December 12, 1997          HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS         Vol. XLIII  No. 50


The House met at 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin our routine proceedings, the Chair would like to welcome to the House of Assembly today sixty-seven Grade IX students from St. Peter's Elementary School in Upper Island Cove in the District of Port de Grave. They are accompanied by their teachers Mr. Wade Reid, Mr. Calvin Peddle, Mr. Howie Lundrigan, and Mr. Robert Bishop.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Statements by Ministers

 

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to inform the hon. Members of the House of Assembly of the substantial commitment of this government to the future of the forest and forest-related industries in this Province. This year we will see a grand total of $16.15 million spent on silviculture related work across Newfoundland and Labrador. This includes an additional $2.5 million dedicated this year by this government through the Employment Initiatives Fund.

Overall this represents an important investment by the provincial government, the two pulp and paper companies - Abitibi Price Consolidated, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Limited - and a combination of federal-provincial expenditures through the transitional jobs fund.

As a result, this year over 16,480 hectares of forest land were treated, which represents 2,300 hectares more than 1996. This year alone over 7.5 million seedlings were planted.

This Province has traditionally had a resource-based economy which is primarily export oriented. The two pulp and paper companies, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd. and Abitibi-Consolidated export shipments of newsprint valued in excess of $600 million. As well, we have a growing lumber industry which produces up to 70 million board feet per year.

Overall the pulp and paper and sawmilling industries presently make up over 20 per cent of the manufacturing gross domestic product. The forest industries provide about 10,000 direct and indirect jobs, and of these jobs one-third would be related to the sawmilling industry.

Earlier this year the announcement of the twenty-year forest management plan confirmed a deficit in intermediate-aged timber in the forest on the Island. Forty-eight per cent of the forest is older than sixty years old, and forty per cent of the forest is younger than forty years, and therefore will not be harvestable for another twenty to forty years. Therefore, in order to improve the current and future wood supply the plan recommends strong forest management, especially investment in silviculture and forest protection measures.

Mr. Speaker, we take this challenge seriously and in total, the 1997 silviculture program sponsored over 200 projects throughout the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: These projects provide meaningful work that contributes to the long-term viability of the over eighty rural Newfoundland and Labrador communities that rely on various levels of forestry related activity. This year alone we have created approximately 23,000 person weeks of employment - that means over 2,000 seasonal jobs in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, silviculture projects create immediate wealth through the simple fact that seventy per cent of each dollar spent is salary related. The level of investment activity this year is proof of this government's commitment to maximize employment and also to ensure a forest and forest based industry for the future of this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

First of all, I will comment on the improvement. I had a copy of the statement this time, Mr. Speaker, so it is nice to read along with the minister.

Mr. Speaker, seriously, this is something that we do not raise enough in this House of Assembly and it is something that I try to continue to bring up on a regular basis about the situation with the timber deficit of some over fifty per cent.

I would say to the minister, I am delighted when I hear this, but it is nothing new in what the minister is telling us here today, we are just talking about it again. What I would say, if there is some way where we can put people to work in this Province, this is it. We should double it, triple it, quadruple it because, the more we do on silviculture and planting and thinning and so on, what it does is get us back on track, a little bit at least, when we talk about a fifty per cent deficit. But, Mr. Speaker, at the same time I would like to add to this statement something that should be given a lot more of attention, the mechanical harvesters in this Province and what it is doing to our industry. Put people back to work and take the mechanical harvesters out of there, but at the same time double, triple and quadruple silviculture and put people back to work, it is something that is going to mean a future to this Province as it relates to the forest industry.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, on this -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TULK: You have a nice red tie there Harvey.

Mr. Speaker, on this day, the ninety-sixth anniversary of Marconi's first Trans Atlantic phone call, it is appropriate as Minister of Development and Rural Renewal and on behalf of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, the hon. Judy Foote, that I inform the House about advances - well they are up over there this morning.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TULK: - about advances in electronic communications in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

The internet is frequently described as a route to the world - an electronic highway leading to information and knowledge from all corners of the globe.

Mr. Speaker, because much of our Province is rural, one might think that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are behind the rest of Canada in Internet access. However, I am happy to say that is not true - in fact, exactly the opposite is the case.

Thanks to the efforts of a number of organizations and my colleague, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, both public and private, 90 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador will have toll-free access to the Internet by the end of 1997.

Mr. Speaker, that is a level that will not be reached by Ontario and Quebec until the year 2000. Yet, by that time 100 per cent of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will have toll-free access to the Internet, should they desire it.

The credit for this technology goes to NewTel Communications and its $60 million, three-year Rural Services Program which will deliver the newest of communications services to our smallest and most rural communities.

Our school's Internet system, Mr. Speaker, is even more advanced. Since April of 1996, all schools in Newfoundland and Labrador have had access to the Internet. With 100 per cent of our schools online, we have the highest Internet participation rate in any province in Canada.

That, Mr. Speaker, is a tribute to StemNet - a small organization within Memorial University which has been offering Internet access to rural Newfoundland and Labrador since 1993.

In turn, StemNet has been helped by generous assistance from the private sector. Cable Atlantic is providing high-speed Internet access to 100 of the 250 schools within the cable company's service areas. Cable Atlantic service through its program named STELLAR, is being supplied free for four years. As the company expands its cable service area, more schools will be invited to join STELLAR.

AT&T Canada has also worked with schools of Newfoundland and Labrador to reduce the cost of long distance Internet access. AT&T has provided rebates on long distance reducing the costs by almost two-thirds.

Mr. Speaker, in the growing global economy, access to the world's information through Internet, is becoming increasingly important to the success of businesses and the overall economic growth of our Province.

Access to the information highway for our rural communities breaks down barriers once presented by geography. The Internet opens up opportunities for rural businesses to explore new markets and promote their products and services throughout the world.

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the forward thinking initiatives of organizations like: Cable Atlantic, NewTel Communications, Memorial's StemNet, and AT&T Canada, this Province is at the forefront of Canada's information highway development. That provides a tremendous competitive advantage to our rural communities.

Mr. Speaker, access to the information highway can help develop our economy by fostering the growth of small businesses, creating new jobs, especially in the rural parts of our Province.

The initiative and vision shown by the private sector in Newfoundland and Labrador clearly demonstrates its overall commitment to the further development of this Province. They show confidence in the future of Newfoundland and Labrador as a good place to invest and do business.

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend today the private companies for their assistance. The companies have helped us in our attempts to revitalize rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SHELLEY: I would like to thank the minister, Mr. Speaker, but first, I would suggest to him, that he get his own `interact' or his communications Internet in order, because I got one page of a three-page statement.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, and I got one page, too.

MR. H. HODDER: One page here, too.

MR. SHELLEY: It was nice to read along on the last page, Mr. Speaker.

There is technology; the Page just delivered the rest of it.

Mr. Speaker, as to this whole initiative, I would like to commend the real people behind this, of course, the people who could not be here today. The people we would be commending today, of course, AT&T, Mr. Weir at StemNet, Vince Withers at NewTel, Danny Williams at Cable Atlantic.

This particular service is vital, I say to the minister, and I have said it many times here, especially in rural Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, the plan so far - I have been checking up on some of the districts and they are behind in this still. Yes, there is progress being made, but the timing for it has to speed up. What we need now in order for small businesses and, of course, schools and students in this Province, to access the Internet wherever they live in Newfoundland and Labrador, to the far reaches, that is what is most important, that as quickly as possible - of course, the more urban centres are right on tap with this, but what we have to bring in line is the outreach parts of Newfoundland and Labrador so they can avail of it, the students, the businesses and so on, so we can get caught up with this age and move on to better things for Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform my hon. colleagues that a St. John's-based company, Marine Industrial and Aviation, has acquired the Canadian manufacturing and marketing rights for the INDUX line of asthma ventilation systems from Advanced Design Manufacturing in England.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: Marine Industrial and Aviation will perform final assembly, testing, and packaging of these systems at their facility in St. John's for distribution throughout the country.

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to inform this House that Marine Industrial and Aviation has qualified for the incentives available under the Province's Economic Diversification and Growth Enterprises program.

The EDGE program was designed to attract new, dynamic young companies like MIA that offer innovative products and services and can compete and succeed in the global marketplace.

The potential benefits these systems have for the growing health care sector may indeed be significant. It has particular application in addressing problems associated with so-called `sick buildings', where poor air circulation poses problems associated with dust build-up, humidity-related structure deterioration, and mould spores that may cause asthma-like symptoms.

The INDUX systems eliminate dust mites from rooms and homes and in so doing provide relief to asthma sufferers. There is also proof that the systems help prevent the occurrence of asthma. Dust mites are the primary cause of asthma, a chronic lung condition that affects 1.5 million Canadians. With this condition growing at 5 per cent to 10 per cent a year, there is a clearly defined market for this product.

Mr. Speaker, at the outset, this operation will create initial employment for thirteen people and will see a capital investment of $700,000.

Marine Industrial and Aviation is a prime example of why the EDGE program is an important component of our prospecting efforts. Not only has it been instrumental in attracting investment to the Province, but local companies like MIA have availed of the program to help with their expansion plans and in marketing their products. Half of the 62 companies to have received EDGE designation to date are local companies. The incentives available through EDGE give them the break they need to compete in the global marketplace.

By attracting companies from all sectors, the EDGE program has been effective in creating jobs, generating investment and assisting in the government's overall goal to diversify our economy.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I would like to respond to this statement in two parts, first of all to commend Marine Industrial and Aviation for their part in going forward and seeking out the rights to market and manufacture this product in Canada, and for the co-operation, I am sure, of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

The second part of my response will be of a more humorous nature, Mr. Speaker. I direct this towards the Minister of Education who has a number of sick buildings in the Province, who could probably use this.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. OSBORNE: There are fifty-five sales for this product already, and probably, Mr. Speaker, another seventeen throughout Cabinet. Because I am sure there are a number of dusty shelves over there.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Oral Questions

 

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: My questions today are for the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. In recent weeks, residents in most municipalities have been receiving their municipal assessment notices. It appears from the wide variety of calls we are getting at our office there is a lot of concern out there, there is a lot of confusion throughout the Province. I say to the minister, while we appreciate the right to appeal process, we know that is an avenue open, and we are also quite aware that municipal councils have available the right to increase or lower the mill rate to achieve the desired amount of revenue, I want to ask the minister if he could explain the rationale that is used by his department to determine market value. Who is consulted in determining that particular criterion?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, the assessment division this past year did 160,000 assessments. This is the first time in the history of the Province that all assessments for the whole of the Province have been done in one year.

I announced in the House last year that after this year, even though we have signed an agreement saying that assessments would be done every three years, the assessment agency is telling me the assessments can be completed now every two years.

We have moved to a new system of evaluation in the Province. The reason we have moved to a new system of evaluation is because of a number of court cases that have been filed in the Supreme Court of Canada in a number of other jurisdictions across the country. I suppose, we are following the lead of what is being suggested and what is being implemented from one end of the country to the other. The method we are using today is based upon the actual value or resale value of the property. How we determine that is based upon going into a particular area and negotiating and talking on a consultation basis with the local real estate people, talking to people who have sold property in an area. There are a number of criterions that we use.

I will say, out of that 160,000 we admit that there have been some mistakes. There have to be some mistakes. After evaluating 160,000 pieces of property, guaranteed there are mistakes.

I have noticed in the last couple of days that the assessment agency has gone out to communities that have problems, and as soon as the assessment agency is made aware that there are problems in communities we send people out there immediately to try to correct the problems. Those that we cannot correct have to go through the legal process of appealing to the town council. We have made another fourteen days available - just the other day in the House I mentioned that - to those people who have extra time now, because of the mail strike, to appeal.

They have the appeals process to go through, and the appeals process is a local one. The Appeals Commissioner is appointed by the council, and I have to authorize it. Then, of course, the ultimate appeal is the Supreme Court of Newfoundland.

The answer to the question is that we have asked everyone we possibly can in an area to look at the evaluation and give us what they think the evaluation is.

I will say that we have made some mistakes, but we are - and in the next couple of weeks - going to correct a lot of those particular mistakes to which you referred.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are seeing in many communities now many vacant properties. We are seeing out-migration, the effect it is having, the devastation that is occurring from the fishery in many rural communities, and still we are seeing an increase in assessments of 30 and in excess of 50 per cent increase in value in some of these same communities.

I want to ask the minister: Has the minister given instructions to the Assessment Division to deliberately raise assessed values without regard to occupancy, and without regard to any expected market value of those specific properties?

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

MR. A. REID: The answer to the first part of his question, Mr. Speaker, in regard to the increase in value, let me just give you an example. In my own home town of Carbonear, the last assessment that was done in Carbonear was in 1988. This one was done this year, 1997, so I am assuming that things have happened to pieces of property in that ten-year period that will either increase the value of the property or decrease it.

The answer to the second part of the question: That is an impossibility, and the hon. member knows this. I cannot, and I do not have any authority because the Assessment Division right now is a new agency established at arm's length from government.

