December 15, 1998 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS Vol. XLIII No. 62


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I apologize for getting the statement a little bit later than normal to the member opposite.

Since I became minister about eighteen months ago we have listened to the people of the Province and taken action on a number of fronts. The Provincial Health Forum which we held in May of 1997 was the first of its kind in our Province. It allowed people from all over the Province, representing health providers and consumers, to come together with government to discuss specific issues and to identify practical solutions to the problems identified. Subsequent to that forum and with the support of my Cabinet colleagues, I took a number of initiatives to strengthen our health care system. The most significant initiative was taken in the summer of 1997 when Cabinet allocated $20 million to help stabilize the Regional Health Institutional Boards. In addition, we provided an additional $5.3 million for physicians' services.

In the fall of 1997, some Regional Institutional Boards raised concerns that they were still experiencing funding shortages. At that time, I requested officials of my department to begin a comprehensive review of the Regional Institutional Boards and that review has recently been completed. This is in addition to the Atkinson Report which was completed on the Western Regional Institutional and Health and Community Services Boards and is now also in the department for review. I should say, my officials were well received by the Boards and enjoyed a high level of cooperation while working with them.

The reductions to CHST funding for health care in this Province have been significant. Despite these reductions in federal funding we have ensured that health care budgets in this Province have not been reduced. Nonetheless, we are still experiencing problems in the system. Institutional Boards have accumulated significant deficits to the end of 1997-1998 despite the infusion of $20 million in fiscal 1997-1998. Boards are projecting further deficits of $20 million to $25 million for 1998-1999 and the department has $10 million in new funding to apply against these deficits.

We must not allow the deficits of these Boards to grow. We must take corrective action. This Province cannot afford to fund these deficits from its own limited financial resources. We must obtain additional funding from the federal government. We also have a responsibility to ensure that our health care system is managed effectively and efficiently. Many of the Regional Institutional Boards have achieved efficiencies and made service improvements. Some Boards are not as far along in the regionalization process, and therefore further efficiencies are yet to be achieved.

We have to work with our Boards to ensure that together we have a system that is affordable and accountable to the public. Several Boards have been experiencing problems and corrective action is being taken. New senior executives have been employed by two Boards. A common financial system will be implemented in all Institutional Boards. All financial statements will now be in a standard format and all audited financial statements for 1997-1998 have been received; the first time in a number of years. Regular meetings are now being held between senior departmental and board officials. The challenge to all of us is to provide quality, affordable health care within available funding.

Our integration of programs and services continues and we are implementing the National Child Benefit Reinvestment Plan which is consistent with our Strategic Social Plan. Yet with all of the improvements we have made I have to say we still face significant challenges in our provincial health system.

We know we will always have waiting lists, as long as we have a publicly funded health care system. We also know that those who need the services the most will receive the services first. In this Province we are doing what we can with our limited resources for health care. We are on the right track and will continue to work to improve the health system of our Province. If we are to maintain our publicly funded health care system which we have all come to value and rely on, we will need to ensure our system is as efficient as possible and we will need the increased financial support of the federal government.

I have repeatedly called on the federal government to inject more money into our provincial health system. Our Premier has also spoken clearly and decisively, both nationally and provincially, on this matter. He has advocated to the federal government that the Canada Health and Social Transfer should be increased to ensure the stability of existing health programs and services. Similar calls to the federal government have come from countless health providers and administrators, unions and concerned citizens.

In closing, I want to express my appreciation for the commitment and willingness of my staff and the staff and management of the Regional Boards to help improve our health system by working in partnership for the benefit of all citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure the minister tomorrow, at my private member's resolution on asking the federal government to put money back in the Canada Health and Social Transfer that was really robbed out of that system, that it will get full support on that side of the House.

About one and a half years ago when she became minister - in the midst of a federal election, when they were under attack and they made a shuffle in Cabinet - the Minister of Health and Community Services stood in this House, on April 28. The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board stood too. They almost bowled each other over to stand up in the House and make this statement that the federal government is not going to be cutting funds. They said: We are going to have $66 million extra in health care.

Then on March 11, 1998 the minister had the audacity to write the federal minister and say to him in this letter: In my opinion it is misleading to portray the decision to cease reductions in transfer payments in a manner which implies to Canadians that the provinces will now have more money available in their health system.

Something I said on April 28 in this House, Minister. You attacked the federal government, but it was good to do it during election when you played politics with this issue. You were forced to go to a public forum here to address certain serious problems in our Province that you did not listen to, I might add.

I wouldn't stand and boast that it took a year and a half later to get a report, the Atkinson Report, on the state of health care and a financial statement three years later. You are in power since 1989. That is a reflection on the inadequacy or incompetency of government to be able to get a statement filed on an annual basis, showing where taxpayers' money is being spent in our Province. That is not something to stand up about in this House. That is something to keep a ministerial statement from doing, and to come in and try and paint a good news story.

I support re-investment in health care. The resolution on the Order Paper tomorrow will state that. Not put some of it back, put all of it back that was robbed, because we have an operating surplus now on a federal level. The Premier knows that full well. He sat around the federal Cabinet Table when there discussions of where they were going to cut. You can blame who you like on deficits, whether it is the federal PCs or not. It doesn't make any difference to me who caused it or what the problem was. We are now in an operating surplus. We all have to stand together and demand that every single cent be put back so we can provide better health care for all the people of our Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When the Government of Canada, of which the Premier was a part, introduced the Canada Health and Social Transfer, the then-Minister of Health who, until 10:00 this morning was Minister of Justice, said that this spells the end of Medicare as we know it, the plan of the Government of Canada.

Between that statement and the statement of the minister of today, acknowledging that we are in a crisis in health care funding in this Province, this government has been defending the Government of Canada, has been defending their health care system, and has been saying that everything is in good order, that they are doing a good job.

If they had held to the position taken by the former Minister of Health when this was first introduced and fought valiantly from that day forward, we probably would not be in the boat we are in today. I am glad they are finally acknowledging it, but they are part of the problem. They and the federal government, of which the Premier was a part, created the problem. We need to have a full-fledged commitment to medical funding and Medicare and health care funding in this country and in this Province.

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today I am pleased to announce the launch of the InfoTel information system in Newfoundland and Labrador. InfoTel is a joint federal-provincial initiative that provides information on employment opportunities within the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, the federal government has already implemented a telephone system which provides 24-hour access to employment opportunities in the federal public service. The Public Service Commission of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has decided to participate in this project so that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can easily access information regarding advertised positions in both the federal and provincial governments.

As I am sure my colleagues are aware, public competitions are currently posted on Public Service Commission bulletin boards and advertised in newspapers. The Public Service Commission web page also advertises employment opportunities within the provincial public service. These avenues will remain available. The provincial government remains committed to ensuring that information concerning public employment opportunities is sufficiently advertised and accessible to the public. Job searchers can now access publicly advertised job opportunities on a 24-hour basis.

Mr. Speaker, InfoTel is a good example of partnering between federal and provincial governments. The federal government has absorbed the costs of installation and maintenance of this project. The only cost for the provincial government is for the provision of promotional materials such as the brochures which have been distributed in the House today.

I am pleased that we, as a government, are able to increase access to public information about public service jobs.

Thank you, Mr, Speaker.

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

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

Anything that improves access to public information which respect to this statement that is related to jobs is good news for the public. If the minister were serious in what he is standing and saying about the Public Service Commission, they would start to reinvest in the Public Service Commission to ensure that accessibly is done on an equal footing -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: - and that hiring within departments is not necessarily done by departments and departmental ministers but is done clearly on equal footing so those who are qualified, those who are the best experienced, end up in the public service.

What the minister should also take from this is providing easier access to information not only with respect to employment opportunities but to what government is up to. If he were serious on that regard, we would debating in this Legislature, this sitting, easier access and a renewed and rejuvenated Freedom of Information Act so that not only members of the House but all public officials and people generally could get access to what government is about.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I welcome the announcement of greater accessibility to information about what the Public Service Commission is doing. If the minister were to go further and say that all jobs in the public service - whether they be temporary jobs or jobs in departments that are currently not done through the Public Service Commission - were also going to be advertising so that the public would have equal access from all members of the public to these jobs, I would be ready to applaud this statement. Unfortunately he did not say so.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, in view of recent events related to the Canadian Blood Bank, I wish to take this opportunity today to update the House on the status of the Province's investment in that company. As hon. members are already aware, a loan guarantee of $500,000 was provided to the company earlier this year by the Department of Development and Rural Renewal. This investment was made following significant management changes in the company and was intended to bridge the company while it was attempting to restructure itself financially.

This investment was secured by an assignment of a mortgage on a commercial building in St. John's. This building has an appraised market value of $1.2 million. This was previously indicated to members by the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal during Question Period on November 19 when he stated that our security is in the form of real estate, not in equipment and supplies used by the Blood Bank on a day-to-day basis.

Mr. Speaker, I want to reassure the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that the security for this investment is still in place. The building in question has recently been listed on the market. We have discussed this with the bank involved and have every reason to believe that the investment is not at risk. We will continue to monitor this very closely to ensure that the Province's investment remains fully protected.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the minster for this brief statement.

Of course, we are all happy to hear that it is secured but when we read that: We have discussed this with the bank involved and have every reason to believe that the investment is not at risk...

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of investments by this government that a lot of people are questioning today. With this $500,000 we hope that is secured but it is also time maybe to look at some other investments that the government has made in recent days.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question today is for the Minister of Finance and Minister of Justice.

Two weeks ago in the House I asked him questions related to the Immigration Investment Fund with respect to the construction of the hospitals that were announced in the 1998 Budget. In his response at that time he said the Immigration Investment Fund - there are certain arrangements that have to be put in place. He talked about the fact that the government may have to create a private entity. Could he elaborate today on what he meant by a private entity? Will government have to set up a private entity?

Will government own that private entity, or will somebody else and government deal with the Immigrant Investment Fund through that private entity?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What I referred to was a requirement under the federal legislation for eligibility for this investment program that it be a public/private partnership. The second requirement is that the money has to be invested in public infrastructure. The issue is how we do that. The classic way of doing it is to have a leaseback arrangement whereby the Province would contract with a group or an individual who has tendered for an arrangement whereby they would construct. We would flow the funds and then lease back for a prescribed period of time. That is the sort of entity that I referred to.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: My understanding from what you have indicated, Minister, is that you are talking - will the money from the Immigrant Investment Fund actually flow to a private developer who may win a tender, or will government have to set up a separate company, put the money in the separate company and then let that flow to the private developer? Again, I am not clear on what you said. Will the Immigrant Investment Fund money actually go to the private developer to build the hospitals? Is that what the minister is saying?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the hon. member that the problem with the criteria is that it is not entirely explicit. It has to be a public/private partnership. What that will contemplate is not entirely clear. What we see happening is that the money has to flow out of a fund to some sort of public/private partnership arrangement. What will likely occur is that if government decides to use the money, for example, to build hospitals, then one eventuality or one possibility is that the money will flow out of the fund to the contractor who would then build the hospital, who would then agree to repay the money to the fund on a leaseback arrangement.

The critical difference here would be that normally government would borrow on the market to find that money to pay for public infrastructure; in this case it accesses the fund.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Minister, a couple of weeks ago government indicated, or the minister indicated, that there were no decisions made with respect to either leasing arrangements for a period of twenty to twenty-five years, or whether government would build the hospitals themselves. Is the Minister of Finance saying today that Cabinet has taken the decision, or that government has taken the decision, that on these hospitals, the five that were announced in the Budget, that the financing through the Immigrant Investment Fund will actually be done on a leaseback basis over a twenty to twenty-five year period. Has that decision been made?

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

MR. DICKS: No, Mr. Speaker, that decision has not been made. As I indicated to the hon. member, the government is exploring a proper way to utilize the funds from this Immigrant Investment Fund for public infrastructure such as hospitals.

There was a tender called some time ago - it closed - and we have extended that just to examine the terms of the contract to see whether it is advisable for us to do in the fashion that the member indicates.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago the Minister of Finance said directly that no decision had been made on leasing yet. Yet, in the tender for the Harbour Breton hospitals, it called for a twenty-five year lease agreement. The three proposals that he received, for example: Hospital Leasing Services, $891,250 per year for twenty-five years; Newfoundland Limited, $10,719,747,966 for twenty-five years; Newfoundland Limited, $10,716,594,137.

It seems to me like you have made a decision, Minister, if you are going to proceed with leasing. It seems to me in your tender call that you have indicated that what you are looking for is for companies to make a bid to construct a hospital with a leaseback arrangement in mind for twenty-five years.

The question is: If you have made that decision, why haven't you made it public? If you haven't, when will you make your mind up?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The answer to the hon. member's question is no, no decision has been taken. The department called for tenders on a certain basis. Government has not decided to accept any tenders. The hon. member knows, if he reads the tender document, it says: The lowest or any tender not necessarily accepted.

Government is reviewing it. We have asked for an extension of thirty days to determine whether or not we will do it in this fashion, or we may use some other method to fund the hospitals.

In answer to his question, to be very direct, no decision has been made.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: This is a public chamber where you ask public questions, Premier, I say to you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: I am just trying to be clear because what is happening, what seems to me, is that a decision has been made. I am told that a decision has been made. The minister is saying right now that there has been no decision made on how the hospitals will be constructed.

I would like to ask him this question: Surely you must have assessed, before calling tenders - the Department of Finance itself, on behalf of government - what would be the best financial arrangements for the people of the Province, whether it was a twenty-five year lease agreement or outright purchase construction and the Province doing it. Can you share that assessment with us? And could you table in the House today what would be in the best financial interests of the people of the Province: a twenty-five year lease agreement with a particular company on five hospitals - maybe even schools, maybe government are looking at school construction under the same way - however, could you share what that assessment was and what you have given to Cabinet to this point that would indicate when you would make a decision and on what basis you would make a decision?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The government will make the decision on the basis of what is in the public interest of the Province.

As the hon. member knows, there are two aspects of decision making; one is bureaucratic, the other is governmental or ministerial. In this case, the officials of various departments determined to proceed in this manner and to call for tenders. A ministerial committee of Treasury Board and Cabinet are now reviewing that to see if it is appropriate to do so and if it serves the interests of the Province and government's concern in fostering public/private partnerships and, secondly, doing it in the most efficient, economic means possible.

We have not reached a conclusion. We have had some very interesting discussions. We have gone over the proposals in very great detail, as we have the tender documents, and we have not yet made a decision. We have asked for tenders to be extended for that reason.

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

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

Two weeks ago you indicated that a decision would be made by last Friday with respect to these decisions. Are you saying that decision has now been delayed to another future date? If so, can you explain why that has been delayed?

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, as I recall, what I said was that if we were going to accept any of the tenders it would be made by that Friday because that was the deadline for acceptance of the tenders. What I just said was that we went back, asked the proponents, the people who tendered on the documents, to give us an extension. I believe it is until January 8. We will, in the meantime, examine it to see if it meets the ministerial criteria for these sorts of arrangements. If it does not, we will reject them; if it does, we will accept the lowest tender, I expect.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I expect it within the next week to ten days.

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.

Today the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses' Union announced that they have rejected a tentative agreement that was offered by government and the employers of our health care system. Now the nurses' union stated in their release today that government has spent a great deal of money in many other areas and not enough on health care. Health care, Minister, is the top priority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and we have seen such a continuous deterioration of health care. That deterioration has been so significant that 87 per cent of nurses feel that patients' health is at risk, and 82 per cent of nurses feel that their own health is at risk because of that. I want to ask the minister if she shares that view that she held when she was their president, and the view that is held by nurses today?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will respond to the -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DICKS: No, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member raised a question regarding the nurses' agreement. I just want to clarify, for the public record, that the government negotiated with the nurses' union a tentative agreement. It was brought to the membership. It was rejected by a very narrow margin and that is where matters stand as of the present date.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question was that nurses have stated that 87 per cent of patients are at risk today because of overwork and understaffing, and 82 per cent of nurses are at risk. I ask the minister: Does she share that view that she held when she was their president, and the view that is held by nurses today?

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

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

Everybody knows that our health care system is under a lot of stress. We have made a number of statements -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I am answering the question and I would ask the hon. member to listen.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: I did listen to his question and I would like an opportunity to answer that question.

Mr. Speaker, the health care system today is under a lot of stress and, as I read in my Ministerial Statement previously, we have put $20 million back into the system last year. We have another $10 million. We have just signed a number of collective agreements. Yes, the system is under stress. Physicians, nurses, nursing assistance, LPNs, all of the health care workers are working under very stressful conditions. If we had more money we would definitely give more money to the system, and not just limit it to health care.

As my colleague pointed out a moment ago, that agreement was negotiated. The nurses' union brought forward a tentative agreement which was rejected by its membership. I understand if you were to read the rest of the press release to which you are referring that they will also come back and meet with government, with Treasury Board, and try to find a way, if possible, to resolve the issues.

We all recognize and value the work of nurses and all of our health care providers in the system, and we know they are working very hard, and we know it is very stressful. Mr. Speaker, as I said, when you are in government you have to govern and governing is about making choices. We have some very difficult decisions to make with the limited financial resources we have.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Nurses do not feel respected by government and this is evidenced by a lower offer to them than was offered to other medical professionals and managers, I say to the minister. Why, Minister, have you not stood up to defend your colleagues and given them the respect they deserve?

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

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

The collective agreement tentatively reached with the nurses is the very same agreement, the 7 per cent agreement, reached with all of the other bargaining agents throughout the public service. The member opposite cannot speak out of both sides of his mouth when he talks about the issues we are trying to deal with: physician recruitment and position management in this Province and in this country.

We made an arrangement with physicians that to this very day he is complaining about. Unfortunately, it is something that perhaps he does not quite grasp. When you are on this side of the House you have to make some very difficult decisions. The same offer that was given to NAPE and CUPE and all of the other public sector unions was offered to the nurses, and they did, and were successful, in negotiating other issues around casual workers. I know by the percentage of rejection, 51.4 per cent, that in fact there are a number of issues that were acceptable to a number of people and a number that were not. I have to say that the same offer that was made to all of the other public service collective bargaining agents was offered to the nurses, and he knows that. I presume he knows that, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister I am not speaking out of both sides of my mouth. I have it in writing here, your letter, if you would like me to table a copy, where you have been speaking on both sides of your mouth in Hansard of last year.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: In the September issue of The Canadian Nurse, Minister, you were quoted as saying: "Nurses, if you don't make dust, you eat dust, nurses make dust."

Minister, you will agree that nurses have eaten enough dust. I ask you when are you going to start dealing with the real issues facing nurses in our Province today?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am very honoured that the member opposite would have read a tribute article to me in The Canadian Nurse. I did not realise he was on their mailing list.

I have to say that I have the utmost respect for nurses. I currently hold an active nurse's license, and I know they are working very hard. I have said it time and time again and I will continue to say it: We do not have enough money to pay for the work that nurses and all other health care providers are doing for the people of this Province.

When you are on this side of the House, when you have limited financial resources, you have to make choices. Those choices that we made through Treasury Board were that we were able to offer the same amount of money to all of the public sector bargaining agents, including the nurses.

I want to say this again, very clearly for the record, that I very much support and acknowledge the work that nurses do, and other health care providers in our system. We will continue to meet with them to try to resolve the issues. Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to note that when you have limited financial resources you have to make the decisions that we have had to make over the last number of years.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the new Minister of Justice. Often when there is a new minister, I say, there is often times a new vision. I would like to ask this question with respect to the Whitbourne Boys' Home. We have heard stories in the last several months surrounding the treatment people have endured at the Whitbourne Boys' Home when they were younger, I say, Mr. Minister. There have been serious allegations made in recent weeks and in recent months: allegations of abuse of all kinds, even suggestions of cover up. Will the minister now give consideration to a commission of inquiry to deal with these allegations so that these boys, the former residents, may have their stories told and heard?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the hon. member knows, the position of the government has been articulated by my colleague in the House in recent days in response to his questions. As the hon. member knows, if he has been following the news reports, the individuals concerned are suing government. There are many forms of inquires. The clearest is one that is before the courts, and I expect that any concerns, allegations and so on will be forthcoming in any civil cases that are now pending, as well as criminal cases that have been heard.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Is the minister saying he is leaving the door open? That once these matters have gone through the legal process, both criminal matters and civil matters before the courts, is the minister saying he will leave the door open and give consideration to a full scale inquiry, similar to what the residents of Mount Cashel were entitled to and what they were given? What is the difference between the residents of Mount Cashel and the residents of the old Whitbourne Boys' Home?

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, the issues is one of legal processes. As the hon. member well knows, if you conduct an inquiry while there are any sorts of other proceedings pending, you can bias those.

In direct response to the member's question, we would not preclude anything at this point. Clearly, there are civil proceedings which I understand have arisen out of criminal proceedings. The prudent thing to do is to wait and see what the outcome of that is. The current civil proceedings bring into question whether or not government was liable. I expect that is an issue on which the judge or judges concerned will hear evidence and pass a verdict, and that will be very public in the nature of the journalistic reports and the decision that will eventually arise from the courts. Whether or not, subsequent to that, it is either necessary, expedient or advisable to hold an public inquiry is something that I do not think either of us should try to prejudge at this point.

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. Last week the minister announced a further provincial involvement in a private sector company, S.C.B. Fisheries Limited. I ask the minister: What public policy purpose is there in this financial intervention, and what guarantee has the Province received to protect its investment?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, the public policy is very simple. We have a great deal of confidence in the aquaculture industry in Newfoundland and Labrador in the future. Not only the fin fish but the mussel industry, so the whole of the aquaculture industry. I believe very strongly that, while we are far behind here compared to other provinces and other countries, we will get there and we will have a very lucrative industry in the future.

What protection is there for government's investment? The protection that the aquaculture industry will stay alive in the Province. We could have forgot about it, we could have let it go, we could have collapsed the industry. Who would that benefit? As I said, the aquaculture industry is working very well in other countries around the world, in the United States in particular, and especially in Atlantic Canada. So, the protection of protecting and ensuring that the aquaculture industry is going to be a lucrative industry in the future, going to employ hundreds of people - it is certainly employing a couple of hundred people in the Bay d'Espoir area and the Connaigre Peninsula, and several hundred people in the mussel industry -, the confidence in the industry of the future is the protection that we have for the investment of our dollars.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I say to the minister that we over here as well support the aquaculture industry, and support funding put into development and research.

Recently we have seen the Province become more financially involved in IPL, another example of a large investment of taxpayers' money, I say to the minister. Would the minister inform the House of government's policy as it relates to investing in private sector companies?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, government must have confidence in small business operations in this Province. If we don't have some confidence that there is a role to play for free enterprise in the system, what kind of a government or what kind of a responsibility would we hold? The mere fact that we have to work and we have to support private industry is a way to develop the economy in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is very clear that as a government we want to get out of being involved in private industry. That is the reason why we are trying to move the aquaculture industry into the hands of a private investor. We want to get away from it totally. Certainly, regardless of whether we are involved directly or indirectly, we must have confidence in the private developers in this Province and support them wherever we possibly can.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister, some time ago in this House you gave a statement on the status of the fishing industry, making the point that much private sector investment was behind the current success of that particular industry. Given your support for private enterprise I ask the minister: Why is he now investing the taxpayers' money? Why hasn't he left S.C.B. Fisheries Limited's financial problems to the private sector rather than to the taxpayers of this Province?

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

MR. EFFORD: If we followed that train of thought, what the hon. member is saying there, the S.C.B. Fisheries Limited, or the aquaculture industry on the Connaigre Peninsula would have gone into bankruptcy. If that is what the hon. member is saying, then I do not think he is going to get agreement from many people in this Province, to let the aquaculture industry go. The direction in which we are leading is exactly that, to lead it into private industry.

Our commitment is, first of all, to make sure that there is a aquaculture industry on the Connaigre Peninsula. Then - in fact, not then. We are now in the process of working with a private firm which has the financial ability to take over that industry and make it work. To let it go? That would be irresponsible. We do not intend to do that.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last week, the minister announced that when they took a look at S.C.B. Fisheries Limited it was found to be poorly managed. I say to the minister, the government's money, taxpayers' dollars, has being going into this particular company for a number of years now. I ask the minister why he waited until just a few short months ago to put somebody from his department down there to look at the management of this particular operation and to monitor its operations?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, it has been almost three years since I was appointed Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Province. One thing I wanted to do as Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is to work with the industry as a whole. Being Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture does not give me the authority to walk into a private company and say: Let me look at your books. I do not have that authority as minister.

I can, if a company comes to me, as minister, work with them, discuss with them their problems and, if I see it's necessary, depending on what they are asking, then I would take another step.

In the case of S.C.B. Fisheries Limited, only this year did that company come to government looking for financial support. One of the conditions in our discussions was that before we made any commitment to any financial support I would send my Assistant Deputy Minister down to S.C.B. Fisheries Limited to look at the whole operational structure, the management. What were the problems in there? What were the problems they were experiencing? I was not going to commit any taxpayers' dollars until we had full control of the industry and we knew exactly where that industry would be going in the future, and we could identify the problems which got it into the position it was in at that particular time.

We made the decision to send our Assistant Deputy Minister down there after the company came to us and asked us for assistance.

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, at $5.25 an hour this Province's minimum wage is the lowest in the country. In May of 1996, shortly after taking office, the Minister of Environment and Labour announced the government was planning to change all of that. While we saw a two-stage increase to $5.25 an hour, ours still remains the lowest in the country. In that respect, nothing has changed.

Minister, we are moving towards April, 1999, two years since the minimum wage was last adjusted. Don't you think it is time to raise the minimum wage and at least bring us in line with the wage levels in neighbouring provinces?

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

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank the hon. member for his question.

When we are ready we can probably have a look at that in the department. We obviously care about the people in the Province and the Province's ability, and private industry ability, to pay wages to the people who work for them. We are always cognizant of the fact that these people are there, and of the wage they receive. As I said, when we look at it, if there is an opportunity for us to make an adjustment to it, we will do that.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In a news release in May 1996 the minister said: Increasing the minimum wage will also have a positive impact on the income and spending power of people who work in the retail trade, home and child care, accommodation, food and beverage industries.

The minister has already admitted that raising the minimum wage brings benefits. If he is not prepared to announce a raise, won't he at least announce that he is recommissioning the Labour Standards Board to examine the issue and make recommendations which I am sure will reflect their 1996 advice that raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do?

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

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can say to the hon. member that we are presently reviewing in the department the minimum, and I can also say to him that in 1999 we are doing a complete overhaul of the labour standards in the Province. At that particular time I am sure there are things we can do to improve the labour market quality in the Province.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister that as trade barriers fall and we pursue economic and fiscal cooperation with our fellow Atlantic Provinces, harmonizing the minimum wage level becomes a priority. The minister also said that in 1996.

With P.E.I. at $5.40 and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick at $5.50, will the minister admit that a modest boost of our minimum wage is the responsible thing to do? If he worries about the impact on employers, will he consider doing something about the payroll tax, the tax on jobs, that is raising the cost to local business of creating jobs?

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

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can say to the hon. member again that the minimum wage presently is under review at the department and in due time we will have a particular announcement on that.

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

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

I have a question for the Minister of Mines and Energy, whoever that may be. I understand they are in transition. I will ask the question anyway. There are many questions still from the people in Labrador West concerning IOC and the developments with the Sept-Iles plant being reactivated. I understand that some officials there from Hatch were having a meeting recently. They also made a number of requests, some weeks ago now, which the government said they would live up to, one of them to meet with Hatch officials, and also to meet with MetChem Bechtel officials. I am just wondering if the minister can update us on if those meetings are going to take place.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

AN HON. MEMBER: Will the real minister please stand up?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, we are having meetings with the (inaudible). The microphone. We are constantly having -

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I will spare the House the microphone that does not work, and tell the member that there are meetings ongoing. We continue to meet as well with IOC to address the matters that have been raised by the workers in the communities. Specifically, the questions that have been raised by the Member for Labrador West, notably to ensure that work is performed first and foremost in Labrador City, rather than in Sept-Iles.

