June 4, 1998                 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS            Vol. XLIII  No. 39


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin our routine proceedings today, the Chair would like to take the opportunity to welcome thirty Grade V students from W. E. Cormack Academy in the District of St. George's - Stephenville East and Port au Port. They are accompanied by teachers, Stephen Penney and Gary Ash.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: In the gallery today are forty Grade V students, and we would like to welcome them as well, from the Twillingate Elementary School in the District of Twillingate & Fogo, accompanied by teachers, Sharon Rogers and Margie Green; parents, Vera Broderick, Valerie Hopkins, and Joe Jennings; and bus driver, Ross Dalley.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: We also have forty-three Grade VII students from Catalina Elementary, and we would like to welcome them today. They are from the Bonavista South District, accompanied by teachers, Marvin Ryder and Theresa White, along with bus driver, Lewis Street.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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 am pleased to report to hon. members that construction of the new Janeway Health Centre is two months ahead of schedule.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: The speed of progress on the new facility is attributed largely to the mild winter, which has enabled the contractor to work almost around the clock on the project.

Mr. Speaker, to date three contracts valued at approximately $22 million have been awarded for foundation and site work, construction of the building exterior, and the installation of elevator systems. In the next two weeks, three additional contracts will be awarded for electrical, mechanical and fire protection systems. Within the next month, tenders will be called for a number of projects including work on the interior of the building, and also for ventilation and electrical distribution systems.

Mr. Speaker, by mid-summer approximately 90-95 per cent of work anticipated for the construction of the new Janeway will be tendered and awarded.

Today there are about fifty people employed at the construction site. By late summer, once the remaining contracts have been awarded for mechanical and electrical work, we anticipate several hundred people will be working on the site.

Mr. Speaker, redevelopment of health facilities in St. John's represents a $130 million investment in our infrastructure. Of that $130 million, between $65 million and $70 million is allocated for the construction of the new Janeway Health Centre. We are within our original estimates and anticipate a completion date of the new facility as projected by spring of the year 2000.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the efforts of both Pyramid Construction and Olympic Construction, the primary contracts to date, for bringing this project ahead of schedule.

In addition to work on the new Janeway, we are also overseeing a number of redevelopment projects for other health facilities in the St. John's area. Approximately $20 million in expansions and renovations to the Health Sciences Centre will get under way this summer and carry over into next year. This includes plans to expand the emergency and the ICU units. Design work is now 90 per cent complete. As well, Mr. Speaker, another $20 million is allocated for renovations to St. Clare's Mercy Hospital, including the installation of new mechanical and electrical systems. Work on this site should begin this fall. Renovations in the range of $2 million for the Waterford Hospital will be undertaken within the next two weeks.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, we are in the design stage for an expansion to the utilities annex at Memorial University. This project, estimated at $6 million, will include the installation of additional heating and cooling systems and emergency power supply for the new Janeway.

At this time, I am pleased to report that we are within our schedules and budget projections for all projects.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, I say to the minister, the initial announcement said in the fall of 1998. An announcement made last year indicated it would be ready in the fall of 1999. Now the minister tells us we are so far ahead of schedule it is going to be ready in the spring of 2000. We are ahead of schedule, and it is going to be six months later than initially planned. The math does not add up on that one, I say to the minister, it does not add up at all. That was an official statement released last summer. Check your records.

The $130 million you referred to, I want to say to the minister, does not jive with what the Auditor General states. In fact, the costs are going to be higher. You are not including the closing of the Salvation Army Grace General. There is the Charles Janeway. The moving expenses to renovate a building, and the cost of new equipment for the newly renovated and the new construction of the buildings are not included in the $130 million, I might add.

I ask, why the delay? If we are moving forward, why the delay in getting necessary renovations going at St. Clare's now as opposed... You have stated the Grace is shutting down. Why wait two years later to get things moving, I say to the minister?

I certainly want to compliment the construction companies, Pyramid and Olympic, as the minister said, in moving that agenda because once the government let the contract and it was out they have done a commendable job, I say to the minister. In fact, I stated from day one that I support any savings in capital, in plant facilities, that could be directed within the system. I support that to get efficiency in the system.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: Just a second to finish up?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you.

I have stated that I support any monies we can take out of those capital costs and direct them into a more efficient operation to save the dollars in health care to add on services that we are going to need in the system. I can support that, but I cannot support a cost of funds that is going to syphon dollars out of health care as we have done with the education system. That is the difference.

I want to ensure, and to say to the Minister of Health and Community Services, that dollars that are saved in this will stay in the system and be able to be used in the system to provide services now that are very strapped for dollars because we have not given them any money, not even up to the inflationary cost, that is needed to keep these facilities going.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Sure.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are delighted to hear that progress is being made on the construction of a new facility for the Janeway Hospital. While the minister is talking about the dollars being spent on the bricks and mortar and facilities, the concerns still exist around this Province about the level of services being provided across the board in health care, the length of waiting lists for surgery, the deterioration of services in rural Newfoundland, and the fact that home care is totally inadequate in this Province. These are issues that need to be addressed as well, Mr Speaker.

 

Oral Questions

 

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are for the Premier.

Yesterday, the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal said in the House that federal officials have just been in this Province to brief provincial officials on Ottawa's proposed follow-up to the TAGS program. Clearly, as we all know, it is one of the most significant announcements in the history, in recent times, to the people in this Province.

We also heard yesterday that our federal Cabinet minister knew nothing about the meeting that was about to take place.

My question for the Premier is: Does the Premier know more about what is going on with the follow up TAGS program than our federal minister knows in Ottawa?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, we have had a committee of officials in Newfoundland, and I believe that that committee of officials is travelling to each of the Atlantic Provinces and to the Province of Quebec, and I would suspect to the Province of British Columbia, to talk about support programs for those who have been displaced from the fishery, or may be displaced from the fishery.

There is a proposal of sorts which is being discussed with each of the provinces. Obviously the normal confidentiality requirements restrict us in the detail of public comment that we can make. Let me just sat that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has indicated, through our officials, to the officials committee, and indeed I have taken the trouble to indicate since directly to appropriate representatives of the federal government, that the program as it is currently constituted, or at least the draft that we have seen, while it contains many of the kind of proposals that we put on the table, and indeed an all party committee put on the table, it does not in our judgement represent a complete response, nor one that is appropriately funded.

Mr. Speaker, that information will be taken back as part of a broader consultation with four or five provinces and will be considered by the federal Cabinet. I would hope that once the committee of officials complete their tour and report back to the federal Cabinet committee making the decisions that there will be adjustments.

The position of the Province remains that we need a licence retirement, we need early retirement - and we have said that we will participate in funding up to 30 per cent of that as a Province - we need labour market adjustment programs, economic development programs and income support. I can confirm that a significant amount of that is on the table, but not all of that is on the table. Quite frankly, I can't get into a public dialogue on detail of something that is now in negotiation; I wouldn't say negotiation, but a consultation between two levels of government. I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that our position remains unchanged. We will be doing our best, and indeed I will be doing my best, to ensure that the fishermen and plant workers of this Province are treated properly by the federal government.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, we have adopted in this House a non-partisan sort of approach to this issue, and I think that it is going to bode everybody well in the process. In doing that - I mean this obviously is one of the biggest decisions, one of the most profound decisions, that affects this Province and many of its communities.

I would like to ask the Premier: In light of the fact that officials were here, that we have adopted an all party approach, why then was the All Party Committee not included in the briefing? Could the Premier explain that?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think that the Leader of the Opposition understands and he knows that I concur, that the All Party Committee has done good work in Ottawa.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: I frankly think, Mr. Speaker, that in terms of moving the issue from the kind of early reports that we heard about, a fund of less than $200 million to something which is far more substantial today, is in good part consequence of the excellent work done by the All Party Committee, which all parties have participated in and which was led by the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal and by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Mr. Speaker, that being said, we are now at a stage where the Government of Canada, on a confidential basis, through its officials' committee or group, have given a briefing or given a briefing to a number of provinces at this stage. Here is our early thinking, here are the program components that we are thinking about, here is the approach we are contemplating taking and they are asking for a response government to government.

I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that as soon as we have a formal proposal - this is still part of the consultative process and indeed one that we asked for - as soon as we have something substantial that we can make public, there will be absolutely no delay in making that information public. For the moment we have said publicly - the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal did so yesterday - that what is before us thus far is not something that we think is sufficient or complete and we are asking for additional consideration, additional program criteria, Mr. Speaker, and additional funds.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, four or five weeks ago it was becoming obvious that for those people who were dropped immediately, some 2,200 from the program, that some form of tie-over or bridge would be put in place for those. What do we tell those people today? We have seen evidence of it, not only publicized on provincial airways, both tv, radio and paperwise, but every member in this House who has constituents who have been impacted or affected by it have made calls.

So when can we hope or when can we see something tangible being offered to that group of people that would bridge them and take the anxiety that they and their families, and as a result their communities, are now facing?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I think the Leader of the Opposition has said it very well. There are thousands of Newfoundlanders, thousands of women and men, who had a long association in the fishery, and their families, who have been waiting for quite a long period of time to know what the future will hold. We have all in this House called upon the federal government to move quickly through the decision making process. Mr. Speaker, it is one of the realities of the federal government, given its size and given the range of issues across the country, that it doesn't move swiftly through a decision making process. I know, I was there, and it doesn't move fact enough in almost any circumstance, and it is certainly not moving fast enough in this circumstance.

I would only hope that the fact that an officials committee is now moving across Atlantic Canada, I understand, and Quebec, this week is an indication that a decision by the federal government is coming very soon. Mr. Speaker, let us all remind ourselves of this. It is more important, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, and I believe he will agree, to get the right decision, now that we are coming down to a decision making period, than to have a decision made the day after tomorrow or the day after that that is the wrong decision.

That is why we asked that the Government of Canada consult with the provinces affected, and no province is more affected than Newfoundland and Labrador, and consult with the union prior to coming to a final judgement. That is what they are doing. We are responding, we hope, in a constructive way, but a clear and firm way, and we will have to see the outcome of that representation.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: We have all heard the talk that the post-TAGS program that is being viewed is not only for this Province, obviously: P.E.I., Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and certainly as the situation exists on the Pacific coast where the federal minister is from. I say to the Premier there is great risk here, despite our extraordinary dependence upon the fisheries, that we, as a province, may be - how could you categorize it? - a small fish in a big sea when it comes to a response program. That is unless we have a strong voice on the national scene and in Ottawa to make the case about the special circumstances. I believe that in the federal Cabinet today that strong voice is lacking.

Premier, will you use this opportunity - maybe you have, and if you have you can enlighten the House and elaborate to the extent that you think you can - in a more public way to use every avenue open to you? In view of the fact, as First Minister of this Province, in view of the fact that we have a federal minister who seems not to know what is happening, could you use every avenue open to you, both nationally and in Ottawa, to ensure that not only a quick response is forthcoming, but the correct response is forthcoming?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the non-partisan approach the Leader of the Opposition is taking today, and I know that it would be perhaps easy and tempting for him to take another approach. I want to acknowledge that today.

I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition, and through him I say to the people of this Province, that he and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador can be assured that anybody who occupies this chair has to exercise every option open to that individual, whoever is premier, to make representation on behalf of those who have been affected. That is something I am in the process of doing, and I will do to the absolute best of my ability, and I will take whatever action, go to any location, to make the case as effectively as possible. That is already under way.

I want to make one other comment. The Leader of the Opposition has made comments about Newfoundland's representative in the federal Cabinet. I want to tell him that I know, from personal experience and from many discussions, that the representative in the federal Cabinet has been more preoccupied and more involved with this file in the last number of months than with any other issue before Minister Mifflin. I know that for a fact. I also know that Minister Mifflin has carried this file within the system from the entirely inadequate response of less than $200 million some months ago to something that is far more tangible today. Mr. Speaker, it's very easy in times of difficulty to cast blame. I think we should await the final result.

I would also add this: It doesn't strengthen the hand of the federal minister at this time for his capacity and his ability and his commitment to represent this Province to be questioned. I would only say to the Leader of the Opposition - perhaps in a better position to make this observation - I can assure you Minister Mifflin has been engaged in this file with all of his strength and all of his ability.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: All I can say to the Premier is that maybe we will agree to disagree on that subject and confine ourselves to the abilities of the members in this House; you, me and every other member.

Speculation abounds about how big this program will be, Premier, $450 million, $700 million, $1 billion. Some of it will be for economic diversification, part of it is hoped to be for income support, part of it is hoped to be for licence buy-out and another part of it is hoped to be for early retirement.

I want to say to the Premier, surely this matter today, in light of the confusion, the misinformation that seems to be around this subject today, is a matter that needs to be discussed at the highest levels; First Minister to Prime Minister.

I would like to ask the Premier today: Does he have or has he received any firm indication or commitment from the Prime Minister on this file, as he refers to it, with respect to not only when an announcement will be made that will alleviate much of the anxiety that exists in the Province and in many of our communities today, but on the level and type of program that will exist, that it meets the needs of each and every person in this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to the Prime Minister about this file, as the Leader of the Opposition knows, in the past, and no doubt I will be talking to the Prime Minister about this whole issue in the future. I think we have to recognize that what we have this week - and I do not think we should under-estimate its importance, nor do I think we should leap to conclusions - is a committee of officials visiting all of the affected Provinces. Newfoundland and Labrador is the most affected Province by far. We have the lion's share, regrettably, of those who have been displaced from the fishery.

