June 2, 1998                HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS             Vol. XLIII  No. 37


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today I would like to take a few moments to remind hon. members that this is National Transportation Week across Canada. The theme for Transportation Week 1998, `Transportation - Canada's Natural Resource', reflects the importance of transportation infrastructure to our nation's economy and economic growth and development.

Just prior to the start of Transportation Week, I had the opportunity to meet with my federal and provincial counterparts to discuss various items of concern. One of the key agenda items was the establishment of a national highway policy. The proposed national highway policy identifies the need for federal/provincial partnerships to work towards developing a transportation infrastructure which supports commerce and trade activity throughout Canada.

I am pleased to report that discussions on the establishment of a national highway policy were very productive. All ministers endorsed, in principle, the establishment of a broad investment strategy for our highways. Mr. Speaker, all ministers agreed to meet later this year to further pursue this initiative, following a final report on the state, condition and investment needs of the national highway system.

The ministers also discussed safety standards, the need to harmonize regulations governing various aspects of the trucking industry, and the development of a transportation component of a national climate change strategy.

Mr. Speaker, the transportation network of highways in Newfoundland and Labrador is an essential part of this Province's past, present and future economic growth and development. This year we are seeing just how important this transportation infrastructure is to the Province. In this fiscal year, Mr. Speaker, more than $108 million in road construction projects will be tendered, the largest ever road construction program in the history of the Province. As of today, Mr. Speaker, we have awarded contracts for thirty-eight projects with a dollar value of more than $66 million. This translates into about 660 direct jobs and 462 indirect jobs. Investment in roads also results in decreased travel times and lower maintenance costs.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I would like to thank the minister for a copy of his statement before the House sat.

I want to read two sentences, Mr. Speaker: I am pleased to report that discussions on the establishment of a national highway policy were very productive. All ministers endorsed, in principle, the establishment of a broad investment strategy for our highways. Mr. Speaker, all ministers agreed to meet later this year to further pursue this initiative...

A statement for the sake of a statement; the minister is desperate for media attention. Maybe he should trade places with Jim Furlong and start (inaudible) `a little good news'.

The minister talks about 660 jobs, seasonal jobs. I say to the minister: Where are the permanent jobs that this Province needs to stop the out-migration? Let us do something about the permanent jobs, I say, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I want to update Members of the House of Assembly on the activities of one of the strategic initiatives undertaken by the Department of Development and Rural Renewal. The Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation was incorporated in January, 1997, to spearhead development of the local film and video industry.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) good news.

MR. TULK: I must say that the Minister of Mines and Energy at that time, I believe, was the minister of that department. I like to give credit where credit is due.

The intent is to diversify the economic base of the Province and generate long-term employment benefits for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speak, the film and video industry clearly offers significant economic and employment possibilities for the people of this Province. Film and television productions are labour intensive, with approximately 60 per cent of a project's budget being spent in salaries and fees for workers.

Mr. Speaker, the mandate of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation is: to support, assist and develop the growth of the private sector film and video industry using sound business principles in the areas of funding, marketing, promotion and infrastructure development; and, secondly, to promote the Province within the worldwide film and video industry as a location for film, video, television and commercial productions.

Mr. Speaker, one of the ways the provincial government is supporting the activities of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation is by introducing a telefilm tax credit. The tax credit will be an important tool in attracting investment to this sector, targeted by the government as an economic and employment growth opportunity. In Nova Scotia a similar program helped increase the size of the industry in that province from $15 million to $50 million in just two years. My colleague, the Minister of Finance, has tabled enabling legislation on this tax credit.

Mr. Speaker, the Corporation has been active in promoting the Province in the telefilm industry. The Corporation has coordinated scouting visits by senior officials of various companies in the industry. The Corporation participated in Location '97 and Location '98 in Los Angeles as well as several other industry gatherings and trade shows.

Mr. Speaker, a good example of the kind of productions being attracted to this province is a joint Canada-Norway movie project tentatively entitled "Misery Harbour". The story is based on the novels of Danish/Norwegian writer Axel Sandemose, and portrays the adventures of a teenage boy in the early 1900s who boards a schooner in Oslo, and sets sail for Newfoundland where he jumps ship. This is a bedtime story for you. Shooting for the production will take place in Scandinavia -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TULK: - Tilting on Fogo Island, Gander, and St. John's.

Mr. Speaker, there are other examples I could elaborate on such as The Devine Ryans, Dooley Gardens, or Extraordinary visitor.

AN HON. MEMBER: Excellent.

MR. TULK: When are you going make a statement yourself.

Mr. Speaker, in fiscal 1995/96 and 1996/97, five productions occurred in the province which resulted in total project expenditures of -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TULK: - of $3.3 million in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In fiscal 1997/98, the first year of the Corporation's mandate, there were 22 projects completely or partially produced in Newfoundland and Labrador with total production expenditures of $9.7 million in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, early indications are encouraging for this coming year as well. In the first two months of fiscal 1998/99, four productions have been confirmed with total project revenues of almost $7 million. Eight additional projects are also under development, which if pursued, could bring total production costs up to $16 million for this year. And we are just three months into this fiscal year.

Mr. Speaker, at this rate, total industry investment associated with Newfoundland and Labrador for fiscal 1998/99 will far exceed previous years. Clearly, Mr. Speaker, we are on the right track in growing this relatively new industry.

AN HON. MEMBER: They are all going to be in Misery Harbour, boy.

MR. TULK: We will all be in Misery Harbour, yes.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I would like to thank the minister for a copy of his statement today.

As I read through it and listen to the minister speak about it, Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt about the film industry and what it can produce in this part of the world, especially with the unique settings we have around this Province. We have seen some things in the past, Mr. Speaker, The Rowdy Man, A Whale for the killing and so on. We can name some more in Petty Harbour and those areas of the Province. There is no doubt that there is potential for growth. Misery Harbour, the newest film about to come to the Province, has potential also.

The tax credit that he talks about, we assume that will be a step in the right direction. I want to see more specifics on that, Mr. Speaker. When it comes to the film industry, there will be no shortage of actors in this Province to partake in the film industry. I am sure as they go around this beautiful Province of ours they will find good settings, and I am sure if we get one in it will be a catalyst for other films that may come to the Province, Mr. Speaker. So we look forward to seeing more films develop in this Province over the summer months and into the next year.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. EFFORD: No leave, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave. The hon. member does not have leave.

 

Oral Questions

 

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are to the Minister of Health and Community Services. On July 17, 1993, your department imposed a 50 per cent cap on doctors' fees in the St. John's area and over the next ten months it was extended to other centres here in the Province, by May 16, 1994. In fact, in December, 1994 your department received the final report and the long term committee recommendations by PRAG, that's the Physicians Resource Advisory Group.

I ask the minister: Why, after five years, have you done nothing to address this policy?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

Since I have been minister, just a little over a year, the member opposite would know that I have gone public and said that I do believe in the lifting of the 50 per cent rule, not only for St. John's, but in fact that it not be applied to the other parts of the Province where in fact it can be applied in some regions. However, I have also said and I have been consistent about this, Mr. Speaker, that this is something that needs to be resolved at the bargaining table, and it is currently at the bargaining table. If the member has done the research he will know that the physicians are still at the bargaining table and they are meeting again, if I understand correctly, this week.

So that issue is resolved because it involves not only the lifting of the rule, but as I have said many times publicly, it also involves other services around that issue. For example, the provision of services to long term care facilities and keeping our emergency room staff, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have done my research. I think the minister should do hers.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Back on November 15, 1994 the Chair of that committee wrote the deputy minister of the department, the co-Chair of the Joint Management Committee; and the recommendations are in that report, Minister. I would ask you to go back and read them. It is backdated November 25, 1994.

Now your department hoped that limiting doctors in urban areas of this Province would address the rural shortage of doctors, so we will have more doctors to fill those positions out in rural areas of the Province.

On May 19, 1994 I raised that fear, that this disincentive you are putting on - and it's in Hansard, May 19, 1994, if you want to refer to it, and the minister's response - will have the opposite affect to which it is intended. I might say to the minister, the results since that speak for themselves.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In light of the fact that there are now more unfilled positions in rural Newfoundland today than there were then, I ask the minister: Will you now finally do the correct thing, will you lift that cap, and will you stop driving young, new, highly trained Newfoundland doctors out of this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

The issue of physician resource management is an issue of concern for physicians right across this Province, and governments and boards right across this country. Mr. Speaker, we are working with the physicians to try to find a solution to this. As I have said previously, it is an issue that is being discussed at the bargaining table as we speak. We have asked that that try to be resolved in that forum.

Mr. Speaker, if the member did his research, he would also know that at the time government did put forward the 50 per cent rule it was in response to a request from the Medical Association, which at the time believed there would be serious out-migration from Ontario to Newfoundland, and many feared for their positions. The situation has certainly changed since then, and that is why we are working with the physicians, not through the media, not through the grandstanding, but through the proper forum to try to address those issues.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to ask the minister what she is saying now. Are you saying that the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association doesn't support these recommendations that were laid out there and that they don't want the cap lifted? Could the minister clarify that for me?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

Had the member been listening when I answered his question he would have heard "at the time," at that particular time. I also went on to say the situation has since changed and we are all very much aware of it. We also know, Mr. Speaker, that the issue was around at that particular time, dealing with the situation in the St. John's and St. John's surrounding areas. That was one of the main reasons why, in fact, that rule was put in place, although it does apply to the whole Province if, in fact, the oversupply issue is raised.

That was the point I made, that at the time it was done at the request of the NLMA. Since then, and I state it again for the third time, the situation has changed. We are very much aware of it. The NLMA are aware of it and they have asked us to address it, and we are doing that under the auspices of collective bargaining through negotiations as we speak, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We have to put this in perspective. On July 17 of 1993 the physicians, the Medical Association, agreed because they were told it would be for a six-month period until a long-term solution could be worked out, Minister. That was five years ago. In the report that followed, within a year of that specific cap, it laid out exactly where they stand on this issue, and that went to your department, by physicians, Minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: Now will you now clarify for me when you were notified, when your department was notified, that the Medical Association no longer supports a cap?

It is my understanding, Minister, it was only the six-month period from July of 1993 until the final report came down. If it is any different, I would like the minister to tell us here today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I am giving no other impression but the truth and that might be difficult for some to accept. That is the impression I give because those are the facts from which I am speaking.

Mr. Speaker, I have said on the last two occasions on which I have stood to answer the same question that we are aware of the problem, the physicians are aware of the problem, the boards are aware of the problem; but, Mr. Speaker, unlike some people, we try to use the proper forum and within the proper realm of context, which in this case is collective bargaining through negotiations.

Now I know the member opposite would like to grandstand and go through the media, or do whatever he can to get his picture in the paper. Mr. Speaker, this is too important. It is not about just lifting the rule, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, I cannot make those decisions off the cuff. I will say that I will work with the physicians and the boards because we are looking at providing a full range of services.

On one hand, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite wants to have everything out in rural Newfoundland that we possibly can, and I totally agree with that, but we need to be responsible. We cannot agree with everything we hear until we look at the information.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, this rule applies to all areas of the Province although it is currently imposed only in the St. John's area.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, we have to act responsibly. We have to get all of the information and we have to use the proper forum; and that forum, for the fifth time, Mr. Speaker, is collective bargaining at the negotiating table.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, the minister has missed the boat. I am talking about the cap in St. John's. My questions are not on that. The 50 per cent cap, Minister, has created a whole new set of problems here in St. John's. Today, due to practising doctors in St. John's retiring -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister: Minister, in light of the fact that this cap has created problems in St. John's, and in your own district, on July 24, a practice with five doctors will be closing, others have closed, and people cannot have access to the care they need right here in the City of St. John's because of your policy, I ask the minister: What are you going to do to ensure that sick people here in this city can have normal, appropriate access to medical services that they are being denied now because of closing practices, and doctors retiring and leaving the Province, because of this cap that has brought on this whole new set of problems?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to take his seat.

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, n-e-g-o-t-i-a-t-i-o-n-s, negotiations. That is where it is being addressed, that is where it is being discussed, and that is how it will be handled, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just recently a doctor passed away, leaving many of his patients looking for a family doctor. Five doctors are now going to be vacating Ropewalk Lane in the St. John's Centre district, and I am receiving numerous complaints from elderly people who cannot have adequate access to a family doctor.

Minister, I am simply asking you: What are you going to do to address this problem that you created on July 17, 1993 by this government?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to state that when this physician passed away - and I acknowledge the type of work that this physician has done - he had a very large, elderly practice. He was a physician, Mr. Speaker, who provided house calls and that is something that is very difficult to replicate today because many physicians do not provide that service. Those patients have been calling my office and we have been giving them names of physicians who are still accepting clients and patients onto their roster, Mr. Speaker. That list has been put in place and updated. We are answering the calls as they come in, Mr. Speaker.

I will say it again: This issue is being dealt with through the negotiation process. We are as anxious as everybody else to try to do it. Mr. Speaker, this round of negotiations -

AN HON. MEMBER: I don't believe that for a moment.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, the Health critic, may not believe it but truth is an interesting component of a question. The reality is, and the truth is, Mr. Speaker -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: However, the truth is, that is an issue that is on the bargaining table. Maybe he would like to ask the people at the table what they are discussing if it is not an issue; because I will tell him, for what it is worth in his books, it is a topic at the negotiations of the physicians that are currently under way. That is the forum in which they discuss that issue along with salary, along with coverage, along with clustering models - a whole different array of issues - and that is where it is being dealt with.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: My questions today, Mr. Speaker, are for the Minister of Health and Community Services and they are in my capacity as Status of Women critic.

One of the most common and debilitating diseases among women in this Province is arthritis. It causes great pain and great disability, but fortunately the diseases are now treatable and its progression can be halted or prevented through new clinically proven medications.

A physician treating arthritis called an Open Line program this morning to express her outrage that this drug, like the drugs for multiple sclerosis, is not covered by the Province despite its proven role in preventative medicine and pain control.

Will the minister explain why she has chosen to deny many of this Province's women a drug that has been proven to ease their suffering and halt the progression of this debilitating and costly disease?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

I did not have an opportunity to hear Open Line today to hear the components around the question but what I will say -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS J.M. AYLWARD: I had other things.

What I will say is that, as I answered yesterday, when the federal government approve drugs, they approve drugs on the basis that any drug is better than a placebo. They do not compare drugs and do comparative analysis based on other similar types of drugs.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I think this only adds credibility to the whole component of what was raised yesterday. The Member for St. John's West raised an issue about arthritis; the Member for Ferryland raised an issue about a drug for multiple sclerosis; and perhaps other people should stand and raise questions about new drugs for schizothymia, new drugs for diabetes, new drugs for cancer, Mr. Speaker.

It is about choice, and it is easy to be in the Opposition and say, pay for it all. You know, Mr. Speaker, if we had the money we would love to pay for all of it and more besides. But we have to factor in the information we have, make the choices that we have to make based on the financial needs and all the other clinical symptomatology, and that is how we are making our decisions on that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for St. John's West.

MS S. OSBORNE: I say to the minister, we will never get a cure if we take that attitude.

Now yesterday in this House you said: We rely on the experts for our information and stand by the recommendations that they will make to us.

Now this doctor who was on this morning is an expert in her field. She is outraged. What prompted her call to the Open Line program was the response on multiple sclerosis. She was drawing a parallel to the drug for osteoarthritis. She said that she had tried to get an interview with the Minister and the Deputy Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: When will the minister start getting with the times and admit that there is a two-tiered health system: one for the people with private medical insurance and one for those who do not have, which includes a large number of our senior women?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

I do not profess to be an expert on arthritis but I do know that the drugs are not a cure - and I think the member needs to be aware, it is not a cure - it is a treatment. There are hundreds of treatments, and perhaps the best treatment is prevention. I know that is only a part of the issue, but I will say that again we have $50 million that we provide in our drug program. If you are considering a two-tiered system there is an option of providing no drugs, I guess, or eliminating a whole lot of other programs to do nothing but provide drugs.

The list goes on. We are supposed to do extensive expansion of all the types of services in the Province, we are supposed to enhance all the professionals, we are supposed to increase the numbers of all professionals, we are supposed to add all the new drugs. At some point someone has to be a bit responsible and look at all of the issues that are out there and make the choices. The choices are not easy. It is easy if you are on the other side because you can say: Do everything. However, we have to live within a budget, and a $50 million budget, I will add.

