May 25, 1999               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS              Vol. XLIV  No. 29


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin the routine proceedings for today, there are a couple of things the Chair would like to do. I would first of all like to welcome ten Journalist students from Lawrence College. They are accompanied by the their instructor, Mr. William Callahan, also a former Member of the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: It is also my pleasure today to preside over a ceremony which on three previous occasions had to be postponed because of certain events that took place in this Chamber. In fact, I must apologize to the former Sergeant-at-Arms in that we have not been able to honour him properly before this time; however, he is here with us today.

As members who have served during previous General Assemblies will remember, of course, he was our Sergeant-at-Arms from 1981 to 1997. For new members of the Assembly, and for visitors to the gallery today, I would like to take a few minutes to give you a little on the background of Mr. Kirby.

He was born in Lamaline on May 26, 1916, which means that tomorrow he will be celebrating his 83rd birthday.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly want to wish him many happy returns of the day.

He is the son of the Reverend H. and Mrs. F. Kirby and was educated in Lamaline, Port Rexton and Harbour Grace. The former Sergeant-at-Arms enlisted with the First Volunteer Contingency Royal Artillery and sailed for England on April 14, 1940. Like many of his peers, of course, he served us well and indeed helped preserve many of the freedoms that we enjoy today in this democracy, in this country, and indeed in this Parliament.

He served in the 166th Newfoundland Royal Artillery and fought with the British in North Africa and in the Italian Campaign. He is married to the former Thelma Marper of Sheffield, England. They have three children, and it is my pleasure to welcome them here today. They are sitting in the Speaker's gallery. I want to welcome Ms Thelma Kirby, son Philip, and Debra and Pamela, his two daughters.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: As well I would like to recognize, sitting in the public galleries today, commissionaires who worked with Mr. Kirby when he was the Sergeant-at-Arms here: Mr. Doug Parmiter, Bill Tucker, Ladd Bursey, Bill Mitchell and Ralph Clarke.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Kirby was involved in many community activities, including the past Commanding Officer of the RCSCC Terra Nova. He served on the executive council of Branch 56, the Royal Canadian Legion. He started to serve in his position as Sergeant-at-Arms here in 1979 as an understudy to the then Sergeant-at-Arms, Mr. Hemmons. He took over his full responsibility in the fall of 1981, and was with us until 1997.

Mr. Kirby served us well during his years as Sergeant-at-Arms. To recognize his service, and on behalf of all members, I ask the present Sergeant-at-Arms to escort Mr. Kirby to unveil his portrait. We will hang it next to the former Sergeant-at-Arms, Mr. Hemmons, on the wall in the side corridor next to the Chamber.

I would like for the Sergeant-at-Arms now to escort Mr. Kirby to the floor of the Chamber, and we will unveil the portrait.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

[Unveiling of portrait.]

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, it was with much sadness and regret that we learned of the passing of Irene Catherine Woodford, wife of the hon. Rick Woodford, Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

Irene Woodford died on Saturday, May 22nd following a difficult and courageous battle with cancer. She was fifty years of age.

On behalf of all hon. members, I wish to extend our deepest sympathy and condolences especially to Rick and his daughter, Tanya, and indeed to all members, relatives and friends of the Woodford family. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them during this period of great sorrow.

Irene Woodford was a person who was loved, admired and respected especially by those whose lives she touched during her teaching profession. She will be sadly missed by all who had the good fortune and privilege to know her. Today, Mr. Speaker, we mourn the loss of a truly great person.

I wish to advise all hon. members that a Memorial Service will be held for the late Irene Woodford at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday at the St. George's Anglican Church at Cormack.

Mr. Speaker, out of respect for Irene Woodford, I understand that arrangements are being made for members of both sides of the House to attend this Memorial Service and have an opportunity to pay their personal respects to the Woodford family.

With leave of the House, I would ask that the Clerk be directed to send an appropriate letter of condolence to extend our sympathies to the Woodford family.

