May 10, 1999                  HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLIV  No. 20


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.

At a time when we are facing nursing shortages across this country and while we are working to increase the number of nurses in this Province, I stand today to provide statistics released today by a number of organizations together, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Canadian Nurses Association and Statistics Canada.

Between 1993 and 1998, Newfoundland and Labrador experienced the greatest increase in the number of registered nurses employed in nursing, while Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba showed a decline.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, all provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador saw a decrease in the number of registered nurses employed in nursing per 100,000 population between the years 1993 and 1998. This was particularly true for Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

The increase in registered nurses employed in nursing in Newfoundland and Labrador over these five years lead the country, while six provinces saw a decline in that number and throughout Canada there was a decrease of 3.4 per cent. The number of nurses employed in nursing by 100,000 population from 1993 to 1998 showed an increase in this Province from 891.4 to 986.3.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: In all other provinces, Mr. Speaker, there were decreases, and throughout Canada there was an average decrease from 816.3 to 748.4. We have now improved our ranking to number two in the country.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, these statistics have been gathered by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Canadian Nurses Association and Statistics Canada. While we will continue to recruit and retain nurses to the best of our ability, it is encouraging to see that these statistics show we are leading our provinces in employing registered nurses.

In the last number of weeks we have announced the addition of 125 new nursing positions and the conversion of 200 casual nurses to permanent status. More recently we have informed all of the boards in our Province that they can convert more casual nursing positions to permanent status where appropriate and we will adjust their budgets accordingly. The boards have identified another 340 potential conversions. This means that the vast majority of casual nurses who want a permanent position will have that opportunity.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: However, Mr. Speaker, there are casual nurses who prefer to remain casual because of the flexibility in their personal life and some who prefer the recently increased pay from 14 per cent to 20 per cent on top of their salary. Boards also need a pool of casual nurses to have the flexibility to provide a continuity of service. We remain hopeful that boards will be able to negotiate a speedy process with the NLNU locals to allow the permanent positions to be filled as quickly as possible.

Last week we allocated $4 million to the boards to provide additional support services which will lessen the current workload of nurses and allow them to concentrate more on nursing duties. These services include the hiring of more porters, medical service aids, cleaning staff and licensed practical nurses, and should alleviate some of the workload that nurses have identified as work they should not have to do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: We are aware of the changing demographic in the nursing profession and we are working to address short-term and long-term needs. The department has been actively engaged in a number of human resource planning activities in the past year. Provincial meetings were held last week with several boards to assess the impact of the Nurse Practitioners on servicing rural areas of the Province. Feedback from the public and colleagues has been very positive. Thirteen further Nurse Practitioners will be completing their program in the fall and returning primarily to rural areas.

Discussions are actively being held with the Schools of Nursing in the Province to increase enrolment, and a proposal has already been submitted by the Schools and is currently being examined by the department.

Discussions have also occurred with the Centre for Health information as well as Atlantic counterparts related to the information and the database development needs to support human resource planning.

The department recognizes that both short-term and long-term planning are needed. Recent short-term activities will link with long-term directions which will be overseen by a Provincial Human Resource Planning Committee. Extensive dialogue with several employers, professional groups and education representatives have occurred in the proceeding months. We will continue to work to recruit and retain nurses in this Province within our fiscal capacity and by addressing workload and lifestyle issues.

I table as well today a news release and a copy of the statistical information released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information as supplementary information for all members.

Mr. Speaker, health care across the country continues to face challenges. This government recognizes health care as a priority, and is committed to addressing these challenges within our fiscal capacity.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say we have the cheerleader back here, the Premier, the cheerleader is back today. You can hear the thumping today. This government is so desperate for good news. Do you know what is increasing in the per capita of nurses? Out-migration of 40,000 people out of our Province! That has improved the percentage, I say to the minister.

Under this government, when you have taken 40,000 out of this Province, at the rate we are going we will be number one in per capita before the year is out, I would say. We will be number one.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: The minister fails to realize that we have an increasing older population. It is the young people who are moving out of this Province. It is the older people who need more nursing care and more help. I would say that distorts the ratio of per capita nurses in this Province. The minister is looking at 1993 and 1998. What about 1999, where Ontario is hiring 10,000 nurses? Other provinces in this country today, and since 1998 I say to the minister, are realizing the need for nurses.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, and there is a lot being hired. Newfoundland nurses are being hired all across this country and in the United States. That is where they are getting hired. The minister will realize that. She might try and paint a rosy picture on the past. It is 1999 and the future we have to worry about, Minister, not statistics that are twisted to suit a situation that do not reflect the accuracies of the situation in this Province today.

I hear today that beds are closing in this Province almost every week because there are no nurses. There is not enough to care for the very acute care level of people in our institutions. People at home cannot get into a hospital because there are no beds available and because there are no nurses available for those beds. That is part of the problem.

Minister, you own department set up a centre for health information to collect data to more efficiently manage and deliver services here. A consultant was hired, and a request into your department of proposals is waiting to get an answer, I say to the minister, to get information on our Province, to deliver health care better. I say to the minister, you have not responded to that yet.

The very agency set up here in this Province to look at the efficiency of health care has not even gotten the attention from its own minister to be able to provide it. She has to quote the CIHI, I think it is, the Canadian Institute of Health Information. She has not had the system here in our Province.

I tell you, Minister, you have distorted, you have skewed these figures to suit a purpose, when the real needs here in this Province are not being met.

I would like to comment on her 200 positions. One hundred and eighteen of those positions were hired back in January. We have only had the difference. There are disputes in the system as to what the number is.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: We do not have the full numbers, the minister said. They were announced last fall. There were already put in place, I say to the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister is using very selective figures which distort the facts. It is pretty obvious that if you are counting the number of nurses per hundred thousand, the actual number per hundred thousand is going to go up if your population is going down.

Three other provinces, by the minister's own figures - Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia - increased the number of actual nurses that they had, but their number of nurses per capita went down. That is the use of the statistics this minister is putting before this House.

The government had an opportunity to solve the problems of the nursing profession during the nurses' strike. What did they do? They made it worse by pushing the nurses back on the job without solving the problems, taking away their last offer that they put on the table, and destroying the morale of the nurses in this Province and their willingness to cooperate with this government to solve the health care problem. This minister is just trying to put a good face on a very poor performance.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

On Friday, May 7, federal, provincial and territorial governments released a key discussion document that is the first step towards developing a comprehensive, long-term strategy to improve the well- being of Canadian children.

A document entitled A National Children's Agenda Developing A Shared Vision was released along with a supplementary paper, Measuring Child Well-being and Monitoring Progress. The National Children's Agenda reflects the commitments by governments in the Social Union Framework Agreement to ensure that Canadians participate in developing social priorities and that governments share information on successful practices and programs in their jurisdictions. These documents set out for the consideration of all Canadians a common vision, values, goals and areas for action to engage all parts of society in an efforts to better meet our children's needs.

The Vision document identifies four goals to ensure that children are: healthy physically and emotionally; safe and secure; successful at learning; and socially engaged and responsible.

The purpose of the National Children's Agenda will be to ensure that all Canadian children have the best possible opportunity to realize their full potential. The Agenda will support the critical and primary role that parents, families and communities play in the lives of our children.

We have many successes in our own Province. Our recent Child, Youth and Family Services Act and Child Care Act, as well as our National Child Benefit Reinvestment Plan, including funding for Family Resource Centres and Community Youth Networks, all put us as leaders in our approach and perspectives on prevention and early intervention.

Other provincial jurisdictions such as the Model for Coordination of Services to Children and Youth and the Provincial Strategy on Violence again demonstrate our commitment to working across departments to provide a coordinated approach to programs and services.

Our real success is in the creation of our new Department of Health and Community Services as recommended by our front-line staff and managers. This new department allows an integrated approach to service delivery. Our Strategic Social Plan released just months ago is a model for other provinces as they endeavour to prepare and release their plans. Our Strategic Social Plan is, in fact, the only one in this country with a social audit component.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier's Council on Social Development was briefed on this Agenda last week.

While our Province has consulted widely and admittedly is further ahead in the process through our Strategic Social Plan than other provinces, citizens of our Province will still be able to provide their views and input through a 1-800 number, a Web site and workbook.

We want to make sure that our investments are in the right areas, so we must examine our existing resources in the context of emerging research on children. We must also share our best practices and align resources to make sure that we have a coordinated approach to children's issues.

The National Children's Agenda represents a new way of governments working together and for the first time, I might add, governments of all political stripes coming together to build agreements not just across jurisdictions but across sectors.

I want to commend, in my Province, my colleagues from the Departments of Human Resources and Employment, Justice, and Education, for their contribution. Ultimately, this approach will mean better ways of improving the well-being of children. The discussion papers also benefitted from input by the five aboriginal organizations, and includes a perspective on children's issues written in their own voice.

Because of our interest in bringing this issue forward to ministers, three years ago we actually put it on the agenda of those ministers' tables. In light of our progress on this initiative we will be hosting, in St. John's, one of the five regional stakeholder round tables in mid-June. Further details will be announced on the Atlantic round table in the near future.

I am confident that Friday's announcement was a start of a process which will lead to a common set of goals and priorities which will improve our children's futures.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Here all along I thought that this special Committee on Children's Interest, Mr. Speaker, was the start of a process which would lead to a common set of goals and priorities to improve our children's futures.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS S. OSBORNE: I am talking about the recommendations from this report. We talk about a 1-800 number in this. That report also talked about a 1-800 number. This 1-800 number or web-site will be for people to provide their views. This all party committee provided its views and suggested a 1-800 `warm line' for parents who are out there, who were having trouble with abuse with their children and wanted a count to ten, if you wish, and asked for a 1-800 line at the cost of probably $95,000 a year. That was not established. Incidentally, it costs more than that to keep a youth at the Whitbourne facility.

While I am speaking of the Whitbourne facility, I understand there was a report done on that and the recommendations in that were not acted upon.

We talk about keeping children healthy physically and emotionally. Twenty-seven thousand children in this Province live in poverty. The people who phone me do not have enough money to buy nutritional food for their children. We talk about successful learning. We sure are. While there are cutbacks in optimum programming and while the Minister of Education is living up to the promise to see that the children will be educated and able to get on to university, it is a bare-bones approach.

The statement says, "Socially engaged and responsible." I have a mom and her seventeen-year-old boy who have $29 left a week. He cannot become socially engaged. She does not have money to give him for him to take part in programs in school. She is doing her best to keep him there. As far as I am concerned, until we begin to act in this Province - by the way, the hon. Pierre Pettigrew has made no promises to put any money into this. This is just another study, more rhetoric. We are going to have a round table discussion. While our people sit around the tables, many of our children are sitting at bare tables.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is nice to have a bit of vision, but I recall back in 1989 when the hon. Ed Broadbent presented a resolution to the House of Commons - the Premier was there, and since the resolution was unanimous I am sure he voted for it - an all party agreement that the people of Canada would eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. There are not many months to go. In fact, what has happened since then is that child poverty has increased by at least 50 per cent.

Yet we are still talking about how are we going to deal with this issue. There are solutions. It requires a challenge to the Government of Canada by this government. It requires a concerted effort to eliminate child poverty. We are alone amongst modern nations in that we have no national nutritional program in our schools. We are yet to adopt a universal comprehensive school lunch program which would ensure that schoolchildren have a full stomach and are able to learn.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: We need to address the problems concretely now, not just talk about them.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I am surprised with the mood and the response in the House today to the very good statements by the Minister of Health who has passed on the report of the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Canadian Nurses Association and Stats Canada, for example, on nursing, and the more recent statement. I am surprised that members of the Opposition opposite after their convention are not rushing out, wrapping themselves in tin foil, and praying for lightning.

I am sure if we stood and told members opposite the sun was shining outside they would all find a cloud no matter how far they had to go to search for one.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, let me bring to the attention of the House something which I believe even members opposite would take some joy in.

I rise to inform my hon. colleagues about a significant achievement in land claims negotiations with the Labrador Inuit announced this morning.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: No, Mr. Speaker, I am not sunstruck. When I was down in Florida with the Leader of the Opposition, the same week I was there, and the Leader of the NDP, they did not look sunstruck either.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Although, Mr. Speaker, they were in a fancier part of the beach than I was.

Just hours ago, chief negotiators representing the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Canada and the Labrador Inuit Association initialled the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement in Principle, an agreement that represents what I believe is the best, most comprehensive land claims settlement in Canada today.

