September 5, 1997          HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLIII  No. 30


The House met at 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

 

Oral Questions

 

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for I guess the Premier, or the acting Premier. The Canadian Bond Rating Service said last week that Inco must reach deals quickly with aboriginal groups to share the benefits from Voisey's Bay or risk further delays and losses. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce said its projections of massive growth for the Province in 1998 hinge on settling land claims at Voisey's Bay. Voisey's Bay Nickel Company's Stewart Gendron told shareholders in July that the stability of its relationships with the Innu and the Inuit were critical to the success of the project.

So with negotiations now apparently deadlocked, I ask government, the acting Premier, what they can tell us today to assure Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that the Voisey's Bay development will not be delayed, but that we will indeed reap the benefits that our Province so badly needs at this time.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I don't think anybody in this Chamber is more aware, one over the other, as to the importance of getting on with the developments that surround Voisey's Bay. I would simply respond to the hon. member's question by saying that we are aware of all of the things that have to be done, all of the things that need to be put in place. I can tell him that this government is taking due diligence on all fronts, on all accounts, to ensure that we maximize at an early point, as quickly as we can, actually, and as early as we can, to see full development take place consistent with what the plans are, the plans that have been rolled out by Inco and VBN and by this government. We are doing all that has to be done, and these things don't always happen overnight. The important thing is to ensure that when we do finalize arrangements and agreements that they are in the best interests of all of the people of the Province, including the natives in Labrador, and including all of the stakeholders involved.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Over and over for the past eighteen months, just like his predecessor, the Premier has promised us a Voisey's Bay royalty regime, but he has delivered nothing to back up that promise. Knowledgeable people around are questioning whether this government will get the best deal for our Province or whether it will settle for a lesser deal as the Premier seemed to be prepared to do in April, when the Premier said he will be talking about lower royalties -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: - since the Premier said in April that he would be talking about lower royalties in exchange for a more intensive development schedule, when is the Premier and this government prepared to table in this House and before the people of the Province a royalty regime so the people can see for themselves and use their judgement as to whether it is in the best interest of this Province?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Two points I would simply make in response to the question. No.1, is that we recognize, we realize and we have acknowledged that at an appropriate time we will bring forward legislation to deal with all of the issues including royalties. Secondly, I can assure the hon. member that at what point we bring in that legislation, at the end of the day and in the fullness of time, he will see clearly that the best interests of the people of this Province have been considered, protected and given every due, fair consideration in terms of what we finally arrive at. That information, that legislation will come forward when we are ready to bring it forward. We will not be rushed or coerced simply because somebody wants to see it tomorrow. We will do it when it is appropriate and we will ensure that the people of the Province, as I have said before, would be the major benefactors of the development of this massive wonderful project.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) somebody else.

MR. SULLIVAN: We do not see a Premier or acting Premier or acting, acting Premier.

Mr. Speaker, royalty regimes are currently in place in numerous countries, Argentina, Bolivar, Brazil, Chile a whole host of those countries have royalty regimes; Alberta and Ontario, provinces within Canada, have royalty regimes but here in this Province there is absolutely nothing to guarantee us the best return on our resource except a vague promise that carries absolutely no weight in a courtroom or in a legislature. So, I ask the Premier, when is the government going to write down in black and white, in the statutes of this Province, that the ten-year tax holiday now on the books, will not apply to Voisey's Bay minerals?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, no matter how many times the Leader of the Opposition stands in a shameless fashion trying to argue on behalf of Inco and Voisey's Bay Nickel for a ten-year tax holiday, no matter how many times the Leader of the Opposition insists that Voisey's Bay Nickel is entitled to a ten-year tax holiday, I want to tell the Leader of the Opposition, he can argue until he is black and blue in the face, we will never give that ten-year tax holiday that the Leader of the Opposition is asking for on behalf of Voisey's Bay Nickel.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: And Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition, he should be ashamed of himself to be sitting here in this House, at this time, in this Province, when we are so in need of employment opportunities, so in need of revenues to run our education system, our health care system and to argue day in and day out that Voisey's Bay Nickel is entitled to a ten-year tax holiday. I want to tell him that Voisey's Bay Nickel is entitled to a fair share of the benefits and not a penny more and there will be no ten-year tax holiday handed out by this government.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad the Premier realizes that the only way to pay for health care restructuring and education, basic infrastructure, our social safety net, is a decent return on our resources. I am glad he realizes that.

Now, the Premier has told us that the old Bill No. 43, he said, is the basis for Voisey's Bay royalties, the Premier has said that publicly. But, Premier, you are the one who scrapped Bill No. 43 and you have been eighteen months talking about it now. So, when are you going to do something about it and bring it to this House or let the public see exactly what it is so we can make a decision? When are you going to do that? Will you do it this fall as you promised?

MR. SULLIVAN: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the people of this Province are finding their pocket book under assault. On the one hand we have the Leader of the Opposition arguing for a ten-year tax holiday for Inco and for Voisey's Bay Nickel and Mr. Speaker, that is never going to happen, and on the other hand we have the other leader of the right wing party, Mr. Chislett, arguing for a better deal for Archean Resources.

Mr. Speaker, I am telling the people we are going to protect them from both of these spokespersons for private profits and private benefits. We stand for public policy.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Much as the Premier likes to give a different impression, it was the former liberal government that brought in the legislation and since that they have been indicating that they were going to change it and he was the person who took office here and scrapped that legislation to take away the ten-year tax holiday, that would have taken it away, he now left it on the books. The Premier is responsible for the ten-year tax holiday he failed to carry forward on that bill.

Now, I want to ask the Minister of Finance: will he tell us how much revenue the Province has collected from Voisey's Bay development to date and will he tell us if any revenue has been foregone because of a tax break on the books which now may apply to the preparatory developments like the ones we are seeing at Voisey's Bay now?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the people of the Province really wonder what the Leader of the Opposition is all about on this question. The Leader of the Opposition has been told consistently - and I would invite those who regularly observe the Legislature to check the record - has been told consistently for the last year-and-a-half certainly that I have been here, that there will be no ten year tax holiday for Voisey's Bay Nickel or for Inco. Notwithstanding that, the Leader of the Opposition consistently argues, and I am sure Inco is glad to have a representative here in the House, that they are entitled to a ten-year tax holiday. Mr. Speaker, there is no scenario, none, under which there is going to be a ten-year tax holiday for Voisey's Bay Nickel and the Leader of the Opposition, if he wants to serve the public interest versus the private interest of Inco, should quit suggesting that there is any basis for a ten-year holiday because I will tell you, if Inco suggests to this government that there must be a ten-year tax holiday then I am going to suggest to Inco there will be no development!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have great concern, Mr. Speaker, when the Premier of the Province does not understand the legislation of the Province. That gives me reason, and the people in this Province, to worry. Last year the government was blindly defending Inco's statements that a local copper smelter was not viable. The former minister, the current and the Premier have been defending Inco. Now our Caucus said viable copper smelters are operating and smaller ones elsewhere in the world. So why can't it happen here in Newfoundland and Labrador with less local copper available? So this year I am glad the Premier took our advice after a few months and much public discussion -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary.