The hon. member knows, when he looks across the floor and blames, or tries to blame, this member here for interfering in government process, he knows the answer to the question before he asks it. I guess that is what makes him such a good questioner. But I will say to you: No, Mr. Speaker, there was no interference. The property values are based on legitimate questions and inquiries made to the real estate people in the areas around the Province. I certainly did not have anything to do with the hon. member's assessment going up on his property on the Southern Shore as well as increased in the St. John's area, so I ask him to refrain from making comments like that.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad he gave credit to knowing the answer when I ask him, because that is more than I can say about the member across the House, I can assure you, or any of the government members in questions we ask.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: It makes you wonder, I say to the minister, when people out in rural Newfoundland today cannot get anything near the assessed value for their property. There is something wrong, Minister. Maybe it is about time you intervened in the process if they cannot get the value. There is something radically wrong.

I want to ask the minister: Will he admit that the Assessment Division uses the hit-and-miss approach basically? And will he admit that most of the assessed values that are done out there are not done by visiting that particular site? And will he admit that what the Assessment Division is really doing is relying on the appeal process to correct what is obviously a policy to deliberately overstate the expected market values of those properties?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that I stood in this House last year and got accolades from both sides of the House when I announced that I was taking the Assessment Division of Municipal and Provincial Affairs and passing it back to the municipalities. Now the hon. member is standing in the House and he said this. He asked me to take control back of the Assessment Division, take it over in my department again, and interfere. I don't think -

AN HON. MEMBER: Which he voted for last spring.

MR. A. REID: Which he voted for me to give to the municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, that is what he said; he wants me to intervene. He used the word `intervene'.

Mr. Speaker, the assessment agency in this Province is today - I do have a certain responsibility for it, because the government is still contributing a sizeable amount of money to the assessment division. The assessment division in three years' time will be self-sufficient. Within a matter of the next couple of months the assessment division will have a board of directors totally removed from government, with the exception that I will probably have one person from my department sitting on it in an advisory capacity.

I say to them quite honestly, I do appreciate - the hon. member knows I know the value of the houses in Ferryland and Trepassey and those. I talked to him last year about it. I know what has happened to some of the values of the properties.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: When they can do it, no. It isn't going to be done that way any more. It can't be done on an on-site visit, I will agree with you. One hundred and sixty thousand assessments and the Opposition is crying for assessments every second or third year. I can't do 160,000, so it isn't done that way. It is done

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: No it isn't. It is done the same way the real estate board of Newfoundland and Canada does it. Okay? Based on what property values are next door. I will not interfere with the assessment division. I do sympathize with the member and with a lot of communities around where assessments have gone up, Mr. Speaker.

I say to you, give me the next couple of weeks or so to re-assess, to send my people out where the values are high and we know they are high. Maybe by that time they will correct them. If they don't then, councils will have the option to take it to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and ultimately the Supreme Court of Canada, or ultimately, and only, the municipalities themselves are the only ones - not the minister or this government - that have the right to raise or lower taxes as it relates to raise mill rates or lower mill rates, increase assessments or lowering assessments.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The minister has indicated today (inaudible) something radically wrong and they are off by over 50 per cent and you can't get the value, I think the minister has a responsibility to do something about those assessments that are way off base. That is his role as a minister, I've indicated. That isn't interfering, that is giving direction to get things done right. Not interfering with the assessment process, but giving direction to make sure they are accurate, I say to the minister.

What do you do with an area - one in my district, by the way - twenty-seven sites were evaluated with no building shown on the sites. I mean twenty-seven, I say to the minister. Other areas with 50-some per cent above a value that people can get for those properties. There is something wrong, I tell him. There are a lot of communities outraged.

I ask the minister: Has he directed the assessment division or given any direction to re-examine the assessment role of certain entire communities? Has that been done? Are entire communities now in the process of being reassessed? If they are, could he tell us what communities they are? Will he also allow other communities that are in the same category out there now that were assessed by people sitting behind desks at Confederation Building or in the region that have been grossly unfair or serious flaws? He has a responsibility. Will he do that to ensure that these particular cases are corrected?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talks about twenty-seven sites in his district (inaudible). I will say it again; twenty-seven out of 160,000 is (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. A. REID: Why hasn't the hon. member a list of the other communities instead of talking about twenty-seven? Mr. Speaker, the answer is - not to all his question, but the last part of his responsibility, will the minister take it upon himself to look and to make sure that the assessment division is out there doing a proper, legal, above-board type of assessment? The answer is: No problem, because the minister has always, in the last five years, demanded that of the assessment division. I say yes to the hon. member, I will take it under consideration, and I will insist that they do it in a fair way.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just one final supplementary there. I ask the minister: In instances where there are entire communities off base, where there are serious flaws there, they have to go through a process, will the minister ensure that the department, not the municipalities, picks up the cost for where there are serious flaws made in that assessment division, and it isn't reflected back on the communities, and the appeal process too? When it wasn't their fault in the first place.

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

MR. A. REID: If there are flaws found to be at -

AN HON. MEMBER: Abnormal.

MR. A. REID: Abnormal flaws. Mr. Speaker, found, and we can attribute the blame or the fault for the flaws on the assessment agency. I am assuming that the assessment agency will absorb the cost, yes, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I have more questions today for the Minister of Education, some very serious questions on a very serious issue that is continuing to mount and, as I told the minister yesterday, there is no agreement. As a matter of fact, as the hours went yesterday and up until this morning, there are more concerns as we ask more questions; and on my investigation alone, which is very limited, Mr. Speaker, with the resources we have, there are a lot of questions starting to come out.

Mr. Speaker, the bottom line and the reality is that the students are still out of class for today; parents have called me as of last night. They have spent a considerable amount of money and, Mr. Speaker, probably more importantly, with all the media attention and so on yesterday, these students are more distraught than ever and worried about the whole situation they are in, I say to the minister.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Will he first of all today, table in the House the application from the Newfoundland Paralegal Institute for registration under the Private Training Institutions Act and will he also table a copy of the approvals and the certification issued to Newfoundland Paralegal Institute by the Superintendent of Private Training Institutions?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe I will just wait and see where the questions are leading because it is unusual at any point in time to ask for that particular information.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Paralegal Institute went through a process in the Department of Education, as have some fifty or sixty other private training institutions that are licensed to operate in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I will see what else he is asking because I do not understand why he asked that question, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, that is entirely the reason why I am asking for the process, that is what I have a problem with, the process.

I am going to ask him another question, Mr. Speaker: Will the minister table in the House also, request from the Newfoundland Paralegal Institute for exemptions from the Private Training Institutions Act and its regulations? Will he also table copies of the Orders in Council granting exemptions from the application of the Act and its regulations, and copies of correspondence from the Department of Education to the Newfoundland Paralegal Institute, approving exemptions from the Act and its regulations?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will check and see if any such thing exists. No such thing exists, to my knowledge; Mr. Speaker, I will certainly check. The investigation would have been completed probably by yesterday afternoon; I will get a report some time today. The Department of Education officials had told me at the close of work yesterday when I checked after the House of Assembly recessed, that they would expect to be in a position today to either make a statement that the Newfoundland and Labrador Paralegal Institute is completely in good standing, and will continue to operate in the Province with a licence from the Department of Education or, Mr. Speaker, that the results of the ongoing investigation, that has now been ongoing for about two weeks, would lead to a revoking of the license for that institute. One or the other, Mr. Speaker, it should be concluded today.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, it is incredible.

The minister has not really admitted to a formal investigation by his own department, by the way, and it is amazing that the students, the victims of all of this, who still sit in the gallery today, have still not met with the department and now, they are concluding an investigation.

Now, Mr. Speaker, yesterday, to start with the tip of the iceberg, the minister admitted yesterday that the advertising of the Newfoundland Paralegal Institute was misleading and I pointed out to him that paragraph O of section 19 of the Act, prohibits the use of advertising that may intend to mislead.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary, he ought to get to his question.

MR. SHELLEY: I ask the minister, Mr. Speaker - the minister says this particular school not only misled students at great cost to them but broke the law.

Now, what is the minister going to do about it? Is he going to now do a formal full-scale investigation? I ask again for an independent inquiry into the department and this particular institute. And is he, at the very least, today, Mr. Speaker, going to order this school to fully refund all costs incurred to these students attending this school?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure the students, as they have done, would speak for themselves in whichever they feel most appropriate. At this point in time, they are choosing to say very little publicly for their own good reasons.

Just for clarification, Mr. Speaker, I point out again that there were requests a couple of times in the last few weeks, in the last couple of weeks or so, to meet with some students from that institute, that I indicated I tried to get messages back to them. I think the hon. member, one of our colleagues here from the Harbour Main area, I do not remember the name of the riding exactly now, indicated that there were some people - the hon. member who is asking the questions today, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte had asked three or four days ago to meet with some students. Both times I indicated there was no point in meeting with the students, because there was an investigation that was already into its second week or so, and the only thing I could ever say to students in a meeting is: I have heard what you have said and I will have an investigation done. The investigation -

AN HON. MEMBER: The Minister of Education (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: The investigation is already just about complete.

Mr. Speaker, I might point out this as well, just for clarification. Yesterday morning at 9:00 there was a meeting scheduled in our office, at the Department of Education, for the students and for the officials of the Department of Education. I indicated, Mr. Speaker, that I would not be there because I was attending a funeral. The students - which was reported to me and confirmed again by the officials yesterday afternoon - chose not to meet with the education officials, but went and met with the owners and operators of the school instead. The officials were waiting in the Department of Education for the students to show up, Mr. Speaker, but they did not show up. Now, I cannot be responsible for that. They chose their own course of action, as they are doing now by going through this particular member to ask questions in the Legislature and I am glad to provide the answers.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated there is an investigation that is now into its final stages and I expect to have a complete answer today. Either all of the matters that have been put forward to the particular training institute will be answered to the satisfaction of the officials in the Department of Education and they will continue to operate - and we will feel compelled to make a statement to clear their name and say they are in good standing, if that is the case - or else, Mr. Speaker, we will make a statement saying that their licence has been revoked and lifted and for what reasons. That should happen, Mr. Speaker, probably before the end of the workday today.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: It is a shame when you do not understand.

Mr. Speaker, first of all - I do not know how to say this in this House of Assembly but these - and maybe that is a good reason why the minister should meet with the students to get the real story, because so far he has only met with Mr. Woodrow and his group. These students had a tentative date for Thursday, yes, Mr. Speaker, but they were never, ever told that they had a meeting confirmed for Thursday. They did not know about the meeting, that it was actually confirmed. So the minister is out to lunch on that particular thing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SHELLEY: After hearing what the minister has said this morning, the only descent thing is for the minister himself to sit down and get, for once, the full story directly to the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary.

MR. SHELLEY: Will the minister do that with these students?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The officials in the department, as always, would have been listening to the exchange in Question Period this morning. The information, with respect to a request for things that were asked in the first couple of questions, will be available shortly after Question Period. Mr. Speaker, the investigation - one of the things that the staff told me again yesterday afternoon was that they had heard from the owner and operator of the institute, and they wanted to contact the individual students to find out if they had come to some resolution or if they still had outstanding grievances, and that report will be given to me today. That report will be provided to me today, and the air will be cleared with respect to this particular issue.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is to the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal. Minister, the federal Department of Human Resource Development presently limit TAGS clients to $26,000 in total income for a year. All income above the $26,000 is clawed back dollar for dollar. Minister, this is a disincentive for TAGS clients to work and it is particularly unfair to fishermen who are vessel-owners because HRD does not adequately take into account the expenses incurred by those particular fisher people. I ask the minister, if his government supports this decision? If not, what has he done to have Minister Pettigrew revisit this offensive regulation?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. gentleman, it is interesting to note that first of all he believes that Newfoundlanders will not go to work without an incentive to go to work, that they have to be somehow driven to work or that they are afraid to work for their living. Let me say that that is what underlies his question. Now, let me also say to the hon. gentleman that we have made representation to Mr. Pettigrew on a number of issues, on the issue, for example, of whether indeed the extension of attachment to the labour force would be extended - it is now due to expire January 1 - whether that would be extended, at least until this program ends. Let me also say to him that we have pointed out the problems that are inherent in all parts of that program to him and we hope to get a response from him shortly.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is not a situation whereby Newfoundlanders do not want to go to work, I say to the minister, but they are losing money by going to work, that is the situation.

HRD attempted to have the TAGS program fashioned after the EI regulations, when it decided to cut the fisheries compensation package. This would allow TAGS recipients to earn $39,000 annually and have a 30 per cent claw-back from that base up.

Can the minister inform the House if this particular change is being considered?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, - he has his signs down this morning.

Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. gentleman, as I have just said to him, we have made a number of representations to the federal minister on this whole issue of TAGS, EI, what is going to happen in the next year and so on, and we would expect, as I have said to him, a response shortly on what is going to happen.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My next question, the minister answered in his answer to the first one, whereby a lot of people out there today are wondering if the TAGS labour force attachment is going to be extended. It was originally brought into effect from July 6 to January 3.

I wonder if the minister would table his requests to Minister Pettigrew to have those particular regulations changed and have the TAGS program considered as labour force attachment until the end of this particular program?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. gentleman, I am not exactly sure whether it is in written correspondence or not, but certainly let me just say to him that I raised it in a meeting with him.