The initialled agreement will now be presented to the Labrador Inuit Association for ratification. That ratification process will unfold this summer, with a ratification vote by mid-July. Following ratification, land selection will be finalized and then the AIP will be presented to the provincial and federal governments for ratification. When it is ratified by three parties, negotiations on the Final Agreement will begin. That final set of negotiations can be concluded within a year or a year-and-a-half.

I want to acknowledge this afternoon, on behalf of government and I hope all members of the House, and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, the excellent work carried out by the chief negotiators and their teams on behalf of all three parties. I want to particular to pay tribute to Toby Anderson on behalf of the LIA and his team, Jim McKenzie and his team on behalf of the federal government, and Mr. Bob Warren and his team on behalf of the provincial government. They have been at this now for three years and we have now come to another important milestone in this negotiation. I want to pay tribute as well to the Member for Torngat Mountains.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, these negotiations have been difficult. They have sometimes been hot; indeed, they have given rise to conflict on occasion. While the going has occasionally been very rough, what characterized these negotiations is that the players around the table on behalf of all three parties never gave up. They always stayed at the table.

I can tell all members of this House that the insight and the commitment and the knowledge and the experience of the Member for Torngat Mountains very often was the difference between a conflict that could have led to a breakdown and the ability to carry on by reaching consensus that was fair to all parties. I want to acknowledge the work of Wally Anderson in achieving this milestone today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Agreement in Principle is a significant step forward to our ultimate goal, a Final Agreement. I believe that we are embarking on a new era of prosperity and cooperation between the Province, the federal government and the Inuit people of Labrador.

This day has been a long day coming. The process began in 1977, when the LIA filed a statement of claim with the Government of Canada. The Government of Canada accepted that claim in 1978 - that is twenty-one years ago - and in 1980 the government of the day in this Province accepted an invitation from the Government of Canada to begin a land claim negotiation process.

Here we are, 22 years later, after difficult negotiations, with an initialled agreement in front of us. It has been challenging, it has been complex, but I believe the end result was fair for all parties.

I want to take the opportunity of this occasion, while we are reflecting upon the AIP signed this morning to say that this government, and I believe the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, are committed as well to reaching and achieving a land claim agreement with the Innu people of Labrador as well, and a self-government agreement with the Innu people of Labrador.

While I am on my feet I want to acknowledge and thank the Innu people of Labrador for their cooperation in allowing us to proceed with the construction of the Trans-Labrador Highway between Red Bay and Cartwright this year. The Innu Nation, through an agreement that we had reached on consultation on the next phase of that road between Cartwright and Goose Bay, has agreed to not challenge this road in the courts; and, indeed, the President of the Innu Nation, David Nuke, is now playing a very helpful role in facilitating a dialogue between the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Innu in Quebec to allow this project to proceed.

Mr. Speaker, I want to conclude my remarks by saying that the agreement signed today provides a land base for the Inuit people - 6,100 square miles of Inuit land along Labrador's North Coast. It provides another 28,000 square miles of provincial land, called Labrador Inuit Settlement Area, which is available for first use for traditional purposed by Inuit people. It provides a land base. It provides the ability to draw royalties from mineral developments on their own lands as a requirement for an impact benefit agreement for (inaudible) major development. It provides for the provision of additional commercial fishing licenses off the Coast of Labrador. It provides for first use and first ability to take advantage of outfitting off the Coast and in Labrador Inuit lands. It provides for self-government, to allow the Inuit people to take control of their own destiny, to shape their own future, to take charge of health, education, and the administration of justice. It provides for Inuit governments, both a general government for all the people and community-based Inuit governments.

It is a generous progressive land claims agreement and self-government agreement which I believe is a model for Canada and breaks new ground in Canada. It flows out of the will and the desire of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to recognize the rights of Aboriginal people and, more importantly, the capacity of Aboriginal people to govern themselves if they are given the tools to do so.

Again, I close where I began, by acknowledging the contribution of the Member for Torngat Mountains in achieving today's milestone in the LIA Land Claims Agreement.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On behalf of my colleagues on this side of the House, let me say that we welcome this announcement today made by the Premier on behalf of the government.

This announcement in its initial form, I guess, was made several months ago - a year or year-and-a-half ago - but another step along the way, a very important step along the way, of reaching final agreement is the initialling of this Agreement in Principle which took place today. In that context, we welcome that announcement.

We want to associate ourselves with complimenting those who are parties to the negotiations. It is people of goodwill and people of good faith that sometimes have to make - or have to be willing to make - the very serious compromises that have to be made to allow these agreements to come together. I am sure there were compromises that had to be made by all parties to those negotiations, but good faith and goodwill allows that to take place.

This is very important for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; it is important for our Aboriginal people. It is important that a land base, an economic base, and a self-government base, be put together so that the Aboriginal people of this Province, as Canadians, as part of Canada, as part of a great and compassionate and tolerant country, can provide for our Aboriginal people the right to self-government, the right to economic advantage from the lands that they have occupied long before we came to those shores.

Mr. Speaker, we wish the negotiators continued good luck. We, like the government, hope that this long, arduous process can be completed soon so that it can be to the benefit of all of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, but most particularly to the benefit of our Aboriginal people.

In concluding, let me wish the government well, as well, in their dealings with the Innu people. We also have to have the basis of an agreement. I know it will be difficult, I know it will be tough, but the steps have to be taken. I am delighted to hear that some steps are being taken. I know it will be a long, hard road, but we wish the government well - and, again, all the parties to the negotiations - and hope that it will come sooner rather than later.

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, too, would like to welcome the move today to initial an Agreement in Principle that is to be recommended to the Inuit people of this Province, and I want to say that it is a very, very difficult thing. I know it must be a tremendous responsibility on the part of the negotiators for the Inuit people, to come to the table and to make an agreement that will have the effect of perhaps finally determining the rights of the Inuit people of Labrador. I suppose it is easy for the government to say, no, no, no, and a lot harder, I guess, for the Inuit people to say, yes, we are prepared to compromise on this point, knowing that there may never be another opportunity. So, I want to congratulate all those involved in the negotiations but particularly the negotiations on behalf of the Inuit.

Mr. Speaker, I do note, however, that this is only one step in the process. There must be ratification by the Inuit people, there must also be ratification by both the Government of Newfoundland and the Government of Canada, but there is a lot of hope today that this will lead to the establishment of Nunatsiavut, our beautiful land in Inuktitut, just as in the Eastern Arctic, Nunavut was established only in recent days. I do note that this is the last Inuit group in Canada to reach this stage and it is important that we recognize this as a very significant step.

Mr. Speaker, I may be out of time, so I will ask for leave to say this. We have seen in the other end of the country, with the development of perhaps the first modern treaty, with the Nisga'a people, a very contentious and divisive debate taking place in that province; partly as a result, I should say, of political opportunism. I hope, Mr. Speaker, with the support of all the parties in this House today, and with the genuine desire, I believe, of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to recognize the legitimate rights of the Aboriginal people, and the desire on all our parts to fairly settle those rights and move forward together, we will not have that kind of divisiveness in this Province, that we will be able to complete this agreement, and also with the Innu and other Aboriginal groups who are looking for their rights to be recognized.

I do hope that today's goodwill will continue on throughout the debate, to the conclusion of this agreement and others with the Innu and the Micmac people.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, indeed.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. ANDERSEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to say that the people on the North Coast are pretty excited. It is a gigantic step. I travelled to my riding this weekend and talked to a lot of people, and there are a lot of questions that they have. I guess when you look at a land claims agreement that is going to lay with the future of these people, there are a lot of concerns. This is a deal, not like one with a union or workers where you go back in three or four years and renegotiate, but a deal that is going to be signed and is going to shape the lives of the people for centuries to come.

The people on the North Coast look forward to it. I have said in this House on several occasions, that we always believed if we were given the opportunity we could prove to the rest of the people in this Province and in Canada that we can take control and we can do good.

All too often, I think, we have seen the negative side that comes out from these communities, but there is a lot of good and there are a lot of good people. There is a lot of hope and we look forward to this deal being ratified, and to the day when there will be self-government and we will take our place alongside of every proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian in this Province and make a contribution as a whole.

Thank you.

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are directed to the Premier, and they are exploratory in nature, I say to the Premier.

When the Lower Churchill development was announced some eighteen months ago, we were given to believe, in this Province, that an agreement would be concluded within twelve months.

My question for the Premier is simply: Could he provide the people of the Province with an update on the status of negotiations with respect to the development of the Churchill?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, yes I can. First of all I should say that the framework agreement that was announced was announced last March 9, which would be fourteen months ago versus eighteen months ago.

The discussions to this point and time are going very well. Good progress is being made. The hon. Member for St. John's East will appreciate that one of the important building blocks that government wanted to see put in place, and in fact what we announced last March 9, was a determination to recall a block of power: as you recall, 127 megawatts from Hydro Quebec. This is a remaining block which has been there since the days of the first contract which was never available to Newfoundland and Labrador. That has been successfully recalled, and this year provided something under $30 million, roughly, to the public accounts of this Province.

A second criterion that we established was to put in place a new guaranteed winter availability contract, and with that a shareholders' agreement, to deal with the problem of insufficient financing for CF(L)Co, something we had talked about, and previous governments have talked about, going back for some time now. I can tell the hon. member that we are very close to closing the loop and achieving a new guaranteed winter availability contract. Such a contract would provide, during the remaining life of the Upper Churchill contract, in excess of $1 billion of new revenues to CF(L)Co which, of course, is owned 65 per cent by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Not only will that new revenue make up the anticipated shortfall during the life of the contract, it will provide additional revenues directly to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the third piece is to complete an agreement in principle, a Memorandum of Understanding, with Hydro Quebec. The negotiations on that piece were delayed because of an election in Quebec at the tail end of 1998, and of course a subsequent election in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in the first part of 1999. Those negotiations have resumed. They have been moving at a very good pace. I would anticipate, as I said a month or two ago, that this summer we will reach an agreement on an MOU between Hydro Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro on the development of the Lower Churchill.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There were some reports recently, Premier, with respect to the diversion of one or both of the Quebec rivers being in question. Given that the project as proposed originally saw all components being interlinked and related with one another, my question would be: What would the unavailability of either or both of these diversions do to the economics of this project?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, that is a question we are analyzing right now, and one of the reasons why a MOU has not been closed. Both parties to an development of this size - you are talking somewhere in the range of $10 billion to $12 billion - have an obligation to find out what structure or what shape would be most efficient, most profitable, in this kind of development.

I know the member opposite will recall that last March 9 when we set out a proposal for development of the Lower Churchill, the proposal included - it is important we remember this - a 1,000 megawatts of new power at the Upper Churchill - that was to be achieved by partially diverting two rivers and building a new power house with two more turbines - and 2,264 megawatts of power at the Lower Churchill at Gull Island, for a total development of 3,274 megawatts.

We said at that time that Muskrat Falls, which is an 800 megawatt development, was not part of our plan because it was thought that the cost of developing Muskrat Falls would be too high. In the intervening period of time we have done two things.

One, we have gone back to look at Muskrat Falls. We have given contracts to go back and see what the actual cost of developing Muskrat Falls would be. It has been the position of every government, of every political stripe by the way, that if it is possible to do Muskrat Fall as part of a Lower Churchill development, it ought to be done now. Because if you do it later as a stand alone project, because it is higher cost, it may never by done. So, we are right now awaiting the final analysis on the cost of doing Muskrat Falls. I can say without saying too much, I hope, that the early analysis - it isn't final - is more encouraging than the numbers we had available to us last March.

Two, we have looked at the diversion. We want 1,000 megawatts of new power at the Upper Churchill. There are two ways of getting it. One is to divert water, and yes, I believe there has to be water diversion, but 88 per cent of the water converted comes from one of the rivers and 12 per cent from the second. The question which has been raised publicly is: Do we divert both rivers at the cost associated with that diversion, plus put in power control facilities at a cost of hundreds of millions, for 12 per cent of water? That, by the way, is St. Jean versus Romaine. The question becomes: If it is more efficient to divert one rather than two rivers - that is what the engineers tell us, it is an engineering issue - is that a better approach? Secondly, given that the turbines at the Upper Churchill are currently running at about 78 per cent capacity -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. Premier to conclude his answer.

PREMIER TOBIN: I will conclude, Mr. Speaker.

That in spilling more water over those turbines you can generate 1,000 megawatts of power cheaper than building two new turbines, is that a better option?