Secondly, that the no layoff policy which is currently in place is maintained. There are 388 employees today who would otherwise be on layoff who are still employed because of the new layoff policy that was achieved from the intervention for the Member for Labrador West.

Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that as the investment program goes forward, it goes forward in a way that maximizes the benefits to the people of Labrador City.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, I am glad they straightened out who the minister finally was. Still the question is unanswered. They met with Hatch officials. Apparently they are waiting for another request to see the numbers that MetChem Bechtel have. Another question they had, and the government said that they would have that within weeks, was a ten-year summary of taxes and royalties from IOC. It was asked for by the committee to the minister. When will be that be forthcoming, I would ask the minister, whoever that may be?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the former Minister of Mines and Energy has sent a twenty-two-page detailed letter to all of those who asked all of those questions.

MR. SPEAKER: Question period has ended.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have for tabling the Consolidated Public Accounts of the Province in four volumes. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: In accordance with the Auditor General's Act, I hereby table the Report of the Auditor General of the Audit of the Financial Statements of the Province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1998.

Petitions

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise again to continue to present another petition on behalf of the people of Labrador West. It reads:

WHEREAS the residents of Labrador City condemn the provincial government in supporting the Iron Ore Company of Canada's decision to process Labrador resources in Sept-Iles, Quebec;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to reverse this decision immediately and support a policy of secondary processing within the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting that the Premier would stand today to answer some of these questions, some that are still ongoing as lately as yesterday. A list of questions that the Committee that met with government and requested certain information on is still not forthcoming. That is why I continue these questions today. Apparently they are to meet with Hatch officials, but, I say to the minister, whoever that may be today, that they still have not lived up to that commitment of providing the proper numbers so that the people of Labrador West can go over their numbers themselves. Simply put, to say that Hatch did an independent study. There are still a lot of questions within that study itself that the people of Labrador West do not fully understand or fully believe.

The question still remains - as the Premier talked today about the jobs and the maximizing potential -, the truth is we are going to miss out on it big time, and also send a message to the people of this Province again that the resources of our Province are going to in this case Quebec, to provide jobs in that part of Canada.

The people in this Province are also concerned at what kind of a message this is sending to investors. One day you have taken a tough stand with Inco and holding them up, saying: You will go nowhere with this resource until full benefits and all jobs come to this Province. The next day we are telling something different to the Iron Ore Company of Canada, a company that has been here for thirty-eight years, made billions of dollars, made a lot of profit out of the resources of Labrador West, and are going to be sending our resource, the iron ore of Labrador City to Sept-Iles, Quebec, to employ people in that province.

It does not sit well with the people of Labrador West. It did not days ago, it still does not today, and it will not tomorrow. Some people say it is a done deal, forget about it and get on with it. That does not make it right, just to forget about it.

Even when the deal is done and the plant is still operating, if it does go ahead in Sept-Iles, Quebec, which it seems the way this government is intent on doing, the people of Labrador West will never ever forget the decision this government has made with respect to IOC and the strong stance that they should have taken.

I am going to continue, as long as this House of Assembly is in session and even afterwards, in any way that we can to support the people of Labrador West in simply saying that the resources of Newfoundland and Labrador stay in Newfoundland and Labrador for the benefit of the people of this Province, and are not to be shipped out and processed elsewhere.

To make note of it, as the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture always says about our fishery resources, and I agree with him totally: Process the fish here, let the work stay here. It is the same with the seal industry. Develop the entire seal so that it is capsulized, the meat is canned and so on. In the same respect we have to take that philosophy from the fishery and put it into our natural resources. As a matter of fact, even more importantly into our ore resources, for the simple reason that they are not renewable, as in the fishery. Once a mine goes into production that is the day it begins to shut down. That is what we have to remember about our mineral resources.

The people of this Province - not just the people of Labrador West, who have been main contributors to this Province for years - are sick to their stomach to believe that the Premier of Quebec, the person who wants to break up this great country of ours, was gloating on the first day of a provincial campaign that the resources of Labrador City were coming down to Sept-Iles, Quebec, to drive that economy down there.

We should be ashamed of it. It is a policy decision that should have been reversed. Things could have been done, it could have been treated differently, and the people of Labrador West certainly have not given up and we have not given up. We hope that many people in this Province feel the same way about our resources. At the end of the day they will see the light, reverse the decisions, do whatever they have to do.

One time the Premier was going to go across the country and make sure that he would turn off the power on Churchill Falls. That is a pretty dramatic thing to do, but what about the stand that he could have taken with IOC? He still has his open plane ticket to Australia. He is not there yet. He could have at least went down there. Was every stone unturned in this particular matter? I do not think so. The people of this Province have not accepted it, will not accept it ever, and I do not think the people of Labrador West certainly will ever accept it, or will they ever forget it.

As days go on we will continue to do this in this Assembly and through other means. We support them wholly and we will continue to support them in this Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I have spoken on this petition on a number of occasions in this House. My colleague has said that the people of this Province do not accept the decision made by this government not to demand that the pellet plant be kept in Labrador City. That is a fact. At the meetings of the municipalities' association of the Province, that was voiced very strongly. There is a committee in place in Labrador City that is very active, and it is continuing to be active, because this is an unjust decision by this government.

This decision by this government is going to have a very bad affect, not only on the resources in Labrador West but on other resources as well. When you look at Voisey's Bay, what will be the fallout of this decision on Labrador West? What power does this give Inco? There is no difference in demanding that the resources from Voisey's Bay have the secondary processing done in this Province and demand that a smelter be located in this Province, and demanding that a pellet plant be located in Labrador West.

Inco claim, and have fought with the claim, that it is not viable to put a smelter in this Province, but the government claims that a smelter, in conjunction with the resources from Voisey's Bay as an overall project, is viable and therefore the smelter should be located in this Province. While IOC say that it is not viable to put a pellet plant in Labrador or it is more viable to put a pellet plant in Sept-Iles than in Labrador, the people of Labrador West say that it is viable to have the combined operation in Labrador West. As long as it is viable to have the combined operation, then the secondary processing of our resources should be done in this Province to give maximum benefits to the people of this Province. I agree with that.

I agree that if the overall project is viable - whether it is more or less viable to have a smelter located in Quebec - that our resources should give maximum benefit to the people of our Province, not to the people of Quebec, not to the people of any other province or any other country. If there is a possibility and if there is a viable means of doing it in this Province, it should be done in this Province to give benefit to the people of this Province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I have a petition here on behalf of the public service pensioners. It reads:

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

WHEREAS the public service pensioners in this Province have not had an increase in their pension since 1989; and

WHEREAS some 11,000 retired public service pensioners are directly affected; and

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

WHEREFORE your petitioners and those represented by forms attached urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to provide adequate increases in benefits to public service pensioners which reflect the increases in wages of public servants.

Mr. Speaker, anybody who is paid in this Province through the public service has been given an increase, and rightly so. Why have the public service pensioners not been given that same increase? That is the question here. That is the question that has not received an adequate answer. This Administration is the first administration since public service pensions have been indexed and increased to deny public service pensioners that right.

The public service pensioners of this Province have worked hard to develop the systems and the infrastructure this Province now enjoys. Many of them have worked twenty, twenty-five, sometimes thirty years in the public service. Some of these pensioners now are surviving on less than $11,000 a year. That is not fair to the public service pensioners, when we see all sorts of public service pensions across the country indexed to reflect inflation in their provinces and to reflect the cost of living increases. This Administration here is refusing to do that for the public service pensioners of this Province.

We have seen them present petitions to us to have presented to the House. We have seen them lobby in our Confederation Building. We have seen articles written to the editor in The Telegram and we have heard them on Open Line shows. What they speak of, as sad as it may be, is true. Many of them are unable to survive on what they are receiving. Why this Administration has refused to index their pensions now to reflect the increases that the public service pension have received is incomprehensible.

It is selfish for the members of this House to deny the public service pensioners the same increase that everybody else who is being paid through the public service are now enjoying. Mr. Speaker, we have been fighting for the public service pensioners now for a year-and-a-half. Ever since the increase was given to the public service, we have been fighting on behalf of the public service pensioners because we believe that they as well deserve this increase. They deserve it as much as we do and they deserve it as much as the public service workers do. They deserve the increase.

The cost of living is going up. Their cost in rent, in home heating, in groceries, and every other expense is going up. Yet, this Administration has refused to increase their wages to meet the increase that the public service have enjoyed. That, Mr. Speaker, is unfair.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to support the petition presented by the Member for St. John's South, and to speak in favour of government action to remedy the inequity for public service pensioners. These individuals received consistent assurances from the government of the day up until 1989 based on principle and on practice that they would receive increases along with the public sector wage rate increases. This amounts to an assurance, to a practice, and to an expectation that was a reasonable expectation that ought to be honoured by this government.

We have seen, through the representations made to this House of Assembly, in the lobby of this House of Assembly through demonstrations, through letters, through petitions, through letters to members of the House, to ministers, to the Premier, through calls to Open Line programs and public discussion generally, that many of the people who are on public service pensions from this Province are suffering from very, very low wages.

Mr. Speaker, government to date has, in reality, ridiculed this request by talking about the one person in the public service, or the former public servant, who receives in excess of $100,000 and they failed to acknowledge so many of the public service pensioners whose pensions are in fact $5,000, $6,000, $7,000, or $8,000, totally and grossly inadequate to meet their basic needs.

Many of these individuals are not even at the stage of being able to collect other forms of income support through the Canada Pension Plan or through the various old age pension provisions of the Federal Government and the old age supplement. There is an opportunity here for government to sit down with the negotiating committee, with the representatives of the pensioners, and negotiate something that if fair and that recognizes the real need that exists.

Obviously, government's approach to the funding of public sector pensions has changed and it may not be that a full-scale, across-the-board type of percentage increase is what is necessary to meet the real need that is there. I think that there is room to negotiate, for compromise, for flexibility, and for an opportunity to be creative and do something that will benefit the people who are in receipt of very, very low pensions from this government.

In Nova Scotia, in the health care sector, the pension plan was amended to provide the equivalent of an old age supplement to those who would otherwise have an income of less than that, and that was used to effectively top up the lower end of the pensioners without providing an increase for those who were well off or who had very high pensions.

There are ways of being creative in doing this, and I do not think that the demand of all those who were out here in the lobby last week was that an all or nothing, black and white, 7 per cent increase to everybody is what is demanded or needed. What they were talking about was the fact that public service pensioners of this Province ought to be treated with dignity and respect and ought not to be left fallen by the wayside because of a change of policy that they had come to rely on and depend on and in fact had a reasonable expectation that they would continue to have available to them.

Mr. Speaker, I support the pensioners in their efforts to seek justice from this government. I call on government today to make a decision, to make a public indication, make a public statement that they are prepared to deal fairly with the public service pensioners and sit down with them to negotiate a proper form of increase to ensure that we do not have public service pensioners populating our food banks, depending on charity, and not being able to live a dignified retirement.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Orders of the Day

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do not adjourn at 5:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the House do not adjourn at 5:00 p.m.

All those in favour, `aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Those against, `nay'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

Motion carried.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House resolve itself into Committee of the Whole.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Penney): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, I apologize. My microphone is not working. By leave, I may move over to this seat if that is okay.

Order 2, Bill No. 37.

CHAIR: Before proceeding to Bill No. 37, the Chair would like guidance from hon. members.

Traditionally at Committee stage we have entered into an agreement where members on either side of the House will speak for ten minutes. The Standing Orders do not address this, but this is a tradition that we have consistently used. I am asking now if it is the understanding of the members of the House that we stick to the same tradition as usual, ten minutes per speaker?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order 2, Bill No. 37, An Act Respecting Child, Youth And Family Services.

Shall Clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have a few comments on Bill 37, An Act Respecting Child, Youth and Family Services Act.

I know they have some act dealing with child, youth and family services. We admit it is long overdue. The minister made reference to, I think it was, fifty-four years, I believe she mentioned without having an act. It is certainly positive to see an act come in place. I have said before, and I said on second reading, it is very important we have the resources to be able to carry this out. Because we are giving very important responsibilities now out to boards to oversee areas here, because it is in chaos now. The minister might not admit it here, but I am sure the minister knows in her own heart and soul that, especially, child welfare services here are in a very difficult position. There are large numbers, they have high caseloads, the turnover is unbelievable. It is very difficult to be able to maintain people in that. They hired some people a few weeks ago and then laid them off again just a few weeks after.

What we have advocated here, and what we still say, and there is a private member's resolution on the books, is for a child advocate. We are not proposing that we amend this legislation to do that, but we are saying that we feel there should be some parallel legislation to come in and bring in a child advocate's act. An act to have someone out there, independent, at arms-length, looking after the best interest of children in our Province. I think it is very important and vital.

There are responsibilities added here to this particular bill, responsibilities that go out to people who come under the boards. One of the greatest concerns we have with the health and community services taking over the child, youth and family services aspect there, and the original divisions of the family and rehabilitative service division that was with the Department of Human Resources and Employment, is a concern that interests of children may get lost in the bigger picture, in the larger department there. It may not get the attention it deserves.

It is important that there be a very close monitoring, and that the resources exist to ensure children are protected here. What we do not want to see is this. We know there is a bureaucracy brought in with this particular bill, but it is important that the bureaucracy does not act as a deterrent in achieving the intended purposes of this act. It is most important.

I say to the minister I certainly hope we are going to look after our young people. They are the future leaders of the Province. We have to start at the very basic level, and they have not being getting the appropriate attention they should be getting for the past number of years.

I do not intend to unduly prolong this. I wanted to make a few comments again to reiterate to the minister the importance of ensuring that appropriate monitoring is there, and that we do something with the child welfare division to get it more effective and lighten the workloads on people there. I have heard so many stories. I know many people have worked there, many people in the field. We all know many people who are employed in the field today within our health care system, and dealing with children, and especially in child welfare. It is a very sensitive and vital area. They are the most indefensible people in our society, and we should ensure they get the best protection we possibly can for them, and ensure they go on to be very productive citizens in our Province. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would like to speak briefly at the Committee stage on the Bill 37, An Act Respecting Child, Youth and Family Services. I spoke on this at second reading and pointed out some of the concerns I have with respect to the legislation.

We do have a serious problem in this Province with respect to provision of services for young people. It is a very crucial area. We had an unfortunate, sad history in this Province where not only children in direct care of foster care, but also in institutional care - in Mount Cashel, and recently at the old Whitbourne Boys' Home -, where children in the care of the Province have been subjected to abuse, in some cases by care givers themselves, and in other cases by visitors to these institutions. Also, there has been a series of cases involving sexual abuse and other forms of abuse in foster homes in this Province.

We have to have a system that works. This major overhaul of the provisions for youth and children is necessary. It is overdue. It is not certain that this particular legislation is the full answer. We have to monitor this very carefully and look at how it works in practice. It is one thing to have legislation in place that can provide the protection; it is another thing to actually have the staff resources in the field to ensure that the protection of children is actually able to take place in a manner that is appropriate to the children's needs.

I do hope that in passing this legislation we are not giving legislative lip service, as it were, to the best interest of children and to the needs of children, but in fact we are going to have the means given to staff members and social workers to be able to put into practice the very important requirements to look after the children in this Province, those who are in care and those who are not, who are in need of preventive services.

Amongst the many principles in clause 7 is 7(e). One of the principles is that "prevention activities are integral to the promotion of the safety, health and well-being of a child." That, as a principle, I have no difficulty endorsing. In fact, it is one of the most important and perhaps more neglected areas of child care and child issues in the Province. It is very easy to identify. Social workers and experts in the field - you do not even have to be an expert. Common sense will tell you that a great many children in this Province are at risk because of family or financial or other social circumstances that set them apart from those who will have a full opportunity to avail of family life, of schooling, of the opportunities and enrichment that can be available from a school environment, because of social or financial deprivation, or even nutritional deprivation.

Until we have a full-fledged commitment to ensure that these prevention activities have sufficient resources to make them effective, then this will remain a hollow principle when it comes to actually making a difference in the life of a child in need of the protection of government.

We have had over the past couple of years, from my party and in my representations in this House, a whole series of petitions in particular, but questions as well, and support for a universal, comprehensive school lunch program which would ensure that every schoolchild in the Province of Newfoundland has at least one good nutritional meal every day they are in school, to ensure that they have an opportunity to learn and take full advantage of the school system by having at least one fully nutritional meal each day.

That sounds like a very modest proposal in many respects, but the sad reality is that this is a necessary measure to ensure that children in this Province really do have a chance to learn, grow and develop properly and get the full advantage of the school system.

That is one measure that can be undertaken by government that would play a strong role in prevention of further need for government services. It is pretty obvious. The studies that have been done show that money spent on prevention saves money on treatment.

There was recently a study done by a professor at McMaster University which was discussed on national radio the other day. They were actually able to track families who had access to certain services at a crucial stage and measure the amount of dollars that were saved in correction and probation services and other psychiatric services that would have otherwise been provided to a family. It was discovered through this proper research methodology and scientific analysis rigorously applied to this particular circumstance to show that essentially governments had a choice. Governments could spend money on prevention or they could spend money on treatment.

Even if there is an equal amount of money, and if there is not one dollar being saved, it is better to spend money on prevention than to spend money on treatment because money spent on prevention provides a better life for people and a better opportunity for people. Money spent on treatment, whether it be correction services or probation services, or whether it be psychiatric services, that money is spent just holding back - like the water in a dam - just holding back the dam and not really providing any improvement to the lives of people.

Prevention is very, very important and every dollar spent on prevention saves money not only in the long run but also in the short run because it provides for a better life for people. In the long run, of course, it provides individuals with an opportunity to be the master of their own fate and not dependent upon government services and, in fact, can be a contributor to their own families and society, which every person in this Province wants to be.

There was no one - and I say no one - who, given the opportunity to fully participate as a productive member of society, would turn it down. That is my belief and my faith in people, and I believe that we have to give recognition in our child welfare legislation and in the practice of government to that belief, because that is how we will bring about improvement in society.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to rise and have a few comments on this particular piece of legislation.

I said in the debate on second reading that this piece of legislation is long overdue. The last bill that we had dealing with this matter was introduced in 1944, during Commission of Government, and it has taken fifty-four years for us to get back to revising the substantive legislation.

We on this side complimented the government to the extent that the bill is introduced now after all of the talk that has gone on for the last ten years. Long before I came to the Legislature in 1993, there was talk that we would have a new child welfare piece of legislation in this Province. After I arrived here, my colleague from Bonavista South was the critic for the Department of Social Services. At that time we had the talk about the Child Welfare League of America report.

At that time the then Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Clyde Wells, talked about introducing new legislation but he finished his two terms in office and the matter was never addressed by way of a new act. However, we do say to the minister that there is a shift in philosophy, a shift in approach. We have hopefully moved from crisis management in child welfare to child centred policies aimed at intervention and prevention. We believe, on this side, that is indeed a good thing.

Mr. Chairman, I am very sad however to see that the minister did not see fit to remove the monitoring of the legislation to a non-political process. One of the things that came forward very strongly to the Select Committee on Children's Interests by the people who made representations - and we are talking over 200 individuals and over 100 written submissions - all virtually unanimously said that they wish to have a child advocate appointed in this Province. Now, there were one or two groups that did not support that particular proposal but they were, by and far, very much in the minority.

Mr. Chairman, I believe that we have missed something here. I acknowledge the minister has put in place an advisory committee. I acknowledge that the legislation calls for a review every two years, but what has happened so often when you have those kinds of reviews is that the party in power makes sure that the people who are appointed to those particular positions are indeed supporters of the party in power. We want people whose focus is not necessarily that of supporting the party in power as much as they are to support the children of this Province. There is a big difference between appointing a review committee that is focused on the party in power position as opposed to being focused on children.

One of the reasons why other provinces have taken the monitoring of the legislation out of the political forum - and that includes the advisory committee approach - is that they believe that children are too important to be left to the whims of the party in power in terms of their advocacy. We believe that children should have more power, should have a stronger voice. What has been found in other provinces is the fact that they have agreed that a child advocate brings that sense of independence and that sense of advocacy.

Mr. Chairman, on the day that this particular piece of legislation was announced, we saw that Judge Lloyd Wicks - and I have some respect for Lloyd Wicks. He sat on the bench for many years. However, almost immediately when it was announced we saw him before the TV cameras with his prepared script saying this was a red letter day and all that kind of thing. It was all part of a set-up, undoubtedly. Lloyd Wicks was doing his advocacy, doing his commentary. We know that particular advocacy has its place, but we are concerned that kind of thing, that kind of approach, might lead itself to being more supportive of the party in power than it is of a general approach to child advocacy.

We on this side believe that there is a need for government to reconsider. We believe that the whole issue of advocacy should be depoliticized completely. We want to say to the minister that she should be reconsidering. Certainly we on this side believe that all of the groups which presented to the Select Committee on Children's Interests cannot be wrong because there was unanimous agreement that a child advocate was needed. In fact, as the minister should know, the first advocate appointed - or child ombudsman you call it in some places - was actually put in Norway, in 1981. Since then, this concept of having a child advocate has spread throughout a fair bit of the democratic world but it has not spread to Newfoundland and Labrador.

I do have my misgivings about the advisory committee, very strong misgivings about it. I have seen that kind of advisory committee working in other places. I am saying to the minister that she should probably reconsider her views on that matter.

Mr. Chairman, six of ten provinces have appointed a child advocate. The City of Vancouver has one as well. There is a lot of support across the country, and while there are sometimes difficulties with the child advocate, parties in power have been somewhat reluctant sometimes to give that position the kind of independence it requires, in those places where they have given the advocate the complete independence it has worked much better.

I know in the Province of Manitoba initially they had the child advocate reporting back to the Minister of Social Services and there was some great difficulty with that because the advocate was not considered to be an independent agent of children and speaking exclusively on behalf of children. That caused difficulties because the advocate was reporting to a minister, and when the advocate's reports were not satisfactory the advocate was always somewhat intimidated by the fact that his or her job might have been on the line. That kind of expectation, that the people who work for government will not be critical of government, is my concern.

Where it has worked best is where the child advocate is an independent officer of the Legislature. Just like today, we had the Report of the Auditor General submitted to the Legislature. It was tabled this afternoon by the Speaker of the House. That is very independent. The Auditor General is not dependent on the whims of the government of the day for tenure in her office. It is her job to present an independent report.

What I would like to see in government is the same kind of authority given to a child advocate so that person is not answerable to any party in power but is answerable to the entire Legislature. That is the kind of independence we need when it comes to children's issues, which we have not have in this Province and I do not see mentioned in this particular piece of legislation.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am sure I will have another chance before the evening is out.

On motion, clauses 1 to 82, carried.

A bill, "An Act Respecting Child, Youth And Family Services". (Bill No. 37)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chair, Order 3, Bill No. 18.

CHAIR: Order 3, Bill No. 18, An Act To Amend The Economic Diversification And Growth Enterprises Act.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: We are doing Order 3, Bill No. 18.

MR. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, the critic is not in the House right now but he has already made his points.

CHAIR: Order, please!

On motion, clauses 1 to 4, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Economic Diversification And Growth Enterprises Act". (Bill No 18)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chair, Order 4, Bill No. 43.

CHAIR: Order 4, Bill No. 43, An Act To Incorporate The Business Investment Corporation.

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: I forgot to ask, Mr. Chairman, the minister responsible has two amendments which are fairly straightforward. Go ahead.

CHAIR: The hon. the Acting Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Chairman, subclause 4(3) of the bill is amended by deleting the date "January 1, 1991" and substituting the words "this Act comes into force".

Number 2: The bill is further amended by adding immediately after clause 19 the following: Commencement: "20. This Act comes into force on a day to be proclaimed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council".

Moved and seconded by my colleague, the Acting Government House Leader.

CHAIR: Order, please!

For the record, would we like the microphone turned on?

The hon. the Acting Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Chairman, the purpose of bringing this piece of legislation to the House is that we want to repeal a number of acts there were under the Department of Development and Rural Renewal and put them under one authority. In order to do that we have to bring in amendments to the legislation with no date involved. What we are doing there - because the act now states: deleting the date January 1, 1991.

We want to be able to do it when the act comes into force. In other words, we would not be ready to do it January 1 of 1999, so instead of putting a particular date on it, it is just when the act comes into force it will be proclaimed. So it is just a minor amendment to the date.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: (Inaudible) in Question Period for the last four weeks.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

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

The Member for Bonavista North obviously has in-depth knowledge of this piece of legislation, as does the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, now the Acting Minister of Development and Rural Renewal. The purpose of the amendments is to transfer everything to what used to be formerly ENL and NLDC, the Fisheries Loan Act, all of it into one sort of corporation to deal with the business that were formerly dealt with by those entities, correct? In terms of the Fisheries Loan Board, Farm Loan Board, whatever the case may be.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Right. Then this new entity, in terms of its activities with development, loans, small business, rural renewal, will all be done through this new entity, fair enough.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just want to make a few comments. I did make a few comments in second reading also. I understand that it comes under one entity and it basically is the winding up or winding down - whichever way you want to look at it - of the Fisheries Loan Board and the Farm Development Corporation, basically is what it has done, and brought it into that.

One point I want to make to the minister and have him make a couple of comments on it, in Section 15, "The corporation shall, not later than September 30 in each year, prepare and submit to the minister a financial statement setting out the assets and liabilities of the corporation, a copy of its audited financial statement and the receipts and expenditures of the corporation for the previous financial year."

It says submit to the minister and in turn the minister submit this to the floor of the House of Assembly. Is that how it is understood? I brought that up before, I think, with the minister. Of course over the years there have been some problems, especially at the tail end with the Fisheries Loan Board and with the Farm Development Board assessing those loans. Now it will come under one corporation called the Business Investment Corporation. We have no problem with that. Basically this is a housecleaning bill, and basically it tightens it up or tidies it up, and hopefully at the end of the day makes it a more efficient system for people to use that in government. Really we are talking about a winding down of those Fisheries Loan Board and the Farm Development Board to bring it under one entity and hopefully make it more efficient for all people, for the use of the public. Mr. Chairman, we do not have any problem with this particular bill.

On motion, clauses 1 through 3, carried.

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause 4, as amended, carried.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 5 through 19 carry?

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. E. BYRNE: We have lots of time. There is no need to be passing bills here, five to nineteen, bang, like that. We will go clause-by-clause if that would be okay.

I just want to make a point on clause 5. Government's initiative here with respect to An Act To Incorporate The Business Investment Corporation, is really not in the public mindset in terms of where government is going with it yet. That would be a fair comment to say.

Clause 5, object of the corporation. "The corporation shall be responsible for making available and managing investments in small to medium sized private businesses, co-operatives, community development corporations and other enterprises for the purpose of creating employment opportunities for the people of the province."

This corporation, in dealing with the REDBs, for example, will work hand in hand with the REDBs? Will the REDBs, in terms of requests, be driving where the corporation invests money, or vice versa, or a combination of both?

This is an important piece of legislation. I guess it is a departure from government's normal activities, a little bit. It is a different direction that maybe at the end of the day in terms of its approach and how it goes about doing things, but we are setting up a brand new corporation, formerly the Economic Recovery Commission, Enterprise Newfoundland and Labrador, in assisting with development and rural renewal in the Province, expanding the economy.

In terms of the corporation, is government going to make appointments to the corporation? Oversee it? Could you elaborate a little bit further, I ask the minister?