The first issue, as a matter of fact, the first meeting that I had with -

AN HON. MEMBER: It is only a couple of weeks away.

MR. TULK: I understand that.

The first meeting that I had with the hon. gentleman, Mr. Pettigrew in Ottawa - and I forget the exact date of that, too; it was about some three or four weeks ago - was actually before I even got into discussing with him the new TAGS, the post-TAGS response that we expected to see put forward, I asked him to pay particular attention to this labour attachment issue because, as I pointed out to him, as the hon. gentleman has pointed out, come January 1, the labour attachment is no longer in effect, the regulation that was put in is no longer in effect, and therefore people who come off TAGS would be required to get 920 hours to qualify for UI.

Let me say to the hon. gentleman that I never say anything for sure until I see it written in black and white, but let me say to him that I am 95 per cent sure that change is going to take place.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I ask the members on the other side not to panic this morning. I do not have a question for the Minister of Government Services and Lands, so you do not need to protect him, but I do have a question for the Minister of Justice who is recently affectionately referred to as `Dusty Decker'.

Early in 1996, the Provincial Offenses Act was passed which gave authority to municipalities in the Province to issue tickets for violations of the municipal bylaws and regulations. I have been informed that the implementation process has been stalled. Could the minister inform the House as to why the process has been stalled?

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

MR. DECKER: The regulations have not been put in place yet, Mr. Speaker. We have had several meetings with various municipalities around the Province. We want to make sure that when we do implement these regulations that they will be fair and equitable to all of the communities and the population. There is no great reason. It is just a matter of making sure that we do it right. But we are in consultation with the municipalities from time to time.

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

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

I have had recent meetings with people in the Airport Heights area where they have had some problems with certain individuals moving into houses and what have you. I know that the City of St. John's had a meeting on November 26 with the department to try and get permission to implement these regulations. Will the minister confirm that the City of St. John's will be permitted to implement these regulations and, if so, when will they be permitted to do so?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, the intent was that they will be implemented, yes. As for when it will be done, as I explained, we have to make sure that it is implemented at the right time, under the right conditions, and that involves negotiations and discussions and consultations with the City of St. John's and others, but it will be done in due course, I tell the hon. member.

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

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

I say to the minister, there have been some problems with respect to these regulations being implemented because of their link to the Motor Registration Division and vehicle registration. Is the minister considering just implementing this for the cities - like the Cities of St. John's, Mount Pearl, Corner Brook, and what have you - and basically taking it away from the rest of the municipalities in the Province? Will there be amendments coming forward to permit that?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, if there is a requirement for amendments they will come forward. If there is not, they will not. This is not something about which we can speculate because if we had these decisions made as to what we were going to do then there would not be any need to consult; there would not be any need to have these discussions.

After the discussions and consultations have taken place, then we will make a decision. It might indeed involve amendments, or it might not involve amendments. It depends on which way the process goes.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, while Inco are experiencing some difficulties with stock value and the price of nickel worldwide, we still hope that Voisey's Bay will go ahead and that the nickel smelter will be constructed and the people employed in our Province. There is still the important issue of air emissions.

The terms of reference on the Voisey's Bay project - the smelter project - are somewhat less stringent then the people of the Province would like to see. Mr. Speaker, with Environment Canada saying that the prevailing winds blow across some sensitive ecological areas - caribou herds and so on.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister again, will he guarantee that legislation will be put in place to ensure that the highest level of technology available in the world today will be used at the Voisey's Bay nickel smelter?

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

MR LANGDON: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for the question, in fact, if my memory serves me right, I believe, that that particular question was asked previously and it has been the commitment of the company, Inco and the government, who would build the smelter refinery at Come By Chance, that it would indeed be the latest technology available in the world and it would be first class and would protect the environment. So, basically it would be a model, not only for this Province and Canada, but for the world.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has ended.

 

Petitions

 

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

MR. SMITH: I rise today to present a petition on behalf of some 630 constituents who reside in the area of Cape St. George on the Port au Port Peninsula.

The prayer of the petition: To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland in parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned residents of Cape St. George humbly sweareth: whereas this area of the Province has always had a resident doctor to serve the needs of the people of the area; and whereas the position of District Medical Health Officer for the area has now been vacant for a number of months; wherefore we the undersigned residents of Cape St. George respectfully request that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador call upon the Western Region Health Board to step up its efforts to find a doctor to fill this vacant position in the Community, as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, I had occasion to meet with the town council and residents of the community of Cape St. George a few days ago to discuss this very important issue. Traditionally this area of the Province has been served - the Peninsula has been served by two doctors, one resident at Cape St. George and one at Lourdes. The doctor who was stationed at Cape St. George is presently on a leave of absence. I have been in contact with the Western Health Care Corporation which have advised me that this doctor is expected to return early in the new year, and hopefully will be back in his position February or March.

What this does underline I guess is what we are all very much aware of in this Province, and that is the difficulty we are having in recruiting and retaining physicians to live and work in rural areas of the Province. Certainly my district is no different from the other rural areas of the Province.

One of the interesting things that came out of the meeting with the council and the citizens of the community of Cape St. George is that there was extreme interest and support for the idea of the nurse practitioner, which I think is very encouraging. Because what the people were saying to me, they felt this was a move in the right direction. They felt that if such an individual were available they would be quite pleased to have a nurse practitioner come and fill that vacant position to serve the needs of the people of that area.

It appears that this situation will resolve itself shortly, but in the meantime the concern is there. I think we have to commit ourselves to try to maintain the high level of care which the people of that part of the Province have been accustomed to. I have given my constituents the undertaking that I will certainly press to see that their concerns are uppermost in the minds of the Western Health Care Corporation, and to work closely with the minister and with the Western Health Care Corporation to ensure that we do in fact find someone to fill that vacant position in that community. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would certainly like to support the petition of my colleague opposite. Indeed, rural doctors for Newfoundland and Labrador have been difficult at best sometimes to recruit. I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that even with the changes in the legislation that are proposed of nurse practitioners that they can certainly fill the shoes of a physician, because that just won't happen. As a matter of fact, I've had some correspondence from the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association where it certainly has some concerns. When we get into that bill I'm certainly going to be addressing them.

I would like to say to my colleague opposite that from time to time we receive calls from people in our own University here who are studying to be doctors in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. What is alarming to me, or what some of these people are saying to us on this side of the House, is that some of them have never been approached to practice in rural Newfoundland; have never been asked. They are now on the mainland furthering their studies and (inaudible), but they have never been asked to stay in their own Province. I think that is wrong.

We have a commitment, as far as I'm concerned, to these people. I'm sure we have a lot of money, a lot of time, invested in these students, and I think it is incumbent on us and on this government, to make sure that every student who graduates from Memorial University School of Medicine is certainly approached to go to rural Newfoundland and that is not happening and that is wrong. That is not happening when they can leave here and go off to the mainland or go off to somewhere else.

Some times people tend to say: well, that's all because of money but I am not so sure of that, Mr. Speaker, and I think that, we as a Province and as a government should be committed to these people in our Province. We should be committed to make sure that we at least offer them the opportunity to stay and practice in their own Province. Now if they choose to go elsewhere, then I guess, you know, we have no other recourse, we cannot stop it, but until we make that initial approach, until we say to whomever, you know: Will you stay in Newfoundland and Labrador? Here is what is available to you; we would like you to go into rural Newfoundland. Until we do that, then I think it is a shame and again, I repeat myself but I think it is incumbent on all of us in this House to make sure that every doctor who graduates from Memorial University in this Province, is at least, Mr. Speaker, approached, at least given the opportunity to say: Yes, I will stay in our own Province; no, I will not, but I think we should give them the opportunity.

So I certainly support the petition. I can only imagine what it is like to be in an area where you have a doctor on leave and one doctor trying to service a particular area; it must be for that individual, very, very, very difficult. I know when I was in Port aux Basques earlier this year, a doctor was going away on leave and the shortages that were there, I mean, you know, from talking to the people, I mean it had a tremendous impact and people who suffered from various diseases whose files were in a certain office and the access was not readily available to them. There were a lot of concerns expressed to me so I certainly support the petition of my colleague opposite, and I hope that he can relay and through this House we can relay that we should ensure that all our own medical students in this Province are being approached.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: I want to support the petition, Mr. Speaker, of the hon. Member for Port au Port. It is an area that I know quite well over a number of years that we have grown up in the region and the member has been working hard with the Health Care Corporation to attract a physician to help the health care board and to emphasize to them that every effort should be made.

Mr. Speaker, it is a challenge today as the member opposite indicated to attract physicians to rural areas not only in Newfoundland and Labrador, but also other rural parts of Canada. Recently I met with the Newfoundland Hospital Association to talk to them about their efforts to recruit general practitioners in our area in Bay St. George in the Codroy Valley. Mr. Speaker, we are also seeking a physician and it is very challenging; there is every effort being made now. The Minister of Health has made some very positive changes and the government has in the last number of months, to try to get more of a package that can be attractive for rural physicians; the quality of life that is available is something that we have to emphasize.

Mr. Speaker, in the Codroy Valley, we are putting on a Web Site to look at and to try to attract people to show the quality of life - the Nurse-Practitioner Program which is a very positive development, Mr. Speaker, is going to help I think, and so is this government to help attract physicians if we can get them some support in the rural areas. A nurse-practitioner can really help I think relieve some of the stresses on medical practitioners for rural practice.

So I support the member's petition. We are, all of us, working collectively to try to improve our health care system, we are increasing the funding to that health care system and it is a very important issue for all of us, Mr. Speaker, and I just want to emphasize that this morning.

Thank you.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have been asked once again to bring a petition on an issue that we have not heard a lot about lately, or certainly in the recent session, it was an issue that was front and centre by way of petition. I will just read it;

To the hon. House of Assembly in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We the undersigned residents do hereby petition the House of Assembly to direct the Department of Education to legislate a paid adult bus monitor program for all school buses in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We find that students are presently being unsupervised and are at risk in their safety going to and from schools on school buses. The safety of our children is being compromised. We ask the hon. minister and his government to show compassion, leadership and understanding to ensure the safe transportation of our children.

I guess the reason why this issue has come up once again, Mr. Speaker, is perhaps due directly to the time of year. We have many children, thousands of school children in our Province travelling on our highways and they are travelling aboard buses which are not equipped with seat belts. It has been raised primarily by parents and students themselves that this is an issue that ought to be addressed by the minister. It is an issue of importance. It is an issue of student safety and it is an issue which, for some reason or other, seems to get no attention whatsoever and in fact, most often gets no response. Many petitions have been brought forward in this House on this issue. We have seen Mr. Speaker, circumstances in the past, very tragic circumstances, where accidents have occurred. However, it is an issue which seems to go on deaf ears and in fact very often when the petition is being presented the minister sees fit not to even deal with the matter directly.

Mr. Speaker, this petition is being presented by students and parents from the communities of Chanceport, Pikes Arm and Bridgeport. It is being submitted on their behalf in a genuine effort to attempt to have this government take a serious look at the need in this Province, in view of the fact that many thousands of our students are travelling upon highways in very difficult situations during the winter months. It is a situation, Mr. Speaker, which ought to be given attention by the minister.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, last year we presented a great number of petitions on this particular matter and we had thought that by this time we would have seen some initiatives by the Minister of Education and by the government in general, to address this very serious issue. Instead, Mr. Speaker, a couple of days ago I was watching CBC television in the evening and saw the story being displayed of a young girl in Pasadena who finds herself being the only child and yet being required to walk 1,000 yards because someone said that this child cannot be picked up because some bureaucrat in some office somewhere said that: no, no, no we can't change this, you're the only child. But the regulations say or someone in some office said, you have to walk 1,000 feet down the road, along the Trans-Canada Highway.

Now we pretend to be concerned about safety and children and yet we know that we have this child and there probably are many, many other children in this Province who are required to do such silly things. For example, in my district there is a street right off Topsail Road called Forsey Place. The school buses that are going to Mary Queen of the World drive along by Forsey Place and they have the capacity, they could pick up those children but they are not allowed because Forsey Place is within the minimum distance from Mary Queen of the World. So therefore we require those young children on Forsey Place to walk across Topsail Road, four lanes of highway, there is no sidewalk on that side of Topsail Road. They have to walk across Topsail Road, get across a four lane highway and a very busy highway in the morning, and then they have to walk down Topsail Road to get to Mary Queen of the World when we have a bus driving along by that street that could pick them up.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we pretend to be concerned about child safety and yet we see the incident in Pasadena. I just mentioned the incident in my own district, and we know as well that the discarded buses from Quebec are still being brought to Newfoundland. There are dumping grounds for buses from Quebec - they are the Honduras, Nicaragua and Newfoundland; because in Quebec when the buses are no longer eligible to be used, they ask: Where can we get rid of them? In fact, the present Minister of Justice, several years ago, was going to take over all the school busing in the whole Province, one September when the bus contractors would not sign their contracts. What he was going to do - and I know he made the contacts because I got my information from good sources - he was going to go into Quebec, buy up those buses at an average cost of $2,000 and bring them in here, and he was going to have our children be bused on those buses which are deemed to be unsafe in Quebec, but it is okay for the children of Comfort Cove, Bonavista, those on the Burin Peninsula or up on the Great Northern Peninsula, but not okay in Chicoutimi or in some other part of the Province of Quebec.

