December 11, 1997          HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS         Vol. XLIII  No. 49


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin our proceedings today, the Chair would like to rule on a point raised by the hon. Member for Humber East, when on November 20th, he raised a point of order concerning remarks made by the hon. the Member for Conception Bay South, and I refer hon. members to Hansard, on page 1210 of November 20 and I quote: "The hon. gentleman opposite, in speaking to the construction of a personal care home in the Corner Brook area, has made reference to statements like, and I quote, "blatant, blatant, blatant patronage of $500,000" that was given to two individuals. Then he proceeds to name those individuals. I will not do that because that is, in essence, my point of order".

Then the hon. member later says: "Therefore, I ask that in accordance with Beauchesne, section 493 (4) that you, as Speaker, caution the member to exercise much greater care in making such statements about persons who are outside of the House and who are unable to reply on their own behalf."

The hon. member of course, is raising a point of order about a remark made in the House during the previous sitting and, as members know, point of orders should be raised promptly and I refer members to Beauchesne, 321" A point of order against procedure must be raised promptly and before the question has passed to a stage at which the objection would be out of place".

The point of order is, therefore, strictly speaking, too late. However, the Chair should perhaps take this opportunity to remind members that traditionally, members are immune from censure for what they say in the House of persons who are not members, except of course, for certain high office holders such as the Sovereign, Diplomats and Judges, and while there is no prohibition against discussing by name, those who are not members of the House, it is, as the hon. member states, desirable that members exercise restraint in making such statements in the interest of fairness, since such persons are not able to reply.

As well, I want to draw members' attention to precedence in this House regarding exhibits. In recent days the Chair has noticed a display of exhibits in the form of documents taped to the desk of the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis.

It has been ruled on a number of occasions that members are not permitted to display exhibits in the House. We have had rulings on such things as fish, vegetation, salad dressing, and crepe paper, draped over members' desks.

In the Chair's opinion, signs would also fall into that category and I would remind hon. members to refrain from placing such items on their desk or about their desk.

I refer hon. members to Beauchesne 501, in the 6th Edition, which says, "Speakers have consistently ruled that it is improper to produce exhibits of any sort in the Chamber."

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Twillingate and Fogo.

MR. G. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to inform the House of the passing of a well-known and well-respected Newfoundlander.

Captain Peter Troake passed peacefully away at the Notre Dame Bay Memorial Hospital in Twillingate yesterday afternoon at the age of eighty-nine.

Captain Troake was the well-known skipper of The Christmas Seal from 1950-1970, a well-known floating X-Ray and Vaccination Unit that travelled the Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador for over two decades.

It was just last week that I had the privilege to assist in the presentation of a lifetime achievement award presented to Captain Troake by the Newfoundland and Labrador Lung Association. At that time he entertained those present with stories of his time as Master of The Christmas Seal.

I might also add that Captain Troake received the Order of Canada in 1987, and an Honourary Doctorate Degree from Memorial University in 1992.

I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that we send a message of condolence to Captain Troake's wife, Hilda, and family on behalf of the House of Assembly.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We, too, on this side would like to be part of that letter of condolence to the Troake family. I knew Captain Peter Troake very well myself, and my first memories of him were when The Christmas Seal would come into my own community and we would go aboard. I think first we would get our scratches and then we would go back and get our X-rays.

I remember going on The Christmas Seal and, as a little boy, being treated with respect. He saying, `Come aboard'; and there was always a meal there - whether it was a biscuit or a bun, Captain Peter Troake treated everybody alike. My latest memories of the gentleman was when he was the Captain on the Green Bay Transport, going back and forth from Burnside to St. Brendan's. He was a great storyteller and he would talk to me about all the people that he met - and the other gentlemen in the bays and coves, in excess of 1,300 of them, would come out to the Christmas Seal and bring out the people where there was no wharf. He was certainly a great historian, a great Newfoundlander, and we, on this side, would like to be associated with the condolences as put forward by the member.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to join with the two previous speakers in offering the condolences of members of this House and giving a note of respect to the late Captain Peter Troake, who I think has a status of being the most senior master mariner of the Province. I heard this morning one of his colleagues from his days as Skipper of the Christmas Seal describing what an excellent navigator Captain Troake was even in the middle of very, very heavy fog, being able to bring the ship into harbour; no doubt a magnificent career, Mr. Speaker, and a great contribution to the Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Before beginning our routine proceedings, the Chair would like to welcome today on behalf of all members, twenty-five Grade VII students from St. Paul's School in the District of Carbonear - Harbour Grace. They are accompanied by their teachers, Ms Leslie Forward, Mr. Paul McCarthy and bus driver, Dan Clarke.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: As well, we have in the gallery today, and I would like to welcome them on behalf of all members, a number of members of the School Milk Foundation. They are Dr. Jim Hearn, the Chairman of the School Milk Foundation; Ron Burry, Vice-Chairman; Bernard Sparrow, Secretary/Treasurer; and Martie Howlett, Assistant Deputy Minister of Agrifoods.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

 

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there are many problems facing the fishing industry today and especially the diversification of the industry since the cod moratorium. This year, as for quite a number of years, we saw a return of the squid fishery to our Province, in fact, in abundance in some regions, and people went back to the normal industry in which they caught and sold fresh squid. In particular, people living in communities caught and harvested squid and dried them, giving extra jobs and extra income to people living in communities in rural Newfoundland. But at that time, they found that they did not have the necessary markets for their squid, because of an abundance of squid in countries such as Japan, and it became a real problem for people living in communities.

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to inform the House that despite this situation, marketing efforts are producing positive results. As a result of discussions I had with buyers during my trade mission to Asia last month, a local company has made arrangements for an overseas market for dried squid.

H. B. Dawe Limited of Cupids just this week arranged with a company in China to sell dried squid in the Hong Kong market. H. B. Dawe has already purchased about 50,000 pounds for this purpose, about 20,000 pounds which is from the Baie Verte Peninsula. The company has plans to market another five container-loads of dried squid.

Also just recently, for the first time in several years, a Newfoundland and Labrador company successfully marketed dried squid in Japan. Golden Shell Fisheries of Hickman's Harbour shipped a container-load within the past few weeks. Knowing first-hand how stringent the quality standards of Japanese buyers are, I can say with conviction that this is a real credit to the company's record for a quality product.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the private sector continue to pursue markets for all of our seafood products.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

While we, on this side, certainly are happy to hear the words of the minister that now some fishermen can sell their dried squid, Mr. Speaker, we are not very happy to find that those same fishermen are getting a price less than eighty cents a pound for this squid. It is the same squid and the same product, Mr. Speaker, that in other years would bring a price in excess of $3.00 a pound. The real shame of this, Mr. Speaker, is that we allowed foreign companies to come inside our 200-mile limit, to come into our local waters and catch up to 80 million pounds of squid, the very same countries to which we now have to go and access markets. Those companies were in direct competition with the fishermen.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: This is the reason, Mr. Speaker, fishermen - and the minister shakes his head, but it is true, Minister. You know very well that the fishermen's sheds are still full of squid. Buyers are out there with their warehouses filled with squid and many of them will go bankrupt because of the actions of the minister's cousins in Ottawa.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite knows full well that that is a clear misrepresentation of the truths and the facts about the fishing industry. The Japanese companies that have a 50,000 ton harvest did not harvest one squid in Canadian waters this year.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

No point of order.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has ruled that there is no point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods.

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the hon. members of the House of Assembly of the progress made by the School Milk Program to encourage the consumption of milk by children in schools across the Province.

Prior to the establishment of this program in 1991, only 90,000 litres of milk were consumed in schools across this Province. With the introduction of the School Milk Program, in the 1996-1997 school year, milk consumption reached over 1 million litres, a 1,000 per cent increase in seven years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: Not only are the students drinking milk at school since the inception of the program, they are also drinking much more milk over the entire seven-day week. That is creating a good healthy habit for the home.

For the 1997-1998 school year, there are 359 schools enrolled in this program, which represents 92 per cent of the schools in the Province. And there are approximately 97,000 students registered in the School Milk Program, which represents 96 per cent of all students in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, the School Milk Program allows students to purchase milk at the school at a discount of 60 per cent below normal retail prices. Newfoundland schools have the second lowest price for chocolate milk and fourth lowest for white milk in Canada.

Making milk available at this affordable price is only possible through the continued support of the dairy farmers, milk processors and this government. In 1996-1997, the fifty-seven dairy farmers in the Province contributed approximately $500,000 to the program in cash and reduced prices. The two milk processors, Central Dairies and Brookfield Dairy Group, contributed approximately $500,000 through subsidized milk, for a total contribution from the industry of over $1 million.

The benefits of this program to our school-aged children in terms of health and nutrition and, as recent research confirms, the children's academic performance, are countless. I am pleased that this government is able to contribute to the program in a meaningful way. We will continue with our $200,000 towards the School Milk Program again in the coming year.

We are very pleased here today to see the School Milk Foundation join us in the gallery, and to commend all of the dairy farmers in the Province, and also Central Dairies and Brookfield Dairy Group, for their tremendous support and contribution to the children of the Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: I would like to thank the minister for a copy of the statement. In response to the statement, I would like to commend the dairy farmers, the milk processors, and the Newfoundland and Labrador School Milk Foundation for -

AN HON. MEMBER: And the government.

MS S. OSBORNE: Hang on, now.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS S. OSBORNE: - for their contribution to this program. The children and teachers are certainly to be congratulated as well for their participation.

I would also like to commend the government for its contribution of $200,000 but in doing so, I would like to refer to a comment the minister made: that recent research confirms the relationship of health and nutrition and academic performance, and I would like to remind the government, I too, have seen this report. I have referred to this report on more than one occasion in the House, and the report to which I refer, Mr. Speaker, states: the numbers of children who are living in poverty and below the poverty line, the number is so high that I was questioned about this number by some hon. members on the other side of the House. They came, after I had made a statement one day and said: It can't be 40,000, but yes, it is 40,000 and it says so right here -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MS S. OSBORNE: - and I have reminded this government so often

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MS S. OSBORNE: Thank you.

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

The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, does he have leave? By leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to join with the minister and the Member for St. John's West in recognizing the work of the School Milk Program. To reach 96 per cent of all students in the Province is a remarkable thing with any program and all those involved deserve to be commended. The contribution of Central Dairies and the Brookfield Dairy group is very important, that of the government and that of all the participants particularly the School Milk Foundation and I want to congratulate them and thank them on behalf of all the children of Newfoundland. If only, Mr. Speaker, the government would follow that up with support for an universal comprehensive school lunch program so that children could have a full meal every day and listen to the dieticians and the petitioners -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: - to this House and Dr. Patricia Canning's Report to the Minister of Education.

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, as hon. members are aware, Dr. Frederick Russell was appointed in September to study and report on the future of the municipal jurisdiction of the Southlands Development.

His report was scheduled for completion as at December 31, 1997.

Dr. Russell has written me to say that while he has been working diligently to compile his report, it is taking longer than he anticipated. Dr. Russell says this is attributable to the fact that the Terms of Reference are quite broad in some respects and difficult to respond to within the established time frame. He also says that since the public consultations, he has received two supplementary submissions from the Cities of St. John's and Mount Pearl - some as recently as yesterday - and that they require extensive study and evaluation.

I wish to inform members of the House that I have acceded to Dr. Russell's request and have extended the submission deadline to January 15, 1998.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

We, on this side, have no objection whatsoever to the extension. We know that this is a particularly important study for the City of St. John's and the City of Mount Pearl, and we are not surprised that it would take some length of time given the details in which both cities prepared their submissions.

Mr. Speaker, we look forward to Dr. Russell submitting his report. We, on this side, do understand that he might require an extra couple of weeks to complete the reading of the documentation and the preparation of his submission to (inaudible) Cabinet.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The work that Dr. Fred Russell is doing is very important not only to the citizens of St. John's but to the whole Avalon region, and to take a couple of extra weeks to do it, in view of the great public interest in the matter, is not surprising and not unusual. As one who made a presentation on behalf of the people of St. John's to this particular commission, I know it will take some time to digest.

Thank you.

 

Oral Questions

 

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today, I guess, are for the Minister of Finance, or the acting Minister of Finance, or the acting Premier, or whoever is prepared to be here in the House, I might add, and answer a question on finance.

The Premier has been saying recently that we can expect to see a reduction - he stated publicly on numerous occasions - in personal income tax, but not in the next few years. The Premier has been out in the public on that.

I understand that our Province is one of five provinces recently that requested, at the federal Finance Ministers' meeting, more flexibility in setting rates and tax brackets and tax credits be provided to the provinces.

I ask the minister: Has this Province presented a proposal to the federal minister? And will he provide a copy of what this government is proposing under a revised tax structure?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I will have to take the last part of the question under advisement because I do not know if there has or has not been a proposal made. I will take it under advisement and check with my colleague, the Minister of Finance, as soon as he returns.

I should say, though, that when this administration took over back in 1989, when we opened the books and saw the mess that this Province was in, we came to the conclusion at that time that it would be quite some years before we could get the economy of the Province back under control so that we could have a tax decrease. We certainly look forward to that happening.

I should tell the hon. member, and I am sure he would be pleased to know, that we are well on the way, that we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that the day is imminent. I believe that within ten to twelve years we will be a have Province. I honestly believe that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DECKER: And that is because we are doing all of the right things, taking all of the right moves, and some day -

AN HON. MEMBER: Have not will be no more.