CHAIR: The hon. the Acting Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Chairman, what we are trying to do here in this House, as the hon. Member for Baie Verte said, we are trying to make the system more efficient. Here is what we have. We have one, two, three, four different acts on the Department of Development and Rural Renewal. It is not necessary to have all of those acts so what the minister has done is, he has repealed all of those acts and is bringing in one act to represent all of the people. It is efficiency.

The hon. Leader of the Opposition asked a question: How would we be working with the REDB boards to invest into private industry in Newfoundland? Would they be doing it on their own, or would we be doing it separately? Would we be working together? It is very clear.

The only way you can have successful investment opportunities in this Province is to work with the people out there in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. That is what the minister did. He, the minister, put a system in place so that the REDB boards and the government, his department, would have full consultation to make this work.

On motion, clauses 5 through 19, carried.

On motion, new clause 20, as per the amendment, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Incorporate The Business Investment Corporation". (Bill No. 43)

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill with amendments, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Acting Government House Leader.

Mr. Chairman, Order 5, Bill No. 42.

CHAIR: Order 5, Bill No. 42, An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act.

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, not yet.

MR. FRENCH: No, not quite yet, Mr. Chairman.

We have a number of concerns with this particular piece of legislation, and we are certainly going to have a lot of questions that are going to have to be answered today by the minister. Even then, I do not know if at the end of the day we are going to be able to support this piece of legislation which we feel, on this side of the House, certainly does not go far enough.

There are explanations in this, I say to the minister, that are needed. As we go down through this bill, there are going to be questions that I will be asking and hopefully the minister can certainly supply me with the answers. We are going to be looking for some definitions and so on.

I have probably close to three pages here, and as we go down through this bill I am going to be asking the minister questions on various sections. We really do not get into it until we get to probably somewhere around section 3, and from then on we are going to be asking questions; so I will probably be interrupting from time to time as we go through this.

With those couple of remarks I will sit down and we will carry on.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We are on clause 1, the title of the bill, is that correct?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you.

We talked at length in second reading with respect to this act, An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act. The Act itself does not go very far with respect to implementing the recommendations that came out of the statutory review committee's report. The biggest issues facing injured workers prior to that review being done, and the presentation made to the independent committee, were clear.

Talk about deeming for a moment. The statutory review committee's report on deeming could only be described as scathing; the spirit of how the Workers' Compensation Commission is using deeming was scathing, using it as a means of getting people off of the system; people who are legitimate, who are bona fide. Who were not only in need but who were supposed to be there in the first place.

There were many examples brought to this Legislature by where the Workers' Compensation Commission on the one hand had deemed an individual - just to give you one example; I could go on and on and give you others - capable of working as a radio dispatcher for $23,000 or $24,000 a year. They deemed another individual capable of being a radio dispatcher at a salary of $14,000 a year. There was a gentleman, an injured worker, confined completely to his hospital bed, who was deemed capable of doing sales and marketing via the telephone. The list goes on.

Government's response and government's reaction to that report with respect to deeming was that they put a committee in place in study it, but the process of deeming and what the statutory review committee's report found, and the recommendations that they made with respect to this issue, have not been implemented to date.

It is a scathing report that the minister did not take on behalf of government the necessary and corrective action to ensure that took place. Nowhere in this piece of legislation, Bill 42, An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act, do we see it.

Let us talk about Canada Pension clawback. Right now there was a case brought forward - one example of hundreds. The Canada Pension Plan is an entitlement. It is a pension plan. It is something that the employer pays into 50 per cent; it is something that workers in this country pay into 50 per cent.

I had one person say to me recently - an injured worker; worked for about twenty-two or twenty-three years - that he would like to have what he put into the Canada Pension Plan over the last twenty-two or twenty-three years. He would like to have it himself, so he could invest it. He would be far better off today if that was the case.

Here is what happens: The Workers' Compensation Commission advises an injured worker to apply for Canada Pension. The injured worker applies for Canada Pension, gets in receipt of Canada Pension, only to have it clawed back 100 per cent - clawed back 100 per cent - so the worker is no further ahead. The only group that is further ahead with respect to that is the Commission itself.

Then we see, earlier this year, the audacity of the Commission itself writing off nearly $6.5 million to $7 million for employers in the Province. When it comes to nickels and dimes and pennies and dollar bills - $2, $3, as little as $23 a week - the Commission hounds, and I have hundreds of examples of it. In the past five years I have stood in this House on many occasions asking questions - legitimate questions - about how the Commission's dealings with injured workers on the one hand and with employers on the other hand are not consistent. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander; but, in one fell swoop of the pen, $6.5 million or $7 million written off in employers' assessments.

Yet, there have been injured workers in my office who are living on marginal incomes, below the poverty line, have lost homes, have lost marriages, have lost everything. Some who are dependent for drug cards on the Department of Human Resources and Development, and the Commission claws back $20, $25, $30, from them. You wonder why, then, people are so upset, when you see the average worker so upset about what is taking place.

The statutory review committee's report to the minister and recommendation on Canada Pension was clear. At the very least that the only clawback that should occur on Canada Pension - and I agree with this, by the way - that the clawback in Canada Pension should be only 50 per cent and that the other 50 per cent which was contributed by workers in this Province - injured workers - should be given back to them because it truly belongs to them. This is what they have contributed into.

We do it, members of this House. Every working person contributes to the Canada Pension Plan. God forbid that either one of us ever find ourselves in a situation someday where, through no fault of our own, we are seriously injured to the point where we cannot return to the occupation from which we came, and that we too have to depend upon the injured workers on the Workers' Compensation Commission.

I was asked a question recently with respect to: Should the Workers' Compensation Commission be privatized or not? I am not saying that government is considering this, but I am just saying I was asked the question about it. My answer was, no.

When you reflect back upon why Workers' Compensation Commissions were put in place across the country, the acts in this Legislature that gave them life, it was for one simple purpose. Number one: Individuals gave up their individual right to sue based upon accidents in the workplace, based upon negligence in the workplace.

We have come a long way in forty years with respect to the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission, but we have a long way to go, and we are not near to the point where we should be. There seems to be an attitude that is prevalent within the Workers' Compensation Commission. I fail to understand how government has not come to terms with it.

I remember the Member for Exploits, when he was the Minister for Employment and Labour, in a former Administration. I remember the former Member for St. John's South, Minister of Employment and Labour, dealing with the Workers' Compensation Commission. I recall these past ministers, and the one now - legitimate individuals, people who are generally concerned, I would think, with the affairs of the Province, what people go through. Yet, in five-and-a-half years, since I have been elected a member of this House, nobody seems to have the strength, no one seems to have the will, to wrestle with the attitude that exists.

I will give you another example, Minister. Two weeks ago I was at an appeal with the Chief Review Commissioner. There is a long-standing tradition that where a dispute exists when it comes to benefits from the injury fund, that if the commission cannot prove beyond a doubt that somebody's injury is sufficient to an extent that it was caused in the workplace - if they cannot prove that fully - then the benefit of the doubt must be given the injured worker.

I sat with a gentleman two weeks ago who has a skin condition that has disabled him - completely disabled. Most people would know that the skin is the largest body organ. He cannot work with his hands. He was a sheet metal worker, lichen planus was the condition that he had. It was determined that it was not caused by his workplace. They - meaning the Workers' Compensation Commission - hung their hat on his own doctor's report. The doctor said this: I cannot be sure that his condition was a cause of the workplace, but I can tell you this, that prior to him going to work as a sheet metal worker he did not have it.

I found something else interesting, that all of us individuals, human beings, carry within us that sort of germ or virus. It can rear its head in many ways. On the fingers means your nails are gone, the skin is cracked to the extent that you cannot work. Anyway, the commission said no, it was not a result of the workplace. Therefore, this person was denied benefits. Therefore, it went to appeal.

We got to appeal. We had the doctor, Dr. Laura Parsons. We had her in testifying on behalf of the injured worker. I made the point, I asked her directly, I said: The Workers' Compensation Commission have judged this individual that this condition was not the cause of the workplace. Can you say that for sure? She said: No, I cannot say it was the result of the workplace. I said: Can you tell me that it was not? She said: No, I cannot. What I can tell you is that he did not have this condition prior to being a sheet metal worker and that he can no longer work as a sheet metal worker because of the aggravation working with hands, the condition that it causes. You would not believe it. You would not believe that it was a set of hands that - if you had it yourself you would be very concerned. I can tell you, she said, there is no conclusive proof anywhere in this country that will show that this condition called lichen planus is a result of anything, other than the fact that we all carry it. I can tell you that as a result of working in the workplace he can no longer work.

I do not have the appeal back yet - I do not have the decision back - but I am convinced that we are going to win it because the Workers' Compensation Commission, under regulation and under law, has no other choice but to rule in favour of that injured worker because they could not conclusively prove.

What they do - I want to bring it back to the attitude - deal with, what this indicates, is an attitude that one line out of an entire medical report, a specialist's report, saying that we are not sure but - bingo. It gives the opportunity to not accept liability and put some man and his family on the street. In this case that is what happened.

Just look at the costs. Just look at the financial cost to the injury fund, because that is what picks up all the cost here. This gentleman went through about three case workers, an internal review. Workers' Compensation legal counsel looked at it; I looked at it. It went to the Chief Review Commissioner, another cost.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

CHAIR: The hon. member, by leave.

MR. E. BYRNE: Another cost associated with it, to go back in the first place to determine what they should have determined up front: that they did have a liability to this man; that as a result of the workplace he was injured; as a result of being injured he cannot work any longer at his trade.

They have two obligations: one, that he should be funded from the injury fund; and two, if there is something else that he can do then that is what the Occupational Health and Safety Training Fund is there for, to rehabilitate if necessary.

The attitude is what I find so offensive. That is what you have to wrestle with, and I see no evidence that is being done here today; no evidence in Bill 42, An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act. There is no evidence that that attitude is being wrestled.

Has anyone ever gone down to the Commission - if you want to talk about accessibility - the Workers' Compensation Commission? You walk in and somebody is behind big plexiglass. You cannot see anybody. You cannot walk around. Someone has to come down and get you.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Babb Lock and Safe - and I don't mean to use Babb - but any lock and safe company must have made a fortune. You talk about an environment that is not conducive to dealing with people's problems. It is unbelievable, but it is a physical example and a physical sign of what exists behind those doors. I have no doubt that there are good people in the Commission. I have no doubt about it.

Another issue that I do not see in this particular piece of legislation: How is it, in this day and age, that an injured worker with a specialist's report in their back pocket can go down to the Workers' Compensation Commission only to be overruled by a case worker, a physiotherapist, or a general practitioner? Could somebody explain that to me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Oh, I am not so sure it has changed, Minister. I am not so sure it has changed. I think you should have a second look. There are physiotherapists today who still have the ability to overrule, based upon their own assessment of injured workers.

This is, I guess, the first type of the bill. I have gone over it a little bit but there are many clauses here that we will debate. I will take my leave and sit down if somebody else would like to speak to it.

Thank you.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Just to carry on with what the Leader of the Opposition has said, att workers' - and I guess when you get down to appeals and you are doing appeals, as I have said many a time in this House, and more so since becoming the critic for this area, what we should do, if we can find enough money in any government fund, is to buy 100 copies - and I have said this to the minister - of How To Win Friends and Influence People, and we should send it down for 95 per cent of the people at Workers' Compensation to read. Because if you call down someday - we all go through this. Members on that side of the House go through it. I have had conversations with members over there.

I guess, Mr. Chairman, the worse thing we ever did in Newfoundland and Labrador was have Wal-Mart come in because Wal-Mart introduced something called a `greeter'. There are more people in Newfoundland and Labrador today who have been deemed greeters than... I don't know where we would ever find employment. They become greeters in the store. I don't know where we would ever find the jobs.

I have seen a man who had medical evidence, done by a specialist, I say to the minister, that he was deaf and it was deemed that he could be a radio dispatcher. He was deaf. He had a hearing impairment. The medical evidence clearly showed that he had a hearing impairment but at the end of the day somebody, with probably not even an eight-hour First Aid course, could deem this gentleman capable of being a radio operator or a radio dispatcher.

I had a letter when I went to statutory review, I say to the minister, from a doctor who said he would not hire this man to do his filing, not because of the man but because of his physical condition: because he had problems walking, because he had problems hearing. He would not hire the man to do his filing. That is a man who, on a bright sunny morning, who was self-employed, while returning to his place of business was almost killed in a car accident. He spent six months in hospital and came back, thank goodness for his wife and family, recovered from his illness. To this day we have won one appeal. We are now back arguing another clause of workers' compensation before the chief review commissioner. We did that about two weeks ago. On and on it goes.

As the Leader of the Opposition has said, if we look at ways to save money sometimes, Minister, how much money, in the name of goodness, are we spending on Workers' Compensation? How many experts do we have down there? My definition of an expert is certainly different than theirs. My definition of an expert is a person who knows more and more about less and less. When I see people who are down there who can come up with all this medical evidence, and they know more than specialists in this Province. I have argued cases. There are specialists in this Province, who some occupational therapist will say: Yes, that man there is capable of going to work. Then we go through this whole scenario all over again.

We spend a fortune on injured workers in this Province. There was a gentleman who came into my office one day. I was introduced to him and we got talking about - I think I may have mentioned this before - how he was deemed to be a carpet salesman because he could use the phone while lying on his back in a store. If you can imagine going into a store to buy a section of carpet and some fellow is over in the corner `hove off' on the broad of his back using the phone, I do not know what kind of opinion or impression somebody would get.

We are forcing people with little or no money to go to lawyers because they are afraid of taking a chance on losing a case. I have talked to many members on the opposite side who have come up against roadblocks, who have become nervous that they may lose the case so they go out and hire a lawyer. Then it costs them more money, of course.

I have one gentleman whose accident goes back to 1991. His funds are still in escrow because the Commission, while allowing him a certain percentage, on the other hand is saying: We want a larger amount of money from you. These funds to this day are still held in an escrow account and are going to remain there for quite some time.

I believe, Minister, that if we keep going long enough there will come a point in time, if we keep winning as we have being doing, when Workers' Compensation will actually owe this man money. For now, I believe the last amount he was awarded was some $37,000, and still it goes on.

As the Leader of the Opposition has said, I have seen families who have come near to divorce, near to splitting up their family. I represented a lady at a hearing. They had just bought a house. She was injured on the job and it became very difficult for them, all of a sudden, to pay their light bill and phone bill and make their mortgage payment. The lady would call me on certain occasions in tears saying: I believe it is time, that maybe if I was on my own then I would not be putting my husband through what he is going through. At the end of the day, we were successful in the lady being awarded workers' compensation. As well, the commissioner also ordered this lady be retrained.

Why did we do all of this to her? It took about a year. To me, it makes no sense. You can phone down now and you have to leave a message and somebody will call you back. Heaven forbid that they all get sick in that executive office down there at one time. I hope there is never a flu bug goes through there, because if they all get sick on one day nobody in this place here will be able to talk to anybody down there.

This is what we are going through, Mr. Minister. I am sure you are aware of that. I am sure you hear this day in, day out, seven days a week. I am sure you also hear from some of your own colleagues of the trouble that they have with Workers' Compensation in the Province. I am not here today saying open the vault door and give everything away. What I am doing here today, I say to the minister, is asking you to relay to these people that we will expect more and demand more in the way of caring and understanding for the injured workers, men and women, in this Province who have suffered because of Workers' Compensation, and no other reason in the world.

At the end of the day, when the cases are awarded in the favour of the injured worker, then somewhere down life's road we must have already made a mistake. We must have lost out on the ability. I believe that this Commission was set up to help, not to hinder, the injured worker in this Province. I do not believe today that that is the case any more. I say that, and I wish I did not have to say it.

I attended a meeting a while ago with a constituent of mine on Canada Pension.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FRENCH: Can I have a few minutes just to clue up?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. FRENCH: While attending it I said to Canada Pension: I hope the day never comes when I get the same feeling towards you people as I have towards Worker's Compensation. If it is respect that is needed, to me respect should be earned. I have not seen that coming out of the Commission.

As I said, Mr. Chairman, since taking on this critic portfolio I have met many injured workers in the Province. I have received calls from every nook and cranny in this Province from injured workers who are suffering. They have nobody in their area to represent them. It makes it difficult sometimes if you have to go to Labrador or the West Coast. It is not always easy for a member who sits in this place to do it, even if he were the member from that particular area.

I am not saying that every decision they make is wrong, but when you look at the number of cases that are awarded by the review commissioner I believe that there is something to be gained.

I will sit down on this note. I will just say, Mr. Chairman, that I would like to see this particular place have a heart, have feelings for the injured workers of Newfoundland and Labrador. I appeal to the minister today to put this forward to the Workers' Compensation Commission in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to make just a few comments with respect to Bill 42, An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act. I would like to repeat the comments I made during second reading. It has to do, really, with what is necessary, as I see it, which is direction from the minister to the Commission, and the various departments within the Workers' Compensation Commission, to do what is necessary with respect to expediting the process for the ultimate benefit of injured workers in this Province.

What we see all too often are matters being returned, perhaps from the chairman of the tribunal, for reassessment and further evaluation, only to have the system then become completely bogged down. I am familiar with circumstances where we have injured workers, claimants before the review commission, who have had a hearing only to find that their matters have been returned to the commission for further review. Then we have reviews taking months before a final determination is made and before a proper assessment is made of that individual claimant.

What is required, I say to the minister, in circumstances like that is perhaps putting in place a time limit, whether that be fourteen days, twenty-one days or thirty days, which for example the medical officer, in situations where a medical assessment is required, would have a fairly strict time limitation in which to work to ensure that there is a response given to the appropriate individuals who would then be in a position to pass on to the claimant the decision one way or another.

What is most frustrating, I would to the minister, in a majority of cases is that people are simply left in limbo. They do not know from one day to the next what the status of their claim is upon reassessment. Individuals are simply waiting for months on end without an answer and without a determination of their case. Because there are appeal provisions in the statute, that if a decision is made there is then a further ninety-day period in which that claimant can further review the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission. Then if that decision is not found to be acceptable, there is a further right of appeal to the Trial Division of the Supreme Court of this Province. What is most frustrating is this unnecessary delay where we have people who obviously are injured to begin with, and it is causing great emotional distress, psychological distress, simply because there has been no decision rendered on behalf of their claim.

What I would suggest to the minister is that he give strong recommendation to the commission to put in place strict time periods for medical re-evaluation and medical assessment. When in fact a directive has been given by the review tribunal back to the commission, and perhaps even upon assessment and evaluation, even before, even upon the original application, that there be a fourteen day, twenty-one day or thirty day period by law, by regulation. Then the claimant knows not only what to expect, but when he or she will expect it. In my observation of many of the procedures and activities that take place, the cause for greatest concern and greatest frustration amongst injured workers in this Province is the delay and the frustration that this delay causes. That does nobody any interest, I say to the minister.

If there were time limits put in place, at least then claimants will know when to expect a decision and then the decision itself can be dealt with. If it is negative, there is a right of appeal. If it is positive, obviously then the injured worker is satisfied. It is the delay factor, I would submit to the minister, which is one of the most significant causes of concern. If that particular problem could be addressed and alleviated I think we would see significant advances being made, particularly in the eyes of claimants in this Province. It would have a significant impact perhaps on lessening the number of reviews, appeals and evaluations that are made at the commission level.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

On motion, clause 1, carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: I have a few comments too, Mr. Chairman, on the bill here. Overall on this particular bill, one of the concerns is this. We all agree it is important that the Commission be fully funded at some point in time. We have made some tremendous progress over the last several years, I think, to the tune of about 30 per cent on the unfunded liability portion. We are now up to, I think, 72.4 per cent, if I remember off hand, from a 42.4 per cent position. It was estimated that it would be fully funded, I think, initially, by 2011. Was it 2005 it was intended to be?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, pushed it back to 2012. Basically, that would move at a marginal rate over the next number of years. It was only roughly 2 per cent a year would be increased in that funding area.

I have experienced a lot of situations too, and everybody in this House has cases that they have been to at the Workers' Compensation review division. I was involved in several cases over the past several months. One of the major concerns there is this. There are people being heard at the Workers' Compensation review division that I know cannot physically work.

I will use one example of a person from my district. It did not make any difference, it was a matter of principle, and I think I made reference to this before. The person had taken retirement and their income was higher than they would have had anyway, so it made no monetary difference to that person whatsoever. That person went there out of principle, and I went with them, and the ruling did not go in their favour.

That person was on the way to the hospital in an ambulance and had to ask the ambulance to slow down, turn off the lights and drive slowly, because the road is so bad in that area. I was delighted to hear an announcement yesterday that they would start resurfacing one-third of it, probably from Bay Bulls to Ferryland. It is from the Roads for Rail Agreement, I think. There were another few million to come to finish the rest. They had to drive slowly to the hospital, got to the hospital, and they were going to send the person home. He said: I am not physically well enough to go home. He said: There is an orthopaedic doctor, my doctor is down the corridor. They went down the corridor and this person was at Emergency. The doctor came in, admitted the person right like that, and said: There is a broken vertebra in their back. Imagine, they were sending the person home, he refused to go, and they admitted that person.

That person was turned down by the Workers' Compensation review division and went through torture. Not one bit of monetary value there. It would not have affected the unfunded liability to one cent. There are many other cases of people I have dealt with in similar situations.

We have to be responsible. I know that is a responsibility of government, and all of us in the House, to have a system that is going to get fully funded at some point in time. Because it is in the best interest of workers, it is in the best interest of business, it is in the best interests of everybody. We have to do it on a schedule that is not going to compromise the health and well-being of people, and people who need that extra assistance.

Everybody I am sure here in this House knows people that have gone through and dealt with a commission. They found it has been pure torture, it has been dragged on for years. Half the cause of costs to the medical system are coming from the frustrations, the depressions, and having to deal with the aggravation and so on that has been caused by the Commission. It is not humane, basically. It is not really humane to treat some people in the manner they have been treated. Granted, we have increased our funded portion of liability. I think we were at $170 million, $180 million, at one point in time, in that ball park. Now we are down to $91.8 million, I believe it is, in the latest filed report in the House, as of March I think of this past year, I believe. That would be March 1997, I would assume. Yes, it was March 1997, because the other one would not be completed at this point in time.

We have made tremendous progress, and we got to be very cognizant that we are not going to be moving too fast. It is not in jeopardy. We have changes in our pension plan, for example, that have moved the Public Service Pension Plan up to about 44 per cent funded, and the corrective acts over the next while will help. The MHA Plan moved marginally, the Teachers' Pension Plan has moved from only 15 per cent or 16 per cent or 17 per cent up the line. We are moving at a faster pace, basically, with getting that funded there than we are with normal pension plans here in our Province. I might add, we are moving considerably faster.

We can't tip the pendulum too far against workers that are injured there because these people are people who went out in the workplace, who worked hard in the workplace, just like anybody else. Some hard workers get injured, some do not. I know efforts have been made, from the Occupational Health and Safety, to increase that for workers, but still we are going to have injuries in the workplace. Injuries are going to occur today because of our system. By having under staffed nurses in our system today, with longer hours and having to work harder, we are increasing the liability of risk to these people in our health care system, and people out in the marketplace today.

By virtue of having underfunded systems here - we can blame it on who we like; we have $150 million less we are getting from the feds under the Canada Health and Social Transfer - that is increasing the risk to people in the workplace today and causing injuries there. We have it under control, I mean we have turned the corner. Let's not put the pedal to the metal and completely ignore the plight of people out there today.

I am sure we all know people out there who are living with pain. It is pretty frustrating every single day of your life to be living with pain and have to stand up and walk around for a few minutes and sit down. People told a teacher what they could do. They could sit down, they could get up and walk around, they could use these overheads. They cannot reach up to a board, they cannot function. Some of the things I have heard were just absolutely extreme, some of the things they expected a person to have to do, a person who hardly could get out of bed, let alone say get in a classroom. Someone to carry their books, someone to bring their books up in the day, someone to bring them back.

There were no positions available for that, and they ruled that this could be accommodated. That is ridiculous. No board or no government is going to provide an assistant to carry around a teacher's books from one classroom to another and all over the place. It is not normal, it does not happen, it is costing the system. It is cheaper to acknowledge the problem, that the person cannot work, than pay for it somewhere else. I take great exception to some of the decisions there on people in the workplace.

We have reduced that funded liability. We have improved it. It has been done on the backs of workers. I know we get cries from companies too that are paying full compensation costs, and rightly so. They have a concern from their business perspective and I do not doubt that. I spent over twenty years out in business and I know all about contributing our premiums, whether it is into EI premiums, Canada Pension or Workers' Compensation. We paid in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I had probably one or two claims in about twenty years with a fairly large workforce. We have been fortunate in that end. Not that it was probably any safer than anybody else's, but when you are working out on a seasonal basis nobody wants to miss work. If you only have seasonal work, people do not want to miss it. If you get an injury there they often work with the injury. Most injuries in that nature are cuts and so on that are short-term anyway. There are people suffering with long-term disabilities today. People who have gone through Canada Pension and got their pension disabilities, it has been acknowledged that it is severe and prolonged, and they cannot get through under workers' compensation.

I know the reverse happens in cases too. It seems to be tougher today to get your due than you did several years ago. That is symptomatic of the whole system where there is less of a social conscience out there today. It may be the economy. Maybe we did spend too much in good times and we have dug ourselves into a hole, there is no doubt about that. I am a believer in prudent management and not running huge deficits. Somebody pays the price down the road for that, if we do not do proper long-term planning and deal with it. In all fairness, we cannot do it on the backs of injured workers. We have to recognize the contribution that they have made here. We have got to look at a plan that is going to be realistic, that is not going to impose undue hardships upon people, and that will allow us to get there at some point in time, at a slow pace to get there. We are making progress.

I believe up to the 1980s - the minister certainly should have the specifics, I did not research the specifics - there was no unfunded liability. It was the Workers' Compensation Commission then. What is it now? WHSCC I think it is now. Basically we have gone to that very quickly. It did get out of control at one point, but it is under control, it is coming down, so let's swing the pendulum in favour of injured workers here in the process. Let's slow down the rate that we are going to get fully funded under the system so everybody can benefit.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to speak on the bill currently before the House in Committee, Bill 42, An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act.

I first of all want to make reference to the explanatory note to this legislation. The explanatory note says: "This Bill would amend the Workers' Compensation Act to give effect to recommendations of the statutory review committee." What a joke. The statutory review committee made a whole series of recommendations based on its philosophical approach to the changes needed in the Workers' Compensation Act to bring the act back into balance, a proper balance between the desire on the one hand to make sure that the Workers' Compensation Commission is fully funded, and the purpose of Workers' Compensation to provide a proper and appropriate level of benefits to workers.

To quote the report of the statutory review committee, it says: The workers' compensation system must remain balanced and equitable.

This report has an interesting history. It was released to government in May 1997. Here we are in December 1998 before any legislative changes are being made to adopt it. I recognize that certain benefit levels were changed when the report was released by government back in the fall of 1997, some six months later. There were some changes announced. Now here we are a year and a half later looking at some legislation to implement some - some - of the recommendations, but certainly not the ones that needed to be implemented in order to provide the balance and equity that is required and that the committee recommended.

The conclusion of the committee is very interesting: It is the conclusion of this committee that the low benefit levels of the past several years have had a significantly greater impact on injured workers than the high assessment rates have had on employers. What we have had is that on the one hand employers alleged that high assessments rates are a threat to business survival and that they must be reduced. However, the allegation was not supported by any actual experience or tangible evidence.

This is very important: On the other hand, numerous accounts have been related to us by injured workers and their families of loss of homes and other extreme financial difficulties caused by the lower benefits, which in many cases have contributed to marriage and family breakdowns. These dozens of accounts of human misery are convincing. Therefore, reasonable adjustments are required to return to a balanced and equitable system. It is time to refocus.