Those are the two questions now being assessed and that will be before both parties, I would think, in the days and weeks ahead.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My next question, in a sense, has been referred to in the ministerial statement, but it is important and it is with respect to ongoing negotiations and discussions with the Innu Nation. My question is similar to the first, I guess. I would like an update, Premier, with respect to ongoing discussions with the Innu vis--vis the development of the Lower Churchill, and other developments in Labrador with both federal and provincial governments.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: I think the House will recall that for a period of time earlier this year the state of play in the dialogue between the Innu Nation and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador was a suspended state of play. The Innu Nation itself announced unilaterally it was leaving the negotiating table having to do with Lower Churchill development, and the Province, Mr. Speaker, after a period of time, involving a number of issues, including the southern Labrador highway, suspended talks at the land claim table and at the self government table as well.

There was a period of seven or eight weeks of no dialogue. Lines of communication were established after a period of time between myself and the president of the Innu nation, David Nuke. We had a discussion in the first instance about the Red Bay-Cartwright road. I sought assurances that the Innu Nation would not interfere, or seek to interfere, with the construction activity this summer. The Innu Nation, on the other hand, were seeking assurances that they would have a role in selecting a route for the Cartwright to Goose Bay portion of the road, whenever it is to be built, and have a role to play in the environmental assessment process. They have one other question: they are concerned that Mealy Mountain National Park be addressed in a timely fashion.

On addressing all of those issues we were able to clear the Cartwright to Red Bay road for construction this year with no opposition from the Innu Nation. Two, we were able to establish the table on Lower Churchill once again. Three, we were able to establish the table on land claim negotiations once again.

There have already been a series of three meetings - one in St. John's, one in Goose Bay and one in Montreal - involving all three parties. For the moment the dialogue is strong, it is constructive, and it is positive. Progress is being made and we do expect the Innu Nation this summer, as they did last summer, to participate in our summer work program environmental assessment in engineering work on the Lower Churchill river.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne.

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, my questions today are for the Minister of Education.

I have asked the minister repeatedly: Is she convinced that the teacher cuts will have a serious impact on program delivery in September 1999? Other interested groups - the school boards, the School Boards Association, the school board council federation, the NLTA, school councils, parents, students - have warned her, previously I might add, that these cuts will cause damage to the programs in September 1999.

Minister, you have refused to listen. Are you not convinced that the quality of programming in our schools in September 1999 will be less than current quality if the cuts are not eliminated?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: (Inaudible) put up or shut up.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, first let me address that remark from the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: It is not my remark. (Inaudible).

MS FOOTE: Well, the remark that you just made. At no time, Mr. Speaker, have I ever said to put up or shut up. Unfortunately, the Telegram chose to run that headline.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, let me say as well that the reporter who wrote the story wrote a fair story. It is too bad whoever is writing the headlines of the Telegram did not do the same.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: To the question, Mr. Speaker. Let me again say, as I have done repeatedly, that the quality of education in this Province will not suffer as a result of decisions taken by this government. In fact, if you want to look at what is happening in this Province with the decline in student enrolments, we will see 70,000 fewer students since the early 1970s to what we are seeing today. We have seen the number of students decline by 40 per cent since the early 1970s and the number of teachers in that twenty-five year period has declined by 6 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, with numbers like that and because of the curriculum we are offering we are convinced that education will not suffer in this Province based on the decisions taken by this government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne.

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, again the minister still maintains that she has allotted enough teachers. If that is true, who is to take the blame for the downgrading of programming coming up? Is the minister blaming the school boards? Is the minister blaming the administrators? Is the minister blaming teachers? Who, Minister, is at fault if there are enough teachers and the programming is not going to be there in September 1999? Who is to blame?

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, we are not into placing blame. That is not what we are interested in in this government. That may be what the Opposition likes to do, but we do not play those types of games. What we are doing is working with the school boards who know exactly how they have allocated the teaching resources that we have given them, who can tell us the impact it is having. We are working very closely with the school boards, meeting with each of the education directors for those boards. We do not need the Opposition telling us about this example and that example. We are meeting with the people who make the decisions, not the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: What we have, Mr. Speaker, is a lot of misinformation out there, and I can tell you that the Opposition is certainly helping to add to that misinformation.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne.

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister stood in her place, she looked across at me, and she said: Give me examples. Minister, I have given you the examples. Why are you not doing anything with them?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, that is the same member who will stand up and tell us and tell others that the education the high school students are getting today and next year will be impacted negatively by decisions we have taken. Every student in high school in this Province will be eligible to enter a post-secondary institution upon graduation with a quality education.

Let me give the hon. member an example. For instance, at Bishop O'Neill in Brigus, which I am sure is very familiar with, there were sixty-nine unique credit courses representing 106 credits available to students out there over the three-year high school program. One hundred and six credits, and they require thirty-six credits in order to enter a post-secondary institution, in order to graduate with a good program. If that is not variety, if that is not ensuring our students have a quality program, a varied program, I do not know what is.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, again I ask the minister, and again from the statements that I have heard, and from what I've seen, there is more to the education system than graduating in level III. I say to you, Minister, that from what I have seen you consider the fine arts, which is music, drama and art, as add-ons, as frills, that can be taught by any teacher.

Now, is the recent elimination of the fine arts curriculum specialist in your department, as reported on CBC, a result of this belief? Will schools with such programs get any support in the future from your department to maintain fine arts programs?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS FOOTE: By the way, the per student teacher ratio in Bishop O'Neill last year was fourteen students per teacher.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS FOOTE: Let me respond to the hon. member's question with respect to the art specialist.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, let me assure the member opposite that we will continue to focus on the fine arts, including art. What has happened with that particular individual is that he is now in a managerial position within the department, replacing an employee who has since retired. He will continue to focus, among his other responsibilities, on art and other avenues.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne.

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, again one final question for the minister. The question is this, Minister, because I have been responsible for the program at Bishop O'Neill Collegiate for the last number of years and I am asking the minister: What about September of 1999? What are you going to tell the students in 1999, with two units gone, with two teachers gone, and a drop in the number of courses? What are you going to say to them in September of 1999?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS FOOTE: I suggest the hon. member listen very closely. We are going to ensure a quality education for those students at Bishop O'Neill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are to the Minister of Health and Community Services. Minister, the shortage of nurses in the Province is now starting to result in bed closures. There were fifteen beds closed at the Health Sciences Centre just a little over a week ago. This shortage is going to end up in another six beds closing in medicine this week.

The ICU and the Intensive Coronary Care Unit at the Grace has now been reduced from eleven beds down to just five or six, according to the CEO, Sister Elizabeth Davis, this morning. The Twillingate hospital -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: They turned away three when you were away, Premier, that is right.

The Twillingate hospital had to close six of its beds, reducing the number - one-third of the beds - by one-third of what it had. One nurse was caring for eighteen patients; one nurse to eighteen beds. One casual nurse worked seventy-one hours in a week.

Minister, I ask you: What are you doing to stem the flow of nurses from this Province?

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

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

I am only happy to answer the question because I think it is very important, based on the Ministerial Statement today, just exactly what we have been doing. I think it is appropriate to say that I do take great offense and I will be forwarding a letter to the Canadian Nurses' Association with Hansard whereby a member of the Opposition, former Leader of the Opposition, pointed out and accused our government of cooking up numbers to meet our own needs when these are national statistics. I think it is disgraceful, quite frankly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

I am only happy to answer the question, because over the last number of weeks we have taken a number of initiatives including, most recently, putting in $4 million to hire support staff, $7.5 million to hire extra nurses, not to mention the new conversions.

I also have to say that I think it is important to put the comments that you have heard in the media in context. The reason for the changes in Twillingate -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

I am referring to the comments that the member raised when he talked about issues with respect to changes in the status of various units.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to get to her answer.

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

I think it is important to note that in various situations, particularly with respect to Twillingate, those changes were made because of unforeseen leave that was identified by the nurses. I think it is important that those issues be addressed in providing patient quality, patient care. Those issues were identified by the CEO.

With respect to the issues here in St. John's, we have been actively trying to fill those positions. I would say again that I really do hope that the nurses' union local will find it within their ability to speed up the process so that we can put those positions in place as quickly as possible, because some of them up to two years to fill. That is certainly too long to do that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are six provinces in this country that showed an increase in nurses, according to this information.

Minister, I spoke with a lady this morning, a person who is caring for her eighty-year-old mother who has Alzheimer's. This lady cannot walk, she has very serious bed sores, and she needs admission to a hospital, Minister. A nurse has to visit her twice a day. The nurse said she needs to be admitted, her family doctor said to take her to a hospital in an ambulance and a specialist will look at her, but she cannot be admitted because there are another six beds closing this week in the hospital. Minister, there is a crisis I would say. What are you going to do to solve it and help people like this eighty-year-old lady who needs medical attention and cannot get it?

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

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

We have readily admitted, here on this side of the House, that we have a number of challenges in our publicly -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

We have a number of challenges in our publicly-funded health care system, but I am not going to jump on the fearmongering bandwagon and say that our publicly-funded system is in crisis. I will not do it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: I will not play a part in trying to convince the public that our system is in crisis when our friends south of the border have to decide if they are going to mortgage their homes to help pay for the cost of their surgery.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Nobody has denied that we are one of many provinces in this country that are having challenges and difficulties in recruiting and retaining nurses, but we did not lay off 12,000 nurses in this Province. We are not recruiting 12,000 nurses. The PC government in Ontario did it, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude her answer.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Furthermore, we are not looking for thousands of nurses like the PC government in Alberta did when they laid off thousands of nurses.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude her answer.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Neither did we have anything to do with what I heard the member saying: Cooking up numbers to meet our own needs.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to take her seat.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: These are national statistics and we are leading the country, representative of nurses to the population. You may not like to hear it - the members opposite - but that, in fact, is true.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I could say this government is not hiring over 10,000 nurses either, I say to the minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: In a news conference on April 26, the Premier of this Province said his Health Minister would be releasing, within days, a plan to deal with the recruitment and retention of nurses in this Province. I ask the minister: Where is the plan the Premier promised?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

When I stood in the House on April 28, we offered an invitation for all the parties to come and work to try to help resolve the issue. We have been working ever since on a day-by-day basis with the health care boards to identify ways to address this issue.

Yes, the 118 nursing positions that were identified to be converted were done so since January, but there are another 153 other conversions that are now in the process of being converted.

That information was shared with the branch of the Health Sciences Centre and the Health Care Corporation last Wednesday. Do not make the assumption, because we have not made it publicly, that we have not been working on this issue, because we have. We take this issue very seriously.

In addition, the other part of the plan, if the member listened earlier when I did my Ministerial Statement, we have identified another $4 million to help address issues around workload for nurses, around support staff, around hiring - administrative positions, around hiring LPNs and porters and medical service aides. That is our strategy, to try and resolve the issue, not to continue to fearmonger, not to continue to try to jeopardize our publicly-funded health care system.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: No, Mr. Speaker, we are trying to solve the problems that we have to face and we are working very closely with the boards to do it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last Monday in this House, the minister said that there was a contingency plan to send sick babies to the IWK hospital in Halifax. It is a contingency plan they had in place a number of times throughout the last number of years, if a need arises for a bed and a bed is not available. That is the minister's quote.

I spoke with a person who is a head nurses in the system, and a coordinator of a transport team. For the past twenty years they have worked in neonatal care. They said there was never such a protocol for newborn baby transport in place; it was put in place that weekend.

I want to ask the minister: Will she stand in this House now and tell us if that statement she made was correct, and if the people in charge are wrong and she is right?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

I will stand here today and say the statement I made was accurate. You cannot make an assumption that only sick babies are in St. John's. We have sick babies in other parts of the Province. It is not uncommon -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, if I may have the opportunity to answer the question, I would be only too happy to do so.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

I ask hon. members to come to order immediately.

The hon. member has asked a question; I ask the hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services to answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

I would be only too happy to answer the question. You cannot make the assumption that sick babies are only out of St. John's. We have sick babies in many other places in the Province.

It is important to note that there have been contingency plans in place to fly sick babies out of the Province if the need should arise. I had that conversation with the CEO of the Health Care Corporation. I know that information is accurate and I stand by that information, with no disrespect to either the director of that unit or any other staff involved.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has ended.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow move that the House resolve itself into Committee of the Whole to consider certain resolutions relating to the raising of loans by the Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier to withdraw the statement he made. He made reference to size, calling me fat. I will admit that, but it is not appropriate for him to cast aspersions on anyone, whether someone is big, small, or someone has a disability of any nature. I ask him to withdraw that word.