Mr. Speaker, at the conclusion of any other remarks associated with this expression of sympathy, I would ask that all hon. members stand for a minute and observe this moment of silence out of respect for the memory for the late Irene Woodford.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Obviously, Mr. Speaker, my colleagues and I on this side of the House would like to be associated with the remarks by the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. Mr. Woodford, Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, has a great many friends in all parts of the House. I can only reiterate what you have said: that we, through the Speaker, through the House of Assembly, pass on every member's personal regrets and sympathies to Mr. Woodford and his daughter, Tanya. We look forward to seeing Mr. Woodford's return to the House, and we will see he and his family and friends Thursday in Cormack.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to join with the minister and the Leader of the Opposition in acknowledging the great sadness that we all feel today at the loss of a member's spouse.

As indicated, the minister has a great many friends in this House, as well as his wife. My own spouse and I visited them at their home on occasion and enjoyed their hospitality and company. It is especially poignant to know that this has happened, and it is with great sadness that I join in this moment and ask to share with others the sentiments of this House in a formal condolence to the member and his family for their great loss.

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask all hon. members to rise.

[Members observe a moment of silence.]

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to tell everyone today about two related initiatives to help low income families in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Earlier today, I announced the details of the Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit, the Province's 1999 National Child Benefit provincial reinvestment, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Family Benefit which are both part of the redesign of the Department of Human Resources and Employment's income support program.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is dedicated to developing and maintaining supports and programs that directly respond to the serious issue of child poverty. Over the past year we have implemented a number of initiatives that ensure children and families of the Province have access to resources that will help provide a healthy and productive lifestyle. Initiatives such as the Strategic Social Plan and other components of our income support program have directly influenced the well-being of children and families within the Province. The Newfoundland and Labrador Child and Family Benefits continue the mandate set out by government and will significantly improve the lives of approximately 42,000 children in the Province.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit ensures low income families, whether on social assistance or not, receive ongoing support for their children. The NLCB will be provided to all low income families with a net income below $20,921 based on the previous tax year. Families are eligible if they have at least one dependent child under the age of eighteen. The amount of support provided by the benefit will correspond with the number of dependent children in a family. The Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit will be combined with the Canada Child Tax Benefit, in one monthly federal-provincial payment, beginning in July.

This benefit is designed to provide benefits to various types of families eligible for social assistance, including single parent families, two parent families, and families without children. Beginning in August, the redesigned Family Benefits, which consist of four new rates, will replace the existing basic social assistance allowances. The Family Benefit will be based on the number of adults within a family and their living arrangements. These changes in social assistance allowances will not have an effect on other income support components such as allowances for single persons, rent, mortgage and drug cards.

Details of the specific rates under the Child and Family Benefits have been provided to House members to review at their convenience.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Child and Family Benefits directly respond to the needs and concerns of the children of families of Newfoundland and Labrador. These new initiatives provide incentives to join or rejoin the labour market while continuing to support families while they make this transition.

I hope that members of the House will share my enthusiasm over these programs and agree that these initiatives are a wonderful step forward in supporting low income families and ensuring that our children grow up in a safe and stable environment.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I would like to thank the minister for providing me with a copy of the statement. Any improvement in the lives of the children in this Province, and indeed in the lives of the family in this Province, is welcome.

It is interesting to note that one year ago today the minister stood in this House and announced that the National Child Tax Benefit would not be clawed back from families who were on social assistance. I would like to think that was because of the pressure that was put on by this side of the House on more than one occasion when petitions were presented. I am glad to see that this year the minister sees the benefit of that and the good it is in fact doing for the families out there.

Any improvement, as I said, of this 3 per cent or 4 per cent is certainly welcome, because 27 per cent of the children in Newfoundland live in poverty, and in single parent families 72.1 per cent of children live in poverty. That is by far leading the national average by a country mile.

I am really glad that there is some improvement. I have not had a chance to go over the figures yet and see what the comparison is in the new figures, but as I said before, any improvement in the lives of children and families in the Province is welcome.

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.

The readjustment of these rates and basically reorganizing the deck chairs does not do a lot to improve the situation of what the minister herself says. There are 42,000 children in this Province who live in families in poverty, and therefore qualifying for the Child Benefit.