We do provide a lot of drug coverage to the people of this Province; but as the member said, yesterday it was Betaseron, today it is the drugs for arthritis. What about the drugs that we are also looking at for diabetes? What about those? Is there anyone there who would support those drugs? What about the drugs for cancer? What about the schizophrenia drugs that are just new on the market?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: I ask the question. It is about choices, and it is about decisions, and it is about the financial -

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the minister to finish her answer quickly.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: - ability that we have to pay, Mr. Speaker, for those services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: We are talking here about a group of people who are not politically powerful and largely marginalized.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS S. OSBORNE: Open line is not the clinic. Open line is because she could not get an interview with the minister or deputy minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS S. OSBORNE: I ask the minister: Does she remember speaking at a forum on women's health, which I attended last year, and preaching about government's new emphasis on preventative medicine? Why is it, when she gets an opportunity to put her money where her mouth is and help prevent costly, debilitating diseases on our most vulnerable women, the minister, on whose shoulders these decisions rest, chooses instead to close the door in their face?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to take her seat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: One question is: Does the minister remember speaking at a women's health forum last year preaching about preventative medicine? That is a question, does she remember? The second question is: Why is it that when she gets an opportunity to put her money where her mouth is -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS S. OSBORNE: - and it is on her shoulders that these decisions rest, that she chooses to close the door in these people's faces?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, it barely demands a response because I believe it is, again, another form of grandstanding. I really do believe.

I was at that meeting, and I take prevention very seriously. As a matter of fact, that is why this government this year has put $12 million of new money into programs for prevention and early intervention. Arthritis does not apply to people in low-income families or the poor. Unfortunately, arthritis and osteoporosis can be seen in all aspects of our society. I suspect many people in this room today are suffering from many of those symptoms and have the same sorts of problems.

What I will say is that yes, we are committed to prevention. I think the point needs to be drawn very clearly. Yesterday they wanted the money for multiple sclerosis for new drugs. Today they are asking for arthritis. Tomorrow it will probably be diabetes or schizophrenia. It is easy to stand there and ask for all of it; however, we have to go on the best information we have, and we have to function from within our budget. We will continue to make responsible positions and statements, and we will continue to support the concept of prevention. I believe we have done that, not only through our Budget but through the new program areas and through an added commitment to our community health boards -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: - of an extra $2 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions relate to the issue of teacher pensions, and are directed to the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

For some time now government has been discussing with the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association the issue of funding of the teachers' pension plan. I ask the minister: Could he please give this House and the public at large an update on the status of these discussions and negotiations?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This has a rather sad history. When I became Minister of Finance in 1995, I negotiated for about a year and a half, until the spring of 1997, when we finalized an agreement, a Memorandum of Understanding with NLTA. They had it approved by their District Presidents' Association and it never went to a vote. Afterwards, last fall, they went back with a much less - let me put it this way, a much more modest proposal to their members, who instructed them by a vote of approximately 60 per cent not to negotiate with government.

Since that time we have been at the bargaining table and we have raised the issue again. We have had several meetings over the most recent period of time, in the last week or two, and we are attempting to move it towards resolution. As of yet we do not have an agreement on what, if any changes, might be enacted to preserve the integrity of that pension plan.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Government's obligation to the plan and to other plans creates a significant liability on the future revenues of this Province. Recently I raised the issue in relation to HST and Term 29 revenue reductions.

I would ask the minister: Would he please indicate what he anticipates the annual contribution to plans will be in the next fiscal year as it relates to prior financial obligations?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is a matter of discretion for government to determine at this stage. Government has a portion of the liability under both the PSPP and the Teachers' Pension Plan. The more critical issue is, what if anything, at this point, the teachers, in particular, are prepared to do to alleviate the liability.

The pension plan runs out of money in the year 2003 and subsequent to that, in the following year, we will probably have to find about $120 million or so to pay the pensions due in that year and increasing thereafter. It is a problem that we cannot let go on forever. We will put money into all our pension plans over the next several years, but, at this point, I am not prepared to say what that amount will be.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The concluding of the Teachers' Collective Agreement appears to be delayed due to the inability of the government to conclude a satisfactory arrangement on the financing of the pensions issue. Teachers will now see another school year conclude without a collective agreement, when most other public servants have settled these issues.

Is the minister concerned, I ask, Mr. Speaker, that this will have a detrimental impact on the quality of the educational experience since it must decrease teacher morale?

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

MR. DICKS: No, Mr. Speaker, I do not have that concern. The whole issue surrounding pensions has a long history of us trying to negotiate with the NLTA, a fair sharing of the burden for both parties failing to contribute properly to a pension fund where the amount invested over the years did not take into account the benefits to be paid. It is certainly not the government's fault. We have actively pursued it, and to be frank, the executive as well has often times - not always - been cooperative in trying to move it to conclusion. Unfortunately they have not been able to enlist all their members in a solution, and to date have not been able to enlist the majority of the members.

I agree with the member. I think that a solution should be found in the near future. That is one of the reasons we are working to see if we can negotiate it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of Environment and Labour concerning the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission.

Mr. Speaker, in 1992 the government responded quickly to what was a majority report recommending a decrease in benefits. Now, we have a unanimous report of the committee which recognizes that injured employees were no more responsible for causing the unfunded liability than employers, and notes the out-pouring of human misery that the board heard as being the best indication available of a compensation system unbalance, and contributed to the increased personal financial ruin -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, when the committee unanimously recognized the long-term injured workers -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, when the committee recognized the human harm and misery caused by this system, why didn't the minister accept the recommendations of this committee to refocus and rebuild that system and repair the damage being caused to injured workers by increasing the benefit levels? Why didn't he do that?

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

MR LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is exactly what we have done. We looked at the committee, and as the financial situation improves in the commission itself, we will pass on these benefits to the injured workers. That is exactly what we have done in this particular report, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Why, Mr. Speaker, when the committee unanimously, including the employer representative and the independent representative, recognized it was unjust and unreasonable to take back the CPP, claw it back from the workers, Mr. Speaker, did the minister refuse to recognize the unanimous recommendations of his committee, and why did he go to someone else looking for advice, instead of the committee that the government itself appointed to deal with this problem?

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

MR LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What we have done with the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission Statutory Report, is maintained the financial prudence of the commission and dealt with the workers' benefits with what the commission could afford at this particular time.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Why did the minister and his government refuse to legislate a duty to accommodate injured workers, when the report of the Statutory Review Commission acknowledged and said that, in 89 per cent of the cases where there was an ease back to work program, there was a success rate in getting people off the program? Why wouldn't the minister accept that recommendation, and instead accepted the minority report of the employer representative, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We will enhance the duty to accommodate, and at that particular time, working with the employers and employees groups, will ensure that at the end of the day we will benefit the injured workers and the employers as well.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

A couple of days ago I asked the minister some questions regarding the recent decision by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to reduce the cod total allowable catch to 3000 metric tonnes in area 4Rs,3Pn and to allow Quebec a greater share of turbot allocation in 4R,4S,4T; the Gulf Area; a greater share than fishermen from both Provinces, Quebec and Newfoundland, had agreed to.

As the minister is well aware, those fishermen are now occupying government offices on the West Coast and the Northern Peninsula, to bring attention to their frustrations in dealing with this particular issue.

I ask the minister: As the provincial representative of this industry, if he has met with those fishermen or if he has met with the federal minister responsible for this industry in Newfoundland?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, on two occasions last week, Thursday and Friday, and on Monday, which was yesterday, I had conversations with people on the West Coast, in particular the representatives of the union out there, on this issue.

As late as yesterday afternoon, at 1:30, I had discussions with different individuals involved in the demonstration. I have had discussions with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and we are on record as writing the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and stating the Province's position very, very clearly. There will be a meeting tomorrow afternoon in Ottawa between the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and representatives from the fisheries groups out there who are concerned about both issues.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, you are correct. It is my understanding that representatives of those fishermen will be travelling to Ottawa tomorrow, Wednesday, in order to meet the federal minister.

Will you, Minister, be going to lend your support to those groups of fishermen in putting your case forward and our case forward, so that we might see this change brought about positively?

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

MR. EFFORD: No, Mr. Speaker, I will not be travelling to Ottawa with that group of people because they prefer - and they have said this quite clearly in discussions that we have had with them - that they go to Ottawa and sit down with the minister. We have made the Province's position very, very, very clear to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in writing and by telephone, and at the same time we have requested a meeting with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on those issues and other issues.

So, DFO and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for Canada know very well the Province's position and so does the group affected by the decisions on the West, Southwest and North Coast of the Province. Everybody is in full agreement on the proper procedures to take place.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has ended.

 

Petitions

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

I rise today to present a petition to the House of Assembly regarding cuts to the number of teaching units in St. Anthony Elementary School for the 1998-1999 school year.

Mr. Speaker, the petition reads:

We, the parents of St. Anthony Elementary School children, draw your attention to the following;

The proposed reduction of 2.64 teaching units in the 1998-1999 school year at St. Anthony Elementary is unacceptable. The teacher - student ratio is such that young children in primary grades, during one of the most influential periods of a child's development, are unable to receive the attention they require and deserve. We are particularly concerned about both Kindergarten and Grade I class size. We recommend staffing so that Kindergarten would have a maximum of fifteen children in a class, and Grades I, II and III have a maximum of twenty children in a class.

The reductions also have a negative impact on our French, Physical Education, Music and Learning Resources Programs. Smaller schools in this area have been closed because of the recent restructuring and these children have been sent to St. Anthony Elementary with the promise of better programs. These very programs, that were used to get children here, and so allowing smaller schools to be closed, will be severely affected in quality by the proposed cuts. Coupled with the busing and larger class sizes, the quality of education for these children will be worse instead of better.

It is the right of every child to receive an education that is competitive, challenging and rewarding. This will not occur if these cuts are implemented.

We, the parents of St. Anthony Elementary School children, ask for your support, to alleviate the devastating affects these cuts have on our school.

Mr. Speaker, this petition is signed by a large number of parents who attended a meeting I was present at in St. Anthony on May 20. Since then the petition has been circulated in the community and it is arriving in various components. Today we will present the first of a number of petitions.

Mr. Speaker, when I was in St. Anthony a week or so ago I attended a public meeting called by the parents. They are very concerned about the reform process and what it has meant to the children of that particular community. As members will know, school District #2 closed eight schools last year. They are proposing to close another three this year. Parents in the St. Anthony area and surrounding communities have agreed to bus their children longer distances, they have agreed to give up some of their community schools. However, they did that on the premise that there would be better programming for their children. However, what they have found out is that the promised improvements in programming have not occurred. In fact, in the next school year their programming will be compromised beyond what it is in this school year.

Mr. Speaker, the parents of St. Anthony are pleading with the government to come up with a sensible formula for teacher allocation that ensures that their children will receive equal opportunity and equal access to educational programs and educational facilities.

Mr. Speaker, I can only say to the House that when the parents spoke at the meeting - and they came to the microphone in great numbers. I remember the comments of a medical doctor who said at that meeting, if his children had to have a lesser quality of education then he would have to re-examine whether or not he was prepared to continue to practice in that northern community. Mr. Speaker, when we have that kind of an impact on families, we know where that doctor is coming from. There were several doctors who spoke, and they said the concerns they had concern their children and the programming to be offered in the school system.

Mr. Speaker, there are cutbacks in music, art and physical education. Parents were saying that, no, they don't want to have those compromises made if it means their children are not going to have the same kind of access that other children in this Province would have.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the hon. House that we have had some discussion between the school district and the minister relative to coming up with a new formula for the district called District #2, Northern Peninsula/Labrador South. We know that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

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

We will have another opportunity on another day.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to rise and support the petition presented by the Member for Waterford Valley on behalf of the people at St. Anthony and the people in the district school area.

Mr. Speaker, a year ago the people in the St. Anthony region underwent significant change in education reform. They saw schools within their region close, they saw children being bused from their community to a larger school within the region, and they let that happen all on the premise that their children were going to a school that would be able to provide them with a better education, a more efficient curriculum, and be able to provide them for what comes after elementary and primary.

Mr. Speaker, that did not happen. District 2 fulfilled its mandate to education reform. They moved children, they closed schools, they tightened the education gap in order to be able to provide these children with a better education. What is happening is that one year later this school is having to endure cuts in teacher allocations that are affecting the quality of education and the curriculum options that it is able to provide.

Now, Mr. Speaker, obviously this is not just and it is not right. The parents there committed to a process and now that process is being pulled out from under them. District 2 has been hardest hit by this reform within the Province to date. Mr. Speaker, they have pioneered the process. They have made the appropriate changes. They have closed a number of schools. They have bused children from one end of the school district to the other. They have, wherever possible, tightened their belts on education.

I think this is certainly not the end of this issue. Today we hear from the people of St. Anthony. Last week we heard from the people of Red Bay, of Williams Harbour. There have been protests all throughout this district right from Hawkes Bay, Plum Point, over in Conche, and all the areas that are affected, and the parent committees in that area have been very active. They realize that they have tolerated and did their part under education reform, and now it is time for the Department of Education to do their part, Mr. Speaker.

These allocations to small schools, while they are working in some cases, are not working in all. I think we have to assess each case individually. I think we should commend District 2 for the tremendous job those people have done in tightening the education system and trying to make it more effective in that area. At the same time we have to provide them with the tools to be able to carry through the process, and the tools here, Mr. Speaker, are the teachers in the classroom. There is no way you can continue to operate a school of any scale when you continue to downsize curriculum, double up classes, triple classes, cut programs in physical education and music and so on.

It might be interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that in District 2, out of all the schools that are there, there is only one music program that is presently going to be offered in September, and that is probably the only district in the Province with something like thirty schools that would have that particular cut in their curriculum. Obviously, the parent committees themselves have organized themselves around this issue. They have discussed it jointly from one community to the other.

On Saturday they will hold another meeting in Flowers Cove where they will bring in all the parent committees from Labrador, from the Northern Peninsula and the St. Anthony area, because they know as parents what this means to their children. They know it is affecting the quality of education they are receiving. We are not talking about a phenomenal change here. We are just taking about little changes that could be made. A teacher put in here or there to be able to fill those extra programs and to provide that kind of service to the school and to the children could be done very easily.

I do not think it is right to continue to go back to the board and ask them to make adjustments, to make cuts, and to continue to look where they can find these teachers and put them in these other positions because it cannot be done. Like any situation, Mr. Speaker, there is only so much you can do. This board has done everything it can within its means. The parents know that, the students know that, and they know that if they do not make these changes now, these changes are not going to happen.

We are getting near the end of the school year. We have to see some changes for District 2 before the children finish up for this year. There is too much uncertainty for them to carry over the summer. Parents do not know what the system is going to entail for their children come September.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

Further petitions?

Orders of the Day.

The hon. the Member for Terra Nova.

MR. LUSH: I have a petition, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry, I was -

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that we revert to petitions?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, by all means.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Terra Nova.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition, the subject of which is the grazing of domesticated animals on the Gooseberry Islands with the subsequent damage, desecration and indignities to graves and grave sites on these islands.

Hon. members will know that the Gooseberry Islands are two islands directly north of the Eastport Peninsula, well up into Bonavista Bay, very close to St. Brendan's. These two islands together are known as the Northern Gooseberry Island and the Southern Gooseberry Island, the residents of which have made a great contribution to the development of this Province, particularly to its early development.

These two islands were settled in the late 1700s and the early 1800s. These people, like so many of our ancestors, worked so hard and so diligently to eke out a living from the land and the sea. It was not a very hospitable land or any hospitable circumstances under which these people toiled to make a living but they did, Mr. Speaker. One of the great difficulties on these islands was finding a proper place to bury their loved ones, a proper place to bury their dead, as there was not a lot of space or a lot of soil. Indeed, in many cases they had to bring in soil from adjacent islands to bury the dead. Hence they were buried in very shallow graves, so it did not take much to excavate the bones and skeletons of the dead.

The people of Gooseberry Islands resettled themselves. They were not under a resettlement program. Actually, by the time of the resettlement program all of the people of Gooseberry Islands had resettled, on a voluntary basis, to many communities on the Eastport Peninsula. A lot of them in particular went to Glovertown. Hence the majority of people on this petition, 2,000 of them - 2,000 names attached to this petition - the majority of them coming from Glovertown but scattered throughout communities in the Bonavista Bay area and in other parts of Canada, as far away as Fort McMurray.

Out of these 2,000 people, many of them would have been born on the Gooseberry Islands; most of which, though, would have ancestral connections. The remainder would have sympathy for the cause articulated in this petition, which is the prevention of further desecration and indignities to the loved ones of these people buried on these islands. The situation was such that there was not designated one cemetery or one grave site, if you will. Because of the limited space, the grave sites were sort of distributed right throughout the island.

Since the people have left the island, some people have over the years taken animals to the island to graze, with the result that the ancestors, the people who lived on these islands, are very upset. Throughout the years they had various understandings with the government that they would enact a law to prevent domesticated animals from grazing on these islands, and throughout the years they did get cooperation. However, in 1996, when this government carried out a regulatory reform, trying to fine-tune all of the laws and regulations by which we are governed, these laws got wiped out, rescinded. Now we find that animals are finding their way back on these islands, with which the people are dissatisfied. They want these laws brought back to ensure there are no indignities committed to their deceased loved ones on the island.