That is the kind of stuff we are talking about. We are talking about a government that knows these things exist, but they still do not do anything about it. So, I say to the government, it is ridiculous when we see incidents like that, and see the government doing nothing about it. It is not going to cost the government one nickel to change the regulations for bus safety in Newfoundland to be like those in Quebec.

Also, when we talk about the life span of a bus going to fourteen years, I should point out to all hon. members, that only applies to regular school transportation, taking children to and from school. If the buses are used for groups travel, like sport teams or field trips, there are no maximum number of years. In fact, the irony of it is, our bus regulations are a lot different from Quebec, but then if you are taking them on field trips, then they can be as old as you want, a twenty-five year old bus can be used to take children to a hockey game or to a field trip or something like that. Then, this government pretends to be concerned about children's safety. It is an absolute fallacy -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. E. BYRNE: By leave.

MR. FITZGERALD: - it is a miscarriage of justice, and this government should be doing something about it -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: - and putting action where they should be concerned about children's safety.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to take his seat.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to present a petition to the House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland in Parliament assembled which states as follows:

WHEREAS poverty and its effects are serious problems for so many in this Province and things are getting worse; now more then one-third of Newfoundland and Labrador children live in families on social assistance; and

WHEREAS child poverty and child hunger are a sad reality which hurts children today and their chances for future in education and in life. Hungry children cannot learn; and

WHEREAS a universal School Lunch Program would provide a stigma-free way of ensuring every school child a good nutritional meal every day and that school reform in the Province will result in a very significant savings in education costs, thereby making funds available to improve the quality of education and quality of student lives;

We, the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to direct the government to establish a universal comprehensive School Lunch Program for every school in Newfoundland and Labrador to help end child hunger and give our children a better chance to learn and participate fully in the benefits of education.

Mr. Speaker, this is one of a series of petitions. It is signed by a number of individuals from Avondale; I see St. John's, Waterford Bridge Road - Waterford Bridge Road, I don't know if it is the Premier or not. No, is it not the Premier. Somebody on Waterford Bridge Road - no, it is not the Premier, though, I don't think.

MR. J. BYRNE: Is it his neighbour?

MR. HARRIS: It certainly looks like a close neighbour of the Premier on Waterford Bridge Road, supporting this petition. I know hon. members opposite have supported it from time to time. The member for Windsor - Springdale supported it on occasion. The Minster of Fisheries and Aquaculture has been moved to speak on this matter on occasion. Members on this side of the House have supported the petition.

It is one of the most significant issues in our Province today, Mr. Speaker, although it does not get the attention it deserves from government - the issue of poor people, poor children, hungry children, children who lack proper nutrition.

Mr. Speaker, we had a Ministerial Statement in the House yesterday about the School Lunch Program. It was not a statement about anything new or different; it was just saying that the government will continue to support it.

We, on this side of the House, including this hon. member, support the School Lunch Program and support the efforts of the individuals involved in it, the dairies who subsidize the School Lunch Program to the tune of half-a-million dollars, Brookfield Dairies and the Central Dairies Group. The dairy farmers in the Province of Newfoundland have supported the School Milk Foundation which organizes it. We believe very much in it, and I was delighted to learn that 97 per cent of the students are reached by this program. I am not sure exactly what that means, but it certainly is available to all of the students, or perhaps it is available to 97 per cent of the students.

What I am concerned about here is the fact that the government is really unable to say that government programs ensure that children have a healthy diet and are able to properly learn in school.

I notice, as part of the government's efforts to alleviate the serious problems in Black Tickle, was the provision of a School Breakfast and Lunch Program. It is very interesting that government recognized in that one place that as part of an effort to fight poverty - and this is poverty for people who are living on social assistance. They are living on social assistance, but obviously, are not in a position to properly feed themselves and their children on social assistance, and government has recognized that by

MR. WISEMAN: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The Member for Topsail is not in his place. If he wants to make a speech, he can support the petition from his place, and I would like to see him do it for once. I would like to see him support the petition. The people in Black Tickle who are living on social assistance obviously cannot afford to eat, and the government has recognized that by providing, as part of the relief program, a School Breakfast and Lunch Program. I commend them for doing that, but in doing so, clearly they recognize - the Minister of Social Services, or Human Resources and Employment, it is now called - that the amount of money provided to people on social assistance is not adequate to provide a proper diet for children, and that something must be done about it.

We have proposed, and the petitioners have proposed, and it has been raised in this House thirty, forty or fifty times, the desire for people to have a universal, comprehensive, School Lunch Program.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: I ask hon. members to support it, and perhaps the Member for Topsail will go to his place and support this petition.

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

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

Again, I say, as I said to the last petition, this matter has been raised numerous times. The theme of what the member is presenting is contained in numerous documents that have been prepared by the government, and the government, of course, either fail to read their own documents or when they read them, simply choose to do nothing about them.

I just wanted to quote from a couple of paragraphs of the Williams Royal Commission report, Our Children, Our Future. It is very timely that we would talk about Our Children, Our Future, in terms of the child poverty issue.

Let me just quote from page 337 of the Williams Royal Commission report. It talks about child hunger, and I will read a paragraph. It says: One of the chief and most devastating consequences of poverty is hunger, and the Commission was told repeatedly that many children in this Province go to school hungry. When children are not adequately fed, they miss valuable instructional time, fail to keep up with school work, and are very likely to drop out of school early. Whatever the cause of the hunger, it will affect children's health and educational achievement in the short term, and their economic security for a lifetime. While hunger is a concomitant of many social problems, the school's concern must be the relation of hunger to educational achievement.

Mr. Speaker, further on in that same section, which talks about barriers to educational achievement, it makes several points. It says that hunger is not the fault of the child. Children are dependent on parents and guardians, they are dependent on government. Every child has a right to love and respect and food because they are - and for no other reason - because they are children. They have the right to expect that. Hunger is not the fault of the child. Hungry children may come from a family in which the parents try their best to provide for them, but very often the child is a victim of hunger. The child is not to blame.

Child hunger, it points out, is a hidden problem. Very young children will tell the teachers they are hungry, but when a child gets older, in junior and senior high school, they walk the corridors at lunch time. They will not tell their teachers they are hungry. They walk around. They go for a walk down the street. Children at the junior and senior high school will not tell anybody they did not have a lunch, but when they come back to class you can see the effects.

These are the children who are overtired; these are the children who complain of stomach problems. They are children who are very lethargic in school. The point made, the third point here, is that dealing with child hunger is not the sole responsibility of educators, but it is teachers who must deal with the effects of hunger. Mr. Speaker, what we are saying here is that child hunger has been talked about in many reports. It is time that we began to act upon it.

I note, as well, that the Federal Government is now talking about doing a national comprehensive school lunch program. My greatest fear is that if there is more money put into social policy, the current Minister of Justice, by his actions here, is more concerned about putting more money into judges' salaries than he is about putting money into the school lunch programs.

I am afraid that if we get more money by way of transfer payments, it is going to end up helping the very rich and wealthy judges of this Province rather than being put on the kitchen tables to help children, or put into school lunch programs. That is a real concern, that we not address the real issues, but they allocate money where it probably has a lesser need of allocation.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: I have another petition today, Mr. Speaker, again from students who are suffering unnecessarily because of the shelter component claw-back. I will not read all of the petition because I have done so earlier this week, but the prayer of our petition is that the Department of Human Resources and Employment change its policy regarding this area and allow the student-parents involved to be able to pay back this money over a more reasonable period of time.

As I said earlier in the week, these students are in this position because of bungling by the Department of Human Resources and Employment. I cited one very classic example where a young girl went down and tried to pay back all of her shelter component and it was refused by an employee of the Department of Human Resources and Employment. She said: I need to pay back for the ten weeks and I need to pay back for the six weeks. No, no, you only need to pay back for the ten weeks, $880. The student said: No, take this $550. No, you do not owe it. After a lot of arguing, the student was perplexed but she left. Because the department had told her you don't owe this money, she spent it. She got a call two days ago: Bring in the $550 or your social assistance is cut off. Now, she does not have it. She was told she did not need to give it. Now she is cut off social assistance at this time.

Earlier in the week, the minister said that if any members knew of any cases where there was hardship, or where there were extenuating circumstances, bring it to the attention of the department. My office has continued to do this since October. Some of the people have been assisted, but just barely, and in kind of token ways. They are still suffering because they are not getting enough money to live on.

As I said earlier, I have visited these homes. I have seen the poverty. I have seen the empty cupboards. If the department were to go in under ordinary circumstances and see empty cupboards, they would probably remove children from these homes, but here we have people forced into this situation by this very department. If the minister thinks that these people are not in dire hardship, then I suggest that she do as I did. I can give her the names of the homes that I visited and she can visit them herself, and then she will know what I am talking about. These people are not really being assisted. There are people there in extenuating circumstances, and the prayer of this petition today is that the department will have another look at their cases.

Thank you.

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

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

Again, I repeat my introductory comments to the last two petitions, that this is the umpteenth time that we have made those presentations to this House on behalf of the student-parents. Mr. Speaker, last spring we had petitions presented here on behalf of the Student-Parents For a Better Tomorrow. In one Question Period we had these parents in the galleries. These parents are saying: We want a better deal.

Now, just a few moments ago, I spoke about the issue of a school lunch program. This is a theme of the petitions that we have heard this morning. We are talking about children who are marginalized in society. We are talking about parents who are marginalized in society. Mr. Speaker, since I have arrived in this House, I have been a pretty consistent voice for children and for the people who are disadvantaged, and I shall continue to be that voice while I have the opportunity to have a position here in this Legislature because we have no better responsibility than to give children an opportunity to break that cycle. One of the ways of doing that is to let those children's parents have a better chance to get a better education. We know that we pay lip service to that. We have to stop putting up barriers to parents. We have to stop the claw-backs. We have to ask: What can we do to make things better? This idea of clawing back is unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, I was hoping that by this time we would have more aggressive action by the minister. In the last March Budget we heard the Minister -

MR. HARRIS: He is the minister responsible for lip service.

MR. H. HODDER: We heard the Minister of Finance last year, in the Budget, saying: We have to take bold measures. Well, I do not see the bold measures. If there are bold measures, they must be things that are affecting people at the Board of Trade, or it must be affecting the judges of Newfoundland and Labrador. It was bold yesterday to have us learn that we are going to give judges a $20,000 increase in pay per year. That was a bold measure. Is that the kind of stuff that the Minister of Finance really meant least year when he talked about bold measures? What we could do, if we could take all that money and channel it into student-parents and really be able to make some difference. Now I understand the legalities of it, but legalities do not let me understand the injustice of this.

I want to say to the minister, maybe we should be going back to address again the bold measures that were talked about by the Minister of Finance in the Budget Speech, because, when it comes to student-parents, we know that they are disadvantaged. There are more barriers put in front of them than there are opportunities and we should be doing more to break down the barriers so that we can at least give those student-parents a fair chance to provide a learning environment for their children, so that we can break the cycle.

As one mother from Port au Port told me when she was back to school herself, and so was her daughter, and in the same school there was the grandchild. So you had the grandchild, you had the daughter, and you had the grandmother all going to school. It was a wonderful experience. One of the most memorable meetings I had was to go to a school where a grandson and the mother and the grandmother were all in the same school. That was at Bishop O'Reilly in Port au Port. The grandmother said to me: I want to make sure I can help the process of achieving a learning environment in my family.

Therefore, what we should be doing is making sure we have more opportunities for people like that to make a difference in their own family, so that we can break the cycle of dependency. I say to the minister - and I know she is committed to breaking the cycle of dependency, but I am afraid she is having great difficulty -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. H. HODDER: - persuading her Cabinet colleagues to listen to her advice.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

I rise in my place today to present yet another petition on behalf of a number of constituents in the Province - many of them are from Mount Pearl: Tweedsmuir Place, Ruth Avenue, and areas like that, some of the people are from St. Phillips - regarding the proposed sales tax on used vehicles.

I have spoken on this topic many times. I have brought it up in the media; I have been on the Open Line shows about it. My problem with it, of course, is that I believe it is morally wrong to tax people on money they have not spent - not only morally wrong, it is unjust and unfair. The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board has stated he believes it should be brought in because of the fact that people are being dishonest with the bills of sale. Some people are selling cars and/or purchasing vehicles, and they are saying the bills of sale being submitted to the Motor Registration Division are inaccurate or false or wrong. They are saying people are selling cars for much more than what the bills of sales are saying for the Motor Registration Division. Thereby the government, of course, is losing money.

That could very well be the case, that government is losing money, but you do not punish the innocent for the guilty. We have said on a number of occasions that it is a wrong approach to this problem. I have said that the minister should be proactive and deal with the problem itself, not with innocent people, honest individuals out there who do get a deal sometimes. That is the problem I have with it.

