't a questioning of the integrity or ability of these people. It is questioning the integrity of a process that doesn't allow parents a real say in determining the educational choices for their children. That is what I disagree with. That is what is rammed through this Province here. Then they are going to turn around when they make the decisions and say; Now we will elect you, now we will give you a say!

I mean, that is anarchy, it is autocracy, it isn't democracy at all, and it's wrong! This government and that minister and the Premier have a price to pay for that. They tried to strike a sweetheart deal last year behind back room doors. I know for a fact. Someone who was there told me, and told us, and gave the particulars. We know. The Premier knows darn well. He had a call if he went any farther it would be revealed. He knows what I'm talking about, I can tell you, and people in this Province.

It is time to forget the past and deal with the present, and to deal with the future and the education opportunities for children here in this Province. Children are pawns on a board, that is what they are. They are only pawns for political purposes.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: That's right. No, they're not. I don't like for them to be, I don't want them to be. If I have a choice I would select the school that is going to give the best opportunity for my child, and any other parent would do that too, I'm sure.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: That's right. It doesn't matter. I will vote and stand and be counted when I have to. I won't run out and hide when there are votes. I won't run and hide like some people did over there. They ran out and hid! On education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No siree.

AN HON. MEMBER: Your House Leader does.

MR. SULLIVAN: On education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, they were there, I can tell you. No wonder people are mad.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. H. HODDER: (Inaudible) I wasn't chicken (inaudible)! Go away. Go away.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Don't be so silly. Grow up. Grow up, boy! No wonder there are people up in the bloody gallery today! No wonder there are people up in the bloody gallery.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Listening to foolish things like that.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Don't be so bloody foolish!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. H. HODDER: Grow up!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: You haven't got the sense that God gave to (inaudible)!

MR. SULLIVAN: The concerns out in

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: The concerns out in the Province today are not matters of a denominational nature, whether it is uni-denominational or interdenominational. They aren't the concerns. I live in a district with only 52 per cent uni-denomination in a 98 per cent, 99 per cent R. C. area. Denomination is not an issue. In my district, people want the best opportunity, the best school, they do not care, the majority do not care what denomination it is, they want the best opportunity. It is not a denominational issue in the Province that we are hearing today with the E. J. Pratt's and Englee and Roddickton problems, problems all over the Province here, Bishop O'Neill and those, they are not problems of a denominational issue, they are problems of people having put forward proposals that they feel would best serve the students, and people in many instances have not listened to them.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, that is right, they have not listened.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible), your amendment (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: You can never have an amendment to make somebody listen. Amendments for that only come every four years, every thirty-two months. Amendments for that only come every three or four years, I say to the Member for Humber East.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: So the Member for Humber East thinks that parents should not have a say, that they should not be listened to, is that what you are saying?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

.

MR. SULLIVAN: We had lots of opportunities. You cannot legislate listening.

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible) prepare the legislation.

MR. SULLIVAN: Now they get up -

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, it is disgraceful, and minister, a person asked a question and I think it was a legitimate question when he said: Who do we turn to? They tell us `the boards', but the boards were appointed by the minister; minister, that is not me.

When a minister appoints a board -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) do you?

MR. SULLIVAN: No, but when a minister appoints a board and I stated this in Question Period, I raised this in Question Period I say to the Government House Leader, long before anybody came into the gallery. They were not even in the gallery at the time, there were students in the gallery. I raised the question here -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I went to Ottawa and I corrected the Premier on some occasions when he wandered from telling the whole truth and the real truth, I took him to task in caucus. His Minister of Education was there; the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi was there too.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: That is right, it was an issue. What is wrong with giving parents an opportunity to be heard? Is there anything wrong with it? Sit down with them, meet with them; do not have decisions made in advance. Sit down. If the proposal has merit, look at it; if it does not have merit, give them the reasons why and the rationale for making decisions. Is not that the democratic way we all expect? There is something wrong in the Province today, something drastically wrong in the Province today. Power corrupts. The longer they are there, the less sympathy they have for the people who are there. It is unfortunate.

When you lose sight of that, we lose sight for purpose to serve here in the Legislature of the Province, when you do not have the people of the Province, the majority of the people putting forth their views and having a forum to do that. We have seen it here in this House. We have had five times more closures in the last eight years than we had in the previous forty years of government in this Province. To stand in this House and evoke closure on a bill of education before one member on this side spoke, now is that an example of democracy? Before one person spoke, a closure motion was moved, before one person spoke.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. members time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: So, what is the point, a closure motion, the limited debate, nine people an opportunity to speak on the motion. They evoked the closure motion before they introduced the reading, now that is what happened, before one person stood to speak they evoked closure. We had no intention of delaying reforms in a positive nature, but we wanted to make amendments that we felt would improve and we made them and you do not throw the baby out with the bath water. If ninety-five per cent is good, if things are good you have to support it, you cannot hold up everything when things are good, but we tried to make changes, we tried to put constructive things forward. They do not listen. We are dealing with here, anomalies and errors and we are dealing with a bill here -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

If the hon. member will allow me, the Chair did not consider the time that was taken out during recess, the hon. member does have another eight minutes.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am not planning on using all of that eight, I will have a chance when we get back to committee and have a few hours dealing with this I am sure. I am sure we will have some time to deal with it.

But overall we have a bill here now that is coming back to correct what are supposed to be errors and anomalies, many of them do not look like errors and anomalies at all, in certain instances most of them are, we admit most of them do propose just minor changes and corrections and that, we do not have a major problem.

Retroactivity in that poses problems, especially with something that involves so much detail here and so much analysis of the various clauses and the various acts there that are impacted by this. Something that we tend to take a look at, we intend to look at closely and it is not something that we intend to run through this House and I made comments and several of my colleagues made when this was debated in Fall of `95, comments that I made, my colleagues, the Opposition House Leader, the member for Kilbride and Cape St. Francis were all on the record, the former Leader of the Opposition on numerous instances of concern when this was raised, before and now, we are back again dealing with it. That is our right as people here to voice our concerns and to state them; what we believe and if it is out-voted, that is the democratic process and we have to abide by the majority of the people in the House and we accept the democratic process, but, as much as we would like things to change and be otherwise, it is not going to lessen us because we are outnumbered; it is not going to lessen us from our resolve to make the points and to stand up and speak on behalf of the people we represent and the people of this Province. We are not going to tolerate that and will fight that process every step of the way. We were not afforded that right in the past but we are certainly going to continue to fight for that in the future, if not, what is the point of having an opposition, what is the point of having elected people?

Many of the things these people say, even though it was not in order and appropriate to speak from the gallery, I accepted that process there, I mean, that is the rule of the Legislature. I do not condone such activity, but things expressed by them tell us something. They had very important points they tell us and reason to be concerned out there today because people are not listening; the apathy, I mean, the confidence in politicians overall is atrocious. Not many here can stand in this House and say: Look, I really feel proud to be a politician because we are held in such high esteem by people in the Province. I mean, it is something that politicians are - I mean, we are responsible for the image that we have the same as lawyers and school teachers and so on.

I am not talking about their actions. I am just saying some of the words, things they have indicated to it. I say to the Government House Leader, some of the things they said - they had very legitimate points they put forward, very legitimate. I mean, it is not the forum to do it, I know it is not. We follow the rules of the House and sometimes we wander and apologize if we are wrong, I had to do that in the past and I am sure we are all capable of doing that, but sometimes in the heat of argument we say things that we should not and we withdraw them and move on. But it is time to start listening to the concerns and there are valid ones out there and it is frustrating not to be heard; it is frustrating when you cannot sit down with a group and be able to put forward views and have them dealt with in a civilized manner; and that is the frustration and concern and it is not isolated. It is widespread and common, and found in almost every nook and cranny of the Province and it is unfortunate that it has to come to this, but it is time to start listening and doing something about it. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition raised some interesting points and I have some answers for him on clauses 21, 31, 32, 45, 56, 65 and 70. Do you want me to give them now or will you wait until Committee?

AN HON. MEMBER: Committee, and do it clause-by-clause then.

MR. DECKER: In that case, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law," read a second time. (Bill No. 9)

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I think, if we can find the Minister of Finance, who is out in the back room in a meeting, I would move Bill No. 5 (inaudible) amend -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

AN HON. MEMBER: Here he comes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: We did not hear any comment - the bill has been read a second time, Bill No. 9. When shall this bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House? Now or tomorrow?

MR. TULK: Presently.

MR. SPEAKER: Presently, by leave.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 5, "An Act To Amend the Insurance Companies Tax Act." Order No. 5, too.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend the Insurance Companies Tax Act". (Bill No. 5)

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The bill arises out of a budgetary decision to expand the definition of a contract of insurance so that all insurance companies would have to pay the same amount of tax. We presently charge a 4 per cent tax on the value of insurance plans in the Province. In recent years, a phenomenon has arisen whereby insurance companies, in order to reduce the cost, have charged a fee of 15 per cent on the value of benefits that were paid out, thereby avoiding this tax. This has resulted in inequities among different insurers, with the insurance companies that charge a management fee in effect paying a lesser rate than the tax intended.

This amendment will combine both the administrative fee, which we understand to generally range in the order of 10 per cent, 12 per cent, 15 per cent, with the value of benefits paid. The tax would therefore be imposed on the whole value of the service provided, including both the administrative fee and the value of benefits paid out.

The reason we are doing this is we do not believe it was the intention of this Legislature, when they imposed this tax, to allow certain insurers to circumvent it by changing the manner in which they offered their services. This would level the playing field among insurers, because the vast bulk of insurance companies in this Province do not do it in this fashion. What they do is, they give you a premium which includes the value and the precalculated value of benefits they would pay out, particularly in group insurance, Mr. Speaker, where it is amortized, or it considers the whole group of people who may have a benefit or, in the case of life insurance, whose survivors may have a benefit.

Essentially, what this does is, it prevents a practice that has arisen in the insurance industry whereby they can avoid paying the full 4 per cent on the full value of benefits provided. What we want to do is ensure that not only the administrative fee but also the benefits paid out, be they in the nature of group insurance, dental, medical, drug, or life insurance and so on, that is covered in the bill, are covered by the taxation. That is the intent, Mr. Speaker, and I am pleased to answer any questions that members may have. Thank you.

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

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

Just a few concerns with respect to this bill. The Explanatory Note indicates: "This Bill would impose tax on the total of the value of benefits paid and administrative changes in respect of `Administrative Service Only'...," as the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board mentioned. In actual fact, when you read the bill itself, I am not sure if the Explanatory Note is really explaining the whole situation.

The bill expands the definition of `company', and thus, the base by which a tax is defined in the Act is imposed. The company would now also include "`a person who administers a contract of insurance under an administrative services only plan...'" Basically, what they are trying to do now, from my understanding of it, is that if there is a company that administers group insurance policies for a company like Blue Cross, or whatever the case may be, that company now would have to be charged that four per cent tax. Is that correct?

MR. DICKS: Yes, that is right.

MR. J. BYRNE: Right.