Mr. Speaker, I will read the petition. It is not in the format that we normally receive petitions in that it does not have a prayer, but I have consulted with the Officers of the Table and they think it does meet most of the requirements of a petition. Since they have come from so many communities, I did not want to send them back to the people again.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of 2,000 residents of the Glovertown -Eastport Peninsula area, I would like to -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave?

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, with the leave of the House I will simply read the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member has leave.

MR. LUSH: Thank you very much.

It says: Re livestock grazing on the Gooseberry Islands in Bonavista Bay:

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned and much distressed regarding the roaming of domesticated animals on the Gooseberry Islands. These animals are damaging headstones, destroying the landscaping and other beauty creating activities of those who regularly maintain the grave sites of their loved ones, and making walkways unfit to walk on.

In a number of documented cases, these roaming animals have dug up soil and exposed human bones. When we look upon the burial sites of loved ones and see desecration, we are immensely saddened and chagrined. We believe their remains deserve to be left in peace, and undisturbed on the little islands they loved so much.

On 16 May 1979, the hon. Joseph Goudie, by the virtue of the powers conferred upon him by the Livestock Regulations, 1954, designated Gooseberry Island as a restricted grazing area for livestock and ordered that all livestock be moved therefrom.

In 1996, as a result of government's regulatory reform process, this 1979 Gooseberry Island Grazing Order lapsed and no longer has any force or effect.

We request, therefore, that you undertake the appropriate action to make each of Northern Gooseberry Island and Southern Gooseberry Island a restricted grazing area once again.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of these 2,000 people, I submit their petition and wholeheartedly endorse the request.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just like to say a few words in support of the petition put forward by the Member for Terra Nova. I say to the Member for Terra Nova, although I have never been on the Gooseberry Islands, that is where my great-grandmother came from - moved into Musgravetown. You are so right; most of those people settled on the north side of Bonavista Bay, if you would, but there were a few families who moved to Musgravetown, my home town. I heard the name mentioned many times.

I remember being out to Flat Island, when they had the Flat Island reunion a few years ago, and I was sadden to see what was happening there to the local cemetery. We went by there in boat and a lot of the graves - I did not know what was after happening there; I guess it is the erosion of the soil or whatever - a lot of the headstones were out ten and fifteen feet into the salt water. It is sad. We, as Christian people, really reserve a warm spot in our hearts for where our loved ones are buried. It is not something that we want to see happening, Mr. Speaker.

Only a couple of months ago, probably a year ago, I saw a television program. I think it was down on the Burin Peninsula -

AN HON. MEMBER: Great Burin.

MR. FITZGERALD: - Great Burin Island, where a similar thing was happening, I say to the Member for Terra Nova. The television cameras went in and did this television documentary on it, and the people there were expressing the same concern.

Mr. Speaker, I support the member's petition. I think we should move forward and do whatever we can in order to reserve and protect those burial sites because it is very important to us, as Christian people, to allow the dead to rest, I suppose, is a simple way of putting it, and respect cemeteries no matter where they might be found.

Thank you very much.

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Member for Terra Nova for bringing forward the petition. He has raised this concern for the past number of weeks, and we have evaluated the concern that he has brought forward. We are taking seriously the concerns that the people in that part of the district have put forward. They have sincerely requested that some sort of action be taken to deal with the problem they are presently experiencing. Given the sensitivity of the question we are looking at the options. We will have a decision made within the next day or so as to the option that is most acceptable.

We are looking at a couple of them. One of them was potentially fencing the area and having that protected. Given the fact that the geography of the islands have these cemeteries all over in different locations, we are looking at the possibility of re-instituting the no roaming order in the geographic areas of the islands. We will have a decision in the next day or so, basically.

I want to thank the member for bringing it forward. The hon. member representing that area has represented that area for a number of years, and the concerns that he brings forward are brought forward in a fashion of sensitivity and well-organized thought. I appreciate the fact also that the Opposition is supporting any possible action that can be taken on the matter.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a petition today:

To the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland in legislative session convened, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland:

WHEREAS many public service pensioners who spent a lifetime contributing to their society are now slipping deeper and deeper into poverty;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador first, to ensure public service pensioners receive a raise in their pensions whenever public servants receive a raise in pay; and second, to reverse the policy of clawing back Canada Pension Plan benefits from public service pensioners;

As in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

The people who have signed this petition come from a variety of places, from Gander, Wexford Street, Cumberland Crescent, Torbay Road, Golf Avenue, and various places throughout the City of St. John's. Basically what these people are asking is not a lot. It is asking that when public servants receive a raise in pay that they should receive a raise in pay as well. As we know, public servants have not received a raise in pay until recently. They went eight years without a raise in pay.

Many of the pensioners are out there living on pensions of well below $10,000 a year, which puts them virtually below the poverty line. We can get into semantics as to whether they paid into this kind of a pension. Certainly they paid into their Canada Pension. Their Canada Pension is clawed back dollar for dollar, as I understand, from their public service pension. So we have a group of people who have made a major contribution to society, they worked all their lives. Some of them, however, were prematurely put out of the workplace when there was a downsizing in the provincial government.

What we have is some people out there, aged fifty-five years, on a public service pension. They didn't mean to be not employed at this particular point in their lives, but by virtue of the fact that this government downsized, now they find themselves without a job, depending just on their pension and on their Canada Pension. As I said, they paid into their Canada Pension all their working lives, and now that is being clawed back dollar for dollar from their public service pension. What the point of paying into the Canada Pension was I do not know, when it is going to be clawed back from them.

However, we have a lot of people out there. They are employable, I suppose, in that they can go to work, but they are not finding it easy to get employment because they are fifty-five years of age and they have been laid off. They virtually have gone from full-time full employment into living below the poverty line, because their pension does not give them enough on which to live comfortably, or even adequately. They do not receive a raise in pension as they would have received a raise in pay had they stayed on as public servants.

So the prayer of their petition is to ask to receive a raise in their pension whenever public servants receive a raise in pay, and not to have their Canada Pension Plan benefits clawed back from their public service pension.

Thank you very much.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to say a few words as it relates to the petition as presented by my colleague, the Member for St. John's West.

We have presented numerous petitions and there have been questions asked in this House, in fact even a private member's resolution on the topic of public service pensions. Very often public service pensioners in our Province have spoken loudly in terms of their perceived need of why it is incumbent on this government to certainly give serious consideration to the fact that an increase in public service pensions is necessary.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen the statistics. We know there are thousands of Newfoundlanders who have devoted their working lives to governments of every political stripe. In addition to that, we also have seen the statistics that show that the average pension income for these public service pensioners hovers around $10,000, well below an amount which is considered, by any standard, to be acceptable this day and age.

Mr. Speaker, this is again an important issue. It is a petition which is signed, I understand, by residents throughout this region of the Province. We have public service pensioners who live throughout every region of our Province, and they have come together as an organization in a concerted effort to really try to impress this government and to show this government that this is an area of real concern. Unfortunately, the Minister of Finance and his colleagues have not seen fit to address seriously the concerns of these pensioners. The issue which is being raised in defence - which I believe is an indefensible position - but the issue being raised in defence and in response to the request of these pensioners is the fact that this is what public service pensioners have contributed; therefore this is what they are entitled to.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that attention and consideration ought to be given to people who have given significantly to governments of this Province over the years. When we look at the cost of living today, and we look at the real need which is being demonstrated by these people today, certainly a government of compassion and a government with a heart would look very seriously at reviewing this whole issue and at least giving consideration to increasing their pension benefits equal to the amount which is being given to the public service generally today.

Mr. Speaker, it is an important issue. It affects thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Once again, a request is being made in good faith on their behalf.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a petition here today, another petition from people on Sunday shopping.

We, the residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, being retail workers, families of retail workers, and citizens, do hereby petition the hon. House of Assembly to rescind the amendment to the Shops' Closing Act that permits stores to remain open for business on Sunday. This amendment will cause extreme difficulty for the retail workers and their families. We see no benefit that will come from Sunday shopping.

Now it is on behalf of the retail workers and their families that I am presenting this petition. This petition is signed from people in Manuels, Long Pond, and here in St. John's.

As I have said many times before in this House of Assembly, Sunday shopping is going to and has presented hardship on the families of retail workers. I continue to get telephone calls, and as recently as last week I got a letter from a young woman who works in the hospital system and her husband is a meat cutter at Dominion. Dominion stores are not just open now from 12:00 noon until 5:00 p.m. Since the Shops' Closing Act was passed, Dominion Stores have opened twenty-four hours a day. This young lady and her husband, who are the parents of a couple of children, their family life has been eroded because he is working almost every Sunday; some shift or other. There was a time, she said, she worked one Sunday a month or probably two Sundays a month and the other Sundays they had to spend their time together.

MR. EFFORD: You are not at Sunday shopping again!

MS S. OSBORNE: No, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, I am not at Sunday shopping again. The people of this Province are at Sunday shopping again.

This petition came in to me from residents of Manuels, Long Pond, Foxtrap and St. John's, and it is on their behalf. Because they are not standing here in the House of Assembly, they are unable to, they have asked me to present this petition on their behalf. Actually, it is my pleasure to do so.

This is a very cruel act, it has eroded people's lives. There are some people out there who say the stores are busy on Sundays, and well they might be, but they are not doing any extra business, I can assure you. If you speak to most store owners they will tell you that the business that they are doing on Sunday is lost on Saturday or Monday. So at the end of the week there are no greater dollars into their stores and there are no greater dollars into the tax revenues of this Province.

So who this legislation was brought in on behalf of, I am not sure, but certainly there are many families out there with summer coming up now and their entire family life is being eroded because of the passing of this act which really benefits nobody and causes hardship to these people.

Thank you.

 

Orders of the Day

 

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

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

I Move That The House Resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply to Consider Certain Resolutions Relating to the Raising of Loans by the Province. (Bill No. 15)

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Oldford): Bill No. 15.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I was speaking yesterday on Bill 15 and I had some questions for the Finance Minister that he responded to. We are only talking about a couple of hundred million dollars - that's all! - to go out in the markets, if necessary, for the government to go out and be able to borrow. I guess it is a good time to have those bonds coming due out on the market, particularly when we are at a low rate of inflation, a low interest rate now. It always helps our cause. Anytime you are borrowing and interest rates are down, it tends to be positive, and hopefully that situation exists when we have to put them back on the market.

The ones that are coming due now, I think, there is about 9 1/8 per cent and 8 3/4 per cent. So we are going to be saving ourselves, I think the minister said yesterday, 6.17 per cent, I think, with 4/10 of 1 per cent fee; 6.1 per cent which is about 3 per cent less on the series EC51s that are coming due. I think the other one was at a floating rate.

So, overall on $150 million worth, we are saving ourselves a few per cent there to put back again into the market-place. It is a good opportunity. Unfortunately, there are not more coming due, I say.

The minister assured us that with all this good news we are experiencing, the better tomorrow, things will get better and we will have a better credit rating, because we have dropped. Since 1989 our credit rating has dropped. We have had deficits; a budget over, I believe, $240 million one year, back in 1989. We have seen an increase since 1989. Now our debt has increased by over 40 per cent. It might even be higher. The right figure I know I have in my notes somewhere.

MR. H. HODDER: Forty-two point six per cent.

MR. SULLIVAN: My colleague for Waterford Valley says 42.6 per cent. I'm not sure whether that's -

MR. H. HODDER: Actually, you said it was 42.611 per cent.

MR. SULLIVAN: If I said it was 42.611 per cent, it is 42.611 per cent; an increase in our debt because we are continually going into debt.

I might add, the previous administration, of which he was also a member, had $250,000 one year alone. We ran up hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars since 1989 in debt, I might add, and we are still running up debts.

MR. BARRETT: You are up every day telling us to spend more money.

MR. SULLIVAN: I say to the Member for Bellevue, he has his hand in the pot of money too, I can tell you. He has his hand in the cookie jar.

The minister announced in her budget, a new $2.8 million for drugs. I ask her: Why doesn't she -

MR. BARRETT: Be careful what you say now. (Inaudible) my hand in the cookie jar.

MR. SULLIVAN: Why, don't you like cookies? The Cookie Monster likes cookies, doesn't he? If the Cookie Monster doesn't like cookies -

MR. BARRETT: (Inaudible) to me.

MR. SULLIVAN: No. Cookie jar? It could mean a lot of things, I say to the member. Whichever one he feels most appropriately fits, whatever cap, I will ask him to wear it. I am sure my colleague for Waterford Valley knows all about that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, all about the Member for Bellevue.

MR. BARRETT: Loyola, look, you are too nice a person (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: You said that about the Member for Waterford Valley last year and now you are saying it about me.

MR. BARRETT: You are too nice.

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I am not at all.

He is trying to stand up for democracy in our Province, I might say to the member.

Now they want a bill for $200 million now to run out to the market and borrow. By the way, it's a standard bill, it's nothing out of the ordinary, basically. We all know that when we go to the market and they come due and payable that we have to pay up and go out and get new money. I am delighted we are saving 3 per cent on $150 million this year.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you ever have a loan guarantee from government?

MR. SULLIVAN: The answer is no, I would say to him. I wouldn't want one. I would starve first, I say. He is just trying to provoke me to speak for an hour on the next bill that is coming up. Maybe I just might, on the next bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: What? It would take this government to understand the needs of people out there and show some compassion and do what is right, instead of costing us more money in the long term, I say. I will give him some examples.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, $1 million wouldn't hurt. Don't worry, we have seen the brown bags on that side of the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I would. So he admits I am causing great grief to him over there.

I had the Member for St. John's Centre, actually the health minister over there now too - I had an opportunity to go back to the House and ask a question I asked him when he was health minister back in 1994.

I asked the member, that is Dr. Kitchen: Is the policy working? That is the 50 cent cap. Will the minister table whatever evidence he has to show me that more doctors are practising in rural areas as a result of this policy? He said: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We have extended a 50 per cent rule to other areas. He said: Since it has only barely been extended - it is almost a year - it's not significant to judge. He took a swipe at me, I might add. I am trying to find that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who did?

MR. SULLIVAN: Dr. Kitchen, the former health minister, just before he got vacated from the post by the former premier. He took a little swipe at me, and it didn't do very good. I am trying to find that quote now.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did he hit you?

MR. SULLIVAN: No, he didn't, he wasn't moving fast enough.

AN HON. MEMBER: He would never do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: That is right.

AN HON. MEMBER: I thought he just said yes and no or no and yes.

MR. SULLIVAN: Anyway, whatever it is. He said: We will probably need an extra doctor, I say to the Minister of Justice, when I asked him a question. Isn't this problem with doctors, the cap, isn't it going to do the very opposite, a disincentive to what you are trying to accomplish? This was back in 1994, you know, and so true, May 19. I said: By putting a cap in St. John's, you are not going to force doctors into rural Newfoundland. What you are going to do is you are going to force them right straight out of the Province and into other areas. Today there are more unfilled positions in rural Newfoundland than there were when I asked that question: Is he going to do it?

He said: We will probably need an extra doctor here in the House of Assembly to look after the hon. member. He seems to have something wrong with his throat. It seems to be open all the time. Everybody knows Dr. Kitchen; he had his little bit of humour and he was kind of feisty at times. He said: Apart from that little specific, that special need for that particular member, Mr. Speaker, we have sufficient doctors in some parts of this Province and there is no point in hiring other doctors where they are sufficient and in excess.

Well right now we have created the same problem. I said in my questions today: Now not only have we driven doctors out of the Province and have a bigger problem in rural Newfoundland, we have caused a problem in urban Newfoundland today. In the City of St. John's, one doctor passed away recently, another doctor is leaving the Province, another one changed careers, a few retired here recently, and people cannot get access to services that they need because of this.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: And I compliment the minister on a full complement. In fact, I am very familiar with where the unfilled positions in the Province are. I actually visited every single part of the Province just a few years ago. I was in Happy Valley - Goose Bay, I went to Lab West with a committee on health, I went to the Northern Peninsula, the West Coast, the South Coast, Central Newfoundland, Clarenville, the Harbour Grace - Carbonear area and St. John's. I went to about ten different places as health critic listening to what people were telling me from various regions.

An unusual part of that: After I got back home, I had many more calls from people who were afraid to come out to the meetings to tell me what is really going on. That is where I found out most of the things, not on public record, but from the telephone calls; because they fear for their positions within the hospital settings here in the Province, within the health system. There are many people out there today -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: It happens in some instances. People fear for their jobs, people have been fired for speaking out, gotten kicked out. The minister there, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the former Works, Services and Transportation, fired a guy over in Stephenville for speaking out. I mean, it has happened with this government, it has happened.