MR. DECKER: When you say `Have not will be no more', you have to make it happen.

The difference between this government and the previous government is that they were hoping some magic force would make it happen. This government has taken control. We are making things happen. We are going to be a have Province, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I would say it is disgraceful that there is no one here to answer a question on finance. It is disgraceful not to have one in the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: It would not be tolerated in -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, he was in his office many days when this sat, I say to the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: The debt of this Province has risen by 70 per cent since 1989, I say to the person representing him.

If we are doing a proposal on tax changes, it is something to which Cabinet should be privy; and I don't accept that as an excuse to stand here and they do not know anything about it.

Now, ten years ago, the federal system was simplified and there was a reduction from ten tax brackets down to three tax brackets that we have today. I ask the minister - if he doesn't know about it, he is not doing his job - is the Province looking at changing from the current three tax brackets now under the Income Tax Act?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is quite right when he says that we have a debt in this Province that is much too high. I should tell him that into that debt, Mr. Speaker, there is $25 million-plus interest that was put there by a foolhardy scheme called Sprung, Mr. Speaker. It is because the previous Adminstration, of which his cousin was a part, squandered money, the money they wasted to blast two tunnels, to blast two holes in the ground in the Strait of Belle Isle - remember that fiasco? Ten million dollars -

MR. TULK: One hundred and ten million dollars.

MR. DECKER: One hundred and ten million dollars, blasting two holes, one on each side of the Strait of Belle Isle. That is why we are not in the position to give back the tax breaks we want to give back.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) elect another Moores.

MR. DECKER: Exactly, Mr. Speaker, and God forbid the day will ever come when they get control of this government again.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With financing costs there is over $30 million because of Trans City to fill the Liberal coffers here in this Province, in which that minister played a very integral part, I might add.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: Paul Martin has said repeatedly that there would be a reduction in personal income tax as the economy improves, he has guaranteed that. That means, I say to the minister, that this Province will get less revenue because our taxation is a per cent of the federal tax, sixty-nine per cent, I might add, 15 per cent increase since this government came into power in 1989.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bearing in mind that less federal tax under the current structure means less provincial income tax in this Province, I ask the minister: Is this Province -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister: Is this Province now looking at -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was halfway through the question, I will say it again, I will repeat it in case he missed it. Is this Province now looking at offsetting those losses because of a federal reduction by changing the number of tax brackets or the percentage of taxation that people will now pay in our Province under a separate provincial tax structure?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, just a few issues I have to address in his preamble.

Trans City over thirty years will save the Province $6 million. Sprung will cost the Province about $50 million for nothing only a few cows out in Conception Bay South which were fed cucumbers, Mr. Speaker.

MR. TULK: And rotten tomatoes.

MR. DECKER: The hon. member also does not understand the recent statements that Mr. Martin has made about when the federal deficit is taken under control. Mr. Martin has made it perfectly clear that 50 per cent of these saving will be used to enhance the services that we render to our people, the health services, the education, and all that sort of thing. The other 50 per cent, half of it will be used to pay off the national debt, the other half will be used to deal with a tax cut.

Now, that has not yet been decided. The Federal Government has not made any decisions. It simply comes out of speeches that the Minister of Finance has made. He has made it perfectly clear that these decisions have not been made. Before they are made, this government will not wait, hoping that some day someone is going to make the sun shine, this government will take the necessary action in the appropriate time to deal with the issues as they come. I can also tell the hon. member, I will say it again because it deserves to be said, that because of the solid economy that this government is putting in place, the day is about to come pretty soon, when we will not even rely on equalization, we are getting there pretty fast -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DECKER: - because of all of the good things that this government is doing and they are frightened to death over there that we are not going to do it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to remind the minister, who was a part of the process, that excess of $30 million is not what the Supreme Court or the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled, not at all, in fact quite to the contrary and we are still paying through the nose for that, I say to the minister.

There are now allowable deductions for child care expenses and RRSPs under the current Income Tax Act. I ask the minister: Does this Province intend to divorce these deductions from the new proposed system that this Province is looking for and is on record, divorce that from deductions under the federal part of the Income Tax, too, so it cannot apply to provincial deductions?

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

MR. DECKER: The hon. member hears of proposals and things that might happen and then he wants us to change our income tax system to deal with something that might never happen. If it does happen, Mr. Speaker, we will take it. We do not have to take second place to anyone to show how much we care, how much we help those who are less fortunate in our society. The recent HST, the hon. member will know, that hopefully before Christmas -

AN HON. MEMBER: It is done now.

MR. DECKER: Are the cheques sent?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. DECKER: The cheques are sent out. The people will receive the cheques - I am not absolutely certain -

AN HON. MEMBER: We passed the bill last week.

MR. DECKER: The bill was passed in this House. We do not have to take second place to anyone in this country. When there is any policy, be it federal or provincial, which in any way negatively impacts upon our people, our people who have the lowest income, we deal with it, Mr. Speaker. We have shown that and in every case we will do the right thing and the hon. member should learn that because the majority of the people of the Province know that we do the right thing when the chips are down and he should learn it. The faster he does the better for him, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very surprised that a minister, who is part of a proposal that his finance minister made federally, is pleading ignorance to it. When he pleads ignorance it is because they are denying the fact that there are things in that proposal that he does not want the people of the Province to know about. In fact, the HST he referred to, a family of four that makes more than $19,000 will get nothing under that rebate system. You have to be way below the poverty line to even get any money under the rebate system, I say to the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister this question: Has the Province considered, as a top priority under a new tax system or revamping of taxes generally, to eliminate the payroll tax that is a tax on jobs in this Province?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, at the time that we brought the payroll tax in, the hon. member will recall that we had just been given notice by the Federal Government that we were going to have substantial cuts made from some of the various transfer payments. We brought in the payroll tax, reluctantly. I think we called it the health education tax when we brought it in. We did not want to do it. It was when we were having a very difficult time. As a result of bringing that tax in, we are able to collect a substantial amount of money, much of which, Mr. Speaker, comes from the very same Federal Government who cut back on the transfer payments because they pay the payroll tax. We have said over and over that when we begin to cut back on the taxes, as soon as our economy gets back in order - we have the deficit within $20 million this year, as the hon. member knows - right on track, I should tell the hon. member, he will be glad to hear that. As soon as we get everything under control, one of the first taxes that we are committed to looking at - and we are going to look at all taxes. We would love to be able to say to the people of this Province, there are no taxes. We would love that. That would be totally unrealistic. But among the first taxes that we will review will be the payroll tax. That is not an announcement that it will be abolished, but we certainly will review it, Mr. Speaker, in the context of what our society is at the time when we get around to doing it. That day, Mr. Speaker, is not in the too far distant future because of what we have done as a government. We have laid the foundation, Mr. Speaker, for a better tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DECKER: Just as we said by coincidence in the last election campaign, Mr. Speaker, a better tomorrow!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

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

I rise today to ask some questions of the Minister of Education. Many times in this Province, we have talked about our valuable resources, like Voisey's Bay, Hibernia, the forestry, the fishery, and so on, Mr. Speaker. I have said many times in this House, I believe our most valuable resource is the young people of this Province, who have the fortitude to go ahead and get an education.

Mr. Speaker, it is a very tough decision that these people make these days in moving away and going into something, and we must commend them for doing that. But to address the deep employment decline in Newfoundland and Labrador we have been encouraging our young people to go back to school and, Mr. Speaker, many of them are doing so. It is a sad case when students who have done so and enrolled in a post-secondary program found the course had some very serious problems, so serious that they dropped out of the course. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, some of those students who should be in class are in our gallery today.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of Education what is the status of the Newfoundland and Labrador Paralegal Training Institute, approved by this government to offer a paralegal course in September 1996? What is the status of the students of that school?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the question with respect to some of the information mentioned by the hon. member leading up to his question. We are actually very proud of the people at the post-secondary level who are taking opportunities to better themselves. An opportunity maybe to remind the House and the people of the Province who are paying attention to the debates here that this year we have almost 9,400 full-time students in the College of the North Atlantic, another 16,000 part-time students in the College of the North Atlantic, for a total of almost 26,000 students.

There are also, Mr. Speaker, in the private career colleges that the member asked about almost 9,600 full-time students, another 1,500 part-time students, in excess of 11,000 students in the colleges, both the public system and the private system. Along with in excess of almost 16,000 students who are at the University. We are delighted to see these people availing of the opportunities.

From time to time it does come to our attention that in - I might add, by the way, both in the public system, occasionally in the College of the North Atlantic and elsewhere, we do get occasionally complaints from students who are not completely satisfied with the course offering they have signed up for. It is investigated by the Department of Education. Also, in the private institutions from time to time we do get complaints from some students who are not satisfied, or feel at that point in time that they have a grievance with the college or the school or the institute in which they have registered.

My understanding in coming to the House today, with respect to the Newfoundland and Labrador Paralegal Training Institute, is that the students themselves, and the owners and operators of the facilities, came to some kind of understanding this morning that is to their mutual agreement. However, the Department of Education in its monitoring of all of the institutes had raised a number of issues with the Newfoundland and Labrador Paralegal Training Institute which were under investigation. As a matter of fact, when I was leaving my office this afternoon to come to the Legislature the owners and operators of that institute were meeting with officials in the Department of Education to give -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: - an update as to whether or not -

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

MR. GRIMES: - they had corrected the issues that the Department of Education had found and suggested may be deficient.

AN HON. MEMBER: Now, how's that for (inaudible)?

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

MR. SHELLEY: I will tell you what I think of that answer. That was absolutely no answer, Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister. I want to ask the minister directly: Is there a formal investigation by your department into this particular institute? What has prompted that investigation? Why did the minister see fit to make this matter subject to a formal investigation?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There are two things that occur regularly within the Department of Education with respect to our post-secondary training institutes. One is that we have a process at the initial granting of a licence to operate that sets out the criteria and provisions and the stipulations whereby the licence itself is granted. It deals with the program of studies, the curriculum that is to be covered, the staff who are going to teach that, the facilities that are actually going to be provided by the private institute and so on, and then a licence is granted.

Our staff then from time to time in spot-checking go and check in these institutions, unannounced, to see if in fact they are living up to the stipulations and the criteria that were in the granting of the licence in the first instance. Also, instantaneously any time there is a complaint registered by any one student in any of our institutions an investigation is immediately undertaken by the staff of the Department of Education.

In this particular instance, a complaint from some students was registered two or three weeks ago. Our staff went and met with the owners and operators of the facility. They have discussed with them some areas the Department of Education thought there were deficiencies in terms of what was expected to be there with respect to the licence and what was found to be there at that point in time. Those issues have undergone discussion in the last two or three weeks. There is a final discussion going on this afternoon, as I suggested.

With respect to the individual students, the information I have is that earlier today the owners and operators of the Paralegal Training Institute met with the students, that they have decided they are satisfied with what they have worked out amongst themselves, and that they are not making any further public comment, to my knowledge. If there is something different someone I'm sure will inform me at the appropriate time.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the minister that I've met with these students several times in the last few days. I will update the minister. There is no agreement between the students and the institution. I will ask the minister again a direct question. Is there a formal investigation of this institute right now by your department? Is it still ongoing?

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

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, maybe the hon. member was not listening. I thought I had answered that particular question.

There has been meetings over the last two weeks as a result of an inquiry and an investigation that was being conducted by the officials under the Department of Education, and there was a meeting ongoing, this afternoon, it is probably ongoing as I stand here and speak, so I do not know how else I could answer a question: is there an investigation? Yes. When did it start? Two or three weeks ago. Is it still ongoing? Yes, to the extent that there is a meeting this afternoon that will determine at the end of the day that the department has been satisfied that the issues that we raised through the Department of Education, have been met satisfactory to the officials or else, as was indicated publicly in the media yesterday, that the Department of Education had indicated to them that without satisfactory resolution, we would contemplate lifting the operating license for the particular institute as we would with any institute, Mr. Speaker, that did not live up to the terms and conditions of the criteria set when the license was granted in the first instance.

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

MR. SHELLEY: A final supplementary, Mr. Speaker.

Like I have said, I have spoken to these students many times and I have also started my own research, Mr. Speaker, as much as possible and it is crystal clear to me after hearing from the students and the research I have done, that there is something very, very wrong and some very serious concerns, Mr. Speaker.

Now, does the minister really think it is appropriate that his own department should be investigating itself and, will the minister commit today, to do the honourable thing and commission an independent investigation of this whole affair?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think it is a total misrepresentation to suggest that the Department of Education is investigating itself. The Department of Education, Mr. Speaker, so that hon. members understand because it is a serious issue, it is a serious issue, Mr. Speaker, and so that hon. members understand, the Department of Education, through the post-secondary division has a sector whose job it is, Mr. Speaker, to monitor and licence post-secondary training institutions in the Province. These are officials hired by the Department of Education - I guess, if we wanted to, we could have hired them and put them out in some other agency but they are in the Department of Education. Their job, Mr. Speaker, is to check -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: - the criteria in the first instance before a license is issued and do, as they are now doing, and if there are complaints or if anything is actually discovered in the spot checks that they do, to do a complete investigation, to meet with the owners and operators, to meet also by the way, Mr. Speaker, with the students because I understand as well, that earlier this morning the students met with officials from our department and that is where I got the information that was passed along to me, that my understanding is that the students, the owners and the operators have resolved their differences but, Mr. Speaker -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: - the issue at the end of the day is again, in correspondence between the Department of Education -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, in correspondence between the Department of Education and the owners and operators of the Newfoundland and Labrador Paralegal Training Institute, it was indicated and has been discussed publicly and repeatedly over the last few days, Mr. Speaker, that with the final meeting that is going on this afternoon, that unless the department and officials are convinced that the issues raised that were in contention, are satisfactorily resolved, that the license of the institute would be lifted.