The situation here is that the institutions and structures that create and maintain equality are not being changed at all. In fact, the minister with her targeted program is not meeting the universal standard that is required. For example, these individuals who are working and making up to $18,000 to $20,000 are paying taxes. The minister is taking those taxes and giving some of it back to them. Instead, the minister and her government should be working towards reducing the amount of taxes that individuals at low incomes have to pay.

I note that the single individual adult on social assistance still receives a shocking and scandalous $129 per month maximum. Although the minister is changing the names of some of these programs, readjusting the way the benefits are calculated, we still have a shocking state of provision of basic services for the people in need in this Province, including children and families.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In March of this year, the Department of Mines and Energy issued a call for proposals under the Mineral Act respecting the mineral rights to 250 hectares at Deer Cove near the town of Ming's Bight on the Baie Verte Peninsula. The 250 hectares covered a previously discovered deposit of talc as well as a small gold deposit. The call for proposals was advertised internationally with a deadline of May 15, 1999 for the receipt of proposals.

Today I am pleased to announce that we have accepted a proposal from WMC International Ltd. for the further exploration and evaluation of the talc and gold deposits at Deer Cove. WMC International Limited is a Canadian subsidiary of the Australian-based corporation WMC Limited, one of the world's largest resource companies and a significant producer of both gold and talc. It is also the world's third largest nickel producer and has major interests in copper, alumina, uranium, silver and fertilizer with total assets valued at $9 billion Australian in 1998.

WMC has proposed a multi-phased approach to evaluating the mineral deposits at Deer Cove with an initial focus on the talc potential of this particular property. This will result in the expenditure of approximately $300,000 and will lead to test mining and a pre-feasibility study for the project. The initial work will begin this summer, and if successful will move to the next phase quickly.

WMC currently owns 50 per cent of Europe's second largest talc producer, Mondo Minerals Oy, and also operates a major talc mine in Australia itself. We are confident that WMC has the technical and marketing expertise to properly evaluate the true potential of the talc resources at Deer Cove as well as the small gold deposit located adjacent to this talc deposit.

It gives me great pleasure to announce the awarding of the mineral rights at Deer Cove to WMC International and to welcome WMC, one of the world's largest mineral and metal producers, to its first project in Newfoundland and Labrador. I wish WMC every success in this project, which, if successful, could lead to another important mining development for our Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Indeed, it is good news that such a reputable company known worldwide is going to have its first experience in this Province on the Baie Verte Peninsula. It certainly has a great potential. Many geologists over the years have said that it is one of the areas of the Province where we could see some major mining resource developments over the next little while. This is the type of activity we need. Because like Voisey's Bay, like anywhere else, we have to have the investors and we have to have the people to come in to look for these minerals. It only bodes well for the future of not only the Baie Verte Peninsula but anywhere when a company of this stature comes into our Province.

I also noticed too that it also has a major interest in copper, of which there have been some developments in the Baie Verte Peninsula, and in Central Newfoundland, as of late. We hope that this type of activity will continue and that indeed we will see this first phase proceed very quickly throughout the summer. I say to the minister that even the amount for this summer, that little bit of activity alone, certainly of course stirs people's interests again. It certainly is an injection of good faith that we see in mining in this Province again. Hopefully we will see something positive in the near future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement.

Also, I rise in support of the statement. I think it is good news. This is a very large international corporation, the third largest producer of not only nickel but of gold as well. This is a company that is operating in nineteen countries around the world. They are also involved in - as it said in the statement - uranium and the chemical industry. It is positive when a large corporation with a reputation such as WMC decides to invest and pursue opportunities in our Province. It has nothing but good news for us.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that in the latest copy of Voisey's Bay News there are many other activities taking place in the mining industry in the Province today, and hopefully they will have significant payoffs for us as a province as well.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! Hear, hear!

MR. NOEL: I hope you will get in the habit of that kind of response when I speak in the House.