I went to another meeting, one of those that had over 200 people, and they stood up and spoke. They did not care. Some people spoke but some people are concerned, they have a mortgage to pay, they have children to feed and they cannot take a chance on being blacklisted and losing a job; and that happens. That has happened. That is shameful but it has happened here in the Province, and it should not be.

So what have we done now? People out there today will tell you - there is hardly a person in this House who does not know something or have somebody related in some way who works in our health care system -

AN HON. MEMBER: The polls are up.

MR. SULLIVAN: Are there lights on them?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, were are they up? On the side of the street?

AN HON. MEMBER: Up 7 per cent in the Premier's popularity. Up 5 per cent in the (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, yes. Well, all I can say to the Premier is, if he wants his popularity to go up he has to keep staying away from here, I suppose. He has been out of here, and if he ever comes back -

MR. TULK: Regardless of what he is doing, Loyola, it must be working.

MR. SULLIVAN: Do we have a copy there? Representing the Province?

AN HON. MEMBER: Loyola, it is not working for Ed though.

MR. SULLIVAN: Boy, you will have to talk to -

AN HON. MEMBER: It is not working for Ed; down in (inaudible) polls. Where is the leader tonight?

MR. SULLIVAN: When people are not here, lots of people have legitimate reasons. I do not care to discuss their reasons here in a public debate in the House. It is legitimate; I do not question that. I have not said he is not on legitimate - in fact, I even said, the Minister of Health and Community Services last week, when I asked a question and the Premier rose on a resolution on MS, was out representing us in the rest of the Province. That has to be done; I have never complained about that.

I complain about the Premier when he tries to keep his profile up at national level, running around to chase the Upper Churchill contract when he knows he is only trying to keep his profile up across the country; those type of things. I said: Stop wasting time Premier. Get down and negotiate an agreement. Which they did. They have a rough grounds or basis now.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you support (inaudible) for the leadership of the Tory Party?

MR. SULLIVAN: I was not involved. The first convention I ever attended in the Tory Party was in 1992 when I was elected as a member, I can tell you. I was never to a convention, never supported anybody. In the 1989 leadership, I was never there. I was never involved until 1992, when I ran as a member. I worked two elections back in the 1970s.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I did not. I was not there.

AN HON. MEMBER: Would you have liked to have seen a Newfoundlander be Prime Minister of this country?

MR. SULLIVAN: Sure I would. Sure, why not? Unless it was completely off the wall, somebody who would not make a good representative.

AN HON. MEMBER: What is he going to run for, Premier of Newfoundland or Prime Minister of Canada?

MR. SULLIVAN: What?

AN HON. MEMBER: What is he going to run for, Premier of Newfoundland or Prime Minister of Canada?

MR. SULLIVAN: No, the Premier of Atlantica. This Atlantic Union he has been pushing, Atlantica. If you can't have the big pie, at least get a medium-sized pie.

He is quoted and I have the quote. I have a quote from a national newspaper, when he talked about Atlantica, and I will show it to the member. He has put that forth but it brought up resistance, I can tell you. He floated out there, I say to the Member for Twillingate & Fogo.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) you are getting on with.

MR. SULLIVAN: Look, it floated out. I know it is genuine. I would not get up and say something that I did not believe. I would not say something that I did not believe to be true. The member now out there in - is it Fogo & Twillingate or Twillingate & Fogo?

AN HON. MEMBER: Twillingate.

MR. SULLIVAN: And Fogo, I think, is in the name.

MR. G. REID: Twillingate & Fogo.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, Twillingate & Fogo.

AN HON. MEMBER: The same name they had in 1832.

MR. SULLIVAN: Is it? The only district, by the way, that has never changed. It was always the name -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, there is only one since the 1800s that has always had the same name and nothing else added, nothing taken away, the same exact name, and that was Ferryland District. Not another in the Province. Look at every single year, every single one. Some have changed and have come back to the original.

AN HON. MEMBER: I will guarantee you, whoever gerrymandered up those districts need their head examined.

MR. SULLIVAN: This last time? The guy who gerrymandered that is sitting in the seat that the Government House Leader is sitting in right now. The Member for Twillingate & Fogo said whoever gerrymandered up that last electoral map, basically, should have his head -

AN HON. MEMBER: Eddymandered.

MR. SULLIVAN: Did you say his head cut off? It was Eddymandered. That is what it was, Eddymandered.

MR. TULK: Do you know why he did it?

MR. SULLIVAN: He wanted to get a few more Liberals elected. That is what he wanted to do. He wanted to get a few more Liberals elected. Why do you think he did it?

AN HON. MEMBER: He is trying to get you.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) part of Fogo and Twillingate (inaudible) part of Bonavista North.

MR. SULLIVAN: No, he was not supporting Walter Carter was he? He was not supporting Walter Carter? Oh, I know, trying to get rid of you. I know what you are saying. Yes, I know what you are saying.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) Bonavista North.

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, I caught on to that before. I was just trying to avoid it. I wanted the member to say it himself.

AN HON. MEMBER: He tried to get rid of me too.

MR. SULLIVAN: He tried to get rid of all of us.

MR. TULK: I will tell you something, he did me a great favour that's for sure. As a matter of fact (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Are you supporting him for that Senate seat?

MR. TULK: Who, Ed?

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I guess. If you needed a lawyer would you go to him?

MR. TULK: As a lawyer? (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Would you? No, he is in the court now. He is going to be down -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: What? Speak up, we can't get a record of it. We can't get a record for Hansard. Will you speak up, I say to the member?

MR. TULK: I told you (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: What is this, June 2? Was it a year ago today that we had the federal election? Was that June 2 that we had a federal election last year? The member over across the House told me back in April, way back before an election was ever called. I said: Bill Matthews is going to win the District of Burin - St. George. And he lost the battle.

AN HON. MEMBER: Charlie Power said he was going to give up his pension.

MR. SULLIVAN: That wasn't then was it? That wasn't on June 2, no. That wasn't on June 2, not at all.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I cannot see doing that, but I can tell you it took a long while to collect from the Member for Windsor - Springdale. It took a long while to collect.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) you will not be out knocking on doors with Charlie the next time like you were (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I was not out knocking on doors this time. I was up in my district this time. I did some campaigning this time, sure. I went out to the gathering.

AN HON. MEMBER: You told me the other day you never.

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I thought you meant when he was in here, back in the Province. No, I went out the last time. I did some work in my district and he won my district by 2,200 votes. His majority was a little over three. Twenty-two hundred of that majority was in Ferryland District, I might add.

I did an interview up at the site, at a function there. CBC and numerous others asked me, and I made a statement. I will hold myself accountable for what I say. I do not hold myself accountable for what anybody else says; I cannot control it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SULLIVAN: Seriously. I know what I would do in a situation but I cannot speak for what someone else would do, the same as anybody there. You can beat it around all you wish.

I campaigned for him as an Independent back in 1974, and in one of his first campaigns as a PC back in the 1970s. I was not involved in the 1980 campaigns. The next campaign I was involved in was in 1992 when I ran as a member. That is it. I will be involved in the next campaign if you decide to call it the fall.

AN HON. MEMBER: We were up in Renews campaigning (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: That was the first time, was it, in the by-election?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. I know. They were up in Renews campaigning, and do you know what? I wish they had to be in the other communities. I won Renews two to one the first time, even though it was a close election. It was a close election and I won it by a score of two to one. I can even give him the vote in the community. I wish he had to go to some other communities that I did not do as well in, I might add. He must have been up in Renews the last two times, too. He was probably all over the place the last time. Actually it was a very close one I might add.

AN HON. MEMBER: What?

MR. SULLIVAN: In 1992, 125 votes.

AN HON. MEMBER: Which one?

MR. SULLIVAN: The first time I ran, 125 votes.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: That is Member for St. John's South, 108 votes, I believe. Wait for the next time. St. John's West, what was it, 109 votes or something? Beat him by one. Look out the next time, I would say.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Who didn't?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) didn't go over too well (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Boy, he goes over well wherever he goes. Ask his constituents.

AN HON. MEMBER: I was down in his district on Sunday trying to campaign for him.

MR. SULLIVAN: Were you?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: What did he tell you?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, he is getting me wound up.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: He is hard to ignore. He is interfering in everything out there. He is hard to ignore. If he did his job and did his role and did not interfere with the arm's length processes that are put in place by the Legislature of this Province, we would not have to worry about him. But we cannot have legislation put in -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: In what, the election?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I can tell you, and you assured the election of the Member for Waterford Valley on the Southlands issue. Yes, I would say that assured his re-election.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Who knows? It might not be so sure for the Member for Mount Pearl the next time around.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I do not know, I am not close to him.

CHAIR: Order, please!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Two safe seats where?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, where is that? What about the Member for Bonavista South? What about the Member for Waterford Valley? What about all of these colleagues behind me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Gives us a copy.

Listen, there are sensible people up in Ferryland District.

MR. J. BYRNE: And Cape St. Francis.

MR. SULLIVAN: Actually, there are only two districts in this Province that have never changed stripes since 1949 - only two.

The Straits has always been Liberal, and Cape St. Francis, which used to be East Extern, has always been -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, the last time you had your chance. You will never get a second chance to do what you did not do the last time. I stated that in federal ridings, and I say it in this House, too. I told people across the way while federal riding were going to fall this time. On the first anniversary of the federal election last year, I predicted what riding were going to fall here and I told the members. Some even went out on a limb and bet on the elections, who was going to win, and they ended up losing.

AN HON. MEMBER: Many are called but few are chosen, Ed Roberts would say.

AN HON. MEMBER: Roberts would also say, (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I can say it. The Member for Bonavista North stood and awaited his time and now his time has arrived.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: What did you say the former House Leader said?

AN HON. MEMBER: He also serves who only stands and waits.

MR. SULLIVAN: There is a lot of merit to that. The member there stood and waited, and he served by standing and waiting, and now he is having an opportunity to serve in a greater capacity.

MR. FITZGERALD: The former Member for Eagle River said that many are called but few are chosen.

MR. SULLIVAN: He said many are called but few are frozen. That is what he said. He got frozen out the last time, that is what happened to him.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: When was that? Oh right, yes. You were in the gallery from 1989 to 1993.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh yes, 1989 to 1993. Since 1992, for the first two or three years I was in here there was only one person in his House who never changed his seat. He was still in the same seat - went through the general election of 1993 - and that was the former Member for Eagle River, or what is now the District of Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair. He was still in the same spot back there. When he moved from that spot up there occupied by... I think the second one there, where the Minister of Government Services and Lands is now, I think that is the seat he was in. When he moved out of that seat -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: What did I tell you?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, but I just got carried away. The Member for Bellevue got me irritated there and I had to set the record straight on a few issues. When the former Member for Eagle River moved out of that seat up there, occupied now by the Minister of Government Services and Lands, and went down to one occupied by the new parliamentary assistant there, when he went into that seat it was all downhill. That is where it started. We warned him. He would not believe it, he couldn't even see it coming, but it happened. Now he will never get a second chance to get back in that riding again. He is shut out the door. In spite of the efforts of the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, it is not going to happen.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Okay, I don't, I know. Besides, I would -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I don't have to?

AN HON. MEMBER: You don't have to (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Okay, well, I am glad I am reminded. Because certainly when I get on to some other bills I will not need to be reminded, I say to the minister. This bill, I have the answers to a few questions I wanted there from the minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I will. In fact, I have members here chomping at the bit to get up again and have their say. We have a list here, look. We are going to have to limit debate on this bill because I have seven people who want to speak on this. Yes, Mr. Chairman, I can show you the list. Look, seven people want to speak on this bill that I have right down here now, and that is just in the Official Opposition. So I am going to sit down and give some of these other people a chance. In fact, I think the next person who wants to speak on it is the Member for Cape St. Francis. He is ready to speak and go on this. I am sure he might want to enlighten you for the next half hour.

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

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

I want to say a few words on Bill 15, "An Act To Authorize The Raising Of Money By Way Of Loan By The Province". Basically the government, through this act, wants to borrow upwards of $200 million to be applied from April 1, 1998, to the management and the securities of the sinking fund. The monies raised under this act is in addition to the monies raised under the other acts.

We have a Budget here that has been spoken of in the past by the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board and the Premier, and it talks about a balanced budget all the time. Here we are, right off the mark, looking to borrow $200 million. I was noticing in the Budget Highlights, and I think I have referred to it in the past, the Summary Of Gross Capital Account Expenditures. I was making comparisons from last year to this year. There are some curious numbers here.

Resource Development went from $23,258,000 down to $16,207,000 million. That is a cut of some $7 million. The Municipal Infrastructure has been cut by another $5 million this year. No wonder they are talking about a balanced budget. The Educational Facilities - now here is an interesting one - cut from $41 million, rounding it off, down to $23,749,000. Now, Mr. Chairman, that is a cut of, as I said, around $17 million or $18 million for education this year.

From my memory, when we had the Education Referendum, Mr. Chairman, the government talked about putting money back into education. All their savings that they would have by closing down the schools and laying off teachers and consolidating services, Mr. Chairman, would go back into the classroom. We do not see any indication of it here, I say to the Member for Bellevue, any indication of the money going back into the classroom, when they are cutting the education budget by something like $17 million.

MR. BARRETT: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, $17 million. That is what it is, I say to the Member for Bellevue.

Another one here, Mr. Chairman, is Equipment Acquisition, et cetera; whatever et cetera means, Mr. Chairman. It is cut from $13 million down to $8 million.

Public Buildings: Now here is a interesting one. Here is a very interesting one. Public Buildings going from $4,691,000 up to $6 million. If the Minister of Finance were here or whoever is answering questions, I say to you, Mr. Chairman, I am curious on that one there; if they could give some explanation as to what is going on there, why they are spending an extra $1.4 million on Public Buildings?

Now, as far as I understood, Elizabeth Towers has become privatized, they have sold off a bunch of apartments over in Churchill Square and what have you, Mr. Chairman, and they are looking at spending another $1.5 million. I am just curious on that.

Also, under the summary of Budgetary Financing Sources, Mr. Chairman, it says - oh, here is an interesting one; the Contingency Revenue of $30 million. Now $30 million, again -

MR. BARRETT: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, I am worth it, I am sure, I say to the Member for Bellevue. He says that $30 million is there to pay me. I am sure I am worth it, I have no doubt about that, Mr. Chairman.

What is that going to be used for, I ask the Minister of Finance? Could he explain what he used it for last year, when it was there last year, Mr. Chairman?

In actual fact they were looking at a $10 million deficit. I said it before in the House of Assembly, that in actual fact there is a $20 million surplus here; a $20 million surplus.

Also, under Revenue Sources, Mr. Chairman: They have the federal government in 1997/98 give us $1,584,899,000. This year it is $1,476,000,000, a decrease, Mr. Chairman - it cannot be $100 million, surely God. Anyway, significant, significant, significant cuts from the federal government, Mr. Chairman. And why?

Of course, I am wondering why this government does not question the federal government on this, why they are not up in arms in trying to get something more for the Province, Mr. Chairman, especially, in light of the fact that the transfer payments are being cut; and that is what we are talking about of course. The transfer payments are being cut because of out-migration in this Province.

I referred that today, in Question Period, to the Minister of Works, Service and Transportation, when I asked him the question.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. J. BYRNE: Anyway, Mr. Chairman, there are a lot of questions to be answered with respect to this Budget. We have been on this Budget for some time now. We are trying to approve a bill here, Mr. Chairman, An Act To Authorize The Raising Of Money By Way Of Loan By The Province Of $200 Million. Of course, it is all interconnected, one with the other, and it is something that we have to address in due course.

Now, this is where the money goes. That is an interesting one, Mr. Chairman. I have a pie chart here, and I am sure if the Minister of Mines and Energy were here, Mr. Chairman, he would - speak of the devil - he would understand about pie charts. He likes pictures, I understand, Mr. Chairman.

Anyway, the Department of Health spends 25.7 per cent of the Budget. Now, Mr. Chairman, we have the Opposition House Leader here asking questions of the Minister of Health daily, when the House of Assembly opens, and he has a hard time getting answers. Often times he gets an answer and it is a repetitive answer with respect to the health care in this Province.

The previous minister used to talk about health care improving, whenever he was asked a question, and the present minister makes an attempt to answer. She makes an attempt to answer the questions.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, we have a lot of time here. We are here, I say to the Minister of Fisheries, until maybe -

AN HON. MEMBER: July.

MR. J. BYRNE: I would think. I mean, with the number of bills that are there, Mr. Chairman, and the discussion and the review that needs to be done and the questions that we have, we are looking at, I would say, maybe July; unless the government decides to pull back some of their bills. If we go with what is being proposed here, when the House opened up, we are going to have a lot of discussion in this House of Assembly.