In the interim, Mr. Speaker, what happened was, the Department of Education, the officials who deal with these matters, wrote the institute, suspended their ability to take in any more students, and indicated to them that unless there was a proper resolution, the institute would have its license suspended and lifted completely.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are also for the Minister of Education on the subject of Post-Secondary Private Institutions.

The minister will undoubtedly be aware that the first graduating class of Massage Therapists from the Career Academy wrote their Ontario College of Massage Therapy exams in October with a pass rate, Mr. Speaker, of seven out of twenty-four and, Mr. Speaker, my enquiries to the Ontario College of Massage Therapy indicates that the pass rate for students from five colleges writing exams in July, varied from 68 per cent to 100 per cent with an average of 80 per cent, and, Mr. Speaker, with a failure rate of two-thirds for our students who are coming from the Career Academy, what does that say about the minister's ability to control the quality of instruction and the quality of programs in private, post-secondary institutions?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am saddened to see what seems like a concerted attack on the private training institutes of Newfoundland and Labrador by members opposite.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: Not my particular role, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has called order. The hon. member was allowed to present his question. Now I ask hon. members to let the hon. minister answer.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, as I indicated in answers to questions previously on the same issue - different school but same basic general issue - the number one concern always for the Department of Education and the officials who monitor the post-secondary training, private institutions, the College of the North Atlantic, and Memorial University, is for the students, to make sure they are getting the training for which they subscribe and for which they actually pay.

Mr. Speaker, in this instance I think the hon. member has used some very selective statistics because, again, when this information was brought to my attention some time ago I also asked for a longer term analysis of what the normal outcome is for these examinations which are written in Ontario with respect to a course like Massage Therapy; and over time, over several years - July, October, July, October, and other exam periods over the last several years, not just one examination period - the information that was given to me in the Department of Education from our officials who checked it out is that while there was, in this case, a two-third failure rate for the graduates of the program at The Career Academy who are now doing some upgrading study in an attempt to write the examination again, that normally when the examinations are written, the average over the years has been that three-quarters of all of the students who write from across Canada are unsuccessful in some portion of that examination in their first attempt.

Mr. Speaker, to try and suggest now that there is something wrong with one of our private colleges that offers that course, because two-thirds of the students failed an exam in the first try -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to finish his answer.

MR. GRIMES: - is not quite correct, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I don't know why the minister will not acknowledge that these questions are being asked to protect the twenty-four students who just paid in excess of $16,000 or $17,000 to do this program, and the hundred students who are currently in the course.

Will the minister explain, perhaps, to the House, why in this particular institution students are not even permitted to have a copy of the curriculum, and officials from his department even told these students as little as almost an hour ago that they were not entitled to give them a copy of the curriculum either. Can he explain that?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will take that under advisement, unaware of what the hon. member raises with respect to copies of the curriculum. I will certainly check that out. I have no doubt - I don't have any reason to suspect that the hon. member would present anything other than factual information, but I will certainly take it under advisement and check it out.

With respect to the programs, if the hon. members opposite are suggesting that the government and the Department of Education is not concerned about the training that the students are receiving, I don't know where they would ever get that notion.

Mr. Speaker, in this Province we have a very good, sound, mix of publicly-funded post-secondary education and privately-funded post-secondary education. The students themselves make very informed choices. It is monitored very closely and very directly by the Department of Education.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. GRIMES: Everybody's number one priority is the students who are paying the money for the courses themselves.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Will the minister agree today to conduct an investigation into the quality of the program being offered in Massage Therapy by The Career Academy to protect the hundred students who are now involved in that program and paying, according to the minister's figures, in excess of $17,000 for this program, and to table that report in this House so that we can assure these students that they will have a quality education. The quality of the instructors is in question, the quality of the instruction is in question, and the quality of the course is in question. Will the minister do that? And will the minister accede to my earlier request made a couple of weeks ago to have an independent review of the whole private college structure in the Province and the monitoring abilities of the department?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just as we would respond to any complaint that came to the Department of Education from a student in a course and so on, because it has been raised with respect to the Massage Therapy course, we will certainly ask the officials to do an examination of the course and I will present the results of that examination here in the House of Assembly as requested.

With respect to any kind of overall notion that was brought forward by the hon. member a week or so ago, of having some kind of external group go out and examine the post-secondary education of the private institutes, I will certainly take it under advisement. But if we are going to have an independent assessment of the training opportunities we will certainly do it in the context - if we do - of all of them, including a comparison of what we are doing in the private institutions and the public institutions like The College of the North Atlantic and Memorial University.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to ask the minister another question, and maybe he can confirm what he said a bit earlier, that his department did meet with these students today. As a matter of fact he did not meet with those today. I would like to ask the minister, on behalf of the students, why he has refused to meet with the students themselves, the victims of this mess.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I indicated to the hon. member, in discussions outside the Chamber yesterday or the day before when he raised this issue and I knew the students had requested a meeting, I had arranged for the students to meet this morning with the officials. There was no need, as I indicated, for them to meet with me because the investigation - the only thing that would come out of a meeting with me would be for me to say we would initiate an investigation. The investigation had been ongoing for over two weeks and is concluding with meetings that are ongoing this afternoon. So anyone giving personal recounting of details to me, as the minister, is not going to aid in the investigation. That has been ongoing for two weeks.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, there was an offer. My understanding is that the meeting did not occur this morning because the students did not feel it necessary to meet because they had come to kind of a resolution with the owner and operators of the institute.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

 

Notices of Motion

 

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Government Services and Lands, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act Respecting Co-Operatives". (Bill No. 60)

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

MR LANGDON: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following bills: "An Act To Amend The Environment Act," and "An Act To Amend The Waste Material Disposal Act."

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act."

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) get out of here?

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

MR. A. REID: We will be eating our turkey off the Table, I say to the hon. member.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: We will be eating our turkey off the Table.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that on tomorrow I will introduce the following bills: "An Act To Amend the Municipalities Act (No. 2)," and "An Act To Amend The Coat Of Arms Act," (Bill No. 58).

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting Apprenticeship And Occupational Certification."

 

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

 

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, on November 19 the Member for St. John's East tabled a question seeking information relating to the Support Enforcement Agency. I'm pleased to table an answer to the hon. member's question.

 

Petitions

 

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, I have a further petition today from student-parents who find themselves in a most difficult situation as a result of having their shelter component clawed back. Over the past two days I have given examples of families and how they are affected. In her reply to my petition a day or two ago in this House, the minister strongly encouraged members to make these cases known to the department.

As I said yesterday, and I will repeat it again today, my office has been working tirelessly with the department on behalf of these students but to date no solution has been forthcoming, and the students are still in dire straits.

Over the past couple of days I have personally visited the homes of six of the families mentioned in the petitions. If the minister has any doubt at all that these are not extenuating circumstances, I invite her to do the same. Such a visit might encourage some slight modicum of compassion for these students who find themselves in this particular situation because they tried to better themselves and were given misinformation by her department.

Please, on behalf of these parents, change the claw back policy to an overpayment regime. It is pretty basic and does not need to be addressed on an individual basis, but rather can be done across the board. Don't be long. Hungry children are waiting. I know, I have seen them. Thank you.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I rise again to support the petition put forward by my colleague for St. John's West, and to essentially say the same things that we have said before, and to make note that the Member for St. John's West in her critic role, and as MHA for one of the districts in St. John's, has taken it upon herself to go visit those families.

She said today she visited six families where she has found people who are having great difficulty coping with the difficulties that have been imposed by this particular government, by its callousness, by its insensitivity and by its unwillingness to listen to the ordinary Newfoundlander and Labradorian. We hear the government saying from time to time: We support access to equal opportunity, access to post-secondary. But when there are people who cannot afford to pay their way, people who sometimes cannot get student loans and sometimes people for whom student loans do not pay all the bills, then we say to these people: We are sorry, you cannot go to post-secondary. When we find the government then, one branch of government, the Student Aid Division, loaning monies to these students, and then, the Minister of Human Resources and Employment and her department clawing back from those very same students, we have to ask ourselves: Where are the priorities?

Of course, you know when we talk about poor people, equal opportunity, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, he yawns, because that is boring to him. It is boring to him because he does not want to hear tell of ordinary people having an equal chance to get ahead; therefore, we say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, what might be boring to him and causes him to yawn in his seat, is a reality for many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. So we are not surprised that he is insensitive, that he is uncaring, that he does not care about these people who are victims of those claw-backs. We are not surprised about that, because if the government were concerned with it they would do something about it, but they are doing nothing about it.

They knew last year what this policy would do and how it would disadvantage so many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, student-parents who want to get ahead. This government is more interested in putting up barriers to equal opportunity, to post-secondary than they are in putting forward proposals that will give people the chance to get out of the rut they are in and let them use their abilities to be able to go forward in this world and make better homes and better families and better opportunities, not only for themselves but for their children as well.

Thank you very much.

 

Orders of the Day

 

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 3, Bill 55, first reading of a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act".

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act," carried. (Bill No. 55).

On motion, Bill No.55 read a first time, ordered read a second time, presently by leave.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House resolve itself into Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 47.

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (M. Penney): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Order No. 17, Bill No. 47, Mr. Chairman.

"An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991," (Bill No. 47).

On motion, clause 1, carried.

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

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 Lewisporte.

MR. PENNEY: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report Bill No. 47 passed without amendment and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted.

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

MR. TULK: I understand, Mr. Speaker, that we do have leave to move third reading of this bill. I believe the procedure then, with this particular bill, is that we have to get Royal Assent before we can even give notice of motion of the resolution.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: If that is the case, then we will try to get Royal Assent this afternoon and move back later this afternoon to Notices of Motion. If we can do it some other way, then we will do it some other way. I see the Clerk is looking at me there with a kind of a skew. So I would now call third reading of that bill, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill No. 47)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, if I could, the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs is here. We just gave first reading to Bill 55 and I understand that he has worked out with the Opposition House Leader and the Leader of the NDP that we would do second reading of Bill No. 55, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act." I call that bill for second reading, if that is the case.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, there is a miscue here. The bill has not yet been distributed. It will be distributed shortly; so I withdraw that Order for the present time. I call Order No. 28, Bill No. 50, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act."

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act". (Bill No. 50)

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

MR LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A few weeks ago, one of the interim measures that we took as a part of the full review of Workers' Compensation was to increase the benefits to injured workers for the first thirty-seven weeks from 75 per cent to 80 per cent. In order for that measure to be taken into account, Mr. Speaker, we have to change the legislation. So basically, that is what we are doing here today.

Obviously, this is not the full measure of the review that was done and we are working feverishly on that to get the recommendations in and to cost out to see what it would mean to implement many of the recommendations that were in that report. But to make sure that this particular amendment is in place for the New Year, January 1, to take place, then today, we are introducing this particular measure to change the Act, as I said, to increase the benefits from 75 cent to 80 cent for the first thirty-seven weeks that a person is on the workers' compensation benefit.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

That is one of the briefest introductions of a piece of legislation that I have witnessed in the House since I have been here since 1993.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Not on this issue, I say to the minister.

MR. FITZGERALD: Next to the Kodak bill.

MR. E. BYRNE: Not on this issue, has the minister caught me off guard.

Yes, next to the Kodak bill, last summer, it was the quickest introduction of a piece of legislation that we have seen.

MR. TULK: The Kodak bill, no, that took a while.

MR. FITZGERALD: No, not by the minister.

MR. TULK: That took five minutes.

MR. E. BYRNE: I remember it well, I say to the Government House Leader.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 50: essentially what it does is that it emanates from the statutory review recommendations on the Workers' Compensation Act.

Now, government have had those recommendations for a considerable period of time. There have been questions asked in the House of the minister with respect to the recommendations contained in that report, leading up to this piece of legislation - which was not forthcoming, which was not planned on government's Order Paper this Fall when the House originally sat. A number of questions were asked with respect to the recommendations contained within the Workers' Compensation Statutory Review Committee's report. The Injured Workers' Association, who the minister complimented, I certainly complement for the input into the process of this committee, the research, the effort and in fact, individually the number of injured workers who came before the committee to tell their story.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I guess it was some time ago the minister rose in his place on a ministerial announcement; ironically, it was the same day that the Injured Workers' Association held a press conference, which I attended, outlining their displeasure and their disgust at the lack of action provided by government on the recommendations.

Mr. Speaker, all Bill No. 50 does - and it is important for the record and it is important to say it, that if somebody in the work place is injured today, the regulations at Workers' Compensation indicate that immediately upon being processed or assessed and they are put on the system, they receive, automatically, 75 per cent of their salary for the first thirty-nine weeks. What this piece of legislation does is it changes that and gives a 5 per cent increase only for that thirty-nine weeks, but the impression has been left that it is an increase for every injured worker on the system, and that is not the case.