Mr. Chairman, what did that require? That required that government have a good look at the findings of the statutory tribunal. It only operates once every five years. I recall the 1992 report, which was not a unanimous report, which this one is for the most part. The 1992 report recommended a reduction of benefits.

There was a very strong dissent by the worker representative at the tribunal, at that time. I think it was headed, `Betrayed.' The workers were being betrayed by the report of the workers' compensation statutory tribunal of 1992. What happened? The government implemented the negative recommendations as they affected workers to the letter, and almost immediately. What have we here? We have a recognition by a statutory tribunal to improve the benefits to workers, and what does the government do? It dilly-dallies around for almost a year and comes up with a series of statutory changes which do not go in any measure near the recommendations of this tribunal.

One of the recommendations was a unanimous recommendation with respect to the Canada Pension Plan. This recommendation was that the act be amended to reduce the percentage of the CPP disability offset from 100 per cent to 50 per cent. The 50 per cent offset would apply to worker wage loss benefits and survivor spouse benefits.

This is an important recognition by the committee that the workers themselves have contributed 50 per cent of the cost of Canada Pension benefits. They pay premiums. Every worker pays premiums to assist in the funding of the Canada Pension Plan and in accordance with the Canada Pension Plan benefits. That 50 per cent contribution was paid for by the workers, and 50 per cent paid for by the employers. Now the commentary of the workers' compensation review tribunal was that it would be unjust and unreasonable to hold that the contribution which the worker made to the Canada Pension Plan should (inaudible) to the benefit of the Workers' Compensation Commission, and ultimately to the employer.

So they recommended that the offset be reduced to 50 per cent instead of 100 per cent. Up until this change, the proposed recommendation, 100 per cent of any Canada Pension disability benefits received by an injured worker were deducted from the workers' compensation cheque. A very reasonable proposal, a very fair-minded and just proposal to reduce that offset to 50 per cent.

What do we have happen? We now have an offset of 75 per cent, not 50 per cent. They have not implemented that recommendation which would have benefitted injured workers and allow them to benefit from the premiums that they pay, along with all other workers, with respect to the benefits of the Canada Pension disability program.

Some other recommendations that would not even cost any money were these. Top-ups. The recommendation was made that the prohibition that was put into the legislation back in 1992 against the top-up provisions be removed from the act, and to allow people to negotiate with their employer for whatever benefits that they can through collective bargaining. What happened was that the benefits were negotiated by employees in the public sector and paid for, presumably, at the negotiating table by concessions in other areas. What did government do? They removed them. They took them away when they ripped up collective agreements and destroyed the ability of the people who had negotiated these agreements to get the benefit of agreements that they have negotiated. I don't see anything in this legislation implementing that particular recommendation.

The statutory review committee looked at the level of benefits and were not satisfied that the benefit level was adequate. They looked at the unfunded liability. What did they say about that? What they said about the unfunded liability is: Since the last review the Workers' Compensation Commission has been highly successful in achieving significant improvement in its financial position by the reduction in benefit levels, strenuously pursuing the deeming process, reducing its focus on rehabilitation, and by a $13.4 million annual levy on employers, applied directly toward offsetting the unfunded liability.

Mr. Chairman, what they have said is that the unfunded liability has appeared to become an icon for the advocate of those who are pursuing full and complete financing before any adjustment benefits might be made.

Here is what they say: Injured employees were no more responsible for causing the unfunded liability than were the employers, and the notion that was expressed in our hearings that ascribed blame to the injured worker for the financial plight of the Workers' Compensation is incorrect.

The question there is, why make the workers pay when it was not the injured worker's fault? Why make the workers pay by a reduction in benefits? They did not cause the unfunded liability. They were injured at work and are deserving of compensation for that. So what does the tribunal recommend? It recommends that the benefit level be increased to 80 per cent for the first thirty-nine weeks and 85 per cent thereafter.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: By leave, Mr. Chairman, for a couple of minutes to clue up?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: This legislation does not increase the benefit level to 80 per cent for the first thirty-nine weeks and 85 per cent thereafter. In fact, it adopts a minor change already introduced and announced by government that will only benefit some workers in the short term.

The ones who really need the benefit are the long-term claimers, those who will be on workers' compensation, because of the extent of their injuries, for a longer period.

At the time that this legislation was changed the last time, there was a lot of talk by the then Minister of Labour - who has since been the Minister of Education and now is the Minister of Mines and Energy - who said in the House that these changes were being made because experience had shown that if you reduce benefits, people went back to work faster. That was the rationale that government was using. They were going to punish workers and treat them as if they were malingering, reduce their benefits and force them back to work. That was the attitude that this government had toward injured workers when it changed that legislation.

That was not what was found by the Workers' Compensation Statutory Review Tribunal. They said that: the outpouring of human misery we have heard is the best indication available of a compensation system that has become unbalanced and that has contributed to increased personal financial ruin and family breakdown. If long-term injured workers are unreasonably hurt by a system that is intended to provide them with adequate benefits for workplace injuries, then the system is flawed. It needs to be refocused. Balance and equity should be sought for all stakeholders to ensure the commission's future ability to provide adequate benefits to injured workers at a reasonable cost to employers.

What they said at the end was that the committee is convinced that an adjustment in benefit levels is critical at this time. If such an adjustment serves to increase the time it takes to reach a fully funded situation then that is a condition which the system must necessarily bear in order to re-balance the system by providing adequate service to injured workers and their dependents. It should be noted that the commission is three years ahead of its target of 2012 for full funding.

Why is that not enough? Why is that not adequate to reduce the pain and suffering caused by what was recognized to be a flawed system, and refund or replace the benefits lost according to the recommendations of this commission? The government is not satisfied to do that because they have lost their compassion and commitment to injured workers.

What about another recommendation? The office of the worker adviser. How are they implementing the recommendation of this commission when the tribunal recommends that the act be amended to conclude specific provision for an independent office of the workers' advocate? In addition to providing assistance, education and advice on workers' compensation matters, its mandate shall include providing representation to injured workers before the review division. The person or persons appointed the position shall have appropriate education and background in workers' compensation issues.

Mr. Chairman, where is that in the legislation? Where is the provision in the legislation, in the amendments, to provide for an independent office of the workers' advocate and to ensure that there is appropriate training and education available to people in that position to actually represent workers before the review division? We do not see it here. It does not cost anything to put it in the legislation. The minister has already announced that he is going to follow the next recommendation, which is increase the amount of money to $200,000; although I don't think they have seen the money yet. I don't know when the money is forthcoming. You will address that later on?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: As soon as the legislation is in place, the minister says. So the money is forthcoming but the provision for the workers' advocate is not included in the act.

It is important to recognize that this position is vital to the operation of the workers' compensation system. There should not be a need for injured workers to go out and spend the money that is costs to hire a lawyer in order to get what they are entitled to by statute, or what they should be entitled to by statute. It is not right. It is not right that a person cannot get the benefits to which they are entitled without having to hire a lawyer. They should have the benefit of the workers' advocate.

There is a similar situation in the federal government for veterans of the armed forces or uniformed services, whether they be RCMP officers, people who served in the forces in war or in peace time, who are injured as a result of their service or have a service-related injury, as they call it, or disability. They have access to an independent pensions advocate who takes their cases to the pensions appeal boards and the various boards that are available to pensioners under the federal Veterans Affairs legislation.

This is a workers' advocate which is a service that is provided from the assessment fund to ensure, and is designed to ensure, that workers have representation at the review division and other levels of appeal. That should be enshrined in the legislation. Why are they leaving that out? Why don't they want to give recognition? Why don't they want to give recognition that workers need a workers' advocate?

I don't know why employers need an employers' advocate because - although government seem to be taking the approach: We will give some money to one and the same amount to the other side, workers and employers.

My understanding is that the employers' group wanted to use the money for lobbying purposes. What they want to do is use the money for lobbying government to change the legislation, to make the legislation less accessible to workers and less beneficial to workers.

What the workers' advocate is trying to do is to ensure that the people who are injured while on the job, or suffer from an industrial disease, a work-related injury or disease, that they have compensation that they are entitled to under the act. The workers' advocate is designed to do that, purely designed to ensure that workers know their rights and are able to pursue them because they are the ones for whom the workers' compensations legislation is designed to help. It is part of what was called, back in the early part of the century, the great compromise. The great compromise involved the loss of workers of the right to sue their employer, in return for which they were supposed to get a system that provided a level of compensation. Not the same kind of compensation you would get from a lawsuit, but a level of compensation to replace the income they had lost, and to provide adequately for their dependents and their survivors if they were unfortunate enough to get killed in an industrial accident or die from an industrial disease.

They was the idea, that they would give up one right, the right to sue, for the guarantee of adequate compensation. What has happened is that the right to sue has certainly been taken away, but that adequate compensation has been eroded by actions of this government in the previous legislation which are not properly being restored in the legislation that is before the House today.

Those are my remarks on this legislation. I am terribly disappointed that this government has failed to honour the report of the Statutory Review Committee and to implement the recommendations that they made. They made their report after very careful consideration, after receiving hundreds of representations and spending many days considering the implications of the workers' compensation legislation on injured workers, on the fund, on the unfunded liability, and listening to all the stakeholders. What happened? The minister, after he got his report, made another round. He made a round and said: We are not going to go by what these people who we hired and appointed and paid to do this said. We are going to go around and do another compromise. We are going to make some half measures, partially implement some of the recommendations, and leave the others lying on the table.

I think that this is an action by government that is reprehensible. Reprehensible when injured workers are the ones who are suffering as a result of this. This is legislation that is not necessary. It is not necessary to fail to implement the approach taken.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, if the Christmas spirit truly prevailed on the other side of the House we would not have this legislation here before us. We would be implementing the statutory review committee's report in full and restoring the benefits that injured workers need in order to be properly compensated for injuries they suffered on the job.

This is reprehensible, and I hope the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture will speak on this legislation, and in so doing urge his Cabinet colleagues to change their position and to restore the benefits to injured workers that this legislation fails to restore, that was taken away from them in 1992. This report undertook to show the government the way to restore the balance and to re-focus the balance of what should be an equitable and balanced system that looks after the needs of injured workers but at the same time is fair to employers. Government has failed to do that, Mr. Chairman, and they should be condemned for it.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I believe the next section is section 3. Minister, I would just like to ask you some questions pertaining to section 3. Down at the end of -

CHAIR: Order, please!

Clause 2 is not carried.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

On motion, clause 2, carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 3 carry?

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: It says that down towards the end in 3(3)(v), conditions, "...but does not include stress other than stress that is an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event." I want to ask the minister what definition will be used in determining stress as it constitutes "an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event"? Can you explain that to us?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What that means is this. For example, like what happened in one of the schools in the United States recently, where a person came into the classroom and opened up a machine gun and killed half of the students. The teacher obviously would not be expected to go back into her classroom the next day and would be out on extended leave. That type of stress is what that refers to there, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Clause 3, carried.

Shall clause 4 carry?

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: You are a bit too quick for me there, Mr. Chairman. I have another question for the minister. Minister, can an employee who has been wrongfully accused of a crime by a fellow employee or employer constitute a wrongful allegation as stress?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: No, we are still in 3. Again, under the stress, can an injured worker who has been accused wrongly by a fellow employee or by an employer of wrongful allegations, can that be termed as stress?

AN HON. MEMBER: What section are you looking at?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: That is in subsection 3.(b).

I don't think that includes that as a (inaudible) stress, but I can check on it, if you give me one minute, while you make some other comments.

MR. FRENCH: Okay, thank you.

Mr. Chairman, maybe you could move on and we can come back to that section while the minister has a look.

On motion, clause 4, carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 5 carry?

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: I would also like to ask the minister, under clause 5 it says, "The Lieutenant-Governor in Council shall appoint a board of directors of the commission who shall be responsible for the adminstration of this Act." Then it goes on to determine who makes up the board.

If I read this correctly, I find that there will be no injured workers on the board. I would like to ask the minister if that is correct and, if it is, then why would we not have an injured worker on the board? There should be somebody there to relay the case of the injured worker.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: The answer to the first question I thought was no, and it has been confirmed that the answer to that does not fit the stress as outlined there in the clause.

In the second one, area No. 5, we have three people on the board of directors, or will after this legislation is passed, who will represent workers: The Newfoundland Federation of Labour, the nurses' people, and people as such. Mr. Chairman, I don't really see the need to have an injured worker on the commission to be able to represent the workers' needs. Workers' representatives are here and I believe that they can do the job.

Also, the statutory review that we had came out that way and I believe that the representation that we have can do the job adequately.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would just like to ask the minister why. I personally believe that there should be somebody on the board who would represent the interest of injured workers in this Province. After the last couple of days of debating this bill, the different cases put forward by some of my colleagues on this side of the House, I would believe that it is also incumbent upon us as legislators to make sure that there would be an injured worker on the board of directors.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: Mr. Chairman, if NAPE so decided to have an injured worker to represent them on the board of the Newfoundland Federation of Labour, or the Nurses' Union, then we would not exclude that from happening. It would be up to the organizations as such.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Again, I would like to see something in here which guarantees us the right to have an injured worker on the board of directors. I think we should have something here.

CHAIR: Is the House satisfied that we have sufficiently covered clause 3? If not, I could recall it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: Clause 3 is carried.

On motion, clauses 5 through 9, carried.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 10 through 21, inclusive, carry?

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: When we get into section 11 and section 12, Mr. Chairman, I have some questions for the minister.

CHAIR: With the member's indulgence, shall clause 10 carry?

On motion, clause 10 carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 11 carry?

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Section 53.(1), I believe it is, states that compensation is not payable in relation to a worker unless he or she gives notice of an injury to his or employer immediately after the injury occurs. The present version of the act states that notice of an injury be given as soon as possible after the injury.

I would like to point out to the minister here that there could be cases, and there will be cases, whereby sometimes if a worker becomes injured it is not always possible to report the injury immediately. There are times when people are working on a job - they could be lifting or doing something - and they could injure their back, but at the time they did it may really think there was nothing to it and move on.

I have represented people, I say to the minister, at compensation hearings whereby people have slipped, injured their back, and really did not find anything until sometime the next day.

I have no problem with saying as soon as possible, but I think it creates difficulty to say that it would be immediately because immediately won't be possible.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) clauses 11, 12 and 13. Why don't you address each of the questions and when the minister rises he can refer to them?

MR. FRENCH: Okay, if that is what you wish. I would ask the minister that the word `immediately' be withdrawn.

Section 53.(1)(b): again this should be, I think, within six months of occurrence of an injury - section 53, the one-month thing.

In section 12 of the bill, section 54.1(1) states in part, "A worker shall (a) take all reasonable steps to reduce or eliminate a permanent impairment...".

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: No, I am into section 12 now.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) 11, 12 and 13.

MR. FRENCH: Yes.

I just like to pose this to the minister: How can a worker take steps to reduce or eliminate a medical diagnoses that is permanent? This statement, I believe, should be removed from the act. Section 54.1 should be deleted. An injured worker is not trained, nor should he or she be accountable for directing his or her medical prognosis, treatment and/or recovery.

Section 54.2(1) should include the words `with the consent of the attending physicians and/or provincial care providers'. Also, workers are not trained to develop and implement rehabilitation programs, I say to the minister.

Section 58.(1), the words `only relevant medical information will be released to employers after the written consent of the injured worker has been obtained' should be added. I believe that nobody has the right to give out medical information without first receiving the consent of the injured worker.

My next questions are not until section 15, Minister, if you want to address some of those.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I can take note of the questions given here and write back a letter to you after we have gone through this and address all of your concerns to that, if that is okay. Or by leave to access some of the officials that are there from the Commission and so on in the room.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Chairman, the problem is that if we pass this then regardless of what explanation I receive, if still not happy, it remains, and that is the part I have some difficulty with. I do not mean to belabour this and I am certainly not delaying deliberately here, but these are legitimate questions which I certainly believe should be answered.

AN HON. MEMBER: I agree. (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Pardon? Yes, I have some more questions under section 15 of the bill, I say to the minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: Can I ask you (inaudible)? (Inaudible) the questions to the minister. He has people from Workers' Compensation. (Inaudible).

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: Section 2 concerns are addressed by section 12 of the bill. Under clause 11, section 53 (1) of the act, at three months versus six months, enables the WHSCC to respond faster to the workers. Under clause 12, section 54.2 (1), the onus is on the worker to work with the WHSCC to develop a plan of rehabilitation together.

On motion, clauses 11 through 14, carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 15 carry?

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Chairman, clause 15(1) dealing with section 81(3.2). It should be changed to give workers that are being offset by the gross from method of a 4 per cent reduction. That is an offset rate of 76 per cent. This should give them the same reduction as the workers on the net from net offset.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Yes, I am just asking for an explanation on that, in clause 15, dealing with section 81(3.2).

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: No.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) in that (inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Okay.

On motion, clause 15, carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 16 carry?

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The minister will probably be relieved to know I only have a couple more left.

Minister, under this clause, section 83.1(1) should be changed by allowing collection from the estate only if it does not cause financial hardship on the family of the deceased and only if benefits continue to be paid to a surviving spouse or dependent.

I think there is a bit of a grey area here when we look at overpayment. Maybe we should spread this out as well over a reasonable period of time, I say to the minister.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: I can look at that, Mr. Chairman, and see if that can be the case. I will talk to the Commission accordingly.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

Are you still speaking to clause 16?

MR. FRENCH: Yes sir. As to 83.1(2), again I say to the minister that this should be deleted, as it gives the Commission sole authority in determining whether an overpayment exists and what amount of an overpayment exists. I just want to say that for the record and have it on there.

On motion, clauses 16 through 21, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act." (Bill No. 42)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, Order No. 18, Bill No. 56.

CHAIR: Order No. 18, Bill No. 56.

Shall clause 1 carry?

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Just a few comments on this particular bill. It is a bill which has provided a lot of debate, I may say, both here in this Chamber and publicly. We have heard, I think, two very legitimate points of view.

My colleague the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi made some very legitimate points. However, some of the disability associations as well have made points which I think are worthy of perhaps more public input, I say to the hon. minister.

Mr. Minister, you may recall that when this bill was being debated during second reading the Leader of the Opposition suggested that perhaps a statutory review committee be struck to in fact allow and invite more public debate to hear both sides of the argument. I understand this particular statute is the result of a case that was heard in the Trial Division of the Supreme Court and largely reflects the views that were expressed in the decision.

Therefore, what I am going to indicate at this time is that what we will be proposing at third reading is an amendment that this matter be referred to the standing committee on social services. The wording of this amendment has been reviewed and approved, I understand. We are not going to do it, Mr. Minister, at Committee stage. However, we will put you on notice that there will be an amendment put forward, in the spirit of the wording of the Leader of the Opposition, with respect to more public input, the requirement of a statutory review committee to at least allow more debate from both sides of the legislation which appear to raise some legitimate points. Thank you, Mr. Minister.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Yes, may I just reply? I have to tell the member frankly - he will understand the reasons - that I do not think this is an appropriate matter to refer to Committee of the House. I believe matters of that sort should be referred when the legislation is either very complex or a matter of great public debate, or an uncertain area of public debate. In this case I believe it is very clear. This is not about unionization, it is not about rates of pay. All the question is: Who should be the employer in an individual's home?

We feel very clearly that should be the people for whom the services are provided, or a committee acting on their behalf. The reason for that is there are 2,500 homes with different circumstances, people with different infirmities, physical, mental, and so on. With due respect to the honourable member who is the Leader of the NDP, his concern - and I said this when he raised the question the other day -, to my mind his public policy is not in favour of the individuals in whose homes these services are provided. He is falling on the other side of the spectrum for his friends in the labour movement who want to make it much easier to unionize and collect union dues.

We are not against unionization. This just says that if it is going to be unionized the people in the homes should have the right to determine these types of workers that are hired and so forth, and the proper mix. That is clearly where the issue lies. I do not think my honourable friend disagrees necessarily with that proposition. He has heard the debate. The interesting thing is a lot of people have spoken on this - the individuals and groups responsible for a lot of disabled individuals - and they support this fully.

I believe it commends itself to the House. If the hon. member has other avenues, if he wishes to address the other matters, he can bring in a separate piece of legislation. I think that would be an appropriate way to deal with it. Thank you.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to speak again along the same line I mentioned the other day. I have recognized that this is a problem for the government, and the legal implementations arising from the cases that have been heard in the courts and elsewhere. My concern is, of course, with the individuals who might fall through the system, as I mentioned the other day. I do not want to get too much into, shall we say, the labour end of it, because that has a way of resolving itself. There are programs in place to look after that.

I do have a concern with seniors who might need a services and who might not have the wherewithal to be able to supply all of the logistics and the record keeping and doing all of that kind of data, and wondering if there is some way in which we could have a program in place to help these people who are vulnerable. They are not necessarily all seniors, but in some cases they are people who may not have community groups to help them prepare the documentation. For that reason I do have a concern which I really expressed to the minister a few days ago, which I want to bring forward again. Because we are going change the rules here and make the individuals themselves the employer. We want to make sure that we do not permit the vulnerable people to fall through the cracks.

I again bring to the attention of the minister my concern with the people who might need help, and also, as I did the day, to mention to him as well the fact that some of these people may not be associated with any of the church groups or with any of these other agencies. I wanted to again support the proposition put forward by the Member for St. John's East, that this matter probably could do with a little further discussion at the legislative review stage, and to suggest that there are differing opinions. There is a body of support out there for the proposition put forward in this legislation. Probably if we had a little further dialogue it might enable the people who have concerns that they might not receive the service, that these people can have an opportunity to have their concerns addressed in the legislation, and we will not have the possibility of having anybody fall through, particularly those people who are in most need.

Mr. Chairman, I bring these matters to the attention of the minister. I am sure he is aware of them and he will find some way to make sure that the provisions of home care services will be available to all people in a fair and reasonable manner.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to speak here in Committee on this legislation to provide for who the employer is in self-managed care.

I know the minister is trying to characterize this legislation as a matter of clarifying the law. What in fact it is doing is imposing on the situation of home care workers in this Province a policy of government, enshrining into law a policy of government that is designed to ensure that home care workers are marginalized and effectively disenfranchised when it comes to representation. By making some 3,500 home care workers in effect the employees of the people to whom they give the care, they are disenfranchising them from their ability to organize properly and to secure decent wages and working conditions.

Let me tell you some of the problems and issues that home care workers face in this Province. First of all, it must be clearly understood that we are dealing here with women for the most part. There are some men who are involved in personal care, but by far the very large majority of home care workers are women who have been trained to provide personal care, medical services and home support services to their client.

A significant number of these employees and these workers are in fact former employees of health care institutions who were laid off as a result of funding cuts and restructuring in health care. We are dealing here with, in many cases, employees of government who have been employed in health care institutions and are now working in private homes providing quality home care to ensure that people are able to live in their homes and have some decent comfort level, and be able to stay in their homes, which of course is a laudable goal.

The second thing that is important to know is that the wages paid to these home support workers are very minimal. In fact, in many cases only the minimum wage, in most cases barely above the minimum wage. These workers receive few, if any, benefits. Their hours of work are precarious at best. It is not unusual for a home care worker to report for work at an appointed time and find out that the family has made other plans or other arrangements for that particular time period.

Their work is very important to the quality of life for the clients of these services. This government has sadly undervalued that work and relegated these women to the very bottom of the economic ladder. A government which claims to be concerned about the role and position of women in our society ought to be ashamed of itself for failing to protect these women and passing this legislation, which will have the affect of continuing to marginalize home care workers in this Province.

The working conditions that these home care workers face are in fact deplorable. Whether it be agencies or individual people who are in self-managed care, they will not have adequate funding to provide proper benefits to employees. Workers' compensation benefits are not available in many cases, because even though they are working in an occupation with a high risk to injury they don't have access to injury preventive programs. In many cases there is inadequate or no equipment, such as lifting devices which would prevent injuries, and in many cases they are only provided with basic protective equipment and clothing, such as latex gloves, even though they are at risk of exposure to infectious and communicable diseases. These women in most cases work alone in an individual's home and are extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation in their workplaces.

Since all these home support services are funded either directly or indirectly through government, and they are delivered in a community based model, these workers are basically employed to carry out the government policy of providing services. The individuals who are now going to be made the employers have absolutely no experience, in almost all cases, in acting as an employer. Many of these people are disabled, many of these people are elderly. Many of these people have no understanding or training in terms of operating as an employer, in terms of carrying out the functions or duties of employer. They have no training or experience in employer-employee relations, and can't possibly, automatically, become the person who might be required to negotiate a collective agreement if the workers organize.

The affect of this legislation is essentially to disenfranchise these women and prevent them from exercising their rights to organize, their rights to have some control over their working conditions.

Also, there is a lot of questions arising. The only part of this issue government is addressing is the issue of who is the employer and who is not.

Let me go back to March 20, 1997. I want to read from the Budget Speech found in Hansard for March 20, 1997. Here is what the Minister of Finance said at that time:

"This Government places great value on services provided to seniors and persons with disabilities in this Province. We acknowledge the critical role of home care workers in assisting both seniors and disabled persons who remain in their own homes. Mr. Speaker, Government is announcing today an additional $4 million to increase salaries for home care workers and will also provide them with worker's compensation coverage."

They do not get workers' compensation coverage. What happened? What happened to government's announcement in March of 1997 that government is going to ensure that home care workers get workers' compensation coverage?

We had an example a couple of weeks ago, where an agency went bankrupt or out of business. A worker in her late fifties, who worked for a client of that agency, a client of the Department of Human Resources and Employment, and was behind in her wages by $2,000, had no recourse. The Labour Standards Act did not help, the Department of Environment and Labour told her there was no recourse, that there is no such thing as director's liability in this Province. There was no one to sue, nobody to get compensation from, and out $2,000 after providing that service to a client of the government for whom the agency got paid. This woman was making the minium wage with no workers' compensation benefit.

Where is the promise of more money for home care workers? Where is the promise of providing workers' compensation coverage for home care workers? What we have here is a piece of legislation that is going to guarantee that these women continue to be marginalized by this government and treated in a discriminatory fashion.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I am not on leave; I have not even used my ten minutes yet. Mr. Chairman, I am still using my first ten-minute intervention, I understand.

I understand this legislation is not universally applauded on that side of the House. I understand the minister responsible for the Status of Women has grave reservations about what is being done to women as result of this legislation.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have a few comments to make on this particular bill. I guess there are a couple of aspects, a couple of points of view, to look at.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I will be five minutes. I am sure the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi wants to go again. I can make my few points in two or three minutes. I will save the House from the long answer, as the minister said this morning. The new Minister of Mines and Energy didn't rise; the Premier got up and give us a longer answer. I said: Bring us back the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation again.

There are some points. I have heard in the media - the Association for Community Living, and the right to have the power over who they hire, or the responsibilities. Certainly that is an appropriate thing. I do not have a problem with that aspect and I can certainly see their point.

On the other hand, it is a bill we did not have very long. We only had it a short period of time. We have not a chance to really gauge an opinion on everybody who might be affected by this. It is short notice. It is not one of the initial bills that we had here. It is one that came on us just in the last week, but there are certain points and concerns.

I know in my district, for about a year-and-a-half, there was a group of the home care workers - Southern Shore Home Support Agency workers - 120 some workers in my district were on strike for about a year-and-a-half. One of the reasons why they were out on strike was for better wages, better conditions of work, to be able to have the right, if somebody dies in a household, that they are not out of a job and they have a chance to be protected.

Workers' rights are an issue, too, not doubt about it. They expect to have those basis rights - the people you are caring for, who are usually elderly people. Some people you might be caring for may unfortunately pass away within a period of a month or two and that person is without a job.

You have to combine the care for our elderly and a worker's rights, too. One of the concerns of this - it doesn't matter whether this particular bill was in or whether it wasn't, or whether it is currently as it now exist, I should say - there still has to be a funding aspect to it or we are not going to get the level of care we need.