As I was mentioning, the Department of Health and Community Services has 25.7 per cent of the Budget. Health care in this Province, I don't know, I can't see it as improving, for sure, from personal experience in the health care system. I have to say the nurses and the doctors and what have you in the various hospitals are overworked and understaffed; there is no doubt about that. What we need to do is -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I couldn't tell you, I don't know. He doesn't report to me all the time.

Mr. Chairman, on the other side of the House they are making some motions and what have you. I don't understand what they are getting on with. The Leader of the Opposition I would say is very busy making contact with constituents across this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, let me tell you, they are making more contact with constituents in this Province than that crowd over there! They don't make any contact. They are running away, hiding all the time. People try to get hold of ministers and they are afraid to answer the phone calls of the people in this Province, the people that they are elected to represent. Our Leader, with every call comes in, just like every member on this side of the House, responds right away.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Not likely! I would say. Anyway, Mr. Chairman, back to my concerns with health; the Leader of the Opposition, his concerns, Mr. Chairman.

Again, the staff in the hospitals are overworked, understaffed, as I said before many, many times. As a matter of fact, I will talk about the morale. I remember bringing up in this House of Assembly, Mr. Chairman, the first year I came in here, 1993, about the morale in the civil service. It has been decimated ever since. The Premier and the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board getting up and saying there are no more lay-offs, but let's look at what is happening to Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. I would say to the Government House Leader, phone over and find out if anybody has any notices of their lay-offs lately.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, I don't know about that crowd over there. They seem to be pretty insensitive, I can tell you that. We have people in the hospitals going in for certain procedures and these people have no sensitivity whatsoever. That is why the health care in this Province is in such a mess; no sensitivity, no more human factor, all gone out the window, gone with this Administration.

Mr. Chairman, we will just move off health for a few minutes so that they can get their composure back, and we will talk about education. What a Minister of Education! I don't think the Premier could have picked a better man to put in that place for him. If I was on that side of the House and was premier I wouldn't have that Minister of Education, I can guarantee you that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who would you have?

MR. J. BYRNE: There wouldn't be anyone on that side of the House I could pick, I can tell you, because there is no heart, none.

MR. SHELLEY: Take them from outside.

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, guaranteed!

MR. SHELLEY: Like they did in the federal government, went outside.

MR. J. BYRNE: Went outside and brought him in.

MR. SMITH: Brought in Pettigrew.

MR. J. BYRNE: That is right, brought in people from outside, Mr. Chairman, the federal government did.

If they wanted someone who could go through the education system in this Province and do what had to be done, there is no doubt they picked the right man. The Premier owes the Minister of Education big time and I am waiting to see when he is going to be rewarded, and what he is going to be rewarded with. I am not sure, but there will be another ministerial position in the near future, I would say, one that won't be so demanding and the minister won't have to take such a hard knock from the media. He deserves it too, for what has been going on in this Province and the mess that the education system is in in this Province today; parents out on strikes, blocking schools and closing schools all over the Province. It is going to get worse. I really don't know who he is going to put in to replace the Minister of Education, but I would say one of the -

MR. SHELLEY: The tin man, got no heart.

MR. J. BYRNE: The tin man? I referred to that before, that this Administration is like the tin man in The Wizard of Oz. The problem here is they don't even know they don't have a heart. I expect the Member for Humber East might go in as the Minister of Education or they may put the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture there. I am not sure, but one of them anyway.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I am just saying that the Minister of Education, when the Premier decides to replace him and is looking for somebody to put back in there, someone without a heart or someone who is going to do the job, he would probably look to you. That is who he is going to look for, a member with no heart. That is what he will be after, Mr. Chairman. Or he may look to the man next to you, of course. It is going to be pay back time for him soon, I suppose, I say to the Member for Humber East.

Anyway, Mr. Chairman, I am going to sit down now and let one of the members on this side of the House get up and say a few words. Maybe I will get up again in due course, depending on how things are going.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill 15 now before the House. Mr. Chairman, it is a piece of legislation that has to do with the public finance and the public debt of the Province. As was indicated at the time of Budget, we have done something rather remarkable in this Province to the public debt in the three years from 1995 to 1998. We have reduced the direct public debt by $900 million, in the three years prior to this Budget.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I will talk about harm in a minute.

In three years, Mr. Chairman, $900 million has been removed from the public debt by this government, and I want to speak about that in the context of the statements made by the Minister of Finance during the Budget.

We have two Pauls, Mr. Chairman, one in Ottawa - I am not allowed to mention the one here except as the Minister of Finance, but they seem to speak from the same hymn book when they say to the rousing chorus from the backbenchers: There is just no more money. And the crowd from the back benches pound their desks. There is just no more money, they say, Mr. Chairman. Yet, they would get a standing ovation at the Reform Party of Canada National Convention for not only having eliminated the deficit but, in fact, reducing the public debt by some 15 per cent.

Now, Mr. Chairman, how do they do that? How do they, on the one hand, say there is just no more money for people on social assistance. They have to have these cold-hearted and cruel policies dictated by Paul Martin in Ottawa, that they are going to give with one hand from Ottawa and take away from the people on social assistance. Why? Because there is just no more money. That is the mantra. That is the mantra of the Reform Party, it is the mantra of Paul Martin, and it is the mantra of our Paul, Mr. Chairman; their Paul, the Paul on the other side, the Minister of Finance. There is just no more money.

Yet, Mr. Chairman, what do we have? We had the Premier here last fall fulminating like the predecessor Premier, fulminating about the size of the national debt and the provincial debt, talking about what a burden it is on the people of the Province. Mr. Chairman, what do they do? They beat that drum until the cows come home, and for what purpose? To be able to get away with policies that are hurting the people of this Province, hurting the little people of this Province, Mr. Chairman, hurting the people who do not have the wherewithal, the flexibility, the resources, the opportunity, the jobs, to be able to allow them to share in the benefits of our society.

They use it to justify the claw-back on social assistance recipients. They finally had to give way, but I don't give them any credit for that. They finally had to give way a week or so ago, Mr. Chairman. They use it to justify the failure to deal with the problems of the public service pensioners who have a less than $10,000 average income, not enough to live on. They use it to justify their own failure to deal with the whole issue of child hunger in this Province and the failure to make more than a token effort to solve that problem. They use it, Mr. Chairman, as the Minister of Environment and Labour said today, to justify the failure to recognize that -

MR. SHELLEY: The Minister of Fisheries is a token effort.

MR. HARRIS: They use it, Mr. Chairman, to justify the failure of government to respond to the unanimous call from the Workers' Compensation Statutory Review Tribunal, including the employer representative, including the independent representative; the unanimous call to restore balance to the system and to put back some of the benefits that the workers are entitled to, Mr. Chairman.

Why are they entitled to it, Mr. Chairman? Because, as the Statutory Review Tribunal said in its report, the workers are not the cause. The injured employees were no more responsible for causing the unfunded liability than were the employers, and that in fact the average assessments for employers have not in fact decreased. What the committee said, Mr. Chairman, is that the average employer assessments have effectively remained the same since 1992, and indeed a large proportion of employer assessments have actually decreased in recent years.

So, who are the voices that the government is listening to, Mr. Chairman? Are they listening to the ordinary people who are being hurt by government programs or the lack of government programs where they are needed, or are they listening to the louder voices, the louder voices who have access to the ministers, access to the government; the decision makers, Mr. Chairman, not the people.

The unanimous recommendation of this committee, who had listened to all the people, listened to the stakeholders, so-called, Mr. Chairman, listened to the employers, listened to their complaints -what did they find, Mr. Chairman? That the complaints from employers about how the assessments were hurting business were not substantiated. Mr. Chairman, what they did find was that reduced income levels to injured workers hindered the healing process and contributed to family disruption.

It talked about the system being unbalanced, that it had contributed to increased personal financial ruin and family breakdown, people losing their homes, Mr. Chairman, people having their marriages break up. It was a plea that the committee took seriously when they made the unanimous recommendation that there be a re-balancing. When they looked at the CPP offset, they talked about the injustice and the unreasonableness to hold that the contributions the workers made to CPP should go to the benefit of the Workers' Compensation Commission and ultimately to the employer.

What it said, Mr. Chairman, was that to entitle the Workers' Compensation Commission to set off what the worker was entitled to recoup under the Canada Pension Plan would, in effect, be depriving the worker of all the benefit from the premium paid by him or her, and appropriating that to the Workers' Compensation Commission.

Mr. Chairman, those are not the words of somebody going to the Statutory Review Committee and pleading on behalf of the workers. That is the unanimous report of the committee: the nominee of the employers, the representative of employers, the representative of employees, the independent representative, and the chair. All of these people heard the representations that were made, the arguments about the assessments being hard on business, et cetera, none of which were justified by any evidence, Mr. Chairman. That is what the board found, that is what the review committee found; none of it was justified.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I will see you over at CBC in half an hour if you are willing to go, I say to the Minister of Fisheries. You do not mind sitting here and denying somebody leave but you will not go out in the public forum and talk about it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Chairman, we have a review -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The minister knows what I am talking about. He is the one who turned down the interview.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. HARRIS: He is the one who turned down the interview. Just ask him. You ask him.

Mr. Chairman, the financial situation of the Province is used as an excuse to prevent the re-balancing of the Workers' Compensation system, repairing the damage caused since 1992. That is what happened, repairing the damage that was caused since 1992 when there was a majority report with a very big dissent, a very strong dissent, by the workers' representative.

MR. EFFORD: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Chairman, last week in this hon. House of Assembly we had a number of discussions or debates - not discussions but debates - on the future of Newfoundland and Labrador, the viability of rural Newfoundland and Labrador as it applies to the seal industry, and how it was impacting on the return of the commercial fish stocks, and how the lives of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador depended on some immediate action and the controversy being taken away by the IFAW and our friend opposite who is supporting the IFAW.

He just challenged me, just made a comment across the House, that I would not appear before CBC television today for a three- or four-minute interview, which I refused to do. But I challenge the hon. member to an hour's debate anywhere in this Province that he wishes to have a debate on the future of the Newfoundland and Labrador sealing industry.

CHAIR: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MR. HARRIS: When the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture becomes leader of his party, which I understand he wishes to do -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: - I will debate him anywhere in this Province, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. EFFORD: Yes, just to answer: Mr. Efford, the interview is rescheduled for 4:00 p.m. tomorrow.

CHAIR: There is no point of order.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I understood the minister to put on the record the fact that he refused to do an interview at CBC. I am sure that is what Hansard will record, but that is something for people who believe in facts to check.

What I was talking about before I was rudely interrupted was the issue of this government -

AN HON. MEMBER: Was that a television interview?

MR. HARRIS: He told them he wasn't available today, right. Mr. Chairman -

AN HON. MEMBER: Will that be prime time?

MR. HARRIS: Oh, yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Chairman, what we have is a government which is hiding behind the mantra of there is just no more money.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: He doesn't care where it is as long as he can bring the crowd, right? Mr. Chairman, this is a government who on the one hand talks about how there is just no more money for the people who need money, and on the other hand find money for every project they want to find.

We have before us a bill to allow government to raise $200 million, plus the rejigging of additional monies to redeem outstanding securities. We don't really know how much it is. I suppose at some point, I mean, in order to justify the passage of the bill, the minister is going to tell us a little bit more about it. I gather he didn't tell us much about the bill when he introduced it, but perhaps he can explain to us how the government reduced the provincial debt by $900 million in the last several years without getting the Reform Party award for fiscal prudence. Because if that had taken place in any other province of Canada the Reform Party would be saying yahoo!, bravo! They would be supporting this government like no other across the country.

What is happening, the point of my remarks, is that there is flexibility in social policy, there is flexibility in government programs, there is flexibility in government's ability to respond to the needs of the people. They showed that last week when they reversed the claw-back on social assistance recipients as a result of the request of the public of Newfoundland, the ordinary people, who have been petitioning this House. The Catholic Women's League of Topsail, for example, petitioning this House, demanding that government respond to the plight of people on social assistance; other people too, including this hon. member, who identified this as an outrage on the day the Budget was brought down; an outrage to take back the money that was going to improve the lot of children on social assistance and use that money for others.

The ability of the government to change that policy is evidence that the government's fiscal capacity is far more flexible than they let on on Budget Day, and that they let on every time they want to say no. Every time they want to say no they simply say the money is not there. That is the mantra, the common excuse, the one that they seem to be able to get away with because the people have been propagandized not only by this government but by Paul Martin in Ottawa, by the business council on national issues, by the Tory Party before them, by the Reform Party, by the bankers, by the industrialists, by all -

AN HON. MEMBER: By the lawyers.

MR. HARRIS: What lawyers? I don't think the lawyers had anything to say about it.

MR. CANNING: What did Bob Rae do in Ontario?

MR. HARRIS: A very sensible government, I say to the Member for Labrador West. A very sensible government was conducted by the NDP in office throughout this country, and they respond to the needs of the people, Mr. Chairman. They respond to the needs that the people have and the people expect a response from government, Mr. Chairman. What is government for? I say to the Member for Labrador West, what is government for? To respond to the needs of the bankers or to respond to the needs of the people? The stockbrokers or the people?

AN HON. MEMBER: The people.

MR. HARRIS: Yes, the member says the people and I think he is right. Those are the people that the New Democratic Party responds to, Mr. Chairman. Those are the kinds of people that our party responds to, the people, and they are one.

With respect to the bankers, let me just talk about the bankers for a moment. Where does the hon. member stand with respect to the bank mergers? Is he with the people or is he with the bankers on that one?

AN HON. MEMBER: The people.

MR. HARRIS: He is with the people. Is he with the small business organizations who, together with the New Democratic Party, oppose the merger of the banks? Together with the New Democratic Party and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, together oppose mergers of the banks? Not only that, Mr. Chairman, have proposed a reasonable alternative: allow these large banks to form some international capital corporation to compete in the international market, but leave domestic banking alone. Allow them to form some super - supra-national cooperative amongst the banks to get involved in international competition and international financing. Require them, Mr. Chairman, to reinvest some of their profits, some of their money in communities, Mr. Chairman, a community reinvestment fund. Let's see the banks do that, Mr. Chairman. It is not a terribly radical idea. It is not even terribly socialistic. It is recognized, Mr. Chairman, that institutions such as banks have a responsibility to the communities where they operate and where they make their money.

In a number of areas of the United States, a number of states have required banks, as a condition of operating, to reinvest money into economic development activities in their communities. That is lacking in this country, Mr. Chairman, because it is left to the banks to make their own decisions about where to invest, how much to invest, and what to put back into the economy.

We saw an example, Mr. Chairman, one of the banks that want to merge, the Bank of Montreal. When the Bank of Montreal decided - not that they were not making any money but they were not making enough money in the Strait of Belle Isle, they were not making enough money -

MR. J. BYRNE: So what did they do?

MR. HARRIS: They pulled out, Mr. Chairman. They left the Labrador Straits. They left the Labrador Coast and moved out, leaving no banking services whatsoever; but, Mr. Chairman, the people responded. The people's organizations responded, the Fishermen's Union responded, the Labrador Fishermen's Union Shrimp Company responded, and the people established the Eagle River Credit Union which has been a very, very successful community-controlled organization providing credit and banking services, deposit and loan services, chequing services, and other services traditionally offered by a bank, through a people-owned and people-controlled credit union.

That was the people's response, Mr. Chairman, to the bank's greed. The bank was not making enough money, the Bank of Montreal, so it pulled out and the Eagle River Credit Union replaced it. The people's organization -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) credit union?

MR. HARRIS: My involvement with a credit union, I say to the Member for Labrador West, goes back a long way. The Member for Grand Falls - Buchans knows about - she has been involved in the credit union movement for many years.

MS THISTLE: Remember what they did in Buchans with the Bank of Montreal, and look what they are doing in Port aux Basques (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Well, the Bank of Montreal has a long history with the Province of Newfoundland, going back to 1895 after the bank crash. In recent years they have been pulling out their branches in places where they are not making enough money.

AN HON. MEMBER: They are trying to that history (inaudible)? Did you say they had a long history?

MR. HARRIS: They have a long history. They go back to 1895. They were doing the Province's banking or the country's banking in those days, and they will probably be around for a long time to come, but they will pick and choose where they want to be because they are not responding directly to the needs of the people. They are responding to the needs of their shareholders, to the needs of what drives them, which is not service of their members - which is the credit union credo - but in fact providing services for profit for the benefit of their shareholders. They are two totally different types of organizations.