I am not saying that the minister left the impression, but the impression is out there because of the information and calls that I have gotten on it. People have called who have been on long-term disability or extended earnings loss and asked: Does that mean that I am getting an increase, too, of 5 per cent? The reality is no, because the way the system works now is that after thirty-nine weeks, workers are automatically assessed up to 80 per cent, anyway.

I say to the minister, I hope this is but one small step that he is prepared to make; that this piece of legislation is in fact sending a signal to injured workers, to stakeholders within the system, that some balance is about to be restored with respect to the injury fund and with respect to those individuals who have become injured through no fault of their own. After all, Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that the Workers' Compensation Act which was put in place by the will of this House in the 1950s, came into effect for a number of reasons.

Number one, workers gave up their right to sue individually. If they were hurt in the workplace, because of monies paid into the system, they forgave their right to sue an employer because of the Act that we have in place right now. Both management and labour bought into the concept of a system whereby if people were hurt in the workplace, if they were injured, if they could not return to the workplace, there would be some system in place whereby through assessments on the employer it would become part of the wage package, that at least there would be something at the end of the day for those individuals who were unfortunate enough to get injured, or who were unfortunate enough to work in workplaces or with employers who were not up to scratch when it came to occupational health and safety and did not believe in safe workplaces. Now, we have come a long way since 1950, but it is important to note that is why the Workers' Compensation Act is in place.

There are lot of people who say there are many people on the system who do not deserve to be on the system. Over the last three to four years, certainly previous to this government - or I should say previous to this Premier - many of the ministers who sit in Cabinet today were part of a former administration that took the view - and that view was clearly articulated in legislative changes that were bought before this House - that there are many on the system who should not be on the system; that the amount of monies given to injured workers was far too much; that what injured workers were getting, they did not deserve.

But the Statutory Review Committee, an independent, arm's length committee, clearly said that they found no credible evidence whatsoever to the assertion that there were people on the system, en masse, abusing it. As a matter of fact, they went on to say that they found very little evidence of it.

Some weeks ago, I asked the minister a number of questions with respect to the recommendations contained in that report, and I believe the minister - and he can correct me if I am wrong when he stands to his feet to close debate on this bill. He indicated at that time that there was a committee in the department put together to evaluate, based upon the financial long-term stability of the injury fund - because that is what is at stake, too. We have to provide an approach where we know first and foremost that the long-term financial health of the commission is in place, is guaranteed, is enshrined, so that we do not find ourselves in a situation whereby injured workers find that the Workers' Compensation Commission cannot afford to do what is necessary.

The minister committed, I believe, this spring, to provide legislative changes to the House that would be more sweeping, that would be more broad-based. I would like to make a few points on that now. Let us talk about deeming.

Last week, in questioning, the minister said there was a committee put in place with respect to the Commission, to look at deeming, because injured workers are being deemed off the system at a rate that is frightening for jobs that do not exist. There are hundreds of examples, and I would like to give a few.

Right now, injured workers are being deemed capable of being telemarketers. There have been a number of cases that have gone before the Chief Review Commissioner, two specifically. He has ruled on two occasions recently that the Commission erred in finding an injured worker capable of being a telemarketer. Very factually, no such position exists. Yet, it was used as a way to get people off the system.

The other thing with respect to deeming that has to take place - and I will get a chance to question the minister further in Question Period on it in terms of what tangible, positive results have come out of the committees put in place to work with the Workers' Compensation Commission to review the whole deeming process, which was a paramount recommendation contained in the report.

Yesterday I had an injured worker in my office from my constituency. He went down to the commission with a report from his specialist in the Province with respect to an injury that he had unfortunately got, can't return to work for some time. The individual had an MRI done, a CAT scan done, went through the entire medical process.

I say to the minister this only happened yesterday. It didn't happen previous to the recommendations coming out, it didn't happen previous to the questions I've asked him, but this information came to my attention yesterday. He went down to the Commission. In his back pocket he had the medical specialist's report. I won't name the doctor here because it isn't appropriate, but he was a renowned specialist in the Province. Took the specialist's report to the Commission which indicated, based upon the MRI and CAT scan, that this individual was incapable of returning to the workforce in any capacity at this time. That doctor said this individual was 100 per cent disabled as a result of the injury.

When he got to Workers' Compensation and he dropped the information on the table to his case worker, the case worker said: Okay, we will review that; we will get back to you. That was yesterday morning. This morning he was back into my office after conversations with his case worker...

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, it is hard to hear.

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

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This morning he was back in my office. His case worker informed him yesterday that the specialist's report was overruled. Because that specialist said he was 100 per cent disabled, because he said he could no longer work, that was only the specialist's opinion.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I'm finding it hard to speak.

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

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: (Inaudible) members down in the back there is a caucus room outside called government members room. If you want to have a caucus meeting, that is the place to do it. Not in the House of Assembly while we are debating legislation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: That individual went to the case worker. Actually overruled a medical specialist yesterday afternoon with respect to his injury. Do you know what the reasoning was, Minister? The reasoning that was given, based upon a medical specialist's review, was: That is only the specialist's opinion, it is not my opinion. This is a case worker armed with information from a general practitioner at the Commission. Overruled the specialist.

I've written the minister - my letter is being typed, I wrote it around dinnertime - outlining the situation. It will be passed on to him. I suspect he will get it this afternoon or tomorrow. That is the very type of situation we have to stop, Minister, and that you as minister on behalf of government, responsible for the Workers' Compensation Act, have the power to put regulations and the legislation in place, and the criteria which the statutory review committee's recommendations suggest that government should follow that would strictly limit deeming and how it should be used.

The original concept of deeming was brought in place for one reason and one reason only. It was brought in place to get uncooperative injured workers off the system who should not have been on it. That is the only reason the notion of deeming was brought in place. It was not brought in place, it was not enshrined in regulations or legislation, to be used to get injured workers off the system who should be on it, and that is what is happening today. It is still happening.

I don't understand what changes need to be made. It has to be an attitudinal change. How is it that a medical specialist in the Province, who is recognized not only in the Province but in Canada as one of the best in his field, that his opinion on a worker who has been injured in the workplace can be so treated with a cavalier attitude by a system and by individuals within that system who are not capable, who don't have the technical expertise or the medical background, to make the decision? How is that we let that go on?

It is a serious situation. The minister, as minister, when you are talking about issues like that - I understand the recommendations are broad within the statutory review committee's report, but such a decision is not a financial one. There are not serious financial considerations attached with changing the notion of deeming so that injured workers who should be beneficiaries of the injury find, who as part of their wage package pay into the Workers' Compensation Commission. The employers in the Province would like to say that it is the employers who fund the injury fund. I refute it. It isn't the employers alone. It is part of a wage package. Negotiated or not, it is part of the system that we have regulated by this House. The Workers' Compensation Commission injury fund is funded by two people: it is funded by the employer on the one hand and it is funded by the worker on the other hand.

I don't mind saying it, and I would say it anywhere, but how is it that we can let this go on? Clearly, the minister has the power to act. The minister said he has put a committee in place and I believe him but I will say to the minister, that that committee needs to move expeditiously.

That was only one yesterday, there are hundreds more that are being deemed off the system for jobs that don't exist. They are being deemed off the system for medical reasons that are being used by individuals who don't have the background, who don't have the education, who are not specialists in their field, to deem them off the system. They are being deeded off the system in the face of specialist' reports, that has to stop I say to the minister. It has to stop and it has to stop now because that is not the system that we put in place and that is not the system that we are supposed to have in place. That is not the reason why Workers' Compensation Commission exists. If there were no injured workers -and that is ultimately the real ideal society all of us would like to see - if there were no injured workers, if Occupational Health and Safety practices Occupational Health and Safety education, Occupational Health and Safety initiatives that were more foresightful because every dollar we spend in Occupational Health and Safety - and this is a proven fact - every dollar that we spend in Occupational Health and Safety, out of that minister's department, will reap $4 back in the long-run. That is a statistical fact.

Another thing that should be clearly understood by all members in this House, that when it comes to the Occupational Health and Safety division of the minister's department - of which there is 191 employees, I believe, I could be wrong - but Occupational Health and Safety division alone, that is not funded out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That is not funded by the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador as other services are funded. That is completely funded by the Workers' Compensation Commission and the injury fund, 100 per cent. It is funded by the contributions that are made to the commission by employers/employees.

Now to governments credit - because I want to be factual in terms of my comments on this and fair because it is important to be fair, this is an important piece of legislation and it's an important topic that we are talking about - that over the last four years the only department in government that has grown has been the Department of Occupational Health and Safety. While growth in numbers does not necessarily mean growth in productivity, it does in this case, coupled with the fact of the closure of the moratorium because there was a high rate of industrial accidents within the fishing industry but Occupational Health and Safety has made some strides. I want to recognize that today but they have a long ways to go too. The minister knows that and I'm not trying to be too political. I am just trying to state it as it is.

I say to the minister, for every dollar that we spend in Occupational Health and Safety, whether it is on hazardous waste management, whether it is hazardous critical paths within the workplace that every dollar we spend, one more worker more aware, one more employer more aware of what they are liable for and what they have to have in place in terms of safer workplaces in the Province. It reaps benefits, substantial benefits. Wouldn't it be nice if ten years from now - there are about 3,600 people who are receiving benefits under the Workers' Compensation Commission as of today. That is about 3,600 injured workers. Wouldn't it be nice if the minister took the opportunity and the initiative to engage in a foresightful, long-ranging plan that year after year, for the next ten years, that monies in Occupational Health and Safety go directly into the workplaces of the Province to better inform, to better educate, to make people more aware of their responsibilities, not only as workers but as employers, that we could cut that number in half? Wouldn't that be something that we could all stand up and applaud in this Legislature? We could and we would and the minister has an opportunity to do it.

With the recommendations provided by the independent Statutory Review Committee, which was far reaching - they addressed the issues that needed to be addressed - government has an opportunity before it now that it will not have for at least another five years.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if at the next Statutory Review Committee that government is obligated to put in place, no matter who is there - that they are obligated every so often to put in place - if we had injured workers, people who were on the system, come before the committee and say: Over the last four years I have seen a tremendous change to the Workers' Compensation Commission. I have seen a tremendous change in attitude by people working there. I have seen a tremendous change in the way in which we are being handled by people who are charged with the responsibility - and it is an important one - of overseeing and managing the fund.

Wouldn't it be something that could be applauded if we were to do that, or if the action that government takes right now produced that sort of reaction and response from people who are the stakeholders within the system? That is what we should be aiming for in this respect.

Mr. Speaker, I could go on ad nauseam, I suppose, but I want to confine my comments to this piece of legislation, Bill No. 50. The minister has a long way to go, and government has a long way to go, with respect to the Workers' Compensation Commission. Of the recommendations as set out in the Statutory Review Committee's report, 75 per cent to 80 per cent of the recommendations do not involve, Minister, financial sorts of decisions that would put the injury fund in jeopardy - do not involve that. It requires a change in thinking; it requires a change in attitude.

I can give you another story, a real one. I have hundreds of them. Previous to getting involved in politics, I did a lot of work with the Workers' Compensation Commission. I worked with a labour management group in the construction industry. I represented injured workers. I worked with employers to bring down assessments, based upon new programs or new initiatives that employers within that industry were bringing into effect. It was a training trust fund.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I have stories of case managers; I want to give you one. All of it will remain unnamed, but it is a factual story where an injured worker came to me and complained about the type of treatment she was getting. She was dead on; she was correct. At that time I phoned the case manager - this was about two-and-a-half years ago - who was as sweet as pie, as the saying goes, to me on the phone. `No problem, Mr. Byrne, we will look after that. Yes, you are absolutely right. We will take care of it, not a problem.'

The next day, that injured worker from my district came to see me. She asked me what action I took on her behalf. I explained it to her in detail, had her inquiry sheets done up, who I had talked to, what we talked about, what action was promised, what action was taken. She started to break down and cry in my office, and do you know why? Because when that case manager got off the phone with me, he got on the phone to her and said to her uncategorical: If you ever contact a politician with respect to me again, you will never get another cent out of this injury fund, or out of the Workers' Compensation Commission.

Mr. Speaker, that is one story and it is not an isolated one. There are many instances, and that is the type of power that system has on people's lives because they are injured, because they cannot return to work. They have no other options. I have seen people lose homes. I have seen marriages break up. I have seen people lose everything around them that it had taken them a lifetime to build up; and for that attitude which exists...