I think the government should have another look at it. I have made recommendations to the Administration, to the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, that they could possibly look at an affidavit system, a double affidavit system, if necessary, where both the purchaser and the seller sign the affidavit. The minister could basically look at this system, and if something was really out of whack they could approach the individuals and see if there indeed was something wrong. I still have a problem with that, but from my perspective, it is the lesser of two evils. I think people in the Province would rather sign an affidavit than pay taxes on money they have not spent.

The minister tries to rationalize it with a report he submitted to this House after I had asked him to submit and table a report he referred to. January 1, 1997 to March 31, 1997. The only thing that report looked at, of course, was the assessed value. It did not look at the condition of the vehicle; it did not look at the mileage of the vehicle. Many other things, too, affect the sale value of a vehicle in Newfoundland and Labrador. The weather conditions, the salt and sand on the roads, have impact on the condition of vehicles. To tar everybody with the same brush is wrong.

Again, I say to the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board that in due course, I hope he will make an announcement that he will back off on this proposed tax. I think it is morally wrong, I think it is unjust, it is unfair. I have said it many times and I will continue to say it. I know government are desperate to get revenues in. A lot of people are leaving this Province daily, of course, so their revenues from those people paying taxes are down.

Mr. Speaker, it is still morally wrong to tax people for money they have not spent. So I suggest to the minister, to the Premier of the Province and the Cabinet, the people who make the decisions on the other side of the House, that they look at this, review it and maybe give the people of the Province a Christmas gift or surprise and tell them that this will not be forthcoming and that they will look at some other system, maybe the affidavit system that I have suggested.

MR. SPEAKER (M. Penney): The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to take this opportunity to speak on the petition with respect to the retail sales tax changes proposed by the government to capture increased taxes from people who are buying and selling cars in the private market.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is a shocking burden to be placed on the people of this Province by the government for no other reason than the fact that the government is not satisfied that the system they have in place is capturing enough taxes. That is not the reason, Mr. Speaker, to change the tax system and impose a burden on people. What they are suggesting is that people are not reporting properly the sales transactions for their vehicles but, Mr. Speaker, there is no real evidence to that. There is no real evidence that the reporting of the price on the sale of vehicles is inaccurate.

Obviously, there are probably some people not reporting it properly, just as I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, there are probably a lot of people who do not report their income tax properly, do not report all of their income. And I do not see the minister introducing deeming provisions, to deem income from people who may or may not have it. I do not see him doing that, is that his next plan? Is that the next plan of the Minister of Finance who will increase our tax revenues by deeming income on people just as they are here going to be deeming a sale price for something that may or may not have any real relation to the actual price of the vehicle.

Now, Mr. Speaker, everybody knows that this Red Book or Blue Book, or whatever it is called, has prices that are based on the Canadian average price of a vehicle, based on the average condition of the vehicle et cetera, et cetera. So, it is an arbitrary figure, it does not take into account the difficulties we have in this Province with weather conditions, salt, rust other things that happen to vehicles. And, in this Province, people tend to keep vehicles a little bit longer. People, because of financial reasons do not necessarily have the money to keep them in tip-top shape with a fine, brand-new paint job and all of the things that go into the value of a vehicle in the resale market.

Now, Mr. Speaker, it is grossly unfair for the government to impose this arbitrary tax on the people who can least afford to have an additional tax burden.

You know, sales tax is one of the most regressive taxes, Mr. Speaker, it is a regressive tax because no matter how much income you have, the millionaire pays 15 per cent and the person who is on a pension, Mr. Speaker, or a fixed income, a senior citizen on a pension pays exactly the same amount of tax, 15 per cent on a sale so it is a regressive tax. It is not based on your ability to pay, Mr. Speaker, so when the Province starts manipulating these taxes increasing the burden on people, it is acting very unfairly with people who can least afford to pay.

Mr. Speaker, the private used car market is a market which is substantially populated by people who are in the lower income brackets, not that anybody cannot sell a vehicle privately and I guess lots of people do, in the papers and whatnot, but it is not a dealer market, it is not a new car market, it is a used car market where people feel that they can trade their car or get another vehicle or buy a vehicle second-hand and should not have to pay this burden.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there is a simple method of dealing with it. It has been suggested, for example, that you could have some standards. You could take a percentage of the book value for example, to recognize Newfoundland conditions and suggest that if the sale price as declared goes lower then that people be required to sign an affidavit. An affidavit is a serious matter. To sign or swear a false oath is a criminal offence, Mr. Speaker, and people have been charged with forgery and perjury for swearing false oaths in this Province and it is a serious criminal offence and that can certainly be pointed out to anybody who may be tempted to save a few dollars by swearing a false oath. That system relies on the honesty and integrity and the law abiding citizens of this Province.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is the proper solution to the problem, if there is really a problem perceived, that is the proper solution, not imposing an unfair tax, an arbitrary, unfair, regressive tax on the people who can least afford to pay it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the hon. Member for St. John's East standing on a new petition?

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I have been asked once again to present a petition on an issue that was presented earlier this morning by way of another petition and it has to do with the issue once again of the paid adult bus monitor program and I would like to read into the record the wording of the petition.

To the hon. House of Assembly in parliament assembled: the petition of the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador ask for the House of Assembly to accept the following petition.

We the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador do hereby petition the House to direct the Department of Education to legislate a paid adult bus monitor program for all school buses in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We find that students are presently being unsupervised and they are at risk in their safety going to and from schools on school buses, the safety of our children is being compromised. We ask the hon. Minister of Education and his government to show compassion, leadership and understanding to ensure the safe transportation of our children. This is a petition signed by residents of Roaches Line, Marysvale, Colliers and the community of Brigus.

Mr. Speaker, as indicated this morning this is an issue which is most important and was seen by many residents of the Province to be a priority issue a number of months ago, but it has again resurfaced, Mr. Speaker. It has resurfaced an as issue because the parents of this Province and the students of this Province, particularly this time of year, see it as an issue of priority. The concept of paid school bus monitors are simply those individuals who are entrusted with the security and the protection of young people while they are being transported on our school buses throughout very difficult winter conditions on our highways and roads in the Province.

So, the question that has to be asked, Mr. Speaker. Does the minister take such a petition seriously? It has been presented on many occasions in the past, it has been presented now twice this morning and the minister is yet to respond on an issue which is obviously important to the public at large. We have seen incidents in the past of where tragedies have occurred and the question has to be asked, Mr. Speaker: Would tragedies, incident and accidents have been prevented if in fact there was a paid school bus monitor program in effect? It is an issue which comes up from time to time, it is an issue which is accelerated, I would say, during difficult highway conditions in the middle of winter in our Province.

So, once again, Mr. Speaker, the people of our Province are asking the minister to review the existing policy and in fact, upon review, upon completion of such a review to implement a policy of school bus monitors so that the people of our Province, in particular the parents of our Province, can feel rest assured that when their children are travelling on schools buses and in some cases thirty, forty-five and almost sixty minutes from their community to the school to which they attend, that at least they can feel some consultation and some comfort in knowing that their children are being protected and guided by adult supervision.

This I would suggest, in addition to the parents and students, this would also be of great comfort to the school bus drivers themselves who have had much responsibility now as can be handled by any individual. They have to drive these buses over difficult circumstances and there would be great consolation not only to the parents, but to the drivers themselves to know that there are individuals aboard a bus who are there and who are charged with the responsibility and the duty to ensure that these children will be kept under control, will be monitored, will be supervised, to ensure the safety and protection and guidance for all concerned.

So I ask the minister to once again look upon this issue as one of seriousness, as one of priority, and to give some attention to what the parents and the children of Newfoundland and Labrador are seeking by way of this petition.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to support the petition presented so ably by the Member for St. John's East, and a very sincere presentation on behalf of parents who have grave concerns about the issue of school bus safety. This issue has arisen in this Province on a number of occasions, most recently as a result of the tragic death of a young student on the St. Thomas Line. When that death occurred, attention was focused on the issue and the facts came forward about the number of accidents that had happened in the Province in school buses, the number of school bus accidents that we had, and there was a serious number of accidents, a large number of school bus accidents. I cannot remember the exact figure now, but it was a figure that shocked me that we had that number of school bus accidents involving children, some involving injuries, and I think six or -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The accident statistics that were made available at that time disclosed 591 bus accidents between 1985 and 1995; 591 accidents. There were 155 injuries and five fatalities in a ten-year period, and 591 accidents. Mr. Speaker, statistics like that deserve to be taken terribly seriously by this government.

One might look at it at first glance and say: Well, why should we pay people, pay adults, to sit on a bus with students and keep an eye on them when there is a bus driver there? Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about full-time employees here. We are talking about people who would ride on the bus, just as we have people who are working crosswalks during the school... We have people on crosswalks who ensure that kids are able to safely cross school crosswalks at certain hours of the day, morning and afternoon. There are peak periods for this. The school buses do not operate eight or ten hours a day. We are talking about having someone on the bus when the bus is operating.

Why should we have this? Well, obviously it is clearly a serious problem we have with our school buses if, in a ten-year period, there are 591 accidents, where we have had 155 injuries and five fatalities. The safety record of school buses in this Province is nothing to be proud of and I, for one, have terrible concerns about what, in fact, is going on in the school bus situation.

We have had the recent incident brought to our attention publicly through the television media of a young student in St. Judes. The only student being picked up by the bus in the community of St. Judes is required to walk 1,000 feet to the bus stop.

AN HON. MEMBER: 1,000 yards, 3,000 feet.

MR. HARRIS: 1,000 yards. That is almost a quarter of a mile, Mr. Speaker.

MR. J. BYRNE: It is over half a mile.

MR. HARRIS: Half a mile.

MR. J. BYRNE: Over half a mile.

MR. HARRIS: Over half a mile, okay. My math is a bit off. I got confused. We have the metric system, we have feet and we have yards. There are 5,280 feet in a mile, and I thought it was 1,000 feet. That is why I was thinking a quarter of a mile. I am off.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is 62 per cent of a mile.

MR. HARRIS: It is 62 per cent of a mile. Imagine having to walk that far to get a school bus because a school bus will not stop where you are. It doesn't make sense. What is going on in the administration of the school bus system in the Province?

We had the Minister of Education, and the former Minister of Education, and everybody complaining about school buses travelling all over the Province crossing each other's paths and one crossing a path with another school bus going in one direction, and the other - they are all concerned about that. How come they can't figure out how to allow a school bus to stop where the student is?

On the Trans-Canada Highway, going to the community of St. Jude's, where traffic is supposed to be going at a slow rate because of the community, but I don't know if it always does, that is a very unsafe situation. Why somebody's arbitrary dictate of where a school bus stop should be, bearing no relation to the student (inaudible) -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: - I don't understand, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: If I may have a moment, Mr. Speaker. Thirty seconds.

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave!

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

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

MR. HARRIS: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member has not been given leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Orders of the Day

 

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 2, Bill 53.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act," carried. (Bill No. 53)

On motion, Bill No. 53 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Motion No. 3, Bill 56.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Environment Act," carried. (Bill No. 56)

On motion, Bill No. 56 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Motion No. 4, Bill 57.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Waste Material Disposal Act," carried. (Bill No. 57)

On motion, Bill No. 57 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Motion No. 5, Bill 58.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Coat Of Arms Act," carried. (Bill No. 58)

On motion, Bill No. 58 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Motion No. 7, Bill 61.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Education to introduce a bill, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting Apprenticeship And Occupational Certification," carried. (Bill No. 61)

On motion, Bill No. 61 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: The hon. gentlemen on the other side were asking yesterday how many bills we got passed. They have been terribly co-operative, I must say to them. It must be the season. Even Harvey is wearing a red tie.

Motion No. 8, Bill No. 62, first reading.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act No. 2", carried. (Bill No. 62)

On motion, Bill No. 62 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 27, Bill No. 48, "An Act To Amend The Shops' Closing Act No. 2".

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Shops' Closing Act No. 2". (Bill No. 48)

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

MR LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I guess in the process of introducing the bill I want to dispel the attitude that there is no Sunday shopping. If you were to travel this city, and many of the other communities and larger centres around this Province, you would certainly see that people do that. I want to set the record straight on that.

One of the things that we find in the Shops' Closing Act is the fact that the act itself, which was written a long time ago, is antiquated and does not, in a sense, fit today's changing patterns that we find in society.

I want to start by saying that basically the society finds itself with changing work patterns, and statistics will show us that 66.23 per cent of the people do really work out of the regular pattern, and we find that in many, many instances in this city, for example, that people work in convenience stores, they work in drugstores, they work in cinemas, they work in boutiques, they work in specialty stores, and in the major convenience stores around the Province - around the city, too.

Basically what we are doing here, as I said, is levelling out the playing field for people to work. The part of the retail section of trade that is not really open on Sundays are the larger malls and some of the supermarkets.

In many of the outlying areas, for example, you have the Foodland Stores. The Foodland Stores are regulated supermarkets, and you find them whether you live in Torbay or whether you live out in Ferryland or Port aux Basques, or whatever, or in Bay d'Espoir, and as the regulations now exist it is illegal for these people to open, and there have been a number of charges against them; however, if you move up the road a few feet from any of those Foodland Stores, you can come to many of the convenience stores, and in these convenience stores you have all of the amenities that you would find in the regular store.