MR. SULLIVAN: - and Hatch Associates were commissioned to report and the Premier has promised that it will be tabled. I ask the Premier, has he received a report from Hatch Associates and if so, will he now table it?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is making the harsh attack on me that I was blindly defending something or other. Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear in this House that when it comes to the blind leading the blind I defer to the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

My questions this morning are for the new Minister of Development and Rural Renewal, who is responsible for that particular department. I have a couple of questions for him.

The first one, I guess, is: We hear so much debate in the media with the referendum in the last several months at least, a lot of people of rural Newfoundland have a lot of other things on their mind, as a lot of these speakers alluded to yesterday. Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the new minister and we will have a lot of questions for the new minister.

The Department of Development and Rural Renewal, I assume, stands for renewal of rural Newfoundland. The first step, of course, was the strategic plans and the setting up of zones and so on. My first question to the minister is: Could you update the House and the people of the Province as to the status of the strategic plans and economic zones and so forth and so on? Are they in place? Are we ready to roll on rural Newfoundland?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, that is a great question and, as the new Minister of Development and Rural Renewal, I thank the hon. gentleman for it.

I have to say to him, if we were to cover all of the activity that the government has undertaken in rural development in the last six to eight weeks, and indeed over the last two-and-a-half years, Question Period is not long enough; the constitutional debate would have to go on some other day. But let me say to him that the strategic economic plans of most of the zone boards are coming very well, as a matter of fact. We have recently met with three of them, and I would remind him that there is a very important role being played here by the Rural Revitalization Committee, which is made up of the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, the Minister of Government Services and Lands, the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Human Resources and Employment, the Minister of Education, and the Minister of Forestry and Agrifoods.

I will tell the hon. gentleman that what we are doing is meeting with all of those zone boards and zeroing in on their plans. I have to tell him that there are some very good plans. We have already met with several, and we already have schedules put in place so that we can go out and meet with those people where they are and help them develop their plans being put forward over the last year-and-a-half, and the plans that have been developed under the very able leadership of the former minister, who is now the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

I want to assure him that it is working very well, and that we will probably even engage some members of the Opposition.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, I tell the minister it would be a wise move to do that.

First of all, I salute a lot of people on those boards. I know a lot of them.

In my district I know on the Emerald Zone there are some good people there doing some good work. I've no problems with that. We all know that a good plan is not worth the paper it is written on unless it is executed. That is the whole thing.

Some people talk about doom and gloom, but I will just quote from Mr. Hanson, the chairman of the National Task Force on Ocean Research, who was at the Summit of the Sea just recently and spoke. He said: The reality, unless there is some ecological surprises, some communities won't survive. That is the only sentence I have to read from that document, because simply put, the people in rural Newfoundland are looking for something, some kind of hope. Because as we all talk in here in this House of Assembly -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SHELLEY: - talk about plans and so on, Mr. Speaker, I want to know how the minister responds to those kinds of comments that communities in this Province won't survive, and what is the hope for those people?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me just say to the hon. gentleman that one thing we won't do is grow cucumbers for the survival of rural Newfoundland.

But let just me say to him in a little more honest fashion that we recognize that the people of Newfoundland are indeed looking for some hope, the people of rural Newfoundland. That is the reason we are out meeting with them in their community halls and their town councils and their zonal board meetings. That is the reason that we will work with them to develop whatever economic plans they have on the ground.

I have to say to the hon. member that we aren't interested though in standing up and blowing off for the sake of the media. We want to get right down on the ground, work with the people as we did, as the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and myself did, and the Minister of Environment and Labour did last week, with the people of Ramea, Arnold's Cove, Red Bay, St. Anthony, Roddickton and so on and so forth, all around the Province. We will be working on the ground with those people hoping to develop their plans. I say to the hon. gentleman that if there is not too much fuss we may even take the advice of the hon. gentleman. I'm sure we will. If it is good advice. But it is unlikely to be good advice.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, after travelling around to some thirty-three communities in my district this summer, every single one of them, I can tell the minister here today that I'm not worried about blowing off to the media. Because I have been face to face with people this summer who are desperate. I will tell the minister, in rural Newfoundland I believe there is a ticking time bomb of people who are desperate and see families move out day after day.

There is one question I was asked by those people to ask the minister in this House on rural renewal, whoever that minister would be. It is one simple question. What jobs will be created by this rural renewal this year to show people that there is something concrete and factual that is going to be laid in front of those people so they have some kind of idea? Instead of meetings and strategic plans and so on, something solid that is going to show people that there is hope for them in rural Newfoundland.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I don't know where the hon. gentleman has been. Again I say to him yes. I don't know where the hon. gentleman has been, what mound of sand he has been hiding under, had his head stuck in. I don't know where he has been because the truth of the matter is that this year in Marystown for example, for the first time in its history, the shipyard down there is operating in the black, has some 800 people employed. The fish plant in Marystown has some 600 people employed; the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture has seen St. Lawrence get underway with some 300 jobs; we just got into Ramea to help open that up; the people in Arnold's Cove have been helped and are being helped by the government to create some other jobs. We spent, I think it was twelve to fifteen million dollars in silviculture work which put some 1,500 more people back to work and so on and so on the list goes.

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the hon. gentleman has been. Sure, we know that there is a great deal more to be done but I have to say to the hon. gentleman that we are not going to hide our head in the sand, we are not going to preach doom and gloom but we are going to hold out the hope that those people in rural Newfoundland are looking for.

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, a couple of days ago we saw the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Mr. Anderson visit this Province and mystified Newfoundlanders by being coy about opening a food fishery here. First, he indicated that he would be making a decision later in the day, then it was tomorrow, now it is next week.