Mr. Speaker, that process is under way. A report will be carried back to federal ministers, the appropriate ministerial committee, and, at that stage, I would hope we will get a better response or a more attractive, more acceptable complete package, than that we have seen thus far.

I want to stress that many of the things we have been saying, many of the components we have asked for, including some of the more important ones, are there. Not all are there. That is our problem and, in our judgement, what is there is not there with sufficient funding to do the job.

Mr. Speaker, we would be the first to acknowledge that there are pieces on the package that have been laid before us that confirm, we think, that the federal government has been listening to us. Some of the things we have been saying are now reflected, some of the important components are there, but it is not a complete package.

My job and the job of ministers, and I would say the job of all members of this House, is to improve upon what has been put before us and to help produce something which is acceptable and helpful in these very, very difficult circumstances.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Minister of Environment and Labour.

Minister, last fall we asked you, as Labour Minister, about the government's intention to address the outrageous practice of Workers Compensation of deeming. The government, at that time, had in its hands the report of the Statutory Review Committee which condemned deeming and told the government what to do about it.

The minister stood in this House and stated, in no uncertain terms: The way it is done now I consider to be unacceptable. There is no doubt in my mind and in the mind of members opposite that deeming is a problem. For every injured worker sitting in the gallery, it is a problem. We will deal with it; your words.

Why has the minister failed to live up to his commitment to deal with it, when we already know what is wrong and how to fix it? Why is the minister simply sending the report from one committee to yet another committee, to give him yet another report?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I must assume that the Member for Conception Bay South has not been listening, because what I said last fall in the House was simply this: That we would strike a committee to look at deeming. We did that. The people on it were represented by the Chair, who was the Deputy Minister of my Department, Mr. O'Neill. Austin Haynes, the President of the Injured Workers' Association, sat on that, Jim Skinner, the Statutory Review person sat on it, and I think it was a Mrs. Crosbie from the Commission who sat on that particular committee. They, of course, came to a unanimous decision as to what should be done with deeming.

I have said in the House a number of times, that many of the things these people advocated are already taking place at the Commission. I said: Labour market information has been improved, part-time hours have been improved, transferable skills have been improved, conflicting medical opinion has been improved, involvement of family physicians has been improved, and involvement of the last person in the process, the worker, has been improved. What I said in the House, and I continue to say, Mr. Speaker, is this, that I gave directions to the commission to have a committee of the commission now to monitor these things that are already in place and to see that indeed this is being done to help out the injured worker. Basically, what I have said is: You monitor it and keep me informed and if at the end of the year, these things that you people recommended, these things that you wanted, are not carried out, then let me know so that we can do something to change it.

Well, I have every confidence, Mr. Speaker, that the Commission's Board of Directors who represent the stakeholders, who represent workers, who represent employers, who are members there at large, will do their job. If, for example, Mr. Speaker, they cannot do their job, then we will find other people to put on the commission to see that the job is done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the minister today: Does he remember November 24 of last year, when we brought up the case of a man deemed ineligible for a job, a job which he was deemed capable of doing but yet did not have the academic qualifications to get? Does the minister remember saying on that day that deeming is a real problem? I agree with the member, it is a real problem. People are deeming for jobs that do not even exist. Therefore in that sense, it is a major problem. We will address it.

Why has he decided to break the commitment he made on November 24, to address this real problem instead of stalling for time?

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

MR LANGDON: Mr. Speaker, I am telling you that the question the member has just asked, I have answered a number of times. We have addressed the deeming process, and I am not saying to you that it is going to be 100 per cent fully clad. What I am saying to you is that the commission, the people who are on the commission representing the stakeholders, will carry out the directions of the committee that we struck, to which I made commitment and honoured, to make sure that the deeming process works. As I said to you, if this committee that is on the board does not make it work, then I will appoint some more people as a part of the committee to see that it does.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, I did not think the questions were that difficulty.

I will ask the minister again: Does he remember December 16 of last year -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Does the minister remember saying on that day, I have committed to this House, there are problems with deeming; there are no two ways about it? So I say to the minister: If there are no two ways about it, then what is with the delay, minister? If something is wrong and it needs to be fixed and you have been told exactly how to fix it, what is left for you to understand?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would hope that the Member for Conception Bay South will read Hansard tomorrow and see the answers that I gave him to the two previous questions.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. FRENCH: Very good, Mr. Speaker.

I just have one more question. I would like to ask the minister today what he would say to the lady who approached me yesterday in the lobby, whose husband works for DFO and earned overtime pay, while there was a freeze on being paid for overtime? They have now lifted the freeze on payment for overtime, the man has been paid and workers' compensation have taken that money back from this man. They have clawed that money back when in actual fact the money was earned when the gentleman was not injured. What would you, minister, tell that lady today?

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

MR LANGDON: Mr. Speaker, there are over 3,000 cases at the commission. I do not know every one of them individually, but if that particular person would come to my office, then I would arrange for a meeting with her and sit in with the officials at the commission to see if it can be solved.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are to the Minister of Health and Community Services.

There is a looming crisis concerning medical coverage provided to the six nursing homes in St. John's, namely: Hoyles Escasoni, St. Patrick's, Glenbrook Lodge, St. Luke's, Agnes Pratt and Masonic Park.

I want to ask the minister: Will she confirm that effective tomorrow, June 5, the Agnes Pratt Home will be without medical services because the two doctors there have resigned and advertising has failed to attract even one? And will she further confirm that effective July 1, every nursing home in this city will be without medical services for the over 1,000 residents because the twenty doctors serving those homes have served notice of their resignation.

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

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

As the member opposite knows, the Medical Association is in negotiations right now with the Department of Health and Community Services and Treasury Board and the boards. There are a number of issues on the table. One of those issues includes salary remuneration, long-term coverage care for nursing homes, emergency room coverage.

Mr. Speaker, as we have in the past, we have been experiencing difficulty in trying to cover our emergency room departments, and that was one of the reasons why back in the fall we increased our emergency room coverage from $65 an hour and $85 an hour respectively for urban and rural areas.

So, Mr. Speaker, there are issues, and I would say to the member opposite that the long-term nursing care board which is now in operation would be certainly dealing with the provision of physician services and would be referring. I would suggest that he refer those situations to them and let the negotiations carry on to meet the other requirements as outlined in collective bargaining.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader, a supplementary.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Discussions have been going on so long, they are tired of meetings. They have frustrations. I have letters, I say to the minister, finally including a resignation.

Will the minister admit that restraints that are put on the St. John's Nursing Home Board by this government have contributed to this looming crisis they are facing today?

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

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

As the member opposite may remember, in the recent Budget we have allocated increased money for the health care system to stabilize our boards, new money for community health. I will say again, while he might be frustrated with the process, there is a process in place. We have to respect the process called negotiations. I think he is familiar with the word and he knows the process.

I think it is important to note that the boards are responsible for the provision of services, whether it be in the emergency departments or whether it be in long-term care facilities, whether it be cardiovascular surgery or any other service, and that is how it works in the system.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In a letter on April 21, 1998, to the board - and this was after meetings and discussions - physicians are more than willing to provide their time for meetings -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member knows that quoting from letters and transcripts is not permitted on supplementary questions.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Physicians have indicated the underlying problems here. They are asked to work from Friday to Monday on call, without one cent of pay - time for reviews of drugs every three months, chart reviews, consultations with people, without any remuneration - when other nursing homes, Minister, have doctors on call getting paid.

They are frustrated with the system. They have resigned effective when it was given here. I ask the minister: Is it reasonable to expect these people, because of restraints imposed on them by you and this government, to have to withdraw their services here? Don't they deserve to be paid for those services?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, the Medical Association has their own negotiating committee, and I know they are quite capable of raising issues that are of concern to them at the table. I will say that salary is a very large component of what is being discussed at the table, not only salaries for fee-for-service positions and salaried physicians but in other ranges of services as well. Mr. Speaker, that is part of what is being negotiated at the bargaining table.

I know the member does not appreciate the concept of negotiations and collective bargaining, but there is a process involved and there are boards in place to help offset the cost.

I also have to reassure the people of the Province, to avoid the fear mongering that is certainly being imposed here.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: If he is referring to the St. John's area, he is also aware that we have a number of tertiary care centres as well as secondary centres in the event of an emergency, in the event of services being provided, and those facilities are here.

I will say again that the boards are in place, I have confidence in their ability, unlike the member opposite, and I also respect the process of negotiations, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question today is for the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

Mr. Speaker, recently the Cupids Development Corporation Group Inc. advertised in the newspapers a notice of intent to claim Crown land around the Cupids harbour apron for the purpose of locating a sports fishing tourism facility in the area. The development proposal is based on several premises: first, that John Guy once lived in the area and this may draw people to the area; and second, that the land is in fact Crown land.

Since the provincial government money and ministerial support has found its way into the mix, and since the concept of Crown land is involved, I ask the minister: Is he familiar with this matter? And is he aware of the contentions that the land this group is claiming is not in fact Crown land, as they have claimed, but in large part privately owned land?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, I am aware of the situation out there. I have my officials currently working on getting the information to me on which is private land and which is Crown land before we make any decisions. There is an advertisement out there and we have to let the process follow through, and at that point we will register the objections to it and we will deal with it at that particular time.

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

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

Minister, concerns have been raised by local landowners that this development proposal has the wholehearted support of not only the development association but also the council, the MHA, and at least one minister in the Cabinet. The landowners therefore fear that their claim on their own land is in significant jeopardy. Does the minister have any intention of condoning the expropriation of private land at Cupids so it can be used for this development?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is a process that is followed any time anybody applies for Crown land, and we will let the process take its course. All objections will be registered and we will deal with that matter when the whole process is completed.

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

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

Actually it is not proper procedure to do any, I suppose, consideration of an expropriation for any private development, Mr. Speaker.

My final supplementary will be to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Could the minister confirm that an application has been made to establish a sea urchin aquaculture operation in the same area in Cupids, and that his department gave a $2,300 grant to the proponents of the sports fishing development which would make the aquaculture operation difficult to pursue? Why are you, as Minister, in charge of fostering an aquaculture development -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, why is the minister in charge of fostering an aquaculture development in the Province promoting a tourism project which could prevent the establishment of the aquaculture operation in Cupids?

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

MR. EFFORD: That is utter nonsense.

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 as well, fresh back from a great debate on television last night between the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi and -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: - the provincial Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. I will leave it to the public of this Province to decide the winner, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

On a very serious question, the turbot fishery in area Ob, many fishermen in this Province have geared up to take part in that competitive fishery. They have hired their crew, they have prepared their boats, they have paid for observers, they have gone and bought their tags for the fishing nets. I ask the minister when he expects this fishery to start so those people may get on with their way of life?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, as early as 8:30 this morning I had spoken with one of the officials in Ottawa. He told me at that time that he would get back to me before the day is over. So hopefully before the day is over I will be able to answer that question in a more positive way.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

 

Orders of the Day

 

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 18, Bill No. 24, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act."

MR. SPEAKER: Order 18, the second reading of Bill No. 24. I believe the hon. Member for Conception Bay South adjourned the debate.

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to pick up where I left off yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Speaker, I guess there is an old saying, `If it is not broken why fix it?' I would think there are parts of this act that are probably broken and need fixing. There are certainly other parts of this act which are not broken and certainly do not need fixing, I say to the minister.

This Province's history before the existing act and the experience, I would say to the minister, in other jurisdictions has shown that the public purchasing can certainly be influenced by political considerations, where the opportunities for influence exist. The relative honesty of purchasing in recent years can be attributed to the strength of the existing act, which is based on the principle of public tenders with restricted exemptions.

These amendments throw wide open the opportunity to opt out of the public tendering for vague reasons, leaving government with the opportunity to avoid public tenders. Of course the amendments here virtually repeal this entire act. These amendments are a further indication of this government's desire to get rid of measures that make it awkward for the government to achieve its political end. At the same time, they will destroy the fairness and accountability to public procurement.

I don't know why we are out here trying to change the Public Tender Act, change it in the ways that we wish to have it changed. This bill makes numerous changes, some substantive, some that just clarify or are correcting words, some of them simply changing an `and' to an `or' and so on. There is nobody who has any real problem with any of that.

We look down to the new 3(2)(i), which would allow the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology to use her opinion - her opinion - to determine if work or an acquisition is for an economic development purpose. Cabinet has the final say in whether the exemption stands. The term `economic development purpose' is not defined in the act, and although section 12 gives Cabinet the power to define terms by regulations, Cabinet can rejig these regulations without reference to the Legislature, and can make regulatory changes retroactive to cover themselves. I really and truly think that is wrong.

The new 3(2)(j) would allow the head of a government funded body to use his or her opinion to determine if a tender would not achieve the best value. The minister responsible for that body need only to get Cabinet approval to carry out a Request for Proposals instead of inviting a tender. This Request for Proposals process will be defined by regulations; again, something that is at the discretion of Cabinet, and again without reference to the Legislature.

Clause 2(4) simply raises the barrier in 3(3) from $7,500 to $10,000 under, again, which Cabinet may use its discretion to call tenders anyway, despite 3(2)(a). Again, why?

I won't go through all of the changes that are here, but I certainly intend to take some time to go through some of them. Clause 4(2), this amendment regarding change orders and extensions, is contentious. It seeks to repeal subsection 5(3) which certainly puts a limit on those changes orders on extensions. It goes on and on and lists various amounts and what they can exceed, what they can go up to, and so on.