AN HON. MEMBER: Good idea, Loyola.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I withdraw calling the member a big bluff. He is a little bluff.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Tobacco Control Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Notices of Motion. Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given. Petitions. Orders of the Day.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move first reading - if I could do it in order - of Motions 3, 4 and 5.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that hon. the Minister of Finance have leave to introduce bills -

MR. TULK: Those motions just called (inaudible) straightforward.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) Orders of the Day, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: No.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has called Notices of Motion. We called Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given and we called Petitions twice.

MR. TULK: I was on Orders of the Day.

MR. SPEAKER: There was no response, so we called Orders of the Day.

MR. SULLIVAN: I did not hear Petitions. I heard Notices of Motion but I did not hear Petitions.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair called it on two occasions.

MR. SULLIVAN: Does the Government House Leader wish to give leave to present a petition?

MR. TULK: How many do you have?

MR. SULLIVAN: We have two in total.

MR. TULK: Sure, no sweat.

MR. SPEAKER: Petitions.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today I rise to present a petition: To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland, in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned nurses of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador asks for the House of Assembly to accept the following prayer:

WE the nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador have honestly and openly conveyed our concerns about the failing health care system in this Province. In good faith and under the collective bargaining process of this Province we attempted to negotiate these issues with the Liberal government. Premier Brian Tobin and the Liberal government showed their lack of respect for nurses' concerns and made a mockery of this Province's collective bargaining process by legislating nurses back to work without binding arbitration.

If the Liberal government honestly wishes to pursue constructive dialogue with the nurses of this Province in an attempt to solve the existing health care crisis, we wish to inform the House of Assembly that this can only be made possible if: number one, the Liberal government admits they made a mistake in not acknowledging the depth and scope of the crisis facing health care in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; and, the hon. House of Assembly repeals Bill 3 and the Liberal government resumes bargaining in good faith with the nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador by using the collective bargaining process that existed before Bill 3.

That, to me, tells us that the problem has not been addressed. The minister stood and said, we have a plan. Well, if the plan the minister talks about - the Premier said she was going to release a plan within days. That was less than two weeks ago, release a plan. We have not heard a plan. We heard an announcement during the strike, when the minister stood in the House and said: 200 casuals converted to permanent. Well, 118 had already been done. Whether the number is 200 - or 175 is the number I am hearing - what they put in the system are just 125 new permanent nurses, and they are going to be doled out to the different health care corporations and community health boards around the Province. The Health Care Corporation of St. John's, for example, will get fifty, I understand, of these nurses, when they have such a critical shortage. Can you imagine out in Twillingate, one nurse assigned to eighteen beds, and a nurse on casual having to work seventy-one hours in a week? That is equivalent to nine eight-hour shifts in one week. That, to me, is overwork. How can we provide the care we need to the sick people in our Province when we are subject to those conditions?

I am very much afraid - and time will tell - that what this minister and this department have done with doctors, who are now starting to vote with their feet and move out of this Province, is starting to happen with nurses too. They wait until a crisis exists, and when you have a crisis existing you can't solve it by ordinary means. You can't even solve it at times by extraordinary means. We have allowed the nursing situation in this Province to get to the point where I fear we are not going to be able to solve it by ordinary means. We are going to start getting a domino effect now in this Province.

I will use an example. A casual nurse working out in Carbonear also works casual here in the City of St. John's. What happens when the conversions occur here? There was a recent announcement here that the Health Care Corporation is looking at 163 more casuals to permanent within their Corporation. What happens to the nurses around St. John's who are working in other areas and who take these permanent positions? The casuals are gone from those other areas, they cannot staff their areas, and rural Newfoundland will shut down more hospital beds, and we will relegate entire rural Newfoundland to cottage hospital status or have an increased ambulance service. That alone is another issue. They have gutted the operation of ambulance services in this Province to such a point.

We have a very serious crisis on our hands in this Province. What disturbs me more than anything else is the apathy shown by the minister and by this government to deal with it, their lack of admission. She stands in the House today and quotes this. No wonder six provinces increased nurses, no wonder our per capita is improving, I say to the minister. Our population is going down. Other provinces are going up in population. If we never hired a nurse, Minister, our per capita would increase. We have lost almost 40,000 people since you became a member here, a lot of them since you became Minister of Health. No wonder! If we never hired again, we would get the best in the country in no time at all, because the out-migration of people from this Province improves. That does not tell the story.

They say there are statistics, there are lies, and damned lies, I say. This is indicative of what they are doing with statistics, trying to put the best spin on statistics -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave!

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to present a petition. The petition reads:

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland in Legislative Session Convened, the Petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland.

WHEREAS Route 235 from Birchy Cove to Bonavista has not been upgraded since it was paved approximately twenty-five years ago; and

WHEREAS this section of Route 235 is in such a terrible condition that vehicles are being damaged, including the school buses serving schools in the area; and school children are finding their daily trips over the road very difficult;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to upgrade and pave the 5 kilometres of Route 235 from Birchy Cove to Bonavista.

Mr. Speaker, this is another petition being brought forward by the residents in the Birchy Cove-Upper, Middle, Lower Amherst Cove area asking that government look at bringing about some upgrading and paving of this section of Route 235, one of the main highways leading into Bonavista.

This is the time of year when people who have been having some difficulty in trying to get their roads maintained and upgraded, and hopefully paved, are waiting to hear the provincial announcements of which roads are going to be upgraded this year and which roads are going to have to wait for the next year and beyond.

Normally the announcements are made and the government is committed to do this road or that road with their capital budget. So far we have not heard, or at least I have not heard, any announcements of what money is going to be spent where, not only in my district but anywhere. I do not know if government have changed their ways of making those announcements or not, but it is certainly not something I have seen a list of, or heard any announcements of, of how the $16 million of provincial funding is going to be spent in the Province this year. Hopefully the news will be forthcoming soon.

Hopefully this section of roadway that has been brought to the attention of the acting minister on many occasions here in this House, and to the minister as well, before he had to take a leave, was made fully aware of what shape Route 235 from Birchy Cove to Bonavista was in.

The people are asking that this section of roadway be upgraded and paved. In reality if half of it was done, if they could get two or two-and-a-half kilometres of this particular roadway upgraded, recapped, and repaved it would make a vast difference in the five kilometres that those schoolchildren, who are continually writing letters, I understand to the minster, sending petitions to me, making everybody that they can aware of their efforts in order to get this particular piece of roadway upgraded and paved, would appreciate.

Certainly it is the worst section of roadway in that particular area. It is the busiest roadway in that particular area. They are asking government if they would look favourably upon their request. The letters are coming in, I would assume, every day to the minster's office. Faxes are coming in. They are coming in from schoolchildren, seniors, from people who have to travel to Bonavista and to other areas to go work. They are coming in from delivery trucks, they are coming in from salesman, they are coming in from the ordinary citizens of the whole peninsula. Because they sympathize with the people who have to travel over this section of roadway every day in order to get to school, in order to do their shopping, in order to visit the hospital, in order to visit doctors. Or a doctor, I should say, because we do not have many left any more in the Town of Bonavista.

Those people have to travel over this section of roadway on a daily basis in order to access government services and in order to carry out their duties of being able to look after their households and educate their children.

It is a simple request. They are not asking for anything major to be done. All they are asking for is that this section of roadway be made in a passable condition where they can travel with some degree of comfort to their schools every day. That should not be too much to ask for, when you take into consideration that they have allowed their own schools to close. They do not mind travelling. There was no protest implemented to maintain their schools, there was no protest saying: We want to keep our school, or we want to keep this particular facility. They agreed to do the travel into Bonavista, into Catalina, or Catalina over to Bonavista, and in other areas in that particular section of the Bonavista Peninsula.

All they are asking now is a simple request. It is to say: Please, Minister, if you would be kind enough to upgrade and pave at least part of this section of roadway in order that we may be able to travel it safely on a daily basis. It is not too much to ask for.

I ask that the minister would include this section of roadway in his capital budget this year under the Works, Services and Transportation budget to look after and pave five kilometres of road in one of the most travelled roads on the Bonavista Peninsula, I say to the minister.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

Orders of the Day

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could now call Motion 5, first reading.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 5.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act," carried.

On motion, Bill 5 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Motion 1, the Budget Speech. I believe the debate was adjourned by the Minister of Fisheries.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When I adjourned the debate on Thursday of last week I was trying to bring up an analogy between the demands of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and the cost of applying it to the demands that the people are asking.

I gave some thought to it on the weekend. I was thinking about the election campaign, the election Blue Book put out by the Progressive Conservative Government during the most recent election. One of the things that I noted in that Blue Book was the cutting of taxes, the elimination. I think if you added everything - the cost to the taxpayers of the Province, or the amount of money that would have been cut out to all the programs, it would have been approximately $800 million. Now, let's leave that $800 million for a couple of minutes and just take a look at what we have heard from members opposite.

The education critic is saying we do not have enough teachers, that the education system in Newfoundland and Labrador is in a crisis, that we should put more money into the education system.

I just heard the Member for Bonavista South read a petition asking for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to put more money into roads in his particular district.

I heard his colleague from Waterford Valley speak last week, asking the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to pave the cabin roads.

I have listened to my colleague opposite talking about the roads in his district. The Baie Verte Peninsula needs millions. In fact, if we were to compare two districts, Bonavista South and the member's district opposite, I doubt is there is one-quarter of the pavement in your district as is in Bonavista South, but nevertheless the demands are there.

The Opposition House Leader every single day is in the House of Assembly saying health care is in a crisis and we need to put more and more money into the health care system. He has not put a figure on it, but the Minister of Health has stood continuously and talked about the $40 million we put in this year as a government to pay off the debt of the health care boards, $7 million for more nurses, $5 million for increased health services, and on and on the list goes. I do not have the total figure but it is in the multi-million dollars and the Opposition says it is not enough.

Keep in mind what they had been saying in their Blue Book and their presentation during the election. The cuts they were going to make would cost approximately $800 million annually. Now they are coming in after the election is over, as an Opposition party, putting demands on government to put all these services in place that are going to cost hundreds of millions more.

Let's just put a hypothetical number on it. Let's suppose the health care system, the education system, the roads, and everything you are asking for is $400 million or $500 million. Where would the $800 million they were going to cut - the demand for other services another $400 million to $500 million - where would the $1.4 billion, where would the money come from? Where would the money come from to pay all of these demands that the Opposition party is putting on the people or the government of the day?

Let's look at raising taxes. Let's put our taxes up high enough that we could raise another $500 million. That is pretty heavy stuff coming from the taxpayers of the Province who are already saying they are overtaxed.

Okay, let's say we borrow the remainder. The remainder would be $900 million. Let's add $900 million more to the debt of the people of this Province every year. Who in their right mind would agree to that? So another four years. Four times $900 million equals $3.6 billion at the end of this term that we would have to borrow to pay for the demands that the Opposition party is putting on this government to answer all the questions that are being demanded by the individual groups across the Province.

Who is going to pay for that? Where is the money going to come from? You keep borrowing and borrowing, and you keep paying off the debt with borrowing money. At some point in time someone has to stop. It has to stop. Someone has to pay the piper. Go into bankruptcy? That is a real possibility if you borrow that kind of money.

When we took over government in 1989, that was the concern everybody had in the Province. They said to the Premier of the day, the government of the day, in 1989: You have to stop that borrowing. You have to curb the debt of the Province. We have to try and start to pay down the debt.

What was the reason everybody gave? We do not want our children or grandchildren paying off the mistakes of the governments of the past. We want our children, our grandchildren, to have a bright future in this Province.

Ten years later, there is a whole new attitude out there. The Opposition is now saying: Borrow more. Put the Province further and further in debt. Add to the already billions of dollars of debt out there and keep borrowing, because self-interest groups, or certain groups in the Province, are not happy with what is going on.

Mr. Speaker, it is not possible. First of all, the people who loan the money will say, no. The people of the Province will realize what is going on here. Slow down; you cannot keep doing that. Clearly, the only answer is that the government of the day has to play hard bull. It has to recognize where the needs are and, within its limited budget, it has to provide the needs of the people to the best of its ability.

Five hundred and sixty thousand people in this Province, scattered over a land mass four times larger than the country of Japan where they have a population of over 120 million people, but you have to deliver the services all over that geography for that small population. If you have a small population, you have a small tax base. You can only provide the services within your means.

The Member for Bonavista South was asking for more roads. Does anybody ever look at the kilometres of roads in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador for 560,000 people, and consider that the population of Newfoundland and Labrador totally is equal to about the size of the City of Winnipeg?