Also, the legislation is written liberally enough to allow the taxation to engulf many more services, thereby increasing tax revenues to the Province. Now, I will try to explain that. The bill imposes upon companies a 4 per cent tax on the gross premiums also. In the Explanatory Note, it does not refer to the premiums at all, so they are going to be charging a 4 per cent tax on the premiums, plus a 4 per cent tax on the administrative services, plus 4 per cent - not plus, you know, added also on the benefits paid out. So, in actual fact, there is going to be taxes included here now that are not really explained out in that Explanatory Note. I do not know - I do not want to seem like they are trying to deceive anybody or anything like that, but I am not sure if it is being explained properly.

MR. DICKS: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I will just finish a couple of points that I have and then you can do it, because I only have a couple more anyway, I say to the minister.

It appears that the tax changes stipulated in this bill are not restricted to expanding the tax base, these changes are looking at a 4 per cent tax increase on premiums, with respect to the administration only; also, an overall 4 per cent tax on the value of the benefits paid out of a plan as well as any dues, assessments, administrative costs or fees charged to the plan holder, policy or program of insurance. So, am I clear in saying now that any dues or administrative costs or assessments, there will be a 4 per cent tax on that also?

MR. DICKS: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Okay, and also, with respect to the group insurances - and it is defined in the policy of the insurance that it gives protection against the risk to an individual, such as death, disability, loss of income due to illness or accident, payments for supplement health care, drugs, etc. However, group insurance covers, it is not specifically limited to death or disability, `by loss of income due to illness or accident', so there are other group insurances. So, in actual fact, this bill, the way it is worded now, could cover those other group insurances that are not necessarily meant to be? I am not sure if it is clear in that aspect.

Also, companies which administer the contract of insurance including companies presently taxed under the Act will be subject to this additional 4 per cent tax on the value of benefits paid out of any particular plan.

So, what I am saying is, if there is group insurance, and I just want to be clear in my own mind, there might be a group policy for a fleet of vehicles, what I am saying is, the definition of group policy could be other than just accidental death and what have you.

So, some company may have a group policy, say Newfoundland Telephone, Newfoundland Power for all of their vehicles or whatever. I just want some sort of clarification of that point. That is about it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. minister speaks now, he closes the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My hon. colleague raised a few issues. The first was with respect to paragraph 1 (1) "and includes...a person who administers a contract of insurance...." The reason that is there is, normally, in the insurance industry generally - the automobile industry is one that the hon. member mentions and I will come to that in the context that he did.

You would, for example, want to insure your vehicle for collision, accidental benefits, public liability and so on like this: You would go to your insurer and you would say: How much will it cost? The insurer may very well say: Well, that will be $1,500, or let us say $1,000, for example, for whatever coverage you want; that is your whole premium, and we would then charge the tax on it, 4 per cent would apply to all these. Most insurances are handled that way; automobile and including the fleet policies to which the hon. member refers. As far as we know, when you go and get a quote, the quote includes, from the insurer's point of view, its assessment of the risk and what they will have to pay out across the broad group of persons and corporations that get that insurance. It includes a precalculation of the cost of benefits that will have to be paid out. So if they sell, for example, $100 million worth of insurance in the Province, they calculate what their cost of selling that is and what the cost of placing it is, and a reasonable profit margin.

Now, from year to year, they underestimate and they overestimate but in the general run of things they have a pretty good idea of what return this will give them over a number of years. So what we have noticed, and the reason that we have subsection (3) in here and subsection (2), is that in the past number of years, what has happened is that, insurers who deal just with group insurance plans, and these are not automobile insurance but health plans essentially and subsection (3) I think sets this our fairly clearly: a policy of insurance that covers risk to an individual such as death, disability, loss of income due to illness or accident, and payments for supplemental health care, drugs, dental and other expenses; essentially, the government program that we have, which is one that mirrors those of Newfoundland Telephone and the other major employers in the Province.

There has been a phenomenon that has crept in over the last number of years, Mr. Speaker. Rather than quoting a large premium that includes a precalculation of the pay-out of benefits, what some insurance companies have now taken to doing is to charge an administrative fee on whatever the pay-out is under the plan each year. So if the hon. member - and I might take an example. If they felt that - let me take an example of a plan that has a pay-out in the run of a year of $100 million. What the insurance companies have taken to doing is, instead of determining over the group, given the age of the population, what their normal pay-outs would be for death in that population, dental claims, medical claims and so on like that, instead of charging us $112 million to the customer, what they are doing is charging a $12 million fee and saying: We will manage your pay-out of claims for you. This is something of a departure from what would normally be the case.

In the past, most companies would go out, get a quote, and they would say: Well, we have one quote for $112 million, another for $113 million, another for $110 million. What has happened now is insurers are saying to them: We will manage whatever claims you have for you, and we will charge you an administrative fee of, for example, 12 per cent on it. Therefore, what has been happening under our taxation laws, because of the way it is worded, is that all that we were able to charge them for was the cost of the administrative fee, say of the $12 million, as opposed to the full value of both the premiums being paid out and their own administrative fee, which is, in essence, $112 million, to take an example.

What this does is, it expands the definition to include the administration fee of the $12 million, for example, and the value of benefits paid out. The reason we want to do this is to, number one, make sure that the taxation coming into the Province is the one that this Legislature provided for originally in settling on a 4 per cent fee, and the second thing we want to do is to equalize it among insurers, so that if we have one insurance company that is quoting the global figure of $112 million, that company does not have to pay any more tax than the other one that is quoting an administrative fee.

We feel this is an equitable thing to do among the group insurers themselves, and also preserves for the other taxpayers in the Province the tax revenue that was originally thought to come in. What happens, of course, is that companies from time to time reorder their affairs and their manners of doing business in order to take advantage of, I suppose, what are sometimes called loopholes in the law or strict enforcement of definitions. What we are asking this Legislature to approve is that the tax in circumstances or in cases where companies are charging an administrative fee instead of quoting a premium to include the pay-out, in those cases, the taxation will be levied, not only on the administrative fee but also on the value of benefits paid out over the course of each taxation year, and I think this addresses that fairly specifically.

The hon. member had another question of whether or not it affects group insurance plans and so on, for automobiles. As far as we know, that is not a problem, because these are quoted as a group anyway, but this one is specifically intended and only addresses the issue of taxation of what we call group insurance for sickness, health, disability and so on like that.

MR. J. BYRNE: It would be specific to that?

MR. DICKS: Yes, that is right, because that is the only area that we know - this is the only area in which they are managing health care plans for people. The practice in the automobile industry, as we know it to date, is they are not managed in that way. They are given a group quote. They are quoted on a premium that is based on the overall driver experience in the population. So if you are Newfoundland Telephone, the assumption in the automobile industry - I believe that was the example used, or Newfoundland Power - is that your drivers will perform or misperform on the same basis as the general driving population. That includes, as I said earlier, some calculation of the risk involved in what will eventually be paid out for public liability, property damage and so on.

So this is specifically designed to catch those situations where large insurance companies in administering large group and health insurance programs, whether it be a place like Kruger or - I am not sure that these are doing it, but I know the hon. member knows the - well, the government one is the best example, that it would include the premium as well as the administrative fee. And this will bring us in about $1 million in revenue that should have been coming in anyway. So this will close the loophole that should not exist.

MR. J. BYRNE: Everything will be passed on to the consumer. (Inaudible) rates are going to go up, for sure.

MR. DICKS: Not necessarily.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend the Insurance Companies Tax Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill No. 5)

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

MR. TULK: Bill No. 20, Mr. Speaker, "An Act To Amend The Labour Relations Act". I believe that the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology is supposed to introduce this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Labour Relations Act" (Bill No. 20).

The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, this is a pretty straightforward amendment to the Labour Relations Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TULK: `Paul', would you behave yourself? I have a job keeping those two apart.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, under the Labour Relations Act, there is currently provision for what is called: a designation for special projects. These projects must occur beyond the three-year period. In order to facilitate the designation of a special project at the Bull Arm site for the Terra Nova project, for example, it would require amending this particular Act so as to put the government in a position where the Lieutenant-Governor in Council could say that anything below a three-year threshold could be declared a special project, and that is essentially what we are doing here. We are making provision for that, because we envision that the agreements put in place by the unions for the Terra Nova agreement out at Bull Arm will last anywhere from eighteen to twenty months. So, we required this amendment so as to put us in a position to be able to put a fence around this project and declare it a special project.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat surprised at the ministers comments because he -

MR. DICKS: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I am a little bit surprised by your comments in reference to the Bull Arm site and the agreement that this is specifically dealing with that project, or could be, or other projects like it.

First of all, there are a couple of things that should be said, and said clearly: Number one, right now the Bull Arm agreement or the agreement that was struck between the Canadian Building Trades and Petro-Canada does not have full support of the local building trades here - does not. The minister, if he does not know that, he should know it. As a matter of fact, the signatories to that agreement - there was not one Newfoundlander, not one business manager that was signatory to that agreement.

MR. J. BYRNE: Go away boy, I cannot believe that.

MR. E. BYRNE: Right now, there is a legal case that has been challenging that agreement being put forward by the operating engineers, Local 904, I believe, and the Labourers International Union, Local 1208 because they say that it flies in the face of the Labour Relations Act. And one of the premises of their case, the two different lawyers that they have working for them, one of the premises deals with this section right here, being amended because the Labour Relations Act specifically states that: `a project be considered a special project beyond three years'. I just want to -the Labour Relations Act right now, for a project, say, like Hibernia, to give it a special status so that an agreement can be made between the stakeholders, negotiated outside the Labour Relations Act, that is not to say that the tenets within the Labour Relations Act will not be present in that; I mean, the Hibernia agreement is the best example, because it set up its own sort of structure, relationships vis-a-vis employee/employer, vis-a-vis dispute resolution mechanism with respect to hiring etc.

That is a concern that I have, and I want to articulate it, that I hope that on the one hand, government is not trying to get away or to strengthen its case - its possible case. Notwithstanding all of that, I am not going to get into a conspiracy theorist here because I do not subscribe to that. I will say that in today's age, I mean, we live in a different age where, when projects come, we should take advantage of them quickly. Whatever is required, Mr. Speaker, to take advantage of them quickly, we should proceed at all costs. Now, that involves a designated special project. Let us use an example.

MR. J. BYRNE: Be careful what you are saying there.

MR. E. BYRNE: I am always careful what I am saying, I say to the Member for Cape St. Francis. Use any example. I mean, right now, my understanding, and the minister can correct me if I am wrong, is that this will give Cabinet, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, the power to designate any project as a special project. Is that correct? That is my reading of it. It is correct. As compared to right now, the Labour Relations Act is hard and fast. The Labour Relations Act would say that for a construction project to be considered special status it would have to be - it is in law - a minimum of three years or more.

Cabinet right now is putting forth an amendment to the Labour Relations Act - this piece of legislation is an amendment - that really enshrines more power in the hands of Cabinet. Is that a fair comment?