The government may argue that there is a safeguard in subsection 5(1) with the words: or the accumulative value of them. If that is the government's position, then surely they will allow us to amend this bill to let subsection 5(3) stay as it is. If they argue that removing it makes no difference, then they must also agree that there is no harm in letting it stay. If it does not make a difference, why are we going to take it out? Better a redundancy than a loophole, I say, Mr. Speaker, better a redundancy than a loophole.

Now, Mr. Speaker, clause 5. This change is critical if the government goes ahead with the new exclusions in clause 2(3) regarding economic development and best value. It adds these two new sections to the list of sections under which exceptions reports must be tabled in the House of Assembly on a regular basis. This requirement for reporting, however, does not get them off the hook. Once the decision is made to bypass public tendering, the damage is done to the companies excluded from bidding and to taxpayers in the final cost, if the final cost was too high.

Reporting, Mr. Speaker, simply shows us after the fact what they did. Later, there may have been so many examples of exceptions abuse, that these new exceptions may in actual fact, Mr. Speaker, get lost in the crowd. There is no requirement, Mr. Speaker, in this act that the minister or the head of a government body or Cabinet give any explanation of why they deem public works or a purchase be left untendered. There are no requirements, Mr. Speaker, in this act that the minister or the head of a government body or Cabinet, give an explanation of why they deem public work or a purchase to be left untendered. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that that is frightening and certainly is an area that we, as Members of this House of Assembly, should be looking at.

Clause 6: This change adds two more areas under which regulations may be made. The new 12(c) says: For the purpose of paragraph 3(2)(j) which involves a binding tender in the pursuit of the best value. Without a firm definition in the legislation itself, the definition and the use of this clause will be left to the discretion of Cabinet.

The new 12(e) says: Respecting the establishment and use of a registry of products manufactured in this Province. It might be argued, Mr. Speaker, that the registry should be defined and its use set out directly in the legislation, not in the less secure regulations. Again I have to ask: Why didn't we do that? Why didn't we do that, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker, there is the question of some recommendations, government procurement and the local preference. Procurement by the provincial government and its agencies - examples, Mr. Speaker, municipality, the university, the schools and the hospitals - represents a significant portion of spending in the Province each year. Local producers and manufacturers look at this spending as a major source of the business they need to survive and grow in the small, depressed local economy. Government procurement dollars that go to produce outside the Province represent a drain of money from the provincial economy. Again, Mr. Speaker, if it is possible to spend their money at home, I think we should be spending it home.

Unless there is a level playing field allowing local companies to compete successfully for procurement work in other provinces and countries, then we are net losers from such arrangements. If the playing field, Mr. Speaker, is not level, a strong case can be made for artificially re-balancing the playing field with measures that compensate local producers for their competitive disadvantages, but only to the extent that enables them to compete fairly for procurement contracts, not to the extent that we artificially prop up inefficient, poorly run or non-viable companies at the expense of the local taxpayer. I am not suggesting that at all.

Mr. Speaker, there are actions that this government could certainly take. First of all, Mr. Speaker, I think we should maintain the local 5 per cent preference standard for Newfoundland and Labrador that is now written into the Atlantic Provinces Procurement Agreement, and fight to maintain this standard in an integral trade agreement negotiated with other provinces. In other words, I believe the 5 per cent local preference for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador should certainly be left to stay where it is. We shouldn't take it out, we should certainly leave it in there.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, we should certainly establish a central registry of goods and services manufactured, produced or provided by companies in Newfoundland and Labrador, and put the onus on the companies themselves to ensure the registry is provided with comprehensive, updated information on all the products. I think that central registry should be established. I think it would be a good move on the part of government to have such a central registry.

Number three, using the registry information as a guide, ensure all government procurement contracts are broken down in such a way that goods and services not produced by local companies are separated from those which local companies do produce, to ensure local companies have the opportunity to bid for as much of the work as possible. Also, Mr. Speaker, ensure, within reason, tenders are divided into portions small enough that smaller and less diversified local producers can compete for this particular type of work.

Number four, Mr. Speaker, we should certainly ensure that tender specifications are generic rather than brand-name specific. Wherever possible this should certainly be done. In particular, using the registry as a guide, ensure a tender never specifies products produced only outside this Province when locally produced alternatives exist. This could certainly bode well for things that are produced in this Province. I have seen over the years, in various sporting things, that we can come out and specify a particular shirt, Brand X, Brand B or whatever, but in actual fact we could certainly buy the same quality that would be produced locally. We could certainly buy that in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, thereby keeping the business at home.

Number five, Mr. Speaker, we could write into the tenders and the contracts of government suppliers that their subcontractors must be fair to local companies in some of the same ways that the primary contractors are; specifically require the third-party subcontract work be broken down into manageable units that do not discriminate against local producers because of the size of the contracts, or the specifics of a small portion of the major subcontract; and also require that companies contracted to the government and its agencies be required to give local companies the opportunity to bid on all third-party subcontracts. I believe, Mr. Speaker, we still have work which is going out of this Province to mainland companies, and I am not sure that we are certainly getting the best bang for our dollar in this particular area.

One thing that quickly comes to mind is a contract which has been let to a general contractor. The general contractor is in this Province, but part of a subcontract, Mr. Speaker, from that is going to go to a company outside of our Province, where this company will actually bring in its own equipment, and in all probability its own workers, to do work on a project in this Province where Newfoundland firms are certainly capable of doing this work. I believe that we should provide, where humanly possible, every opportunity for people in our Province to acquire work.

Number six, Mr. Speaker, ensure that all government bodies, including again, municipalities, the University, the school boards and the hospitals, currently covered by the Public Tender Act, are also required to abide by these procedures. In other words, we should guarantee, we should make sure, that places such as Memorial University and school boards are all governed by and all have to follow the Public Tender Act in this Province. I think we should do that.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned Trans City yesterday. Under Trans City, the government tried to justify the hospital contract scandal by saying it was simply moving further ahead of the Public Tender legislation than the act would allow. They said they were well intentioned and progressive, but a little to eager. They said that they wanted an open-ended Request for Proposals that did not define specifically the materials to be used, and after they got the proposals, they would chose which design offered the best value for money, not necessarily the smallest upfront cost.

The evidence, however, Mr. Speaker, suggests that was manipulated, the criteria, after the fact, until they received what they wanted, a prize for some of their buddies. The court ruled consistently that the government broke its own law by doing that. What this new legislation does is remove impediments in the legislation that made their actions illegal, Mr. Speaker, and I believe that is right.

Under the revised legislation, they will have the freedom, under the economic development or the best value Request for Proposals provisions, to manipulate the process to whatever way they want to make the specs fit the contractor they seek to favour. While they may risk political fallout, at least they will not have to suffer the same legal fallout that we suffered in the Trans City deal.

Mr. Speaker, what this Bill does is pave the way, in my opinion, for the future Trans City deals by removing safeguards against what I would consider to be corruption.

Of course, it would be interesting, though probably not advisable, to read into the record the decision of the judges in this case, trial Judge Orsborn and appeal Judge Cameron. The Orsborn decision is 149 pages in length, while the Cameron decision is 68 pages long. This was an extremely embarrassing and costly mistake for government. Many of the ministers who advised the Cabinet to do what they did, or who sat in Cabinet when the decision was made, are still there today.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. FRENCH: Yes, I do. It should not be there.

Of course, Mr. Speaker, we all remember the Kodak bill. We were all called back in the middle of the summer. This was such a great thing, that Kodak bill had to go through. We had to be here. We had to be here nights, we had to be here afternoons, we had to be here to do this Kodak bill. We had to be here to get this done. You know, Mr. Speaker, what we lost, in my opinion, is the opportunity for companies, and especially the local companies, to compete on a level playing field.

Competition is not a bad thing, Mr. Speaker. If a company cannot survive competition, then perhaps it does not deserve to survive. It is one thing to give a company a boost or an advantage, but to give them a monopoly at the expense of existing or potential enterprises is wrong. The last time, with this Kodak bill or Kodak nonsense, we certainly had companies in this Province that were capable of providing similar work, Mr. Speaker.

We have all read in the past few days the contract that Ottawa has just put out, the Bombardier contract. Of course Ottawa bypassed the public tendering process, Mr. Speaker, and indeed pushed the limits Request for Proposals in the process to give the largest defence contractor in Canadian history to a company with ties to the Prime Minister. It is the example the minister says he is following when he seeks to bring our laws in line with those of the country as a whole. If this is where we are trying to bring our laws in line, Mr. Speaker, then I say we should certainly give this bill the royal order of the boot and get rid of it. Without we are going to see some amendments to this particular bill, Mr. Speaker, in this House - however long or whatever length of time this takes - this member here is left with no other alternative but to vote against this particular piece of legislation as it presently stands and is presently being presented.

So today, tomorrow or tonight, whenever this bill comes for vote, if it is not amended or if there are no amendments moved to this particular bill, Mr. Speaker, I, as one member of this House, will certainly vote to have it defeated. I don't believe that we should be doing the things in this bill which we are doing. I don't know why we are doing it, Mr. Speaker. I don't know if it is for political expediency, if we are favouring people in this bill or what, but if we are then we should stop doing it. I think, Mr. Speaker, we should certainly stop doing it in a hurry because, as I said earlier, the mess that we were in before we had a Public Tender Act at all, regardless of what government was in power, to me it was a disgrace and I don't believe that we should slip back to where we were some years ago.

So if we have an act that is not causing great problems to our Province, as I said, Mr. Speaker, if it is not broken why fix it? There are a lot of areas, I think, in this Public Tender Act which are not broken, and why the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation is trying to fix it is beyond me. I can only assume, whether rightly or wrongly, that there must be some ulterior motive somewhere down the line. If it is not broken we certainly should not be out there trying to fix it.

Mr. Speaker, I believe I have probably used just about all of my time.

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

MR. FRENCH: I thank you, Sir, for your indulgence. My time is just about up, I say to the Government House Leader, and I am sure he does not want me up too much longer this afternoon.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FRENCH: Okay.

I thank the Speaker for his indulgence this afternoon and I will concede to my colleague.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

I would like also to speak about the Act To Amend The Public Tender Act.

MR. TULK: Sheila?

MS S. OSBORNE: Yes?

MR. TULK: Sheila, I know (inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Yes, it can affect your brain, I am telling you.

MR. TULK: Can it?

MS S. OSBORNE: Yes. I knew something happened to you, Beaton. Are you saying these things to deflect all those interesting comments I have to say about the Public Tender Act now?

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, this bill makes numerous changes. Some of them are substantive, some are clarifying and correcting and some of them are contentious.

Now sub-clause 2(1) raises the 3(2)(a) barrier under which purchases need not be tendered. Previously the barrier was $7,500. The change makes it $10,000 for an acquisition and $20,000 for work.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: We are going to be here now until the June 24 weekend, the St. John's Day weekend.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: You should see the pages and pages that I have. I am taking my half-hour and then I am going to go on...

Anyway, leave me alone now so I can get back -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Oh, yes, alright.

The change makes it $10,000 for an acquisition and $20,000 for work. That is not too bad, I suppose, in these days of inflation.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: No, I am not. I have my own here.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Unless he stole the ones I was doing the other night.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Anyway, subclause 2(3) is controversial. It adds two new categories under which the government can avoid inviting tenders, and the new 3(2)(1) would allow the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology to use her opinion to determine if work or an acquisition is for an economic development purpose, and Cabinet will have the final say in whether the exemption stands.

The term `economic development purpose' is not defined in the act, and although section 12 gives Cabinet the power to define the terms by regulation, Cabinet could twist this around how it wanted without reference to the Legislature and can make regulatory changes retroactive to cover themselves. This Mr. Speaker, could be very dangerous.

The new 3(2)(j) would allow the head of a government funded body to use his or her opinion to determine if inviting a tender would not achieve the best value, and the minister responsible for that body need only get Cabinet approval to carry out a Request for Proposals instead of inviting a tender.

The Request for Proposals process would be defined by regulation. Again, this is something that is at the discretion of Cabinet without reference to the Legislature and this is very contentious and could be very dangerous.

Some subclauses there are not contentious, not a problem. Subclause 4(2) - this amendment regarding change orders and extensions is contentious. It seeks to repeal subsection 5(3) which puts a limit on those change orders and extensions.

Subsection 5(1) says change orders and extensions must meet specific criteria. If a contract is under $100,000, the change cannot exceed $15,000. If a contract is between $100,000 and $500,000, the change cannot exceed the greater of $15,000 or 10 per cent. If a contract is over $500,000, the change cannot exceed the greater of $50,000 or 5 per cent.

Under the existing act, subsection 5(3) then steps in and says that references in subsection (1) to values are to the total of values of change orders within the requirements of a contract and extensions of the contract.

Once that subsection is eliminated there is nothing to stop the government from approving successive change orders and extensions and treating each one separately so that each meets the criteria in 5(1), even though cumulatively they would exceed the limit.

The government may argue that there is still a safeguard in subsection 5(1) with the words: or the accumulative value of them. If that is the government's position, then surely they will allow us to amend this bill to let subsection 5(3) stay as it is. If they argue that removing it makes no difference then they must also agree there is no harm in letting it stay. Better a redundancy than a loophole. That is the danger here in this subclause 4(2).