AN HON. MEMBER: Less than the City of Winnipeg.

MR. EFFORD: Less than the City of Winnipeg. Look at the kilometres of roads in this Province, compared to the City of Winnipeg. Look at the water and sewage infrastructure. It is scattered all over rural Newfoundland, compared to a city where the population is congested in a small area. You do not need to be a genius to figure out the cost of doing business in this Province compared to a population congestion like the City of Winnipeg.

Look at the number of health care facilities in this Province, the geography, the cost of transportation, the cost of communication, and the cost of providing those services, compared to an area in Canada where the total population is in an area four or five times smaller than the geography of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, what we have to do is recognize, within our own means, our own ability as a government, the same as you would run a business or the same as you would run your own personal home. You cannot spend more than you take in continuously; otherwise, at the end of the day, everything simply goes bust. You cannot spend more money than you take in. If you do that, you have to keep borrowing.

That is the reason I referenced the other day, when the Smallwood government ended its twenty-three year reign, we had a debt of $800 million, not quite $1 billion. Seventeen years later, when the Progressive Conservative Party ended its term in office, we made a debt of over $6 billion. Instead of $800 million, less than $1 billion, we went up over $6 billion.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who was that under?

MR. EFFORD: That was under the Progressive Conservative government for seventeen years of reign.

AN HON. MEMBER: Rideout's government.

MR. EFFORD: Partially the Rideout government.

What are we paying out in interest fees on average? Let us talk about some of the money we could spend if we were not paying those enormous interest fees. In excess of $500 million goes out in interest fees every single year, paid for by the taxpayers of this Province - in excess of $500 million. What are the demands of the Opposition House Leader? Put more money into health care.

AN HON. MEMBER: More debt.

MR. EFFORD: Put more debt on the Province. Build more roads; put more debt. Hire more teachers; put more debt. It cannot keep going.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: You crowd over there is some crowd to tell anybody how to manage anything. You managed to put us $6 billion in the hole.

MR. EFFORD: What we have to do, Mr. Speaker, is spend some time looking at our resource.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER (Oldford): Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: The Opposition House Leader will have plenty of time on this Budget debate to get up and put his figures forward, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Loyola, if you could ever see the big picture, you might be leader - give you all the little details.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: He will not even make leader number two anymore.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, what I want to do as Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is try to utilize the resources that we have around us to try to improve the economy of this Province because: the better the economy, the more people are working, the more people pay taxes, the more taxes government collects, and the more services they can provide to the needs of the people of the Province.

When I look at this Province, and look at the resource in the fishing industry, what we had around our Grand Banks, around our oceans, around the Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, and what we have today, we should be ashamed to know how we have wasted that resource. The Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador are probably unequalled to anywhere else in the world, the largest groundfish, the largest cod stocks - unequalled anywhere else in the world.

In 1992, to the greed of ships - Canadian, foreign, national and international - they almost came to a complete extinction but, nevertheless, serious enough that the whole fishing industry had to be shut down. That was 1992. Seven years later, after an expected closure was supposed to be five years, the stocks today offshore on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland are worse. The biomass are worse today than they were pre-1992. Repeating the mistakes of the past - mismanagement again.

When I hear the minister's own advisory committee, and when I read the minister's own advisory committee's report last week, when the FRCC put forth to David Anderson and said: There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that the overpopulated seal herd is definitely impeding the recovery of cod stocks - and then I hear the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans come out in the same breath, the same day, and say he is not going to listen to his own advisory committee because it is a knee-jerk reaction.

That says to me, there is something very serious going on. In other words, there is an intimidation by the IFAW and the impact it is having on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for Canada in Ottawa is going to cause - as a fisherman who was in Ottawa with us said when he made his presentation to the Standing Committee on Fisheries: Probably it is already too late. That is what I fear; probably it is already too late.

Look at what we had here last year - the export value in the fishing industry - over $700 million with very little groundfish. Just imagine if we had only protected our fish stocks. How much more would be provided at export value on an annual basis if we had managed those fish stocks properly? Estimation: $400 million to $500 million. In other words, we would be well over $1 billion export value.

How many more people would be working in communities in rural Newfoundland and Labrador? How many more communities would come alive again? We had a debate, a round table discussion on the issue this morning. We talk about seals; we have to protect the seals. We talk about the fish stocks and people are concerned; but, as I said in the closing remarks this morning, I hear very few people talk about people.

That is the lost issue in this whole subject; people are forgotten about. Environmental conditions, the large biomass of seals, the under biomass, the low biomass of fish stocks, but in the crunch of all of this are communities around rural Newfoundland and Labrador and people living in those communities with very little outlook to the future.

Now, what is the other negative that is going to come out of all of this? What I am concerned about - let's go back pre-1992 when everybody in the harvesting in the fishing industry wanted to make a living from the sea and all of the attention was turned to cod. Small, medium and large, whatever size ships, everybody wanted to earn a living from the sea and they all attacked the one species.

What is different today? Everybody in a boat, regardless of the size of the boat today, is demanding a living from the sea. What are they going after? Shellfish. How long is that shellfish stock going to last if we keep that type of pressure upon it, if everybody in the fishing industry of Newfoundland and Labrador today are asking for a living and they are putting all of that pressure on the stock?

Yes, the stocks are good today. Yes, the stocks are healthy. Yes, science is giving a good report of the biomass, but what happens in the year 2000, 2001 and 2005? I am not looking at how much money we can earn in this Province today just from the fishing industry in 1999 or just from the fishing industry in 2000. We should be managing our resource and we should be managing our stocks for many years into the future - 2010, 2020. It is not just good enough to ask a living today and not be concerned about the future.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I am certainly glad to stand in my place today and say a few words with respect to the Budget. I want to make a few comments on the speech given by the Minister of Fisheries. He must be taking lessons in math from the Premier of the Province, I say to you, Mr. Speaker. He must be taking lessons in math from the Premier.

I will tell you why. He was up on his feet today saying: During the election we were going to cut taxes by $800 million. We would have to borrow the money. We were going to borrow this and we were borrow that. But, he did not say that our figures - what we were saying - when looked at from an economist at Memorial University, he was saying our figures were right and the Premier and the government were wrong - way off by 100 per cent. Right away we know that they are off by at least $400 million, in what they are saying about our figures.

When we look at what is going on in the Province with respect to this Budget - I have heard six budgets in this House of Assembly since I have been here, the same thing over and over again. Talk is cheap, they say, very cheap, but we have $400 million they are saying that we would have to borrow.

If you look at the situation in the Province - let's look at the payroll tax, a tax on jobs. I was in private industry. I had my own business, and I heard from many, many people. It burned me, it upset me, when I heard them talking about - when they brought in the payroll level of tax, it would be $300,000 when they first brought it out. If you had a payroll of $300,000 you paid a tax on it. If you were going to create a job, you had to pay a tax on creating a job.

One of the biggest problems we have in this Province today is the shortage of jobs, and they wanted the companies of this Province to pay a tax on jobs. Then they dropped it down to $100,000. If you had a payroll of $100,000, you had three or four people employed, a small business - the way of the future in Canada, by the way, from what I hear - where most of the jobs are being created in Canada, small home enterprises and what have you, they want people to pay taxes on it, on $100,000.

Can you believe this Administration when they get up and talk about running government as a business? The Minister of Fisheries should understand that government, to a certain degree, is a business, but Members of the House of Assembly are elected to run the Province. It is not only a business. You have health care to look at, which is a priority they say, in their Administration. They say it; they certainly are not proving it. Education should be a priority. They say it is a priority; they are not proving it. They are not proving it at all.

I will say a few more words on that in a minute with respect to the Minister of Education and some of the answers that she has been giving over the past while.

Anyway, as I said, we have the payroll tax. It is costing us jobs. I do not know how many jobs, because no one has done a study on that yet. They are talking about cutting it back, gradually phasing it out. That is something we suggested some time ago. The Administration now, the Liberal government, are starting to hear what we have to say.

It is too bad the Minister of Health doesn't hear what the Opposition House Leader has to say with respect to health. It is too bad she is not hearing what the nurses have to say. It is too bad she is not hearing what the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association are saying with this letter that was sent to all Members of the House of Assembly.

The Member of Humber East was on his feet the other day and spoke to this. I made a few notes. One of the notes I had here was that health care has improved since the last Budget. Now, what he was saying was that he would not expect health care to improve since the last Budget because it has only been a couple of months.

The problem with health care in this Province has been ongoing for years and years. We saw it last fall. We have seen it this winter. We have seen it with the nurses on strike. I seen it the past four of five years in this House of Assembly where what is happening this Province today with nurses leaving hand over fist, with doctors leaving, nothing in place for retention... They have talked about recruitment over the years, but nothing in place for retention of the doctors in Newfoundland and Labrador. Doctors who grew up here, people who grew up here, went to school, became doctors and stayed here, now are leaving the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador - as the Premier wants you to have now, Newfoundland and Labrador.

So we have the Member for Humber East on his feet saying that health care - it has been too short a period of time to really look at that. I say -

AN HON. MEMBER: No, no, no, I was responding to his questions.

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, you were saying, and that is what he was questioning. Have we seen any improvement since the last Budget?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Maybe so. Maybe he meant the one for 1998. Who knows? Go ask. In the meantime, I will say to you that there is nothing being done in this Province with respect to health care and the improvement of health care. I have known, I have seen it, I have been there, I say to the member.

I also ask the Member for Humber East, if he is listening: Does he completely disagree with everything that is in the letter? I mean, this is a warning. We have the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association giving us dire words with what is going to happen with health care in this Province. What it is basically saying is: Yes, we can address emergencies, but the overall health care of the Province is deteriorating. Longer waits -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I am reading from the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, and I would imagine they would know a bit more about it than you, I say to the Minister of Fisheries. You would not know anyway, I say.

Also, he said - this is what the Member for Humber East said when he was up speaking - and I have to congratulate the Member for Humber East on his maiden speech last week. He has been here three or four years and I think that was his maiden speech. He talked about a good feeling after the election, when he talked about the nurses. The issues on the West Coast, he said, with respect to nurses, were: working conditions, casualization, and the pay. Yet, on the East Coast, he said, it was completely the reverse of that. He said the pay was the big issue here on the East Coast.

That is what the Premier tried to create during the strike and he believed it hook, line and sinker. The Premier hooked him in, no problem at all. He believed that the nurses here on the East Coast were after 7 per cent and that was it. Mr. Speaker, there is nothing further from the truth.

I remember only last week being in the Health Sciences Centre on the elevator and a nurse stopped me and asked if I was the Member for Cape St. Francis. I said, yes. She said: Someone has to get it through to these people, the working conditions of the nurses in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. She said: I was on for my full shift, went home, and was called to come back in again, immediately afterwards.

Not only that, from what I understand - and I am sure the Member for Ferryland can correct me if I am wrong on this one - now nurses in the different hospitals here in the Intensive Care Units or special care are being called now to go to the Janeway on occasions.

MR. SULLIVAN: Even neonatal, there are three who are cross-trained to go from the Grace down to the Janeway (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Member for Ferryland confirms it. The nurses that have been trained in neonatal are being cross-trained to go from hospital to hospital, I say.

MR. SULLIVAN: They can go from one hospital to another (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: They can go from one hospital to the other.

What is happening here? What kind of work overload are we putting on these nurses? What position are we putting them in?

Another thing that has arisen and has to be questioned - and I am not questioning the nurses because they are going to do their best; they have done it - if a person is working for twelve hours, goes home, and they are called back in again right away, really, what are we setting up here? Are we setting up a disaster waiting to happen, I say to you, Mr. Speaker?

The Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair was on her feet last week, Mr. Speaker, speaking on the Budget. I was surprised, to be honest with you, because obviously where a person sits in this House of Assembly determines the way he or she thinks. When she was sitting on this side of the House, there was nothing they could say on that side of the House that was right or correct; but now that she is over there, well, the sun shines out of that chair right there, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Which chair?

MR. J. BYRNE: The Premier's chair. The sun shines out of that, according to the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair. She said: Well, there is lots of money being put into health care in the Province. One-third of our Budget is being spent on health care. Is one-third enough?

MR. SULLIVAN: No.

MR. J. BYRNE: No.

MR. SULLIVAN: One-third is not spent, because they shifted Human Resources and Employment, different divisions (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: See! Typical.

MR. SULLIVAN: They shifted three divisions over to health last year.

MR. J. BYRNE: The Member for Ferryland again, knowing the Health Department very well, probably knows it better than the minister herself.

MR. SULLIVAN: Playing with figures again.