Minister, you and I know that a food fishery is certainly needed and justified in this Province. Last year we had a food fishery; Newfoundlanders played by the rules and were responsible. I say to the provincial Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture who is responsible for fishery in this Province that, he must certainly know if there is going to be a food fishery this year or not, and I ask him if he would now stand and let the people of this Province know if they are going to be allowed to go out and catch fish, catch cod, catch a fish for this winter and have them be responsible, act responsibly as they did last year, Mr. Speaker, and I ask the minister if he would also go to his federal counterpart and instead of having people begging every year of the provincial and federal ministers, to have them announce dates when this fishery can take place on an annual basis?

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The first point, Mr. Speaker, is being responsible. My job as Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is to be responsible. I will in no way commit to a food fishery or to any other fishery unless I am totally satisfied that the stocks can sustain a food fishery or sustain a commercial fishery in any part of this Province, and to go out there on a re-action from members opposite who just want to do it for political reasons and not from the best information that science has given, I will not put myself in that position nor would I be a part or play a role in putting the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for Canada in that position.

We know, Mr. Speaker, that if we are going to have a fishery of the future, we have to take all of the advice that is being given to us by scientists; we have to make a decision for the long term and not to play politics with people's lives for the short term.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, the comments that came out from the Summit of the Sea yesterday were certainly different with the minister standing here today and saying he is responsible because those people are saying that he is irresponsible, Mr. Speaker, in going out and destroying the crab fishery in this Province.

Minister, last year the food fishery was delayed until late October. Since Newfoundland fall weather as you know is usually very stormy and unpredictable, last year we almost had a calamity when this particular fishery was taking place. Minister, there is no doubt that the bay stocks, the cod stocks can support a food fishery. Every other province in this country can go out and catch ten fish a day from the 1st of June until the month of November; this is the only province in Canada that is not allowed to take part in this particular fishery.

I ask the minister today, if he would stand and support this particular industry and allow the hard-working, dedicated people in this Province an opportunity to catch a cod for the winter?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to some of the comments made by the member's former political cousin about the area of responsibility of this Minister of Fisheries yesterday at the Summit of the Sea. My first reaction, Mr. Speaker, we use an analogy that we use out around the bay, Port de Grave, the pot calling the kettle black. Let me give you a couple of examples, is that the same man who doubled the quota against the advice of science? Is that the same man who issued a 10,000 quota to the town of Trepassey, his district, when FPI would not accept it? Is that the type of responsibility that we listened to yesterday, about this minister, who said that we err too much on the side of conservation and not enough on developing under-utilized species? I am responsible, Mr. Speaker, and I can hold my head high any day with the former Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the hon. John Crosbie.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister, when the federal minister visited the Province a couple of days ago he indicated that himself, Minister Mifflin, Minister Pettigrew were looking at ways of coming up with a new program to try to remove fishers and fish plant workers out of the industry. They talked about a new program to extend after the TAGS program is finished. I ask the minister if he has been a part of this discussion and if he has, what has been his proposals? I say to the minister when he goes on with the dialogue of what the former minister did, that he has not been a heck of a lot different in granting extra licences, Mr. Speaker, doubling the capacity in the crab fishing industry.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: I say to the minister, take off your pyjamas and get back to work.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I do have my pyjamas off. It is just unfortunate that the hon. member has not been awake to see it, that's the problem.

Mr. Speaker, the former minister, his former friend in Ottawa, some of the distinctions that were been made there, I would not like to be a part of any decision that he made. Remember when he transferred the quota out of Burgeo to Nova Scotia? Remember that? That is the type of responsibility - it is too bad, Mr. Speaker, he was not as good a fisheries minister as he is a lawyer today, then we would not be in the mess that we are in in this Province. What are we going to do? What are we going to do when the TAGS program comes to an end next year? We have to work with the federal people in Ottawa to design a program that is going to benefit the people who have been displaced because of the closure of the fishery for the long term, to get them back into the workforce, whether it is into fisheries, in other developments of under-utilized species or some other form of work, we will put the proper plans in place to benefit the people in the long term, working with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Did we have discussions with them this week? Yes, we did have discussions. Have there been decisions made? We are not going to jump and rush at decisions just because the members opposite want to gain some political points. We will do it with the best interest of the people who are going to be displaced, not only the people that are coming off next year but the people who are now being displaced because the TAGS program is being terminated.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions this morning are for the Minister of Health. Minister, the Auditor General has examined the corporation and claims that numerous purchases were made which were exempt from the Public Tender Act and actually there was no available information that the Auditor General could find. She found that some of these items were things such as a photocopier, pens, watches and clocks. In fact, the case of the photocopier, even the governments own purchasing agency disagreed with that particular source. What is the minister going to do to ensure that the corporation learns some respect for the public tendering process that creates a level playing field for suppliers and eliminates government favouritism?

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

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

As my hon. colleague knows, there are a number of reasons why the Public Tender Act would not be used, particularly in health care and in many cases it is used when there are single suppliers or when there are emergency needs. As was noted yesterday, this report will be going to public hearings, particularly from my perspective, Mr. Speaker, I am much more interested in the running of health in the Province, not in the photocopiers and the number of paper clips that are used within the system.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Might I tell the minister that the Auditor General also found breaches of the Public Tendering Act involving change orders, where the cost of contracts rose by more than ten per cent or $15,000 from regional bids. One $340,000 contract had thirty change orders totalling $120,000. Another $135,000 contract had seven change orders, totalling $50,000, I say to the minister. What is the minister going to do differently in light of the Auditor General's report to ensure that the scarce public health dollars are spent properly and are certainly accountable?

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

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

I guess to quote the CEO of our health care corporation, `our health system is certainly a very fluid one, it changes in a predictable way', but I can reassure my hon. colleague that he can rest assured because now working more so in control of the project is my colleague the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, who will be overseeing the project and I am sure with that type of confidence you can rest assure that this project will be in good hands, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is certainly a very comforting relief.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General also found there are no formal procedures in place to approve minor contract overruns or extensions. So, I would like to say to the minister, the overruns do not even need the approval of senior officials, the president and CEO or the board of trustees. One overrun on a $61,000 contract was $75,000. One hundred and twenty per cent more then the original bid.

When is the minister going to step in, do her job to make sure that the Health Care Corporation is administering the peoples money and certainly administering it properly?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a delight to be one on one with the hon. member, he is considerable competition, but I am sure that we will do battle in a fair and equitable manner and have a positive outcome for this side of the House.