Clause 5; this change is critical if the government goes ahead with the new exclusions in the 2(3) regarding economic development and best value. It adds these two new sections to the list of sections under which exemption reports must be tabled in the House of Assembly on a regular basis. This requirement for reporting, however, does not get them off the hook. Once the decision is made to bypass public tendering the damage is done to the companies excluded from bidding and to taxpayers if the final cost was too high. Reporting simply shows us after the fact what they did. Lately there have been so many examples of exceptions abuse that these new exceptions may just get lost in the crowd.

There is no requirement in the act that the minister or head of a government body or Cabinet give any explanations of why they deemed public work or purchase to be best left untendered. These critical changes regarding a Cabinet minister being able to determine in her or his opinion if the work is for an economic development purpose, and also the head of a government funded body, he or she has the discretion to use his or her opinion to determine if inviting a tender would not achieve the best value. By putting these clauses in there we are getting into very dangerous territory.

Clause 6; this change adds two more areas under which regulations may be made. The new 12(c) says: "for the purpose of paragraph 3(2)(j)," which involves avoiding tender in the pursuit of the best value. Without a firm definition in the legislation itself, the definition and use of this clause will be at the discretion of Cabinet. The new 12(e) says: "respecting the establishment and use of a registry of products manufactured in the Province..." It might be argued that the registry should be defined and its use set out directly in the legislation, not in less secure regulations.

In the fall sitting of the House of Assembly last year we questioned the Premier and the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation about the failure of government's procurement policy to support local manufacturers, producers, and other enterprises. There were examples of numerous circumstances where contracts that could have been completed by local companies were instead given to out-of-Province firms: subcontracts for the juice we have in our cafeteria, school windows, Cabot 500 paraphernalia, et cetera.

When the Premier was asked what he intended to do to address the failure of government policy, he challenged the Opposition to bring forward suggestions of our own. I am pleased to say the Member for St. John's South took the Premier up on his challenge and undertook to do what the provincial government should have done a long time ago. The people were consulted, particularly local manufacturers and producers. In January of this year there were six public meetings held across the Province, two in St. John's, one each in Corner Brook, Grand Falls-Windsor, Gander and Clarenville. In addition, the consultation initiative was publicized throughout the media and actively sought input by mail, fax, e-mail, from people throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The response to this was really good.

In view of the input that people gave us during this initiative, there was a six-point recommendation identifying ways in which the government can tailor its procurement efforts to help support local enterprises within the context of a strengthened Public Tender Act.

Procurement by the provincial government and its agencies, for instance, municipalities, the university, schools, hospitals, etc., represents a significant portion of spending in the Province each year. Local producers and manufacturers look to this spending as a major source of the business they need to survive and grow in the small, depressed local economy. Government procurement dollars that go to producers located outside the Province represent a drain of money from the provincial economy.

Unless there is a level playing field allowing local companies to compete successfully for procurement work in other provinces and countries, then we are the net losers from any such arrangement. If the playing field is not level, a strong case can be made for artificially re-balancing the playing field with measures that compensate local producers for the competitive disadvantages, but only to the extent that it enables them to compete fairly for procurement contracts; not to the extent that we artificially prop up inefficient, poorly run, or non-viable companies at the expense of the local taxpayer.

Now the six actions that we recommend at levelling the playing field for local manufacturers and producers are as follows:

We must maintain the 5 per cent local preference standard for Newfoundland and Labrador that is now written into the Atlantic Provinces Procurement Agreement, and we must fight to maintain this standard on any internal trade agreements negotiated with other provinces.

The second: We must establish a central registry of goods and services manufactured, produced or provided by companies in Newfoundland and Labrador, and put the onus on the companies themselves to ensure the registry is provided with comprehensive, updated information on their products and on their behalf.

Using this registry's information as a guide, we must ensure all government procurement contracts are broken down in such a way that goods and services not produced by local companies are separated from those which local companies do produce, to ensure local companies have the opportunity to bid for as much of the work as possible

We must also ensure, within reason of course, that tenders are divided into portions small enough that smaller and less diversified local producers can compete for this work.

We must also ensure that tender specifications are generic rather than brand-name specific wherever possible, and in particular, using the registry as a guide, ensure a tender never specifies products produced only outside this Province when locally produced alternatives do exist.

We must write into the tenders and contracts of government suppliers that their subcontracts must be fair to local companies in some of the same way the primary contracts specifically require that third party subcontract work be broken down into manageable units that do not discriminate against local producers because of the size of the contracts or the specifics of small portions of a major subcontract.

We must also require that companies contracted to government and its agencies be required to give local companies the opportunity to bid on all third-party subcontracts.

We must ensure all government bodies, including municipalities, the university, school boards and hospitals, currently covered by the Public Tender Act are also required to abide by these procedures.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk a bit about Trans City. This government tried to justify the Trans City hospital contract scandal by saying it was simply moving farther ahead of the public tender legislation than the act would allow. They say they were well-intentioned and progressive but a little too eager. They say they wanted an open-ended Request for Proposals that did not define specifically the materials to be used. After they got the proposals they would choose which design offered the best value for the money, not necessarily the smallest upfront cost.

The evidence, however, suggest that they manipulated the criteria after the fact until they got what they wanted, a prize for their Liberal friends. The courts ruled consistently that the government crassly broke its own law by doing this. What this new legislation does is remove the impediments in the legislation that made their actions illegal. Under this revised legislation, they will have the freedom, under the economic development or best value, these clauses to which I referred earlier, that Cabinet has the discretion to determine a contract and to manipulate the process all they want to make the specs fit the contractor they seek to favour. While they may risk political fallout, at least they will not suffer the same legal fallout.

What this bill does is pave the way for future Trans City deals by removing safeguards against corruption. It would be interesting to read the record, the decision of the judges, in this case trial Judge Orsborn and appeals Judge Cameron. The Orsborn decision is 149 pages in length while the Cameron decision is sixty-eight pages long. This was an extremely embarrassing and costly mistake for the government, and many of the ministers who advised Cabinet to do what they did, or sat in Cabinet when the decision was made, are still in Cabinet.

There are ways to advance the public tendering process to better help local manufacturers and producers without cutting the guts out of the Public Tender Act. Indeed, eroding the act leaves all businesses at a disadvantage because it removes the protections designed to place them on a level playing field for good faith competition. When politicians remove the guards against favouritism and corruption, companies will have to turn some of their attention away from developing the best product and start spending time and money wooing ministers who have the discretion and the power to make decisions that favour or exclude them.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer to the Kodak bill. In the summer of 1996 the government used its majority to ram through the Kodak bill, designed to exempt Kodak from the Public Tender Act so it would get government's micrographic work once the service was sold to the company. The bill passed but the sale fell through. This bill will give the government leeway to enter into similar arrangements without having to come to the Legislature first.

The ITT Minister will probably be able to say it is in the economic development interest of the Province to guarantee a new company certain work in the interests of bringing that company here and keeping it alive and growing. What we lose, however, is the opportunity for other companies, including our existing local companies, to compete on a level playing field for that work. Competition is not a bad thing. If a company cannot survive competition perhaps it does not deserve to survive. It is one thing to give a company a boost or an advantage but to give it a monopoly at the expense of existing or potential enterprises is wrong. Companies wanting to expand into micrographics here, to develop a foothold for national expansion, would have been prevented from gaining the lucrative government work. Kodak could charge government whatever it wants, even gouging taxpayers because it has a guaranteed monopoly. Is this really economic development?

Now I would like, Mr. Speaker, to speak about the Bombardier contract. Ottawa has just bypassed this public tendering process and indeed pushed the limits of its single source Request for Proposals process to give the largest defense contract in Canadian history to a company with ties to the Prime Minister. Is this the example the minister says he is following when he seeks to bring our laws in line with those of the country as a whole?

On June 2, the Globe and Mail, `...we see that the Bombardier deal lands the Liberals in the hot seat': Is this the law that we are trying to emulate? Is this where we want to find ourselves, playing favourites with political friends and family? I rather think not, Mr. Speaker. For this reason I will be voting against the bill.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to have a few comments to add to the discussion that has been put forward by my colleague from St. John's West, the Member for Cape St. Francis, the Member for Ferryland and the great Member from Bonavista South, who I think has yet to speak on this particular piece of legislation but who will, in the next several hours, share with the House his comments about the good points and the bad points that are contained in this proposed legislation.

Mr. Speaker, it is fundamental in a democracy that we do have fairness, and as Clyde Wells would say: We have to have fairness and balance. Mr. Speaker, the Public Tender Act is designed to facilitate and to assure that fairness and balance apply in the awarding of contracts and the spending of public money.

Mr. Speaker, while some parts of this bill are designed to streamline the process, to make sure that all of the contractors in the Province have easy access to the information required for them to be able to bid on government services and contracts, in terms of the parts of the bill that might be able to be extended beyond what is currently the norm in our democracy, that does cause us some concern. For example, we all know from the Trans City affair that there were things that happened that caused great concern to the public of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, it is not that the communities that had those hospitals built did not deserve a new hospital. That wasn't the issue. The issue was whether or not the contracts were indeed awarded along guidelines that met the Public Tender Act of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, there has been some comment already in the House about the Trans City affair. We all know, from those who sat in the House at the time, that the government went through elaborate procedures to try to justify to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that there was nothing wrong with the way things were conducted. We did have many days spent in this Legislature with aggressive questions being asked by the then Leader of the Opposition, Len Simms, and by the Member for Humber East, Lynn Verge. One was the Leader of the Opposition and the other one was the critic for justice.

Mr. Speaker, we wanted to point out at that time that the government had gone a little further in their manipulation of the tendering process than the law allowed. We know to some extent that the way in which the tendering act was changed might be understandable. By understandable I mean might be well-intentioned. But they were a little too eager. Many people said they called for proposals that were open-ended. They didn't specify all the materials that would be used in the construction phase. Then when they got their proposals in, they then began to talk about the design, about the different materials to be used on the sidings of those buildings. Mr. Speaker, many people felt that the best value for the taxpayers' dollar was not achieved in the Trans City affair. We know that it certainly wasn't the smallest upfront expenditure.

Mr. Speaker, we don't want, in this Province, to ever go back to the days of the 1960s and 1970s, and indeed the days of the early 1980s, when the Public Tender Act wasn't always followed as it is today. We on this side of the House, I am sure members on that side of the House, want to make sure the public has confidence in the way in which government spends its tax dollars. I know, from my conversation with hon. members opposite, that they are very well-intentioned. However, we see in this particular bill possibilities for extensions by Cabinet ministers, for political patronage of the first order.

MR. FITZGERALD: Pork barrelling.

MR. H. HODDER: Pork barrelling, my friend for Bonavista South says. Mr. Speaker, we have to be sure we don't permit pork barrelling, we don't permit manipulation of contracts, we don't facilitate extending contracts for further expenditures beyond that which were specified in the original contract. In other words, you can't get a contract and then go extension after extension. These are the kinds of things that cause us great concern.

Mr. Speaker, if the public of this Province are going to be well served, they have to be assured that absolute integrity remains in the public tendering process. That is where this side of the House has concern. It is not with facilitating access to bidding. The more people who can have access to data, the more people can be part of the bidding process and the more sharing of information we can have so all people out there can have access. I think the time has come when we have to stop going out to three preferred bidders. We have to stop that nonsense. We have to go and say to all people that if you want to bid on a particular piece of government work, you have access to it.

We have to stop this idea that there are two or three preferred bidders and if you get your name on the list then you can just, shall we say, wait until your turn comes around. That is not fair to contractors, big or small. It is particularly not fair to the small contractors. But if the contractors of this Province can be assured that when a contract comes up, however big or small, that they can have access to sound data and have it quickly through a computerization process, and have it facilitated through the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Association, or some other such group as that which specializes in the sharing of information, we are all for that. We are all for the sharing of information and doing it on a timing basis, but in the awarding process we want to be assured that all people and contractors are treated fairly.

Mr. Speaker, that is what makes the system function. That is what keeps it in the process of a word that we call `integrity', and that is where all governments should aim to be. That is why the Peckford government many years ago introduced the Public Tender Act. Before that we did not have a Public Tender Act in Newfoundland and Labrador. We know what happened when we did not have one. It was not a matter of what label because there were abuses of public tendering, I understand, in all governments.

The Public Tender Act said, when it was brought in by the Peckford government, let us try to be fair to everybody.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is upset because he lost the debate last night. He got really done in, and I know why he would leave the Chamber on a sore note right now.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. gentleman does not want to give misinformation to this House (inaudible). The truth of the matter is that a poll done by CBC last night on who won that debate, it was even higher than the Premier's popularity over his own leader, and that is fifty-six to twelve or something. I have to tell him that it was twelve to one in favour of the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. In other words, for every telephone call they received about who won the debate, twelve said John Efford and one said Jack Harris.

I know you would not want to give misinformation to the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

I understood it was supposed to be fifteen to one because all of the people who work in public relations for the government were all supposed to call in and support the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. It should have been fifteen to one. You have to find out the three public relations people who did not call in and support the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. The Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi does not have those parliamentary people to be able to call in. I suppose he had to get somebody to call in to support him.

We watched the debate, and frankly I thought CBC could have done more with their precious air time than have a debate over who is going to kill the most seals, and how to do it, and all that kind of thing. There certainly could have been some other way in which air time could be used. I did not think either one of them contributed to the public information. If you were going to show that piece of video to the international community, I would be a little afraid of what conclusions they might draw.