I know government has said it has gone from a $200,000 cost up to now, they are saying, more like a $35 million cost over all. I know the associate Minister of Finance over there is very much aware of those issues of cost. One aspect, too, is that you really get what you pay for. If you pay for a certain service and provide the amount of money to workers there, it tends to get better service, it is a better working relationship, a better atmosphere, people enjoy going to work, productivity is better, the care is better. I think all of these are important factors too. I can certainly see that point of view. We have to look out for workers who care for our people, who are in need of this care. If we do not take care of the workers who are out there, how do we expect the recipients of that care to be looked after? That is certainly a concern.

This bill is trying to address the aspect or eliminate government from being the employer in this particular case. There are segments out there of people who want to be the person who is the recipient, the one who the care is being provided to, to be that employer. That is something I can certainly understand and appreciate. I certainly do not have a problem on that perspective at all.

As I say again, in summation, I am not here to unduly delay anything but to make the particular points. I think we have to look, as I spoke previously on WHSCC, in terms of the 50 per cent, in terms of their Canada Pension aspect. I think that is a factor - the same thing here too. We have to look out for the rights of workers also and we cannot trample on these. In the process we have to respect the rights of individuals.

I think it is something that is difficult to deal with without further consultation on this, and that is one of the concerns. I don't think we have had an opportunity really to have enough consultation on this particular bill because initially when I spoke - and I spoke with the House Leader, the former and then the former, former, and the one before that - we have dealt with three on it. It was not one of the initial bills we had an opportunity to look at before, so it is only fitting that several of our members have spoken on this. They have raised certain legitimate concerns on this too. I would certainly want to also endorse their same sentiments that they have raised also, and certain cautions there, before we proceed in enacting something when we have not heard all the arguments for it.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: If he speaks now he will close debate.

MR. HARRIS: Not likely.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

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

MR. HARRIS: I am sorry, I thought the member wanted to engage in debate.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I thought the minister who introduced the bill had to close debate.

Anyway, I am happy to continue on, Mr. Chairman, because there are a number of issues that arise out of this bill. I understand that there are some people who are advocates in the disabled community who have taken the position that this is good legislation because it gives the recipients of this service some say over their employees. I don't have a problem with that but there is quite a variety of models under which this kind of home care can be provided. It is not necessary to make individual people who are recipients of service an employer in order to ensure that people who are provided with service have an appropriate degree of control over their own circumstances and situations.

Mr. Chairman, the St. John's Home Care Board operated for many years and I don't think I heard one complaint about the services that were being provided by professional people who were hired by the St. John's Home Care Board. They provided service that was designated for the people by an employer, by the St. John's Home Care Board. A social worker would do an assessment. A certain number of hours of service were made available to someone and the service was delivered. It was a non-issue and I think in many cases it continues to be a non-issue.

The concerns that are raised are not sufficient to require that the home care workers be fragmented in the way that this bill would do it; with some 2,500 or more employers, or so-called employers, who really have no experience or training and in some cases, because these individuals are either ill or not interested in being an employer filling out the forms for Revenue Canada, making the appropriate deductions, acting as an employer, or having to engage in proper employee/employer relations, it is just not appropriate to decide that these people have to be an employer. It is wrong, in fact, if the affect of what is happening here is to impose a regime on these marginalized workers, that is totally unacceptable. I think government here is using that as an excuse to walk away from its responsibilities in ensuring that these workers who are providing a government service - we are talking about a government service here now. We are not talking about a private relationship. We are talking about a government service paid for out of government funds, that is what we are talking about.

We are talking about home care service. The national Minister of Health, Allan Rock is talking about the next stage of the development of medicare as being home care services. Home care services as a further development of a health care system on a national basis. If we are going to have that it cannot be done on the backs of women who are being marginalized in employment situations that are unacceptable by virtue of the nature of the employment.

There has to be some guarantee that the women who are working - primarily women. It is not all women, of course. There are men who are engaged in personal care service as well, but primarily women, and, I would submit, a sufficient number of women to ground a discriminatory application under various kinds of human rights' legislation. Whether it be provincial, national - under the Charter of Rights - or how women are treated under this provision under international obligations that Canada has. I think government is trying to do through the back door what it was reluctant to do through the front door.

There was some talk a year or so ago about preventing home care workers from being unionized. We had a strike. Remember the strike by home care workers on the Southern Shore. They were off for six months. They camped out on the front steps of Confederation Building, demonstrated in the lobby, went to see the Minister of Human Resources and Employment, and demanded that government respond to their needs. What did the government do? They said: We are not the employer. That was the stance they took: We aren't not the employer, government is not the employer. We provide every cent of money, we determine who is entitled to the service, how many hours they are entitled to, and what type of service. In many cases they had interviewed the workers involved. Yet they said: No, we are not the employer.

This has been government's policy. Why? Because they are trying to avoid the responsibilities to these employees. They do not want to recognize that the type of work these women do is almost exactly the same, in many respects, as the work being done by the employee of a nursing home at Hoyles Escasoni at about half the income, and under working conditions that are far more precarious and far less open to the control of workers, and far more marginalized.

This is a direct policy of government to ensure that these women do not have the kind of protection in a working environment they are entitled to have. The Minister of Environment and Labour knows it. He knows there is no protection under the Labour Standards Act for these women if they do not get paid. Such as the woman who has been calling my office and has been in the media, who is out $2,000 in wages and has gone to the minister's officials and asked: What can you do for me? She has been told: Nothing. You are out $2,000 because your employer did not pay you. Tough. That was not their attitude. They were very sympathetic, I say to hon. members and I say to the minister. They did not say tough luck because they did not believe that the employee had a good point and had a strong moral argument and should have legal protection. What they told this worker was that the law did not protect her, that the law did not provide a remedy.

Now what are we doing? We are being asked to pass a law that is going to make it worse. Because these people who are now going to be employees of a person to whom they are giving care will be in a situation where their employment is just as precarious, and without any real, practical, effective way of being represented and ensuring that the right kind of conditions are available.

I am opposed to this legislation. We should do everything we can to stall this legislation. I intend to speak on this legislation as often as I can and I hope that we can delay this legislation. I hope government will see the light. I hope that the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women will recognize that this legislation is discriminatory against the people that she is appointed, as minister, to protect. I hope the Minister of Environment and Labour recognizes this legislation is wrong and serves to hurt the cause of employees and not help them. I hope that the Minister of Health and Community Services recognizes this legislation for what it is. I hope. I don't have much hope, I suppose. It is my hope but I don't have a very good feeling about it, Mr. Chairman, because it is her policy after all that is being implemented here through someone else.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

On motion, clauses 1 through 4, carried.

A bill, "An Act Respecting Home Support Services Provided To Persons In Self-Managed Care." (Bill No. 56)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, Order No. 6, Bill No. 27.

CHAIR: Order No. 6, Bill No. 27.

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, on a point of order.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

This is a bill to amend the Works, Services and Transportation Act, and I am very surprised that the new minister is not introducing this bill at Committee stage and having something to say about it.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, to that point of order.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: The bill has already been introduced. This is a section for clause by clause, ten minutes, and usually the Opposition has questions. Even the NDP Leader should know that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: Order, please!

There is no point of order. As hon. members know, the bill was introduced at second reading. There is no introduction of a bill required at Committee stage.

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

It is about time now that I say a few words. The first thing with respect to Bill 27 is it sponsored by the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. Of course, the name of the new minister would have to be added to this, because I expect that he will be the minister that this will be passed through the House of Assembly under, I would assume.

Now this bill, as the former Minister of Works, Services and Transportation said when he introduced the bill, is going to give back the authority or the jurisdiction with respect to signage on the highways in the Province to the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. It is currently under the administration of the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

This has to do with the signage in the Province. If we are going to go clause by clause there are just a few points that I am going to make. The new minister can address them and it will be the first time I heard him in the House of Assembly as a minister. On that note, just the same, I must say something about the new Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. I've said it before, and it is so obvious, that on that side of the House to become a minster, one criterion you have to have is to be a former Tory. I won't get into the list of the members on that side of the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, the present minister and the former minister, I would say, are former Tories. The Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, I would say.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Obviously, the members on this side of the House got a better chance to be ministers than any members on that side of the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes sir, I would say.

Mr. Chairman, now some words with respect to this bill. I don't have any questions, just a few comments with respect to this. It has to deal with signage in the Province, along the highways in the Province. I would like the minister when he speaks to this piece of legislation to speak with respect to the signs. In the Province today, on the highways, there is a lot of signs that are being put there by B&Bs or the various businesses along the Trans-Canada Highway and that type of thing.

Is this piece of legislation now going to permit or give the authority to the Department of Works, Services and Transportation to have those signs removed? That is a concern. Because under certain regulations now, if you are a certain distance from the Trans-Canada Highway you are not permitted to have a sign on the Trans-Canada Highway, within the right-of-way of the Trans-Canada Highway.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, yes, but that is it, it has all to with signs. The government is responsible for signage, I say to the former Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, who is trying to give some advice to the present Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. It is a sign of things to come, yes.

This bill deals with signage on the highway, it deals with the traffic flow, I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, the very signs. It gives authority to people in the Department of Works, Services and Transportation - not only the traffic officers, but employees of the department and employees of councils - to have authority to go in and have signs removed. I do believe that is there in this piece of legislation. It deals with unauthorized signs.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Unauthorized signs is under clause 2, section 34.6(1). That is with respect to unauthorized signs. It talks in 34.6(2) about: "A traffic officer, an employee of the department authorized for the purpose by the minister or an employee of a council... may order the removal of a sign, symbol or object..." resembling a traffic sign.

I would like to know who actually has the authority to tell an individual to remove a sign. Is it anybody within the department at all at all? I see the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, the former Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, who had a big demotion today. (Inaudible) to him that he has all the authority. He had the authority once upon a time but not any more, I would say. He can give us a few pins and a few flags, I suppose.

Anyway, Mr. Chairman, those are a couple of points there. Also, with respect to penalties in the schedule, there are penalties here. The maximum and the minimum are under clause 2, section 34.6 and 34.7. The point I want to make here is that there is a maximum penalty of $180 or a minimum of $45. When you look at the time to be served if you cannot pay the penalty, there is a maximum of ten days and a minimum of two days. I never see those things to be in correlation, one with the other: $180 compared to ten days seems to a bit out of the ordinary, I would say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

Other than that, Mr. Chairman, I am going to sit down and look forward to the inaugural speech of the new Minister of Works, Services and Transportation when he addresses this bill.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

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

I want to rise to make a few comments on this bill. I am going to use my district as an example to make a point that I made here before, as a matter of fact. When the former member from the former district of Eagle River used to be in the House I made the same point. I am going to make it today, using my district as an example, but it is fitting to some other parts of the Province, and other members can speak to theirs, on provincial signage on the roads.

The new minister will understand this. It really bothers me. I brought it up a few times. When I leave St. John's to go back to my district, a six-and-a-half hour drive, from the time I leave St. John's until I hit the junction in Baie Verte, which has twenty-one communities on that peninsula, there is no indication anywhere along 600 kilometres that there is a peninsula called the Baie Verte Peninsula, or, for the Member for Windsor-Springdale, there is not a connection anywhere from St. John's to Springdale -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: That is a Liberal member, I would say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. The Springdale junction is not mentioned all of the way out, Mr. Chairman, from where you can leave St. John's.

It always sticks in my mind what the former member for the former district of Eagle River said, because he said to me: What is wrong, you do not know where your district is? I certainly do know where my district is. I go there quite often. I also made a comment to that former member that I certainly know where St. John's is. When I leave Baie Verte, it is no less than ten or twelve times that they are telling me how far it is to St. John's. I certainly know where St. John's is.

The point is that that section of the highway, which takes in all of the Springdale area, and some twenty-odd communities in that area, all the Baie Verte Peninsula and all of the communities in that area, are not mentioned until you get to that junction. As a matter of fact, I have had people go right past that junction, especially in the nighttime. It isn't lit at all. That junction has twenty-one communities. The Springdale junction, again, is not even mentioned at all until you actually hit the turnoff.

I have had people, who are not from Newfoundland but they were from New York, who were visiting St. John's and wanted to visit that part of the Province. They started to drive there and had no idea, except they kept driving, unless they hauled out their map every so often to see how far they were going. They should not have to do that. I do not expect that every couple of miles you see it, but I understand that when you leave Grand Falls they tell you that the next stop is Deer Lake. Springdale and Baie Verte are wiped off the map. There are 25,000 people in that area, and you do not see it.

Now if you are coming from the west, when you leave Deer Lake the next town they mention is Grand Falls. If you are coming from the West, when you leave Deer Lake they talk about Grand Falls, Gander and so on. Springdale is left out. All that area is left out, and he should take it into account. It is something that should be corrected, it is too long overlooked. I told residents in Springdale - which is not in my district but is in the district of the Member for Windsor-Springdale - when they ask me about it, and the people on the Baie Verte Peninsula and so on, that I do not expect them to name every community, but they should say at least say the Baie Verte Peninsula and the Springdale turnoff of course, whatever the roads are named.

The Dorset Road is what they call the one going down the Baie Verte Peninsula, or whatever. It certainly should be mentioned, so that when you leave Grand Falls you should at least be able to say the Springdale junction and the Baie Verte junction are certain kilometres away. When you are coming from the West, why not have one outside Deer Lake that says the Baie Verte junction, a hundred kilometres or ninety-four kilometres?

All of that area of the Province was certainly left out. I think that, very simply put, a couple of signs, not a lot of money, would correct that. It is something that has been brought up to me many time. I said I would mention it today when this came up, and I hope it is looked at. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I rise to pass a few comments on Bill 9. First of all, I would like to congratulate the new minister, and I am sure that he will do a commendable job.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act.

AN HON. MEMBER: Bill 27!

CHAIR: Order, please!

(Inaudible) I would like to remind the member that we are debating Bill 27, Order No. 6.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, I was so eager to up and pass my congratulations that I even grabbed the wrong bill. I would like to pass comments on some things the honourable member brought forward there as it relates to Bill 27, and that again is to deal with highway signage.

During the summer there is a day picked out, I think it is on Tuesday, of every week this past summer where they interviewed tourists travelling to the Province. One of the complaints the tourists continued to put forward is their confusion with the signs as they exist along our highways.

I was in conversation with the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, who I thought was responsible for signage. Then I thought it went to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation or the Minister of Government Services and Lands. Now I understand some of the signage is included as the responsibility of the Minister of Work, Services and Transportation. If it is, I suggest the minister pay attention to signage as it exists today. I see nothing wrong with having communities listed on signs where intersections are.

It is very confusing. It is all right for me or somebody else if you are familiar with an area, but far too often people go miles and miles out of their way for the simple reason that adequate signage does not exist in a particular area. That is unfortunate. I think it is something that can be changed. Surely to goodness, if we can put up signs that measure eight feet by thirty feet and put one number on it and one name, we can put up a few signs showing where communities are located, especially in communities where you have fish plants and other businesses that people want to access.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: That might be a good use for it after you take them down this year, I say to the minister. It is something that I want to bring to the attention of the new minister. I am sure he will act responsibly and see that some of this signage is put in the appropriate places where this confusion now exists.

On motion, clause 1 through 5 inclusive, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Works, Services, and Transportation Act." (Bill No. 27)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, I thought that by leave we would recess now and come back at 7:00 p.m. When we do, we will do Order No. 7, Bill No. 9, in the name of the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

By leave, we will recess until 7:00 p.m.

CHAIR: I hear no objections.

The House is in recess until 7:00 p.m.

Recess

CHAIR (Oldford): Order, please!

Bill No. 9, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act."

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Chair, I am just going to say a few words on this bill. I have a few questions for the minister and a few points to make, I suppose. We will see how it goes tonight with respect to this bill, see if we can get it through by 10:00 or 11:00 tonight.

This bill again - and we have seen this in the last sitting of the House and the one before that, with respect to this administration - seems to be giving a lot of authority to the ministers. Previously a lot of regulations were put in place with respect to various things, but now what they are trying to do is give the minister authority for various regulations that will be done. Instead of having requirements with respect to the fees and what have you, the minister seems to be getting too much authority, in my mind. This piece of legislation is doing that with respect to clauses 2 through 10, and clauses 12, 13 and 30.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, I wouldn't want to put it on the public record, but the Santa Claus as the new Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation often refers to at this time of year - obviously he still believes in Santa Claus. Maybe he does exist for the minister.

Mr. Chairman, with respect to clause 1(2) of the bill, this refers to parking lots now, which would come under this bill. The definition would include parking lots and therefore make the rules of the road applicable to parking lots.

I would like for the minister to refer to that and explain why they would consider parking lots now a part of the highway. Because often times parking lots are on privately owned land and properties. It will interesting to hear why that is being included as a part of the definition of a highway.

MR. SULLIVAN: A parking lot on private property is (inaudible) part of the highway now.

MR. J. BYRNE: How far is that going to extend? Clause 1(2) of the bill would amend the definition of a highway contained in the act. The definition would now include parking lots and therefore make the rules of the road applicable to them. I would just have an explanation as to why that is included, I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

I am going to cover it all while I am up, so if you had a pencil or pen handy you could make a few notes with respect to the different clauses. I stand corrected, it's the Minister of Government Services and Land. I am sorry about that. Clause 1(2) of the bill -

Also "Clause 11 of the Bill would amend the Act to provide a discretionary commencement date for the driver licence suspensions of persons convicted of an offence resulting in license suspension."

I would be curious to have an explanation of that clause.

MR. SULLIVAN: If you don't park right inside those white lines on a parking lot you might get a ticket.

MR. J. BYRNE: You might get a ticket.

MR. SULLIVAN: Could you get a ticket?

MR. J. BYRNE: Could you get a ticket? Who knows? If you park your car now on a highway and the wheels of the automobile are on the pavement, you could actually get a ticket for that. So, who knows? Another form of taxation it could very well be, another grab for the buck, I say to the minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: No, there are all kinds of reasons why you cannot do that; but what jurisdictions are they going to have with respect to parking lots? It sounds to me to be a bit much, I say to the minister.

Also clause 20 of the bill would amend the act to provide for an offence of ordinary littering, and would make it an offence to deposit or throw ice or snow on the highway unless you have a permit. Basically, if you have a driveway and you plough the snow out into the road or across the road, you can get a ticket for it. That needs to be explained.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Or a parking lot, the same thing, for snow. That is right. So, in actual fact, if a person has a big parking lot with hundreds of cars and decides to pile the snow up, he can get a ticket for leaving the snow there on his own property.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Don't be talking so foolish, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Here is another explanation, I say to the Minister of Government Services and Lands. If we have an individual who has a house on a highway - which we all do, or a lot of us, I suppose - and he decides to plough the snow out of his driveway across the road and down into the ditch, will he get a ticket for pushing it out on the road?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Well it is not explained here that he will not.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is so.

MR. J. BYRNE: No it is not, I say to the Minister of Fisheries. It is not.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you want to go home for Christmas?

MR. J. BYRNE: I will be home for Christmas, I say to the Member for Bellevue. I will be home for Christmas, don't worry about that.

Also, I say to the minister, "Clause 28 of the Bill would amend the Act to require insurers, insurance adjusters, self-insurers, owners and other persons specified in the regulations to report to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles when a determination is made that a vehicle is a non-repairable vehicle or a salvage vehicle."

I would like to hear comments on why that would be put in there, I say to the minister.

MR. SULLIVAN: If you throw snow on a parking lot now do you get a ticket, the same as a highway, if it is an extension of a highway?

MR. J. BYRNE: Who knows? Really, it is not clear. If you pile up snow on a parking lot you can get a ticket for it. How foolish.

Also "Clause 29 of the Bill would give the Lieutenant-Governor in Council the authority to make regulations which would require classes of persons to report to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles when a determination is made that a vehicle is a non-repairable vehicle or a salvage vehicle."

That hooks in with the previous clause, clause 28. I say to the minister, maybe you might like to just speak to that; and not just, as soon as I sit down, rush it through the House and vote on it. Actually give us an explanation of the points I am bringing up. I am doing this one-shot deal, I say to the minister, while I am on my feet.

There is one clause here, "Subclause 33(1) of the Bill would amend the Act by increasing the fines for obtaining a vehicle registration without insurance, and for driving without insurance." Now I think that is a very important point to be made in this legislation, I say to the minister; because, from what I can understand, a great number of people out there will go to Motor Registration, get their licence, produce a policy number and then go out and cancel it and drive without insurance.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Can I adjourn it for a few minutes?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, I am almost clued up on it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Jack, I want to say a few words on it.

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, do you? Okay, I will adjourn it for a few minutes.

MR. FUREY: I will adjourn the debate, Mr. Chairman, and we will come back to Order 7. We will move to Order 18, Bill No. 56.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. FUREY: I am sorry, Order 16, Bill No. 54.

CHAIR: Order, please!

Bill No. 54, An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991.

On motion, clause 1, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991". (Bill No. 54)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, we will revert now to Bill No. 9.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: With respect to Bill No. 9, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act, just to continue on with my few remarks that are going to keep me here until 10:00 p.m., "Subclause 33(1) of the Bill would amend the act by increasing the fines for obtaining a vehicle registration without insurance, and for driving without insurance."

As I said earlier, I say to the minister, we know now that people going to Motor Registration get their vehicles licensed and then come out and cancel their insurance. I think the fines we have in this bill are fairly hefty, the maximum being 3,000.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Pardon?

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: I cannot hear my ears Mr. Chairman, whenever I am on my feet. I don't know what is wrong; it is not like I -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: That is the truth. The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is the worst on that side of the House, I will say that.

With respect to clause 33(1), I say to the Minister of Government Services and Lands, the fine now would be $3,000 maximum, with a minimum of $1,000 or fifteen days in jail or whatever; ninety days also down to thirty.

That is a good thing because most insurance policies -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I will not get into a debate with the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture because I do not want to embarrass the man - that is my big problem here - so I will stick to the bill.

Clause 33 is very serious in that the people driving the highways cause all kinds of accidents. If I, as an individual, have to have insurance - public liability and collision and what have you - it costs me $2,000 or $3,000. At least now if they are caught they will pay the same kind of money, so they might as well go out and get the insurance in the first place or not drive. That is the intent, I would assume, I say to the Minister of Government Services and Lands. It is a positive step, I would say to the minister.

I just made those few points, I say to the Minister of Government Services and Lands, and I think that is pretty well it. That is all I have to say on this, so if you or anybody else here wanted to make a few comments with respect to this piece of legislation, so be it.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: I thought you would be the Minister of Finance, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. After yesterday, I thought you might be the new minister.

Mr. Chairman, I rise to pass a few comments on Bill 9. There are parts of this bill I fully agree with, and there are other parts of the bill that I have some concern about. As it relates to the increase in fines for people driving without insurance, my thought on that particular clause is that you can increase the fines all you want; that is not going to reach out and deal with the people who are irresponsible enough to drive without insurance. If today, the cost of driving without insurance is $500 or $1,000, you can raise it to $20,000 and it is not going to make any difference, I say to the minister.

Until we get at the license plates on those vehicles, they are always going to be on the road; and the drivers who drive them, who are irresponsible, are not going to be deterred because we are going to stick the fine up by an extra $500 or $1,000. While we are admitting there is a problem here, I do not think we are going far enough to address the problem. I think we are only paying lip service to it.

"Clause 31 of the bill would provide that fisheries officers and games officers may stop and search a vehicle on a highway where the officer believes on reasonable grounds an offence has been committed involving fish or game."

Mr. Chairman, I have a little bit of a problem with that as well. I think far too often the people today whom we call game wardens, forest wardens, wildlife people, extend their responsibility, I think, to the extent of the law.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: It was only a couple of days ago that I had to go to the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods and talk about a forestry officer who had seen a truck stop on the side of the road, and he went and searched the truck and found a piece of timber that the gentlemen had gone in the woods to cut. A piece of boat timber was aboard his truck. The wildlife officer at that time issued the gentleman a $75 ticket, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, for having a piece of boat timber in his truck and not having a permit to cut wood.

That is how far we have gone in this Province today. If anybody in the Cabinet over there knows what I am talking about, by talking about a piece of boat timber, you know full well that sometimes you have to go in and dig it out of the ground. You have to go and dig the boat timber out of the ground. To begin with, it is a piece of crooked timber that is probably no go for anything else, and if is not used as a stern post, or a piece of ribbing for a boat, it would just rot in the ground and be of no use to anybody.

The gentleman was stopped by the road. The wildlife officer, the forest warden, came up, saw the truck stopped, got out and did a search of the truck, saw the piece of boat timber and charged the gentleman $75. I am not so sure we should be empowering forest wardens and game wardens with the power to go and stop vehicles and search them.

Only a couple of months ago another young fellow from my district was in cutting some sticks for lobster pots. You could almost refer to them as whittle sticks. It is the stick about the size of your little finger, and about two feet long. He was cutting the sticks to make the rings for his lobster pots. The forestry warden came by and asked him for his permit. He did not have a permit in order to cut this wood, and he as well was issued a $75 ticket.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why didn't he get a permit?

MR. FITZGERALD: He had a permit to cut wood, but he was outside of the area where he normally cuts wood; because, as you know, in order to get the small stick to cut the ring for your lobster pot you have to go in an area that has been cut over to allow this young, little undergrowth to grow. When it reaches that size, that is where they go to get sticks for their lobster pot material. He was fined $75. This is what we are doing here with this particular bill, giving those same forest wardens and game wardens, wildlife officials, the power to go out and issue tickets for $75.

All we are doing is tying up the provincial courts of this Province with this kind of silliness that some of those people deem to be serious enough to go to court. I don't think that makes any sense not only to me but to the people over there as well. I have a real problem with those two issues.

I spoke about it to the minister coming there now, and he echoed his concerns about it. It is certainly not his wish to allow this kind of thing to happen either: the situation where the forestry official had searched the truck and found a piece of boat timber in it and issued a $75 ticket.

This is what we are doing with this piece of legislation. We are doing it here with Bill 9, the Highway Traffic Act. We are empowering fishery officers, we are empowering forestry officials, to stop a vehicle and carry out a search. That is what we are empowering them to do.

I say to the minister, they may do it under the guise of saying that they suspect there is some fish, or there is some wild game aboard. They may do it under that assumption, but really and truly it doesn't have to be. That is only a reason for them to stop a vehicle and check it.

Mr. Chairman, one item of the bill relates to littering the highways, throwing garbage on the highways - clause 20 - and this is a good clause. I commend the minister for making sure this is included.

I have to say to the minister that it has always been an offence to throw litter on the highway. I wonder, can anybody here ever recall, or ask themselves if they know anybody who has ever been stopped and issued a fine for littering the highway?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Anybody? I don't know of one. I tell you, we should know, and I think it is something that should be stopped. It should be something that is stopped because today that is not acceptable. The days are long gone when people were allowed to pull into a parking lot or a driveway, take out the ashtray and dump it on the street. Those days are long gone. Those cigarette filters - I don't know what they are made of, but they last forever. They are blowing around and into the ground forever and a day.

Going down the road, route 230, from Clarenville down to Lethbridge, is a prime area that I always refer to when I am speaking of littering the highways. If you drive down that highway in the spring of the year when the snow melts, it is disgraceful. People go to the fast food outlets - McDonald's, Mary Brown's and the Kentucky Fried Chicken - while they are in Clarenville shopping, pick up their fast food service, eat it on the way, then roll down the window and throw it out in the ditch. That is the one that comes to my mind. I am sure there are other areas along the highways, in the areas where we all live, that we can all relate to. It is something that should be stopped. It is disgraceful. It should never be allowed to happen. I think it is about time that we started making some examples. Because those people who litter the highways, whether plastic bags that never seem to disappear, or pampers that always seem to be strung up in the trees, it is something that is distasteful, disgusting, and should be immediately stopped.