MR. FUREY: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Okay. That is what I wanted to be clear on. That is fine. I do not have a great deal of problem -

MR. FUREY: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, I understand that. I do not have a great deal of problem with it. But I would like to ensure, number one, in the process by which it is done that we do not see a repeat of a recent agreement, that employees on the one hand, and employers, still have the ability to negotiate collectively; that there is no heavy-handedness in terms of either government or industry to ensure that things get done to the point or so fast or so expeditiously that workers' rights that have been achieved over the last thirty years are in any way, shape or form infringed upon, thrust upon.

Maybe if I could just stop and get the Minister of Environment and Labour's attention. If I can get his attention, I would like to just sit down for a moment. He could bring some further clarification to it. Because I know he has had some meetings this afternoon that may, I guess, bring more information to the debate on this particular piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: A point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to be clear that I am just giving the minister leave, that is all. Because I want to conclude afterwards.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair understood that.

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, the intent of this amendment is to allow for the government, working in partnership with labour and with business, to help attract opportunities for our industrial sites. We have been consulting with a number of the parties over the past few weeks and few days and trying to get as much consensus as we can get to go forward with an amendment that would allow for us to go out and help attract business to the Province, and make it possible - because of the type of fabrication work that is going to be done for Terra Nova and for other offshore oil work, the competition that we are dealing with - BARMAC, in particular, in Scotland and other yards in Norway.

What we are looking at, and we have been looking at it for the past three or four months, through this amendment, is to see if we could put the conditions in place that would allow us to compete. The construction trade unions are meeting in the morning. We have consulted with them in the past number of days. They are going to also indicate to us in the morning their formal position. A number of them have already indicated their position to us. Most are in support of the amendment. A couple of unions are concerned about the potential implications of the amendment, and I have had discussions with them in the past few hours. Tomorrow they are going to give us a formal position as to the construction trades themselves. At that point we will be able to indicate further.

We are moving the amendment, which will allow for a special project designation under three years for consideration, recognizing potential collective agreements that might be negotiated between parties, Mr. Speaker, to make a competitive environment for our workers and for our companies. Thank you.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: So the minister is really not much further ahead than where he was an hour-and-a-half ago. That is the bottom line, is it not? You are still consulting.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is an important piece of legislation, far more than probably most people would realize, for a number of reasons. First of all, there is a very good reason that in the Labour Relations Act, as it is now stated, that a special project or any construction project to be considered a special project, must have a minimum duration life or a lifespan of a minimum of three years. Now, the reasons associated with that, Mr. Speaker, are pretty clear and they are self-evident, I would say.

The only concerns I would articulate to the Minister of Environment and Labour - and they are legitimate ones, I would say - is that in proceeding along this path, on the one hand it is pretty clear that as Cabinet and as government, if opportunities present themselves that you or government or Cabinet can take advantage of but you have to move swiftly and expeditiously, or to say to a multinational or national group or outfit, `Look, we have the ability where we deem it as a Cabinet possible to designate this a special project that will give you a status where you would have to negotiate separately outside of the Labour Relations Act - possibly outside of the Province, but outside the Labour Relations Act - that we can sit down and negotiate a separate deal. Now, that sort of initiative, I say to the minister, has a double edge to it. On the one hand, there are positive aspects to it, I say to the minister. One, it will give you flexibility. Two, it may produce benefits quickly for people in the Province. Three, it may send a message to the community outside of the Island - because we have to have more than an island mentality if we are going to proceed or prosper at all - that this place is open for business. I understand fully where you are coming from and why that may be considered necessary.

The other edge to it, the other side to the coin is also legitimate. If there is a regulatory regime that associates or accompanies this bill, then I would like to see it. Because we just saw an example, Mr. Speaker, and the minister knows full well, that with the agreement for the Bull Arm site that was negotiated, it was negotiated outside of the Province. Negotiations were continuing here for some time. The Canadian Building Trades, for some reason, got involved to the extent that they did. Negotiations left the Province, ended up in Toronto and were negotiated there for two weeks.

My understanding and my information that I have gotten with respect to this was that at the hotel, the morning it was announced - or the afternoon it was announced, there was a meeting called of the Building Trades where they were going to look at what they thought was a tentative agreement, reached with respect to the Bull Arm site between Petro Canada and the Terra Nova agreement and the Building Trades. But what they were told was that it was not a tentative agreement but that it was signed, sealed and delivered. Now, some people have taken exception to that. Two of the local unions have taken exception to that and for legitimate reason. Some obvious questions need to be raised. When we saw a massive project like the Hibernia site negotiated here with the stakeholders, with the employers, HMDC, with the oil development council, negotiated an agreement, lived up to it, negotiated in good faith and moved on. Mr. Speaker, but we did not see that with the Terra Nova agreement and this is the other side that we are looking at. That is the other side that I want to point out.

The other thing is that if Cabinet proceeds and we give the authority as the House of Assembly to let Cabinet proceed on this issue, then effectively what we are saying is that Cabinet can decide at any point at any time with respect to any project - whether it is a month long, whether it is five months long, if it is four weeks long, or a year long - that that project should be considered or be given special status.

That sets certain wheels in motion. Cabinet for example, in saying that any project is special, automatically takes that project and sets it outside the parameters of the Labour Relations Act, without any clear road map in terms of where we are headed with it. The language in it, the tenets in terms of that project, will it still hold up to the principles contained in the Labour Relations Act today? There is no guarantee of that, no guarantee whatsoever.

What guarantee is there that stakeholders within the industry will be guaranteed a process which is fair, a process which guarantees benefits on the one hand to worker, but also benefits on the other hand to the Province? Because benefits to workers in this Province, Mr. Speaker, also mean benefits to the Province as a whole. So it is a two-edged sword. It really is a two-edged sword.

What about workers' representation before the Labour Relations Act, I say to the minister? Right now any worker is guaranteed representation before the Labour Relations Board, which is set out in the Labour Relations Act. What happens if a specific project is given special status? Does that automatically mean that people who were working on that project that has been given that special status, that will have a separate agreement outside the Labour Relations Act, does that mean then that workers will not have the right to appear before the Labour Relations Board? I don't know. Maybe the minister when he gets to his feet to close the debate on it can inform us. Does it mean that people who fought for the inherent right for a fair and safe workplace will not have the right to go before the Labour Relations Board? Or does it mean that they will have to live up to some other dispute mechanism or resolution, or some dispute resolving mechanism, outside of what is already enshrined in law, what is already enshrined in the Labour Relations Act, and have to deal specifically with that project? The Hibernia project is an example in terms of the dispute resolution mechanism they had in place there.

Those are concerns I would like to articulate to the minister. When he stands to give us some more insight in terms of what his thoughts are on those matters - because they are important. I understand that we can't handcuff ourselves to the point where nothing can get done, and that we bind ourselves to regulations and law to the extent that all we do is talk about it, and nothing in terms of attracting industrial development happens. But at the same time we have to be concerned about the protection for workers in this Province. We can't automatically throw out the Labour Relations Act because Cabinet decides, thirteen or fourteen individuals decide it is in the best interest of the Province, and throw it out automatically. Because the Labour Relations Act didn't evolve overnight. It took time. People fought for it. People died for it across this country, and across the States, and Western democracies. Our Labour Relations Act didn't evolve in isolation of every other piece of labour legislation in Canada or outside of every other labour legislation in every state in North America or in the States.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I'm not dragging the point. It is important. It is very important that the minister articulate clearly that what is contained in the Labour Relations Act in terms of workers' freedoms, workers' rights, their ability to appear before an independent board, will not be jeopardized in any way, shape or form as a result of this amendment. With that, Mr. Speaker, I will sit down and let anybody else have a few comments.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to speak to this bill because I think the consequences of this bill are very significant and far-reaching. I suspect that hon. members opposite really don't have any idea of how significant and far-reaching the consequences of this legislation are, and let me first of all say that, when a special project is designated by the Cabinet, all of the rest of the Labour Relations Act is pretty well deemed to be irrelevant, and I say that from bitter experience, Mr. Speaker, bitter for the workers who look for representation at Hibernia I say, Mr. Speaker, because what happened at Hibernia was, agreement was reached before the project was started and during the course of the agreement and the collective agreement was entered into -

Now, there was a difference between that collective agreement and the one that we are talking about that the government wants to allow to be designated as special project here; that was negotiated by elected representatives, elected by the people in this Province in the various trades whether they be boiler makers or iron workers or various construction trades who elected their presidents and their business agents. These people sat down and negotiated the collective agreement with the Hibernia Employers Association and as a result of that, that then became the subject of an Order in Council, designating a special project under this section of the act and I think it was called 69 then, it is now called No. 70, and that designation had the effect of making that collective agreement almost the only regime in existence at Hibernia.

It was thought by a lot of people, Mr. Speaker, that those who were not mentioned in the agreement, for example, there were a number of different people who - the draftspeople for example who wanted to be represented by unions under the Labour Relations Act. They felt that they had the right despite the existence of a collective agreement covering other people, that they had the right to be collectively bargained and be represented by the union of their choice just as the Labour Relations Act says, that if you want to be represented by - you have a majority of your people, if you are in a bargaining unit that is under section (36) of the act, that you have an appropriate bargaining unit if the board so decides and you have a majority of employees, you can be certified as bargaining agent under the act.

This is really known as a certification process, and under Labour Relations law gives the employees an element of industrial democracy, some control over their workplace. The right to bargain terms and conditions of employment, grievance procedures, hours of work, pay and all these other things that go with that, so that they can use that process to better their lot, better their conditions. Now that was thought to be the case, Mr. Speaker, and a number of different groups who were not covered under the initial agreement, who were nonetheless employees at the project, sought to be represented democratically by a union and they were denied that because ultimately, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland determined that once a special project was designated under the act, that special project designation and the Order in Council, in fact, created a total, separate scheme of law that basically created a separate scheme that excluded the operation of the other aspects of the Labour Relations Act that are there to protect workers. That is the effect, Mr. Speaker, that once you do a designation as a special project under section 70, that is the consequence for workers employed in a project of that nature.

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to argue about the policy reasons for that. There are good reasons for having special project legislation, I say that, there is good reason for having special project legislation particularly if we are talking about - I think this legislation was created initially for the Churchill Falls project - it was designed for the Churchill Falls project because you had a construction project going on for a period of several years, four or five years, and ordinarily those collective agreements might have been one year or two years; three years was a long time for collective agreement and there was a need for a contractor to be able to have a fixed price and know what the price was going to be and that there was not going to be a strike in the middle of the construction project. I understand that, no one has explained that and there is a point where that is necessary in a large construction and particularly in a lengthy construction project where you have to have that. There are problems with the special project legislation that were pointed out by the court application, the decision of Judge Wells, who concluded that once you design a special project and you have a collective agreement, everything else falls out the window.

Now, what we have here, Mr. Speaker, is power being given to Cabinet to designate any project that has to do with a natural resource or primary industry where it is a construction or fabrication project of three years or less. Well, three years or less could be six weeks and every project could be a special project, every notion could be a special project, the Cabinet can decide, without apparently any democratic process in place, to declare a project a special project and to declare a collective agreement and the powers that are there are based on section seventy of the act and the consequence of the power that they have to prescribe the geographic site to which the declaration reads and the employers and the trades union who may be involved in a collective bargaining related to the employment on the project.