The Public Tendering Act does have applicability to activities of government in certain situations. It has applicability to Crown corporations. There are areas where the Public Tendering Act does not apply. One type of exemption I could cite readily to him this morning was in a situation early in July when the wharf burnt down in St. Barbe and we had to act immediately.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: It was a situation by way of illustration where we had to spend $175,000 - $200,000 on an emergency basis to put in place a situation so that we could continue to operate the ferry between Labrador and Newfoundland. That is just an example; there are numerous other examples where the Public Tendering Act does not apply. If at any point in time government or any of its agents or agencies violates the Public Tendering Act then these matters will be dealt with in an appropriate fashion. I see and I am not aware of any of those situations at the moment with respect to the Health Care Corporation, but I will undertake as is appropriate to have my officials look at the report that has been tabled by the Auditor General vis--vis the Health Care Corporation and if there are areas where exemptions were not appropriately applied then of course that matter will be dealt with in due course. There is no evidence of that that I am aware of at the moment.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has elapsed.

 

Petitions

 

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present another petition very similar - in fact the same prayer as the petition that was presented yesterday.

AN HON. MEMBER: The same one?

MR. FITZGERALD: No, I say to the minister, it is not the same one. It is another petition, but concerning the same issue, I say to the minister, and it is a great concern.

Yesterday there was a petition presented with just about 1,000 names on it, and I have another one here today with in excess of 200 names, and those petitions are continuing to be circulated and put forward in not only my district but in the District of Terra Nova, the District of Trinity North as well. In fact, there are some names here from as far away as Bellevue.

AN HON. MEMBER: How come you are the only one presenting them?

MR. FITZGERALD: They showed up at my desk and that is why I am presenting them here today.

It is concerning the fear of the removal of the railway trusses and bridges on the Bonavista branch. There is a list of something like seventeen bridges to be removed on the Bonavista branch, and there are four or five on, I think, the Carbonear branch and the branch going down to Argentia.

Those people who use this track bed on a continual basis have been writing letters to the minister - and the minister is well aware of what I am talking about - and expressing their fears that now, with those bridges being removed, they will not be allowed access to the interior of the country in that particular area where they normally go to get firewood, to pick berries, and just to go for recreational purposes. It is not uncommon to go and see a lot of people, especially closer to some of the communities, out skiing in the wintertime, hiking in the summertime, and riding their ATVs and ski-doos in the wintertime as well. It is one of the very few places where they can go and take part in such activity in safety.

If those bridges are removed, then they fear that this is going to be a trail that is now widely used, and an opportunity and a sport that is going to be taken away from them; and once they are gone, they are gone forever.

I spoke to the minister privately about it in the House yesterday, and I know that he is having some second thoughts on it. He has already extended the deadline for submissions by a month, and I think that is still pretty flexible. The minister, being a good minister - and I have to say that because he is probably one of the most reasonable ministers on the other side - he is a minister who exercises common sense, and I hope that he will use the same judgement when he looks at the final analysis of what this particular decision might mean to the people in our area.

Those people who go there and use this particular railroad track with their ATVs and their ski-doos are also big contributors to the economy, Mr. Speaker. They go out and buy gas, they buy ski-doos, they buy all-terrain vehicles. They go out and maintain them and repair them. It keeps people employed and, goodness knows, we cannot afford to have any more people laid off in rural Newfoundland.

Being able to go and get firewood has been a big saving to people in the area, when you look at how their pay cheques have diminished, and how the opportunities have been taken away from them this past number of years.

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to put this petition forward and to plead with the minister once again to go out, extend the deadline, go out over the winter months and meet with people concerned. I don't think he is going to have many proposals come by in letter form within a few days, because you are talking about a fair size undertaking. Do an estimate of what it will cost to destruct those bridges. Do an estimate of what it would cost to remove them. Go out and see if he can enter into a partnership with some other organizations and some other groups, whether it be rural development associations, town councils, recreational associations or whatever, and I think he will find that if he gave people an opportunity to come forward and offer suggestions and proposals, there are people out there, and there are associations out there, that would like to take responsibility of some of those bridges.

If the government would put forward the few dollars that they would spend in removing the bridges, we may have another access that is going to be able to be accessed and used for another twenty or twenty-five years.

This is all they are asking for. Once those bridges are removed they are removed forever, and what you will find is you will still have people trying to use the railroad bed, but when they come to a bridge that has been removed, or a trestle that has been removed, then they are going to exit across private property or onto a roadway, or across a fast-moving river.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me the opportunity. I ask the minister to pay particular attention to those petitions that have been presented here the last two days.

 

Orders of the Day

 

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

MR. TULK: Motion No. 1, Mr. Speaker. I believe the debate was adjourned by the Member for Bonavista South.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I adjourned debate yesterday. I don't have too much more to say on the particular topic of school reform. I'm certainly happy to see that everybody in this House is coming together as one to speak out and support this particular resolution. They are responding to, I suppose, the democratic process when you saw 78 per cent of the people coming out and - well, 78 per cent in my district. I don't know what it was across the Province, but I know it was very high, come out and support their wishes and desires.

The one thing I would like to echo again, before I conclude, is the need to put savings back into education to allow people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador the same opportunity to go and receive an education as the people in urban areas. When you get letters from students in your district saying - and I remember one particular letter that only came a few months ago, whereby a school in my district was doing away with the French program. This one student took the time to write and say: I've been studying French since grade IV. I've maintained a 95-plus average in the French program in every grade and every subject I've taken up through. This year I'm going to be denied the opportunity of studying French in Grade XII, in Level III.

That kind of stuff makes you wonder if we are going out and we are challenging our students to the extent that we should. When you see people want to go and take advanced math and not be allowed that opportunity, because some of the teaching units have been taken away, but continually being put forward the basic education courses that challenge very few of our students, then I don't see how we are getting out the top end what we should be getting.

Going back to savings in education, going back to monies that are being saved in the system, I plead with the Minister of Education and the Premier to seriously look at the school busing issue. To seriously look at why we today in this Province leave and go to Quebec and Ontario to buy buses that are deemed unfit for their particular education system, and bring them down here and load sixty-nine and seventy students on and use them for another four, five, and six years until they reach fourteen years old.

That is disgraceful. If it is unsafe in Ontario, it is unsafe here in Newfoundland. There is no reason whatsoever that we should be subjecting our students to that kind of an act. When you look at schools closing and you look at the combination of schools, and when we do that that we are transporting children for longer distances, and it isn't uncommon. In fact, I suppose, in most areas of the Trans-Canada it isn't uncommon to meet school buses going to and from. Some of those school buses maintain the speed that is supposed to be maintained on the highways. They are full of schoolchildren. I would suggest, as I said here yesterday, that there isn't one person here in this House of Assembly who would put their children every day into a private vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway in a vehicle that is fourteen years old.