My understanding is that the commission right now is doing a study by an outside agency - has contracted an outside agency - to do a study of that exact attitude about which I talked. It is not something I brought before the House because I applaud the initiative that the commission is taking on it. It is long overdue, I might say, but it is that exact attitude that case managers, or people within the system have - not all of them. I am not tarring everybody with the same brush, but if it happens once, it is once to often, that we are, as an advocate of injured workers and all of us as members of this House have had, not only the opportunity, but I think the obligation and the responsibility to be advocates for our constituents who have no other option, no means to hire legal council, no financial resources whatsoever, nothing in the cupboards, kids home hungry, bills piling up. When you see that sort of thing happening, all of us have a responsibility to be an advocate for someone in that role. It happens, I say to the minister, it happens.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: If I were down there or if I were minister, I know that -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: - myself too, probably thirty per cent of the activity that generates from my district generates with respect to an appeal, but that attitude, where a case worker can so blatantly be nice and say, no problem sir, we will do whatever we can, what you are talking about is correct and I will take care of it, not a problem, thank you very much and then pick up the phone the day after or that afternoon and phone the injured worker and say, if you ever, ever talk to somebody like a politician with respect to this issue again, you will never get one cent. That is happening every day. It is happening -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Oh, yes, it is happening and mark it down -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I am not trying to be an alarmist, I am not trying to raise issues or to say that it is happening broad based, but it is happening minister, too frequently. It is happening way too frequently for it to be an occasional occurrence. That is the issue, that if it were an isolated incident, you could isolate it and correct it and have a comfort zone that you know it would not happen again, but it is happening too many times for it to be an isolated occurrence and it speaks of attitude. Make no mistake, that people who are in that system who are administering it, who have workers below them who they are responsible for as case managers, they themselves are in a very, very big position of power when you are dealing with the daily lives of individuals.

Mr. Speaker, it would be remiss of me in bringing that issue forward not to talk about something else. The standard by which any organization should be judged in terms of its financial ability to move on; its front line services versus its management services and there is a ratio that is pretty well accepted within this industry, Workers' Compensation Commission across the country and there should be about fifteen to twenty per cent in terms of administrative people and eighty to eight-five per cent people on the front lines, services orientated, because that is what Workers' Compensation Commission is, it is a service, first and foremost. It exists and owes its very existence to the fact that injuries are occurring in our workplaces that at our Workers' Compensation Commission that it is very top heavy, extremely top heavy with administration, about thirty-five per cent.

Case managers right now at the Workers' Compensation Commission are dealing with case loads in excess of sixty, seventy, eighty cases. There is no way that a case manager can effectively work with an injured worker, with the employer or where the accident happened and deal effectively and intimately with what is taking place at Workers' Compensation, when they have a system by where sixty or seventy cases are piled on their desk that high. It is impossible.

Yet, administratively, the administration, the upper echelons of workers' compensation constantly are putting pressure on case managers to make decisions and to make them quickly and that pressure, that squeeze that is occurring there on the significant case load that is continuously piling up and up and up and the pressure from up above on a case manager to make the decision is causing decisions to be made that should not be made and that is what is happening. That is why we are getting decisions coming out, people being deemed off the system for no reason, it is not just happening for the sake of it happening. There has to be an overriding reason for that stuff to be taking place.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, I could deem you to be anything and I have in the past and probably will again in the future, I say to the minister and certainly -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: - and certainly the Government House Leader has deemed this member to be a few things on certain occasions. But he is right about how terrible that word deeming is, using this context.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I don't have the list with me, but I have a fairly good recollection of the administration down there. We have people who are a vice-president of compensation services, executive director of compensation services, a director of compensation services; same thing in human resources, same thing in planning, financial administration, Mr. Speaker. But (inaudible) -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: That is what they call a PFI. They do a functional capacity on you. They can deem you to be only 20 per cent or 30 per cent disabled. That happens. You have been so deemed as being whatever. Serious issue.

You look at the governing philosophy. Most times members in this House will stand and say to government: You are spending too much money on this or that, what a significant waste. I looked at what the board of directors spent last year. What did the board of directors cost the Commission last year? Anybody like to hazard a guess? What do you think it cost?

AN HON. MEMBER: Too much?

MR. E. BYRNE: No, seriously. What would you think the governance of the Workers' Compensation Commission, outside of its administrative staff and its chief executive officer, the board of directors that the minister appoints, how much?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: About seven people. How much do you think it cost for the board of directors last year to operate?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Pardon me? Two point five what?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Twenty-two thousand dollars. That is what it cost. What does that tell you?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: It is nothing. But what it is producing is nothing. It tells me that it is a board of directors - and if you look at the attendance of the board of directors - and I'm not ascribing or casting any aspersions on anybody. I'm talking about the system. It tells me that it is a board of directors that is not governing. That is what it tells me.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Your government appointed them, John, so you should know that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Got to be. There is an employer rep on it, there is an employee rep. It is a prescribed set in terms of where it comes from. The reality is, Mr. Speaker, that it tells me it is a board of directors that isn't governing. That it is meeting on a regular basis with the top-level administration, recommendations are coming forth, and discussing things in a very general way.

What we require in this Province right now with the Workers' Compensation Commission is a direct hands-on approach. That is what the system requires, I say to the people in this House, a direct, hands-on approach to ensure that there is effective administration, to ensure that there is long-term financial stability, and ultimately to ensure that those people who are injured receive the benefits according to an act that was enshrined in this House.

That is what it is about. That is what it should be about. We don't live in an ideal world, but where there are instances where that isn't happening that a proper accountable system is in place to correct the things that should not happen. That they are corrected immediately, isolated, to ensure that they don't happen again.

I would say to the minister that in terms of recommending to you, as minister, I would take a serious look at the ratio between top levels of administration and the actual front-line services. I've talked to case managers who are doing their very best to try to accommodate, to try to deal with the case files they have in front of them to the best of their ability, but there just isn't enough time, Mr. Speaker.

If we were going to move in a direction and look beyond the tips of our noses that would ensure the creditable financial stability of the fund - because it has to be about that. If we were going to move in a direction that would eliminate abuse, so that the individuals who find themselves in a position through no fault of their own are injured and need to depend upon this, that it is in place for them, and we have to look at providing more front-line resources to case managers to reduce their case-loads, they need to be cut in half at least. Case managers have told me that, for them to effectively do their job, and still, it would be very hectic but they believe that they could do it if they were dealing with cases of thirty to thirty-five, not sixty or seventy or even more.

Remember, and it needs to be said for the record as well, that a case manager, just does not deal with an injured worker but has to deal with people with respect to - is there a possibility for re-education to get the person back into the workforce. I have not met very many injured workers whom, if the opportunity was presented to them would not go back to the workplace tomorrow; if the opportunities were there and if they could, physically handle it. Case managers have to deal with employers in terms of continuing assessments, finding ways and solutions for those people who possibly could be retrained, who possibly could find alternate employment, that they could get back into it so you are not just talking about one case manager dealing with thirty people, that is not the impression that should be left, because these are complicated and complex sorts of files that you are talking about.

One file unto itself, Mr. Speaker, and I can show you, I have about 250 to 260 in my office, one filing cabinet just deals with injured workers with whom I have worked in the past four years; one file could be two or three inches thick in terms of the doctors assessments, in terms of the assessments done by the Miller Centre, unbelievable the information that is done. But the minister has to move in a direction and the government has the power to do it. Former ministers have stood up and said: Workers' Compensation Commission operates at arm's length; that may be true but it is not entirely true. The minister appoints the board of directors and government appoints the CEO of that organization, so it has the power to implement its agenda.

What has been lacking, Mr. Speaker, is the will to do it but it seems, Mr. Speaker, and I want to refer to Bill 50, that government wanted to send out a message before Christmas, and I believe that what government is doing by Bill 50 -and the minister can comment because I would like him to - that by introducing this piece of legislation, if that is sending a signal, that he is saying to the people, the stakeholders in the system, that some balance is going to be restored, that the notions of deeming, situations where specialists are being overruled by people who, though are not qualified, overrule them will be no more; that this piece of legislation, I am looking at it from that point of view.

I want to give benefit of the doubt and say to the minister that this is a small step, it is, it has not received wide support but it has not received widespread criticism because I believe, and I can say to the minister I hope, but if it is not, this member will be up every day asking you questions on it, you can be assured of that - that this is a step of what we are going to see coming this spring with a piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, that is comprehensive, that is broad-based, that deals with the recommendations as put forward in the Statutory Review Committee's Report, that deals with situations where the ratio between front-line services and administration is narrowed so there are more resources put into the front-line, more case managers up front, less case-loads so that we can deal with things expeditiously because, if we do not deal with things expeditiously minister, here is just one scenario of what happens:

An injured worker let us say, for the benefit of the doubt is thrown off the system who should be on it. Here is the cost to the system, one person: the injured worker goes to internal review, about a three-month period elapses, so within internal review, there is an individual there who is taking up time, resources reviewing the case file. That injured worker then - that is money, that cost dollars, that costs a lot of dollars - goes to the internal review, the injured worker comes out, nine chances out of ten he or she cannot go there. Sometimes it is allowed. Sometimes it is permitted. They get a letter back from Internal Review - that is what happens, it is a vicious circle - they get a letter back from Internal Review saying that they have upheld the Commission's decision, but you have a right to appeal to the Chief Review Commissioner.

The injured worker, hopefully based upon advice, as they should seek it, appeals to the Chief Review Commissioner. Every time a case goes before the Chief Review Commissioner, it costs $500. That is just for the Chief Review Commissioner, it has nothing to do with the administrative support that is there, another cost to the system.

The Chief Review Commissioner, Mr. Speaker, finds that the injured worker's case has merit, and that in fact the Workers' Compensation Commission has erred in law, that the regulations and the Act before them were misinterpreted. That decision then is sent back to the Workers' Compensation Commission and the injured worker is relieved, finally - finally, they say some justice has been restored - only to find out a week later, that the Commission has sent a letter back, in many cases, in a number of ways, and let me give you some instances. One occurred this week with me again. They sent a letter back to the Chief Review Commissioner saying: On the decision of Workers' Compensation, file number, your decision can be interpreted in two ways. It can be interpreted that the individual's compensation you have said we should provide should only be provided from the time of your decision. Or it can be interpreted that we should not provide it at all. We would seek further clarification.

The Chief Review Commissioner has to take that letter, has to take that case, and review it all again.

AN HON. MEMBER: Another $500?

MR. E. BYRNE: Possibly. He sends back another letter to the Workers' Compensation Commission that says: My decision was clear. The interpretation is this, clearly - said the same thing only in different words. The Commission sends back a letter. This is just one person we are talking about now. Multiply it by, say, 150, and we get a notion or some sense of what that is costing the system that it does not need to cost the system; that is the point of this debate.

So it is sent back. The Commission says: Okay, we would like to appeal the decision of the Review Commissioner, and when appealing the decision of the Review Commissioner, it goes to the Supreme Court. Now, when this Minister of Education was the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations he brought in a system from a three-person appeal tribunal to a single adjudicator system. Associated with that Act - because he went as far as he could in law to make the decisions of the independent Chief Review Commissioner binding, and binding, meaning binding both on the Commission and binding on the injured worker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who did that?

MR. E. BYRNE: The former minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes it was. Because one of the big complaints we had at the time, I say to the Member for Cape St. Francis, is that all the decisions that were being made at the tribunal were being overturned, all of them.

MR. TULK: By whom?

MR. E. BYRNE: By the Workers' Compensation Commission. Under the new regime that was put in place in 1994, which we debated in this House in the Spring - actually, it was the last day the House closed in the Spring of 1994, and I met with the minister on it at the time - they went as far as they could in law to make it binding both upon the Commission and the injured worker.

Clear enough. We agreed to that. We said it was a good thing, we supported it. The only right of appeal, either by the injured worker on the one hand or by the Compensation Commission on the other hand, was the Supreme Court. Guess what happened, Mr. Speaker? The docket at the Supreme Court for cases became so full with appeals from the Review Commissioner, that the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, which is the Cabinet, changed it. They did not come before the House to change it. They changed the regulations - the regulations that made the decision final and binding, that gave the Commission the right to look at decisions of the Review Commissioner. Now, that is a fact.

Because often in this Legislature we debate the legislation. We do not get an opportunity to debate the regulatory framework that is associated with legislation. That was done. The Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods now, who was the Minister of Environment and Labour then, was the minister who spearheaded that approach. Because there definitely was pressure put on by the court system. Their docket was full. They did not have enough time to deal with the appeals that they would have to hear from.

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible) ruled in favour?

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, or against.

So what has really happened, Mr. Speaker, is that we have taken some teeth out of the Review Commissioner's decisions. We have not made them final and binding as they were originally intended to be. But, Mr. Speaker, the point of this entire discussion is to provide to members of this House and this minister what takes place on one file. If caseloads were reduced, if the pressure was not there - in terms of sixty or seventy - that that pressure is causing decisions to be made that should not be made.

As a result of decisions that should not be made, that are being made, appeals are starting to occur. These things do not happen in isolation, there is a fall-out. There are repercussions to the actions that are being taken, and as a result of those repercussions, Mr. Speaker, we are seeing an appeal process occur at a rate that it should not be occurring. We are seeing basic decisions being made by caseworkers, under pressure, from both ends, that should not be made. As a result, the appeal process starts, Internal Review, Chief Review Commissioner, reviewed by the Workers' Compensation Commission, back to the Chief Review Commissioner again, and that costs money.

Now, if we are interested, clearly, in saving money and securing the financial stability of the injury fund itself, then I suggest to the minister, let us invest in more front-line services. I believe that for every dollar you invest you will get two back. I believe that the ramifications of the pressure that is on managers there now will be eliminated to a large degree; that the number of appeals will be decreased significantly; that the whole notion of internal review will not be as necessary as it is today, and that saves money. That money that can be saved can be redirected back into the front-lines to ensure there is no job loss - because I believe that jobs are important. I believe that the types of jobs that are being done right now are not focused on where they should be done.