In addition to that, they can include whatever other conditions they want and in the Hibernia case for example, they designated a particular collective agreement as the collective agreement that relates to the project. I suspect that that is what they are going to do here and I suspect that the collective agreement that they are going to designate is the one that was signed by a ceremony recently, in which there was no local gratification of that agreement, that that agreement was made by national bodies in Ontario, that the alleged trades council that was set up, the body of trade union organizations, they do not even qualify as trade unions within the meaning of the Newfoundland act. The end result of this is that the work force at the Hibernia Bull Arm site, which is what this is for, at the Bull Arm site is going to be, in fact, on the union side controlled by a majority of people outside of this Province. The majority of people who are going to be making the decision about what goes on at this site are outside this Province, two out of five is it?

AN HON. MEMBER: Two contracted out, two local reps and (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: And so the control is going to be outside this Province and that flies in the face of the expectation and hope that workers have being involved in the unions, that they have some democratic control over their organizations, over their work place and in particular in this Province. There are going to be serious problems if this is not reviewed. There are going to be very serious problems.

There were problems at Hibernia, they were not serious problems at Hibernia because the people who were involved in the Hibernia project were Newfoundlanders who were elected and selected by the employees themselves, who when the problems were there, they were able to deal with them. They were able to assist in bring about labour peace when employees wanted to wild cat and did wild cat on a couple of occasion because they were not being treated properly.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what authority is someone from outside of the Province who may or may not even be here, on an ongoing basis going, to have to deal with people who have difficulties, who have labour problems that are not being resolved. What authority are they going to have Mr. Speaker?

We have a situation today where there is a gentlemen outside this House today, for a few moments he had himself chained to the door and he is a fellow who worked at Hibernia and does not feel that he got a proper treatment when he got laid off and he seems to have no where to go, no where to deal with his grievous, no where to deal with his problem.

We are going to have more of that if this proposal goes through and the Cabinet starts designating collective agreements that were not negotiated in this Province, that are anti-democratic in that they are not ratified by local union people and we are going to have a situation where the workers are on the receiving end and being dictated to by agreements that they have no control over presenting.

Now, Mr. Speaker, where is the Employers Council on this? Every time we talk about the Labour Relations Act the employers come in and say they are ever so concerned about the democratic rights of the workers, and that if a union is going to go on strike there must be a strike vote. If the employer insists, they must go back to the workers and ask them to ratify an agreement, or back to work proposal. Any time there is a proposal being made by an employer the Employers Council says: That must go to a vote.

If the Employers Council is all so fired interested in the democratic rights of the workers, where is it now when an agreement is about to be imposed on all the construction workers in this Province who want to have anything to do with the Bull Arm site in terms of offshore fabrication work? Where is it now? Why isn't it up demanding that this collective agreement be subject to a ratification vote? I don't see the Employers Council sticking its nose in this one at all.

What I do see is a letter that I have a copy of today. I got a copy of it Friday. A copy was sent to the Minister of Environment and Labour. The letter is written to the Premier. Attached to it are the signatures of hundreds of workers in this Province who are very dissatisfied with the way they have been ignored for the Terra Nova project. They are petitioning the Premier to ensure better representation in any process deciding their future. A cry for democracy, that is what it is, a cry for democratic choice, for the right to have some say in their working conditions, and the collective agreement that is going to bind them for a period of God knows how long. Because it is all up in the air. It is three years or less on the one hand, and three years or more in another section.

We are creating special rules here to meet the demands of some company which is saying: We are only going to be involved in this if we have special rules operating on our behalf. Is that the message? I don't know. But a letter written to the Premier by Derm Cain on May 16 specifically talks about the concerns that Mr. Cain, as business manager of the operating engineers, and the people who signed this petition - and there are hundreds of them. They are concerned that government is proceeding with great haste to changes in the act to accommodate the wishes of a mainland contractor and national building trades representatives.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who's that, Jack?

MR. HARRIS: That is Derm Cain, who wrote the letter to the Premier.

AN HON. MEMBER: No. Who is it we are supposed to be trying to get accommodated?

MR. HARRIS: To accommodate the wishes of a mainland contractor.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who is it?

MR. HARRIS: I think it is PCL, isn't it?

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

MR. HARRIS: PCL, isn't it, and national building trades representatives, at the expense of the very legitimate concerns of a great number of construction workers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

These people met with the Minister of Environment and Labour, they outlined their concerns, and they were informed the government was going to amend the act. Because the deal that was negotiated on the mainland, Mr. Speaker, brought down and presented as a fait accompli to the workers in this Province, that deal didn't comply with the act. So they are going to amend the act to allow them to call it a special project, and all of a sudden that agreement, regardless of whether it complies with the act or not, is going to be the law. Even though if it went to the Labour Relations Board now the Labour Relations Board (inaudible) said: That isn't an agreement, because the national building trades council, that isn't a union. A union is defined in our act very particularly.

Listen to this, this is very important, and a lot of things have turned on it. The I.W.A. for example, when it organized the loggers in 1959, were thrown out of the Province and thrown out of the Labour Relations Board because it didn't comply with this. It wasn't a local organization. A trade union is defined as a local or provincial organization or association of employees, or a local or provincial branch of a national association. National organizations have no status under the Labour Relations Act. When the I.W.A. in 1959 went out and signed up all the loggers, it went to the Labour Relations Board and was thrown out on its ear. They said: You can't be certified for loggers because you aren't a local, you aren't a Newfoundland organization. It had to go back, create a local organization with a local constitution. It had to go then back out into the woods of Newfoundland and sign up loggers once again, and they did.

That is a very, very fundamental feature of the Newfoundland Labour Relations Act, Mr. Speaker. It is not unique in Canada, it is in one or two other provinces, but our act is based on local organizations, local unions and local democracy. Now we have a situation here where the government is ignoring that, Mr. Speaker. They are dealing with the national organizations, not with local organizations and it is being imposed upon by some arrangement worked out with these national contractors (inaudible) the government imposed on the workers of Newfoundland without them having their say.

So this is what this amendment to the Labour Relations Act is designed to accommodate, Mr. Speaker, because as soon as this act is passed the government is going to pass an Order in Council making that collective agreement - I won't call it a collective agreement because I don't think it would meet the definition under the Labour Relations Act - making that agreement a collective agreement within the meaning of the act.

Mr. Speaker, they know that Section 70 of the act has now been recognized by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland as being a way of setting up a total separate regime outside the provisions of the act, without the protection of the act, without the right of these people to go and decertify, for example. If all of the labourers or all of the bricklayers or all of the ironworkers decided that they wanted to be represented by some other union they had no right to go to the Labour Relations Board and change their designation. They are stuck with that agreement signed by someone else outside the Province, signed by some group that is not a trade union in the meaning of the act.

Now, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Derm Cain, who has one heck of a lot of experience, not only in his own trade as a tradesman but in terms of the leadership that he provided to the oil development council throughout the years of the Hibernia trade, is the man who is leading the objection to this particular approach being taken by government, and he is doing it because he knows from his experience what happens and what is going to happen.

What Mr. Cain said in his letter to the Premier is, `...these workers are a key segment of the workforce that delivered over 31 million person hours of consistent quality work on the Hibernia project.' We were all out there. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology was not there but the Premier was there and I was there, the construction workers were there and the Minister of Environment and Labour was there, to praise and to dedicate a monument to the workers at Hibernia for their high quality, consistent work at the Hibernia site over the last number of years of the project.

What Mr. Cain said is, `...these people deserve to have input into any process that determines their future. They are reasonable people who respect that change is necessary, and from my discussion with many of them they are prepared to buy into a process that is fair and open.' So they just want to have a say, Mr. Speaker. They want to sit down and negotiate the deal on behalf of Newfoundland workers because they are the ones who were elected by Newfoundland workers to do that very thing.

He raised an interesting point, Mr. Speaker, `...with all due respect, Mr. Premier, the friends of the working people in the construction industry of Newfoundland and Labrador don't reside on the mainland.' Where were they last Friday? I am referring, Mr. Speaker, to the demonstration at the Hibernia site. So national building trades representatives got on the first plane out and left the local leadership to confront the representative from another national organization which came to disrupt the Hibernia ceremony. That is what he says here, Mr. Speaker, `...permit me to describe the situation by paraphrasing one of your own quotes from last week. You cannot operate a fish union out of a steel union office tower in Toronto.' So the Premier decided to take a potshot at Buzz Hargrove, Mr. Speaker, because he was from the mainland, coming down and telling fishermen how to behave. He reminds me, Mr. Speaker, of Joey taking on (inaudible) for being a foreigner. That is what he reminds me of, Mr. Speaker.

Our act permits local people, local unions to be the ones that are recognized by the act as being the important people in any trade union matter, in any collective bargaining situation. The provision safeguards in the act - it says, `... the bargaining committee has to be composed of some people who are actually in the bargaining unit.' They have to have representatives to sit down and negotiate an agreement. There are provisions there for ratification of agreements in certain circumstances, conciliation and everything else that goes with it. But all of that is laid to one side if Cabinet is given the power under section 70 of the act to declare a special project. That power is a very, very strong power and it is totally opposed to the spirit and the letter of everything but section 70 of that act, of everything else in that act, everything in that act that gives people rights.

They are all spelled out in the Labour Relations Act. The employee has the right to be a member of a trade union and to participate in its activities. Well, Mr. Speaker, one of the activities of a trade union is to negotiate collective agreements, to ratify them, to participate in bargaining and to have a say in your work place. That is the hallmark of labour democracy, Mr. Speaker, having the right to participate as a union member in decisions that affect your life.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there is an awful lot of talk when it suits governments to talk about the unions. The unions are doing this, the unions are doing that, they are telling their workers what to do, they are anti-democratic. Well, Mr. Speaker, what is happening here is this government is seeking the power to impose an anti-democratic process on the people of this Province, the construction workers of this Province who have already delivered. They have delivered in spades. They have shown the people of this Province, they have shown the people of Canada, they have shown the world that they can deliver first-class, first-rate work, better than the work done by others whose work they had to bring to Newfoundland from Korea and fix up, bring to Newfoundland from Italy and fix up. They have shown that the consistency of the work force - there were no strikes to speak of at Hibernia. There may have been one day here, a half day here or an hour somewhere else, not the three, four or six months delay caused in Italy by a close down of the industry or the activities in Korea that disrupted production.

You do not hear anybody say, we are not going to go to Italy any more, we are not going to go to Korea any more. You hear, we are going to the world, we have to compete with the world. Well, the reality is we are competing with the world, we can compete with the world, we have a work force second to none. What Mr. Cain says in his letter to the Premier is: ... the disputed aspect of the Terra Nova deal centres on the issue of local control. Newfoundland and Labrador unions, through whatever council they may decide upon, should have ultimate authority to decide their own agreement for and on behalf of construction workers in this Province. That control cannot rest with an outside body. Mr. Cain recognizes, as a labour leader of long standing and one who has had a tremendous track record in pragmatic practical common sense decisions that have to be made in a union setting where you have a mega project under way, where decisions are made on a day to day basis, even by union leaders such as him, can cost millions and millions of dollars, knowing in that kind of situation that he has a responsibility to his members and to his union, but also a responsibility to the project.