MR. J. BYRNE: Playing with figures. They don't spend one-third of the Budget on it because some of that is gone now into HRD, Mr. Speaker.

She also said that we put nurses in the system into a very important category, a very important position. Now, I made a note here that they were kind of patronizing comments. That is what they were. Again, listening to the Premier of the Province saying that everything is fine within the health care, and the Minister of Health getting on her feet day after day in this House of Assembly answering questions from the Member for Ferryland, the critic for the Department of Health, it is the same thing. I mean, I don't know if we are living in the same Province, I have to say to you, Mr. Speaker.

She was also talking about the shortage of nurses, I do believe. I have a note here. Now, we all know that there is a shortage of nurses, but I can tell you one thing about this Administration, there is no shortage of ministers or government departments. Seventeen now, Mr. Speaker, I believe seventeen was the last count. That is up from fourteen with the previous Premier, I believe. The previous Premier had fourteen. So, it is going to be curious to see, towards the end of this mandate, how many ministers there are going to be, because we all know that this is the last shot for this crowd. No doubt about that, Mr. Speaker. So we will probably see it in the last two years going up to twenty ministers, to take care of some of their buddies.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that what happened (inaudible)?

MR. J. BYRNE: I wasn't here, I can't say. I can't say, I have only been here six years. The former Premier, Peckford, is gone ten years. I don't know what way the man thought, I don't know what he did, and I don't really care. I am looking to the future, I say to the minister, and I am not concerned, to be quite honest with you, with what happens in other provinces; not at all. I am not concerned. The only thing I am concerned about in other provinces is that their economies are booming. The economy of Ontario is booming and there is a PC government there.

MR. SULLIVAN: Jack, (inaudible) Mike Harris for hiring nurses. What does he want, Mike Harris to lay them off?

MR. J. BYRNE: There is a PC government in Ontario and the economy is booming, I say to the Member for Twillingate, booming. Obviously, the Member for Twillingate - is it Twillingate he is from?

MR. SULLIVAN: Twillingate & Fogo.

MR. J. BYRNE: Twillingate & Fogo. He must want Mike Harris in Ontario to lay off the nurses. Every time there is a question, he is singing out about Ontario and the nurses in Ontario and all the nurses that are being hired. He must want them laid off. So, let's put it on the record that the Member for Twillingate & Fogo wants Mike Harris to lay off nurses in Ontario. That is where he is at, and that is his mentality, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Take it easy on stuff like that, boy. It cuts two ways you know.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: Okay. Well, it has something stirred up here in the House of Assembly today, I will say that, Mr. Speaker.

Let's get back to other provinces, because whenever we are on our feet here, Mr. Speaker, they have a tendency to go back ten, fifteen or twenty years, to previous administrations, or go to other provinces, like Ontario and Alberta, where the economy is booming. I can't even see them making the comparison. They must be dim-witted to compare us to Ontario.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why is he talking about it every day?

MR. J. BYRNE: You guys are. You guys are bringing it up every single day. All I can here is: Make Harris! Mike Harris! Mike Harris! Hopefully you guys over there, and the Premier, can imitate him and get our economy booming, Mr. Speaker. How can you criticize that?

The federal government is sending us down, thanks to Mike Harris - the budget this year was how much extra?

AN HON. MEMBER: The common sense revolution.

MR. J. BYRNE: The common sense revolution. How much extra do we get because of Mike Harris this year? He helped balance the budget.

AN HON. MEMBER: Millions.

MR. J. BYRNE: Millions. How much, six hundred and -

MR. SULLIVAN: One hundred and ninety-two million.

MR. J. BYRNE: One hundred and ninety-two million. Thank you, Mike Harris. Thank you, the PC Government in Ontario. Thank you.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: It is. Did you notice?

I would say the Premier is on his knees every night thanking Mike Harris.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I am sorry to say to you, to the Government House Leader, that I did not attend this weekend. I had other concerns.

MR. TULK: I am going to tell you something. There were a lot of people (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: They are all wondering where I was, I say to the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I do not understand this House of Assembly. Whenever I am on my feet speaking, the crowd on the other side goes right out of their mind; they are that upset in what I am saying. If the truth hurts -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) trees.

MR. J. BYRNE: Speaking of trees, I say to the Government House Leader, did you read the article in the paper over the weekend about this book that has been written about Newfoundland? The future for Newfoundland is no trees, no fish. I mean, we should be careful of what we are saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, is it? I stand corrected, I say, for even bringing it up.

With respect to health, I remember during the election - what did we have? - $40 million to cover the regional board deficit. That is good thing, to spend the money, but we also had $40 million in the Premier's back pocket three or four days before the election; three or four days before the election, $40 million.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I say to you there, there are a lot of districts in this Province that could have given up a lot over the past number of years, let me tell you that. Certain Liberal districts that certain ministers in this House have no problem in saying if you are in a Tory district you will get nothing; Liberals, every road, every driveway - he said in this House, on record - paved.

Now, $40 million in his back pocket when he came back from Ottawa. A week or two after the election - Oh, misunderstood. He did not know. The transfer formula changed and now we are only getting $9 million. The people believed it. That is one issue.

The Minister of Fisheries was on his feet talking about all the money, the debt, the previous administration put this Province in. He mentioned when the PCs took over back in 1972 or 1974, whenever it was, they were $790 million in debt. He neglected to say that back in 1949 when the Liberals took over there was a $40 million surplus. A $40 million surplus.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Anyway, I say about $40 million that was supposedly to be spent on health care in this Province, out the window because the Premier said that he didn't know anything about the change to the transfer payments.

MR. SULLIVAN: He said $40 million in February and we got $4.4 million when the Budget came down.

MR. J. BYRNE: He said $40 million in the election and we got $4.4 million.

The Minister of Fisheries was on his feet talking about the debt that the previous administration put this Province in. He did not say about the $40 million in 1949. Think about that now. Then it went up to $790 million. Think about that I say, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SHELLEY: They cancelled their convention, by the way.

MR. J. BYRNE: What convention? When was that?

MR. SHELLEY: They cancelled (inaudible) they were supposed to have this spring. They cancelled it.

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, no! I just got word, Mr. Speaker, that the government has cancelled their convention for this spring. That cannot be right. The question has to be asked: Why? Because -

MR. SHELLEY: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: No. It was because they could not get people to go, that is one thing. We have too many people lining up, Mr. Speaker, for the leadership. We have the Minister of Fisheries, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Energy lining up. That is why they don't have it because they did not want to see this back-stabbing going on that the Liberals are so known for. They did not want to have a convention this year. They are good at it. They did not want that to happen this spring. They are trying to get another year for the Premier, at least one more year out of it.

Anyway, on to health. One of the problems in the Province - and the Auditor General brought this out with respect to the health care in the Province - is that there is no accountability which we need to have in the Province. The Auditor General has questioned on a number of occasions the different boards across the Province. There is no accountability to say if the money is being spent wisely, where it is being spent, how it is being spent and if indeed it should be spent on certain things. No accountability.

I want to say a few words while I am on my feet, too, about education. Because we saw the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne ask a few questions the past week and today to the Minister of Education. What the minister does not seem to understand, and I do not how to explain this, but he seems to be zoning in on the quality of education in September. What the minister seems to say is that the quality of education will improve. Those are the answers we are getting, but the question I have to ask is this. Will the students in September get the same courses offered to them as they are being offered today, and last year and the year before? That is what needs to be answered. Will they have the same programs available to them in September as they have now currently, and as they had last year? The feedback I am getting is that they will not.

It might very well be that they have a certain quality of education that if they come out of grade XII they will be able to go on to university, but will they have the same choices, will they have the same access to certain programs that they have? I do not know.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: No, that is wrong. There are thirty-six courses required to graduate. Yes, that is right, but if they have access right now today to 130 courses, and that is going to be dropped back to a hundred courses because of education reform, obviously the availability of education is not improving. It is going backwards.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: What we are hearing is they are losing. They are losing in music, arts and different programs, and what have you. Obviously certain schools are not benefiting from education reform.

The other point that is made often is that the student-teacher ratio is the best in the country. When you look at the student-teacher ratio it includes non-teaching positions, it fails to count for the rural spread of the Province, and it fails to factor in small necessarily existent schools.

We do have a drop in the number of students in the Province; surely the big impact is going to be on rural Newfoundland. If you have a situation where the population in the urban areas is staying the same, the student-teacher ratio may be better in urban Newfoundland, but rural Newfoundland and the area is going to suffer. You have to look at the geography. That is what I have said a few times back and forth in the House when the minister was answering her questions. You have to look at the geography of the Province when you are looking at the student-teacher ratio.

With respect to the employment itself and the economy, I would say, Mr. Speaker, the government made a big to-do saying there were 6,100 new jobs in January. We all know that last year the Department of Municipal Affairs had these special employment projects across the Province. They were needed and they were good thing, I say to you, Mr. Speaker. I am glad that the minister put them out. From what I can understand - and I have to give him credit, the previous minister too, by the way, who is not here in the House any more, and the present minister - they seemed to be evenly distributed throughout all the districts in the Province. It seems to me pretty equally done. I give credit for that, no problem there.

When the government said they created 6,100 new jobs, how many of those 6,100 new jobs were a part of that special program, and the TAGS program? So, that is really a false figure and something that people should not really be hanging their hat on.

The social assistance clients is not good news either. The Minister of Health was up today talking about the nurses in the Province and the ratio of nurses to the population of the Province. The Member for Ferryland made the point that this could be all well and good, but if you have 30,000 or 40,000 people leaving this Province, all that can do is make the figure look better than what it was and is.

We know that there is a shortage of nurses in the Province. There is no doubt about that. It has to be addressed. We saw the commitment, I suppose, and the persistence of the nurses only a month-and-one-half ago, out here in the lobby and on the steps of the Confederation Building when they had their demonstrations, trying to get support against Bill 3. No one on this side of the House supported it, by the way, not a soul, but everyone on that side of the House supported it. I am sure if the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair was on this side of the House like she was last year she would not have been supporting it either. There is no doubt there.

We saw the nurses out here fighting for better health care in the Province, contrary to what the Member for Humber East says, that they are out there taking care of themselves. Not likely. If they were, what would be wrong with that? Nothing at all. That is what collective bargaining is all about. That was ignored by this Administration, and they tried to make a case, a weak case I might add, that the 7 per cent the other groups signed for, that is what the nurses had to sign for. Now that was a pig in a poke for sure.

We had a situation where other unions had signed an agreement. They had the right to strike if they wanted to strike. They did not so chose to do so. Then the government was trying to say everybody had to have the 7 per cent, but not everybody got 7 per cent, did they? Not likely. The judges are getting so much, the pilots are getting more again. I do not have the figures here in front of me now.

It was not really true or accurate to make that statement, that everybody had to sign for 7 per cent. Plus, I wonder if the first group who signed for 7 per cent would have signed for 7 per cent if they thought they were signing for everyone. That is what collective bargaining is all about. Every group has different working conditions, they have different hours, they have different responsibilities and what have you. That is what collective bargaining is all about with these groups.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) they negotiated (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, they negotiated it, but the government and the Premier were blinded by it. They did not want to hear anything about it. The groups had the right to strike, the nurses had the right to strike, and they went on strike.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Candidate number one, yes.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, the fiscal position in the Province is not as well and good as the Premier would have you believe, let me tell you that. In the Budget itself, there is a $4 million surplus. Listen to this. In the fall there was a $55 million deficit predicted. Then the Minister of Finance went up to an $85 million deficit. Then he went down to a $40 million deficit. Then he went to a $30 million deficit in January. Three days before the election everything is fine and we have a $4 million surplus. Now that is not including the $30 million slush fund - that I like to refer to it as - that they can spend wherever they want.

So in actual fact, if you believe the figures - and I do not know why you would, because if they were predicted, one, two, three, four, five times, why would you believe either one of them? - but if the last one was correct they really have a $34 million surplus, not a $4 million surplus.

In the meantime, in the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs - and I need someone to explain this to me, I can guarantee you that - we had the government threaten to cut $6 million from municipal operating grants. They said they were going to cut it by $3 million and now they are increasing it -

MR. SPEAKER (Smith): Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave, Mr. Speaker.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave!

MR. SPEAKER: Leave denied.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I will sit down and I will be up again. No doubt about that.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to take a few minutes today to talk about the Budget, talk about some things from my own district, and talk about some things that have just recently happened in this Province.