That is one area that should be particularly addressed. I think one way of addressing it is to extend the contract years for bus operators. That may give them an opportunity to be able to buy better equipment, Mr. Speaker.

I know that they have a contract and they have employment that will allow them to make a living and pay for their investment as well. That is one of the biggest safety things that I see in this Province today as far as transporting children.

We are trying to improve our highways. I realize it is a costly venture. In my particular district as well the highways still need a lot of improvement. There was some improvement made last year, and I compliment the minister and the government for doing that on ten kilometres leading from Plate Cove to King's Cove, absolutely the worst area probably in our Province, I say to the minister who is well aware of it because he is very familiar with that particular area of Newfoundland and my district. That has been a tremendous improvement and we should continue to do that.

There is another area now from Birchy Cove, Newmans Cove, down to Bonavista where students are transported on a regular basis; that needs to be upgraded and redone as well. So as we close schools and as we expect our students to travel greater distances, then for God's sake let us give them something decent to travel over and something decent in which to travel.

I will be standing in my place and supporting this resolution, Mr. Speaker. Hopefully everybody here will do the same, and I have no doubt that they will.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Windsor - Springdale.

MR. FLIGHT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this is an historic debate. I have taken part in practically every debate that has been held in this House for the last twenty years, and the one that got the most attention and people thought was the most historic and would mean the most in the long run was the Meech Lake debate, and everybody will remember that.

I believe that, as important as Meech Lake was, the outcome, had Meech Lake gone and it happened, had the Meech Lake Accord become part of our way of life, it would not have had the effect on our social structures as the result of this debate we are having today is going to have on the social structures of Newfoundland.

It is ironic, Mr. Speaker. One of the debates I missed was in 1987. I had taken a sabbatical in order for the Leader of the Opposition, the then Leader of the Opposition, later the Premier, to serve as Premier of Newfoundland. A debate took place then that I missed, and the essence of that debate was to talk about enshrining rights into the constitution - Pentecostal rights as a matter of fact. Mr. Smallwood had given them the rights prior to sometime in the sixties, but they were not enshrined, as everyone here will know, until 1987. It is ironic that ten years later we are into the same debate but with a different purpose.

Mr. Speaker, ever since I have entered politics, going back into the seventies and eighties, time will not permit me to tell you the unfairness and injustices that I witnessed as a result of our education system in this Province. Ever since I entered politics, I recognized the need for major, major reform. I recognized the need to stop building schools where the existing schools could accommodate the student body. I recognized needs to close schools that were no longer viable as a result of declining enrolment. I recognized the need to stop the empire building that was going on in the school boards and the various agencies that were charged with running education in this Province, agencies outside of this government or any government. I recognized the needs to rationalize school busing, to stop three buses going down the road by three different interests - Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, and the Integrated group. Each bus was one-third full.

The difference between my views, the views that I held, and the views that have prevailed, was that I believe that the reforms that I just referred to and talked about could have been accomplished by negotiation. I believe that the reforms that we and the people required - there would have been compromise, but - could have, in the end, been accomplished by negotiation.

By the time that this referendum was called, the school boards had been reduced from twenty-seven to ten. School busing routes were being rationalized. Sixty schools had either been closed or designated multi-denominational. Not bad movement in a system to change from that, something that had occurred in this Province, or existed for 100 years.

I believe that even after Judge Barry's ruling most, not all, but most of the designations, most of the changes, most of the reforms that had been accomplished would have stuck and the rest could have been accomplished relative to what we have seen over the last 100 years, a very relatively short time.

I believe the speeding of the process by way of another referendum would not be worth the damage, the risk, to our social structures, would not be worth the division that would be caused. I believe what we would have gained, that was my view, that what we would gain by a referendum would not be worth the division that would be caused by a debate, that in effect a debate that would be based on religion.

But Mr. Speaker, that is behind us now and the people will decide whether or not there was any basis for my concerns. There will be, as has been referred to in this House, there will be reconciliation. There will be healing and I will help in that process. One of my biggest concerns with this process in the past five years and I said it to Cabinet for three and a half years while this process was being debated, was that we would go to the constitution. That we would go to the constitution, amend the constitution to in effect remove minority rights.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there has been a great debate in the past months in this Province whether or not the church is concerned, the Pentecostal and Catholics were indeed minorities and I have heard very responsible people, very learned people to argue that they were not in a sense minority. Well, Mr. Speaker, I support the case be made that the Catholic faith in this Province today, thirty-seven per cent of the population is nothing if not a major minority. I know that the Salvation Army, for example, or United would be more of a minority than the Catholics, but taken as a whole they are a minority when taken as a whole against the rest of the population. But Mr. Speaker, no one can argue, there is no basis to argue, no credibility can be retained, if one attempts to suggest that the Pentecostal in this Province is not minority, eight per cent of the population, Mr. Speaker, that is a minority and as I said I have seen arguments over the past while to try somehow or other to convince themselves or to convince others that they were not a minority.

So, Mr. Speaker, I was and I am and I always will be opposed to removing minority rights from a constitution. I also believe and I want to make this clear because I am speaking for myself, I am not pretending to represent even the views of my constituents, I am not speaking on behalf of anyone in this Province other then expressing my own views on this particular issue, Mr. Speaker.

I believe in the parents rights to choose the type of religious education for their children. I believe that if a parent so chooses their children should receive religious instructions in their faith according to their own doctrine and I do not believe that parents should have to accept the generic religion instruction that may be relevant or may not be relevant to any particular faith.

Mr. Speaker, there are lots of things happening in this Province and in this Country today that I am sure that if they had been tested in court would be found to be unconstitutional. There are many things happening that are not even referred to or no protection is provided for in the Constitution and it is my prayer that even with this and the prayer of a great many other people and I suggest to you that a lot of people voted on referendum day and a lot of people who did not vote believes that when the time comes even in view of this clause, the amendment, that where the circumstances exist it will be possible to exercise or to enjoy religious instruction according to their own faith, where the circumstances permit, and where no others are offended, and where no other rights are infringed on.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, if anybody was watching last night the CBC panel where they were discussing the Constitution, and this, one of the panellists suggested that in effect that would indeed be permitted, and that might indeed happen. I believe that with people of goodwill, and again, an incident where schools or the right numbers or circumstances permit, I believe and I hope that that will be possible, even in light of this particular amendment.

I don't intend to go on much longer. I do want to put something on the record of this House as it relates to my own district, as it relates to the Pentecostals in the town of Windsor. For those who don't know, Windsor has the biggest Pentecostal congregation east of Montreal. If ever there was a school in Newfoundland where the numbers warranted and the parents so indicated, if ever there was a case for the survival of a Pentecostal school, it was Windsor.