What Mr. Cain says, knowing all of this, is that the amendment proposed would override a fundamental right enjoyed by and negatively impacted upon all the local members of the construction union that would have played a key role, the key role in our resource developments. It will create total disharmony and be an unfortunate precedent that other people will prey on to the detriment of the working people in Newfoundland and Labrador for years to come.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there was a ministerial statement today by the Minister of Environment and Labour referring to a report that he has. He has not tabled it, Mr. Speaker. I want to ask him, when he gets up to speak is he going to table that report or are we seeing the beginning of a whole new regime where we are going to have a captive work force in this Province, a captive work force determined by someone from outside this Province. The rules are going to be made by someone outside and the agreements are going to be administered by someone outside. As long as the Premier and the government can say that we are open for business and we can go to bed with the business people, they are going to be happy, but the construction workers of this Province and workers generally will be subjected to a labour-law regime that ignores their democratic right to participate in it; ignores their democratic right as enshrined in the Labour Relations Act to have a participating role in deciding what happens in their workplace with their collective agreement, with the rules and regulations that affect them.

Mr. Speaker, the final request from Derm Cain is to take the fervent wishes of union members on these petitions into full consideration and stop any further discussion about amendments to the Labour Relations Act in regard to this matter until such time as a thorough, public review of the process is undertaken. That, Mr. Speaker, is what I would think should be done here. That is what I think should be done and in fact, Mr. Speaker, if I had the wording in front of me, I would move a six-month hoist. That is the proper time to consider this amendment, six months from now, so that there has been an opportunity for proper discussion and a thorough, public review of the process. The process, Mr. Speaker, was done outside this Province, outside the provisions of the Labour Relations Act, outside the democratic process which is there to ensure that Newfoundland workers have a say in their collective bargaining relationship that has been denied them in this process.

So I think, Mr. Speaker, that we understand there has to be some labour stability. We understand that. Nobody objected to the special project designation of Hibernia; nobody objected to the special project designation of Churchill Falls; nobody would object to the special project designation of a smelter construction, if that were going take three years or more. You do not need to have special laws, Mr. Speaker. If the people who want to build a smelter are going to build it in two years, they can sit down with the Newfoundland and Labrador Building Trades Council, made up of Newfoundland and Labrador unions, and that group can negotiate a collective agreement, just as the old development council negotiated the collective agreement for Hibernia.

What is the matter, Mr. Speaker? We don't any have faith in our workers anymore? Have we decided that Newfoundland workers cannot negotiate for themselves, they cannot make a deal for themselves, they cannot sit down and decide? We just went through the Hibernia project, Mr. Speaker. All praise for the biggest project and the mega project in the world, maybe the last, maybe the last until they build another Aswan dam or something. We have just been through that. We have seasoned, experienced, respected, knowledgeable labour leaders who participated in that project with 31 million person hours. Someone has added it up obviously; thirty-one million person hours of work over a six-year period, from 1989 when the agreement was signed and beyond.

What, Mr. Speaker, do we have to show for it in terms of democracy? The government saying: No, we are not satisfied that Newfoundland workers are capable. They are not capable of negotiating their own agreements, not capable of running their own affairs. It sounds like what is his name - Lake, was it, a fellow Lake down in Burgeo? The people of Burgeo are very nice people.

MR. SULLIVAN: Spencer Lake.

MR. HARRIS: Spencer Lake. I loved them, they are very nice people, but unfortunately they cannot run their own affairs. That is what Spencer Lake said when he left town with his -

AN HON. MEMBER: Lord of the Manor.

MR. HARRIS: He left town as the Lord of the Manor with his three llamas and his goats. He took up kit and caboodle and went away down to the States. The people of Burgeo are lovely people, polite and nice people but they cannot, unfortunately, govern themselves. Maybe, Mr. Speaker, this is a throw back to the Commission of Government, the poor Newfoundland people.

I heard a story the other day, Mr. Speaker, which shocked me. There was a very well respected lawyer whose father was a very well respected academic, who went to Oxford in the early 30s, a classic scholar of Memorial University, and the first time he met some people. He went to Oxford in the early '30s and - the first time he met some people, he met a welshman and the welshman said to him: Where are you from?' He said, `Oh, you're from Newfoundland. Oh, you're the fellows who couldn't govern yourselves. That was in the '30s now: You're the fellows who couldn't govern yourselves.

So now we have this government saying the same thing about our workers. The same thing as Spencer Lake said to the people of Burgeo: You're just not capable of running your own affairs. This government is now saying this to the construction workers of Newfoundland; you are not capable of running your affairs, we are not going to let you run your affairs, we are not going to let you have a say. We are going to take away your democratic rights that the Labour Relations Act gives you because we are going to designate this project a special project. We are going to impose a particular collective agreement that has been negotiated by a mainland employers group and not let the democratic local unions recognized under the Trade Union Act have a say in collective bargaining. That is what is happening here, Mr. Speaker. This government has decided -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: - that people are not capable of looking after their own affairs. They should put this off until the whole thing has been reviewed and looked at.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, if you listen to the statements of the Opposition NDP person

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. K. AYLWARD: Yes, I did qualify and I should qualify - throw back to Commission of Government, `...they can't decide for themselves.' Mr. Speaker, I tell you this government is working with labour in this Province to attract business and we are doing it in a very proactive way. He takes the stripes off the potential collective agreement that has been signed with Terra Nova. The differences of opinion between some of the unions versus some of the other unions is before the Labour Relations Board and that will be decided by the Labour Relations Board, as it should be, Mr. Speaker, which is the ultimate of democracy in labour relations and that is where it is going to go.

If you listen to the member opposite who just spoke, you would think that that is not going to be the case, that the government is going to intervene on that too but I have to let the member know - let's get the full picture out there. That is not the picture at all. He gives a picture of a throw back to - I don't know how many years ago, which is not the case. It is a proactive measure. Hibernia was a designated project that people agreed on. Mr. Speaker, what we are looking at doing here is making it easier for government to work with potential companies and labour to put forward a proactive and labour relations agenda that can work and that is all we are trying to do, Mr. Speaker. We are not trying to interfere in the labour relations processes, Mr. Speaker. We are just trying to make it easier so that the government can respond when it is asked to respond. That is what it comes down to and we are in consultation with all parties involved, Mr. Speaker, who have a concern about this amendment.

We have been dialoguing with them again today and we are dealing with those issues. We will discuss them further after supper, Mr. Speaker, during the committee process but for clarification purposes also, Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of our workforce, very much the workforce at Hibernia that did the job. They did a great job and we have been on the record as commending them in the work they have done.

In this case, Mr. Speaker, the specific Terra Nova agreement for example, fourteen unions out of sixteen have signed the collective agreement. So you know we should put it in perspective also, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. K. AYLWARD: They did so sign it, Mr. Speaker. He gets up and sounds like there is nobody who signed the collective agreement. Mr. Speaker, we are not going to make the final decision on it. The Labour Relations Board is going to assess whether or not the Constitution is properly dealt with.

So anyway, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of the bill and look forward to further discussion.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Labour Relations Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House shortly, by leave. (Bill No. 20)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I understand that we are four minutes late to go to supper. I suppose we will be four minutes late coming back because otherwise some people will have indigestion. So we will come back at 7:49 or 7:50 and at that point in time I believe we will go into committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The House is recessed until approximately 7:00 p.m.

 

Recess

 

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) the House into Committee of the Whole to consider certain bills (inaudible).

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Barrett): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, it is Order No. 6 under second reading, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Association Act," Bill 19.

CHAIR: Bill 19, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Association Act."

On motion, clauses 1 through 4, carried.

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Chairman.

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

On the title.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Now, the Member for Windsor - Springdale is trying to imitate his colleague from up the front there, who is much better at irritating me than he is. The best man in the House, the best member on that side according to some people today, the only one with a heart.

While this bill was being discussed this afternoon there was a - I'm glad the Minister of Education is here. Maybe he would want to address this. One of the issues that was discussed was the fact that this association was forced to send out a memo to its members, a directive to its members, telling them that they might want to be careful criticising decisions about school designations or school closures because it might be considered to be insubordination by their employers. It was kind of interesting that that was sent out on April 22, because today out in the lobby one of the people who was here read out a letter from a director of a school board in which it was indicated that principals and teachers are to be reminded that public criticism of school board decisions about allocations and about the designations of schools and which schools are going to close, public discussion by teachers and principals could be a subject of discipline under the act.

As the minister knows, the people who are protesting here are here because they are desperate for a forum in which to express their views. They feel they have been abandoned by the school board, by the directors. Common sense reasons - they haven't even been given any reasons in some cases. The E.J. Pratt people said they haven't been given any reasons. They have been told the discussions and the decision making is privileged and confidential. Now teachers are also being told that if they talk about this publicly they are subject to discipline.

I wonder if the minister is prepared to say in the House what his views are on that, and whether or not he is prepared to issue some sort of directive to the school boards reminding them of the place of teachers in the community and the fact that they have a right, as members of a community, to have a say on public issues, just as he did when he as a teacher ran for public office in this Province, and as many other members of this Legislature decided to offer themselves for one party or another as candidates in elections. A teacher certainly has a job in a school, and what they might say to school students during school hours is one thing, but what they might say outside as members of a community, a community which in fact is going to be subjected to these school closures or changes, then they have a right as members of the community to have an opinion.

I wonder if the minister is prepared to comment on the apparent feeling by the Avalon West board in particular, and certainly a concern raised by the NLTA, that they could be treated as being insubordinate for having an opinion about the consequences of school board decisions on school closures or designations.

CHAIR: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Did the minister not hear the question or is he just choosing not to respond?

MR. GRIMES: It was not related to this bill so I was not going to respond unless you want me to.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you.

CHAIR: Motion, that the Committee report having passed the following bill without amendment, carried:

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Association Act." (Bill No. 19).

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, "An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Tax Act". (Bill No. 5).

CHAIR: "An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Tax Act". (Bill No. 5).

Shall Clause one carry?

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

This to the minister, I just have a couple of questions.

I am just wondering how much this tax grab is, I am sure the Minister of Finance has done his background work to know the dollar value, I am not sure if was mentioned before, if it was I apologize, I do not want to take up time with repetition, we would not want that I am sure.

I think he has indicated that the purpose of it is to eliminate the selectivity, is it, by companies in what they charge tax on and now it is on the total administration amount? I understand so, did my colleague from Cape St. Francis say a million dollars, is that what the Finance Minister -

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, that it what he told me.

MR. SULLIVAN: So, it is another million dollar little bite out of insurance. I guess that would filter back to the people that are availing of policies and premiums, I would assume. So, this bill is another tax grab of a million dollars, I understand, another million dollar tax grab by the minister. Taxes being brought in budget wise and taxes brought in all over the place.