Mr. Chairman, I know a number of members of this House have been member of the credit union. The Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union is one that I have been a member of, going back a dozen or two dozen years, going back to the mid-1970s. I was a member of a credit union in Alberta. I was on the Board of Directors of the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union, of which the Member for Grand Falls - Buchans managed the Grand Falls branch for a number of years. I do not know how many, but many years I say.

MS THISTLE: Nineteen.

MR. HARRIS: Nineteen, very many years, a lot of years.

MS THISTLE: I took it from zero to twenty-five million.

MR. J. BYRNE: Years?

MR. HARRIS: Not twenty-five million years, no.

Mr. Chairman, that organization, the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union, has assets now, I think, in excess of $150 million; one of the largest locally - probably the only democratically controlled pool of capital in this Province, locally controlled. The Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union has assets of $150 million. I was proud to serve as a member on the Board of Directors for seven or eight years and was vice-president for several years, an organization which had its aims, the aims of assisting its members and developing a growth pattern that could be sustained and provide services to its members, mortgage services, checking services, loan services, lately in mutual funds through the ethical mutual funds, all of that being done by a democratically controlled organization that is designed to give one member one vote, regardless of the amount of money that the person has invested or loaned to or loaned from the organization. Regardless of how many shares you have, you only get one vote, and that is the difference between a credit union and a bank.

In a bank you get a vote for each share that you hold, so in order to have any influence on the bank you have to have millions of shares or be some pension fund or other organization that can have any influence on bank policies.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) said about the bankers.

MR. HARRIS: What did he say?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I say to the hon. member, that was not in praise of bankers, that was not a statement in praise of bankers.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, that is what I am saying.

MR. HARRIS: It was not a statement in praise of bankers, I say to the Member for Labrador West, and I do not intend to praise bankers here today. I do not intend to praise bankers here today, Mr. Chairman.

My point, and I know if the member had been listening carefully, is that this government has a lot more flexibility than it has been letting on with respect to the public finance, and does not have to be as mean to the needs of ordinary people as it has been.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I end my remarks.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Grand Falls - Buchans.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: Mr. Chairman, I know that my hon. colleague across the way there, the Member for Cape St. Francis, is tired and so I am going to help him out a bit now.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: I could not resist, when I heard my colleague across the way, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, speak about credit unions in this Province. I would like to say, Mr. Chairman, that my entire working career almost has been in the banking industry, with the majority of it spent with the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union.

MR. J. BYRNE: Did you make more money there than you do here?

MS THISTLE: Yes. I have questioned myself many times since I have sat here in this seat. Gee, I was the town counsellor with the Town of Grand Falls and I a manager with the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union. However, I see my role as being able to help more people from this seat and that is the reason why I am in it. It has nothing to do with finances, because if it did I would have stayed where I was.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: That is right and you can bank on that.

AN HON. MEMBER: You can take that to the bank.

MS THISTLE: However, I would like to speak today in support of credit unions throughout this Province. The Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union started in 1957. It was started by a teacher and her name was Margaret Doyle. She is still living. Does anybody know Margaret Doyle; the teachers in this House?

AN HON. MEMBER: Jack knows her.

MS THISTLE: Jack knows her. Her first deposit was five dollars. This is a history lesson for all you people today.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell us all about it.

MS THISTLE: Her first deposit was five dollars. Then it was called the Newfoundland Teachers' Co-operative Credit Society. In order to get a loan - Mr. Percy Barrett, my colleague there from Bellevue, would know all about it - in order to get a loan then, you had to pass a board of examiners' close scrutiny. It was very difficult to get a loan in those days. Loans were only passed out as the funds were on hand, and it was very primitive when you look back over it.

In fact, when I started with the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union in 1977, in order to get a balance of someone's account - just imagine how technology has evolved - you would call St. John's and then they would go into what they called a broad band system - nobody knows what a broad band system is.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, it is a band and it is broad.

MS THISTLE: No, they do not. They do not know what a broad band system is. It was a telephone system -

AN HON. MEMBER: Anna, did you happen to see (inaudible)?

MS THISTLE: No. It was a telephone system whereby there was direct line to the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union, and only they could use it. Someone would scurry into a vault somewhere and pull out Joe Blow's account card, and then someone else would say: His teacher's payroll was last payday, whatever, the fifteenth, and then they would add on the payroll. Then someone would see if any cheques had come off his account since then. About ten minutes later they would come back and say: The balance of Mr. So and So's account is such-and-such.

Now we are On-line, E-mail, Internet, you name it. That is where credit unions have evolved in this Province. In fact, the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union is a trend-setter. It is one of the most advanced credit unions in the whole of Atlantic Canada. It is the largest credit union in Atlantic Canada. In fact, the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union, my former boss, Ray Hopkins, would be delighted to hear me today raving about the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: In fact, he would be wondering if I would come back and work for him tomorrow morning. Just recently I met him at the airport, last Friday, and he told me: Anna, guess what? We are taking over Bay St. George Credit Union. My colleague from Port au Port, Gerald Smith, will be glad to hear that.

So, that is where the credit union has come throughout the years. They have made great strides. It was only a few month ago that I had an enormous - it was more than a racket, it was an issue, it was trouble, with the Bank of Montreal that wanted to pull out of Buchans. They gave us all kinds of reasons as to how they were going to provide the best service in the world by operating out of a supermarket. And I said then, I said on Open Line and I said in the public: This is only the beginning of what the Bank of Montreal are going to do in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Was I right or was I wrong?

AN HON. MEMBER: You were right on.

MS THISTLE: I was right, wasn't I.

AN HON. MEMBER: You were right.

MS THISTLE: Yes, I was. Only last week we heard how the Bank of Montreal is going to do the same thing in Port aux Basques. Where is the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile?

AN HON. MEMBER: He is gone back to start the credit union (inaudible).

MS THISTLE: I would say he is over there now organizing and trying to squash what the Bank of Montreal is trying to do in Port aux Basques.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: Because that is just a beginning. What you are going to find now, wherever there is a Bank of Montreal in a community they are going to be in some supermarket, and more than likely it is going to be a - no, I will not say it, I cannot do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) spoil it.

MS THISTLE: I will not spoil it. It is going to be in a supermarket similar to a chain like we see in Buchans, probably. However, if more people in this Province were to go out and support Credit Unions, we would have a much better banking system in this Province.

Do you know that the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union was the first credit union to bring in a drive-up banking machine and a drive-up window where you can sit in your car on a rainy day, or if you have your rollers in, or if you have your -

AN HON. MEMBER: I know all about having my rollers.

MS THISTLE: If you have your rollers in or you do not want to actually speak to the teller, you can drive up to a wicket at the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union and get your money and do whatever you want. Not only is that convenient, but it is convenient to disabled people. The Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union was the first to provide access to disabled persons, who can actually drive up to the teller window and get served just as if they were inside in a branch.

The problem with the credit unions in this Province is that we do not have enough people here. I would like to know - hands up who supports credit unions in this Province. I would like to know who deals with credit unions. Is it the majority? Okay. From looking around I can see that one third of this House supports and deals with credit unions in this Province.

 

You know something, if we had more people like us dealing with credit unions in this Province, we would have a better competition in pricing, for service charge and everything else.

What is happening in this Province is people are taking the freebies from credit unions and putting the bulk of their money into the banks. And you know what, the banks are not doing anything for our Province. In fact, most of the time they are not even putting in bricks and mortar. They are leasing, they are renting out of some building somewhere that they do not have any control in the community. They do not care.

Banks are sending their money to third world countries while credit unions are putting down bricks and mortar in this Province and they are paying taxes, they are providing jobs. So we need more people.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: Banks are cutting back jobs.

AN HON. MEMBER: And full time jobs too.

MS THISTLE: And full time jobs. When you call up now to a bank, 1-800: Hello! You can hardly even recognize who you are talking to because it might be somebody in Montreal, it could be someone in Vancouver or down in Philadelphia.

AN HON. MEMBER: Or Port de Grave even.

MS THISTLE: They do not know where Fogo is, do they Gerry?

MR. G. REID: Not a chance!

MS THISTLE: No. Do they know where Cartwright is?

MR. G. REID: They do not know where Newfoundland is, most of them.

MS THISTLE: Do they know where - where are you from? Bateau?

AN HON. MEMBER: Bateau!

MS THISTLE: L'Anse au Clair. That is our member across the way.

So, one thing about credit unions, they know every nook and cranny in this Province. They know people and they operate on the premise that people are the most important aspect of their business.

When I walked into the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union they said: Good morning, Anna. Glad to hear that your son is back. Was your daughter in for the weekend? I can walk into a bank, sure they do not know who I am until I give them my account number.

AN HON. MEMBER: They know you by your account number.

MS THISTLE: They know you by your account number. That is the only way banks know you.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: I would say it is more like the overdraft.

However, at a credit union you are a person. You mean something at a credit union.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: And you only have to look around in the community. Try and get a donation from a bank in your community for something that is going on. Forget it! Go to a credit union, they will support every event in the community.

MR. TULK: Don't forget the motion.

MS THISTLE: What was the motion?

MR. TULK: Oh, oh!

MS THISTLE: Okay.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Profits. Absolutely! Banks operate on profit. What they are doing is investing in third world countries. They take the hit in the third world countries and they are putting it out on the backs of you and I and trying to collect back. That is exactly what is happening.

With credit unions, everybody is treated the same. Credit unions don't care who you are. Every member has the same response, the same respect at a credit union. You have a chance, when they come to an annual meeting, to voice your concerns. Every member has a vote.

Now, if I don't like something that is being done at the Bank of Montreal, do you think that is going to make a difference when I talk to the vice-president? Not a chance. If I don't like something at the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union, if I talk to Ray Hopkins, do you think that is going to make a difference?

AN HON. MEMBER: I know it is going to make a difference.

MS THISTLE: Do you think it is going to make a difference? What do think will happen?

AN HON. MEMBER: He will change it.

MS THISTLE: That's right. He will be on that phone: Bank manager, credit union manager in Grand Falls - Windsor, I have a complaint from the Member for St. John's East - Quidi Vidi is it?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Listen, you had better treat that member with rubber gloves, kid gloves and white gloves when he comes in the next time or your job is on the line.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) the next time.

MS THISTLE: Is that right?

Anyway, in closing I would like to say, let's take a look at credit unions throughout this Province and when we are choosing a banking system, give them a chance.

I would like to move the motion that the House not adjourn at 5:00 p.m.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The motion is that the House not adjourn at 5:00 p.m.

All those in favour, aye.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: Opposed.

AN HON. MEMBER: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion carried.

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

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

I am glad to stand today to make a few comments, Mr. Chairman. Just this weekend past I attended a short conference at the college in Baie Verte, the Community College of the North Atlantic.

MR. J. BYRNE: What does that have to do with that bill?

MR. SHELLEY: It has a lot to do with it because we are going to talk about education.

MR. J. BYRNE: Okay.

MR. SHELLEY: And the conference was about IT, Mr. Chairman. It was all about Information Technology and the new world that awaits all of us. There were some very interesting presentations at that conference. A lot of young people were attending. Also, Mr. Chairman, what was interesting was there were a lot of young business people who were attending.

Some of the presentations made, they were all interesting but one in particular, Mr. Chairman - I will not use the name of the company or the person who made the presentation, but it really started to open your eyes to what is happening in Information Technology. How many people, no matter what part of the world you are living in - as a matter of fact, this particular individual just came back from South Africa. He went through all parts of South Africa talking about the experience with Information Technology and the incredible things that it can do in this day and age. He had a small box system that he could go anywhere in the world and use faxes or phones, no matter where. Even in parts of Africa where he was, there were no phone systems, wires for a phone system, but he could use that little box system that had a satellite dish. He could use a phone or fax from anywhere in the world.

This same person related it to Newfoundland and Labrador, with our problems over the years, of course, before this technology came about. Our geography of Newfoundland has been a major problem for young people who have ideas and so on, who could not expand their business. But now, Mr. Chairman, with the use of computers, satellites and imaging and all these things, anybody, anywhere with a good concept for business can actually do business in their own home without using buildings and so on. They can sit down in their own bedroom, some young people, and using the Information Technology system, a fantastic system -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: He is.

A fantastic system, Mr. Chairman, where a young person, eighteen or nineteen-years-old - and he gave some examples of them there - who could actually sit in their bedrooms with a computer and start up a business. They are actually sitting there now. There are people in their homes in Newfoundland and Labrador today, who are actually sitting in their bedrooms, study or in the basement with a computer who are in a business, just using that technology to form their own concepts and their own ideas.

What the message was from these presentations on IT, Mr. Chairman, is that with the situation we have had in Newfoundland and Labrador in even recent years of people who would have to travel to St. John's, or would have to travel to Corner Brook or to some of the larger centres in the Province just to get their ideas across and do some marketing, but now he is starting to do an example at the conference of a whole marketing scheme that could be done in any part of the world on any product just sitting there at the computer.

I know a lot of members here in the House use it. I am a self-learner. I would like to have some more time to learn more about computers because every day it is changing. As a matter of fact, I am sure at this same conference next year there will be things that will have to be learned again, additions to what we already have now. The point is, with this technology, with the way it is developing, Newfoundland's disadvantages from a few years ago are not the same any more. The disadvantages now have been taken away due to technology and what we can use in that.

As a matter of fact, I am studying quite a bit now on the Internet, using Information Technology to learn about magnesium. I have even just punched in on my computer at home and found out that there is an international magnesium home page. You can learn about all the markets, you can learn everything there is to know about it. Through Information Technology you can find out where it is being sold, at what prices, and what it is used for.

I was interested in that for a particular reason because hopefully in the near future there will be some developments in the Baie Verte area with magnesium at the old Baie Verte mine site. Up to this point in time, to be quite honest with you, I knew very little about magnesium. Of course, with this possibility on the horizon, I decided to try to study it myself.

The point is, you can pick up your computer, with Sympatico now in the Province, and so on - very fast, very good speed - and you can find information on any subject. Now we have the advantage.

Another point he made at the presentation was that although all the courses you do with computers, and if you did a computer course at MUN five years ago, that is wonderful and it would probably lay the foundation for a lot of it, but the truth is that you would have to do another update, a two- or three-month course next week, if you want to catch up with the imagining and the things that are used now with computer technology.

Mr. Chairman, I will clue up on this particular bill now and we will move on to another debate.

Resolution

"That it is expedient to bring in a measure to authorize the raising from time to time by way of loan on the credit of the Province the sum of $200,000,000 and the additional sum or sums of money that may be required to retire, repay, renew or refund securities issued under an Act of the Province or that may be paid into the Newfoundland Government Sinking Fund."

On motion, resolution carried.

On motion, clauses 1 through 5 inclusive carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed a resolution and a bill consequent thereto, without amendment, carried. (Bill No. 15)

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, Motion No. 3, Bill No. 11.

CHAIR: Motion No. 3. Bill No. 11.

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board to move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider certain resolutions relating to the advancing or guaranteeing of certain loans made under the Loan and Guarantee Act, 1957. (Bill No. 11)

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

This legislation is pretty pro forma. What it does each year is, it sets forth the guarantees made by the Government of Newfoundland, mostly for various enterprises. Sometimes they involve Crown corporations. In this case the corporations are listed here: Integrated Poultry Limited; Newfoundland Farm Products Corporation; S.C.B. Fisheries Limited; Torngat Fish Producers Co-operative Society Limited.

If the members have any questions respecting either the substance of the bill or the particular guarantees and the rationale therefore, I would be happy to explain it.

Thank you.

AN HON. MEMBER: What is the number of that bill?

MR. DICKS: Bill No. 11.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

CHAIR: Mr. Chairman.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman. I rise to say a few words on Bill 11, "An Act To Amend The Loan And Guarantee Act, 1957". The concerns I have with this particular piece of legislation - we see the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture stand in this House and continue to talk about allowing the fishing industry to survive on its own, and how government grants and government guaranteed loans should not be part of this particular industry any more. I fully concur.

I think if we are going to have a fishery of the future, and if we are going to allow the marketplace and business sense of business people in this industry to survive, then we have to get out of the business. Government has to get out of fishermen's and fish processors' pockets and get off their backs. That is not what is happening here.

We see the Fogo Island Co-op, and there is nobody any happier than me to see rural Newfoundland towns being given a lease on life, Mr. Speaker.

CHAIR: Mr. Chairman.

MR. FITZGERALD: But I have a real problem when I see industries being propped up by this government by guaranteed loans, and going out into the marketplace and competing with the competition and paying them a higher price for product they are purchasing.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I say to the minister, it is correct.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, it is not.

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, it is correct. I can prove to the minister that this is what is happening, Mr. Chairman. I know the minister will say: What are we going to do? The people on Fogo Island live on an island. If that fish plant is allowed to close or not allowed to operate it will be the death of the town, it will be the exodus of hundreds of people.