Mr. Speaker, as members know, hundreds of thousands of Kosovars have been displaced by the tragic conflict in Serbia. The Government of Canada has agreed to accept 5,000 Kosovo refugees under an emergency humanitarian evacuation program. These people are granted refugee status on arrival in our country and may remain permanently as landed immigrants. About one hundred of the refugees are being allocated to our Province, consistent with targets set under the national refugee resettlement program, and are expected to arrive by mid-June. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is pleased to assist the federal government in settling these people in Canada. Some may remain with us permanently, others may eventually choose to return to their homeland, or move to other parts of our country.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has initiated a Joint Assistance Sponsorship Program which will meet the needs of refugees through partnerships between the federal government and private sponsorship groups. Under this program, basic financial needs, including start-up costs and living allowances, will be paid by the federal government, while sponsorship groups are being asked to facilitate integration by providing orientation and emotional support to the refugees. Sponsoring groups will therefore not be required to make any financial commitment.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador encourages citizens in our Province to provide the refugees with the support they require. The Government of Canada is seeking group sponsorships to provide the refugees with emotional support and orientation about life where they take up residence. A number of local religious, service, and humanitarian groups already hold Sponsorship Agreements with the federal government and have had successful experience in resettling refugees. However, five or more individuals can form an ad hoc group for the purpose of sponsorship, providing they first affiliate themselves with an existing organization which holds a sponsorship agreement with the federal government.

We urge people to seriously consider assisting in this effort. Interested potential sponsors should contact local groups experienced in refugee sponsorship and refugee serving organizations as soon as possible. Further information may be obtained by calling the Kosovo Hotline at 1-888-410-0009, or the coordinator for our Province, Ms Marlene Power, at 754-4122.

While the formal sponsorships are requested from groups, there are also many opportunities for individuals to help. Those able to do so should promptly contact refugee service organizations which are looking for volunteers to assist in integrating the refugees into our community.

Canadians, continuing our tradition of humanitarian assistance, are opening our doors to these unfortunate people in their time of great need. I know the people of our Province will generously and enthusiastically share responsibility for easing the burdens of these refugees.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly join with the minister in urging people to get involved in this humanitarian effort. The people here in Newfoundland and Labrador have certainly played their part within the context of Canada in moving forth and being able to provide assistance for the allocation of one hundred refugees to this Province, and encourage groups; and through the various ones that already have an affiliation with sponsorships there, I encourage people to get involved. Because Newfoundland and Labrador has to do its part. It is an emergency on a worldwide scale. I am sure the minister stands in need of us playing our part in this Province to assist in that process. We certainly encourage that, and hopefully people in this Province will respond like they always do on matters of humanitarian interest.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased that the minister's first ministerial statement in the House as Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs is on such an issue of broad international significance, and underscores the humanitarian role that Canada has played internationally for many years. I, too, wish to join in encouraging individuals and particularly groups in this Province to get involved in assisting with the refugees from Kosovar.

I know a number of groups in the Province have a lot of experience, such as the Association for New Canadians and others, in helping to integrate newcomers to Canada and to Newfoundland and Labrador who have come here under extreme circumstances to integrate, to learn the language, and to find the kind of emotional community support that they need. I hope and I know that people will come forward in these circumstances to assist the refugees to become citizens, if they wish, or to return to their homeland, if that is possible, in the near future.

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

My question today is for the Minister of Mines and Energy. About a year ago, on March 8, 1998, there was a rather significant public press conference held in Labrador with respect to a negotiated framework or an understanding related to the possible development of the Lower Churchill. Since that time, we have been promised a number of updates related to what was included in that framework: financing; the diversion of both the Romaine and the St-Jean Rivers; the possible development of Muskrat Falls, as well as Gull Island; the possibility of a line from the Labrador portion of our Province to the Island portion of our Province. Much of that was discussed at the time but little information coming forth. Recently we have seen a confirmation of what was included in that framework agreement with respect to winter availability, which essentially will keep CF(L)Co solvent.