Mr. Speaker, basically it is not fair to these people and therefore we want to, as I said, not regulate that part of the retail trade but leave it up to the business for them to regulate themselves.

I guess what we are really saying here today is that we are not asking the major stores to open. We are not asking all of the major supermarkets to open. What we are saying to them is that if you do open then the government, through the Department of Environment and Labour, will not enforce the regulations and prosecute these people.

In fact, over at the department right now there are over 100 different charges that have been laid against businesses. Only recently we took one of these speciality stores to court and the judge ruled against us in the department and basically says these stores do have the right to open, and basically precluded that. Therefore, this particular guy who sells Christmas decorations and garlands, what have you, can open whenever he sees fit, from Monday even to Sunday. I think the judge also went farther in that he broadened the definition of what the speciality stores are.

Basically what we will have, Mr. Speaker, come January 1 is that we will no longer be enforcing the Shops' Closing Act on Sunday. Basically also, I guess, from a business point of view as well, that business is saying to us and to government that there are too many regulations, and basically it wants to have government I guess out of its face to be able to do the thing for itself.

We only regulate a small section of the retail trade. We don't, for example, tell Abitibi-Price or Abitibi Consolidated or Kruger or Iron Ore Company of Canada or Wabush Mines or the glove factory in Point Leamington to close on Sunday. We don't do that. It is industry that regulates it. Therefore, what we are saying, the small section left of the retail stores, we are saying to the industry: Then you regulate that and set the hours as you would for any other day of the week.

Also, if one were to visit the Avalon Mall parking lot on a Sunday afternoon you would find it very difficult in a sense to find a parking spot to be able to park your vehicle. It is just the same as it would be on any other day of the week. What is even more interesting, if you go inside you will find that some of the businesses, rather than opening up their stores, have taken their wares and put it on tables outside so that they would be able to sell and not be charged under the Shops' Closing Act.

Also to realize that in the tourist trade we have Marble Mountain, for example, that we showcase to the rest of the world as a tourist attraction, especially in the wintertime, and we want to attract people from all over the world to that particular facility. However, if the person who owns a ski shop at the bottom of the mountain were to open and to sell his wares on Sunday, then that would not be permitted under the law and we would charge that particular individual for doing so.

We have also seen the cruise ships that come to our cities, in St. John's and Corner Brook, and the people who are there want to be able to avail of shopping. That isn't possible for them to do under the present act. Basically we are saying to the businesses: We want you to regulate that particular part of the retail trade.

In addition, to say that Sunday - now it says as a day of rest, as a family day, is not in itself correct as well. Because we have people who are working in nursing homes, as I said, as nurses, as assistant nurses, we have people in the housekeeping units who work, people who are on maintenance. Then we come to the cinemas. People work there. People work in the convenience stores. People work in the fast-food outlets. Basically home care workers, they are all working on weekends. As I said, there is only a small part of the working force that is tied to the traditional work week.

What we are also doing is giving in a sense the businesses and the employees a lead. Because we didn't want to interrupt their schedules and the work schedules that have been there for the workers now over the Christmas season. We want to give them a head start for them to decide if they want to open their stores. Give them lead time so that it can be done on January 1.

With that particular introduction I want to give the people in the Opposition a chance to react to it and to express their views. Basically what we are saying here is that there is Sunday shopping, and that we are not asking the businesses to open. We are just saying to them: If you do, then we are not going to take you to court and prosecute you. We want, in a sense, for the consumer to be able to avail if the need exists. And if, for example, the retail trade is not there and the people do not patronize the stores on Sundays, then I am sure the people who own the businesses will not want them open. But basically, we are asking them, in a sense, to regulate their times, to regulate their hours. I am sure that can be done in an expeditious way, and I am sure it can be done also in consultation with the people who have to work in these stores.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

It is not hard to tell that we are getting down to the final days of the House of Assembly. All the controversial pieces of legislation that may invoke some public debate or opposition are being tabled now.

Now, the government cannot say that this is a new piece of legislation. In fact, this is the third minister who is introducing this piece of legislation, the third minister, Mr. Speaker. The first one -

AN HON. MEMBER: Who was it?

MR. E. BYRNE: The first one? I think it was the hon. Tom Murphy, the Member for St. John's South introduced it; the same reasoning, the exact same reasoning. We are not saying stores have to open, Mr. Speaker, we are just saying that if you do, we will not prosecute you. Now, what is the difference? Minister, really, what is the difference in saying that? There is no difference. A rose by any other name is still a rose, no difference. If it smells like it, if it tastes like it, if it feels like it, then, Minister, it probably is; that is what we are talking about, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: This is not a rose; this is a (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, that is right. What happened before? I mean, this is exactly what has happened before.

Now, I think there is something - you know, the more you sit in here, the more you get to know what is going on, I think, or at least you should; if you do not, there is something wrong with you, but at least you should.

The reality is, it always seems that around this time of year, whether it is in the latter part of the Spring session - if there is other legislation that government is trying to bring in quietly... maybe next Monday night, I can see it now, next Monday night we are going to be here until eleven or twelve o'clock, guaranteed. I can see it now, it is coming, that you will float up the balloon, fly it up, get the crowd outside, get the masses all excited about something, focus their direction right on a particular issue, Sunday shopping, we are going to do it this time.

I believe the former minister, the Minister now for Forest Resources and Agrifoods, when we brought it in before, the opposition was so intense to it, not only here in this Chamber but outside, that he took a little bit of a back step. Do you know what he said? He said: Now, what we are going to do, he said, government has consulted, we have listened to the people, so what we are going to do is, bring out the little trial event on this - and what was it?

MR. HARRIS: The tourist season.

MR. E. BYRNE: Right, that was it. We are going to introduce Sunday shopping for the tourist season

MR. HARRIS: through to December.

MR. E. BYRNE: - through to December, that is right. The Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi is right, through to December for the tourist season. Now, where is that? Not only where is that initiative, but where is that minister? He is not in that portfolio.

MR. H. HODDER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, and he did not do it on Sunday, did he? I say to the Member for Waterford Valley. He did not do it on Sunday. So that, was that minister, another trial balloon, and that was last Spring, I believe, if I am not mistaken, last Spring this whole issue came up again, representatives from the Federation of Labour, up in arms, retailers, business owners, up in arms.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Oh yes, definitely, Sir, and I will tell you why, because it will be increased costs with no increased revenue. That is exactly what will happen; heating costs, employment costs -

AN HON. MEMBER: They do not have to do it.

MR. E. BYRNE: Now, listen to this: the minister says you do not have to do it. I mean, what a lackadaisical - they do not have to do it. What a cop-out! You cannot wash your hands of this stuff, Minister. You sat in the House before as a private member when a former minister from a former administration brought it in, and you sat there as the parliamentary secretary to the Premier when the former minister brought it in. Now you have the face to stand up yourself and bring it in - the same useless, old, tired arguments, Mr. Speaker.

What is the point? What is the purpose of this piece of legislation? He cannot say, in all honesty, that businesses and retailers are supporting this piece of legislation, because they are not. There are some good points as to why they are not, because they feel, clearly - Minister, you should heed what I am telling you, because they clearly feel that the extra day of business will force them to open on Sundays, that is what they feel. The argument that `maybe, they do not have to if they don't want to, we are just opening up the process, Mr. Speaker', does not hold water, it just does not. They feel that to retain their customers they will be compelled to open up on Sundays - just to compete, to retain their customer base - because if they do not, then the fellow next-door or the shop next-door will, and their customer base will be gone. That is what is going to happen.

The extra cost of operating an additional day is onerous, and do not think it is not. You multiply that out over the year, when Sunday shopping is over, it is onerous. Employees, heat, light, etc. and it is not cheap to operate these places, many of the larger retail outlets. However, because of that extra day it will not - and this is what retailers are saying, this is not the Member for Kilbride's words, this is not the Opposition words, this is what retailers who have spoken to us, not only in the first initiative in government on Sunday shopping, I say to the Member for Cape St. Francis, when it first came in, they said it to us them, they spoke to us last Spring - that was just prior to the Liberal nomination of St. John's West - and they are saying it again this time. And here is what they are saying, that the extra day does not mean that the weekly revenue to business will increase.

MR. J. BYRNE: Extra expense, that is all.

MR. E. BYRNE: It does not.

MR. J. BYRNE: People only have so much money to spend.

MR. E. BYRNE: Where is the minister? The minister did his job, he introduced the piece of legislation; now when it is up for debate, he is gone.

MR. H. HODDER: He has chickened out already.

MR. E. BYRNE: Well, Mr. Speaker, by logic, the reality is that while the costs will increase by a seventh, over a week, the revenues will not, and it will not equal more business to Sunday shoppers.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I say to the Government House Leader, you should know. Yes, you are a constituent of mine, and even if I have to stand up on this issue and protect you from yourself, I will do it for you as a constituent, I say to the member.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: I do it for all of my constituents, including you, the Government House Leader, Sir.

MR. TULK: Thank you.

MR. E. BYRNE: And at some point when that member sees the light, he will thank me, I know he will. He will deem, at some point in the future, that my comments were not only appropriate, but were dead on, Mr. Speaker, guaranteed.

MR. TULK: My member can bring up anything he wishes, but once he mentions that word `deem', I am reminded of the Workers' Compensation Board and I go right off the deep end. So, refrain from using that.

MR. SPEAKER (Oldford): Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. H. HODDER: Was that a good point of order?

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MR. E. BYRNE: I tell you, the Government House Leader is not doing well, he is not doing too well on points of order, but I am not going to get into that. I am going to stay about fifteen to twenty miles away from that today.

MR. TULK: It would be wise to stay clear of that.

MR. J. BYRNE: Guaranteed. I saw the smoke rising on the other side, the other day, so I said I had better back-off. If the Government House Leader is as upset by the word `deem' as I am, I tell him, use his influence at the Cabinet table to get it changed, because that can be done now, that can be done today. It takes a little time, but the process can be changed.

Well, Mr. Speaker, when we look at the Sunday shopping issue, really, what is the purpose of this piece of legislation? It offers nothing in terms of adding to the type of life or the quality of life that we have in this Province: it is onerous on employees. And let us talk about the employees for a few minutes. What will it do to employees - make them work an extra day? The types of employees we are talking about are people who are not making $40,000 and $50,000 a year. We are talking about people who are at minimum wage, in many respects, who have worked six days a week, anyway.

Some people have said that it will introduce more part-timers into the system, that are being introduced into the labour market, anyway, with respect to retail outlets, and that as a result of the seventh day, many people may not get to work at all.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Is that the beer store?

AN HON. MEMBER: Lumberyard.

MR. E. BYRNE: Lumberyard.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I asked two questions. I asked that `Reid' a question.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that if you talk to retailers, talk to people, Minister, who work in the retail stores, the day off on Sunday guarantees them - basically, at least they feel that the prohibition on Sunday shopping gives most of them a guaranteed day off with family. Now, that is what it comes down to, a guaranteed day off with family by most of the retailers. Of course, in many occupations, working on Sundays, I say to the minister, is relatively an accepted practice - in some occupations.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, and those are more essential services, RNC - some of my colleagues have pointed out - the nursing profession, the medical profession, those who are on call for emergencies. So in some sectors of our society, the practice of working on Sundays is already an acceptable standard. There is no doubt about that. There is some merit to the argument, but when you talk to people who are in retail, who work in retail, who earn a living from the retail sector, they do not support the notion of Sunday shopping. So the universal, guaranteed day off for people in society, while it is a myth in some sectors, it should remain a reality with respect to retailers.

Now, the minister said in his opening comments that most of the people -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Actually, what is going on is that the members on this side of the House know I am going to be up until at least - I am going to adjourn the House today myself, and they have gone up to clear off constituency messages - that is what is going on here. That is exactly what is going on here.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the other thing we have to be concerned about, the last two times that this debate -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: And the Minister of Tourism is gone, I notice that. She is not here.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: She is gone down for lunch, is she, down at Hotel Newfoundland, today, I hear. That is what I understand.

Mr. Speaker, this is a serious issue. The last time this piece of legislation was brought into effect, we heard from flea markets. Obviously, they will be affected by this change, including the Avalon Mall flea market, which probably will not be able to function in the corridors of the mall. That is done, an opportunity for people to sell their wares that way. Since the flea market donates part of its take to charity, charities may in fact lose as a result of Sunday shopping. The craft industry, which is so important -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) business.

MR. E. BYRNE: It is. It is a huge business. Compared to ten years ago, the growth that has taken as a result of being able to have an outlet -

AN HON. MEMBER: Sunday was their day.

MR. E. BYRNE: It was. It is their day. It is their only day, I say to the Member for St. John's East. Not only is it their day, it is their only day. The growth of the craft industry, the relationship to which it has grown, and how much it has grown over the past, say, five to seven years, can be directly related to the opportunities that have been provided to sellers of crafts who have the opportunity to sell their wares at flea markets.

Any more muffins out there?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Any more muffins or toast out there?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible). Want some?