Mr. Speaker, back to the Public Tender Act. The point we want to make on this side is that we believe this act may indeed compromise the integrity that has been built up over many years. As far as the processes of getting information out, we agree with that. We are afraid, however, that the integrity of the process may be compromised, and there is nothing more fundamental in our democratic system than to make sure that the way we spend the public money is protected.

Mr. Speaker, we know that in the Trans City affair there was all kinds of talk about who really were the beneficiaries. If you look at the people who have made significant contributions to the Liberal campaign in 1996, and do a little cross-reference with those people who were involved with Trans City, you will see that there is a very great correlation. We know that these people again say there is nothing against it making money. The question was how much money they made and whether or not the bidding process was carried on in a fair manner.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi yesterday in his comments gave some great elaboration on our side of the House. We are not going to speak at length, I don't believe, on this matter. I think we have made most of the points we want to make. We are afraid that the public tendering proposals will compromise the integrity of the system.

Mr. Speaker, I do believe that the Member for St. John's South, who is going to be speaking on this matter, is arriving in the House and he has indicated that he has some wonderful comments to make.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: The Member for St. John's South. I was informed by the House Leader that he was going to speak but I do believe the Government House Leader is correct, that it happened yesterday afternoon in the debate.

Mr. Speaker, I do believe the Member for Ferryland is going to be speaking in debate at this time.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have been listening to the comments, the observations and the queries that have been raised by the various speakers on the other side of the House. I will just take a minute or two, in closing debate, to clarify a couple of issues.

To the issue of repealing 5(1)(g), what actually occurred there - I researched this with my officials over the evening - was this: In 1994 the words, `or the accumulative value of them', were not in the act. So to ensure that the cumulative value of what could be done by extension of contract was clear, it was put in 5(g)(1). That was to give clarity and further assurance to the issue of not being able to accumulate because 5(g)(5), the one we are eliminating - or 5(g)(3) - did not give that full assurance. What happened was they did not eliminate or they did not remove 5(g)(3) from the bill as was intended in 1994 when they put the stronger wording up in 5(1). That is the reason that is coming out now. It does not add anything to the bill. It does not take anything away from the bill in terms of strength or weakness -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) leave it there if it is not going to affect anything.

MR. MATTHEWS: It was actually, Mr. Speaker, replaced by the stronger wording in 1994. It was just an oversight, so the legislative drafters told me, leaving it in there. That is the explanation on that.

The principle of the bill, I believe, as I outlined yesterday, the amendments of which are contained in it, are amendments to strengthen the hand of Newfoundland manufacturers, to put in a better level of reasonableness in terms of thresholds. On the issue of economic development that has been talked about, it is clearly to put our Province and the industry, the private sector, the innovators, the developers and the entrepreneurs in our Province, in the same circumstance as all other provinces have put their business community in terms of the trade agreements that we have entered into.

The point that need not be lost but should be recognized in all of this is that all of these things will happen within the ambit of the Public Tender Act. The Public Tender Act is a document, as I said yesterday, that we respect, that we want to preserve, that we want to have maintain the highest level of integrity and transparency. What we are doing in those amendments is consistent with not only the views of the people who use the act from the government side and from the government funded body side. What we are doing with the act has the strong endorsement of the business community, and has the strong endorsement of many others out there, all of whom, I would point out, joined me at the press conference when we announced this.

The only criticism we got from the business community, quite frankly, or the significant criticism we got from the St. John's Board of Trade, was that -

AN HON. MEMBER: So you did get some.

MR. MATTHEWS: Yes, we did, but it was in this context. They said: We regret that the government has not gone any further. We believe that the government should open up themselves to a process where they should be able to entertain unsolicited proposals.

That is the position of the business community. They wanted us to be in a position where we could entertain almost any notion that came forward, any idea that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: I am sorry?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: Any question that came forward, or any suggestion or idea that came forward. We said no, we didn't believe that innovation by the private sector should be entertained on a singular basis. It shouldn't be entertained on a basis that would give anybody a leg up or an opportunity that didn't have a transparent process attached to it.

So, Mr. Speaker, these are the comments of clarification that I have noted. Most of the other questions I believe I clarified, at least I attempted to clarify, yesterday when the debate was taking place as we were going back and forth across the House.

I believe it is also important, in concluding my remarks, to say again that with the greatest of respect for what we are trying to do for the right reasons for our local business community, our local manufacturers, the small manufacturers, the people who want to get their product into government funded bodies, we have to recognize, as they recognize, that we are a Province which exports 95 per cent of everything we produce. We only consume less than 5 per cent of what we manufacture and produce ourselves, and that clearly tells us, as it tells them, that we have to be a Province that does business on the basis that we do not negatively impact upon the business opportunities that exist outside of our provincial borders to the benefit of the local business community.

The people in this Province who manufacture, the people who grow things, the people who make things that provide employment here, have to export 95-plus per cent of all that we make. The amendments we are proposing strike a balance between what is reasonable to do on behalf of the local business community, and in response to the representation that we received in the consultation, and in the context of what will give best value to the taxpayers of the Province as we go about acquiring goods and services for purposes of providing public services in the Province.

I move second reading of this bill, and I further move that this House do not adjourn at 5:00 this afternoon.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 24.)

MR. SPEAKER (Penney): There is also a motion before the House that the House not adjourn at 5:00 o'clock.

All those in favour, aye.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Opposed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion carried.

The hon. Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Order No. 19, Bill No. 25.

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 19.

A bill, "An Act To Provide For Participation By The Province In An Intergovernmental Joint Purchasing Agreement And To Repeal The Provincial Preference Act". (Bill No. 25)

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, this Bill is designed to allow the Province to participate with the other Atlantic Provinces in the Atlantic Procurement Agreement, but it is also to enable us to participate in the larger agreement under the MASH sector, and that is a national agreement, Mr. Speaker; the idea being that municipalities, academic institutions, schools and hospitals - it will make it possible for any province to compete for work in each of the provinces provided that there is no provincial preference.

Mr. Speaker, to enable us to do this we have to remove the provincial preference policy. The issue, Mr. Speaker, when we have done our consultations with the community at large, is whether or not they will have the chance to compete. I think, clearly, what we have done with the Public Tender Act has enabled them to feel a level of confidence that they will indeed find themselves in a position where they will be able to compete with a full and fair opportunity.

With the removal of the provincial preference, what it does, in fact, is put everyone on a level playing field. I think, if you look at the amendments that have been made to the Public Tender Act, it does give us some leeway in terms of economic development.

MR. J. BYRNE: Too much.

MS FOOTE: I do not think you can ever give too much, Jack, if it means that Newfoundland companies are going to benefit from this.

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MS FOOTE: Oh, listen, I will be a player. I will not be the only player in this, okay.

Clearly, here is an opportunity, Mr. Speaker. We have done our consultations and what we have been told time and time again by the business communities out there, by the Manufacturers Association, by the Board of Trade, by the construction industry - and we have the letters from them. The consultation was done back some time ago and we asked them all, following that consultation process, to follow up with any concerns that they may have had.

The issue clearly was not that they wanted provincial preference. The issue was that they wanted full and fair opportunity to compete for the work, and I think that we have taken care of that on a number of fronts, certainly with the Public Tender Act and revisions that have been made to that.

Mr. Speaker, this enables local companies to actually compete for work throughout the country under the MASH sector, and certainly throughout the Atlantic Provinces under the Atlantic Procurement Agreement. Mr. Speaker, if we did not remove the provincial preference policy, then they would not be able to compete. That was one of the things we had to do in order to sign on to the MASH sector.

At the meeting that I had with all of the trade ministers from each of the Provinces, there was an appreciation for where we have come has a Province and also an appreciation for changes that we were going to be making to our Public Tender Act. Those changes, now having been done, will enable those companies to actually be in a position to compete nationally for contracts in other Provinces.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is why we are moving, we are doing one in tandem with the other. Clearly there is an opportunity here for our companies to compete and I think we all agree that our companies take second place to no one. What they do need is the opportunity to compete and I think we have shown that, with the revisions to the Public Tender Act and now by removing the provincial preference policy, they are on a level playing field and that is where they want to be, but they want the full and fair opportunity, Mr. Speaker. That is what we are attempting to do here today..

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

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

While I toured the Province, doing our public consultation, one of the questions - the Minister stated that the manufacturers and producers wanted a fair and level playing field, and that is correct. That was the first priority of the manufacturers and producers in this Province. I will admit that as well.

Under the recommendations that we presented, and government accepted some of those recommendations, Mr. Speaker, we aimed at creating a level playing field and we aimed at having tenders broken down into workable sizes where we have locally manufactured products on one tender and products that are not manufactured locally on another tender so that it does not bar local manufacturers. The ministers agreed in Question Period last week that that will be put in place, or that was my understanding of her responses, they would try to break down tenders.

AN HON. MEMBER: (inaudible).

MR. T. OSBORNE: Okay.

One of the concerns that was also raised in our consultation process across the Province - and I know it was raised in Gander when the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation was there, because we had one of our people at that meeting, and I know it was raised in St. John's at his meeting, as well, because I attended that particular meeting - was the subject of the provincial preference policy.

While manufacturers throughout the Province want a level playing field, mainly what they mean by that is that they want to be given the opportunity to bid on contracts, they want to be given the opportunity to bid on services supplied to hospitals and so on. Right now, for the most part, they are barred from that because, first of all, tenders name specific items. They call for McCains items, they call for Highliner items and so on which bars local manufacturers.

Secondly, a lot of the companies that supply the hospitals and so on, the large companies, will deal with mainland suppliers because that is who they deal with on a national basis, so they just continue to deal with those companies here locally, and that bars our local manufacturers and producers. They want a fair playing ground, a level playing ground, where they have equal opportunity. By that, they mean that they want to have access to these tenders that they now do not have access to.

One of the concerns they had, and it was a recommendation that we made through our recommendations, is they wanted to have the provincial preference policy safeguarded.

AN HON. MEMBER: Nice shirt, Tom.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Thank you, sir.

Under the Atlantic Procurement Policy, Newfoundland has a 5 per cent advantage right now. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island agreed to that, partially because of the fact that we are more isolated and it costs more to get items here and get them back out again. We are given a 5 per cent advantage there. Obviously, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island agreed to that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. T. OSBORNE: Still, we were given 10 per cent, I believe, nationally, originally. Well, it was higher than that, and it came down to 10 per cent. Right now it is at 10 per cent. It is 10 per cent nationally and 5 per cent through the Atlantic Provinces.

Under the ASH and MASH agreements - I think the ASH was put in place before MASH. We are now entering into the MASH agreement. Under those, it proposes to have no provincial preference throughout the entire country, the ten provinces and the two territories. But my contention is, if we have agreed under the Atlantic Procurement Policy to 5 per cent, I am wondering if government here, if we pushed hard enough, because of our isolation, because of the fact that it is harder to get items here, because of the fact that our manufacturers and producers have more obstacles to overcome, if we could get some sort of, be it 3 per cent, 4 per cent or 5 per cent for this Province, the same as the Atlantic Provinces agreed to.

I know that the manufacturers and producers, when we went across the Province, voiced their concern to keep the provincial preference policy. One of our recommendations was that we maintain the 5 per cent local preference standard for Newfoundland and Labrador that is now written into the Atlantic Provinces Procurement Agreement, and fight to maintain the standard in any internal trade agreements negotiated with other provinces and that would include the ASH and/or MASH agreements.

I am wondering, if we pushed hard enough, this Province, if even through ASH or MASH we could maintain some level of provincial preference, have all avenues been explored to maintain some level of provincial preference through these agreements? Even outside of the MASH agreement, which includes only our medical, health, academic institutions and so on, if for other public tenders, be they for cities, different municipalities or be they for government for whatever, for supplies for summer games or supplies for the Cabot celebrations or supplies for the 1999 celebrations that are coming up and are not going to be covered under the MASH agreement - I think the minister will agree that, you know, if we were to purchase items for tourism purposes for the 1999 celebrations that would not fall under the MASH agreement.

So if we are able to keep a 5 per cent provincial preference outside of the MASH agreement, if we have no other choice but to sign on to the MASH agreement without any provincial preference, be that as it is, but for any other public tenders that are put out there, for tourism items or for the purchase of our Tourism Guide that we put out on an annual basis - I believe it was missed this year but we generally put it out on an annual basis - for any other items, for uniforms for our security guards or whatever, are we able to keep some level of provincial preference to protect these entities outside of the MASH agreement?

I understand that, maybe through the MASH agreement we have no other choice, but as a Province we should look to protect our own local manufacturers and producers. This act, I believe, will probably strip them of the local preference rights.

I give the minister leave maybe to just respond to that.

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

MS FOOTE: The issue of provincial preference was a valid one and obviously every province would like to see some provincial preference. It is not possible under the MASH sector. We went around and around the table in terms of what each province does to try and give some protection to their own companies, and clearly the idea here was to have a level playing field for all provinces. I think, as I said at the outset, clearly we are doing this in tandem with the changes to the Public Tender Act.

I recognize what you are saying in terms of trying to ensure that our local companies do indeed have a leg up, as it were, in terms of accessing contracts and making sure that the specifications are written in such a way, in some cases, where certainly it does not preclude local companies from getting those contracts. This is where the economic development component will come into play, and I recognize what you are saying; the importance of making sure that our companies, when you look at the distance and you look at the so-called isolation of our Province, will be in a position to be able to seriously consider when a contract is being awarded that economic development component.