Internal review, Mr. Speaker, we want to look at just another notion. Let us talk about internal review. Internal review, by its very definition, is simply this, that if a decision is made that an injured worker or an employer for that matter, does not agree with, their first line of appeal is internally within the Commission, that they will review internally.

AN HON. MEMBER: How long does that take?

MR. E. BYRNE: Forget about how long it takes. That is one thing but I had occasion, Mr. Speaker - again, a factual story - about six to eight weeks ago, to go to a hearing with an individual from Bell Island, at Internal Review. Now, the situation - we will not get into the details of the case because it is not necessary to prove the point that I am going to bring forward.

About fifteen minutes into the presentation that we were making, I questioned the Commission's decision on why they made this decision. I suspected - and I said it at the internal review - I suspected that it was a conscience decision that was made on this fellow and that they constantly tried to booth him off the system. You know, the Internal Review Officer said, `No, Sir,' right in the review, `that's not the case.' I said why? She said, `I made that decision.' I said, `Well, what are you doing reviewing your own decision?' This was a case manager who was gone from case manager to Internal Review. This gentleman's file was outstanding for about a year.

MR. J. BYRNE: That cannot be true.

MR. E. BYRNE: Oh it is. We are going to appeal to a Chief Review Commissioner, I think, about mid-January. It should be flicked out on that issue alone, notwithstanding the medical evidence where a specialist - again, another notion where a specialist overruled, but right in the middle of an internal review, we had an internal review specialist reviewing a case of which one year previous, she was the case manager. We had an internal review specialist sitting down reviewing an injured worker's case history of which she made decisions on. Now, in all honesty, do any of us believe that there was no prejudice? Let us assume for a moment there was not, but the perception of it, the very notion that I could sit in judgement of my own decisions that affects the life of an individual, daily, right now, it is obscene, Mr. Speaker. It is obscene, it is unheard of, and in any court system, it would not be viewed as being at arms length. Now, outside of all of the evidence and what was contained in that worker's file, the fact of the matter is that when we get to the Chief Review Commissioner, based upon the rules and regulations associated with the Workers' Compensation Act, which I think I know, that that case should be overturned for that reason alone - again, a significant and terrible waste of resources, misdirected.

My own view - some people disagree with me, there are injured workers who disagree with me. That's fine, but my own is that I do not believe there should be an internal review process. I think it is wasteful. I think that if we put more money into front-line resources, I think if we provide the tools and the ammunition that are necessary for people to make the right decisions, I believe if the guidelines are in place on policy, clearly communicated up and down the line, that there would be no need for internal review. And, as a result of doing that, where there was a dispute, it would be, in fact, on a question of law or regulations. It would not be because people are being deemed off the system, because they should not be. It would be because there is a legitimate dispute with the regulation or the interpretation of that regulation; and the first line of appeal should be the Chief Review Commissioner, and his decisions or her decisions, whatever the case may be, should be final and binding to the greatest extent that this Legislature can enshrine, and that the last course of repeal should be The Supreme Court. That is the system we have in place for many other jurisdictions in what government controls.

That is my view, but I do not believe internal review is operating the way it should be, and we are not providing the resources to that area the way that it should be done. It is being misdirected.

Again, I say to the minister, this is not an isolated case. Right now, I could go up to my files and I bet you I can pick out at least ten or fifteen cases where the exact same situation happened.

I have to say, too, as an individual, if I were a case worker today, or if I were just a worker, in terms of all of my colleagues here - the minister is the same way; I am sure every member over there is the same way - how comfortable would you be, after sitting around making decisions on files, case managers, interacting back and forth with your professional colleagues, getting their advice on particular cases, on particular medical assessments - how comfortable would you be if you were taken from that position and put in Internal Review and then given the responsibility of reviewing your colleagues, your former professional associates, your friends with whom you still socialize, who still come over to your house on Sundays maybe for Sunday brunch?

The reality is that many people who work together in the workplace socialize outside together because of common interests, common goals, common objectives, common workplace; but how comfortable, truly, would you be? Personally, I would not want to be in that position.

If there is going to be an internal review decision, if the conventional wisdom at the end of the day after this process is reviewed is that Internal Review should stay, then it should be accompanied by another set of criteria, that those people who are in Internal Review, that is exactly what they do, and only what they do; that they cannot be taken from a case manager's position one day and put into an internal review specialist the next day. I mean, the perception of it... How would the minister like to be in a position where, as an internal review specialist, he is overturning decisions that may have pretty extraordinary and far-reaching consequences for his or her co-worker? Not only is it an uncomfortable position - and I am not saying that it is not being done, because it probably is; but, again, providing the benefit of the doubt, the perception of it is wrong. It is not right, and it does not allow for proper decisions to be made. It has to change. That has to change.

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my remarks by saying this: The minister has a unique opportunity before him. I know he is - and I say this with all affection - a socially-conscious red Liberal, that he is primarily concerned, that he is concerned, with his responsibility. I know he is concerned - I believe it - with the results of his decisions and the ramifications of his decisions, but he has to balance, and I understand the balance that he is going to have to try to achieve, but he has an opportunity. He has the opportunity to set the direction for the Workers' Compensation Commission for the next ten years, a direction that will do a number of things.

Number one, it will provide for long-term financial security because the commission financially is in very, very healthy shape. Number two, that it will provide an opportunity and it will set the direction for the commission that no longer will medical specialists' reports be overruled by occupational therapists, by case managers or general practitioners. That has to happen and it has to happen swiftly, minister. That he can set the direction by where - and I would even support the minister hiring someone to go down, independent, and look at the administrative structure of the Workers' Compensation Commission because it needs to be overhauled, internally - that he can set the direction as minister, where the resources - a more effective use of the resources right now are put into the direction where they should be put. That is in the front line services that would reduce case managers' loads that were guidelines effective. Administration should be about effective administration, where guidelines are provided up and down the line.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: We will see - guidelines up and down the line that are clearly communicated, clearly articulated. That he can be the minister noted for restoring some balance and justice to a system that was effectively enshrined in 1952 or 1953 in this House, to do exactly that, to provide some justice and balance to workers who are not getting the balance and justice they deserve. That is the reason workers' compensation and Workers' Compensation Commission came into effect. That he can redirect and be applauded for - and I will tell the minister this, that the moves in those directions will be applauded by this member outside of any political rhetoric, outside of partisan politics because it is too important, I say to the minister, and I will say this too, that you can be the minister, that you have the opportunity to say to the Workers' Compensation Commission that you were the one who put a system in place that can be a model for the rest of the country, that not only restored balance and some justice, that took a unique turn and looked at reducing accidents, putting more resources into occupational health and safety. That in your tenure and because of the measures that you took, accidents in the workplace were reduced by over forty to fifty per cent. That in your term and your tenure, that you could be the minister to stand up and say, ten or fifteen years from now, that as a result of my stewardship over this department that when I became minister there were 3,600 injured workers, there are now only 1,800. That is the opportunity you have and I think that is the opportunity that you should seize.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Oldford): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to say a few words today on this workers' compensation bill and I first of all have to congratulate my colleague who spent some time talking about workers' compensation and who certainly made some very good points as it relates to the workers' compensation and who is, I must say, very, very well versed in issues of workers' compensation and I believe that every word he said today is true.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to mention to the minister today, of just one particular incident that I had. I have appeared before workers' compensation on a number of occasions, but I often wondered if I would have the opportunity to stand in my place in the House to relay a story that I had on workers' compensation to the minister. I am glad today that this presents me the opportunity to do so.

I, minister, attended a hearing before the Chief Review Commissioner of workers' compensation with a constituent of mine, presented a case before the Chief Review Commissioner. I guess my client and somebody at Workers' Compensation somewhere during his case had certainly gotten across each other, and I guess between maybe the case worker and himself there wasn't really a good deal, or certainly there were not good communications back and forth.

He ended up eventually before the Chief Review Commissioner. We presented our case, and within the mandatory time we received a letter back from the commissioner saying that the constituent had won the case. The arguments that had been put forward both by him and by the medical doctor who had reviewed his case and who had certainly -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: - placed before him the medical evidence and, of course, we had won the case.

That was fine. I went on holidays in the summer, and I was off about two days when my phone rang at home. This was my constituent, who told me that he had gone back to Workers' Compensation, Minister, and had asked when he could come in to have his case settled, when he could discuss with his worker his job of retraining, only to be told on the phone by the chap at Workers' Compensation that nothing had changed in his case. To quote the fellow: Nothing has changed with you. I am dealing with your case, and what I say is what you will eventually end up with.

He relayed that story to me, and I said: No, no, no, that is totally unreal. There is nobody down there. They are either going to accept the decision of the Chief Review Commissioner or they are going to the next level, of course, which is on to court. He said: Well, Bob, that is what they told me today.

I got on the phone and phoned out, and got talking to somebody in their executive offices. I don't remember who, and if I did I would not name them anyway. I mentioned the case, and about an hour or so later I got another call from somebody else who sits in the executive offices down there. I relayed the story to him, and told him that I thought it was a disgrace, and that if indeed they were going on to the next level, which was on to the Supreme Court, then to please let us know and I would instruct my constituent to go hire a lawyer and prepare to go to court.

Anyway, some time that day my constituent got another phone call, again from the Workers' Compensation Commission, only this time from a little bit higher up the line and from the executive office, and said: No, no, no, what this guy told you is all wrong. In actual fact, we are now going to settle your case. You don't need to go on to the next level. We are going to give you the money, and that is the end of it.

So I say to the minister that if ever there was an institution, or whatever you want to call the Workers' Compensation Commission, that should be investigated independently, as my colleague has suggested, and if ever there was something in this Province that should certainly be reorganized or realigned and probably stripped, some of them, and some of them should be moved on out the door, it is the Workers' Compensation Commission in this Province.

Some while ago when the petition was presented in the House, I received some 270-odd letters, and I just highlight that one case of what happened to a constituent of mine, and I am sure members opposite get the same thing. To me, that is a disgrace.

So I would urge the minister that as quickly as possible we would get into Workers' Compensation with an independent to do a study so that a lot of the things that my colleague has said - and very eloquently, I might add - the last few minutes talking about we can certainly implement so that constituents of mine, and I am sure members opposite, are not going in winning their case, bringing in medical evidence, taking the time and spending the money to get these things, and then presenting them before Workers' Compensation, only to end up getting the result that they get.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker. I hope the minister will certainly look into those things and in future ensure that they never happen again to workers in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I understand that the hon. lady wants to speak on this bill, but if I could, I understand that the Opposition House Leader has agreed to - and we have to do it now - not participate in the Late Show and that we will, by unanimous consent, agree that we will carry on debate.

There are four or five bills I think - there is a particular bill that we need Royal Assent in order to be able for it to be put on a resolution and I think we have agreed that we will bring the Lieutenant- Governor in at about five o'clock, get Royal Assent to four or five bills that are here but particularly this one, and then, as soon as we are finished that, that we will adjourn the House. So, I will make a motion, just to (inaudible) Order Paper that this House do not adjourn at five o'clock?

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

MR. H. HODDER: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I am just confirming the procedures outlined by the Government House Leader that we will not be doing the Late Show today in order to facilitate the business of legislation, and that we are hopeful that we can listen to the great debate that has been going on here this afternoon, have more of it now and I think next, from the Member for St. John's West, that hopefully, we will be able to achieve all the objectives that the Government House Leader and I have laid down for today.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that this House do not adjourn at five o'clock.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye

MR. SPEAKER: Those against, 'nay'.

Motion, carried.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Thank you.

I would just like to make a few comments today on this bill to amend the Workers' Compensation Act.

It is commendable that for some of our workers their compensation will be increased from 75 per cent to 80 per cent, but we are just dealing with a small number of injured workers, and we will only be compensating them for a period of thirty-nine weeks. What plans do we have for those people who will sustain a permanent injury, one which will render them unable to work again, and what are we going to do for workers who have been injured prior to this bill, who cannot work ever again?

Since joining this House in July, I have had personal visits to my office from many people involved with workers compensation and I have had calls from injured workers who feel betrayed by this very system that was instituted to compensate them. For many there was little compensation and for some people, there was no compensation. For those who do receive compensation, there is a process that is so gruelling that workers give up altogether, and one of these examples was given by my colleague from Kilbride, re: the injured worker who had a professional opinion from a specialist which was overruled by a general practitioner at the Commission.

Now we have as well, people who are being deemed employable for positions that either do not exist or, for which exist but the person is not really physically capable of doing. Not too long ago a gentleman came in to see me; by trade was an auto mechanic and had hurt himself on the job, stayed off for a couple of weeks and being a conscientious fellow, he went back to work. He was only back a couple of weeks when he realized that he could not continue to work any longer at this job.

Rather than go on compensation or be unemployed, he took a job as a taxi-driver but he soon realized that to make any kind of a living driving a taxi, took long, long hours and his back also could not sustain being in a taxicab for a long period of time. So he gave up that job and went to workers compensation. That was in 1989 but the process was so long and so drawn out for him to receive compensation, he had no money, he sold his house and since 1989, he has been living on the proceeds of that sale and keeping his family going on the proceeds of that sale. Now, he is out of money and his case still has not been heard by workers' compensation.