I remember very well in 1993 I got a call. I was sitting in Cabinet. I was Minister of Forestry and Agriculture. The reform debate was at its height. We were debating the reform. The Pentecostal parents of Windsor had indicated many times that they would want to build a new school. They were bursting at the seams in the Windsor elementary Pentecostal school. Because of the debate in the reform they were wondering what to do. I got a call as their member and was asked to come to Windsor to meet with the local education committee, and the request was simple. Would I use my influence, would I use my presence, to talk to the government of the day, to see whether or not they could build their school, or whether or not the government would provide the funding to build that school?

Because don't forget, the Pentecostal assemblies in Windsor, not the Pentecostal adherents all over Newfoundland, the people in Windsor, the roughly somewhere between 800 and 1,000 people, were committing $1.5 million to the capital construction of that school out of their own pockets. It wasn't the Pentecostal assemblies all over Newfoundland. It was the Pentecostal Assembly in the town of Windsor, $1.5 million that they were prepared to stand behind, a mortgage. Their request to me was to come to the Minister of Education, to the premier of the day, and the government, and see if government would go along with their building the school.

It took about two or three days. Mr. Batstone, then the educational representative for the Pentecostals, and members of the Windsor education committee, were called and told to proceed with their school, and here is your $1.5 million; in 1993, right in the midst of the education reform debate. Because the reason provided, and justification which was proper and right, was that the reform that the government was envisioning, where the numbers warranted, and where parents so indicated, the school would continue to exist. Windsor was told to go ahead, and they did. They built the school, a beautiful church-school complex, with roughly $1.5 million from the Government of Newfoundland, and $1.5 million committed and backed up and stood behind by the Pentecostal adherents in the town of Windsor.

The reason I want this read into the record today is that I know that when this reform process is finished and this is put to bed as it will be shortly, the people of Windsor, and that Assembly, are going to come to the government and say: Since you have taken our school and since you have designated it now as a public school, we have lost it, it is not our school any more, you have to assume one way or the other, the school board on behalf of the government, government must assume that $1.5 million. There is no way in my opinion in the world that that debt can be left on the backs of the Pentecostal adherents in the town of Windsor.

I read that into the record so that it will be there to strengthen the case when the case will be made.

Mr. Speaker, I have no reason to believe that the government will not accept that responsibility. I suspect they will, but what I am saying is, that I know there is a great concern in the Town of Windsor today as a result of that decision.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FLIGHT: The hon. gentleman says it is in the act. Well, maybe it is in the act, Mr. Speaker, and I hope it is in the act but I do know this, that there have been some very grave concerns expressed to me on behalf of the leadership of the Pentecostal Church in Windsor.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that we have now to move on. The people of Newfoundland have spoken in a very decisive manner, 73 per cent of the people who voted, voted for this reform. Mr. Speaker, I believe, as the Premier indicated and as other speakers indicated, that we have to start the healing process, we have to seek reconciliation, but the important thing, Mr. Speaker, is that we get behind real education reform; education reform in the classroom, academic education. That is what the parents of Newfoundland will be looking for, Mr. Speaker, and as I might refer, Mr. Speaker, to my concern about the Constitution and the dealing with minority rights in the Constitution, I have to acknowledge and I have to say, Mr. Speaker, the 73 per cent of the people voting in this referendum, voted to amend the Constitution, to accomplish the proposed education reform that this government is proposing and, Mr. Speaker, I respect that decision.

Mr. Speaker, this will come as no surprise, I voted no in the referendum. I chose not to campaign in the referendum, one way or the other, I chose not to try to influence voters in the referendum one way or the other, but I have to tell you that, frankly I expected my district, given the makeup of the district, given the result of the last referendum, I expected my district to vote no, but they did not, Mr. Speaker. My district voted a very decisive yes, not as overwhelming as some of the districts represented in this House of Assembly but yes, and yes in a decisive way, and, Mr. Speaker, I intend, regardless of what I feel one way or the other, to respect that decision; I intend to reflect that vote in this House of Assembly today. I intend to vote the way my constituents indicated that I should vote. I will support the resolution.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker. I would like to make a few brief comments on this extremely important issue.

The importance of this issue was reinforced on almost every doorstep as I campaigned in the by-election in St. John's West just a few short months ago. The people constantly shared with me their frustration over the chaos in the education system; a chaos created two years ago by a referendum proposing an amendment to Term 17, an amendment worded in such a manner that it could only lead to chaos.

As I went about the district, it was evident that the people whether they voted yes, or whether they voted no in referendum one, did not get what they wanted. The feeling of frustration lead to a ground swell where the attitude of the people not only in St. John's West but throughout this Province was one of: Let us get this over with now, and I have to admit, Mr. Speaker, that, on more than one occasion I wondered whether referendum I was just a set up in this process destined to lead us to where we are today, to a secular education system in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In any case, from a political perspective, the timing was `spot on' for referendum II, and as I stated a few moments ago, Mr. Speaker, the residents of my district told me unequivocally they wanted reform. Their idea of reform was one of neighbourhood schools where children of all faiths could attend. There was one word however, that permeated any discussion on the issue and that word was interdenominational.

There was one person in my district who said secular. The rest of the people wanted interdenominational schools. It is too bad their wishes were not accommodated in referendum two. I am sure the results on September 2 would have been the same, if not a higher percentage of yes.

On behalf of the constituents of St. John's West I too will vote yes. They have given an overwhelming 75 per cent vote in favour of bringing the present chaos to a satisfactory resolution. I sincerely trust that reform will give the people of my district and of our Province an education system they deserve. We will be watching.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I want to say first of all that I certainly appreciate the views that have been expressed by all members of this House on this issue over the last numbers of years. I was here and participated in the debate in October 1995, and I said at that time I feared the proposed changes didn't go far enough, that we should have gone further then. That was my personal opinion. It was based upon my many years of involvement in the educational system. I respect the roles that churches have played in the development of Newfoundland's educational system. I respect the opinions of those who differ from mine.

But certainly this House knows, and the people of this Province know, that we have now a very clear, decisive, new Term 17 proposed. I do believe that one of the reasons why the people of this Province responded the way they did in last Tuesday's referendum was because it was straightforward. It asked a direct question, and people said yes to that question.

All of us here want to create an environment for our children that maximizes their educational potential. We want to make sure that every child receives the best education possible. That is the goal of parents, that is the goal of every community, that is the goal of every legislator in this House. What we have now when the new Term 17 is adopted is an empowerment of parents. It is saying to parents: We want to see, organized at the school base level, good school councils, where school councils have some real voice in governance. I'm not advocating charter schools, but it is something that we should consider in terms of concept. There are some merits in charter schools.