I would like to ask the minister today, with respect to the transmission line to the Island portion of the Province: Based upon the public comments made by the Premier at that time and subsequent to that time, are there any negotiations still ongoing with the federal government vis--vis the financing of an in-feed or a line specifically from the Labrador portion of the Province to the Island portion of the Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. GRIMES: Yes, Mr. Speaker, that issue is still being discussed with the Government of Canada.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: You wonder why people are sceptical. One of the most important public policy debates that is not taking place in the Province today is with respect to the development of the Lower Churchill agreement. Not only that, not only the development of Lower Churchill, but also any form of redress on the Upper Churchill.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. E. BYRNE: If the Minister of Fisheries would like me to ask him a question, when I am finished with the Minister of Mines and Energy I will ask you a question and you can stand up and answer as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister: Could he provide any more detail in terms of discussions? How serious are they? Is the federal government willing to look at the possibility of financing this? What are the costs associated with it? We have heard costs around the vicinity of $1.5 billion. Could the minister confirm that? Could he provide any more detail to the people of the Province, through this Legislature, on actually that aspect of the discussions between the federal government, the provincial government, and the proposed partner, Hydro Quebec?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe the hon. member is getting a bit excited in making his speeches and so on but there is no proposed partner, Hydro Quebec, with respect to an in-feed from Labrador to the Island for purposes of electric power. That is an initiative of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, hopefully with the Government of Canada as a partner. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Hydro Quebec or the Government of Quebec. There were a number of different components to what was announced on March 9 of last year - not March 8 - and the discussions have been proceeding.

With respect to redress, my understanding at least of what was in the Blue Book during the election some few months ago now was that if the members opposite were the government they were going to go to Ottawa and ask for some money for the fact that there was no transmission line, no corridor, through Quebec thirty years ago and there has not been one for that whole period of time. That was their plan.

We have decided not to do that. We have addressed the issue directly with Hydro Quebec and the Quebec government, and we have already indicated that on two fronts, with respect to the recall of power, we achieved $30 million in the year just past that otherwise would not have been available to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Over the life of the contract, that will improve the value of the existing contract for Newfoundland and Labrador by in excess of $1 billion over the life of the existing contract.

Also, with the winter availability that the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, over the life of the contract that would improve matters in Newfoundland and Labrador by a $1.5 billion.

Already, in two discussions that we have had with Hydro Quebec, not with the Government of Canada, we have already increased the lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians by $2.5 billion, somewhat of a significant improvement.

The transmission issue, the in-feed to the Island, is a matter solely to be done by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, hopefully with some assistance from the Government of Canada, if it can be arranged, and we are still in those discussions.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: The minister danced around the question. I will ask him more directly. My information has told me that the Government of Canada are not willing to participate in an in-feed to the Island. Can the minister confirm that, please, or deny it?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have no idea who his sources are. I can tell you that we have a full negotiating team functioning on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador with respect to the Labrador Hydro project, all aspects of it, including the in-feed to the island. All of the options are still being examined.

We are hoping to be at a point some time in the not-too-distant future where we can come forward in a very public fashion and explain fully to everybody in the Province what has transpired in the last year or so, aside from the fact that without starting anything with respect to new developments in Labrador we have already negotiated $2.5 billion worth of improvements in one year. That is substantial and significant progress.

If we can get the other pieces to fall together as well as we have managed to negotiate those two pieces that have contributed $2.5 billion of new value to Newfoundland and Labrador in the next few months, we will be only too glad to explain the whole case scenario to the people of the Province.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, last year - about this time, actually - in this Legislature we discussed the financing arrangements with respect to the possible development or eventual development depending on a successful conclusion to the negotiations that are ongoing, because all we have right now is a Memorandum of Understanding or a framework. The successful conclusion of that has not yet taken place.

Can the minister update the House in terms of the financing component, in view of the fact that it is apparent that the diversion of the St-Jean River is now off, or is in jeopardy in terms of bringing extra capacity into the Smallwood reservoir, which would flow down through the Lower Churchill? In view of that fact, has that impacted upon the approximately $900 million of borrowing that must take place though CE(L)Co and also through the Province in some form or another?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The general nature of it has not changed at all from last year. The whole proposition that was put forward to the people of the Province by the Premier, and also concurred in with Premier Bouchard at the time, was that any new developments in Labrador that are being discussed will finance themselves over the thirty-year life that will be expected to pay for all of the construction costs, whether that construction includes one or two diversions, an Upper Churchill reconfiguration, a Lower Churchill, Muskrat Falls, an in-feed, any or all of those components.