I will start off with the nurses' fiasco, I call it, and the fact that nurses in this Province were legislated back to work. It seems to be that on the night we passed this legislation we had sixty riot police hidden away in the Department of Justice with a thirty-six inch television rented for them, movies rented for them, all kinds of meals, dispensing machines brought in and the whole business, all brought in, all tucked away nicely in the Department of Justice. I do not know who, and I'm assuming it was the government of course, brought them in here. I guess it was the government who paid whatever overtime was required for that particular evening.

What was really interesting today is that I was at a function that was put off by the RCMP. I had been hearing some rumblings all along that the RCMP, on the same night, had a group of officers on standby ready to come into this building, riot gear ready - they did not have the riot gear on, but ready to come in here - from as far away as Clarenville. Anybody who was off on that particular day was sent in to the headquarters in Pleasantville. Somewhere between forty-three and fifty RCMP officers were ready down at RCMP headquarters down in Pleasantville because nurses blew a whistle and tapped a stick on the floor.

I found that very strange. What I really find even a little bit stranger is that if the RCMP have to be paid, who pays them? Is that an additional bill for this government, which legislated the nurses back to work? I will say it has been very disappointing to watch what transpired during those three or four days. As a matter of fact, to me it was an insult to the nurses of this Province. What transpired with the police was the same thing. No longer could we have a Constable in our own House sit in the Chair. Now, we got bumped up to Lieutenant status. Why, I wonder? Why? Why was it necessary for some forty to fifty RCMP officers to be tucked away in a building down in Pleasantville? Why was that necessary? What in the name of goodness did they expect the nurses who were here that night to really do? What did we expect to have happen in this building on that particular night?

If you add up the sixty-odd that were here, and forty that were down there, that was 100 police officers with full riot gear that we had access to that night.

I had heard the rumblings about the RCMP and I said, no, that cannot be true. So, today I made it a point. When the demonstrations were going on, I visited various booths and said to the chap who was there showing me some of the material they had: Which material here did you have laid out the night they passed the legislation on the nurses? The guy laughed and said: Everything from here down. I said: You are kidding me. He said: No, I am not. We had officers brought in from as far away as Clarenville, just sitting around waiting for a call.

We had 100 police officers in full riot gear ready to roll that night. The RCMP were not in riot gear but the riot gear was very readily available to them. I find it very strange and I find it very, very insulting.

I do not know how many government members had phone calls but I know during this time frame I certainly had lots of them. I had lots of calls from nurses. I had lots of calls from RNC officers. I still get them today. Again, they will not forget. I think that is very evident. I think that, down life's road, is going to be remembered, and remembered for a long, long time; remembered for a long, long time.

The day the statement was made that maybe it is time we put in a private member's resolution to have the RNC become a municipal police force, my phone rang that day as well. It rang quite well. I listened to the hon. Member for Conception Bay East that day on radio and I heard everything that he had to say. On my way to work he was on CBC Radio. He was very concerned. He said that if something went wrong at his house he would not get an RNC officer to turn up. I would not expect an RNC officer to turn up at the hon. gentleman's house. The hon. gentleman lives in a jurisdiction that is covered by the RCMP. If the RNC are out in Conception Harbour, then I say they are way out of their jurisdiction.

Again, I await to see the private member's motion that will come before this House as it relates to members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary who, by the way, I have a lot of respect for.

I had a phone call, after this whole nursing fiasco, with the Chief of Police in this Province. As a matter of fact, I called in a complaint as to the way one of his more senior officers acted to one of the Constables that was stationed in this building. I told the Chief of Police that I do not know how the member felt but I certainly felt embarrassed from listening to this senior officer talk to a member of the force. I did not think it was qualified. I did not think it was called for. In my opinion, it certainly was not called for.

Down the road sometime, I am sure this whole matter will be addressed. I am sure that in this session we may see our private member's motion that deals with this particular matter.

Mr. Speaker, as well today I would like to spend some time talking about district interests, of which I have many. To the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, I have had one meeting with him since our election some time ago. It was to talk about the money that is in the new infrastructure program, to talk about my district in particular and not any other district because that, I guess, for this particular pot of money, is not really my interest.

I represent a district that has $50 million worth - to this day, this minute - of water and sewer needs. The minister, I am sure, is well aware of this. Every day or every couple of days, time does not go by when my phone does not ring, when somebody does not call my house, or when I am out somewhere or just wandering around my district, that somebody does not raise the issue of water and sewer money or water and sewer funding to me.

When you see, in my district, a pair of white socks that are brown because of the water that they were washed in, and you see people in my district who are still carrying water, in 1999, who come out to houses where people are fortunate enough to be on water and sewer and they are lugging drinking water to their own houses to drink, or they are going to laundromats to wash their clothes, then there is something wrong.

I believe in this program. I hope this program does not become a political one. I hope this program becomes a benefit to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I hope it becomes a benefit to the people in my district. If it doesn't, if we don't put this money out without the - how can I put this? - without the political connotations of, this district or that district, then, Mr. Speaker, it will, to me, have been a waste.

I realize that municipalities have to show their capabilities of paying off their debt, of paying this particular debt back to government, and I have absolutely no problem with that. But this money is there, it has to be spent on water and sewer, and it has to be spent in the areas where it is certainly, certainly most needed.

I would also like to take a couple of minutes to have a few words to the Minister of Environment. About a year-and-a-half ago they closed the municipal dump in my particular district, on the Foxtrap Access Road. The dump was closed and now the garbage, of course, is trucked off to Robin Hood Bay. I would assume, Mr. Speaker, that while the dump was in operation the rats had a great place to live and a great place to feed. I understand now, from some of the residents in Kelligrews, in some areas in Kelligrews, it is nothing to see ten or fifteen of them a day tracking across somebody's garden.

I would ask the minister to have officials from his department, or have somebody, some exterminator, go in to what used to be the Conception Bay South dump, on the Foxtrap Access Road, and do something to stop this rat population before it gets out of hand and before somebody gets injured or somebody becomes extremely sick. It is a problem. It is a problem which is again raised to me, I won't say on a daily basis, but it is raised to me on a number of occasions.

As my colleague from Cape St. Francis was talking a few minutes ago, he talked about the money that was set aside for districts. I believe last year, on a couple of occasions, it was $40,000. I am sure the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace knows exactly the amount, but I think it was $40,000 per district, to create some much needed work in those districts.

I would like to say to the former minister, who was here at that particular time: It was a good project. I believe that was $40,000 per district to create employment. I will say that in my own district -

MR. SWEENEY: Money well spent.

MR. FRENCH: It certainly was, I say to the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace. It was certainly money well spent.

MR. SWEENEY: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: You shouldn't give it to - I didn't hear you, I am sorry.

In my district, I know, people who availed of it, it was certainly money well spent; and I thank, even though he is not here today, the former minister who I found to be very non-partisan in his political dealings and district dealings, with me anyway. I thank him for that. I take no great delight in seeing what happened to that particular minister, as it relates to a story in the newspaper. I take no great delight in seeing that happening to people.

As a matter of fact, at one particular point in time I was his critic, and I fully intended to call him, but I didn't get around to doing it. I thought he did a good job, and in that area I thought he was very non-partisan. In my area of Holyrood, and in Conception Bay South, even though the truck won't go in my district of Conception Bay South but will end up in the Member for Topsail's district -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: The new fire truck.

Again, in my dealings with the former minister in that regard I found him to be very non-partisan and very helpful.

We have these districts out there. I listen to my colleague, day in and day out, from Bonavista South presenting petition after petition talking about the paving of roads. That really bothers me, when you see schoolchildren who have to get on these buses to get from point A to point B and the trouble they have with the roads in those particular areas. These are areas where I would really like to see money spent on projects such as those.

I sat here today and listened to a minister of the government say to a colleague: Your stadium is gone, you will never get your money for a stadium. That is typical of probably that minister to say things like that, and again I think that is wrong. I wish some day he would go out and say it to the press, so the people of this Province could really learn exactly how he feels. If that is his attitude to those of us who sit on this side of the House, then might I suggest he should not sit in Cabinet. If that is his attitude to these members over here, then to me that is wrong.

We were all sent here by people in our district. Every member on this side who was re-elected was re-elected by increased majorities so we deserve to be here, and we deserve to be here standing in our places fighting for money that is out there that should be coming to our districts.

When I hear of hospital beds that are closing - day in and day out you listen to the radio, every day, every second day, every third day, this hospital, that hospital - then there is something wrong. If somebody thinks we do not have a health care crisis then there is something wrong. There is something wrong with our list for heart surgeries. It is growing faster every single day. While we are doing ten operations a week, we are placing another twenty on a waiting list. Those are not my figures. I did not snap my fingers and come up with those. Those are figures that I received from health care professionals in this Province. Those are figures I asked them for.

Two to one. How do we catch up? What do we say to the person who is in there waiting? I just had a family member who waited three weeks. The staff were excellent to him, and after his operation they were excellent to him, but he had a rough couple of days when it was over. Thank goodness, or thank God, the operation I believe was a success, but the waiting: You are going to be going on Monday morning. Monday morning comes and he does not go. So they say: We are going to put you off, sir, till Tuesday. Tuesday comes and he does not go. That went on for a week, then it went on for another week, and finally on Sunday somebody said: We have a spare bed and we are going to move you to the Health Science. Eventually the individual was done, but again there was the waiting. When you walk into a room and there are three or four other people in the room who are waiting to have the same operation, then there is something wrong.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: You cannot be nasty all the time. Sometimes you have to be serious. Sometimes you have to get -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Oh, you can do that too. I can do that too sometimes, as the Government House Leader well knows.

In issues like this, when it comes to people's health, I do not know how nasty we really have to get. I will tell you one thing: Somebody had better realize that there is a crisis in health care in the Province and somebody had better take it seriously.

I understand my colleague for cape St. Francis was on the topic a few minutes ago that the party on the other side cancelled their convention.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: I do not know. They had the hotel booked and the convention got cancelled. I understand the Government House Leader was in Gander sometime on the weekend and I understand the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs was in Gander on the weekend. I do not know if they were out there spying, I say to my colleague for Cape St. Francis, but they were both out there. It was a great convention, it went extremely well I say, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to, as well, talk about some of the things the Member for Humber East had to say the other day in his speech. I ran into some people from the West Coast who told me they were glad he had finally made his maiden speech in the House. They were delighted to hear that. Some of them wondered what it was all about. I said: Naturally enough, it was toeing a government line. There was no talking about needs or problems. It was: Everything was going well, everything was going grand.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: No, I did not. I can go till 2:00 a.m. tomorrow if you want me to.

You know, they were very interested, very intrigued to hear that he had made his maiden speech. To say that the problems in nursing on the West Coast were not the same as the problems of the nurses on the East Coast, or to imply that the problems on the West Coast were not the same as the problems on the East Coast leaves a lot to be desired. When the time comes to represent one's district then we should be up in our place representing those people who sent us here.

It was interesting a year ago to listen to one particular member who was a great predictor on his polling and on the polling his party was doing and who would not come back here any more and who would come back here again. I, unfortunately, will not have the opportunity to talk about his predicting in this Legislature because the member never made it back here. He was great on predicting, the Member for St. John's West, I think, and great on predicting for me but he did not make it back here. My colleague here from Windsor-Buchans looked after him and my colleague sitting down there from Windsor-Springdale looked after the other fellow.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to talk about education. The other night I had the opportunity, along with some 400 to 500 people, to be in Whitbourne. I do not know if the minister doesn't realize or doesn't want to realize the problems we do have in education in this Province. A year ago I was in Springdale with two colleagues of mine and the government member at the time from the district who was there, who afterwards told us we were too easy on the government, we were too easy on him. To hear -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: He is not here any more now. Ray looked after him. He is not here anymore. He is gone where he should have been.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) hon. colleague (inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Yes I am. To listen in Springdale, Mr. Speaker, on that particular night, to hear high school principal after high school principal, an elementary school principal, and teacher after teacher come to the microphone and to talk about, in their areas, if certain things happened, the programs that they would have to lose. I talked to a high school principal this morning who told me they cannot afford to lose another teacher because if they do certain programs will be cut. They had to cut back in their French immersion program, they had to cut back on their music program.

Last year, after we spent the night in Springdale, the next night we were in King's Point. Again, I listened as speaker after speaker and parent after parent went to the microphone. I heard teachers say: If we lose this then our drama program is gone, this program is gone, the band program is gone, and on it goes. If we think that by cutting teachers it will not have an impact in the classrooms, who are we kidding?