So, I mean, it is done in New Brunswick, it is done in Nova Scotia, it is done in other provinces. While we are removing the provincial preference by saying the 5 per cent will be gone or the 10 per cent will be gone, clearly there will be an opportunity for us under the Public Tender Act to, in fact, ensure to the best of our ability that local companies, our local manufacturers, will indeed benefit from that economic development component which is so important to us.

We have no mechanism whereby we can continue with the provincial preference if we sign on to the MASH sector, and I think not to sign on to the MASH sector would be detrimental to those companies that really feel they can compete on a national basis. If you look at M5 Advertising, for instance, M5 Advertising has had the tourism contract for New Brunswick for the past four years. Cahill Electric, for instance, has had electrical contracts in the other Atlantic Provinces.

We know, and I am sure you know, that our companies can compete with the best. Again I go back to the discussions we have had with them. That is their main concern, that they actually have the opportunity to compete. So to maintain the provincial preference is not possible if we want to sign on to the agreements.

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

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

I tend to agree, under the ASH or MASH agreements that we couldn't, but my contention is perhaps this bill goes too far. Inside those agreements is one thing, but outside is something completely different.

Through a publication produced by the minister's own department, there are 25,000 jobs created in Ontario because of what they export to Newfoundland, whereas there are only 4,000 jobs created in Newfoundland because of what we export to Ontario. Clearly they would have the advantage of us removing our provincial preference policy. There is no question about that.

I have no problem with the ASH or MASH agreements if we have to eliminate it for those agreements. What I am asking is: Do we have to eliminate our local preference policy? After all, these companies employ Newfoundlanders, they generate money back into the economy, they pay taxes here, they pay payroll tax, provincial taxes and so on. Is it right to remove the local preference policy across the board in its entirety outside of the ASH and MASH agreements, stripping these companies of their 5 per cent protection, when clearly Ontario would have the advantage? Because they import far more into Newfoundland than we export to Ontario. That is clear in the numbers that are produced by the minister's own department.

What I am asking the minister - maybe, yes, inside of the ASH and MASH agreements we can remove this 5 per cent protection for our local companies, but do we have to remove it outside of these agreements?

I would give the minister leave maybe just to respond to that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Is the minister asking to speak by leave?

MR. T. OSBORNE: Yes, please.

MR. SPEAKER: Otherwise, if the minister speaks now she closes the debate.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, we are not in committee, but if the hon. gentleman has a few questions he wants to put, there is no problem, but the truth of the matter is that when the minister rose last, under second reading, she closed debate before. But if there are -

MR. T. OSBORNE: No, I asked by leave, I say to the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Anyway, go on, let's get it done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

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

At this particular stage, if the minister speaks she closes the debate, unless she is speaking by leave.

MR. T. OSBORNE: I am willing to give her leave if she is willing to answer by leave.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's South has been recognized by the Chair.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Again, I have to express my concern for the local manufacturers and producers here. I have no problem within the ASH and MASH agreements if we have to remove the 5 per cent protection, if that is the only way we can sign on to those agreements. Even still, that gives further benefit to other provinces than it gives to us. I mean, that is quite clear.

I see the minister shaking her head no, but in information produced by the minister's own department, again, there are 25,000 jobs created in Ontario because of what they export into Newfoundland. There are only 4,000 jobs created in Newfoundland because of what we export to Ontario, and that happens all the way across the board. It is quite clear, it is evident, that other provinces would have the advantage by us removing our local preference policy.

Again, I cannot stress enough that if these companies are employing people here - they are generating money back into our economy, they are paying taxes, payroll tax, business taxes and so on in this Province - then we can justify the 5 per cent because obviously it is a give and take with these companies that are putting back into our economy.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot express enough my concern in going across this Province and having the consultation meetings. We passed out questionnaires, and one of the questions we asked on the questionnaire - very unbiased - was: Do you agree or disagree with the local preference policy? In 99 per cent of the cases they agreed with it. We asked: Would you agree with eliminating this if we were to enter into an interprovincial agreement across the entire country? Do you feel that this would level the playing field? Most of the cases said no, they did not want to eliminate our local preference policy.

Even with the ASH and MASH agreements, I have some concerns because it would clearly give advantage to Ontario as opposed to giving it to Newfoundland; but if the minister feels, and if industry feels, that through these agreements we would have an advantage by eliminating it, then I would have to agree. But to eliminate it across the board, to eliminate the 5 per cent local preference policy across the board, in its entirety, I would disagree with. And if that be the case I would have to seriously consider on which way I would vote on this, even though there may be advantages through ASH and MASH.

With that, I would ask my colleagues if they have any questions or concerns on this bill.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate from where the hon. member is coming. I can only say to him that in addition to the work that he did, of course, we did our homework as well in talking to the various industry associations. Certainly the Newfoundland Ocean Industries Association, the Food Processors Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Consulting Engineers of Newfoundland and Labrador, the St. John's Board of Trade, the AMEN, the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters of Newfoundland, gave their support for the elimination -

MR. T. OSBORNE: Manufacturers and exporters were the only people I spoke with who want to eliminate it; everybody else wants to keep it.

MS FOOTE: Well, they are telling you one thing and telling us another because we do have written -

MR. T. OSBORNE: (Inaudible) Gander and St. John's. I had people (inaudible).

MS FOOTE: All I can tell you is the homework that we did, the consultation that we did, and what we came up with. Again, I go back to saying that we are doing this in tandem with the changes to the Public Tender Act. I appreciate what you are saying in terms of the other areas outside of the MASH and the ASH sector. Clearly, this is where we would see the Public Tender Act coming into play in terms of that opportunity for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology and Cabinet to in fact have a say in looking at various contracts from an economic development perspective.

I appreciate where you are coming from, and inasmuch as I can give you any kind of assurance at all that what we are doing here we are doing in tandem with the revisions to the Public Tender Act to ensure, inasmuch as it is possible, that local companies will have a benefit. That benefit would come from the economic development component because anything that is going to be seen to be more economical for local companies, and therefore for the Province in terms of employees, in terms of exporting our products, then I think clearly that is where the Public Tender Act will come in.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Provide For Participation By The Province In An Intergovernmental Joint Purchasing Agreement And To Repeal The Provincial Preference Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 25)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 20, Bill No. 30, "An Act To Amend The Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act".

I believe the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is going to introduce it on behalf of the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 20, "An Act To Amend The Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act". (Bill No. 30)

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: I can assure you, it was not Jack.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The call back on Here & Now tonight will prove it, Sir.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Environment and Labour, it gives me great pleasure - it really does - to introduce this bill, "An Act To Amend The Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act".

This bill, as a result of what has taken place over the last four or five years in the fishing industry, and in particular in 1997 when we almost lost the total crab fishery, we, as a government, saw it necessary to work with the industry, work with the union, to make some changes to the present collective bargaining act which had worked well for a number of years. Over the last four to five years, certainly, there was a major problem in arriving at a price. We saw it necessary - the industry as a whole, with government, working together to make some changes.

Last year we put together a task force to look at ways of improving the fishing collective bargaining act. I think they did a masterful job over the years. There were representatives from FANL, representatives from FFAW, and three - the assistant deputy minister from labour, and David Vardy and David Jones from the Department of Justice. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that they did a job that has certainly solved the problems that we experienced in four of the last five years in arriving at a negotiated price satisfactory to both entities, the harvesters and the industry.

As a result of their work over the winter months, today we have prices arrived at in the crab fishery, in the shrimp fishery, in the cod fishery, in the lump fishery; and as we are talking here today, for the first time I know of in the history of the fishery, they are now arriving at a price for the caplin fishery because -

MR. TULK: Through the same process?

MR. EFFORD: Through the same process. Because every other year the caplin traps, the purse seines, would be on the boat, people would be ready to go fishing, and still there would be no price settled. The five prices that have been settled this year have been settled prior to the opening of the fishery, or before the people were ready to go fishing, which is a tremendous success given the fact that last year in August month the Premier of the Province and I, as Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, had to be involved with the industry as a whole and with the FFAW to try to ensure we would not lose the total year fishery. It came pretty close, Mr. Speaker.

One of the other problems with a late fishery start, you do not get a good quality product; because 98 million pounds of crab being harvested in such a short time, and during the time in which it was harvested, caused some problems last year. You cannot go out there and bring in that amount of crab at the rapid pace it was coming in and put up a quality product, particularly in July and August when the temperatures do not allow a good control of holding crab in the holes of the boats or in the trucks transporting them back and forth across the Province to whatever plant they take it for processing.

Mr. Speaker, we have now, I think, with this two-year pilot project, come to a resolve where I think the fishing industry in the future is going to serve well the industry as a whole, that they can derive the maximum benefits of a fair and equitable way of arriving at a price, and it is a simple process. They start the negotiating team. They have a facilitator who is fully aware of the market conditions, of the marketplace, who helps the process go along. Before the process starts, we appoint - I should not say we - they appoint an arbitrator. That arbitrator is there at the beginning of the negotiations. He or she would be informed on a regular basis exactly what negotiations have taken place, what each side is talking about, the price. He or she would know about the market price, the market conditions. The facilitator would ensure that, and the facilitator would keep both parties together.

If at the end of the day, at the end of the negotiating time - the time that is set for the negotiating period - a price is not arrived at, the fishery would not be delayed because it then goes through the arbitrator. The arbitrator knows full-well all the discussions that have taken place, and then that person would set the price. That means there would be no delay in the opening of the fishery, and for a period of time if an arbitrator sets a price he or she will watch the market conditions. Over another period of time, if it is necessary to make any changes, the arbitrator would have the authority to either increase or decrease the price according to what the market price is returning.

Mr. Speaker, without going on and going through the whole act, because it has been proven (inaudible) over the last number of weeks -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: The prices of five different species have been arrived at and the fisheries are taking place. We have a shrimp fishery that is happening now. We have a lump fishery that is ongoing. We have a crab fishery that is probably about 40 per cent harvested today. The price is negotiated on cod. The 3Ps management plan is down. The only thing now holding up the start of the fishery is that we want to make sure the 3Ps cod fishery is displayed in an orderly fashion this year. We will again make sure that the way the fish is harvested will be in an orderly fashion. We will allow the landing schedules and the harvesting of the different sectors to be in a manner in which we, as an industry as a whole, collectively together, can bring in a top quality product. Because, Mr. Speaker, if we are going to stay in the marketplace, if we are going to be competitive, and if we are going to earn a living from the fishing industry, we have to be aware of all of the people and all of the things in the marketplace. We have to be able to compete on a regular basis. This process is a two-year pilot project. I know from day to day there will be concerns expressed by one side or the other, but it is a process that has worked well to date. After the two-year pilot project I can see -

AN HON. MEMBER: It will be evaluated then?

MR. EFFORD: It will be evaluated, I have no doubt in my mind.

The other part of the changes to the collective bargaining system, we are going to have a pilot project on the auction system. I believe there is a place in the Province, in the industry, where the auction system can work. It will not be able to be used probably through the whole fishing industry but certainly a part of the fishing industry, depending on the areas into which it can be piloted, I think the auction system can work well. It is working well in Iceland. It is sort of a free-market system where an individual can, through an electronic system - with the technology that is around today it is very easy to do - from the day-to-day harvesting of the particular species, communicate back and forth to buyers in the Province and arrive at a price suitable to their harvest on a day-to-day basis.

Mr. Speaker, this is a major change for the better for the fishing industry as a whole, which is certainly improving in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 1997 we had a $575 million export value, 21,000 people employed. In 1998 we are expecting that to go over $600 million export value with probably 23,000 or 24,000 people employed.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand to say a few words on Bill 30, "An Act To Amend The Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act."

When I received this piece of legislation, when it was passed out, I say to the minister, I was a little bit surprised to see the legislation brought forward now because I was under the impression that this agreement was a two-year pilot project, put in place for two years. I thought I might see this piece of legislation come forward in two years' time, after we had shown that it would work and we got the bugs out of it. Being a pilot project, Mr. Speaker, I thought it would be a situation where this legislation would be delayed until the pilot project was over and we got the bugs out of it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, okay.

That kind of surprised me and caught me unaware. I also took the legislation and faxed it down to the people involved and asked them for their suggestions or concerns. I didn't get a call, I say to the minister. Nobody called, so I would suspect that it is a good piece of legislation. When you put it forward to the FFAW and you put it forward to FANL, and if those people directly involved with the industry and dealing with people in the industry everyday have no problems with it, then I do not see why we should come here in this House of Assembly and say this is wrong and something else is wrong.

I say to the Minister, it is a good piece of legislation. It may be premature but it is a good piece of legislation. I guess it goes to show that when the minister goes out and consults and does things in consultation with the industry, things can work.

I recall my own district, down in Bonavista, the crab plant we have down there - that is primarily what initiated this piece of legislation. It was the problems we were having in the crab fishery, whereby every year the fishermen would tie up their boats and if they did not strike they would have to threaten to strike in order to get a fair price for their product. There were all kinds of suspicions out there. The fishermen did not trust the processors. The processors did not trust the fishermen. Mr. Speaker, nobody trusted government. Nobody trusted the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Nobody trusted anybody.

I say to the Minister, you were probably one of the ones that they trusted less. I recall the rocks being thrown and the pepper spray when the minister went down to a place down here in St. John's to meet with people. I recall that on television. In fact, it was only a couple of nights ago that they showed that. They showed what happened, the minister running away. An old gentleman, I would suggest he was about sixty-eight years old, ran and tried to get up on the stage, and the minister was gone; the fastest disappearing act, Mr. Speaker, I ever saw in my life.