So, while it is commendable that we are raising the compensation for people who will be injured after January 1, from 75 per cent to 80 per cent, it is also important that we have a look at this commission that was set up for our workers and see to it that this commission does what it was mandated to do, to serve our workers. Thank you, very much.

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

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour

MR LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

(Inaudible) the people who spoke today on the bill that is before the House. I really want to congratulate the Member for Kilbride who so eloquently named a number of problems that is prevalent or does occur at WCC. I am sure that every person in the House who have to have any dealings with it can, without too much difficulty, find examples where this would happen. However, a couple of things that he spoke about I would like to talk about and that is, first of all, deeming. Deeming is a major problem, there are no two ways about that. We are working at that with the hope that we can vastly improve the system that is there now because basically it's frustration for the worker and it's frustration for the commission itself. There is no doubt about it that we have to deal with deeming and in due course, as a part of the review, we will do that. For me to say that there are no problems with it, in a sense just to put my head in the sand like an ostrich and not recognize the problem, it would not be fair. So basically we want to do that and in due time we will look at it.

Occupational Health and Safety, I agree again, as people have said, I guess if we were to say that - industrial activity, any industrial activity there will be risks. We will want to minimize it. Obviously Occupational Health and Safety is very important and in fact I have addressed that with the staff at the department. Basically, I have asked for them to do a review of the Occupational Health and Safety in the department to see what we can do to improve the standards that are there at the department so that basically we can do exactly what the Member for Kilbride said and others, that we can prevent accidents through education and prevention. If we can do that then obviously the financial part of the Workers' Compensation will benefit directly.

One of the other things that he mentioned was the five year review. I am not sure if we need to stay five years before we take a comprehensive review at the WCC. Basically, I see that - and I can compare it to what happens with the municipal assessment. Why wait five years to do a complete assessment of the communities - and you can do it step by step, year by year so that you would not have to take five years to do some of the recommendations that would occur in year one or year two and so on. I am looking at that with putting a committee in place so that we can probably do it annually or every second year to take a look at it with the whole idea of improving the system to the injured worker. So I am looking at that probably as a part of the recommendation that we can bring in later on in the spring.

I also want to address the part that - especially what the Member for Kilbride said, in a sense putting a human face on the commission. There is no doubt about it that the people who work there are under stress and basically it's an insurance program. Sometimes the caseworkers and people who work there look at it in terms of black and white and don't see any discretionary powers that they can have themselves. So therefore that causes, I think, a major concern. So I want to have a look at that as well in the recommendation and see what we can do about it. There is a review in place.

I just want to follow up and comment on an example, where I met with the Member for Kilbride just after becoming minister, I think in July, where he related to me an incident - and I went and checked it out personally after he related it to me. Basically here is a situation, one instance of where this person was in intensive care and the caseworker went and told this person, while he was in intensive care, that his benefits had been cut. So basically when I went back and found out indeed that had happened -but really to add insult to injury, for this particular worker, is when the caseworker went back to the commission and underlined it, she realized ways that they could have extended benefits and he didn't have to be cut at all. In my report to the commission I said: this is negligent on your part. You should have done that before you had gone in. So we can find examples of that and I want to do that.

One more point on this particular situation, we are hiring front-line workers, new workers, to reduce the number of caseloads of the workers that they have and to carry it one step further we are looking at the whole administration of the WCC, and ways that we can put a human face on it, to benefit not only the worker but also to bring benefits to the employer as well.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of the bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 50)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, earlier on today we said we would do second reading of Bill No. 55 and then move to Committee and then, by leave, do third reading of that bill as well. I now call second reading of Bill No. 55.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act". (Bill No. 55)

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

MR. A. REID: It is not going to take me very long, Mr. Speaker.

I want to talk about this bill, but I want to congratulate the Member for Kilbride on his comments. I listened to every word that he said about the Workers' Compensation, and some of the direction he gave the minister, and I have to concur that I agree with some of the things he said. I also have to say to him that we, as MHAs, even though some of us are ministers, have just as many people coming to us with Workers' Compensation problems as he does, and some of us more so, I am sure, than others. I can say quite honestly to him that the problems with Workers' Compensation, next to unemployment insurance and TAGS, is probably one of the most important issues with which all of us in the House have to deal. I am just hoping that things can get a little bit better in regard to the process. It would make my life a heck of a lot easier, I can tell you that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: I am complimenting you. I am not looking for anything from you. I am not running for the PC nomination, or the leadership, or anything like that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Thank God for that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: You still have not told me which one of you will be stepping aside if Dougie should get elected.

MR. J. BYRNE: You can mark down one (inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: You're not.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Now, Bill No. 55. If you remember - most of the House would remember - I am sure most of you had comments about the assessment of properties in the Province. This particular bill will relate only - only - to commercial properties, especially commercial properties located in malls in the Province.

Even though this bill would allow all businesses in a community - we are hoping that it will help rectify a problem, at least a perceived problem, by some communities in the Province, which will allow municipalities, basically, to have more autonomy in dealing with the levying of taxation.

Mr. Speaker, today when a property is assessed, be it a residential property or a business, there is a property tax affixed to that business. That same level of property tax, be it five mils, ten mils, or fifteen mils that a council will charge a residence, your personal home, is also the same level as they would charge a business.

If a council is in a situation where it would like to get a few more dollars from the business community, and be forced to raise their taxes in the business community, they would, on the other hand, have to raise their taxes in regard to residential units in the community as well.

Most communities find that very difficult, especially the larger communities who are dealing with a lot of multinational companies, large banks who are making these tremendous profits, and all this sort of thing, and they would - I am not supposed to say this, but a lot of communities would like to be able to raise the taxes of some of these bigger outfits or bigger businesses in their towns. But in raising the property tax level they would also then be raising the property tax level for you as a resident living in a house, because both of them are combined.

What I am doing today is separating them. I am proposing that municipalities outside of St. John's because St. John's already does this, Mount Pearl already does it and Corner Brook already does it, all the other communities in the Province be given that same authority to be able to set a separate property tax rate for businesses and for residents. So, it does not necessarily have to be the same rate.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Well, all communities - let me explain what I am saying. In communities right now and I will give you my own example in Carbonear. In Carbonear, we have ten categories of business tax rates. We have a business tax rate for banks and financial institutions, remember Jack? You remember now. We have a business tax rate for service station, lotto booths, various categories of business - business tax, but not property tax. Property tax is property tax regardless what it is, be it commercial or residential, as it stands today, it is the same.

What I want to do is, I want to give all of the other communities with the exception of St. John's, Mount Pearl and Corner Brook because they already have this, I want to give it to them and basically that is all this bill does. That will allow then a council like Portugal Cove or St. Phillips or Carbonear or Grand Falls, Twillingate, Pasadena to decide themselves what property tax rate that they will affix to business.

MR. TULK: Art, we all know what the bill is about.

MR. A. REID: Some do and some don't, but I have to get a chance to speak every now and then.

With that said, I believe I have said enough, that is enough to explain what I am trying to do, other then the fact that there are some communities out there that will still find a little bit of difficulty in dealing with high and low assessments in certain businesses in malls.

Now, I want to finish off by saying this to you and I would like for my colleagues in the House to listen to what I am saying.

A lot of us are getting calls from all over the Province saying that their assessment rates this year have gone sky-high, some have gone up and some have gone down. Nobody complaining about them being gone down. If they are complaining about them being gone down there is something wrong with them, but there are a lot of complaints about assessments going up. Just remember this, the only people in the Province - we cannot do it as government - the only people who can address assessment rates in the Province are the local town councils. If the town council is not satisfied with an assessment rate or they think because you complained to them that your assessment is to high, they cannot do anything about the assessment, but they can do something about the tax rate. They can say to you, I will drop your mill rate to adjust your taxes so that it falls in line with what you always paid.

So, even though I am getting a fair number of calls and there is some talk about it on CBC and in the media, most of the comments that are being made are basically comments that reflect the fact that the municipality themselves, the town council, has the legal authority to adjust tax levels up and down to wherever they want to be and with that, Mr. Speaker, I will wait for some debate from across the floor.

MR. TULK: What is wrong with you?

MR. A. REID: Boy, I am in flight.

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

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

We on this side agreed today to facilitate the second reading and eventually the third reading, I suppose, of this particular bill because we understand that this is an issue that needs to be addressed before the municipalities finalize their municipal budgets. It is my understanding that this bill will permit municipalities other than St. John's, Mount Pearl and Corner Brook who already have the enabling legislation in their separate acts, to be able to establish two property tax rates, one for commercial and one for residential and with the power to be able to add different categories, within lets say the commercial area. They can add various sub-groups and they could possibly have ten, twelve different categories and in checking with the departmental authorities today, I want to note that, it is within the power of each municipality to be able to establish the different categories, they do not need to have approval from the ministry to do that. So, for example, if the Town of Torbay wished to have three or four categories in its commercial tax rate, or if it wanted to have seven or eight, it could do it. This will let the different commercial groups be taxed more reasonably, more fairly, and in many cases more responsibly.

The difficulty we have here is that some of the municipalities find themselves with some of the large malls. In the large malls the anchor tenants, or the big multinationals, these people are seeing their tax rates go down; whereas the smaller business clients in the malls, their assessed values are going way up. Therefore what we are doing here, unless we change this, we are going to have big increases in taxes for the small business people, but the big multinationals, which every day deposit their money in banks in Toronto or Montreal or in some place that is offshore, these people get a tax break.

Because of that, we on this side of the House are saying that we agree with the principles of this bill. We want to facilitate its passage so that we can have the message communicated to the municipalities so their budgets, which are now in the final stages of being prepared, can be facilitated and they can incorporate this information in the preparation of their budget.

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the agreement we had earlier today, we on this side will curtail our discussion. This is an important piece of legislation. We would like to facilitate it getting royal assent before this day is out, and also that we could go and have it communicated immediately, tomorrow, to all municipalities in the Province so that they can have the benefit of this immediately in the final preparation of their 1998 budget for their municipality.

Thank you very much.

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

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. A. REID: I move second reading, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House now, by leave. (Bill No. 55)

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Oldford): Order, please!

Bill 55, An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act.

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

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

MR. SPEAKER (L. Snow): The hon. the Member for Trinity North.

MR. OLDFORD: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report Bill No. 55, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act, passed without amendment.

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

On motion, Bill No. 55 read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper:

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I believe that The Opposition House Leader and I, have agreed that we will try to get through Bill 7 and Bill 10, then have the Lieutenant-Governor come in to give Royal Assent to -I think there are five now - five bills that we have done; then the Minister of Justice will be allowed to put down the resolution on it, and at that point we would adjourn.

Mr. Speaker, I now call Bill 7, "An Act To Amend The Food And Drug Act".

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Food And Drug Act", (Bill No. 7).

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, I move second reading of Bill No. 7, "An Act To Amend The Food And Drug Act".

Of the many initiatives that the regulatory reform project made, one of them was to recommend several amendments to the provincial Food and Drug Act, and it really was to try to simply update the statute to reflect better the technological conditions and to otherwise modernize the statute.

Although this was not an initiative of the department at the time of regulatory reform, the Department of Health was already well along in completely redrafting all of the regulations under the Food and Drug Act as well as the then Department of Health Act.

In the final stages of drafting the regulations under the Food and Drug Act, the department has taken into account the recommendations that the regulatory reform commissioner has made with respect to the governing statute. Consequently, many of the regulatory provisions under the Food and Drug Act will be enhanced by the recommended changes to the statute.

I will just take a few moments and go through each of the clauses. There are five and it will only take a couple of minutes to simply explain each one of them and then present the motion.

Clause 1 really makes amendments to the definitions of the Food and Drug Act. Clause 2, makes amendments to the minister's regulatory powers, and by the addition of paragraph 3, the minister is now given the power to make regulations respecting inspectors and the powers of inspectors and orders or directions which may be made by them. Clause 3, repeals subsection 4 (4) because it refers to a slaughterhouse which is no longer a legislative responsibility of the Department of Health; Clause 4 repeals sections 5 to 16 of the Act inclusively, and substitutes sections 5 to 13 inclusively.

The new section 5 deals with powers of inspection. Clause 5 of the bill repeals sections 20, 22, 23, 24, 26 and 27 of the Act. Clause 6 of the bill repeals and substitutes section 36 of the Act which deals with the penalties available under the Act and the amount of money for different offences: first offence, second and so on and finally, clause 7 of the bill is a general amendment which strikes out the phrase "the place where food is prepared or sold" and replaces it with "food premises" wherever these words appear.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

We have a few words, in fact, in preparation I have - like eleven pages of notes here - but we are going to try to make these as brief as possible, given the commitment I made to the Government House Leader earlier today, but I do indeed have eleven pages of notes and concerns. Most of these things we will raise at the committee level.

I just want to say to the hon. minister that this is called, "An Act To Amend The Food And Drug Act", and it is perhaps indicative of how long it has been around here in that the bill itself, Bill No. 7, just happens to be standing in the name of the hon. Lloyd Matthews who has not been Minister of Health for a long, long time. That indicates how long it has been in the system. One would have thought that when you were reprinting it that you might have changed the name of the minister on the title page at least.

Then we find today that the former Minister of Health is not available to comment on the bill, the present Minister of Health is not available to comment on the bill, and we have to go to the acting, acting Minister of Health, the hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment. She did a commendable job in reading the notes that had been provided to her, an exemplary job in fact. We just want to say that this bill has been hanging around here for a long time. In fact, the former minister, the current minister, forgot about it altogether. It is fortunate that somebody over there had the notes distributed.