Mr. Speaker, maybe when the minister stands and says those things, he is right. What the minister is saying, and what the minister will say, can be repeated for every town and every community, Mr. Speaker, that has a fish plant on this Island.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that we are in Committee. It is Mr. Chairman.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, what the member will say will be a repeat of what can happen anywhere in this Province. If you look at Gaultois, for instance, on an island, an isolated community, the only way to get to and from Gaultois is by boat, Mr. Speaker.

CHAIR: Mr. Chairman.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, the people in Gaultois today have a real problem.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, I hope he does, and that is what I want answered. I am only expressing my concerns with the bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: You very seldom ask me a question.

MR. FITZGERALD: I what?

AN HON. MEMBER: Very seldom do you ask me a question.

MR. FITZGERALD: I very seldom ask you a question. Mr. Speaker -

CHAIR: Mr. Chairman!

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, those are some of the concerns I have. Conpak Seafoods now, I think, is in Gaultois. They are into a big set-to with Daley Brothers. The people out in Gaultois are unhappy with what is happening with their fish plant there. Mr. Speaker, the plant is not working -

CHAIR: Mr. Chairman.

MR. FITZGERALD: The plant is not working, and in all likelihood you may see the people from Gaultois knocking on the door of the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, asking if he would provide them with a guaranteed loan in order for their fish plant to survive.

I guarantee you, Mr. Chairman, this would be one community that, if you didn't put money into that particular facility, they will have to struggle in order to survive.

We see Ramea. I suppose if there was ever (inaudible) for a government guaranteed loan, it would have been Ramea, an isolated community nestled among the hills in the rocks of the South West Coast. We see a businessman, in fact a small businessman, who started off with his own fishing boat and it now going in and taking the chance of creating a new business in Ramea.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who do you think got him down there?

MR. FITZGERALD: I do not know who got him there, but whoever it was, a blessing to him and I hope he survives. I know the man; I have talked to him. In fact he has taken me on, on a couple of issues that I have raised when I talked about processing at sea because he did not believe in it. I talk to him not on a regular basis but I have talked to him a few times. I know he has other business ideas that I believe can help other communities. But, Mr. Chairman, here we have a minister standing in his place and saying that we are getting out of financing this particular industry.

S.C.B. Fisheries is mentioned there. I would like to ask the minister, when he stands to speak, maybe he can enlighten us as to what is happening with S.C.B. Fisheries. It is my understanding, and he can correct me if I am wrong, that the minister has his deputy minister, or assistant deputy minister, down in Bay d'Espoir now looking after that particular operation. I do not know if it is true or not, but that is my understanding.

Obviously the minister has some concern about what is happening there, about the finances of that particular operation, or he would not be taking his assistant deputy minister and sending him down to St. Alban's and saying: Look after this particular operation for us.

AN HON. MEMBER: What is going on down there?

MR. FITZGERALD: There are problems down there, I say to the Opposition House Leader. There are problems with S.C.B. Fisheries. I suppose if there is an argument to be made for this piece of legislation, it can probably be made on the Labrador Coast.

When I see the Torngat Fish Producers Co-operative Society, $1,500,000 loan-guarantee, and when I see the Torngat Fish Producers Co-operatives Society Limited for a $600,000 loan-guarantee, it is a situation where those people for the most part are not out competing directly for the bulk of the harvesters around this Province.

When I see Fogo Island Co-op -

MR. G. REID: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Twillingate & Fogo, on a point of order.

MR. G. REID: I would like to say a couple of words about what the Member for Bonavista South is saying about the Co-op on Fogo Island and the fact that we have a loan guarantee in place there.

In fact, I think if you would check, that loan guarantee went in under the previous administration and this government, along with the one previous to this, I think, have always had a policy with respect to the island towns and the Coast of Labrador, giving them a little bit more special consideration.

What the member has been saying is that the Fogo Island Co-op is out competing with other fish plants in the Province. How is the Fogo Island Co-op supposed to survive if they don't go out and compete with the other fish processors in this Province? Just last week, a processor in this Province enticed one of the full-time crab fisherman from Fogo Island to go to his fish plant.

What I guess you are saying is that we, or the Fogo Island Co-op, shouldn't be afforded the opportunity to do likewise. I don't think that would be quite fair. The -

CHAIR: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to clue up his point of order.

MR. G. REID: All I am saying, Mr. Chairman, is that this government looks at the island communities in this Province, and the isolated island communities in this Province, and the Coast of Labrador, and gives them special consideration.

CHAIR: Order, please! Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South, to that point of order?

MR. FITZGERALD: No, I'm just continuing with debate.

CHAIR: There is no point of order. The hon. Member for Twillingate & Fogo used the opportunity to -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: Order, please! Order, please!

The Chair is ruling.

The hon. Member for Twillingate & Fogo took advantage of the opportunity to further elaborate on the topic that was being debated. There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Just to respond to what the Member for Twillingate & Fogo referred to there, I wasn't referring to somebody competing. I have no problem with somebody competing. The problem I have is when you are seeing a $2 million loan guarantee being put forward by the taxpayers of this Province, and the same company that receives the loan guarantee goes out and competes and pays more for raw product, up to $0.10 more for raw product than the competitors. That is something I have a real problem with.

MR. G. REID: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Twillingate & Fogo, on a point of order.

Before the hon. member speaks, I would ask that the microphone be turned on.

The hon. the Member for Twillingate & Fogo, on a point of order.

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

I think that if the Member for Bonavista North were to check -

CHAIR: Bonavista South.

MR. G. REID: Bonavista South. I am sorry! If he were to check it out he might find that some of the people who are competing in the industry today were recipients of government guarantees under the previous administration.

MR. SULLIVAN: To the point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader, to the point of order.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The member wants to debate this, and I certainly intend to debate it too when it comes to my turn. He is debating an issue there that has no relevance whatsoever. It is a government policy now not to prop up industry, and they are propping it up contrary to their policy, and he is trying to use debate to get the point. He has an opportunity in debate to be able to do it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

CHAIR: Order, please!

There is no point of order. Both hon. members took advantage of the opportunity to just further engage in debate. The opportunity is there for all hon. member to engage in debate if they so wish. There is no point or order.

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, it is time that the government and the taxpayers of this Province got away from subsidizing those types of businesses, got away from putting forward loan guarantees. It is time that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture stayed in his office instead of taking people by the hand and leading them to the bank to negotiate loans for them. It is time, Mr. Chairman, that those plants were allowed to exist on their own and survive on their own. If they want to go out and pay more for the price of a product that they are purchasing then sobeit.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Well, I say to the Member for Humber East, Mr. Chairman, that's exactly what could happen here because the minister in his wisdom - and I am telling you that the minister, our sitting minister now, has done more to hurt the crab industry in this Province than any other minister before him. You go out and talk to the processors today, you go out and talk to the crab plant workers - and the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs nods his head in agreement.

MR. EFFORD: Not so, Mr. Chairman.

MR. FITZGERALD: You go out and talk to the people down in Trouty, in the Member for Trinity North's district. You go down and talk to the people who work in the Bonavista crab plant and you go out and talk to those people who normally, this time of the year, would be working two shifts, six or seven days a week, Mr. Chairman, and you will find that a lot of them do not even have enough work to receive a full week's pay, with the crab industry opened for well over a month now.

All the minister has done is transfer jobs from one area to another. All he has done is hand out crab licenses, Mr. Chairman, with no perception of what he was doing to that particular industry. Crab plants, fish plants that were closed, government owned fish plants that were closed since 1991 or 1992 and all of a sudden the minister comes forward and props them up with guaranteed loans and gives them crab licenses, Mr. Chairman. What we have done now is have other fish plants, other crab plants, other processors struggling to survive.

I venture to say, in the two plants that I know something about, the one in Trouty and the one in Bonavista, Mr. Chairman, that you will not have half the people there who will qualify for even the minimum EI benefits this year.

It was only the other day that I got a phone call from a lady who worked over in Trouty, over in the Member for Trinity North's district, wondering what was going to happen, if there was going to be a make-work project on the go. I said: What did you do last year? She said: I worked in the crab plant. How long did you get? I qualified for EI. I got in excess of 600 hours over there. I said: How long have you been working so far this year? I got two shifts.

Down in Bonavista, I am hearing the same stories, Mr. Chairman, about people who would normally be getting close to their number of hours, and instead they have not received a full week's pay since they started work six weeks ago in this particular industry.

It is all because the minister spread it out, and all he has done - Mr. Woodman, out in Trinity Bay, confirmed exactly what I was saying, that the minister in his wisdom and in his efforts to put forward those crab licences has not created one new job. All he has done is spread the work around.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did Fred Woodman actually say that?

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, he did so.

AN HON. MEMBER: What? (Inaudible) crab licence.

MR. FITZGERALD: He has no problem with his crab licence. He wanted a crab licence and the minister gave it to him.

AN HON. MEMBER: I thought Fred was smarter than that.

MR. FITZGERALD: Fred is telling the truth. The minister has not created one new job.

Mr. Chairman, we cannot have it both ways here. We cannot have the minister go around this Province and stand on his soapbox talking about the fishing industry that is now being allowed to exist on its own. He cannot go out and talk about government not being involved in the fishery anymore. Then, under the guise of the Minister of Finance, slip through a bill that shows three and four fish plants, fish processors in this Province, receiving $150,000, 2,000,000, Mr. Chairman, $600,000 of government guaranteed loans.

You know what government guarantee loans are. You know what happened at the Petty Harbour Co-op. You know what happened to the multi-foods plant down there with the Saltfish Corporation. You know what happened there to government guaranteed loans in those particular situations, where the taxpayers of this Province ended up paying the tab.

Mr. Chairman, we look at Newfoundland Ocean Enterprises Limited. Who is Newfoundland Ocean Enterprises Limited, Loyola?

MR. SULLIVAN: I think that is the Marystown Shipyard.

MR. FITZGERALD: Smith Seafoods Limited, Mr. Speaker, the Atlantic Group, Earle Brothers Fisheries Limited - that is in the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, Mr. Speaker.

CHAIR: Mr. Chairman.

MR. FITZGERALD: P. Janes and Sons. The one that jumps out at us, Mr. Speaker, is S.C.B. Fisheries -

CHAIR: I remind the hon. member for at least the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth time that we are in Committee, and he address his comments to Mr. Chairman.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, the one that jumps out at us is the Fogo Island Co-op. I think we have to get away from this. When the Government House Leader was the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods and we saw just about $18 million of taxpayers' dollars being directed towards the chicken industry, I.P.L, Integrated Poultry Limited, just about $18 million of taxpayers' dollars right here in this legislation - I don't know why we have to go and throw money at those particular industries.

Are we going to get our money back, I say to the Government House Leader? How much of the $18 million are the taxpayers of this Province going to get back? Very little. I would say probably nothing. In fact I saw $10 million there as a grant to Integrated Poultry Limited.

Mr. Chairman, it wasn't enough to turn over the whole industry to I.P.L., give them land so they can go and build their chicken coops, they went out and bought out Masterfeeds, which was a good idea. I suppose it was a wise way to spend money, but I would like to look at those books.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I am not so sure it has stopped, I say to the minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. FITZGERALD: I am not so sure it stopped, because when you see what has happened at Newfoundland Farm Products, the happenings down there, Mr. Government House Leader, when you were the minister -

MR. TULK: What?

MR. FITZGERALD: When you saw the happenings that are being investigated now, some of the concerns that the Auditor General raised, and some concerns that other people have raised and brought forward at Newfoundland Farm Products -

MR. TULK: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: I would say if this had happened not only with the other Administration -

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MR. TULK: Let me just say to the hon. gentlemen that the stuff being investigated by the Auditor General did not go on when I was the minister. It went on before I was the minister, and I think it continued for about the first or second month. After that it was stopped.

CHAIR: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: It continued for a long time. When you see an equipment supplier -

AN HON. MEMBER: Be careful, now.

MR. FITZGERALD: I do not have to be careful, I say to the member.

When you see a company from Ontario coming down here doing work at Newfoundland Farm Products, repairing equipment -

MR. TULK: When did that happen?

MR. FITZGERALD: - Newfoundland Farm Products, the government buying equipment from them, this same subsidized industry that the taxpayers of this Province were subsidizing to the tune of $8 million to $10 million a year, was taking chicken and carrying it back to Ontario and selling it and making huge profits on the backs of the taxpayers of this Province, that is wrong.

That is all the more reason why we should look at the $18 million that we have thrown at this group of people and make sure that we are out of the business altogether. But up until now we are not out of the business. We are no more out of Newfoundland Farm Products than we are out of the fishing industry.

MR. EFFORD: What?

MR. FITZGERALD: And I will correct the minister any time he stands again on his soapbox out in rural areas and talks about the government getting out of the fishing industry, because it is not true.

MR. EFFORD: It is so true!

MR. FITZGERALD: It is not true. That is not the way that you say it minister. You don't say we are getting out. You are saying, we are out. Let the fittest survive. That has been the argument you have used.

Mr. Chairman, if we are going to get involved in the fishing industry, and if we are going to continue subsidizing processors, then let's treat everybody alike, I say to the minister. Let's get out of it altogether. Fogo Island Co-op is no more than FPI in Bonavista. It is no more than Atlantic Marine in Trouty, I say to -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: It is a business.

MR. EFFORD: You said that Fogo Island Co-op is no more than FPI.

MR. FITZGERALD: And no more than Atlantic Marine, and no more than Atlantic Crab Products in Trouty, Mr. Chairman. If you are going to go and subsidize an industry, then let's treat everybody alike. Let's treat everybody alike. Let's treat the processors alike, and if they are going to go out and compete then let them compete on a level playing field. Let's not use the taxpayers' dollars of this Province again to allow processors to go out and pay more for a product than their competitors can pay.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I say to the Government House Leader, do you feel it is right?

MR. TULK: Yes.

MR. FITZGERALD: You feel it is okay to put forward government guaranteed loans and allow the same processor to go out and pay ten cents a pound more -

MR. TULK: No, no.

MR. FITZGERALD: Well, that is what is happening.

MR. TULK: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) last year, and I think the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture has made it a condition. You just asked the question and said how (inaudible), that it is not going to happen again.

MR. EFFORD: That is right.

MR. FITZGERALD: It has already happened.

MR. TULK: No, not this year.

CHAIR: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

MR. FITZGERALD: It happened last year when they were (inaudible) extended it to $2 million.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Now they have extended it and rewarded them by extending it to $2 million, Mr. Chairman. So I plead with the Minister of Finance as he leaves the room, and I plead with the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, because obviously he has taken this to the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance does not approve such guaranteed loans unless the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture comes looking. He would not do it! It is at his recommendation. So I can't see how he can go out and talk out of both sides of his mouth.

I say to the minister, let's get out of the business. Let's allow processors to process, harvesters to harvest, and let's do it on a level playing field.

With those remarks I will sit down and allow somebody else to continue if they want.

[Continuation of today's sitting will be found in Hansard No. 37A]


June 2, 1998              HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS             Vol. XLIII  No. 37A


[Continuation of Sitting]

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

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In addressing some of the comments and questions raised by both the previous speakers I will go through some of the issues that were raised.

With respect, particularly to the issue of a warrant, I think, which was raised earlier on, the warrant was around the issue of being able to go into a child care centre. I think it is important to note that this warrant is not in respect to any concerns around child welfare issues but rather to make sure the license holder is upholding the terms and conditions of the act. The terms and conditions of the act are spelled out. If you look at clause 13 you can see those regulations that would be applied on inspection when the director sent in the inspector to do that. That is mostly around program materials and books and those sorts of things.

I think it is important to note that if there was ever a concern of any child welfare component that this would be tended to under the normal act that we have in place right now, and that if you fear any child is in danger you are required to report that issue to the police or to the director or representative of child welfare.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MS J.M. AYLWARD: With respect to the whole issue of consultation, I think it is very important to note, for those who are actively listening to this -

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: - and there seem to be very few at this point in time, although it is a very important piece of legislation, one that I am very proud to bring into this House and that this government would support.

For the first time ever in this Province, Mr. Speaker, we are introducing licensed regulated day care for children under the age of two. As many people in this House and in this Province know, it has been very difficult to put children in an environment where they are licensed and regulated and where you do not have to fear for the programs being offered to those children under the age of two.

With respect to consultation, I know myself, as a former active lobbyist for licensed regulated day care, this has been a wish and a very strong lobby from the whole community as it relates to the child care community, particularly the early childhood educators and all of the advocacy groups. I think it is important to note that we have worked very closely in consultation with all of these groups over the last two years. We never pulled this out of our hat. In fact, not only have we consulted, but we had an advisory committee comprised, in a very inclusive way. Not exclusive, but inclusive of all the groups and all of the people that have raised issues over the years with respect to child care.