AN HON. MEMBER: Houdini.

MR. FITZGERALD: Houdini, Mr. Speaker. Did a fast disappearing act and then we saw the rock throwing, we saw the pepper spray. In fact, I would say that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture did more for the RNC to be armed than any other minister prior to now.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: I would say to the constable, that you could probably thank that minister for what happened that day, because even the pepper spray was ineffective against the minister.

Mr. Speaker, I know, I was on radio that very morning. I think the minister was there when one of my constituents got up and was going to cut my privates out, I think, at that particular meeting. That was the shout, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Sounds like a plan to me.

MR. FITZGERALD: I was saying that I disagree -

MR. EFFORD: I say to the hon. member, one cut is all it would take.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, that was at a time when the minister was looking at another pilot project. He was going to take crab and ship it to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in order to prove to the fishermen and fish plant workers, I suppose, the type of crab we had here. It was a high-quality crab. We should be able to get a fair price, and the price we were getting probably was reflective of the value of the product they were selling.

I was totally against that. I could never agree with having products shipped out of this Province for processing, whether it be crab, mussels, lump-fish roe or what have you. I could never agree with that. If we are ever going to survive here in this Province, then we have to take such things as fish and take it to the highest processing value possible, to have a value added product, that when it leaves here be ready for the supermarket shelves.

Even though some of the fishermen did not agree with my stand at that particular time, Mr. Speaker, it was the way I felt and it was what was coming back to me in most cases.

This year we have seen the crab fishery start in a very orderly way. As the minister stated, there have been two facilitators put in place and an arbitrator. The arbitrator has to rule in favour of one or the other. He cannot come out and pick a price in between. It has to be the last offer of the FFAW or the last offer of FANL. It has worked very well with the crab industry. It has worked very well, and this year we have seen a crab fishery that started, Mr. Speaker, at the time that it should start. We saw a crab fishery that started, I think, in April month, where people now go out and when the ice conditions are right they set their traps, set their pots, Mr. Speaker, land a good quality product, and do it in a orderly fashion.

I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, I do not know how we ever maintained our crab markets. Yes, I am at a loss as to know how we ever kept the market for the crab fishery in this Province, because nobody ever knew if they could supply their market. They did not know when they could fish, Mr. Speaker, they did not know if there were going to be 100,000 pounds of crab available to them or 98 million pounds of crab available to them.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we can go out in a very orderly fashion and secure our markets. We know what the quota is, we know what the stock can sustain, we can take part and participate in this fishery, and hopefully get a good price and a good return, not only to the processors but to the fish plant, to the fishermen and to the fish plant workers.

Even though this Bill is premature - I think it is two years premature, Mr. Speaker - I think it is a good bill and I think it might be one of the positive things that is happening in the fishery.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Well, it is premature as to the agreement that was put in place, I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: It was premature in the fact that - I do not know if the minister was aware of it - that it was a two-year pilot agreement. I am sure that a lot of people were surprised, as I was, to see this piece of legislation introduced into the House at this time.

So, Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of cooperation, in the spirit of goodwill - that is all I will say. I can go on talking about other things as it relates to the fishing industry and what the minister has done and what he has not done and kind of do a check list on him, but, Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of cooperation, I say that I think this is a good piece of legislation. I say to the minister: Get on with it. Let us introduce it and allow the people in the industry to receive the benefits.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just like to take a few moments to refer to the Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act, amendment act. It does a couple of things, Mr. Speaker, that I think are quite useful. It just transfers to the Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act some of the existing provisions of the Labour Relations Act, as they apply to councils of unions and to accredited employer organizations, Mr. Speaker. That is consistent with bringing into force some of the aspects of that act that never did apply to the fishing industry, Mr. Speaker.

We have a number of pieces of Legislation dealing with labour relations, and this act is kind of unique in the country, Mr. Speaker. There isn't any other province that has an act that gives fishers collective bargaining rights in the way that this one does. It tries to replicate, to the extent possible, some of the sections of the Trade Unions Act and the Labour Relations Act that allow collective bargaining to go on.

So, the provisions with respect to accredited organizations under the Labour Relations Act are mirrored in the new changes in clause 2, Mr. Speaker, and also the provisions with respect to councils of trade unions under the Labour Relations Act in Section 60 to 65, are incorporated with some modification as is necessary under this act.

Mr. Speaker, the important clause really, though, in this act is clause 3 which puts into legislative effect a temporary agreement, as the previous speaker noted, within the industry to attempt to introduce a new system of negotiations which will allow fishing to continue while prices are being negotiated, and will allow an orderly establishment of prices without too much disruption of the market and without unnecessary showdowns - and I say unnecessary showdowns - between processors and fishers. Ultimately there may be a need to do that.

My understanding, contrary to the notion of the previous speaker, is that based on clause 4(2) of the act, the "Act is considered to have come into force on January 1, 1998 and shall cease to be in force on January 1, 2000." Basically, that is its own sunset clause. The two-year agreement is given legal effect and binding upon the people, but that if it doesn't work out and they don't come back - I presume the minister will tell us - and say, it is working and we want this to continue, then it will cease as of January 1, 2000, and people are back to the old system.

It is an opportunity to try out the system to see if it works and see if the parties are content with it. I would assume that it would not be the intention of this government or any other government which might be in power on January 1, 2000, that they would not impose this system on the fishing industry without the consensus of both parties to the process.

With those words, I understand that it is an implementation of the task force recommendations and that there is a consensus of the parties. On that basis, Mr. Speaker, I support it. I think it holds a lot of promise, and I hope it does work to provide harmonious relations within the fishing industry.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible),

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, on the basis that it appears to be the implementation of the agreement between the parties, and holds out some promise for a more harmonious fishing industry without the economic costs of conflict, then I support it on that basis, Mr. Speaker.

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

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. TULK: You should withdraw (inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: I feel tempted, but I would say to the hon. member opposite, the only reason he is agreeing is because I beat him into submission last night.

I want to thank the hon. members opposite, in particular the hon. Member for Bonavista South for offering such constructive advice on so successful a bill. I agree with him wholeheartedly, and in particular where one slash would do the job.

On motion, a bill, "A Act To Amend The Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 30)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 21, Bill No. 31, An Act Respecting Child Care Services In The Province.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Child Care Services In The Province". (Bill No. 31)

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

MS BETTNEY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

This act is intended to provide for an expansion to child care services in the Province. With this act we intend to licence family child care through an agency approach. The definition of child has also been changed with the introduction of this act to include all children under the age of thirteen years. Specifically what this refers to is the inclusion of licensing for children from zero to two years of age.

In going through some of the provisions of the act, I would refer to section 3 where it indicates that the act does not apply to a teaching program; to persons who provide child care to not more than six children at a time for not more than nine hours a week; to a person who operates a program to provide an activity of instruction such as normally is covered under recreation programs; and to any person who provides child care in his or her home at any time to not more than four children, so the number is actually limited.

Mr. Speaker, for the purposes of this act, the Child Care Services Act will allow licensing, as I indicated, of family home child care and this will enable many of the child care service provisions that have been identified as initiatives under the National Child Benefit.

The authority for the child care services will rest with the Department of Health and Community Services and be licensed and provided for through the community health boards, and that will continue as the boards assume responsibility in this area.

Mr. Speaker, I think in its largest intent this bill will provide an improvement to our ability to provide child care services throughout the Province, particularly in rural areas of the Province where child care can be provided in other than a centre environment which tends to restrict it to more urban areas where there are larger concentrations of children, and it will also provide more choices for parents in terms of the quality of day care that is available throughout communities.

A third point, as I indicated earlier, is that it also provides an expanded day care for children of different ages than had previously been accommodated. We think this is a major improvement to the provision of child care in the Province, and I think that overall most people would agree that this does respond to a lot of the requests that have been made over the years through the Social Policy Advisory Council, the Special Interests report as well.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a few comments to make, but I would not make it too lengthy today. When we get to Committee I will have some further discussion.

Overall the principle of this act is certainly positive; I agree with the minister. I guess it depends, too, on how it is applied in certain aspects.

Today there seems to be great movements in legislation, certain amounts, and much too often a lot is left to regulations - is left to Cabinet to bring in regulations - as opposed to putting as much substance in the legislation, and that can be negative. It could be positive, depending on how good or how strongly Cabinet feels or moves on that particular - or the minister more specifically, I guess, who is responsible for bringing those regulations to Cabinet.

It is my understanding that this act, too, gives the minister authority now for all children under thirteen. I think previously over two was not included. Under two was not included before and now it includes that. So basically what we are doing now, there is - once again I guess this is down to regulation - it does not really spell out the specifics of that age difference in dealing with certain aspects, because we are dealing with children in a completely different bracket, if they are under two as opposed to ten and twelve, and even over two. The differences become a lot more pronounced in early ages.

I guess a lot will be left to regulation once again, things that we do not really have an opportunity to look into in more detail in the House on different aspects of that. Also, I guess it is allowing for not-for-profit agencies to run things and that is not always a bad thing at all, but it puts in that particular scope too.

An important thing in child care, I know we were expecting back some time ago, federally, there was going to be a federal campaign on dollars into child care, and that is very important. People don't really realize the importance of investing in young kids and in child care. The rewards are enormous, because at that age it is very important to be able to have the proper care for children invested to allow parents certain flexibility there. That is why I was rather disappointed.

I recently read an article saying: Where was that federal day care program? It was one of the planks, I think, of the 1993 federal election - a day care for the country. We did not see it. No, there was really a reneging on putting dollars into specific areas. I am interested in seeing a focus on a substantial investment and a commitment into child care. Granted, I don't disagree with the regulations here. I don't want to give the impression that I am not agreeing with that but we really do need a significant and very substantial investment into young children, and in particular in the day care aspect, because it is an age that is very impressionable. It is one that is vital, really, for that child in having the necessary means in place to bring along that child. To nurture and develop that child is very crucial.

In today's society where parents have to work, the high cost of surviving today, when they are fortunate enough to get a job and many demands have taken people out of their homes - fortunately today there is some flexibility where people work out of their homes. This modern age of technology has sort of enhanced that to a certain extent but on many occasions that is not possible and we do need to continue to give a commitment to child care.

A particular reference, in terms of warrants - I intended to research it. I did not get the research done before I came to the House, but I was on that and did not get a particular thing. I made a few calls but I could not get anybody on the phone. I wanted to ask a few questions. In terms of Section 14, page 10: Where an inspector or another person believes on reasonable grounds a person is contravening the act -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Don't worry. I will have an answer before the night is out.

It says a search warrant is needed - I guess the privacy of the individual and so on, too. In cases, I guess, where they know the child is in danger, I guess there are always provisions there to go in without a warrant. Maybe members of the legal community might know the specifics of that, but it is my understanding it is. If there are various illegal activities in certain instances under other law, people have the right to go in without warrants. I am not sure if there is direct reference to situations where that is at risk. I do not see it. It is probably there. I am going to look a little closer at some of the clauses before tomorrow and see the distinction there.

Overall, the legislation is positive. Once again, legislating is important but it really means nothing unless we can put the necessary commitment and investment into young people there. All we have is a set of regulations and facilities. That is important, but it is not the sole factor in determining the development of young kids and providing the necessary child care that is needed here, particularly in light of the change in society.

Years ago we did not require that. In many areas, in large families, only one member of the family was employed. The other person stayed home to look after and raise their children. Time has changed and I think we have to move forward. Maybe the minister with the federal counterparts may be able to revisit that issue in investing. We have looked at regulating and legislating; now we have to look at investing some real dollars into providing services for children.

With that I conclude my comments during second reading of the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to speak for a few minutes on this bill. I have to say that this bill has only been available for a couple of days in the House. It is an important piece of legislation because it controls and regulates the provision of child care services in this Province. There are some very important policy issues and, as the previous speaker alluded to, some issues that have to do with privacy and of weighing out the balance between the needs of privacy on the one hand and the needs of the protection of the public on the other, to ensure that what goes on in child care services can be properly scrutinized, inspected, monitored, regulated and directed by governmental authority.

I have to say that we have a system in place in this House that was put in place a couple of years ago of legislative review committees. The purpose of legislative review committees is to provide an arm of this House, with representation from both sides of the House, to do the kind of scrutiny that sometimes cannot take place in the day or so - and I say day or so; this bill has only been printed a couple of days. We are in our usual mad rush - legislation flying, changes to legislation flying, privileged copies of legislation flying around on short notice - where important governmental business and people's business is being conducted.

On some issues we go far away the other way. The committee on the insurance industry sat for two years. We had two committees, heard representations all over the place, lots of travel all over the Province, interim reports, final reports, subsequent publicity for the chairman. All kinds of activity on a matter certainly of some importance, but no more importance I would say than the children of this Province who are in child care arrangements and services.

I have to say I have not had sufficient time to analyze the whole of the bill but, just sort of looking at what child care is, I see the provisions are not too inclusive. It seems that, for example, child care that is not included under the definition of child care would not be permitted. Maybe this can be dealt with in committee, and it may need a change.

For example, child care is: care and supervision of a child for a part of a day by a person other than: (i) the child's parent; (ii) the child's guardian; (iii) the child's relative; (iv) the child's care giver, as defined in the Child, Youth and Family Services Act; or (v) a person employed by the parent, guardian or relative to care for the child in the child's home.

Now what about a situation, Mr. Speaker - and I am aware of such a situation - where instead of a single parent looking after their own child in their home, they have a cooperative arrangement, where there is one care giver, one early childhood educator, or one person in charge, and they are looking after two children in one home, under a cooperative arrangement?