As well, my colleague, who is not here this afternoon, the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne, was the principal for a school in Brigus. I might add he was a very good principal. He held the position for a while. He is very concerned about education. He has children who go to the same school. Maybe that is why he did not react, but he has children who go to the same school and he did not want to talk about his own children and his own family. I can and I will because they are going to lose, I believe, it was a History course he told us this afternoon in that school. It is all because of cuts to teachers in this Province.

If the minister does not think that we have a problem, let me tell you, we do have a problem. We have a very large problem. It is too bad some people on the other side do not pick up on those problems and relay the information to the minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: I can only say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture that I can't be any more boring than he was. I can't get any more boring than he was for the time he was up. I may be trying hard but I cannot catch you. Thank goodness for that.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are not that bad.

MR. FRENCH: I am not that bad, no sir. I will never get that far down in the barrel.

Mr. Speaker, to hear comments to address to the minister in that regard to me are totally uncalled for, totally out of line, when he has, like I said, members of his own family who go to that school. He knows full well what losing a teaching unit in that school does to that school. He does not need anybody on that side of the House to tell that member what happens.

After meeting the other night in Whitbourne, he does not need anybody, does not need one single soul, to tell him what is going to happen in Whitbourne, or to hear a young student who came to the microphone in Whitbourne to talk about what she would have to do next year in order to get her grade XII education.

I thought when we voted for education reform - because I did, and in my own area I campaigned for education reform; even before I got to this place and after I got to this place I was a supporter of education reform - our education was going to get better. I thought that the education that a young man or young woman could get in Springdale, King's Point or Cow Head, should be the same as you could get in St. John's or Corner Brook, but the way it looks now, that is not happening.

I believe that every child in Newfoundland and Labrador, the grades, and as they get older, young men and young women, should all be able to take advantage of the same courses right throughout this Province. The same education in Labrador should be the same education that is offered in St. John's. The same education that is offered in Clarenville should be the same education that is offered in my District of Conception Bay South. It should not matter.

Every young man, young woman, young child, boy or girl, in this Province deserves the right to a good education in this Province. That is the education reform I voted for, and that is the education reform I want to see. I do not want to see students lose band, I do not want to see students lose music, I do not want to see students lose French courses. I want them to be able to get better. I want their education system to get better. I want them to be able to go on in every school in this Province. We should be offering the same level of education, but we are not.

I think the Minister of Education should be very well aware of that and should do everything in her power to correct things, because after all we cannot blame everything on the board. Some of them will, of course, try to do that. Some of the boards, of course, will not speak out. That is pretty evident. Again, this stuff happens. So I would ask today, Mr. Speaker, that this improve now.

MR. SPEAKER (Oldford): Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave!

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

The member's time is up.

MR. FRENCH: Anyway, I will be back I am sure in Committee.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

The foremost issue on the minds of people today in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is health care.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS S. OSBORNE: The Minister of Health and Community Services will endeavour to diminish the crisis situation by comparing us to other provinces and to the United States, but the fact remains that we are still in crisis. I, along with my fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, do not really care what is happening on the Mainland. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians do not really care what is happening on the Mainland. We do not care what is happening in the United States of America. We care what is happening here, happening to the residents of our Province.

This afternoon my hon. colleague the Member for Ferryland spoke in the House about an eighty-year-old woman with Alzheimer's disease,

and her family were desperately trying to get her into a nursing home. He was accused of pushing the panic button.

I say to the minister, when you are the daughter or the son of a person suffering with dementia, or with Alzheimer's, and you see the anguish and pain they are in, and you know that the very best possible place for them is a nursing home, and you call your Member of the House of Assembly or you call the critic for health and community services, and you ask that member to see what he can do for you, and that member brings your problem to the floor of the hon. House of Assembly, asking for help because you see your mom and she is suffering, then are you really pushing the panic button when you are trying to help this person? Are you really pushing the panic button because one of our fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is out there and they are suffering?

I have seen what Alzheimer's can do to a person. Is this panic, or is it asking to give our seniors and their families the just and fair treatment they deserve? Not extraordinary treatment, not special treatment, and not a panic, just an eighty-year-old woman who is in anguish - believe me, I have seen the anguish that Alzheimer's can cause -, whose family are trying to get her into a nursing home. She calls the critic, he brings it to the floor of the House of Assembly because this woman is suffering, and it is called pushing the panic button.

While we are still on the topic of health care, I had a call from a nurse the other day. This nurse has been in the same unit in one of our hospitals for the past eighteen years. When they circulated the form for annual leave the nurse requested a couple of weeks in July. Just the other day she was called in by her supervisor. The supervisor asked: Do your have to take your holidays in July? She said: Yes, I have to take my holidays in July. She said: We may not be able to give you your holidays in July. As a matter of fact, we may not be able to give you any annual leave at all. She said: I have to get them, I'm tired, I'm burned out. I have children. My husband is working as well. He has put in for his annual leave - he works for a fairly big organization - and it has been granted. I have children who are in school. We have made plans for all of us to be off the same couple of weeks so that we could spend quality time with our children.

The supervisor said: I think I am going to have to cancel your annual leave. Now, this nurse is burned out. She is in a fairly high pressure area of the hospital. She works her shifts through the week, and then she gets extra calls because one of the casuals cannot come in and she has to go back. She has admitted there are a couple of times she has not answered her telephone on her day off because she has felt too burned out to go back. While her body rests on those days, her mind is in turmoil and her conscience is at her, because she knows she probably should have answered the phone and gone back to work. Then she has this dichotomy: Should I let my body burn out or suffer guilt because I can't go in?

Ultimately, there is a bottom line to this, because if this nurse does not get to take her holidays in July and spend some quality time with her family, her family life will suffer, she will suffer, and who knows what the burnout might cause? I mean, none of us are perfect. When she is working on that floor in that unit in the hospital and she is really, really burned out, she is emotionally pained because her family life is now suffering, because she does not get to spend time with them, who will ultimately suffer? I am not trying to push the panic button and say that the patients will, but none of us are superhuman and eventually this nurse, who is now working her shifts, going back on extra time because she is called back because a casual cannot come in, now she can't get her summer vacation with her family, eventually this person is going to snap. Let's hope it is not one of the patients who suffer.

While we are on the topic of health care: Recently we learned that one of the two paediatric oncologists would be leaving the Janeway Hospital. We had two there. This person is a very well-known paediatric oncologist in the Province, and he is going to be leaving. The workload is too great, the Newfoundland portion of the income tax is probably too high, et cetera, et cetera. I guess he is leaving for the same reasons that lots of other of our doctors are leaving. The hospital where he is going is committed to putting much more money into paediatric oncology. This looks like a very lucrative position for this person. He certainly won't be working the eighty hours a week that he is working here - he has a family - so he is leaving.

The situation that the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador will then find itself in is one paediatric oncologist for 500 children; 500 children of our Province who have cancer, one paediatric oncologist for this caseload.

What happens when this person burns out? We will be left with no paediatric oncologist. But then that is not unlike some of the other departments in medicine where we are being left without people; people waiting three and four months to get tests because we don't have the specialists here; Central Newfoundland doing without a dialysis machine. The same thing is happening right across the Province.

This afternoon in this House, the minister announced the National Children's Agenda to ensure that Canada's children are healthy physically and emotionally, safe and secure, successful at learning, and socially engaged and responsible. I only had a couple of minutes to respond to that, so I would like to expand a little bit on that.

The minister also said that this Province is further ahead in the process through our Strategic Social Plan than any other province. Citizens of our Province will be able to provide their views through the 1-800 number, et cetera.

We are also ahead in that we have 27,000 children who live in poverty in this country. We lead the way there: 72.1 per cent of our single parent families live in poverty. That is far and ahead than any other province in Canada.

As I said today, while they are sitting around the round table, these 27,000 children in poverty are sitting at empty tables. Safe and secure for children? The special Committee on Children's Interests, the both-party committee recommended to this House that there should be a child advocate. That is the one commitment they have asked for that has not been addressed by this government. They have asked for a children's advocate.

A child advocate would be an independent person; would not be responsible to the Opposition; would not be responsible to the government; would be totally independent, have independent status; and the children in this Province who are not safe, who are not secure, have other problems, there could be early intervention on behalf of those children. The children's advocate has not been addressed.

The National Children's Agenda is to ensure that children are successful at learning. There are a couple of issues here. Can children really be successful at learning when they go to school hungry? It has been shown in the Williams' Commission on education that the children who go to school hungry do not learn. We have not adequately addressed that situation at all.

The National Children's Agenda is to ensure that Canada's children are socially engaged and responsible. Once again I will refer to - and I could not elaborate on it today - there is a mom out there. There is more than one but I will cite you this one example. She has a seventeen-year-old son. His father left the family when the boy was two years of age, to live in the United States. Neither of them have heard from him since so it is impossible for the support enforcement agency or anybody to get child support.

When that mom has paid for her groceries - and that is only giving her and her son $75 a week for groceries; that is not a lot of money - when the groceries and her telephone and her share of the light bill are paid, she is left with $29.88 a week for her and her boy; and we expect him to be socially engaged.

That boy does not have enough decent clothing to wear to school. He cannot wear sneakers like most children in the Province can wear, or like many of his classmates can wear. He certainly cannot have money to take part in any of the events in school. I mean, to give him $5 out of that would make his mom hard pressed. His mom said: I am doing my best to encourage him to stay in school, though he gets depressed and wants to leave. She said: I know that if he does not finish school, he will go on social assistance like we both are now.

This woman was not on social assistance; she is first generation in that family, social assistance. Her mom and dad, her parents, were not on social assistance. Unfortunately, when she married and when her husband left she had to resort to social assistance. Now, because there is not enough money given to her and to her boy she finds that she is having a terrible time keeping him in school.

This agenda is probably like so much more of the earnest talk, mostly talk and not a lot of effective action for child poverty.

In the scheme of things you have to have commitment from all the players. The hon. Pierre Pettigrew, I understand, has not made any commitment to put any money into this program. While it looks very, very good on paper and it is providing good options, unless we have the commitment of money, unless we are not going to let it go the way of the special Committee on Children's Interests report, and unless we are not going to let it go the way of the Williams' Commission which said that children are going to school hungry and should be fed, then unfortunately this agenda will probably go the way of the rest of them.

The Minister of Justice made a contribution to this. I say that we probably should go no further when we are talking about children then the Whitbourne Youth Facility and the recommendations that were made in the Linda Inkpen report last year. Many of the recommendations were cost negligible, so it is not a money issue here. These issues, these recommendations, have not been addressed.

I would like to make some mention of education. Every day recently in the House of Assembly we have seen the education critic stand and speak about cutbacks in programs. While the Minister of Education replies and says - and she is accurate - we are providing our children with enough to get them into post-secondary education, is that enough when we remove science programs, when we remove arts programs, when we remove music programs and physical education programs? What are we doing to contribute to the well-being, to the successful learning, to the well-rounded children? What are we doing for early intervention here, when we are sending children to school and each year we are removing more and more programs from the curriculum? While these programs are in existence in many of the urban centres, we owe it to all our Newfoundlanders. To all the children of Newfoundland and Labrador, we owe a quality education.

I am not suggesting that we set up science labs in every school across the Province, but I am suggesting that the children of rural Newfoundland should have equal access to optimum programming. This is the programming that was promised in 1997 when we had the referendum on education reform. It was suggested right through that, that schools would blend, that there would be a blending of the best teachers, that there would be a blending of the programs that would make programs accessible to all the children of the Province. I need go no further than my district.

The Budget Speech referred to 14.7 pupil-teacher ratio. I can bring in the counts from the classrooms in my district, and I can show one classroom with thirty-eight pupils. I suggest that if the statistics were done on an urban basis, if the urban ones were done separately than the rural ones, that we would find that in urban Newfoundland, while they do probably have more programs, that the pupil-teacher ratio is a lot higher that 14.7 to 1.

In urban Newfoundland, the pupil-teacher ratio... In St. John's West there are classrooms in my district that have thirty-eight pupils in one class.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Not in St. John's West.

AN HON. MEMBER: Absolutely.

MS S. OSBORNE: Okay, which school, Cowan Heights United or St. Matthews, has five children in a classroom?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Yes, probably the developmentally delayed program, which is not factored into the rest of the children who are in the normal streams of education in either one of those schools.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, should I adjourn debate?

AN HON. MEMBER: Okay.

MS S. OSBORNE: I now adjourn debate.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

The hon. member has adjourned the debate for the day.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before we adjourn, I would just like to say that tomorrow we will be back on the Budget Speech again.

I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Tuesday, at 2:00 p.m.