We have a couple of things we want to note. First of all, this emanates from the changes in the Regulatory Reform Commission, and we have some concerns that too many things are now being done by regulatory bodies. This is the legislative forum.

I was mentioning to my colleague earlier today, we are noticing a trend. We want to say to the government that we should be making sure that the legislators of this Province know more details of what is going on, and we should be avoiding putting too many things into regulations.

I believe there is a willingness on behalf of some legislators on the other side to make sure that the House of Assembly is the informed body, and that we do not have things being constrained, and not changed but at least the interpretation varied from what is said here in the House, and we should be making sure that the House and the people who sit here, regardless of which party they are with, that they are the people who are the informed body, and they know exactly what the regulations contain.

One of the things that we would like to ask the minister is to find out who was involved in the preparation of this bill. For example, there may be major implications for hundreds and hundreds of businesses throughout Newfoundland and Labrador - the corner shops, the supermarkets, the restaurants, the food processors, the brewers, and all the rest of it. Have these groups, I ask the minister, been signed off on this legislation as it is now written? What consultations have taken place?

We want to ask as well, because this bill makes significant changes, why did we not send it to the Legislation Review Committee to see if there are going to be any concerns raised by those stakeholders that I just mentioned in the implementation?

We wanted to ask these questions because this bill has major implications for the health of our people, for the security of our businesses, for the rights of workers, and for the process that government uses for food inspection. This is not a minor piece of legislation. There are tremendous implications here, and we wanted to ask the minister now so that when we come to second reading we can have some advance notice of some of the questions that we will be asking.

I want to ask the minister as well about the protection that might be available for a person whose food is seized, to ensure that the food is tested properly and promptly, and that there is a safeguard in case the person believes the inspector has made an error. We refer the minister to the new section 6, and what that might mean. It seems that protection for persons charged under the old sections 5 and 6 seem to be great. We are pleased with some of that.

We also wanted to make a couple of comments to say that the penalties that are being talked about here seem appropriate. There is a toughening of the penalties and we tend to support that, although we want to note that the size of the fines that are imposed seem somewhat huge. If you check, all of that information is not there, but it is contained in the main piece of legislation.

These seem to be our major concerns. With that, we will be asking further questions at the Committee stage. With advance notice to the minister, we would like to have some further explanations when we get to that particular stage.

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

The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS BETTNEY: I would like to move second reading of Bill 7, An Act To Amend The Food And Drug Act. I will ensure that the questions which have been presented, the responses will be provided through Committee.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Food And Drug Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 7)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 23, Bill 10, An Act To Amend The Wilderness And Ecological Reserves Act. I believe the debate was adjourned by the Member for Cape St. Francis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) we will find out. Hold on now. Maybe the Table can tell us. Let's see. I say to the clerks, it was the first day the House was open.

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 23.

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I remember speaking to this bill now, when I stand in my place, because I remember the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation introducing the bill and going on and on the very first day the House of Assembly opened on this minor bill. We thought we were going to have some heavy legislation brought to the House of Assembly, and the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation went on and on about Bill 10, An Act To Amend The Wilderness And Ecological Reserves Act.

The minister talked about two types of reserves: the wilderness reserve for hunting and fishing and what have you, and an ecological reserve for rare species and the like and natural phenomena, I think was the word she used at the time.

With respect to the wilderness areas in Newfoundland and Labrador, of course, Mr. Speaker, we have some now and one of them I believe is the Bay de Nord wilderness area. I have a few comments to make about that wilderness area in Bay de Nord because I have been fishing in Bay de Nord, in some areas down there and as a matter of fact -

AN HON. MEMBER: Salmon fishing?

MR. J. BYRNE: No, I was not salmon fishing, I was trouting. I am starting to get the terms used by the mainlanders, Mr. Speaker, trouting, I was doing in - actually I was in there three -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I love salmon fishing, I say to the Government House Leader, but anyway with respect to trouting, I have been in there three times, I think it was, had to fly into the area and there was an individual who had a cabin in there, an old log cabin type of thing and I had some good times in that cabin. What happened last year, it was not this past winter, the winter before, Mr. Speaker, the crown lands division or forestry or wildlife or something went in and burnt down the cabin. He was ordered to take it out of there, but it was there in the areas when the wilderness area was proclaimed, I do believe. I stand to be corrected, but I believe there were still cabins in there that are in the courts at this point in time, the government is trying to get them to remove the cabins, but they are still there.

Last year, it was not last year, but the year before I had to fly in again, Mr. Speaker, and it is the same site and the individual was permitted to have tents in there. He had to move the tents a few feet every - whenever, within a certain periods of time he had to move the tents, but he was permitted to have them there, Mr. Speaker. The problem was the individual who was with me at the time, he had some problems, we got fogged in, we had to spend an extra night in there, Mr. Speaker, and they were too tense, that is what their problem was and there is a story behind that, but I will not get into it.

The minister made some points when she was up and if I can read my writing - the minister talked about protection of a given site when it is under consideration from mining industries going in certain areas, Mr. Speaker, and that the areas would be protected even before the legislation has been approved. So, that is a concern, I would imagine.

There is another area with respect to the ecological reserve. There is an individual who has been making a lot of publicity in trying to protect certain areas on the Avalon and that is out in the Lockyers Waters area, Mr. Speaker, where there are certain types of lichens, I believe, in the area and certain types of plants that this group is trying to protect. There have been certain roads permitted to be put in this area and they are trying to oppose the development of these roads being put into the wilderness area, in that area. The individual I am talking about is a Mr. Conway, I believe, from out in the Harbour Main area. He has been putting some time and effort into that. I do not know if it is with any success but maybe the minister will want to consider having a look at that.

Now, with respect to these conservation areas, Mr. Speaker, there has to be some public input and public meetings so that the public can have some input into the conservation areas themselves, in the wilderness areas. I am not sure how many wilderness areas there are in the Province but I am sure it is never harmful, I do not imagine, to try to have more to protect the environment as the minister is trying to do with this legislation, Bill 10.

I think I spoke a fair bit on this the last time I was up. I do not have a lot to say today, just to say that maybe if the minister would like some input from the Opposition, from this side of the House, I am sure that the critic for this area would kindly offer to give any advice on any statements that you would like to hear from us on this side. But I do believe she should be having as much public input as possible into these conservation areas, both the wilderness and the ecological reserves.

There are other areas I know of that are being looked at up on the Northern Peninsula, in Labrador and what have you, Mr. Speaker. On that note, I am going to say to minister that at any time she feels she needs some advice from this side of the House - we have brought forward many concerns in the past, especially with legislation. We brought it up here before that the government has a tendency to ignore and then come in to make amendments, Mr. Speaker, to the legislation when they should be listening to us in the first place. So hopefully, with respect to this, they will take some advice from this side of the House of Assembly. Mr. Speaker, thank you.

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Our House Leader told me to make it brief, thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, we have a fax here from the tourism department, faxed over some time ago, which sets out to outline what this bill was designed to do. It states that the provisional stage would reinstate provisional reserve stage prior to full designation of a reserve.

Provisional stage creates full protection of site under the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act during extensive public consultation.

Provisional stage does not weaken an Act or process, but it would strengthen it by providing interim protection while the site is being discussed with the public and the industry. This provisional or interim stage ensures that industry or public do not damage, disturb or destroy the natural resources we are trying to protect.

Provisional stage creates a moratorium on the land and natural resources while government and the Advisory Council undertake further study and assessment, and no other legislative mechanism exists in the Province which provides such interim protection.

With that, Mr. Speaker, it would seem that there would be absolutely no reason to discuss this bill at all. Yet, there are two changes that are being made to the bill. There is a shift from reserves to provisional reserves, which can be discontinued even more quietly now than ever before under the changes to section 18 (3).

Ironically, recent legislation actually strengthened reserves while it seems that this one would move back to provisional reserves and perhaps weaken the legislation somewhat.

Public involvement and awareness regarding the establishment or discontinuance of reserves would be potentially seriously weakened by changes to section 12 (1). I wonder, is this change being driven by the desire of government now to privatize public lands, such as we have seen last year by the privatization of provincial parks, possibly to give extra wood to paper companies, or land, perhaps, to mining companies?

If the minister, maybe, could address a couple of those issues, it would be much appreciated.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. If the hon. the minister speaks now she will close the debate.

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill 10, "An Act To Amend The Wilderness And Ecological Reserves Act".

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Wilderness And Ecological Reserves Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 10)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I think that pretty well clues up the agenda that we set out for ourselves today. I do not know whether His Honour is here yet or not, but maybe we should take a recess to see if His Honour is here and come back as soon as he is here.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay. We will recess until His Honour arrives.

 

Recess

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor has arrived.

MR. SPEAKER: Admit His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor.

It is my agreeable duty on behalf of Her Majesty's dutiful subjects, Her Faithful Commons in Newfoundland, to present to Your Honour Bills for the appropriation of Supplementary Supply granted in the present session.

CLERK: A bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Additional Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1997 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service." (Bill No. 28)

A bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Additional Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1998 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service." (Bill No. 33)

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR (HON. A. M. HOUSE): In Her Majesty's Name, I thank Her Loyal Subjects, I accept their benevolence, and I assent to these Bills.

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.

CLERK: A bill, "An Act To Amend The Human Rights Code." (Bill No. 21)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991." (Bill No. 47)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act." (Bill No. 55)

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR: In Her Majesty's name, I assent to these bills.

His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor leaves the Chamber and Mr. Speaker returns to the Chair.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, the last piece of business for today, I believe, is that we revert, by leave, to Notices of Motion, to enable the Minister of Justice to put down a notice of motion.

MR. SPEAKER: Notices of Motion, by leave.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the members of the Opposition and the NDP Leader.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to move the following resolution and I understand that I have to read it into the record, otherwise I would just table it.

WHEREAS section 28 of the Provincial Court Act, 1991, requires the Lieutenant-Governor in Council to appoint a tribunal to recommend the salaries and benefits of the judges and chief judge of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland; and

WHEREAS the tribunal submitted this report on the salaries and benefits of provincial court judges to the Minister of Justice on February 21, 1997; and

WHEREAS the House varied the recommendations of the report by resolution adopted April 22, 1997, as follows:

(1) By deleting recommendation (1) and substituting the following:

Subsection (1) The salaries of provincial court judges be maintained at their current level pending further consideration by the Minister of Justice and the chief judge and the judge of the provincial court.

Subsection (2) By deleting recommendation (2) and substituting the following:

The differential between the salary of the chief judge and the other judges of the provincial court be $5,000, so that the salary of the chief judge will at all times be $5,000 higher than the salaries of the other judges of the court,

(3) By deleting recommendation 4(b); and

WHEREAS the tribunal recommended in recommendation (3), that a special pension plan for provincial court judges be negotiated directly by the Provincial Court Judges Association and government; and

WHEREAS the Supreme Court of Canada in September 1997, in the case known as Manitoba Provincial Judges Association verses Manitoba Provincial Minister of Justice, established for the first time guidelines for an appropriate process to determine the salaries and benefits of judges; and

WHEREAS the Provincial Court Act, 1991 has recently been amended to ensure that the statutory process complies with the Supreme Court of Canada Guidelines and in particular provides for a standing independent tribunal to prepare a report every four years containing recommendations on salaries and benefits of provincial court judges; and

WHEREAS the Provincial Court Act, 1991 now provides in subsection 28.1(1) That the Minister of Justice may, at any time, refer a matter respecting salaries or benefits of judges to the tribunal for its review on recommendations and in subsection 28.3(2) That the House may reconsider the tribunal report previously submitted and dealt with by the House on April 22, 1997 and may accept, reject or vary the report as if it had not been previously dealt with; and

WHEREAS the Minister of Justice intends to refer the matter of appropriate pension and severance benefits of provincial court judges to the first standing tribunal appointed under the amended Provincial Court Act, 1991; and

WHEREAS the government has decided to asked the House to rescind the resolution adopted April 22, 1997, to accept recommendations (1), (2) and (4) of the report regarding salaries, and to reject recommendations three regarding direct negotiation of a special pension plan by the Provincial Court Judge Association, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House rescind the resolution approved and adopted by the House on April 22, '97, varying the report on the salaries and benefits of provincial court judges and the Chief Judge. Two, accept recommendations one, two and four of the report on salaries and benefits of provincial court judges and the Chief Judge with salary increases to be effective April 1, '97 and reject recommendation three of the report on salaries and benefits of provincial court judges.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. TULK: If I could, there are two orders on the Order Paper which are no longer necessary because of other bills that have been brought forward. There is Bill 18, on the Shops' Closing Act, the original bill that was put down last -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: I would not be surprised - and there is also Bill 51 which was brought forward yesterday and is replaced today by Bill 55, so I would like to move, If I could -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Yes, I do know what I am at. I would like to move that Bills 18 and Motion No. 1, not appear on tomorrow's Order Paper.

MR. SPEAKER: Eighteen and Motion No. 1 which is Bill 51, be removed from the Order Paper for tomorrow.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye

MR. SPEAKER: Those against, 'nay'.

Motion carried.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at nine o'clock.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Friday, at 9:00 a.m.