I would say to the Minister of Education that he has a responsibility now to facilitate the solid development of school councils, and to say to school boards that we in this Province as legislators will, when this term is adopted, take unto ourselves the management of educational facilities in this Province. We will, through legislation, be able to say to school boards: Here are the powers you have been designated. School boards will be totally elected in a democratic fashion.

That I do believe can and will be accomplished in an atmosphere that will protect the kind of values that we have. We heard the Premier say yesterday that he wants to engage and be a leader in the process of reconciliation. I listened a few days ago to comments being made from various parts of the Province. I refer particularly to comments made from the people in Port aux Basques.

When the people in Port aux Basques were reflecting on this Term 17 that particular community had experience in working cooperatively for a long time. It is not without notice on my part that the areas where there was a strong history of working together voted overwhelming for the adoption of this proposal we have in this resolution before the House today. Mr. Speaker, we want to make sure that when we go forward that there is tolerance. Every school principal in this Province has a responsibility to make sure that there is an atmosphere created in his or her school that recognizes the diversity of the school population that will be attending that school.

Mr. Speaker, I was teaching in this Province in 1968-'69 when the integrated system was adopted. I remember particularly in the first year there were some bruised feelings and the current Minister of Justice was involved in the school system at that time as well. There were bruised feelings. There were people in the particular denominations who said we are not happy about this and there had to be a deliberate effort made to come together in unity. So I say to all members in this House, let's concentrate on those things which unite us together and let's understand those people today in this Province who did not vote as I voted. We all have a responsibility to do that in every one of our communities. We, as legislators, have the responsibility to show that kind of leadership because if they don't see it from us than I can tell you it won't happen at the community level or school board level either.

So, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that after several years of working together in 1968-'69 and several years after we had some experience at it, I never heard any commentary any more and we welcomed into our schools the various clergy. We said to the various clergy representing the Salvation Army, United Church, Presbyterian and the Anglican, we said you are welcome to come in. You are part of our team and that is what has to happen now if this system is going to work in a non-frictional manner. So, Mr. Speaker, I say to hon. members that we now have to turn the page and look at the new initiatives we have to talk about. We now have to go and talk about the real challenges that are out there. The new kindergarten program, we need to talk about introducing that. People have high expectations because even though the vote of 73 per cent was achieved for reform on Tuesday, we know that people's expectations are very high now. They are saying that the governance issues are now going to be resolved. So now they will want to come back to the real classroom issues. They want to come back to the issues that talk about pre-school programs and maybe it is about time that the Department of Education took some responsibility for pre-school education, getting into some kind of a program that acknowledges the Department of Education's responsibility before the child enters Kindergarten.

So, Mr. Speaker, we want to deal with those difficulties. We want to talk about class size. We want to talk about rural Newfoundland. We want to look at the special matters that have been raised in Patricia Canning's report. My colleague from Port au Port and I went across this Province and spent about eighteen months talking to parents, teachers and social workers and then we were joined later on by my colleague from Burin - Placentia West. We know that we had a lot of people who raised a lot of issues, so we now have to go back and start to improve the system. We will not be able to use the governance issues as rationales for lack of action any more.

Mr. Speaker, we also have to talk about child poverty. The other day, Dr. Mary Power had an article in the paper and she basically said that one of the troubles you have is you have `have-not children' in `have-not communities', who were born to `have-not parents' who are obliged to send their children to `have-not' schools. That says a lot. Dr. Mary Power is a former administrator with the Roman Catholic School Board in this region. Her voice is certainly very important, and it says a lot about her experience.

Mr. Speaker, as long as the schools are filled with hungry children, as long as we have such a high rate of unemployment in our parent population, as long as all of these factors continue to exist, I am afraid that with changes in governance it will be a long time before they can really have any serious implications for improvement at the child and the classroom level.

Mr. Speaker, I obviously will be standing here today to support this resolution. Someone said it is probably one of the most important debates in this Legislature in the last thirty or forty years. I do believe it is a very important debate. It is something I have been advocating for a long time. I taught in the Salvation Army school system. I taught for two years. I taught in the Amalgamated School Board system in the Mount Pearl area from 1965-'68, and after that I taught in the integrated system. Mr. Speaker, my experience tells me that the time for this kind of change is now - that is what the people of the Province have said - but in giving the mandate to the government to initiate those changes they are also putting up their concerns and saying: Now, get on with the job of making the changes that we need for our children, and let's make a better education so we can go forward. As the Report on Mathematics said a few years ago: Let's go forward toward an achieving society.

Mr. Speaker, I want to again say that when the vote is called in a few moments I will be voting in the affirmative and am very proud to do so.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, if I could, the Premier is outside doing a scrum with the media. If we could perhaps just delay for a minute for him to close the debate, all in the spirit of (inaudible). Is that acceptable? If we could just stand down for three or four minutes until he is finished outside, and then he will close the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The House will recess for a few minutes.

 

Recess

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

We have come to the end of a historic process of change in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, a historic moment of decision in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Every one of us here today I think is mindful that the vote we are about to take, and the consequences of that vote, will perhaps signal, I know we all believe, for this Province some of the most positive and constructive change in the social structure, the educational structure, of our Province's education system.

I want to reflect for a moment, not back on the debate, but reflect for a moment on people. Because at the end of the day the success or failure of this mission - and I'm convinced it will be successful - will depend upon people, individuals. Not people with labels, not people who are Liberals or Progressive Conservatives or New Democrats or Independents, but individuals who understand that all of us in this place are temporary custodians. Every one of us has arrived here with a degree of excitement, a degree of commitment, about what we might be able to accomplish during our time in public life. I believe that all of us fundamentally are motivated by some desire to serve and to leave behind after we have served some way to measure progress for our society.

Yes, there is a degree of partisanship in all of us. As recently as an hour or so ago during Question Period you saw the partisan flare rise to the service, and you saw some of the cut-and-thrust of the Legislature. Behind all of that is a real awareness on the part of members that our time is temporary, and our job as parliamentarians is to serve well.