We as a government are very committed to putting forward an opportunity once and for all, not only addressing the needs in rural and urban Newfoundland alike. For example, with the opportunity now for providing licensed regulated day care in a person's home, this will allow people in rural areas, where they do not have licensed regulated day care centres, to provide that service and still have the regulation available, so that they know their children are being cared for.

With respect to regulations, we are working towards regulations where we will look at, for example, the ratios for children and how they will differ for children between the ages of zero and two vis--vis children from two to twelve, if that is the older age to which they will be cared for in the child care centre.

Also, we would be looking at the group size, and limiting the group size, again based on the age group. As you can imagine, the younger the child the more supervision the child would require, and the older groups would require less supervision, but still within the group of children to which they are accustomed, particularly their age group.

I think it is important to stress again that we have done extensive consultations with the family centred child care which will now be licensed. For the first time ever in this Province, you will be able to put children under the age of two in a licensed regulated day care centre with very clear guide-lines and recommendations that will be put forward under the regulations. These regulations will be put in place so that we will be able to access the money that will become available to us under the National Child Benefit which comes into effect in July. We are quite anxious to be able to make this money available to the people that are interested in doing this.

Again, it is a voluntary process. No person who wants to provide care in their own home will be forced to obtain a license, unless they are providing that care for more than the required number of children. In this case if it's four children they will be requiring the licensure, and they will have to go through the process. I think that perhaps addresses all of the issues I'm aware of with respect to the questions that were asked.

The regulations will be made, as I said, to coincide with the available monies from the National Child Benefit. These regulations aren't things that we have pulled out of our hat, but they have been very strongly requested and recommended from the advisory committee group that has been in place and working on this issue for the last two years. I know from meeting and speaking with them as Minister of Human Resources and Employment, in my current role, as well as my colleague, I know that there is a lot of support in the advocacy community, a lot of support from early childhood educators. It is something they have been lobbing governments for traditionally in this Province for twenty-five years. I think they are quite pleased to see us move in this direction, one that means we will be working very closely with the community health boards so they can do the proper inspection and regulation under the directors as appointed under the community health boards. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Respecting Child Care Services In The Province," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 31)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 23, Bill 33, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Pensions Act. (Inaudible) Scrooge will have a go at it.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Pensions Act". (Bill No. 33)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. These are the amendments that we proposed in the Budget Speech. They consist of two essential ingredients.

One is an increase in the members contributions to 8 per cent and to 9 per cent effective next April 1. As the members know, having seen their pay cheques, without any other increases, they suffer a decrease of 1 per cent from their income in favour of their pensions, which people outside this hallowed Chamber consider generous, if not extravagant.

The second aspect of it set forth here is that for persons who will subsequently enter this House their pensions will be reduced from the amount that is now provided to an average over the ten year period, down from 4 per cent for three years, then 2.5 per cent for the next three years, to 2.5 per cent over ten years. The maximum period will be twenty years to obtain a pension rather than what is now seventeen.

This is the product of the insight of members here collectively who will no doubt vote in favour of this piece of legislation as being a wise and prudent amendment to the benefits that people feel should be brought into line with current thinking on these matters, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It seems like every time the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board stands we get poorer. That seems to be what happens.

I'm delighted we are able to contribute to the unfunded liability there and help the cause here, the taxpayers of this Province. I thought he was going to stand up and tell me for all the hard work we are doing here, the long days and nights and so on, that he was going to try to compensate it for the big loss of income by coming into this House over what I was making before I came in. I (inaudible) that. It was a shock. When you look at it, and what you spend in the process, you don't realize the overall amount.

Every day you are getting poorer. I think we are going to have to get out of here as fast as we can. Because if you declare bankruptcy you are sure to get out of here. I think that is the only thing that can cause a member to vacate his or seat, I believe, (inaudible), if you declare - or did we change that? Did we change that last year?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) bankruptcy?

MR. SULLIVAN: Bankruptcy.

AN HON. MEMBER: And (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible). We all could be out of here, I would say, we all could be gone. Basically this is just to implement what was announced earlier in line there to start moving to put plans back on a more solid footing there. As I said earlier, there is probably a way to do that too. Probably also cut down the size of the House to forty members or less and so on, then we won't have as many people. We won't have as many paying in either, but at least it won't go as fast. What is here is nothing new, it is just to implement announcements that were already made some time ago. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I'm just going to say a few words on this legislation. It's designed to bring the pensions of Members of the House of Assembly more in line with the other pensions for public sector employees in the area of recognition of the Canada Pension Plan pensions. That I think is a reasonable and fair thing to do, to increase the contribution of pensions to 8 per cent and then 9 per cent. Given the nature of the pensions I don't think it's unreasonable. The contribution for Members of Parliament I think is at 10 per cent of a member's salary, so it is certainly moving closer to that. These changes are reasonable and I think recognize that there have to be some changes in legislation so that there is a degree of uniformity on some of these conditions with other public sector pensions.

In saying so, I don't mind going on record and saying that I support the fact that the pension for Members of the House of Assembly is one which recognizes the - I won't say the contribution that we make. I say it recognizes the nature of the work, that it's something that is by its nature temporary and subject to the decisions (inaudible) from time to time which may be based on merit but may not. A member can work very hard and be the best member his constituents ever had, but for political reasons, or the party, the changes in the public mood with respect to a particular party or leader or any other matter, a person's political career can be short-lived.

In fact, I think a study of the House of Commons showed that less than half of the members elected in any one election ever get to serve long enough to draw a pension. For those whose other career is interrupted by service as a Member of the House of Assembly or member of a legislature, then they (inaudible) which recognizes that that is a very different kind of job and work and contribution than exists in the private sector or the public sector where there is some security of tenure, whether it be in the teaching profession or as a university professor, or someone who works in private industry or has built up a professional practice as an accountant, a lawyer, a doctor or any other field of endeavour. It's not easy in many cases to slip in and out of a particular field of endeavour whether it be private employment or as a professional. It's in recognition of those factors I think that the justification for a pension plan that is considered by many to be more generous than those.

Also let me say that in my view the attack on pensions of elected officials is an attack on democracy. I say that those who seek to diminish pensions of Members of the House of Assembly or diminish respect for the House of Assembly by using pensions as an excuse are quite often those, especially on the national level, who don't have respect for the democratic process and for the democratic institutions that we have. Quite often they are people who, by their other actions and by their other approaches, want to diminish the power of legislatures, want to diminish the power of government, want to diminish the role of government in organizing our society and protecting our people, and want to leave everything to the private sector except printing the money and defending the country.

This whole issue about public pensions for legislators is one which is at the heart of democracy, and I don't think you need to be extravagant nor are we extravagant in this type of pension program. With that, Mr. Speaker, I would say that I support the changes to our pension plan proposed by this legislation.

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

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Pensions Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 33)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 17, Bill 19.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Elections Act, 1991". (Bill No. 19)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would just like to say a few words briefly about the act. Before the last provincial election, and afterwards, concerns were raised about the amendments that have been made in something of a piecemeal fashion at a previous point. This was the first election which was ran according to the rules. Certain problems were discovered, and upon the advice of the Chief Electoral Officer it was brought to our attention that matters should be reviewed and changes made because of inconsistencies and others.

Consequently, the parties of the House and the members set up a group to look at this and to provide us with some changes that seem to make sense. To a large extent, the elections laws across the country vary somewhat but has substantially the same principles that seem to work reasonably well in our democracy. The choices made - which I think have the endorsement of most of the members of this House and the political parties involved - generally reflect the federal act. If anything, we are probably more stringent rather than less stringent than the federal enactment.

I believe members have had a chance to review it. It has been the subject of some very detailed work, as I said, by the groups to which I have referred. I would commend it to the House for review and passage.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a few comments to make here. Tomorrow in Committee I will get an opportunity to talk in a little more detail, but I just have a few little particular points there.

Really, the act was introduced back in 1994, was it, or 1995, whenever it was initially. All of it wasn't proclaimed. Basically what we are seeing in this act now is all the parts are almost the same as it was initially introduced. We did have access to some of these and were fairly familiar with what would be coming down the pipe. There have been a few alterations, a few little adjustments and so on.

I'm certainly pleased to see things like a by-election called, for example, in three months. I think that is long enough. Any districts without representation for three months should have someone represent them in the House of Assembly. I think that is certainly positive to see. Beforehand by-elections were at the whim of the premier. You can have people waiting for eight and nine months, for a year and that. I must say that is positive.

There are a few other points. Election expense limits, I think, a minimum of twelve, because remote areas are a problem. We have to recognize our geography. I will use Torngat Mountains as an example. If you followed the exact spending per limit there at $3, with less than 3,000 electors, it would be $9,000. It's a district that is difficult to get to. Air fare alone is another cost of getting there, it would be expensive, although I think personal expenses could be excluded. Still, there is a high cost of getting there. That is a positive thing.

Election limits on spending. We support a limit on spending on elections. We probably wouldn't want a campaign to be financed by two millionaires giving us $1 million each. At least there are some limits there, at least it limits then the ability of parties - and by having a ceiling that is reasonable allows reasonable access to contributions of a political nature there, and still not go overboard with it.

Those are some of the points, a few of the general points that come to mind there quickly. I'm not going to say anything else on this today, but tomorrow in Committee I will have a few comments as we get to the different clauses of the bill and discuss it further. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would just like to speak for a few minutes on this piece of legislation which was delivered to me half an hour ago in the form that is now before the House. Once again it's a piece of legislation that is of great importance to the Province and to the democratic process, one that should have received the scrutiny of a legislative review committee, one that perhaps it has not seen.

The new elections act is proposing to insure that an election is a twenty-one day affair as opposed to the thirty days that was in the legislation passed by this House but not proclaimed in 1991.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible.)

MR. HARRIS: Minimum, and maximum. Last time the legislation that was not proclaimed said thirty days. I think the election was twenty-six or twenty-seven days. The previous legislation said at least thirty days. I think twenty-one days is an election period that favours the incumbent, let's face it. It's an opportunity for the government to pick its window. It favours incumbent governments as well as incumbent members. Twenty-one days, I think that must be the shortest period in Canada, is it? It was a favourite of Mr. Smallwood, I know, to have elections in twenty-one days. I know it was the favourite of former Premier Smallwood to have twenty-one day elections.

It seems the government is able to sustain a poll, for example, like the poll that is out today. The government has been experiencing with this process for the last little while. They have some kind of arrangement with Corporate Research Associates to do a poll every four months, and they have a sort of ten- or twelve-day period. The government sort of piles up the announcements and they know when the poll is being done. The polling period is between May 14 and May 25, so let's stack up the announcements, folks. Let's sit around the Cabinet table and decide: Okay, we have to have an announcement from this minister, that minister and the other minister. Let's stack them all up. We will have the announcements, we will spend the money, we will unleash the public purse. We will have the grand announcements, the press conferences and the press releases, public statements. Not only will we have the ministerial statements, we will invite in the people who are affected so that they are in the House of Assembly in the gallery with a pre-warning, and they will give them the announcement, and then they are ready to praise the minister.

That is the way this government has achieved the polling results that it has, by having special announcements in the House, bringing in the people affected who are going to be getting some money, available for interviews right after the House, maximum publicity during the period of the poll. It's wonderful.

I know there is a case going to the Supreme Court of Canada now that is proposing to outlaw polls for the period of two or three days before the election because of the problems of potentially manipulating the voter. I know why.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) last night.

MR. HARRIS: I wouldn't worry about last night, I say to the Government House Leader. The people watched that. The people made up their own mind on who had lost it, who was talking demagoguery, who was talking blood and guts, and who was talking sense. We will see, Mr. Speaker, what the public thinks of that, particularly the people who are active in rural Newfoundland in the sealing industry.

What I see in this bill is an attempt by government to open up the party support, open up the coffers, allow corporations to get more. Double up the amounts. Individuals are going to give $8,000 during election year to parties. How many individuals are going to give $8,000 to a party. What kind of individuals are they? Are they ordinary folks who are working for a living or trying to get a job? Are they the ones who are going to be contributing the $8,000 to a political party?

Why do we need to expand the limits? Do we need to have limits to say: Okay, an individual, instead of having the ability to contribute $2,500 or $5,000, they are going to increase that now so he can contribute $8,000 in an election year. Who is going to contribute that? The poor people, the people on social assistance, the people who need government to work for them, working people, unemployed people looking for jobs? Are they the ones who are going to give money to political parties in the amounts of $8,000? A $2,500 contribution is not enough.

It is not enough to have rules that say you can only give $2,500. You have to up the ante so those who can afford to support the party that is going to support them can give more. The more bang for their buck, or more bucks for their bang. They can give more bucks to get the policies and get the people elected who are going to look after their interests. This kind of change is contrary to the democratic system because it disentitles, or makes the value of an individual contribution clearly depended on your ability to contribute and not on your numbers.

I think it's a backwards step to make those kinds of increases, and to increase the abilities of corporations to contribute, up from $20,000 in an election year up to $40,000. We remove the requirement that a corporation even be doing business in the Province. Those who want to do business in the Province, those who are looking for EDGE status, those who are looking for special consideration from this government, those who are looking for tax credits from the film development corporation, those who are looking for special rules who want to come into the Province to do business, are now also able to contribute to political parties under the new rules proposed here.

These changes make government less accountable to the people and more accountable to the people with the dollars. No wonder he kept it under wraps, no wonder it was hidden away. The media hasn't even looked at it. We might have a report -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) legislation last year.

MR. HARRIS: The last time they passed it to me. It was only passed to me, I say to you, today. The final version was today.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, I passed it to you five days ago, the legislation (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: When was June 2, Mr. Speaker? Was June 2 five days ago?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: Perhaps I could table a letter that I received from somebody saying here it is, on June 2, dated June 2, on a confidential basis. Today by my calender is June 4.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: My calender says it's June 4 now, and the Government House Leader says five days ago. Mr. Speaker, this legislation, when they do this you know they are up to something. There isn't going to be any public debate about this. The House is going to be closed tomorrow, or the next day, or next week sometime.

AN HON. MEMBER: Maybe next week, maybe July.

MR. HARRIS: Maybe July, maybe August. The kind of changes they have here are designed to make it a lot easier for the government to have a quick and dirty election when it suits them best. That is the system that we have, Mr. Speaker. We have a parliamentary system where the government can call the election whenever they like. That is part of the parliamentary system. The counterpoint to that ought to be an election system that is beneficial to the ordinary people who make up the electorate. This legislation takes away the control of the ordinary people -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: - and increases the power of those who have dollars to spend on election contributions, those corporations and individuals who are well healed and who want the government to respond to the needs of those who are well healed.

On that basis I have to say that this legislation is being introduced in a rather hasty manner without proper lead time for public debate and discussion. I have to speak against those provisions that limit the democratic process and make it more difficult for ordinary people to have influence on the electoral process. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would point out to the hon. member that the people of the Province have an influence on the electoral process every three or four years, whenever elections are called. Should his view of what an appropriate regime for election finances and elections in the Province differ from ours or our colleagues opposite, then put that to the people and should they so choose they can accept his version and make him the government; and his colleagues, should he have some.

Having said all of that, as I say, anytime one comes in with an act that has differing views that it tries to accommodate here and elsewhere in the Province, and we look for consensus, no doubt some people may say certain things about it.

I just want to comment on the twenty-one days. My view of the twenty-days - and I've been involved in federal and provincial elections - is that provincially whether you had a month, or if you had twenty-one days, the effective campaigning timing in the provincial elections is about two weeks. I've been involved both in elections that have won and lost on each side of the House. For people to understand the issues, to get to know the candidates, and for the candidates to do a fair job, in my view it takes a week to get organized and two weeks of campaigning. I believe that has been sufficient. If that favours the government in power to the extent that some people would believe - is long enough, my colleague opposite says -, my point of view, win, loss or draw, is that three weeks is quite enough to have the outcome determined.

Beyond that we have seen changes in this Province, and those have occurred on the twenty-one days. There was a time when people would have thought thirty days but I think now, even federally, they book short in the period because the consensus is it's just too much, and it's a lot of strain on people, resources, candidates and the rest of it. Notwithstanding protestations to the contrary, I believe it's a fair summary of where we should all be, and it gives the electorate a fair chance to make an assessment, Mr. Speaker, fair or otherwise of all of us who stand before you.

With that I move second reading. Thank you.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Elections Act, 1991," read a second time, ordered referred to a Commitment of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 19)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow - just before I move the adjournment of the House - the bills that we passed in second reading today will move forward to Committee stage. Order Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5 on today's Order Paper are also in Committee stage. I think we will start with Order No. 2 tomorrow, maybe, in Committee stage, and go down through them, because that is the order in which they will fall. If we get time tomorrow, we will also call Motion No. 2, Bill 11, the loan and guarantee act.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.

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