We cannot support another back door million dollar grab on tax payers that was not presented up front. A million dollar tax grab I say to the Minister of Education. In the budget, I did not see it, I did not see it in the pre-budget consultation document either. I have not seen it. I would like the Minister of Education - at least minister I did not miss the budget being passed, he did not even know, he said today in the House, he did not even know the budget was passed. I mean get with it. The Minister of Education, the second largest expenditure out of the budget and he did not even know it was passed, now that is what I call a ministers tune in. No wonder there are people ready to jump out of the gallery, no wonder there are people out in the lobby out there. The minister doesn't even know what is happening in the Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, that they would so and they would jump all the way across and right over on the desk of the Minister of Education, right on the -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Maybe he will, maybe he will survive it, we do not know. No, I think he is after doing to much dirty work now, to much dirty work to dump him right now. I think, he is not going to let that happen right now at the moment.

Anyway, we will get back to the Minister of Finance. Another tax grab, I say to the minister, does the minister nod in agreement that it is a million dollars?

MR. DICKS: I will respond when you are finished.

MR. SULLIVAN: Okay, I gather it is a million dollar tax grab, now I would assume like any tax, whether it is a payroll tax, it is a tax on any services, it would filter back to the people who pay the premiums. Is that what will happen? The insurance grab this year, they brought in new insurance tax this year, fifteen per cent on top of the four per cent hidden there already. On top of the four per cent hidden tax on insurance, brought in fifteen when it was only twelve last year and then they talk about reducing insurance rates, when they had increased by twenty-five per cent, the premiums on insurance this year are increased by twenty-five per cent. Here is a government, no new taxes and what was it, eight pages, was it eight pages of tax increases they had in their budget, presented. Such a long list we cannot even keep track, the list is so long.

Mr. Chairman, this is another example of a tax grab, another example of an increase on the consumers, on people who pay premiums and at that I believe that it is health premiums too, on group insurance, on health. I mean a new tax on health, new tax on the people who are sick, that is basically what it is, on the premiums. That is unconscionable, I say to the minister, unconscionable, to put another tax on the sick of this Province on top of what has been inflicted on them already. Just closing down the emergency departments and now you are going to put a tax on people again who have no place to go when they are sick, so it is not an acceptable thing, I say to the minister. He should get up now and apologize to the people of the Province and tell them he is going to withdraw this bill.

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am pleased to respond again to the questions that were raised earlier in the Legislature by the much more eloquent and popular Member for Cape St. Francis, who put the questions much more succinctly, thoroughly and comprehensively than his putative Leader.

Mr. Chairman, yes, it is a million dollars, as I indicated to the hon. member, who seemed to understand it and, in fact, if I may say, approve it. What I pointed out when the question was raised earlier, is that there is an anomaly in the tax laws. As many insurance brokers and agencies in the Province quote a universal fee, what has happened in the past few years because of an anomaly in the way the legislation is worded, is that, the insurance companies can avoid the full impact of the tax by charging a management fee which does not include the pay-out of the premiums. Most insurance companies include a pre-estimate of what the total figures would be on pay-out, so what this does, Mr. Chairman, is it eliminates - and it does two things. One is, it creates an equitable field among all the insurance companies, including those who are charging a full premium which estimates what the pay-outs will be, as well as a reasonable margin of profit. Secondly, it puts us in the same position as those people who merely manage the pay-outs and charge administrative fees of 10 per cent or 12 per cent. So I think it is fair and equitable as and among the companies, and the point is that, as regards taxation, yes, we do expect to procure a million dollars from the taxpayers for such things that we consider viable, on which the Opposition Leader may disagree. I think it is fair that we take this money and put it into things like health care, even education which are among our highest priorities. I have no apologies about taxing people, Mr. Chairman. Our job is to raise sufficient funds and to apply them in the right areas. This is an extra million dollars from the taxpayers of the Province to have essential services; it is money that some insurance companies have been avoiding paying and that is a loophole we are hereby plugging, with I am sure, the concurrence of the hon. member, now that he has been thoroughly briefed by both the hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis and myself.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just want to ask the minister one, simple question. If it is only an anomaly as he said, why is it not in Bill No. 9 if that is all it is?

I will just repeat, Bill No. 9 deals with anomalies and errors in legislation. If it is only an anomaly, why is it not in Bill No. 9? Why has he introduced it here in the new bill?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

An anomaly is an error, Mr. Chairman. This is not an anomaly, this is a -

MR. SULLIVAN: You said it was an error in wording.

MR. DICKS: It is a loophole, it is the way it is worded, it could be -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible), loophole.

MR. DICKS: Well, the only thing I say to the hon. member is that, it could be put into Bill No. 9 in a certain sense but it has not mattered but the wording was done consciously by the Legislature. Secondly, tax legislation is usually done separate and apart from mere corrections to statutes. This was not an error done inadvertently, this was based on a certain wording that was in the Act. The insurance companies changed the nature of their operations to take advantage of the wording of the Act, so, what we are doing is amending it to close what has developed as a loophole in the application of our Insurance Companies Tax Act. It is nor really an anomaly per se, because it was not an error that crept in as a result of something the draughtsman or the Legislature might have done inadvertently. This is clearly the intention of the Legislature, unfortunately it was not comprehensive enough to cover all the applications that we wished the tax to have or that we presumed the Legislature did. So that is what we are proposing to the Legislature to ensure that these other forms of business transactions that are not covered by the definition that the Legislature previously passed be now encompassed by the new wording, which we believe is (inaudible).

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just want to make a brief statement to conclude this. From my perspective, it was not my term `anomaly'. The minister, when he stood in his place, said it was an `anomaly', not I, and it was a loophole or something that needed to be corrected. You know, the right course of action would be to bring that in, in a particular bill, which has been done. So I would like to correct that, that the minister made that statement, not I. I do not consider it an anomaly at all; I consider it an avenue to correct a loophole, it is still a tax, it is still a million-dollar tax on premiums that are paid for health. It is group insurance and so on, and it is going to increase the premiums paid by people here in the Province. Basically, it is a new tax, as simple as that.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Tax Act." (Bill No. 5)

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, Bill 1, Committee of the Whole on a bill, "An Act To Amend The Small Claims Act."

CHAIR: Bill 1.

Motion, clauses 1 through 5, carried.

CHAIR: Clause 6. Amendment to clause 6.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: Amend clause 6 of the bill by striking out in the proposed subsection 10(2) the words "and non-compliance hearings."

On motion, amendment carried.

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

A further amendment to clause 6?

MR. HARRIS: The first amendment is carried, I take it.

CHAIR: Yes.

MR. HARRIS: I have an amendment, Mr. Chairman, to clause 6: that clause 6 of the bill be amended to insert after the word "order" in the proposed subsection 10(4) of the clause the following words: "other than an order for the payment of money including the payment of money by a payment schedule."

I believe, Mr. Chairman, you have a copy of it, and the minister and the Opposition have copies as well. I understand the minister is going to consent to the amendment. I do not need to make another speech, I take it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I understand if I do not make a speech, the minister is going to agree with the amendment. The key, just in a one-liner, Mr. Chairman, the amendment would ensure that people who default on payment of judgement under the Small Claims Act are not able to be treated as being in contempt of court and put in jail for contempt of court. That is the case with judgements under the Supreme Court, and we should not be giving the power to Provincial Court judges to put people in jail for contempt of court for failing to make a payment under a payment schedule order or under an order for the payment of money. That is the standard common law feature, and I will not talk about debtor's prisons or anything like that. That is the reason for it and the rationale for it, and I understand the government is going to accept it.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: We are going to support the amendment. I do not think it is absolutely necessary, I think it is redundant. We have checked with some judges and our legislation was quite adequate to address the problem the hon. member has. But for peace and quiet we will certainly accept the amendment.

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause 6 as amended, carried.

CHAIR: Clause 7, an amendment.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: Yes.

That clause 7 of the bill be deleted and the following substituted:

"7. Section 11 of the Act is repealed and the following substituted:

Payment and non-compliance hearings

"11.(1) The rules committee may make rules which provide for the enforcement of judgements and the examinations of persons at payment hearings, including rules (a) which require a debtor or another person to appear for a payment hearing at a time and place mentioned in the summons;

(b) which require a debtor or another person to bring to a payment hearing those documents which may be described in the summons;

(c) giving debtors and creditors a right to request a payment hearing; and

(d) prescribing the types of evidence which may be brought before the court at a payment hearing.

(2) A judge may

(a) order a payment hearing;

(b) cancel or postpone a hearing where a creditor does not attend the hearing;

(c) issue a warrant to bring a person before the court; and

(d) provide a remedy at the conclusion of a payment hearing;

in accordance with the rules.

(3) An examination of the debtor's means shall be held in private and no person other than the judge, the court officers, the creditor and the debtor and their representatives may be present."

As an explanatory, I will give Your Honour a copy because I am sure you did not catch all that.

These amendments to Bill 1, Mr. Chairman, will remove from the bill a number of provisions respecting enforcement mechanisms of the Small Claims Court as a result of the application of the procedures contained in the Judgement Enforcement Act. I so move, Mr. Chairman.

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause 7 as amended, carried.

On motion, clauses 8 and 9, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Small Claims Act." (Bill No. 1)

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill with amendments, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Bill 9, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law."

CHAIR: Bill 9.

Shall clauses 1 through 78 carry?

MR. DECKER: Mr. Chairman, there were some problems. Does the House wish that I address them as clauses 21, 31 - there are several which the hon. members -

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: Do you want me to do them all at the one time?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DECKER: Alright. The hon. member had problems with clause 21. This clause amends section 22.2 of the Financial Administration Act, which was added to that Act as an amendment in the Tax Agreement Act passed in the December 1996 sitting of the House of Assembly.

The section is required for accounting purposes of the government and of the Province so that rebates under the Tax Agreement Act can be treated as a reduction of revenue against the money paid to the Province under the Act. The existing wording requires that this accounting apply to rebates referred to in the Tax Agreement Act and the agreement under that Act, but the intent was and is that this accounting apply to a rebate referred to in the Tax Agreement Act, or the agreement under that Act. The proposed amendment changes the wording of section 22.2 to agree with this latter requirement.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DECKER: I will give it to the hon. member to read after.

AN HON. MEMBER: Can you start again from the top.

MR. DECKER: I am going to have to start from the top. I will give you this briefing note to read after I am finished with it.

Clause 31 was also a problem area. This clause amends "An Act To Amend The Hydro Corporation Act," "The Electrical Power Control Act, 1994, And Other Acts", in this paragraph, to be referred to as the Hydro Act, which was before the House of Assembly at the same time as the Limitations Act.

The Limitations Act repealed section 47 of the Hydro Corporation Act, and the Hydro Act repealed that same section, but revived it for certain purposes with respect to limitation periods applicable to actions against Hydro. The proposed amendment is necessary to make it clear that upon the passage of the Limitations Act, and in keeping with the principle of having a level playing field with respect to actions against individuals, the Crown, its agents, or others to whom the Limitations Act would apply, that a special limitation period perpetuated under the Hydro Act would be repealed. Consequently, the proposed amendment repeals the references in the Hydro Act to the revival of any effect of section 47.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition also had problems with clause 32. This amendment to the Hydro Corporation Act is required to ensure that in the absence of the minister, the deputy minister or designate may sign guarantees on behalf of Hydro. This provision is similar to the delegation of authority which already exists for signing and for other functions of the minister.