I want to pay tribute to some of the parliamentarians in this House in closing this debate. I want to pay tribute to the Leader of the Opposition. He and I have clashed frequently in this place, and I have no doubt will continue to clash frequently in this place. There are some days I don't feel like paying tribute to him. Even earlier today. But I do want to pay tribute to him now. Because this is - and the House in this sense reflects the community at large - not an easy debate. It is not an easy decision making process. The Leader of the Opposition made clear during the course of the referendum campaign that he would be voting no, and he stated clearly why he would be voting no. He and I won't agree on the reasons, but I do respect that he put his case in a straightforward and clear manner, and that he expressed himself through his vote in a way consistent with his beliefs.

That isn't easy to do, but that was the course followed by the Leader of the Opposition. The reason I want to pay tribute to the Leader of the Opposition today is that the Leader of the Opposition has come into the House and, in the course of this debate, has participated in a manner that reaches beyond his own personal preference as expressed during the referendum campaign, and in a manner that I think is designed to reach out to the community at large. That is to say that there has to be a recognition that through any decision making process, at some point the decision is made, and at some point all of us, notwithstanding a personal expression of preference, have an obligation to bring closure, to acknowledge a result, and to move forward.

I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition that I know this has not been an easy process for him. It hasn't been an easy process for me. But today I salute the role he has played as a member of this House in seeking to pull our people back together, seeking to contribute to the process of reconciliation, and I thank you, sir, on behalf of all the people of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I want to pay tribute to the Leader of the New Democratic Party.

Indeed, the Leader of the New Democratic Party and the Leader of the Opposition have both, on another occasion risen to a challenge, not a challenge issued from this corner but a challenge issued may I suggest from within themselves, to stand with me at another time, another place to try and see that the democratically expressed will of the people of the Province was respected in another Legislature, in the Parliament of Canada and in the Senate of Canada, and during the course of this campaign, the Leader of the New Democratic Party too, expressed his position clearly from day one, consistently followed a course, Mr. Speaker, one that I shared, one that reflected his own deeply held personal views and I think, Mr. Speaker, again in this debate has contributed, as has the Leader of the Conservative Party to the cause of seeking reconciliation.

Yesterday in his speech, he powerfully put forward a case to ask those notwithstanding their deep feelings who participated in the No campaign, to ask the question: What can be accomplished now by carrying on that campaign, and more importantly, what more in the context of the good of the people, can be accomplished by ending and by pulling this Province back together and I say to the Leader of the NDP, I express to you, sir, the appreciation I think of the people of this Province and of all members of this House for your conduct during this referendum campaign.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, if the House will permit, for many members this has been a difficult exercise, but I do want to acknowledge the remarks a moment ago of Mr. Graham Flight in this House and acknowledge his contribution, having expressed a personal view and deep-felt sense of loss of the rights in particular of the Pentecostal community in indicating his vote yes to this resolution. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank him and acknowledge the contribution he has made here today toward reconciliation at the end of this debate.

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge as well the wonderful speech, the great sense of humanity exhibited here yesterday in the wonderful words of Mr. Sparrow when he spoke in this debate. I congratulate you both and I thank you both for your contribution to the debate, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, any time there is this kind of an issue to be dealt with there is obviously a great deal of work that goes on beyond that which is seen in the commentary, in the press conferences, in the public debates, the cut and thrust and so on and there are many, many individuals whom perhaps I could make reference to but if the House will forgive me, I want to single out because we often forget to do so, not by design but more by accident as we are caught up in the rush of events, I want to single out the great contribution of the Deputy Minister of Education, Debbie Fry, and Miss Gale Welsh from the Department of Justice, both of whom have served above and beyond the call of duty in a very difficult file, and in so doing, of course you will allow me to end in part as I began by singling out the tremendous contribution of the Minister of Education during the course of events.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Now, Mr. Speaker, let me -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Senator.

PREMIER TOBIN: Well, one of these days he will make a great Senator.

Mr. Speaker, let me end the debate then in thanking you, Sir, for convening the Chamber and making one last appeal to those who, with all the conviction that they could bring to bear in this debate and from their own personal point of view, right reasons, one cannot question the sincerity of those who supported the No side, but let me make one last appeal to those who led that campaign, to reflect that even though this has been a difficult question, it has been a campaign that has been conducted with civility.

I spoke to Dr. Melvin Regular at the end of this campaign. I have not yet had a chance to speak with Dr. Bonaventure Fagan. I would appreciate the opportunity soon but there is no doubt in my mind that although the campaign was an energetic one, on both sides, there was a degree of civility present always during this campaign. I don't subscribe to the view, and I believe members here do not subscribe to the view, that this is a Province divided. It is a Province that has gone through a difficult exercise but we are not divided. This community is not divided on the basis of yes and no and this community is absolutely not divided today on the basis of religion. Mr. Speaker, that is true because we have had a civilized debate. That is true because we have been sensitive to each others point of view. That is true because we have expressed, during the course of this debate, that characteristic which is central to Newfoundland and Labrador and that is a fundamental sense of tolerance, accommodation and compassion for each other.

Mr. Speaker, let me close the debate by reaching out again on behalf of all of the members of the No campaign, the leadership of the No campaign and specifically, to the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Assemblies to find, in these hours after the referendum, the will to do, as this Legislature I believe is about to do, to recognize that the debate is over, to recognize that a decision has been made, to know that the fulfilment of that decision, that is the creation of a single new school system, can only truly reach its full potential if all of us are working together hand in hand to build the best education system that we can afford for all of our children.

Mr. Speaker, before we cast our votes in this place, let us say as members, all of us on every side, that the vote that we cast together unanimously is an acknowledgement of the will of the people but it is a call to all of our citizens to end the debate and to move forward working together. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Those against, `nay'.

The resolution is carried.

 

Division

 

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

CLERK: The hon. the Premier; the hon. the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal; the hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy; the hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General; the hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture; the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs; Mr. Flight; Mr. Walsh; the hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board; the hon. the Minister of Education; the hon. the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods; Mr. Lush; Mr. Penney; Mr. Oldford; the hon. the Minister of Health; Mr. Barrett; the hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment; the hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour; the hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation; the hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation; the hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands; Mr. Noel, Mr. Wiseman, Mr. Andersen, Mr. Canning, Mr. Smith, Mr. Ramsay, Mr. Whelan, Ms Hodder, Mr. Woodford, Mr. Mercer, Mr. Reid, Ms Thistle, Mr. Sparrow; the hon. the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Hodder, Mr. Shelley, Mr. Jack Byrne, Mr. Edward Byrne, Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Tom Osborne, Mr. Ottenheimer, Mr. French, Ms Sheila Osborne, Mr. Harris, Ms Jones.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CLERK: Mr. Speaker, there are forty-six `ayes'.

MR. SPEAKER: I declare the resolution carried unanimously.

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 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.