The place for stopping this kind of irresponsible action is not necessarily in a piece of legislation. It has to be done in the schools. It has to be done at the bottom and brought upwards. That way you do not have to go out issuing fines and saying you are going to take this person or that person to court, because it will be an automatic reaction that it won't go through the window. It will go into a garbage bag, into a suitable waste container, and end up in the landfill areas of our communities.

While there are some good clauses in this particular bill, there are also a couple there that I have some concern about. I know it all rests with the individual, but there is such a thing as exercising a little bit of common sense sometimes. If you have a problem, and somebody is doing something wrong, and if they are doing it in a way that is not going to hurt anybody or destroy anything, what is wrong with going to that individual who was cutting the half-dozen sticks for his lobster pots and saying: I am sorry, but you shouldn't be cutting in this area because you are supposed to have a permit, and that is where it stops.

Why should we have to go and issue a $75 ticket, which those people now are empowered to do, then have the case go to court, tie up the provincial courts, allow a judge and a Crown prosecutor to go, at government expense, to hear the case, only to have it thrown out.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I have to get my point across, I say to the Minister, because it is certainly something that causes grave concern.

I think the art of boat building is fast disappearing in our Province today. At one time you could look out through your window and you would see a boat going up or down the bay. You knew exactly where the boat came from, you knew exactly who built the boat just by the shape of it, by the stem post, by the way the boat was built.

I think we should encourage it. It is an art that we perfected as rural Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I think we should maintain those skills. We should try to encourage people to continue to build boats and to maintain that art of boat building, instead of going out and trying to crucify them by giving them $75 tickets and dragging them off to court because they cut a piece of crooked timber for a sternpost or stem post or some ribbing for the boat.

Those are the kinds of things, Minister, that I hope will not end up in court because of this piece of legislation. I firmly believe that those fishery officers -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: By leave, just to clue up.

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

MR. FITZGERALD: Just to clue up, and I will not get up any more.

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. FITZGERALD: Those fishery officers, those wildlife officers and those forestry officers should not be empowered with such power as to go out and stop vehicles, search them and inspect them. It should rest with the law enforcement officers like the RCMP and the Constabulary. Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, clause 1, carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

When I was up a few minutes ago speaking on this bill I asked a number of questions. I was hoping the minister would get up and at least give us some kind of explanation to them.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Just in response to the Member for Bonavista, on the whole premise of littering on the highway he makes a very good point that will be included in the bill, and that is to make sure that the charge is against the driver of the vehicle. That will allow us then to be able to ensure that the penalty is served on the person who owns the car rather than perhaps the driver.

I want to make just a couple of other points on the suspension commencement date that the member asked about. This is to clear up where there is a second suspension. A person who is convicted in absentia while driving under suspension right now can drive with the second suspension, not knowing that he is suspended. We will clear that up with this particular amendment.

One of the reasons for increasing the fines for driving without insurance is to ensure that - the fact is that right now you can go out and buy a policy, and it costs you more than to pay the fine for driving without insurance. We had to increase that to ensure that the drivers will go and purchase insurance rather than take the fine.

In terms of the written off vehicles, this amendment is put in place so that insurance companies and the like will notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles that the vehicle is written off so that that registration cannot be used any further when the vehicle is put back on the road, or if it is put back on the road.

The situation of clause 1(1) is the fact that a lot of the responsibilities that were under the Department of Works, Services and Transportation have transferred to the Department of Government Services and Lands, so we have to include that in the bill to ensure that we are enabling, in terms of the legislation.

That pretty much takes care of the definitions or of the clarifications, except for the parking lot thing. The parking lot was used in the definition of a highway simply to change the status of a parking lot so that the courts can determine the liability resulting from accidents in parking lots. There has been a number of accidents. There was a court case in Grand Falls which identified that there was no clear definition of whether or not the parking lot was a highway. We had to redefine that so that there was a clear definition for the courts to make a ruling on.

Those basically are the changes in Bill 9.

On motion, clauses 2 through 34, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act." (Bill No. 9)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, Order No. 9, Bill No. 16. I am just skipping over Order No. 8, Bill 34 for a minute until I figure out who is going to respond for the Minister of Justice.

CHAIR: Bill 16, An Act To Amend The Financial Administration Act.

On motion, clauses 1 through 5, carried.

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Chairman, this legislation divides in part for the financing of the pension fund under the Pensions Funding Act. I just want to take this brief opportunity - it may be the last one before Christmas, because I do not know what is going to happen tonight or tomorrow, or whether we are going to be here tomorrow for question period, or whether my private member's resolution is going to get an opportunity to be debated - to speak about the pension of persons already retired from the public service who have been abandoned, essentially, by the Liberal government since it took power in 1989.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: We are on the enacting clause now.

Mr. Chairman, as I was saying, this is an opportunity to speak on the issue of the funding of pensions for the Province, and on the decision by this government and the previous Liberal government since 1989 to abandon the policy and practice of governments, and the expectation that had been given to employees - retired public servants - that their pension benefits would in fact rise with the increases in the public sector wages. That was a practice so long engrained that it become a legitimate expectation of the pensioners and one they relied on. They relied on it in negotiations. Why would you negotiate and pay for something in negotiations which you were getting as a matter of course? I know even the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture would recognize that as a sensible approach to collective bargaining.

Now we have a situation where so many of the public service pensioners are being paid such a small amount of money that they are unable to properly look after themselves and their obligations. They are living in poverty.

What has been government's response to date? I would have to call it arrogance. The Minister of Finance has dealt with this very real problem in an arrogant manner. Instead of talking about the problems these individuals face, he chose to talk about one individual - I am sure the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance is aware who this individual is - who receives a pension in excess of $100,000. This is what the minister chose to talk about, when the reality was that the kind of people who were demonstrating here and who are seeking to have changes to the pension are people who are, in fact, receiving $5,000, $6,000, $7,000 and $8,000, less than $11,000 per year, which is the average of receipt of people who are already pensioned in the public service.

There has to be some way that government ought to be able to respond to this need. It does not have to be in an across the board percentage increase for everybody who is in receipt of a provincial government pension. Creative solutions have been found in other provinces such as in Nova Scotia, where the trustees of the hospital increased pensions for workers in the Nova Scotia Hospital Corporation, in fact, by introducing an old age supplement equivalent. Those pensioners, whose income was less than what they would receive if they were in receipt of an old age supplement would be topped up to that amount. That had the effect of alleviating the problem that people with a very low pension had, without having a significant cost to government or cost to the pension plan for those who are in receipt of other forms of income, other pensions, other monies, or had a significant income.

That seems to me, I say to the parliamentary secretary-legislative adviser - he only advises on legislation. Perhaps since he is here he can advise the minister, even at this late date, that it is possible to accept an amendment to the Financial Administration Act which would allow for an increase in funding for pensions for public sector retirees. These people expect some consideration from government. They have the right to expect that. My purpose in moving the private member's resolution which I moved last week, which I have not had an opportunity to have debated, was to give all MHAs a stake in finding a solution. That is simply what my resolution, if passed, would do.

What that would do, Mr. Chairman, would give the Member for Bellevue a stake in finding a solution to this problem. Right now he has no stake in this because he is prepared to sit there in the back benches forever and support whatever this government does. That is the problem with the Member for Bellevue. He is quite content to spend the rest of his days in the back bench supporting whatever his government does, as a loyal back bencher. He does not have a stake in finding a solution to this problem.

If my resolution were to pass the Member for Bellevue, and every member of this House, would have a stake in finding some solution to the problem that the retires of the public sector have presented to this government. By being out here in the lobby, by writing letters to the hon. member - fruitless to date, I might add -, by talking on open line programs, by petitioning this House, these individuals have tried to talk some sense into the government which since 1989 have failed to recognize their need.

This is an important issue. It is not going to go away. Those pensioners are not going to go away. They are going to be here next week, they are going to be here next month, they are going to be here when the election rolls around, and they are going to have an opportunity to mark their own response to how the government responds to them.

I am simply urging government to consider them, rather than ignore these people and their needs, like the government is ignoring the needs of the home care workers, like the government is ignoring the needs of post-secondary students who are forced to go to private colleges and pay extra for the cost, like the government is ignoring the needs of so many people on social assistance who are just getting by, like the government is ignoring the needs of so many people in this Province. It is very unfortunate that government is so insensitive to the needs of retired public servants who gave a considerable portion of their working lives to the public sector and have a legitimate and reasonable expectation that government is going to respond to their needs, as was done prior to the election in April 1989 when the Liberal government came to power.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The Member for Twillingate & Fogo wants to know whether a certain former deputy minister needs a raise in his pension.

No. If the member were listening, what I said was that we have to find a creative solution here, such as was found in Nova Scotia, for example, where they introduced an old age supplement equivalent so that people who were pensioners of the public sector, who are receiving less in overall income than they would receive if they were on old age supplement, were topped up to that amount. That had the effect of having a significant increase for people on the low end and did not do anything for former deputy ministers, former chairmen of Hydro or whatever, who are getting very good pensions. It would do a lot for people who had a need for an increase because their pension is so abysmally low.

Those are my comments, Mr. Chairman, with respect to Bill 16 at Committee stage.

On motion, enacting clause, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Financial Administration Act." (Bill No. 16)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, Order No. 8, Bill No. 34.

CHAIR: Bill 34, An Act To Amend The Judgement Enforcement Act.

Shall clause 1 carry?

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have just a few comments. Much of what needed to be said was done during debate at second reading.

It is important to remember that this legislation is largely housekeeping in measure. We had significant legislation that was brought into being approximately one year ago, namely the Judgement Enforcement Act, which codified many of the procedures. The activities of the Sheriff's Office were certainly improved as a result of this new legislation. This act, according to the introduction given by the former Minister of Justice several days ago, simply attempts to streamline some of the powers and clarify some of the duties of both sheriffs and judges of the Provincial Court.

The point that was made, I know by myself and a couple of my colleagues, was the fact that some effort should be made to give some consideration to increasing the minimum amount with respect to liquidated damages or liquidated amounts under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court act. We see now situations where, out of necessity, because of the actual minimum amount, which is presently in the act, litigants being forced to go to a superior court, a court which only results in excessive amounts in costs, legal fees, court costs and so on.

However, this particular act is essentially housekeeping, as I have indicated. Much of the points were raised in debate during second reading. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

On motion, clauses 1 through 37, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Judgment Enforcement Act." (Bill No. 34)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Order No. 10, Bill No. 8.

CHAIR: Bill 8, An Act To Amend The Aquaculture Act.

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I rise to pass a few comments on this piece of legislation that has been brought forward by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

There is nobody on this side of the House who would be against aquaculture. I still think, in spite of some of the negativity that is out there, Minister - and it is creeping in more and more every day. I suppose it is a situation where people do not realize that the dollars put in aquaculture, whether it is in this Province, Nova Scotia or wherever, it is not something that you see an immediate return from. It is something that has to be built over the years. It is something that you invest in today, and it might be five, six or eight years down the road before you see any results from it whatsoever.

I read with some interest the Auditor General's report. She makes some very good points there, but some other points that are there I do not really agree with. I think of the remarks that she made regarding the aquaculture industry in Belleoram. She points out the amount of money that was put into the Belleoram plant and the amount of return that has been brought back from that particular operation.

The thing that I do have a problem about is the continuous investment of taxpayers' dollars, millions of dollars, in excess of $20 million, into private business. I have a real problem with that. That is what has happened with S.C.B. Fisheries Limited. We see an infusion of up to $20 million of taxpayers' money into S.C.B. Fisheries Limited. Every time this question is brought forward in the House, the first thing the minister stands and talks about is the need to spend this money because the whole area depends on this particular facility. We on this side of the House have been aware of some of the problems with S.C.B. Fisheries Limited. We have been aware that the money the government had put into this particular facility was probably good money put in after bad. We are not convinced that the money is being put in for research and development, because there is nobody going to go down and take over S.C.B. Fisheries Limited or any other aquaculture project in the Province unless they can make a profit.

It was only a few weeks ago we were aware of this, and I spoke to the minister about it before. We did not ask many questions about it up until the time it was disclosed, because the minister would go into his rhetoric again of us being against jobs and being against the Bay d'Espoir area, and all those kinds of things that the minister would bring out in order to cloud the issue. That is not the way it is.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: That is not the way, I say to the minister. If you are going to go taking taxpayers' dollars and put them into private enterprise, then where does it stop? You read the paper today and you hear of the Member for Twillingate & Fogo, and Compak Seafoods, with a plant down in Twillingate, another one down in St. Mary's, probably never going to open again. I do not think it will under the name of Compak Seafoods.

So what is going to happen now? Are we going to go and pump another $6 million into Twillingate? The 200 or 300 jobs that were created down in Twillingate are just as important to maintain as the 200 jobs down in Bay d'Espoir. I ask the minister: Where do we stop? That is what I say. If we are going to put money into research and development, then let's put it in areas where research and development are taking place, not start pumping it into private enterprise.

S.C.B. Fisheries Limited is a private company that we have pumped millions of dollars into.

AN HON. MEMBER: How many?

MR. FITZGERALD: Up to $20 million. The last infusion was $6.2 million or $6.3 million. So the minister six months ago decides we have a problem here. He takes his Assistant Deputy Minister, Mr. Gerry Ward, a very capable man, and says: You are going to Bay d'Espoir, you are going down to St. Albans, to look after this project. You are going to go down to be my feet and my ears in order to look after it and see it is run correctly. There is nothing wrong with that, I say to the minister. The only thing, the sad part, is that you have been in that chair since 1996. You should have reacted then. I am not so sure you have a grasp on what is happening in aquaculture, Minister. I am not so sure you have a grasp on it.

I think the aquaculture industry is wide open to be taken advantage of. Anybody who goes into the minister's office, if you are a friend of the minister, I have a feeling you would not have a hard time in getting an aquaculture license.

AN HON. MEMBER: If you are a Liberal!

MR. FITZGERALD: If you are a Liberal or if you are a friend of the minister's, either/or!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Tory friends.

MR. FITZGERALD: No, you probably have not. You probably haven't any Tory friends.

Mr. Chairman, this is what is happening. I believe in aquaculture and I think it is something that is going to provide us with many opportunities, but I think the minister has to get a handle on it. I think he has to start paying attention to more than seals. There are other issues out there as well, as important as that is. You ask a question in this House of Assembly regarding aquaculture or financing S.C.B Fisheries Limited, and all you get is an answer back about how many seals are out there. That is all the minister dwells on, seals.

I saw him on television the other night when he was being interviewed with the book the gentleman down in Lewisporte wrote, Mickey Dwyer. The minister did more to promote that book and his cause than anything that he has ever done. I say to the minister, stay away from it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Roger, you are jealous.

MR. FITZGERALD: No, I am not jealous. Because if the minister can reduce the seal herds in this Province, in his efforts to do it, I will be the first one to applaud him. I will support him all the way. I watched the television program and I said to myself that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is a great salesman for seal products and Mickey Dwyer's book. His sales must have skyrocketed when the minister went out and paid attention to what Mickey Dwyer said.

The Member for Lewisporte said he sold 3,000 books in one day. I would guess, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that 1,500 out of that 3,000 books was because of the interview where the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture paid attention to what he had written, and said: This is not true. People had to read what was not true. He got into the graphics of it. It should have never have been printed in The Telegram. We are our own worst enemies. The minister, as Mickey Dwyer said, should not have rose for the bait. The fly was flicked out, he said, and he came after it. He rose for the bait.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: No, I can guarantee you, I say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, he would not last long in a pool.

Anyway, Mr. Chairman, it is a bill that does not do much as far as the aquaculture industry is concerned. Maybe the minister when he stands to close debate on this, or to pass a comment, might want to let us know if S.C.B. Fisheries Limited is any closer now to getting the strain of fish, which is diploids, that they are trying to get the approval from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans now in order to bring into this Province. I understand it was supposed to be done in a matter of days. Maybe he might want to tell us why he did not wait, because I understand that is pending on whether a private individual goes in and takes it over.

Maybe he would also like to tell us why his government did not wait to see if that approval is put in place before he went down and gave them another $6.5 million. That is a lot of money, I say to the minister, and there is a lot of good things that can be done with $6.5 million. Hopefully it will not be a case where it is put into the industry right now -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I know nothing about what you are talking about. Where it is put into an industry right now that may very well close within a few weeks' time if we do not get that particular strain of fish.

A prime example is IPL. IPL is probably going to be held up here in this House of Assembly this time next year every time that you pass up that book. Because we have some problems coming there too. In excess of $23 million of taxpayers' money has gone into a private company here that was supposed to be put in place and operating independently.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Give me the people to be able to go and investigate the company and I will give you the answers, Mr. Chairman.

I say to the minister that yes, aquaculture is good. If we are going to spend money on it, let's do it in research and development. Let's not go spending money in private business. If we are going to allow them to operate independent of government, then let's not only talk the talk, but let's walk the walk and allow that to happen. Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to make a few comments on Bill 8, An Act To Amend The Aquaculture Act. I have a small amendment to propose as well.

The topic of aquaculture has been canvassed by the Member for Bonavista South and I know the minister is very interested in this topic. I note that in the discussions about S.C.B. Fisheries Limited the minister spent $6 million worth of government money. He has never really yet explained, first, where he got the money. There has been no discussion whatsoever of where he got the money. I am assuming it was not his own money. I am assuming it is the public money he was spending. He did not say what budget he got it from or what pot of money the minister has at his disposal to spend on projects like this. He did not say in what form the money was given, or whether he just went down and started writing cheques for salary and for ongoing operational expenses. Or whether or not this was a loan, whether or not there was a takeover. Who owns the company, and is it now owned by the government? Is this money secured in any fashion whatsoever?

He seems to be indicating that the company is still alive and the shareholders still have some control or say in what is going on. He has not really indicated in what form this $6 million left the public treasury and where the money came from: what budget item or what line in the budget it came from. These are questions that are very important to answer.

Now I know the minister likes to talk about Sprung, but there was a big leak in the public treasury that had Sprung financed too. There were questions raised afterwards by the Auditor General about monies being spent to support the operations of Sprung on an ongoing basis. Some of the money that was spent on Sprung was never authorized by any Cabinet obligation, any documentation or any authorization of the spending of public funds on Sprung. This is one of the reasons, of course, it has been criticized, as well as the fact that it was a failure.

Now the minister tells us -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: What's my point? I have an amendment for you.

I would like to hear the minister's explanation. Where did the money spring from? I know the minister sprung for a lot of money. I know the minister sprung for $6 million for this S.C.B. Fisheries Limited, but I don't know where he got the money, and I don't know what the authorization was for this minister to spend $6 million on this project.

That brings me to my amendment. The amendment is to clause 3. I will read out the amendment first and explain why I am moving it. I spoke about it at second reading. I want to propose an amendment:

To amend clause 3 by deleting from the proposed section 11.2 the word "minister" and inserting the words "Lieutenant-Governor in Council."

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I see general agreement from the front benches opposite, so perhaps the amendment will be accepted. I just want to explain the purpose. This is nothing personal to the minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

MR. HARRIS: I know hon. members opposite may have a different opinion having sat in Cabinet with him, but I'm talking generally, because this is a serious amendment. I don't wish to make light of it.

I made some remarks at second reading about this. The point about it is if we look at the provisions under (a), (b), (c), and (d) in clause 3, the regulations that are being authorized to be made are very important, significant regulations. They have to do with environmental factors. We are talking about aquaculture. We are talking about interfering with the environment, the possibility - not the possibility, the virtual certainty of escapes into the wild of some of this fish stock. We are talking about a lot of matters that are very important - not only are they important, they are vital to environmental protection - and what is even more important, have a tremendous amount of discretionary application to licensees.

If we are talking about a burgeoning industry, a growing industry, which we hope, and I know the minister does too, will continue to grow in this Province, we know there are going to be a lot of applicants knocking on your door looking for licences for operations. If they look at the regulations and they do not like them, if a particular regulation causes problems for a particular applicant, and they, as part of their lobbying efforts, say: We would like to do this operation but we find that this regulation is prohibitive, the minister can change it at the stroke of a pen.

I think that is wrong. I think the Lieutenant-Governor in Council should have the power to decide it. I think the point has been made. I see there seems to be some agreement on the other side and perhaps we will have the amendment. I move that amendment, I speak to it, and with those comments on the legislation and on the questions about the $6 million that the minister sprung for it, I would close my remarks on the amendment and on the legislation.

CHAIR: Order, please!

On motion, clauses 1 and 2, carried.

CHAIR: Can we vote on the amendment to clause 3?

This is an amendment proposed by the Member of Signal Hill-Quid Vidi.

It has been moved that clause 3 be amended as follows:

To amend clause 3 by deleting from the proposed section 11.2 the word "minister" and inserting the words "Lieutenant-Governor in Council."

Is it the pleasure of the Committee to adopt the said amendment?

All those in favour, `aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye!

CHAIR: Those against, `nay'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay!

CHAIR: I declare the amendment defeated.

On motion, clause 3, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Aquaculture Act." (Bill No. 8)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chair, I wonder if the House would mind if we revert, even though it is passed, to Bill 34 so that the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi could just make a comment for the record? By leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: Yes. We are going to revert so that he can say something for the record. He missed the bill when it came (inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) third reading (inaudible).

MR. FUREY: He could do it in third reading. (Inaudible) do it now.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for leave.

Bill 34 deals with the amendments to the Judgement Enforcement Act. I had raised the matter at second reading with respect to clause 13, and the question as to whether or not the questionnaires that creditors are empowered to serve on debtors, for whom against (inaudible) would have a judgement, whether or not these questions are voluntarily to be answered.

There is some confusion as to what the actual intention is, as to whether the questionnaire is voluntary or whether the answering of the questionnaires is voluntary. The wording of the section seems to contradict the marginal notes. I sought some clarification from the former minister who, obviously, did not have time to see to that before there was the Cabinet change today. The new minister and the law clerks at the Table have not had time to consult with the drafters of the legislation to have a definitive answer on that.

I understand this is legislation that is likely to come before the House again, in the not to distant future, for technical revisions. I would reserve the right to raise that. I raise it as a problem because, regardless of what the intention is, my concern on the policy side is that instead of having it voluntary for the creditor to make a questionnaire imposed upon a debtor to be answered about their assets, that in fact the answering of that questionnaire ought to be voluntary, and that only if they move into another stage, where the sheriff is involved or the court process is invoked, should there be any compulsory obligation on the part of a debtor to make known information about personal circumstances.

The definition is pretty broad here, which requires "...a questionnaire to be to be completed and returned to the creditor for the purpose of determining the ability of the debtor to satisfy the claims of the creditor." It seems very wide open in terms of what kinds of information can be demanded from a debtor who is then obliged by section 64(2) of the act to return a completed questionnaire.

I raise that for the record. I would hope that there will be an opportunity, perhaps in the next session of the Legislature, or the next time this bill comes before the House, where we can have a broader debate on this. If my query turns out to be unfounded and that in fact it is intended that the debtor be required to answer a simple questionnaire, or even an elaborate questionnaire, by a creditor, that in fact should be changed so that there be some serious restrictions on that, and that the answering of a questionnaire by a debtor to a creditor, without invoking any other legal process or any officer of the court, should in fact be voluntary and not compulsory.

I want to thank members for giving me leave to put that on the record during this debate.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, Order No. 11, Bill No. 23.

CHAIR: Bill 23, An Act To Amend The Assessment Act.

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Chairman, the other day when we were debating this bill we said we had no real problem with it. We asked the minister at the time the amount that would be charged for an assessment, if somebody wanted to appeal their assessment what fee they would have to pay, and he sort of indicated he would get back to us at the time. I would like to ask the new Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs if he has the figures. If not, he can get back to us at a later date. I just ask him if he has them. That is the only question I have on the bill, just whatever the amount is.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Chair.

I have to say to the hon. member, with apologies, that I don't have the figure in front of me. I am looking at a briefing note that was given to me today by the officials. It is not there. It should have been in the bill. I am trying to recall the bill as we dealt with it in the Cabinet process. As I recall, it is either $20 or $25, the amount that would be charged in order to be able to lodge an appeal. In other words, what it amounts to is if you want to appeal your tax assessment, if I understand you right, you will now have to pay $20 or $25 to register that appeal.

MR. FRENCH: (Inaudible) confirm the amount (inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: I will take it under advisement and confirm to the hon. member, with much pleasure, what the amount of that assessment is. I am 99.99999 per cent sure that it is either $20 or $25, but we will confirm the amount.

On motion, clauses 1 through 36, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Assessment Act." (Bill No. 23)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, Order No. 12, Bill No. 39.

CHAIR: Bill 39, An Act Respecting Security Interests In Personal Property.

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: `Jack' read it.

MR. J. BYRNE: Sure I read the bill, An Act Respecting Security Interests In Personal Property, Mr. Chairman. The Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi said that `Jack' read it. This `Jack' did, I know for sure. I went through it.

When the minister introduced the bill he talked about the electronic registry which would include a number of different registries, which would be an improvement, a benefit, to the local businesses in the area. This bill really has to do, as it says, with the security interests in personal property.

In this bill there are eighty-six clauses. It is quite a thick bill. Really, there are a lot of definitions in there with respect to, for instance, what a debtor means. It says what personal property is. It goes on with respect to what a purchase means, what purchase money security interest means. A lot of definitions that way. it defines what a security interest is. There is a lot of that type of information in this piece of legislation. It talks about the application of this act. Subject to section 5, this act applies to every transaction that, in substance, creates a security interest without regard to its form and without regard to the persons who have title to the collateral. It gets into what collateral would be, and things of that nature. It talks about conflict of laws which, of course, is self-explanatory. It talks about the debtor's right to a copy of the security agreement and things of that nature also.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, I do not really see it necessary to take a lot of time with respect to this piece of legislation. They are cheering me on on the other side of the House, so I may have to continue for another little while.

I made a few comments when this bill was introduced in second reading. The minister referred to it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Pardon? That is an awfully tempting offer, I would say to the Member for Twillingate & Fogo, that if I sit down he will go home. That is a good deal. I think I will sit down.

Mr. Chairman, I don't know if there is anyone who wants to speak to this, but I did read the act. Again, it refers to the rights of individuals with respect to properties. It deals with people who have securities and how it has to be registered. It talks about the electronic registry. I really do not have many concerns with this piece of legislation. I think it is going to be of benefit to the people, certainly with respect to -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Pardon? Yes, that is a good point. The minister says that it replaces antiquated legislation. It is going to actually be easier for people in other parts of the Province to register because they can do it electronically, Mr. Chairman. I think we probably will support the bill on this side of the House. I have nothing more to say. Thank you.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have just a couple of comments. This is significant legislation, and as the minister indicated it attempts to, I guess, modernize the law with respect to security interests in personal property. I guess the question that has to be asked is: What impact will this have on the registry, the procedures in the various registries, and even jobs and personnel of those individuals who are presently employed in the registry?

I think we have seen, for example, with the Judgement Enforcement Act that it was necessary some twelve months later to introduce an amendment to that act because of the sweeping changes that were found in the enforcement of judgements in this Province. Similarly, we have an act which attempts to deal with security interests in personal property. It attempts to modernize, but the impact is quite significant, and I think we will see, perhaps within the next number of months, amendments being brought forward to attempt to streamline the provisions found in Bill 39.

This is the type of legislation, I would say, that ought to have been placed before a legislative review committee. Again, it would be interesting to see exactly what those individuals', for example in the legal community or who deal with security in personal property on a regular basis, views were. I am not aware of the fact that on this particular piece of legislation any discussion took place before a review committee.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Fully?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I am getting indication that there was such a legislative review committee. Therefore it would have been, perhaps, welcome to see this procedure put in place in dealing with such significant legislation as Bill 39.