Clause 45 was also a problem. This clause would amend the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act. I should tell the hon. Leader of the Opposition that the Explanatory Note should read in the first paragraph: Subclauses (1), (2) and (4) and should refer to section 35 and not to section 34.1.

The second paragraph of the Explanatory Note should refer to subclause (3) and not subclause (2). Subclauses (1), (2) and (4) allow, in accordance with regulatory reform, the establishment of forms by the minister rather than by regulation, and subclause (3) is intended to allow the retroactive publication of regulations for more than a year before the publication, but not earlier than the date of the commencement of an Act To Amend The Mining And Mineral Rights Tax Act. This will allow regulations relating to the subject matter of that Act to be made retroactively to that date. The Mining And Mineral Rights Tax Act already allows regulation to be made retroactively to twelve months before the publication in the Gazette.

Clause 56: This clause would change the creation of provincial parks from a designation by proclamation to a designation by order of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. This change was required by the regulatory reform director.

Clause 65: This clause would repeal subsection 141(3) of the Securities Act respecting the liability of the Crown for actions of its employees. Subsection 141(1) and subsections (1) and (2) of the Act deal with the protection of an employee from an action where they are carrying out their duties under the Act. Similar protections exist throughout our provincial statutes. For example, section 8 of the Child Welfare Act, section 58 of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Act.

However, the existing subsection 141(3), would nullify the effect of providing protection for employees who are, in fact, operating under the Act for the Crown, as it provides for the liability of the Crown in those instances. This type of provision does not exist elsewhere in our law and is an anomaly which should be removed.

Clause 70, sub-clause (1) amends the Subordinate Legislation Revision And Consolidation Act by extending the effective date of the Act from December 31, 1995 to June 30, 1996. This is necessary, as the regulations revised under that Act were not enacted until the latter date - the latter date being June 30, 1996. Sub-clauses (2) and (3) would ensure that orders and regulations enacted after June 30, 1996 under the legislation, be considered to have commenced on that date.

Regulations passed after December, 1996 which are substantially the same as those existing before that date shall similarly be considered to have been enacted on December 31, 1996. Sub-clause (4) would ensure that amendments to regulations made during 1996 are considered to be amendments or repeals of the appropriate provisions of those regulations as in the consolidated revised versions on December 31, 1996; and sub-clause (5) would make sub-clause (1) retroactive to the date of the commencement of the Act.

Now, Mr. Chairman, I am sure that should enlighten the hon. the Leader of the Opposition and answer all his excellent questions which he put forward in the second reading, and if he wants to, I can even let him read my briefing notes.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: I have recognized the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Yes, I would love to have a copy of those briefing notes for my records so I could examine them in case we want to scrap this bill in third reading and make some amendments.

There are some concerns. I am wondering why, you know, in the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act - and the minister did mention, of which I was very much aware, I think he did mention, in actual fact, sub-clauses (1), (2) and (4) that removed the requirements to establish funds by regulation. He did mention the new section, it is not 34.1, it is 35. I think he already mentioned that, I believe.

Another point we noticed here, the sub-clause on retroactivity is really clause 3, not clause 2. I think the minister mentioned that. What is the significance of retroactive legislation on this one? I ask the minister: Is it now an admission that there is a problem with the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act with Inco? A tax holiday - that the possibility for retroactivity and the publication of that, you now perceive a problem and you are going to try to deal with it through a back door on this particular matter and to make it retroactive back to 1995?

In other words, government is saying that there could be a problem. Why are they so secretive? It is really an acknowledgment that there are concerns in this particular area on the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act and that is an area, certainly, of particular concern.

We do not have a great deal of concern, just some, with reference to 1, 2, and 4, I might add, but with reference to sub-clause (3) it can be a controversial one. In sub-clause (3) we are talking about: "...regulations made under subsection (1) and gazetted on or before July 1, 1997 may be made with retroacie effect to a date stated in the regulations of more than 12 months before their date of publication in the Gazette but in no case shall those regulations be retroactive to before January 1, 1995."

Was it not January 1, 1995, that the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act took effect? It got royal assent and I think it said: to be in effect on January 1. So what now are they trying to do by building in a retroactive right? Maybe they missed the boat on it before. They sat at it and went to sleep at the switch. They failed to amend the legislation and now they are going to try to do something about it that builds into the legislation the right for them to make retroactivity a right. Retroactivity is a major problem in legislation. It should never happen. There are cases where things need to be done. The former Premier had his comments on retroactivity: he said we should avoid it like the plague. The Government House Leader's idol said we should avoid it like the plague.

MR. TULK: On what?

MR. SULLIVAN: Retroactivity in legislation.

MR. TULK: Did he say that?

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes.

MR. TULK: Which one?

MR. SULLIVAN: Your former idol. You know who that is.

MR. FITZGERALD: Your former mentor.

MR. SULLIVAN: Your former mentor. The guy who reserved a space out back of that picture for you. Yes, and the person who opened up some doors for you, I say to the minister. He opened up some wide doors for the -

MR. FITZGERALD: And closed a lot more.

MR. SULLIVAN: And he closed some others, there is no doubt about it. He said it should be avoided like the plague. So is this an admission? I do not know who - actually, it is not the Minister of Mines and Energy, it is the finance minister who is responsible for legislation.

MR. TULK: You should (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Pardon?

MR. TULK: You should (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I cannot. Who knows? I might be gone before him. But anyway, I am sure I know who will be there. I know who the pallbearer will be. He would want to make sure and certain. He does not want to have any doubt whatsoever that it is for real, I say to him.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, you are half afraid that someone might think you are trying to get on the good side. You would not dare let on that. You would not dare let on to anybody. But overall, Mr. Chairman, that is not one that sits too well with us at all. What regulations (inaudible) the Gazette and made retroactive? Does the government have something in mind on the legislation? I ask the minister. Do you have some particular things in mind? It is the finance minister's bill. I ask the finance minister: What is it on the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act, under anomalies and errors, that you want to make retroactive pertaining to the aspects there? Is it because you failed to act in terms of -

AN HON. MEMBER: What section?

MR. SULLIVAN: It is clause 45, the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act, sub-clause (3). It says: "Notwithstanding subsection (2), regulations made under subsection (1), and gazetted on or before July 1, 1997 may be made with retroactive effect to a date stated in the regulations of more than twelve months before the date of publication in the Gazette, but in no case shall those regulations be retroactive to before January 1, 1995." That was when the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act became law, it was passed in December 1994 and now, is it because with Inco that there is some legal grounds? Do you want to get a legislative provision here? Do you want to get a legislative provision to protect the Province from any liability? Maybe it is starting to land on their ears now what we have been singing out for some time.

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, is that possible? They must have in mind some regulations, I am quite sure.

With reference to - I am just looking here on the parks issue, clause - changing `designation by proclamation' to `designation by order' of the Lieutenant-Governor. The change was required by regulatory reform direct, in other words, from a proclamation to an order. Well, that is just a change in terminology, that we need now, which as an order rather than a proclamation, might give more credence to it, to a certain extent. Now, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council through the Cabinet, will have a say into that.

Overall, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the minister for a copy of the explanations, While he does not tell us the real meaning behind them, it just gives a general justification.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. I am just wondering, with respect, what implication does that have on retroactivity? I think it makes reference here - he said, in clause 45 - to the regulations, (inaudible) by the minister rather than by regulation. In other words, we are talking about relations here, we are not - there is no authority to change the wording of an act retroactively, it is just basically, the regulation aspect that would arise from legislation on that matter, I would assume. But at least I will let the minister certainly answer to that in case that is not the explanation I am going to hear.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Apparently, what happened in this case was, the last major amendments to the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act was in 1975, `95, what did I say `75, I am sorry 1995. I intended to say 1995, that is one of those anomalies that occasionally rises in the course of speech in the House as well.

The Department following that should have proceeded to enact regulations which it did not do. My understanding is that it is regulatory and in form and it should not have any substantial impact on nature of tax which we prescribe anyway in measures before this House. So, basically, what should have been done was not done and now we should put those in effect retroactive to the time that the substantive measures came in effect with the Act. That is all that is about.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Just to make sure it is clear. Of course, the legislation would have to come to the House here, it would not be able to be done through a Gazette.

So, because government, since January 1, 1995, did not enact regulations stemming from the legislation that became law on January 1, they now want permission - basically, this is giving them authority now, to go back retroactively and to do what they did not do since January 1, 1995. That is basically what he is saying.

MR. DICKS: By regulation, not by enactment.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, by regulation now. He gets the right to bring in regulations and have the same effect as if you made the regulations any time from January, February, whenever, following that, but not before that. Because prior to that we dealt with a different Act, I guess, a different set of - and any regulations that you will have were already in effect, I guess, at that time. It is only any regulation that stems from the changes in the Act. I think that is what the minister is saying.

A bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law." (Bill No. 9)

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I believe in Committee we have one more bill left, and that is "An Act To Amend The Labour Relations Act." I understand the minister, along with the Opposition spokesman and the Member for the NDP, are having some discussions. I wonder if we want to recess for ten minutes to have a further discussion and then come back. Would that be okay?

CHAIR: We will recess to the call of the Table.

 

Recess

 

CHAIR (Barrett): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, when we recessed, I think we were about to go into - we have done Committee I believe on all of the bills we intend to call. The government does not intend to call Bills 10 or 18, which are, respectively, "An Act To Amend The Wilderness And Ecological Reserves Act" and "An Act To Amend The Shops' Closing Act." I believe we have done Committee on all the other bills except "An Act To Amend The Labour Relations Act," Bill 20. I think we have some sort of a sweetness and light agreement on that, maybe. I would call that bill, Bill 20.

CHAIR: Bill 20, "An Act To Amend The Labour Relations Act."

Shall clause 1 carry?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: There is an amendment?

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Chairman?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

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

We would like to move an amendment to clause 1 of the bill. It would be amended by deleting the words "designed to develop a natural resource or establish a primary industry" and substituting the words "at the Bull Arm site."

Also, we would like to remove "prescribed geographic site" in the same clause and replace it with the word "the."

That would be the point of our amendment, Mr. Chairman, and we welcome any comment on that.

[There was a pause in the proceedings]

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

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

Mr. Chairman, I would like to move the following new amendment to the bill. Clause 1 of the bill is amended by deleting the words -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please! Order, please!

I would like to hear what the hon. the minister has to say.

MR. K. AYLWARD: - "designed to develop a natural resource or establish a primary industry" and substituting the words "at the Bull Arm site", by adding immediately after the word "work" the word "and", and by deleting the phrase "and catering within a prescribed geographic site."

That would be the total amendment to the present amendment being proposed.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. K. AYLWARD: Yes.