Obviously, you can hire someone to come into your own home and look after your own children. But, what if you have a neighbour, or what if you have a friend, or another family member or relative who says: Okay, look, why don't we do this together? And my child and your child will be looked after in one of the homes by a third person who is hired and who is paid jointly by the two families. What is wrong with that, Mr. Speaker? Why would that be not permitted? If I can hire a person to come into my home and look after my child or children, then why could I and my neighbour not hire a person to look after both of our children in one or the other of the homes? Now why would that not be permitted?

Now, I can see, Mr. Speaker, under clause 3(1)(f), where the regulation may prescribe that that situation is also permitted, as well as the definitions of child care under (d). But I do not even know whether such a situation was contemplated by legislation, Mr. Speaker, or whether it is considered a detail that will be covered by regulation.

The Legislative Review Committee, Mr. Speaker - and I have not been on a Legislative Review Committee for the last year or two. I do not know why I have not been appointed by the House to sit on a Legislative Review Committee. I have had some pretty active committee work, I would say. The Member for Ferryland and I were on a Legislative Committee reviewing a number of pieces of legislation. I remember we looked at the House of Assembly Act and special provisions for reporting members' interest and conflicts.

MR. SULLIVAN: That was about four or five years ago, wasn't it?

MR. HARRIS: Four or five years ago. There were a number of pieces of legislation that were before the House that went through substantial change in the committee process, when the committee actively looked at the regulations and questioned the officials.

I remember one case, Mr. Speaker, when we were proposing to adopt legislation from another province that had provisions that had nothing to do with our similar legislation, the kind of cut and paste thing that sometimes goes on. It happens sometimes, Mr. Speaker, that no one other than the drafts person may look at the legislation and nobody is out scrutinizing it from a policy perspective or perhaps a fresh look at it. I think sometimes, before legislation is refined to the point where it is satisfactory, new policy issues can be raised by members of this House. After all, it is our duty to do so.

I think the government has been remiss, Mr. Speaker, in this legislation. I suspect, Mr Speaker - and maybe the minister will tell us - but I suspect that this legislation has been around for awhile, that this has been churning over in the department, drafts and redrafts, sections being travelling around from ADMs to drafts persons. The whole legislative process, Mr. Speaker, seems to go on far too much behind closed doors. The people in this House are elected not just to support their party in this House and not just to undertake advocacy on behalf of constituents - like the Member for Virginia Waters does, I am sure quite well - advocacy for constituents, supporting your party in the House. The member does that assiduously I know.

There are other roles for members of this House and the Legislative Review Committees are one of the more important ones. There was a time, not a very long time but there was a time, for a couple of years at least, that Legislative Review Committees actually had a look at legislation and improved it by making suggestions, by making amendments in committee, by actually scrutinizing it, by bringing in witnesses and asking them what they mean by this particular section, arguing over - I remember the non-smokers rights act. It was one that we had some changes in in committee. The chiropractors act: We had changes in committee as a result of representations that were made. The legislation on banning cigarette smoking or cigarette sales to minors: We had amendments in committee on. It was quite a bit of legislation, Mr. Speaker, that has gone through that process and has been improved by the legislative review process and having a little bit of lead time so that legislation is improved before it gets here.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the notion of regulating child care services is one thing, and the Province is addressing that in this particular legislation. The real issue, Mr. Speaker, is the cost, availability and access to child care services in this Province, and that is something that has not been addressed properly by this government nor has it been addressed properly by the national government. We keep getting promises, promises, Mr. Speaker, from the national government about a national child care strategy, national child care program, a national child care initiative, call them the various names; promised by the Tories, Mr. Speaker, promised by the Mulroney Tories. They were going to have -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) give him a chance to deliver (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Oh, they were there long enough to deliver on that, I would say to the hon. Member for Ferryland, the Opposition House Leader. They promised it long enough. They promised it often enough. They went to the people on it in 1988 but did not deliver, Mr. Speaker, and the Liberals have done the same thing, made promises but have not delivered.

A national child care initiative is a very important -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) in B.C. and Ontario deliver on what they said?

MR. HARRIS: I would say the NDP delivered on it, Mr. Speaker, and they -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) Mike Harris tried to straighten them out, compassionate Mike Harris.

MR. HARRIS: Yes, you are right. Compassionate Mike. Mike had his compassion after the Dione quintuplets blew him out of the water.

MR. SULLIVAN: At least he got it. Some people did not get it yet.

MR. HARRIS: Three women, Mr. Speaker, meek and mild, humble, straightforward women whose plight was before the public, they were who drove Mike Harris into compassion. It was not compassion, I say to the Member for Ferryland. There was no more compassion in that move than there was in the move by the Minister of Human Resources and Employment in reversing the Child Benefit claw back. It was done because the public opinion and the public political will forced that Premier and this government in this case, to reverse their decision.

This legislation, Mr. Speaker, I cannot talk about it in detail because it has not been subject to the kind of scrutiny that a Legislative Review Committee could give it. It has not been around long enough. Perhaps the minister could address this when she speaks: Is it the policy of this government to develop this legislation behind closed doors and propose it in the House a couple of days before they are trying to close it, or is there an openness and transparency about the minister's activities? Is she prepared to circulate drafts for consideration before they finalize things so that people can have a chance to look at them, a chance to consult with people in the activity of child care?

We have a Child Care Advocate's Association. The public college has an Early Childhood Education Program. Surely, Mr. Speaker, there ought to be time for legislators, for members of this House, to consult with people to see what they think it would do, to let this legislation see the light of day and let people have a look at it and have some comment on it before we are asked to vote on it in this House.

We are going to be asked to vote on this in its final form tomorrow, I would submit, Mr. Speaker, after perhaps an hour of debate. We have had probably twenty minutes or so now. We might get a few goes at it in Committee if the Member for Ferryland stays up all night tonight and analyzes it in great detail. He raised an important issue about whether or not the -

MR. SULLIVAN: I stay up until two every night.

MR. HARRIS: I'm suggesting you might have to stay up all night to analyze this one, with all the other work you have to do tonight too. There may be some problems with this that have yet to be identified.

For example, I'm looking at section 13. An inspector can go to any child care premises at reasonable times. Yet, when they go down to the issue of search warrants in 14(2):

"A provincial court judge or a justice of the peace who is satisfied... that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a contravention of this Act has occurred or that entry onto a child care service or other public or private premises has been refused or denied...," what are we talking about here?

MR. SULLIVAN: There are treating kids basically the same as someone who has an illegal moose.

MR. HARRIS: Okay. It says here in 14(2): "public or private premises... including a dwelling house..." Why is dwelling house included in the warrant section but not in the inspection section? Someone should answer that question. If the child care service is being provided in a dwelling house, why can't an inspector enter a dwelling house at a reasonable time? Why does he have to have to have a warrant to go into a dwelling house?

MR. SULLIVAN: Because if you go into a dwelling house there must be less than four of a certain age, and therefore it is into that person's residence. It's not a licensed establishment and doesn't have to go under the same licensing as with a higher number. That is why it is different. It is a different scenario.

MR. HARRIS: I am sure the minister must be very pleased that the Opposition House Leader is explaining. I don't know if that is the same explanation the minister would have, or the minister's officials would have. I was raising this as a question that I think needs to be answered. I don't know if the provision of - the child care services premises must include a private dwelling house, surely. You are allowed to have a child care service in a dwelling house.

As I say, I don't want to prolong the debate at second reading. We are talking about improvement in principle here. One of the principles, I submit, of good legislation is legislation that has had an opportunity to be considered by the Legislature which is being asked to pass it. We have special provisions in our rules of procedure for this House, the Standing Orders, to provide for legislation being sent to committees.

I don't know what the minister's timetable is here, whether it is necessary to have these in place, but I suspect this draft or a draft that has been around for some six or eight months or longer; there is no reason why a draft of the bill or an almost final draft couldn't have been sent to a legislative committee, have a little public scrutiny, give a little time for people to understand the provisions of the act, and hopefully, if there were problems with it, to make improvements to the act or identify those public policy issues that might need public debate.

Other than that, Mr. Speaker, I have no more remarks to make. There seems to be an awful lot left to regulation, although we went through a big fuss a couple of years ago. The previous premier and his cohort, the then Government House Leader and Minister of Justice and whatever else he was, were anxious to get rid of every single regulation that ever existed on the face of the earth. I understand the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation has to try to put some of them back to look after some problems that have been created.

Here we are going down the same route again, now. We have everything left to regulation. The Cabinet can do a lot, Mr. Speaker, without very much by way of review at all. In saying that, it recalls to mind one of the issues raised by that great Newfoundland constitutional expert - and I don't mean the former premier. I mean Eugene Forsey of Grand Bank, I think he is from, a great constitutional expert, a good New Democrat, or CCFer, until he sat as a Liberal in the Senate. He is a recognized constitutional expert.

In one of his books and memoirs he talks about the fact that so much of government is done by regulation and so little scrutiny is ever given to regulation by any public body, that a great deal of harm is caused and a great deal of mischief can occur because things get done by regulation that never have public scrutiny.

One of the things that he talked about in his book was the role he played in the Senate on a committee which oversaw the statutory regulations of the Parliament of Canada. I can't give any chapter and verse here. He recited a number of issues, very important public policy issues, that were hidden away in regulations that were either contrary to the legislation, contrary to the intention of legislation or contrary to the spirit of the Constitution of the country.

Mr. Speaker, the situation that we have here is we have broad principles being established. Cabinet can, by regulation, any Thursday morning pass a piece of legislation, have it published in The Newfoundland Gazette, and it has the force of law in this Province assuming that it is within the bounds of the legislation itself.

Mr. Speaker, when legislation of this nature is being proposed it would also be useful to see the kind of regulations, even if they are only in draft form, that are being proposed as part of the whole scheme of the act.

There is a role, Mr. Speaker, for members of this House of Assembly, as I say, beyond the advocacy for your constituents on an individual basis and beyond supporting your party dutifully in the House of Assembly, as the Member for Virginia Waters does on an ongoing basis. There is a role in scrutinizing legislation, being a watchdog for the public, when legislation is before the House that affects the public good and especially in such an important area as child care and child care services.

We may think we are dealing with a motherhood issue, Mr. Speaker, but some of the most horrendous publicized cases of abuse and sexual abuse in North America resulted from things that went on in child care services, Mr. Speaker. We had the scandal out in Saskatchewan, we had one in California, and there may be others. This is a very important issue. We are dealing here with children between the ages of two and up. I do not know if we are dealing with infant child care. Are we going right down to - I ask the minister to address that one. That is something that has been a big issue. Are we allowing infants here under this regulation? This is something brand new. We are dealing with a whole new area of child care in this Province. It is a major public policy shift.

We have to be very, very careful that we are ready for that. We have for-profit systems out there, we have not-for-profit, we have parent-run child care centres or preschools. One which my wife and I participate in is a parent-run preschool. It is probably a child care centre within the meaning of this, but it is called a preschool. It has been operating for twenty-five or thirty years. There are varieties of experiences out there, Mr. Speaker. There are private for-profit situations; there are not-for-profit situations; there are home base situations; there are cooperative situations. Now we are getting into infant care. We have overnight care situations. It is a very, very significant public policy issue area that we are endeavouring to regulate through this legislation. As I say, Mr. Speaker, I only wish that this legislation could be subjected to more scrutiny than it appears to have received, at least from members of this House, not counting the Cabinet who has obviously passed on it. I don't know how many of the Cabinet ministers have read it. I would say that not many Cabinet ministers have read this from cover to cover.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) even answer questions on it if you want to ask them.

MR. HARRIS: I understand the Opposition House Leader has read it from cover to cover and is prepared to answer any questions on it, as he has indicated earlier. He is ready for the quiz. So even if you have a snap quiz, no warning, the Member for Ferryland, the Opposition House Leader, is ready to answer all questions on it. But he is the exception, I would submit, rather than the rule when it comes to members of this House having had an opportunity to look at the legislation.

I hope that some of these issues will be addressed by the minister in her reply. In particular, the importance of the fact that we are moving into infant care and that special provisions need to apply, special care needs to be taken by government in crafting regulations. When are the regulations going to be available, I ask the minister? When is it intended for this act to come into force? It says on a day to be proclaimed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. That might be tomorrow. That might be six months from now. That might be after some public consultation process that the minister has envisaged, I don't know. Perhaps the minister will tell us.

As I say, Mr. Speaker, it has always been frustrating for me, having been elected to represent people in this House of Assembly, to be required to address legislation of great importance, often on short notice and without the benefit of a legislative committee having had a full opportunity to review the bill, to ask questions, to go over it. We have standing committees here.

I know in Ottawa if legislation is being proposed it goes to a committee. The committee can call witnesses, the committee can scrutinize it, develop some sort of consensus, sometimes as partisans. More often than not there is a willingness on the part of the committee members of all parties to accept amendments that are beneficial to the public good. It is unfortunate that we do not make better use of the talented people we have on all sides of the House. I am not speaking for the Opposition or for myself; I am speaking for all hon. members who are not in Cabinet and who do not have the kind of responsibilities that Cabinet ministers have but do have a great deal to contribute to the legislative process.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I have had my remarks and look forward to the comments of the minister in closing debate.

[The continuation of today's sitting will be found in Hansard No. 39A.]


June 4, 1998                  HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS         Vol. XLIII  No. 39A


[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.