We will have to wait and see how this new system, in fact, is fully integrated. It would not be, perhaps, unusual or surprising to see significant amendments and changes being made in the not too distant future.

Having looked over the legislation briefly, it appears to be in line with what most people in the industry would perhaps support. Again, it is comprehensive, it is substantive, and changes in the not too distant future would not be a surprise. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

On motion, clauses 1 through 86, carried.

A bill, "An Act Respecting Security Interests In Personal Property." (Bill No. 39).

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, Order No. 13, Bill No. 55.

CHAIR: Bill 55, An Act To Revise The Law With Respect To Quarry Materials.

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Certainly I have already discussed this bill somewhat with the minister, but I did have a couple of concerns that I want, for the record, the minister to respond to. I think it is a very significant piece of legislation and it certainly warrants a few questions, I say to the minister. I have discussed it privately with the minister but I will not tell what we said privately.

I do have a couple of points. One of the ones that was outstanding that I wanted the minister to make a comment on, if he does not mind, is this one. I will ask the minister the first one, and this one I want for the record, and for the minister to give me some brief notes on. There are just two or three things. Maybe we can get up and down and respond like that, if the minister sees fit. The difference in the Labrador situation as opposed to the Island portion of the Province I think is very important, and there is a significance to that particular part of the bill. If the minister can make a comment on it, I would appreciate it.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, the definition of a mineral is made simpler and clearer. The Quarry Materials Act, 1998 deals with sand, gravel, and this kind of thing. Dimension stone was part of it. What you are doing is lifting dimension stone out of the Quarry Materials Act, 1998 and making it a mineral. It will sit under the mineral act.

With respect to Labrador, because there are a number of operations there now that are operated, I believe, by the Labrador Inuit Corporation in Nain, that area. They have asked that until such time as the land negotiations are completed that Labrador be exempt and carry on as quarry material. Once the negotiations are concluded we would fold Labrador in then, I think.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank the minister for the answer for that question. The other one I would like the minister to respond to is clause 11(1), on the royalties. It says:

"The Lieutenant-Governor in Council may, by order, set amounts payable by royalty, either generally, or specifically with respect to the quantities of a quarry material or class of quarry material applicable to a permit, subordinate permit or lease."

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: So you are setting - what it is, about the royalty -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Chairman, if he wants to speak the member can get up after.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. SHELLEY: I would just like to ask this. As far as the royalties go, basically, that is left open to the Cabinet at the time? The setting on royalties, and so on, is that open-ended?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: That is what it is going to be determined on, the size of the quarry? Mr. Chairman, one last one is with clause 16(4), a search without a warrant. That is what it says. You can actually search without a warrant and -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Clause 16(4). I just want to be clear on that. That is without a permit. You are saying under a situation that is a threat to life or is a danger, exigent circumstances, that is the only way they can have the permit without a possible warrant, right?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Okay. Mr. Chairman, overall I think that this could be good. The minister has told me things. I have asked some questions. The industry sees this as a good move towards quarrying possible things. We do not have a major problem with it, but we did want to ask those questions on how they distinguish between Labrador and the Island portion of the Province. I think that was the only one. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

On motion, clauses 1 through 31, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Revise The Law With Respect To Quarry Materials." (Bill No. 55).

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, Order No. 14, Bill No. 45.

CHAIR: Bill 45, An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act.

Shall clause 1 carry?

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Just a few comments on this bill. Again it was discussed at some length during second reading. It is An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act, but I cannot help thinking when we talk about how, during this session and previous to this session, the government saw fit to bring about changes that were favourably received by teachers in this Province. Again, we are all aware, of course, of the fact that the public servants in this Province, including the members of this House of Assembly, were also the recipients of the benefits and, I guess, good wishes of this government in bringing about changes to all parties.

However, it remains a mystery to me why we have a group in this Province, namely the public service pensioners, who again remain outside. This is a group that has fought steadily and faithfully. We can do everything in the interests of teachers, which of course I support. We can support the public servants, and in due course, and simply because of the automatic nature of that process, we can help ourselves. However, we have not seen fit to help the thousands of pensioners who are out there living on annual incomes which, according to many of them and according to the statistics, and the facts that have been presented to us by them, are simply at poverty level. That is unacceptable, when we can have thousands of dedicated Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have to come crawling to this government repeatedly hoping that this government will see fit to put in place some assistance for them. What is even more appalling, I would say, is that this government is not even prepared to sit down and discuss the possibility of assisting these thousands of dedicated Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

I suppose if there is one feature of this session that we should all perhaps really reconsider it is the fact that this government has not been in a position to assist those thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who need assistance. I say to this government it is shameful. They are people who are in need, and they have been completely ignored and forgotten.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just want to speak briefly on this legislation, An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act. I recognize that this act goes some way, but obviously not all the way, to resolving the problems with the long-term financing aspect of the Teachers' Pensions Act. I think it is certainly a step forward. Finally the government has sat down with the representatives of teachers, through the NTA, and discussed this matter.

It is sort of interesting that during the last election the plea of the NTA was that government actually sit down and deal with the issue. It was government that had been putting it off with all the talk that the previous government had been getting on with about the unfunded liability on pensions, in particular the Teachers' Pension Plan. They were not even prepared to sit down and negotiate and discuss it. They seemed to be looking for a solution that they were going to impose on people. At least in this case there were discussions with the NTA. Some measures were taken to help the financing of the plan. This doesn't make a 100 per cent unfunded liability taken care of, it just delays the problem for some time, and there are going to have to be other accommodations down the road.

All I would like to comment on here is that the same kind of approach should be taken in dealing with another group of people. While they do not have a legal right enshrined in legislation to increases in their pension along with the public sector workers, they certainly have a legitimate expectation based on the practice of previous governments to provide public service pensioners with an increase when the public sector workers get one. The same conditions apply. Government should sit down with the representatives of the retired workers and the retired pensioners' association and work on finding a solution that would not impose too severe a financial obligation on the Province, but at the same time alleviate the misery of those, particularly in the lower end of the income scale, who are receiving provincial government pensions.

With those comments, Mr. Chairman, I would take my seat and allow someone else to speak on this legislation.

On motion, clauses 1 through 27, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act." (Bill No. 45)

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

CHAIR (Penney): The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, Order No. 15, Bill No. 49.

CHAIR: Bill 49, An Act To Amend The Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2).

Shall clause 1 carry?

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just briefly, again, this was discussed and debated during second reading. This, once again, just puts in place a policy change which had existed for some time, and again to the benefit of those residents in Labrador West. The Act establishes regulations which sets the amount of the tobacco rebate in Labrador boarder zones and the method of calculating the tax as described. There is very little that can be added, other than to say that it is a piece of legislation we support on this side of the House. Obviously because of geographical reasons, and just for matters of fairness and equity, the residents of Labrador West ought to be treated in this fashion. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would just like to speak briefly on Bill 49, An Act To Amend The Tobacco Tax Act (No.2). This does represent a reduction in the tobacco tax for the areas of Labrador that are connected to the mainland in Labrador South and in Labrador West. I think it is important we recognize the particular problems that have arisen there, not just with the sale of tobacco but the fact that tobacco, as a result of the differential taxes, was much cheaper on the other side of the border, causing residents to travel to buy tobacco. While they were there, a lot of other items were purchased there as well. This had a great affect on the businesses in Labrador West and Labrador South.

I think it was harmful to them. This legislation will support the principle that we have to recognize that the problems exist there, that they cause a loss of business. Not that I am looking for ways of reducing the costs of tobacco because, as we know, the more you reduce the cost of tobacco the more young people will be induced to smoke cigarettes and smoke tobacco and get addicted without realizing it. The fact of the matter is that most people who are addicted to tobacco as I used to be - I guess I still am, although I do not smoke - start at a young age. They start at a young age because it is considered a thing to do or for whatever reason. Young people tend to smoke if it is available to them, and if it is something that is considered to a cool thing to do. The more we can do to deter young people from smoking or to educate them about it, the better.

This here on the other hand is something that is making it more accessible to young people, cheaper for young people, but I do have to speak in favour of it because of its other consequences on the businesses in Labrador West and Labrador South who are losing not just the tobacco business, but they are losing a lot of other business when they cross the border to purchase their tobacco which they are addicted to, because that is the nature of the product. Having been there myself, I say to the Government House Leader, I know of which I speak. I do support the legislation, Mr. Chairman. With that I will take my seat.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you for the promotion.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: I did not hear it announced this morning, I say to Mr. Chair.

Actually, I want to have a few comments on this bill. It was a year and a half ago that I went to Labrador City and Labrador West. I spoke to the chamber of commerce and I asked questions as finance critic of the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board in trying to get regulations changed to equalize the taxation between Labrador West and Quebec - we were losing ten of thousands of dollars' worth of business across the border - and to give people in Labrador West a fighting chance. I am sure the Member for Labrador West knows much about it. I went down quite openly and said what it should be. I am delighted that government responded a bit later and levelled the playing field there. I was pleased that happened.

I also think we lose enough of business to other parts of the Province with having playing fields that are not level. This is not uncommon on borders around this country between provinces. It is hard to have an uphill battle. There were hundreds of thousands of dollars in volume involved. Not only were they going over there to buy their cigarettes, but they brought back groceries, liquor, and other things that affected our taxation. In fact, we were the net losers overall in taxation.

By lowering the tobacco tax we increased our revenues, and I am sure the revenues will show that everybody was happy. We had more taxes in other areas. We gave the people there an opportunity to do business and not push business across the border, and gave people equal taxation. So I support that. I called for it a year and a half before legislation changed on another, previous bill and I support this one again. I will not beat it to death here, other than to say that it has our support.

On motion, clauses 1 through 4, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2)." (Bill No. 49)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, Order No. 17, Bill No. 53.

CHAIR: Bill 53, An Act Respecting The Management Of Waste Material.

Shall clause 1 carry?

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: I just have a few comments on this and then we can go through the clauses, if that's okay.

I spoke of a number of the comments and concerns that I've had in second reading, and I just wanted to reiterate some of those statements and concerns. Those are the fact that government, without coming to the Legislature, or without consulting with the general public of the Province, will have the ability to impose levies upon practically anything, from tires to newspapers to cardboard cartons if that is what they so choose to do, without any consultation at all with the people of the Province, without it being debated in the House.

By passing this bill we have some concerns. There is good with the bill but there are also some drawbacks. The good is that as we see with the multi-material stewardship boards now on the recycling of beverage containers, the $.06 levy encourages more beverage containers to be brought into recycling depots. There was tremendous public outcry when this was initially introduced. The general public were quite upset about the $.06 levy and the fact they only got three cents back, the other three cents being kept in a government fund to supposedly help promote recycling and to help fund recycling depots and so on.

If this bill is actually passed what we will see is levies put on tires, such as what is happening now in other provinces. We will see levies put on glass containers. We will see deposit fees put on many other materials. In essence, unless a large number of these materials are actually returned to the recycling depots or actually recycled, this is another form of a hidden tax to the people of the Province. Many people in the Province, especially in outlying areas, cannot afford these extra levies, cannot afford to pay these deposits on other materials.

Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, some of the people are unable to recycle even the beverage containers because of the lack of recycling depots throughout the Province. People in the most remote areas of the Province are unable to get to the recycling depots. Therefore, what we are seeing is, I guess, a form of discrimination against people in the most remote areas of the Province. Because they still have to pay the deposit fee but are unable to avail of getting their portion of that deposit fee back, and that is very unfortunate. In larger urban areas it is not a problem, but in very remote, very rural areas it is a problem, and we are seeing that a lot of these beverage containers are not being recycled in these areas. These are the areas where there is a low participation rate in the recycling project on the beverage containers.

Essentially those are our concerns with this bill. This is the fear we have with the bill, that it gives government the right and the ability to impose recycling fees or levies on practically any type of material, container or product without any input at all from the people of the Province, and in many cases the people in remote areas are unable to participate. In many cases, even in an area like St. John's, if you were to impose a recycling fee on many products, there are families and individuals even within the City of St. John's for example, who are unable to afford these fees, the recycling deposits and so on.

That is pretty much all I have to say on the bill. We are quite concerned with these particular issues that I have raised. With that, Mr. Chairman, I will allow the reading of the clauses. Thank you.

On motion, clauses 1 through 11, carried.

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Management Of Waste Material." (Bill No. 53)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Order No. 19, Bill No. 57.

CHAIR: Bill 57, An Act To Amend The Public Utilities Act.

Shall clause 1 carry?

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Just a brief note, Mr. Chairman. Yesterday during second reading of this bill I posed a question to the former Minister of Justice with respect to clause 7, namely that: "18. The board may publish an annual report regarding its proceedings." There was some debate at that time as to whether or not there should be a mandatory provision with respect to the publishing of an annual report.

Section 7 in Bill 57, An Act To Amend The Public Utilities Act, now reads: It is completely discretionary upon the board whether it decides of its own free will to publish an annual report. As indicated to me by the former Minister of Justice, that issue was going to be addressed with some response forthcoming. I am not sure if the Government House Leader is in a position to respond to that particular point.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: This in no way changes the law, it simply changes the format.

On motion, clause 1, carried.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 through 25 carry?

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Chairman, back on clause 7, specifically that point, I ask the Government House Leader: Has he received any directive from the former Minister of Justice specifically dealing with the filing of the annual report?

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: No, Mr. Chairman. I checked with the Law Clerk and I'm told, as I just said, that there is no change in the law. This is the way it was previously. The only change is in the actual format.

On motion, clauses 2 through 25, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend the Public Utilities Act." (Bill No. 57)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Order No. 20, Mr. Chairman, Bill No. 52.

CHAIR: Bill 52, An Act Respecting The Imposition Of A Charge Related To The Provision Of Certain Government Services.

Shall clause 1 carry?

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: The issue we deal with in Bill 52, An Act Respecting The Imposition Of A Charge Related To The Provision Of Certain Government Services, is essentially, Mr. Chairman, dealing with those charges which are assessed by government, for example in probate court or in the Registry of Deeds, or in the Registry of Companies and so on.

I received some assurance, and we are prepared to accept the spirit of this legislation, on the understanding that there are no increases and that these particular assessments and fees that are presently charged are simply just transferred now in the legislation. Upon that basis we are prepared to accept the legislation as presented.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would just like to say few words on Bill 52, An Act Respecting The Imposition Of A Charge Related To The Provision Of Certain Government Services.

These services are already charged for in the form of fees, through regulations that have been changed by Cabinet from time to time. As we know, these have been declared to be taxes and have to be collected in a different manner to meet with the constitutional provision of taxes according to the Supreme Court of Canada. We have been assured by the minister that there are no increases in fees associated with this act, and therefore we do not see any difficulty here in assuring that the revenues can be collected as they were in the past. We understand there is no change even with respect to increasing security on a mortgage, where only the difference between the previous security and additional security is charged a fee based on the formula set out in the legislation.

While I am at it, there has been a lot of changes in the various registry systems that look after deeds and judgements. I did note, during discussion of the bill on the right to personal property security act, that there is going to be access for electronic registration.

I noted a little while ago when I was trying to track down a company in Nova Scotia that you merely have to go to the World Wide Web Site and punch in the address for the Registry of Companies in Nova Scotia. You can look up a particular company, find all the registration particulars on it. It is available to anybody who has access to a computer. You can find out a registration of a company, who the officers are, any activity on the company, and print it off merely by a few keystrokes on a computer. It seems to me that is pretty efficient system and one that would be the envy of people in this Province who need to find out who is behind certain companies. It might even be useful for Members of the House of Assembly to see who is getting government tenders and see what companies are being awarded (inaudible). You could find out when the company was registered, who the principles of the companies are, and that can be done through the World Wide Web.

I hope that the minister and his department are looking into that. I do not know what the expenses associated with it are, but I know most information these days is recorded in electronic form. Giving access to the public to that kind of information would certainly be a step forward.

With respect to this particular bill and the fees that are charged here, charging them through legislation, which is needed to be done according to the Supreme Court of Canada, is not objectionable, especially since there is no increase in the fees involved.

On motion, clauses 1 through 7, carried.

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Imposition Of A Charge Related To The Provision Of Certain Government Services." (Bill No. 52)

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Order No. 21, Bill No. 47.

CHAIR: Bill 47, An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991.

Shall clause 1 carry?

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: This is the bill, Mr. Chairman, whereby we propose an amendment. This amendment has been reviewed with the former Minister of Justice. I understand it is with the approval of members opposite. I would just like to speak to it very briefly.

This is an act which amends the powers of the Provincial Court, Bill 47, An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991. It formally, as the bill now reads, sets out both procedural and substantive issues of law. It was felt that particulary under clause 1, section 29.1(1)(b)(c) that we were dealing with matters of substantive law, dealing with matters of evidence, and therefore it was felt that it would be inappropriate in a bill which is designed essentially to deal with procedural aspects, as are dealt with on a day to day basis in our Provincial Court system.

Therefore, with respect to clause 1, we have an amendment in Committee of the Whole under Bill 47, An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991. With Mr. Chairman's permission I will now read the amendment.

CHAIR: Proceed.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Under clause 1:

Clause 1 of the bill is amended by deleting the proposed paragraphs 29(1)(b) and (c).

I understand you have a copy of it, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Yes.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you. Other than that amendment there are no further changes.

CHAIR: Hon. members are aware of the amendment.

Shall the amendment carry?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye!

CHAIR: Opposed?

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause 1 as amended, carried.

On motion, clause 2, carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill with amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, Order No. 22, Bill No. 50.

CHAIR: Bill 50, An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act.

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: I would just like to say, Mr. Chairman, that we spoke on this bill the other day. We checked with the Federation and some other people and we have no problem with this particular piece of legislation.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act." (Bill No. 50).

On motion, clauses 1 through 15, carried.

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Order No. 23, Bill No. 51.

CHAIR: Bill 51, An Act To Amend The St. John's Assessment Act.

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The other day we raised the issue of Bill 51 as it relates to bed and breakfast sites in the City of St. John's. While having absolutely no problem with the civic centre, the problem that we do have is with the legislation which will give the City of St. John's the right to charge the bed and breakfast outlets a tax. We feel that the bed and breakfast outlets in the City of St. John's should not be charged the tax.

We understand that there is nobody now from that particular group on the committee. I understand that those that were there have resigned. The hoteliers at the end of the day or at the beginning of the day, whichever way we want to look at it, will reap the benefits from this particular tax. I think that if this bill is passed as is it will see us allowing the city to charge tax to the bed and breakfast outfits in St. John's, and I feel that is not right. They are very small industry, a industry that we do need, a industry that hopefully over the next several years will grow.

To allow the city to charge them a tax on the rooms, I do not think it is right. I do not believe they are going to reap any benefit from the civic centre in St. John's. I will be very surprised if they do.

By the way, I would like say for the public record that I am in favour of the civic centre being built and am very pleased that it is being built. I think it is long overdue for our particular area. Some years ago, visiting a good many centres across this country of ours, you find that in most centres they do have something similar to this. I always remember one night being in Moncton on other sporting business, to find that they had a beautiful civic centre there. I had the opportunity to go there and have a look at it. It was quite a spot. I sat back and wondered why this particular region, that involves the capital, why we did not have such a centre in our own Province.

I think it would be certainly wrong to charge the bed and breakfast establishments in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador this tax. To have them charged a tax for people who would stay there I think is wrong. I do not think we should allow the City of St. John's to be able to charge this tax. So that nobody at City Hall jumps up and down screaming that I was not in favour of the civic centre, that is not true. I certainly am, and a very strong proponent of it, but I believe we should not allow them to charge the bed and breakfast places in the City of St. John's the tax that they are going to put on hotels and so on.

If they want to raise money I think it should be raised from the people who are going to derive the benefit from it. I cannot see the bed and breakfast sites in the City of St. John's deriving any benefit whatsoever from this particular piece of legislation. I would ask that we not send this bill to the city as is. We should send it down eliminating the bed and breakfast sites from this particular piece of legislation.

Thank you.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I too would like to make a few comments with respect to Bill 51 as it deals with the St. John's assessment. I too would like to speak on behalf of the campaign that has been put forward by bed and breakfast owners in this city.

These are individuals who feel they have been disenfranchised throughout this whole process. What this legislation will do will give a directive, and essentially give legal authorization, of allowing the city to deal with a group of individuals who essentially feel that they have not been a part of the decision making process, and that they have not been represented adequately throughout discussions and negotiations on this whole issue. As I have indicated earlier, they feel they overall have been completely disenfranchised and neglected.

For example, some of the points that this group make include the following: That the Avalon Convention and Visitors Bureau does not represent the majority of fixed roof accommodation operators within the City of St. John's. The group also adds that the Avalon Convention and Visitors Bureau did not consult with the majority of fixed roof accommodation operators in its discussions and in subsequent discussions, both with the Province and with the city, in the matter of a 3 per cent fixed roof accommodation tax. In this group there are many, I may add, there are a couple of dozen, as a minimum, of bed and breakfast owners in the city who are part of this campaign and who are voicing their concern in this fashion.

They continue to say that: The Avalon Convention and Visitors Bureau is a signatory to the memorandum of understanding between the Government of Newfoundland and the City of St. John's and the Avalon Convention and Visitors Bureau, and as such has misrepresented the wishes of a majority of the operators of fixed roof accommodations within the City of St. John's.

This is very strong language. This is language and a message that ought to be considered by members opposite as sufficient reason to really seriously consider whether or not this legislation is appropriate when we have such a significant sector of the tourism industry in this city which feel they have been completely neglected, completely forgotten, and as a result completely disenfranchised.

I have difficulty supporting the legislation simply because of that fact. We have a group of individuals which themselves claim that their industry and their work is marginal, at best. Most of the individuals who frequent bed and breakfasts in this city are our fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who come to St. John's to shop, go to a hockey game, go to a movie, attend a convention or whatever. Really, it is an additional tax being assessed against fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians by an operation which is marginal at best.

I have difficulty supporting it, and I would ask members opposite to give some serious thought to the points that have been raised on behalf of the bed and breakfast owners in this city.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to speak for a few minutes on this legislation, Bill 51, An Act To Amend The St. John's Assessment Act.

The legislation is enabling legislation which allows the City of St. John's to impose a tax on accommodation to support the financing of the civic centre. The civic centre is a grand project for the citizens of St. John's, supported by this government and by this hon. member. Part of my campaign for mayor was to support the development of a civic centre, provided the cost and the burden to the taxpayers was not excessive. This legislation is supportive of that effort and enables the City of St. John's to impose this tax as part of the fund raising agreement.

When I spoke the other day I indicated that I had not received any representations from my constituents, and that there were some twenty or twenty-five bed and breakfasts in my constituency alone. That is true. I have not received any direct contact from individual bed and breakfast operators, but I have to acknowledge that I did get a letter from City Hall. I got a letter from the City Clerk of City Hall, a copy of a letter addressed to the Premier.

I am going to read the letter out now because it is addressed to the Premier. I am reading the Premier's mail here now. It says:

"At a regular meeting of the St. John's Municipal Council on November 2, 1998 Councillor Watt tabled a letter of concern from a number of operators regarding their concern for the proposed 3% room levy on all fixed accommodations. She requested, and Council concurred, that this letter of concern be forwarded to your office for your review."

This was sent to the Premier with a copy to me. It was a much more pleasant letter than the one I got some time ago from the city. It raises the concerns of bed and breakfast operators. About four of them were from my constituency and the rest were not. I know there is a division of opinion about that, and there is some question, I suppose, as to whether or not the bed and breakfast operators are going to benefit from the civic centre and ought not to contribute to the tax.

PREMIER TOBIN: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

MR. HARRIS: Now I know, Mr. Chairman -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier, on a point of order.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Chairman, I want the record to show that while the Leader of the NDP received a copy of a letter sent to me by the bed and breakfast operators, I have a copy of a letter sent to the Leader of the NDP by City Council trying to take him to the cleaners. I want him to know that I think there are 16,000 thousand, at least, good reasons, when I look at the record of Mayor Andy Wells, why we should have had not one but two recounts.

CHAIR: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Premier used the occasion to clarify the issue under question.

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

MR. HARRIS: I thank the Premier for his point of order.

Now, on to the Premier's letter, Mr. Chairman. It appears that the St. John's municipal council is trying to put the issue into the lap of this Legislature as to whether or not bed and breakfast operators ought to be charged with this tax. As I read the legislation, it says that the council may impose a tax. It seems to me it is up to the council whether they impose this tax on the bed and breakfast operators or not. I do not know why they are trying to slough it off and blame us in this Legislature for imposing the tax.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: If they are concerned about the consequences to the small bed and breakfast operators - which I acknowledge are marginal operations - and they want to relieve them of that tax, they certainly have the power to do that, as they have the power to relieve any person of a tax or a fee or a charge that they impose. They have that discretion and they have that right under the Municipalities Act.

While this is a bill that gives the power to the City Council to impose this tax, I think that the city in sending this information along to us should really be told that it is up to them whether they impose that tax on bed and breakfast operators. They are the ones, in fact, who the bed and breakfast operators have contacted. They have not contacted this hon. member, although there are some twenty or twenty-five in my district. They contacted the City Hall and they asked City Hall not to impose the tax on them. I think City Hall should pay attention to what these people have to say and consider their argument.

That is the obligation of the City Council which are going to be the ones imposing this tax. I do not imagine that the contribution of the bed and breakfast operators to the building of the civic centre is going to be terribly large. We do have a burgeoning bed and breakfast industry in St. John's, and I think it is good for this city. It encourages a certain kind of tourists who want to be a little closer to the people to come and spend some time in the city. There are probably lots of people who would want to spend a little bit more time in the city but they cannot do so at a hotel because of the additional cost, but would be happy to do so at a bed and breakfast operation.

I support the legislation because it is enabling legislation which supports the financing of the civic centre, which I support. I think the bed and breakfast operators should go back to City Council and should ask the City Council to use their power to exempt them from the imposition of this tax which I understand is about to be opposed upon them against their will, without their consent, and without their involvement in any kind of memorandum. With those remarks, Mr. Chairman, I take my seat and support the legislation before the House.

On motion, clause 1, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The St. John's Assessment Act. " (Bill No. 51).

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, we are down to the last bill hanging by its fingernails off the Order Paper. Order No. 24, Bill No. 48.

CHAIR: Bill 48, An Act To Amend The Private Training Institutions Act.

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. May I take the opportunity to congratulate Madam Minister on her new appointment. It is very encouraging, because now we will get at least to page two of the briefing notes. We have been stuck on page one for ages. In fact, yesterday he even got up and was speaking on second reading, and assumed that he had already spoken. He did not move at all except to page one even. Madam Minister, we are looking for substantial improvements.

I did want to make a couple of comments. First of all, I again want to compliment Dr. Warren on the study he has done, and I look forward to receiving the second phase of his report. I do believe it gives us the basis to be able to move forward with the establishment of a partnership between the government representing the public institutions and the industry representing the private institutions involved in post-secondary education. We believe, on this side, there is room in this Province for both the private post-secondary education system and the public post-secondary education system. We believe there can be goodness found in both programs.

We also say to the government that there will be need for further regulations when the second phase of Dr. Warren's report is received. We recognize that. We particularly understand the second phase will deal a lot with accreditation. I say to the minister that we have to look at accreditation in a very broad perspective. I think we should be talking about accrediting programs as opposed to accrediting schools. If you have your programs accredited nationally then I believe that the school accreditation will follow automatically. I do believe that if you look at what is happening in the national scene you will see that programs that are accredited, where students can move from one province to another - when you mention you have done a program in Newfoundland and Labrador at any particular post-secondary institution, that carries merit, as opposed to saying that you have graduated from a particular training school. I want to make note of that.