We have indicated to the parties involved in the Terra Nova collective agreement that is now before the Labour Relations Board, that we would want to see the Labour Relations Board hearing occur and the decisions made coming out of that, which would allow for ensuring that the constitution of the processes that have been put forward under the collective agreement meet our labour law.

We want to see that process through. What this amendment does is it allows us, specifically for that site down the road, if we deem it to be necessary, and that is only if we deem it to be necessary, to designate a special project at the Bull Arm site. We have been promoting that site as a potential site for fabrication work for the offshore.

If we were to look at designating a special project for the site, we would specifically ensure that unjust labour practices would be dealt with through the Labour Relations Board, and we would give that specific direction as to dealing with unfair labour practices, because that has been a problem with the Hibernia site in the past. We would look at putting that in a potential specific designated site -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please! Order, please!

I am having difficulty hearing what the hon. the minister is saying, and I would like to hear what he is saying.

MR. K. AYLWARD: If we were to look at a special project designation for a project at the Bull Arm site, we would look at dealing through the Labour Relations Board, with unfair labour practices, which has been a problem in the past with Hibernia, in the sense of workers' rights.

We make that commitment, and we would follow up on that if we do get to the point of having a special project designation. Because we may not get to that point. It depends on the collective agreement.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. K. AYLWARD: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. K. AYLWARD: That? Well, we can deal with that in the fall.

Mr. Chairman, I will take my seat.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to thank the minister for participating in discussions about this and listening to some of the things that were being said, and the concerns that were raised about the consequences of a far-reaching bill that could really tempt - or bring about a situation where any employer coming to this Province with a project in mind would perhaps want to come and insist on having special deals, special arrangement, without allowing the full collective bargaining process to take place, and the protections that employees are given under the Labour Relations Act.

I appreciate the minister committing in public here to the House that the government is committed to honouring the decision of the Labour Relations Board with respect to whether or not the people who have, and the parties who have entered into the arrangement with respect to the Bull Arm project at the moment, have in fact conformed to the Labour Relations Act in terms of the process that they went through, and in terms of who the parties are.

I will note that section 70(3) of the current Act allows the Cabinet, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, to include those conditions and qualifications with respect to any aspect of a special project that the Lieutenant-Governor in Council considers necessary or desirable. The minister has indicated government's commitment to ensure that the Labour Relations Board will in fact retain its jurisdiction in order to deal with issues such as unfair labour practices, and I think actually, more properly, in this context, known as the duty of fair representation provided for in the Act, which was absent from the Hibernia project as a result of the way court decisions came down at the end of the day. There was a second and equally important problem and potential difficulty with special project legislation that arose at the Hibernia site, and I think the minister will probably commit to raising this issue in Cabinet and discussing whether or not and considering whether or not a special project designation can make allowances for this, but that is the issue of the unorganized. Collective agreement might be entered into by a construction union or a council of union, Mr. Chairman, that might provide for their own trades.

This happened at Hibernia but it was found, after the project, a very complex, large and elaborate project, that there were lots of other people working at the site who came under the designation of employee within the Act who, if it were not a special project, would have the right to seek certification by a trade union of their choice who, at the end of the day, were denied the right to bargain collectively and denied the protection of collective bargaining under the Act because of the special designation project.

Now, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, under the Act, has the power to ensure that -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please! Order, please!

I am trying to listen to what the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi is saying.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

This is a rather crucial issue for a lot of workers in the Province who could have their rights denied if this is not done properly.

Cabinet has that power now, and we are not going to solve all the problems of the special project provisions of the Act tonight. But the power is there and I would urge the government, when considering any special project designation, particularly with the Terra Nova site or anything else in the future - because, you know, we may well have to deal with other legislations of this nature or other projects looking for some special status - to ensure that people who may not be covered by a particular collective agreement that might be designated as a special project, they, too, will continue to have rights under the Labour Relations Act; and ensure that the Labour Relations Board will continue to have jurisdiction to deal with those people who may not be covered by a collective agreement, because the people negotiating it are looking at their particular trades, and they can be added to the special project designation after the Labour Relations Board has dealt with it.

The important thing is that the Labour Relations Board is a body which has been established by government and has a long history in expertise in ensuring that the rights of workers and those of employers are also balanced out under the principles and terms of the Labour Relations Act, and I think it is important that we not end up in a situation such as we did with Hibernia where, for five or six or seven years, people who may not have gotten proper treatment from a particular union had no right of redress and people who are not organized and did not have collective bargaining - there were draughtspeople, for example, who were paid far less than labourers who had no right to go and collectively organize and seek a better deal because of the way the special project designation was done.

So hopefully, these things will be avoided by the minister being cognizant of them in advance of any designation, and that he will commit to ensuring that Cabinet considers all of these issues when making a special project designation for the Bull Arm project and for any other future project; but as terms of the legislation itself, I am quite pleased with the changes that have been designated here and hopefully, the Labour Relations Board will be able to sort out the other issues that were raised in my speech earlier tonight.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

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

When calmer heads prevail, agreements are usually reached, and I think that is what has happened here tonight. Just a couple of quick points.

First of all, the minister really has committed and ensured that the Labour Relations Board will play and continue to play a pivotal and important role as an arm's length, independent body with expertise in terms of any future major construction agreements or projects in the Province;

Secondly, in designating specifically this legislation, which was designed originally, anyway, for the Bull Arm site, naming it, so it is very site specific;

And thirdly, ensuring, Mr. Chairman, that the rights of workers, as the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi just articulated in terms of doing fair representation before the board, is enshrined and protected. With that, I support the legislation and the amendments as put forward.

Thank you.

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause one as amended, carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill with amendment, carried.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee rise and report a great deal of progress.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): The hon. the Member for Bellevue.

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered the matters to it referred, and wishes to report Bill Nos. 19, 5 and 9 without amendment, and Bill Nos. 1 and 20 with some amendments, and requests leave to sit again.

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

On motion, amendments read a first and second time.

On motion, bills ordered read a third time presently by leave.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I understand we have leave to do third readings on those bills.

Mr. Speaker, if you do not mind, I am just going to read off the numbers, and then His Honour can do third readings. Bill No. 1, Bill No. 9, Bill No. 5, Bill No. 19, and Bill No. 20.

On motion, the following bills read a third time, ordered passed and their titles be as on the Order Paper:

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Small Claims Act." (Bill No. 1)

A bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law." (Bill No. 9)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Tax Act." (Bill No. 5)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Association Act." (Bill No. 19)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Labour Relations Act." (Bill No. 20).

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I understand that His Honour is on the way, and should be here about quarter to nine to give royal assent to those bills. I would move that we recess until such time as His Honour arrives.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that we recess until His Honour arrives?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

MR. SPEAKER: The House stands recessed until 8:45 p.m.

 

Recess

 

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, His Honour, the Administrator.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Admit His Honour, the Administrator.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Please be seated.

MR. SPEAKER: Your Honour, it is my agreeable duty on behalf of Her Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, her faithful commons in Newfoundland, to present to Your Honour a bill for the appropriation of supply granted in the present session.

A bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ended March 31, 1998 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service." (Bill No. 11)

HIS HONOUR THE ADMINISTRATOR (James Gushue): In Her Majesty's name, I thank her loyal subjects, I accept their benevolence, and assent to this Bill.

MR. SPEAKER: May it please Your Honour, the General Assembly of the Province has at its present session passed certain bills to which, in the name and on behalf of the General Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour's assent.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Judgement Enforcement Act." (Bill No. 8).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The City of St. John's Act And The St. John's Municipal Elections Act." (Bill No. 13).

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Good Faith Donation And Distribution Of Food." (Bill No. 12).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Residential Tenancies Act." (Bill No. 15).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Collections Act." (Bill No. 16).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Direct Sellers Act." (Bill No. 17).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Schools Act, 1996." (Bill No. 14).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Tax Agreement Act." (Bill No. 3).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Small Claims Act." (Bill No. 1).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Association Act." (Bill No. 19).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Tax Act." (Bill No. 5).

A bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law." (Bill No. 9).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Labour Relations Act." (Bill No. 20).

ADMINISTRATOR: In Her Majesty's name, I assent to these bills.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: All rise.

[His Honour, the Administrator leaves the Chamber.]

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before I wish everybody the best for the summer, I want to say that the Member for The Straits & White Bay North, if ever there was a person in this Legislature who could get everybody on the same tune and clapping, the hon. gentlemen should get the award for being able to do so. I tell you, he is the best I have ever seen at it.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, let me first of all thank the other side for giving us our cash in record time. I want to wish them well over the summer. I also want, Mr. Speaker, if I could, to thank the Clerks, the Officers of the House, the Pages, the Hansard people and anyone who contributes to making this place work. It is a very necessary Assembly, although many of us at times and many people around seem to think -

AN HON. MEMBER: Hansard.

MR. TULK: I did Hansard. I thanked Hansard.

AN HON. MEMBER: the Library.

MR. TULK: In a serious vein, Mr. Speaker, it is a very necessary place - Parliament, the Legislature of this Province, and serves us well. Many people who come here might think that we do not serve it well, but in fact all of us, I suspect, have a great deal of respect for the place, and I think from time to time we show that.

I want, Mr. Speaker, if I could, to wish everybody on behalf of the government, including yourself and the Opposition - I want to wish them well. I hope they help us celebrate Cabot and our 500th Anniversary in the spirit in which it is meant to be, and that is not in a partisan manner. I wish them safety and we will see them all back here in the fall.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I want to share in the comments of my colleague, the Government House Leader, in thanking the members of the staff who serve the Legislature. Also, I share in the comments wishing everybody a very good summer. We will see you around at the various celebrations we shall be having in the various communities throughout the Province. There is a great number of Come Home Years. I think members have been well informed of the various Come Home Years, and we encourage all members to share in those particular festivities.

As well, I want to tell the Government House Leader that whichever way he wants it, whether it is St. John's West federal or St. John's West provincial, we will need another seat on this side of the House when this Legislature sits again.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to say, along with the Government House Leader and the Leader of the Opposition, that we do owe thanks to the staff of the House who do not have the advantage of being elected and having to put up with each other here. They have to put up with us as part of their job. We have a choice. They have a job to do and they have done it very well. I particularly want to commend our new Sergeant-at-Arms who performed yeoman service this afternoon.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: The people thought she was pointing at them. Little did they know that she had a sword as well. They would have been very angry.

I do want to thank the staff of Hansard, and the clerks, and all the staff of the House, and the Pages for their help, and to wish all hon. members an enjoyable period off. I know we have lots of things to celebrate about our history and our past this summer, and some of our paths will cross as well on the campaign trail, federally first and then perhaps provincially in St. John's West. That is all part of the process. I wish all hon. members a good summer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: I, too, would like to add to what the members have already said, and thank all those who worked during this session to make it a successful one. As well, I wish all members and their families a very enjoyable summer, and look to seeing you back in the fall.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, it is moved that when this House adjourns today it stands adjourned until the call of the Chair. The Speaker, or in his or her absence from the Province, the Deputy Speaker, may give notice, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time and date stated by the notice of the proposed sitting. It is moved that this House do now adjourn.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned to the call of the Chair.