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, boy, I would love to have a slice of toast.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Let it be known, one of my most belligerent constituents is trying to look after me again this morning. I get so many calls from that constituent over there - I cannot talk about too many of them; I cannot talk about them all. I get some good information sometimes - wanted to know if I wanted to have a slice of toast and a cup of tea, and went ahead and asked the Speaker if I could have one.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: There is a flood, I say to the member. It is not a leak, it is a flood.

Really, with respect to the flea markets and the impact on flea markets, it will effectively destroy them; that is the bottom line, no doubt about it. When the minister says that we are talking about the larger malls and supermarkets, and in the outlying areas, the Foodlands, but in the more urban centres, what we are really doing is opening up the opportunity for the larger chains, in terms of their profits, to take from here whatever they make across -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, they are all upstairs returning their constituency calls. You missed it, I said - because I am going to be up for at least an hour. We will adjourn the House today, and they took an opportunity to go up and return some calls; that is my understanding.

Really, in terms of doing that, what is the impact, Minister? I would like to ask the minister: Where has been the big lobbying effort for Sunday shopping? Where are the numbers and hoards of people coming from, to government, saying: Open up the stores on Sunday, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: Will the car dealerships be open?

MR. E. BYRNE: I do not know.

MR. J. BYRNE: Maybe it has something to do with that (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Who knows? But one of the strongest arguments to be made against this piece of legislation is when we talk about the small store owners. In my mind it is the strongest argument. Local store owners, owned and operated right here. The Corner Store: Pondside Convenience, Valley View Convenience, those stores that are in my district. The Corner Store owned and operated by Henry and Bernie Pilgrim - these are the stores that are going to be hurt, no question about it. What is the minister's attitude towards it? They do not have to open. We are just saying that if they do, we will not charge them.

Really, let us be honest about it. Yesterday, the Member for Conception Bay South, who is a former store owner, talked to us about it. He said when Sobeys opened up in CBS for twenty-four hours, the impact that that had on his business was tremendous and significant. Parents coming down to buy lunches for their kids, could be a bun, could be whatever, a bottle of juice. He said it virtually eliminated a significant portion of his business. That is effectively what we are going to do today.

I get up on Sundays - maybe out of a few carrots, cooking Sunday dinner. Maybe out of a -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, every Sunday, Sir.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Pardon me? Oh yes.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, I go to one of the farmer outlets like Brookfield Road, over to Lester's.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) go to the supermarket.

MR. E. BYRNE: No. But Sundays, I was just going to say, in -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, Sundays for cooking dinner, if you are making pease pudding, for example. Every Sunday, I cook it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you?

MR. E. BYRNE: Guaranteed. At my house, guaranteed, on Sundays you can come over for Jiggs' dinner, a turkey or a roast - every Sunday morning.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) for a Jiggs' dinner.

MR. E. BYRNE: No, but I tell you this, Minister, before you go. Part of that ritual on Sundays is that if I am out of something, I go up to the small store, or up to Valley View, up to Andy Birmingham's store

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, made him hungry.

- or over to somebody else's store to either pick up a bit of cranberry jelly or pick up a few split peas, a two-litre Diet Pepsi. That is the sort of activity, when you multiply it out, while one person is not significant, but when you multiply it out in a catchment area that a small corner store depends upon, by say, fifteen to twenty, or fifty to sixty or a hundred people, it is a significant portion of their business, no doubt about it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: What is the problem? I heard the Minister of Education was upset this morning with the Member for Baie Verte. Is that right? Why? He has the goods on you, Minister.

The reality is that the largest and most significant argument is the small corner stores. These are corner stores, after all, that pay taxes. They are mom-and-pop operations. Most people who own those stores work seven days a week anyway, but it provides a lifestyle, it provides an income, it provides an opportunity to live and work within your own community. I can tell you that statistics have shown clearly - very, very clearly - that on this issue those stores will be impacted.

There is an argument, too, that has been spun out and put forward that says that those who are in favour of the change would say that it will create more work. It will not create any more work than is already there, because what may be more created on the one hand in terms of the retail outlets on the other hand will be more than offset by the loss in terms of employment in the other sectors such as flea markets, such as the mom-and-pop shops. It doesn't make any sense.

Really, I would like to ask the minister: Why are we reintroducing this piece of legislation? If government did not have the will in 1995, they did not have the will just last spring, why are we bringing it back now on December 12?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No question about it.

Why? I do not understand it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Bureaucrats are not elected to this Chamber.

There is no reason why this piece of legislation should come back. Minister, it does not make any sense whatsoever. We have debated this piece of legislation and this initiative enough in this House to know that the people of the Province do not want to have stores open on Sundays. It is as simple as that.

Also against the change, and it cannot be underestimated or understated, are many of the Christian Churches and adherents who cite that the seventh day is a day of family. It is, and it is a tradition. I say it is a tradition, and it is as much about being a Newfoundlander as anything else. Many people celebrate the day; it is a day for family. It is the only day of the week, really, when the pace of life really stops and you can sit down and enjoy the day with your family, unencumbered at all by the fact that there are other opportunities for you.

You talk about the impact of Sunday shopping. I remember five years ago - no, actually it was seven years ago - before I was elected to the House. We went up to my wife's parents' place in Ottawa for Christmas. You can shop every day of the week in Ottawa, for about anything, anywhere, any time. We got up on December 21, hopping around like you would, last-minute shopping for family and stuff. What was interesting about it was that the day after Christmas Day, the next day, was Sunday. Christmas Day fell on a Saturday that year. The day after was Sunday, which was Boxing Day. All of the stores were open in Ottawa.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Sir, I appreciate that. Did you send that over? Hold on, Mr. Speaker, I have received a message from his Lieutenant-Governor. I appreciate that very much, Sir. I will have that with my coffee now in a few minutes, once I finish around 12:00.

I was telling a story. That year, 1990 -

AN HON. MEMBER: What do you have there?

MR. E. BYRNE: A little slice of toast with a bit of peanut butter in between it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, guaranteed. I would like to thank my constituent for sending that over.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: You're not much for peanut butter (inaudible)?

MR. E. BYRNE: Actually I eat a lot of peanut butter, I say to the minister, and I usually buy it on Sundays down at the corner store.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: The story I was about to tell is that Saturday, 1990, in Ottawa, Christmas Day, the next day, Sunday, was Boxing Day and all of the stores were open. The biggest shopping day in Ottawa at Christmas is Boxing Day. It happened to fall on a Sunday that year, but it was allowed to be open on Sunday, the largest sales of the entire season. Forty to fifty per cent more goods are sold on Boxing Day than previous to Christmas; you know why?

AN HON. MEMBER: Why?

MR. E. BYRNE: Because we have opened up, we have not prescribed it, people who went in and paid fifty dollars for that two days before, went in and had it for five bucks the next day; no question about it but the reality was with respect to Sunday shopping is an important point, that, when we talk about a prescribed day for family, what is wrong with regulating that? We can use the minister's argument, it does not mean you have to spend your day with your family but it certainly says that, as a society we recognize at least one day of the week where people take time, reflect, sit down and relax. That is all there is to it, Mr. Speaker.

The arguments that government put forward, I don't know, I say to the minister, maybe he can answer some of the questions when he gets up and closes the debate on second reading

AN HON. MEMBER: Next Friday.

MR. E. BYRNE: Oh, it will be at least that I say to the hon. members, but why is he as minister allowing this piece of legislation to come back before this House yet again?

I suspect and I hope my suspicions are correct, that by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week this will be left on the Order Paper, it will not be debated and that is where it will die, right there.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I know, that is what I said. This is the third minister to bring in this piece of legislation and it absolutely makes no sense whatsoever. It was only last spring we debated it.

How will it affect your district, I say to the Member for Labrador West?

MR. CANNING: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, that is why I asked, in terms of the border, there is a point I want to make here that is why I am asking him. In terms of the shopping in your district there, I mean, is there an exodus on the border, would you say?

MR. CANNING: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Hold on now, it is an important question.

MR. CANNING: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Okay. I never said you did but you would have knowledge of it, so what you are telling me is that you do not shop on Sundays?

MR. CANNING: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Boys we have heard it here now, hold on. The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs is getting ready to retire. He is, I just heard him say to the Government House Leader he is going to get up and speak against this piece of government legislation. Now, if that happens, Mr. Speaker, he is gone out of Cabinet just like that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, no. I can tell you what happens. No, if that happens I say to the minister -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Give me two minutes.

MR. E. BYRNE: No, by leave. By leave? I will give you leave for two minutes.

MR. A. REID: Not only am I going to speak against the bill, Mr. Speaker, I am going to tell the hon. member why I am speaking against the bill. I will tell you now and you listen to this, I am speaking against the bill because I don't think I am speaking against the bill, Mr. Speaker, because I do not believe -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. A. REID: I don't believe, Mr. Speaker, that we should make the people of Newfoundland wait three weeks for this bill to be enacted. In fact, I believe that the bill should be enacted this afternoon so that people, Mr. Speaker, have the chance to buy and shop for the next three Sundays before January 1.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Leave has been withdrawn.

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: I knew there was an out. No, Sir, pretty cute, pretty cute. Minister, I would tell you something -

MR. A. REID: And here is the reason.

MR. E. BYRNE: Hold on Minister.

Mr. Speaker, there were a few people on the back bench then getting excited. There were a few over there getting excited, they saw it coming. Cabinet seats opening up, out goes one Reid and maybe another Reid would have gone in there. Who knows, it could have been another Reid. It could have been the Member for Labrador West. No, my understanding is the Member for Bellevue believes he is the next one going in. He is the next one in apparently, principal Parliamentary Secretary; he could be the next one in.

MR. GRIMES: Point of order.

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

MR. GRIMES: Yes, Mr. Speaker, just to rise actually on a point of order to ask if I might have leave to table the information that was asked earlier this morning in Question Period with respect to the paralegal institute.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the minister have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I offer for the table the questions as to the application made on May 14 and a copy of it here for the table. The approval on September 23 and the certificate offered, Mr. Speaker, as well and also questioned were any exemptions asked for and requested. The only exemption requested was for approval to be accepted for student aid and the answer was that they didn't -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. GRIMES: No, Mr. Speaker, if I could give the answer - if he might listen, he gave leave to get the answer.

They requested leave to be given special consideration for student aid and the answer was sent back to them that they did not need to ask for special consideration because the policy had been changed prior to this, they were not aware of it. So, they asked for an exemption that they did not need, so there was none granted because the policy had already been changed.

Mr. Speaker, finally there were issues with respect to what orders in Council and so on were - with respect there were none because the issue was never ever the part of a Cabinet paper, never ever went to Cabinet, it was never discussed in the Cabinet, it was done as a normal process in the Department of Education and the information is filed. I hope it is satisfactory to the hon. member.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Minister I thought it was going to happen. I thought, finally after five years in the House of Assembly, a minister is going to get up and say no way to a government piece of legislation. No, almost, it was going to happen, but there were members over there who were just as hopeful or more hopeful then I was minister, I can tell you that. No, doubt about it. No question about it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Right off the bat, but I would say the next person going in Cabinet is the Member for Humber Valley, guaranteed. Yes, sir going in Cabinet.

MR. J. BYRNE: But he is a PC.

MR. E. BYRNE: Guaranteed, the next member going in and here is why, I do not say that without thinking, Mr. Speaker, and I will tell you why, because when I look around the Cabinet there is some prerequisites that you have to have. The Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, ran for nomination for us, for this party, former member of the PC 500 Club. Came in the 1993 election, going to run for us in St. John's North, was not aware that the former Minister of Education was going to resign, came in, got all the material, all of the stuff - yes, Mr. Simms I am with you, we are going forward - he is not even in his seat.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The member is not in his seat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: Point of order.

Mr. Speaker, I would never call -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

MR. MATTHEWS: I would never call any hon. member in this House a liar or a fibber or anything that in any way would suggest that he is anything other than honourable, but in this case the hon. member is definitely wagging a false pair of jaws this morning because he is factually incorrect in the content of the material that he is putting forward and I would ask him to do the honourable thing because I believe he is an honourable man and withdraw the spurious, scurrilous, jaw wagging, fib-like type of information that he is putting forward.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

MR. E. BYRNE: You are another minister who is having no luck with points of order today, another minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: The fact of the matter is Mr. Minister, I know it to be true sir, I know it to be factual, but however -

AN HON. MEMBER: Who else?

MR. E. BYRNE: Former Tory -

MR. J. BYRNE: Who.

MR. E. BYRNE: - took advantage of the opportunity, I want to get in Cabinet and I want to get in government. When he got here, what did he do? The only prerequisite at that time post 1993 was to stand up and debate all you wanted to on Hydro legislation and support the Premier, no matter what and the four back-benchers of the day who did the most supporting of that particular piece of legislation ended up in the Cabinet, the Minster of Forest Resources and Agrifoods who sits there now, the Minster of Works, Services and Transportation was another one, the former member for, it must have been Terra Nova, the former Minister of Social Services.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Absolutely, no doubt about it.