I also want to note that we are in support of the general thrust. We have said in second reading that there are things that we would liked to have seen in this particular report. They are not there. We would like to make note - and I will do so now in the time that has been allocated to me by our House Leader on this side - that we would have liked to have seen the minister establish a broader approach. I say to the minister that there is a need for another study. After we have done the work here that Dr. Warren is doing now - and that is good, and second phase will be equally, I think, enlightening - we have to look at the public post-secondary institutions as well. We will have need to examine these. The new minister I do believe will be aware as well that there are some difficulties in the public college system. We are aware of certain studies that are being done now. The minister I am sure is aware of these studies. Some are complete and some are in the process of being completed. We want to say to the minister that maybe we should be looking at a further study on all post-secondary, not just the private sector that we are talking about here.

I want to thank the minister for supplying the list of regulations. I will also say to the minister that I have communicated both the bill and most of the regulations now - the bill certainly - to all of the post-secondary private schools. I have received some comments, and for the most part the institutions are very supportive of both Dr. Warren's report and the act. Because we have had these commentaries back from the people who are involved in the post-secondary institutions, we generally say that we on this side will support it. There are certain things we would like to see in it. We do believe there is still too much focused on the `consumer beware' approach to post-secondary, but for what it is attempting to do this particular act, I do believe, will be welcomed by the post-secondary. I am sure that as time goes on we will see a strengthening of the private college system, and this act I do believe will facilitate that. We will avoid having incidents like the Paralegal Training Institute's collapse and the Career Academy's collapse as well.

Mr. Chairman, I do believe there are a number of other speakers on this side. In order to accommodate them, and given the lateness of the evening, I will conclude my remarks and let these other people have a chance to have a comment.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to speak briefly on Bill 48, An Act To Amend The Private Training Institutions Act. In doing so, I would also recognize the appointment of the new minister and express the hope that with a fresh look at this whole issue the challenge of dealing with the post-secondary system will perhaps be looked at afresh and anew. We do have some fundamental, serious problems in our post-secondary education system in this Province. They were highlighted in the last year by, first of all, the concerns raised. I think the demise of the Career Academy came next.

Concerns were raised for over a year by students in the private training institutions: complaints about the cost of their courses, complaints about the value for money, complaints about the qualifications of instructors, complaints about the ability to deliver the courses, complaints about the representations made to them when they undertook these course, gobbledegook about accreditation which they found out was really not a process that was independent and arm's length, but was really something that was conferred upon them by an association that they joined for the purpose of getting accredited.

These concerns remain. The further flaws in the whole approach were obviously demonstrated by the demise of, first of all, the Paralegal Training Institute, which should never have been licensed in the first place, and second, by the demise of the Career Academy.

What have we done in this legislation? We have attempted to shore up the legislation by recognizing that the private institutions are inherently unstable. We are saying that we have to have a train-out fund, paid for by the students out of their tuition, because the whole process is inherently unstable.

I see the former Minister of Education shaking his head in his usual obfuscating manner, refusing to recognize the facts and the truth that 1 per cent of the tuition cost is going to this train-out fund. If you take it from one side of the ledger or the other, it doesn't make any difference. It is coming out of the tuition of these students. The students are paying the train-out fund. The Province is placing no controls over the amount of tuition charged, so guess who pays the cost of the train-out fund? The students, because they are paying for everything else. They are paying for the institution, they are paying for the instruction, they are paying for the recruiting, they are paying for the marketing, they are paying for a profit for the owners, all of which is being paid by the people who are also paying taxes to support the public system. The whole thing is built on a house of unfairness and discrimination against students who need a post-secondary education in order to be able to participate in the workforce.

The legislation is tinkering with a fundamentally flawed system. There is no province in Canada which has more of a percentage of its post-secondary students in private training institutions than Newfoundland. None, not one. I am not saying that every institution is ripping off students, is providing no service, no value for money. What I am saying is that this government has relied on the private sector to deliver what should be a public service and they have not done anywhere near the proper job in protecting students. They have done nowhere near a proper job even in this bill to make sure that students have a quality education and value for money.

Let me just talk about qualifications of instructors for a moment. The rule is that you are not allowed to teach in a post-secondary private institution unless within three years you have a degree, a certificate in adult education. What is the practice? The practice is that nobody lasts three years. You hire your graduates. We have had students complain to us that they were taught the course by the person who finished it last month. They are not going to last three years, because the next semester the ones who are doing the course now will be teaching. Now, that happened. That is not the rule, it does not happen all the time, but that happens in some of the private training institutions. That is the practice because the rule does not mean anything, because if you keep turning over your instructors nobody ever has to be qualified. That is what is happening in the private training institutions in some cases where the motivation of those running these operations is primarily the making of a profit.

There are some exceptions. I want to say something on the record here now. One of the institutions and perhaps the minister has gotten a copy of a letter. I received it today. Supposed to be enclosed with it is a report prepared by a independent person assessing and looking at the graduates and their job placement, whether or not the graduates of Keyin Technical College got placements in their field. They had an independent firm, a national firm, do this. They committed themselves to making the report public and they have done so. I think that is a step that provides a level of transparency which is an important thing that students ought to have access to.

I ask the minister to have a look at that report, to have a look and see whether or not what Keyin Technical College is doing, voluntarily, ought to be imposed on all the colleges as a requirement, so that students are not led down the garden path and led to believe that there is something special about a particular type of training. Because I think the phrase was: We are training you for the real world or for the job market, university trains you for something else.

The reality is that when the government finally came out with its report called Postsecondary Indicators '98 - I think it was supposed to be called Postsecondary Indicators '96 but it took them until 1998 to get it out - it actually demonstrated that the people who did worse off in the job market, in terms of either first of all, getting employment, and second of all in terms of salary, were the graduates of the private post-secondary institutions.

The results were there for all to see. Some of the colleges complained, and rightly so, that everybody was being tarred with the same brush. That is a fair comment. If all of the private training institutions licensed by this government are required to do what Keyin Technical College has done on its own, then I think that students will have an opportunity to have a look at what goes on.

What does accreditation mean? Some of these colleges were bragging about the fact that were accredited, that somehow this means they are going to be recognized all across the country. That is a fair bit of bologna. The accreditation of The Career Academy did not help the students when the place went under. A value of The Career Academy diploma is kind of, I suppose, like the stocks of Bre-X, is it? They are like Bre-X stocks. The Career Academy diploma has about the same value, in some circles, as a wheelbarrow full of Bre-X stocks. I do not know much about the stock market, but I heard about Bre-X. They were accredited by this thing that they kept calling the national accreditation commission. It sounds important, it sounds like the National Capital Commission. It sounds like some governmental agency that somehow or other is giving a stamp of approval to all these colleges.

The reality is that the national accreditation commission is actually a sub-committee appointed by their Association. They have a national association of career academies and they have this sub-committee which goes around and has a checklist and gives a stamp of approval to those who pay their fee to the Association to be members. I think students are taken in by that, and are led to expect and believe that it is worth a heck of a lot more than it is.

We have a truth in advertising problem here with these private training institutions. When they go beyond a particular kind of training for a particular type of job, they are stepping into an area where students can easily be misled. When you talk about some of the highfalutin names they have given to the courses, here is one: Advanced ITI. The Career Academy had an Advanced ITI. Before the program was even finished they had to cross out the "Advanced" because they recognized that it did not have any creditability in the marketplace, because it was not advanced at all. Now they have pre-IT courses for $15,000. What is that worth, Mr. Chairman, what do you learn in that? IT is a favourite buzzword. I know the new Minister of Education is very familiar with IT.

CHAIR: The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: May I have a few minutes leave, Mr. Chairman? I will not have to get up again.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: The IT, what is IT? IT is now so overused that if you wanted to pitch IT as teaching someone how to use keyboard, you could probably call that IT. The same thing could be someone who is actually programming the machine, or teaching it, how to teach other people what to do. There is a lot of fuzziness in the courses that are being offered and the way they are marketed to students and young people. They really do not know what they are getting.

If the new minister ever says buyer beware, I will know that the Premier has made a big mistake in appointing her Minister of Education. I am going to be listening. I am going to have my ears very much to the ground and to the air to make sure that if the minister says buyer beware in connection with private colleges, I will be ready to pounce. I will be sure that the Premier has made a mistake if she says that. I hope she does not say that, and I hope she does not think that, because post-secondary education is a right of citizenship, it is not a commodity to be bought and sold in the marketplace, it is not a commodity that should be primarily the burgeon of profit for private enterprise.

Post-secondary education is a right of citizenship. The Premier can borrow that quote for his next election campaign, if he wants. It will certainly be part of our brochures and part of our campaign, that post-secondary education is a right of citizenship, not a commodity to be out there for profit in the marketplace, to make money on. It is something that every young person in this Province has a right to, has a need for, in order to be able to participate in the job market and build a future for himself.

Not only that, I go further and say that it needs to be accessible to everybody regardless of their ability to pay. If that means having free tuition then we should find a way to do it. Because not only is it a right of citizenship, the future of this Province has to rely on the ability of our citizens to be able to move forward and bring work here, not only for our young people but for anybody in the workforce who wants to be able to participate.

I do not think that by relying on the private sector and the post-secondary private institutions, by tinkering with the legislation as we are doing here, that we are going to accomplish that. It needs a new vision. It needs a vision for the future and I hope the new minister is able to deliver on it.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. They are starting to walk out already, I say to the Chairman.

I want to first of all congratulate the new minister and say that the task ahead of her is a daunting one, but the minister understands it. She has come from Memorial University, in terms of a professional career, and she understands the business of education. At least I hope she does.

If there is one thing clear, there have been many stories coming out of this House of Assembly in the last four and a half weeks, but one of the most significant ones is that the Member for Exploits is not the Minister of Education any longer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: In the last year and a half, if there are lessons to learn - on a serious note - with respect to this particular piece of legislation, Bill 48, it is this: We said when Phil Warren was appointed to the commission, we said it after, we said it again in response to ministerial statements in this House, that it was an opportunity to look at post-secondary education in a broader context. That his inquiry, his committee, that was looking at what needed to be done with post-secondary or private secondary institutions, essentially what came down in ministerial statements, were asked right here on this side of the House, in questions in question period.

AN HON. MEMBER: We were the only party that made a submission to the (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: That is correct. The only party of record to make a major submission. That is exactly right.

Last year, for example, when the Department of Education, under the guidance of the former minister, changed the student aid regulations with respect to private training institutions, it was a mistake. Those regulations were in place for a very legitimate and bona fide reason. They were in place to ensure that private training institutions in this Province that could stand the test of time had to reach and had to pass a certain point in time before they could be recognized. Thankfully, Dr. Warren saw it and clearly outlined it in his interim report. The more lengthy report will be coming, but he outlined it, and the minister took steps.

The issues with post-secondary education are far larger than just private training institutions. There is no question that the challenges many people face today outside the secondary system are immense and great. The challenges of debt that students incur are significantly higher in the last ten years. Post-secondary education and the cost of it has increased by some 260 per cent in the last seven years. That is the record since 1989. A 250 per cent increase in the cost to get a basic education. At Memorial it is called a Bachelor of Arts degree; on average, a $25,000 student loan. The private training institute costs are much higher.

Arguments have been brought forward saying that because post-secondary on one hand - one aspect of it that is being operated in the Province - is subsidized, that if education wasn't subsidized at our post-secondary institutes such as Memorial and the College of the North Atlantic, then the cost would be equally the same as it would be for a private training institute. That argument is a red herring, I say to the minister. Education is a right. It is how we advance our economy, how we impact on social services, how we impact the health and welfare of our citizens in the Province. It is a situation that this government - not unlike other governments provincially across the country - has had to deal with as a result of federal spending cuts.

This government has made it own spending decisions as well. It is not fair enough to turn around and say: It is completely with the federal government and the fault lies entirely with them. Because within our own spending parameters, within our own budget, this government has made significant choices on where to put money. It is a question of: Where are the priorities, where does the first call on the tax dollar belong? These are legitimate questions. There are differences in points of views and differences in philosophy.

I will try to contain my comments to Bill 48. I think the opportunity that is before the Minister of Education now, once she looks at the full report from Phil Warren and looks at the challenges that face students in this Province, is this: How we advance our economy and how we advance ourselves as citizens depends largely upon how accessible education is to each and every person in this Province, how affordable it is. There are barriers there now that impede individuals, low income people, from getting access to a higher education. Those are the issues, fundamentally, that you have to address. In addressing the fundamental issues, I say to the minister, the rest will be details. Fundamentally, the issues that need to be addressed are access and costs.

To take examples, the new Minister of Education, as a former Minister of Industry, Trades and Technology, has stood in this House many times correctly and talked about the experience in Ireland, has talked about how an economy was turned around. One of the keys to success that enabled that to happen was a completely different view - a paradigm shift, if you will - in how that government and that country looked at how people were educated. From the highest costs of education in the entire European Union by far, overnight, generally speaking, within a year or two they completely changed it around so that post-secondary education in their country became the lowest in cost by far. It is one of the building blocks, I say to the minister, and those are the issues that you face.

The other issue that we need to address - and maybe the experience of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology being brought to bear upon the Department of Education will be a good experience if the minister brings it with her - is this. Is Grade XII today good enough? Is it as good as Grade XI was twenty-five years ago, to go out and get a job in the marketplace at some level, to move on? The answer is, no, it is not good enough. On average today anybody seeking employment in our society or country needs a minimum of two years post-secondary education. All independent studies demonstrate that. All independent studies in the last two years emanating from the majority of universities, the majority of economic think-tanks, have indicated that clearly. That is an issue that we have to come to terms with. Do we advance, from a post-secondary point of view, free education for at least two years into the post-secondary system? These are fundamental shifts of thinking that need to occur in this Province with respect to not only how we educate our citizens but the example that we must provide.

Mr. Chairman, I will not delay it any longer than that. Our statements are very clear. The record in this House and where we stand on this issue is very clear. The presentation we made to Phil Warren is comprehensive, totalling some twenty-eight recommendations. Many of those recommendations, I say to my hon. colleague, the education critic, we found in the pages of Dr. Warren's interim report; but there are fundamental issues.

I wish you well. I can assure her, as the new Minister of Education, that our party will continue to press for what we believe, where government should be moving in this direction, and I guess the minister will be held accountable at every level in this House of Assembly.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

I would like to make one point for the record. As I have said, I have communicated the act throughout all the private training institutions in the Province and I have gotten back, generally, a very, very positive response.

There was one concern, and it is with regard to section 5.1. That would be section 5.l(b)(ii) where it says, "The corporation shall (b) where required, make recommendations to the minister with respect to" - "(ii) the financial stability of a private training institution based upon annual audited financial statements of that institution as required by the minister"...

There is some concern, Madame Minister, with the interpretation of that particular section and also with the desire that the corporation be assured, in the laws of the corporation, to treat all the information from these private institutions with confidentially; also whether or not there would be one auditor appointed by the corporation or whether the school itself would appoint an auditor. Some concerns by several of the larger schools with that particular requirement, and I wanted to bring that to the attention of the minister.

I am sure she will have some dialogue with the private training schools on the interpretation of that, and when the regulations are put in place governing the corporation we might be sensitive to the implications for confidentiality and the implications of finding a good business plan, as the corporation or the institution would want, for the continuance of their business and for the continuance of their good business plans.

I want to thank the minister for listening to that and making a note on it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Private Training Institutions Act." (Bill No. 48)

On motion, clauses 1 through 7 carried.

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee rise and report very substantial progress.

CHAIR: It is moved and seconded that the committee rise and report very substantial progress.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

MR. PENNEY: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered the matters to it referred and has directed me to report having passed Bill Nos. 37, 18, 42, 56, 27, 54, 16, 9, 8, 23, 39, 55, 45, 49, 53, 57, 52, 50, 51, 34, and 48 without amendment and Bill Nos. 43 and 47 with amendment.

On motion, report received and adopted.

On motion, amendments read a first and second time, bills ordered read a third time presently by leave.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I move third reading, on the Order Paper Order Nos. 2 through 24, with the exception of Order No. 18, Bill No. 56.

On motion, the following bills read a third time, ordered passed and their titles be as on the Order Paper:

A bill, "An Act Respecting Child, Youth and Family Services". (Bill No. 37)

A bill, "An Act to Amend The Economic Diversification And Growth Enterprises Act". (Bill No. 18)

A bill, "An Act To Incorporate The Business Investment Corporation." (Bill No. 43)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act". (Bill No. 42)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Works, Services And Transportation Act". (Bill No. 27)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act". (Bill No. 9)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Judgment Enforcement Act". (Bill No. 34)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Financial Administration Act". (Bill No. 16)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Aquaculture Act". (Bill No. 8)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Assessment Act." (Bill No. 23)

A bill, "An Act Respecting Security Interests In Personal Property". (Bill No. 39)

A bill, "An Act To Revise The Law With Respect To Quarry Materials". (Bill No. 55)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Teachers Pensions Act". (Bill No. 45)

A bill, "An Act to Amend The Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2)". (Bill No. 49)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991." (Bill No. 54)

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Management Of Waste Material." (Bill No. 53)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Utilities Act". (Bill No. 57)

A bill, " An Act Respecting The Imposition Of A Charge Related To The Provision Of Certain Government Services". (Bill No. 52)

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

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act". (Bill No. 50)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The St. John's Assessment Act". (Bill No. 51)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Private Training Institutions Act". (Bill No. 48)

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I move third reading on Bill No. 56, Order No. 18.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill No. 56 be now read a third time.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just further to debate during Committee: At that time I indicated that at this time we would propose an amendment to Bill 56. The Table officers have a copy of the proposed amendment. I will simply just read it into the record, Mr. Speaker.

"To Move: That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following therefor: "Bill 56, An Act Respecting Home Support Services Provided To Persons In Self-Managed Care, be not now read a third time but that the Order be discharged, the Bill withdrawn and the subject matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Social Services."

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to address the amendment which I think is an appropriate amendment to this legislation which will have the effect of marginalizing some 3,500, mostly women workers, contrary to their rights and the legitimate expectations they should have to be able to work in circumstances where they have an opportunity to further their economic interests through collective bargaining; where they have some say over their working conditions; where they are recognized for what they are, trained professional workers providing a public service with public dollars; and recognize that they too are public employees in the same way that any other employees, recognized by the public service collective bargaining act, are employees; and that this government, by this act, is in fact marginalizing them, discriminating against them as women and putting them in a circumstance that they really have no control over.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there has been some representation, as I understand, in the media and otherwise, that this is necessary to provide dignity to certain people who are in receipt of these services. I don't happen to believe that, but by referring it to a committee at least there will be an opportunity for members of this House to hear about the issues, to hear both sides of the issues and to hear the stories.

Mr. Speaker, a woman in her late 50s who had been calling my office concerned about the fact that she, as a home care worker, lost $2,000 in wages because the agency that she was working for went under without any protection for her, as an employee, without any protection from the Labour Standards Act, without any protection from any process of law that could help her, and yet she had done the work and performed the work and services. Money was given to the home care provider to pay for her service. They took the money. They got the money. She did not get paid and she has no recourse.

Now, Mr. Speaker, by making some 2,200 to 2,500 individuals, who are all not capable of looking after themselves at home - they have physical needs and they have other needs - by making them employers all of a sudden they are going to be in charge of employer/employee relations, they are going to be in charge of all of the paperwork that is required for the purpose of employment, and they are going to be in charge of collective bargaining if there is a union situation. This is not right, Mr. Speaker. It is not fair to the people who are the receivers of the care. Neither is it fair to the employees.

This legislation is regressive. It is right-wing legislation, Mr. Speaker, despite the Premier's comments about where he stands on the political spectrum. It is anti-worker, it is anti-woman, it is right-wing legislation, and this Legislature should have no part of it. If it can be saved by sending it to a committee where hopefully wiser heads might prevail, then I am in favour of doing that.

MR. SPEAKER: Are we ready for the motion? The motion is the amendment as put forward by the hon. Member for St. John's East.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Those against, 'nay'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: I declare the amendment defeated.

On motion, a bill, "An Act respecting Home Support Services Provided to Persons in Self-Managed Care", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill No. 56)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the Governor is here.

MR. TULK: No, he is not.

MR. FUREY: Would it be okay, by leave, if we just take a short recess until His Honour arrives?

MR. TULK: He is supposed to be here at 10:00 p.m.

AN HON. MEMBER: Maybe we could ask the leaders to bring Christmas greetings.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Monsieur le Prsident, il me fait grand plaisir de vous prsenter les flicitations pour un joyeux Nol pour tous les dputs du parlement de Terre-Neuve et Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: John Ottenheimer is applauding. One person understood.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) bilingual, because we are half French, after all.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, we are doing it on the basis of cubic square feet, they are more French than we are.

Mr. Speaker, I want to offer the member for Conception Bay South, and indeed I want to offer all members of the House of Assembly, in particular, Mr. Speaker, to you and to the staff of the House, people at the Table who offer us expert advice, to the Pages who keep the place flowing properly - Mr. Speaker, I want on behalf of all members as well to offer a tribute to the one reporter who, in good times and bad, when much is being said or very little, is there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, even when we are filling the time, Scott is there and VOCM definitely cares about the happenings of the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Speaker, seriously, we have had a very interesting session of the House. We have had a lot of productive work done, a lot of important legislation debated and passed, and the people's work, not withstanding the focus which is sometimes on the controversy and the conflict occasionally in this place, at the end of the day the people's work has been done. It has been proposed by government, it has been pursued and perused, investigated and occasionally opposed and a scattered attempt made to amend the legislation put forward, but at the end of the day the business of the people of the Province is being done.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to all members who are about to take a break, who are about to go home and spend time with their friends and families and loved ones, those they leave behind many days and evenings when they are here, especially members who come in from outside the St. John's region to do their duty - because frankly they spend a lot of time away from their families, and there are some on both sides of the House - that I extend to them best wishes for the Christmas season.

Mr. Speaker, I used to be a member in another place. I think all members, members of every Legislature in Canada were quite jolted recently to see what happened with Shaughnessy Cohen in the House of Commons. It was an object lesson for all of us. When Shaughnessy Cohen fell at her place in the Nation's Legislature, in the Parliament of Canada, members from every corner, members from every party rushed to her side, and members attempted to do their best to bring her aid. Mr. Speaker, when that was not possible to do, a day later members from every party from every part of this Country grieved together.

Mr. Speaker, it really is a reminder that as much as public policy, public discourse and partisan politics can separate us, the truth of the matter is that those of us who serve in this place often have far more in common and far more that we share than the members of the public might imagine.

It is in that spirit, the spirit of Shaughnessy Cohen, who used to ask me all the time whether or not - Mr. Speaker, I cannot repeat Shaughnessy Cohen because then I would be commenting on a private comment she gave, and the Member for Baie Verte would remind me that is not a wise thing to do. I have been known to do it once or twice and it is with some regret that I avoid doing it again. In the spirit of Shaughnessy Cohen, the spirit of families, friends and reflecting upon our good fortunes at Christmas time, I genuinely, sincerely wish every member and their families a Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, last Friday morning I had the pleasure of my daughter, five year old Olivia, who came in here - I believe the Minister of Finance has a babysitting crisis tonight and I had one last Friday - and she sat up in the gallery with my administrative assistant and her comments were telling. Driving home afterwards she wanted to know: Dad, what is it you are doing down there anyway? Shouldn't you be home for Christmas? The comments were telling from the mouth of a babe.

You are right, it is a time now where certainly all members of the House who have families - we all do - have an opportunity in the spirit of Christmas to spend some quality time at home with our families, because unlike what public perception is, that when the House is not open we are all on holiday, the reality is quite different and quite untrue. The other part of the work that we do as elected members of the House, equally as challenging, takes up as much time in terms of trying to respond to constituents' needs and to the needs of the Province.

I would just like to take the opportunity to wish certainly my colleagues on this side of the House, the Premier, the Cabinet, new Cabinet members and all members of the House, a very Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year for peace and prosperity.

In many ways, certainly in the last four and one-half weeks, as you said, there have been some interesting times; but notwithstanding all of that, that is the job, it is the job we do, it is the job of being accountable. To that end I think that if we did not do it then all of us would suffer and be diminished somewhat.

With that, I am not going to delay the House any longer, but just to say I hope that each and everyone of you has a very special Christmas this year and I look forward to some of the happenings in 1999.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to join for a moment in, first of all, thanking Your Honour and all of the staff of the House for helping us with our duties; the Pages, the Clerk, Table Officers, the Commissionaires, the people of Hansard who record our every word -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: - who have all done their part in making us able to do our jobs here in the House. Of course, we all play a public role which is part of our duty, I suppose, and inevitably involves conflict, sometimes it gets personal and sometimes it is difficult to deal with. We all have other lives in which we are parents or brothers and sisters and have our families and friends that we like to enjoy Christmas with as well, and have to recognize that despite all of the differences that we have, as the Premier indicated, we do have a lot in common in that we have a public life in which we are exposed, in a sense, to the public, but we all have our private lives which we also have a right to go to and enjoy the Christmas season with.

It is in that spirit that I want to wish every single member of the House of Assembly a Happy Christmas, an enjoyable holiday and a rest from the travails of public life for a little while so that we can come back in the new year, back to our work and perform our public duties once again.

Merry Christmas to all members of the House and to all the staff who have made our work possible.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair would like to, as well, join with the members who have spoken here in wishing the staff of the House of Assembly, the people in Hansard, our library, the commissionaires and all the others who worked for the House of Assembly during this sitting and all members, of course, of the House and their families, a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and Happy New Year.

May it please Your Honour, the General Assembly of the Province has, at its present session, passed certain bills to which, in the name and on behalf of the General Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour's assent.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Mineral Act." (Bill No. 38).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Credit Union Act." (Bill No. 7).

A bill, "An Act Respecting Co-operatives." (Bill No. 10).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act." (Bill No. 29).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Internal Economy Commission Act." (Bill No. 36)

A bill, "An Act Respecting Child, Youth and Family Services." (Bill No. 37)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Economic Diversification And Growth Enterprises Act." (Bill No. 18)

A bill, "An Act To Incorporate The Business Investment Corporation." (Bill No. 43)

A bill, "An Act To Amend the Workers' Compensation Act." (Bill No. 42)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Works, Services and Transportation Act." (Bill No. 27)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act." (Bill No. 9)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Judgement Enforcement Act." (Bill No. 34)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Financial Administration Act". (Bill No. 16)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Aquaculture Act". (Bill No. 8)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Assessment Act." (Bill No. 23)

A bill, "An Act To Act Respecting Security Interests in Personal Property." (Bill No. 39)

A bill, "An Act To Revise The Law With Respect To Quarry Materials." (Bill No. 55)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act." (Bill No. 45)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Tax Act (No.2)." (Bill No. 49)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991." (Bill No. 54)

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Management of Waste Material." (Bill No. 53)

A bill, "An Act Respecting Home Support Services Provided To Persons In Self-Managed Care." (Bill No. 56)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Utilities Act." (Bill No. 57)

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Imposition Of A Charge Related To The Provision of Certain Government Services." (Bill No. 52)

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

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act." (Bill No. 50)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The St. John's Assessment Act." (Bill No. 51)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Private Training Institutions Act." (Bill No. 48)

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

Mr. Speaker, members, I congratulate you on the work of this fall session. It is time now for you to think about other things than high adrenalin levels, the cut and thrust, and all the very busy things you have been involved with in the last few weeks, and think about the family, the children, the grandchildren and the Christmas season coming up.

It is my pleasure, Mr. Speaker, to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. FUREY: This House adjourns today and stands adjourned until the call of the Chair. The Speaker, or in his absence from the Province the Deputy Speaker, may give notice and thereupon the House shall meet at a time and date stated by notice of the proposed sitting; and I also move that this House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: This House now stands adjourned until the call of the Chair.