The other prerequisite -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, absolutely.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: You knew what you were talking about, Sir. With respect to municipal and provincial affairs I would say, and I will say it here so anybody can hear me, that this minister knows his department, knows the issues affecting it. I may not agree sometimes with how he handles the issues, but no one can say that minister does not know the issues when it comes to municipal and provincial affairs. Nobody can say that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: I have a few dollars for you.

MR. E. BYRNE: Right on. You have that ready, what we talked about yesterday, do you?

Now, it is not only him. The former Minister of Social Services, 1989, at a Tory convention, the big sign - there were even pictures going around about it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who was that, Kay Young?

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, oh, no doubt about it. There were some upset people around. There are a few more who are not going to escape my comments today.

The Minister of Human Resources, a candidate for nomination in a couple of Tory conventions for, I believe it was Waterford - Kenmount then. I believe so.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I am not sure. I cannot comment on things about which I am not sure.

That is why I say that the next person going in Cabinet is going to be the Member for Humber Valley, guaranteed, because he is the only one who meets all of the prerequisites, it seems to me.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, no doubt about it.

Mr. Speaker, back to the piece of legislation.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Way to go, Jack.

Mr. Speaker, to the issue of Sunday shopping, I know we digressed somewhat and got on somewhat of a tangent. It all began when the member sent me over my breakfast.

The reality is that I, as the critic for this particular piece of legislation, and on behalf of the party, again, for the third time since I have been in this House, say no to Sunday shopping. We have debated it twice before. We should not be re-entertaining it at this point.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my remarks and sit down.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I, as well, today would like to add my comments on this bill to amend the Shops' Closing Act, and to say to the minister that I am opposed to this particular piece of legislation.

I just had to run out of the House for a couple of minutes and while out I had two phone calls, both of them opposing this bill, both of them asking me to stand today or on Monday and certainly to most ardently oppose this particular piece of legislation.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that this particular piece of legislation should certainly be defeated. As a matter of fact, I do not even think it should have even come before the House. It is a step backward, as far as I am concerned. It will certainly cut the legs out from under small business in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I can talk about that from personal experience, having come from a background of small business for a number of years and knowing how hard it is in some of the small businesses to survive, and to talk about just in my area where a major supermarket chain was allowed to open twenty-four hours a day. When it opened twenty-four hours a day, Mr. Speaker, it had a disastrous effect, not only on my business, but on every business in that immediate area, because the things they were buying from the small-type corner stores were now being lost to major supermarket chains.

I have talked to goodness only knows how many people who work in the various malls around and can only say how ridiculous it is to ask these people, and to say to these people: Listen, you are now going to have to work on Sundays. There are places in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I will use the Avalon Mall as one example, where every Sunday there are booths set up for a flea market; and at these flea markets, there are organizations there who raise money for various needy causes, and if we are going to allow a place like the Avalon Mall to be opened on Sunday, what we are going to do is drive these people out, we are going to be sending them somewhere else.

So I say to the minister that this piece of legislation should certainly be withdrawn.

MR. GRIMES: Absolutely, (inaudible) all the Tories (inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Well, I do not know about that, I say to the Minister of Education. I do know that the last time, it came to the House, Mr. Speaker, I was opposed to the bill, and whatever happened, somebody, I guess the previous minister, saw fit to withdraw it. As a matter of fact, I ran into one of their candidates who was going to run against my colleague here, who was running around Confederation Building - I can see him now, running up the corridor on the fifth floor to our office, passing out these sheets, so concerned about Sunday shopping, and two weeks later, he was up beating the drum in St. John's West.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who is that?

MR. FRENCH: Oh, I know who he is, I know him fairly well. And the other night I attended a meeting where he was doing a jig on underpasses and overpasses and everything else, and I went up to the gentleman and I said: Boy, you are looking for an overpass for a particular thing and I cannot even get a light for a school. You have a poor chance at what you are looking for; but I suggested to him: Boy, you go and talk to him, he is your buddy. But anyway, that certainly did not happen.

But this particular bill - and I say to the Member for Topsail, while just being upstairs I had a call from one of his constituents, who told me in the most -

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

MR. FRENCH: The Member for Topsail - one of his constituents just called me a few minutes ago and told me that, whatever I did, to oppose this bill in the strongest, strongest -

MR. WISEMAN: Was he a Liberal?

MR. FRENCH: Oh yes, and a very good one, I say to the Member for Topsail, very good.

AN HON. MEMBER: There is no such thing (inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Well, he considers himself a good one, anyway.

So, this bill, if we go in and look at the employees who have to work in this mall, and I know a lot of them, Mr. Speaker, who are going to be forced to work on Sundays. And I think that is wrong. I think these people have a way of life that they should be allowed to enjoy and continue to enjoy. I do not think that we, in this House, should go out and take that enjoyment away from them. Most of them, that is their day off; and if a lot of them are working part-time, their hours are jigged in such a way that some days they might go to work at nine o'clock in the morning and they might get off at eleven or twelve and then they have to go in again at five or six in the afternoon. So the only one day, I guess, that they can really count on, is their Sunday.

Now, there are religions, I guess, in Newfoundland that it could be argued they do not observe Sunday as their holiday, but I think the majority of the people in this Province do. And I say to the Minister of Education, you know if we talk about majorities, as we did in Education Reform, in all the districts around the Province, I, for one, knowing how I felt on it and what I did - and I am sure if any member opposite takes the time to talk to people who work in any of these stores around the Province, or in their own district or work outside of their own district, will quickly find out that these people are deadly opposed to Sunday shopping.

If you had the opportunity to work in the business that I have had, you would quickly find out what an impact it has on small businesses in this Province.

Some years ago, I met with the manager of the Federal Development Bank, who told me that the largest growth in Canada was going to be in the small business sector of Canada.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: They should stay open. Well, I could get into that with you, but these people should stay open; they provide something - if you want to know about the service station industry, I can talk to you about the service station industry forever and a day, but I do not really want to do that.

If the Member for Topsail wants to talk, or question me, go back to your own seat and you will certainly have the right to do it, but if you are over there, stay where you are, look after your own constituents.

Now, if you want to know about the service station industry - I was in the service station industry, seeing the Member for Topsail told you what industry I used to be in.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: No, you did not, he told you. Anyway, everybody who worked in our business on Sundays attended Memorial University and every single one of them, that was the only time they could work, and in my business - which I was in, I am not in it anymore, by the way. But I would argue today for the service stations, the small ones, I would argue for those people today, that this is their mode of survival. I tell the member - when a major store in my district was allowed to open twenty-four hours a day - the major impact it had on small businesses in our area of this Province.

So, in this particular type of business, they are providing a service, a service where people need gasoline - maybe what we should do is move to a system like they have in Nova Scotia, and I am not adverse to that - where in different communities in Nova Scotia they pick a particular service station, whichever one, and they say to that particular service station, you can open this Sunday and this one can open next Sunday. Maybe we should do that. Maybe that is something we can do.

MR. G. REID: They can do that now, can they not?

MR. FRENCH: Maybe they can. I am deadly opposed to this legislation. I talked to people who work in these particular businesses, and I know how they feel about having to work on Sundays, I say to the Member for Twillingate. I hope he gets out of his seat, and if he has anybody who works in here from his district, and if they contact him, I hope he certainly gets up and supports their position.

This bill, to me, will force a lot of people in this Province to change their way of life. These people who now know that every Sunday they are off, every Sunday they plan to do things with their families... Some of them who are lucky enough, I guess, to have summer homes or whatever, can go to those, but there are a lot of people who take their Sundays to be with their family, with their children, and to do things with their children on Sundays. This legislation will stop that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FRENCH: The two calls that I just had are many calls. The last time when this legislation was to be introduced I was approached many times over by people in this Province who asked me to oppose this legislation. I don't know why - but I would like to know why - the legislation was withdrawn. It came up and then, all of a sudden, just disappeared I guess. Now today it is back again. I don't think it should be back here.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FRENCH: I have to say to the Minister of Education, it is too bad he is now giving my colleague a lecture on running. I remember that Hogan had his money raised for him. As a matter of fact, he talked to me and I was going to arrange a crowd - even though I am on the other side - up my way to make sure he could win the nomination, and get the delegates up in that area. All of a sudden, Bill says: Bob, he is not going, boy. He is out.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Oh, no, it was only John who did that. Only John did that. I would have done that, and I tell you why I would have done it. When he was Minister of Tourism he really did me a favour one time in regard to the Summer Games and I said: Well, I certainly have to do something to help out the minister. Anyway, he chose not to do it so that is it. Now he has moved over there and I just do not know about him any more.

Mr. Speaker, there are labour unions in this Province who are certainly opposed to this particular piece of legislation. Of course, these unions have a right to oppose this particular piece of legislation. I don't know really what impact it will have on some of the major chains, because they are all over the Island. I don't know if people will then take their money, what they have to spend, and if they will spend it over the seven-day work week, or if we are going to do it in a six-day work week, or whatever. Again, I have to oppose this particular piece of legislation.

There are many retailers who certainly want to do some business on Sundays, and we have our craft shops and these sorts of things that can do these. Again, my hon. colleague reminds me that I think this particular piece of legislation should have been referred to a legislative review committee. All of us then from that angle would certainly have had the opportunity to input into this particular piece of legislation. The people in the Province of Newfoundland, as we are doing on the side arms issue, would have had the opportunity to have input into this particular piece of legislation, but that isn't happening on this particular piece of legislation.

I wonder whose benefit it is really for. It is not, I say, for the benefit of the employees who work in these major chains. It is not for their benefit. It is for the benefit of large business in this Province. I'm not opposed to large business, but I think our workers have the right to be given the opportunity of at least one day of rest. What happens now is there are not two days together. They are spaced out. At least on Sunday, everybody knew that on Sunday we had the opportunity to have at least one day off and one day of rest.

Mr. Speaker, if this legislation is passed it certainly won't be a better tomorrow for the employees, I say. This particular legislation is going to be harmful to the workers in our Province, to the people who work in the Avalon Mall, to the people who work in any mall across the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It will be harmful to those people. I know people who work in a lot of these stores, and this will certainly have a disastrous affect on these people.

I would ask the minister to certainly withdraw this bill, or to go back and certainly take a second look at it because this particular piece of legislation is harmful. It is harmful to the workers. I say again, whose benefit are we bringing it in for? Are we bringing it in for the betterment of the general public in this Province? I say no we aren't. Because if somebody is stuck for something on a Sunday there are all kinds of places or small stores around this Province where somebody can go in and avail of what they need to buy.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: I will make my announcement in due time, when the time comes. Right now we are too busy in here to even look at that stuff, you know, Ralph.

I just don't know why, Mr. Speaker, we are here today talking about the Shops' Closing Act, about bringing it forward again in this Province. Why are we bringing it forward again? I can't seem to get an answer on that particular question. It is really a disastrous piece of legislation to many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians when all of a sudden their only day they knew and they were guaranteed to have off is now being taken away. This bill is certainly not for the benefit of the employees who work in this industry in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It won't change their hours, won't give them any more money. It will do nothing. The only thing it will do is upset these particular workers in this Province.

Again, that is wrong. There are all kinds of small businesses around the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador that this will have a disastrous affect on. When people can go to major chains such as supermarkets, it will have a drastic effect on the corner store industry in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It certainly will not benefit them. It will take away business from them, and lots of business from them.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: The Member for Topsail is very concerned about who I am backing, I say, Mr. Speaker, but in due course that will come out.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: I was hoping my colleague from Kilbride was going to run.

AN HON. MEMBER: What about me?

MR. FRENCH: No, I must say to my hon. colleague, but I was hoping the Member for Kilbride was going to run, who was so eloquent yesterday on workers' compensation, and who was so eloquent again this morning on the Shops' Closing Act.

Yesterday afternoon, in talking on workers' compensation, I think he had more attention than I have seen in this place in a long, long time, with the exception of Question Period.

Again, on this here, it is wrong. It is wrong for the employees in this Province. It is a bad piece of legislation to bring in, and people in this Province will remember this legislation. They will not forget this. They will not forget who did it to them, if it is passed, and I feel that we should certainly vote against this particular piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker.

I will clue up in a few minutes by saying that the workers are against this, the unions are against this, the churches are against this. I don't know of anybody - there is nobody - who has called my office or talked to me privately, I say to the minister, on this particular piece of legislation, who is in favour of it. I have not had one, single phone call from anybody who has said to me: I want this piece of legislation to pass. But I have had numerous phone calls from people who have asked me to oppose this particular piece of legislation, and have asked me to do everything that I can do to see that this particular piece of legislation does not pass because it is a step backward. We do not have to become Americanised I suppose or whatever like other parts of this world are, and I think that it is an unique thing in our Province that we have, it is an unique thing in our Province where the employees have a right to be off on Sunday and regardless of what they do, regardless of their religious beliefs or whatever, they have this right to be off on Sunday and I do not think that we should be out there now taking that right away from them.

So the legislation is wrong, Mr. Speaker, it should certainly be withdrawn or either left on the Order Paper to die the death that it so richly deserves. It is wrong to bring it in and on that note I will sit down and if you wish I can adjourn debate for today.

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

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

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