Whichever components are finally agreed upon and announced will finance themselves and pay for all of the borrowing that is done by ourselves and the Province of Quebec over a thirty-year period and will generate significant profit and returns to the people of the Province forever; otherwise there will not be an arrangement entered into.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, everybody knows the general nature has not changed. What I am after are some of the specific nature, the specifics related to the deal.

My understanding is that the Province, on about $300 million, with respect to the diversions into the Upper Churchill, with respect to the new generators required to handle the increased capacity, then on the new arrangement on the Lower Churchill, on Gull Island specifically, that the new partnership owned two-thirds - or proposed owned two-thirds by the Province, one-third by Hydro Quebec - that we will have to borrow; in other words, that the Province will have to guarantee in some way, shape or form in excess of $500 million to $600 million. I know that bond rating agencies and money markets have met with the Department of Mines and Energy, Department of Finance, et cetera.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)?

MR. E. BYRNE: I know a lot more than you do, Minister. That is all I will say to you right now.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: The question is this. Are you in a position today to elaborate fully on exactly what we will be exposed on, what we have to borrow, and what the Province will have to guarantee with respect to the Lower Churchill?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. GRIMES: No, Mr. Speaker, other than to give this assurance. The sale of the new electric energy generated by the project that we will at some point, hopefully, agree to build in Labrador, the sale of the energy will finance of and by itself any borrowing the Province has to incur. There will be no risk to the Province outside of that for other kinds of borrowing that we would have to do to maintain programs and functions of the government generally in services.

This is a business proposition. There will be enough new electric energy generated in Labrador that the sale of that energy alone will justify, merit and warrant the construction of the new facilities and will pay for every bit of it of and by itself without any further jeopardy to the normal borrowing of the Province, in terms of taking care of the services that people have come to expect on an annual basis from their government.

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

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

If the minister can stand in this House today and emphatically say that the sale of the new energy will more than finance it, then he must know what the financing costs are going to be.

I will ask the minister my question again. He has just indicated that the sale of energy will more than cover the cost so the Province will not be left exposed, but he did not answer the question. I have two questions. One, what will we have to guarantee as a province? Two, if he can stand in this House today and say that the sale of energy will more than cover the cost, then, Minister, release the financing cost. You must know it if you can stand in the House and emphatically say that today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not understand. I have admitted before being very stupid at times, and this is maybe one of them. I do not even understand why the question would be raised, or the concern that the Leader of the Opposition is trying to get at.

If there was a proposition being put forward where the normal borrowing capacity of the Province to sustain programs and services in health care, education, transportation, communication, that people have become to rely on, and if that was in some way going to be jeopardized by additional borrowing to build a hydro project, I could understand some concern. Ever since March 9 of last year it has been clear to everybody who has read any of the documentation, without any specific numbers, that this project will only proceed between the partners - being Hydro-Quebec for the parts that are shared, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro on behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro on behalf of the government and the Government of Canada for the in feed - if they pay for themselves, based upon the new energy generated and transmitted.

There is no issue in terms of a concern for financing. So the number in that context is absolutely irrelevant, because if it is $1 and it is all covered by a sale, or if it is $1 billion and it is all covered by a sale, it does not matter in terms of the fiscal capability of the Province to raise the money, or the ability of the Province to run all the other programs and services that are expected of it.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: If the minister has not gotten the drift of the question, it is simply this. We could be in this Legislature today and for the past three weeks debating the merits and demerits of a concrete proposal. Government has said on at least three occasions that they would provide updates to the people of the Province and to the House.

In terms of financing costs, Minister, people in this Province have no other choice but to either adopt and endorse your `trust me' approach. That is what we are talking about, because that is what you are asking people to do: trust me, trust this government. That is the issue. I will leave that up to the people of the Province to decide.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: I am not going to speculate one way or another on what they want to do, if they trust you or not. I will say this. As Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of the people of the Province -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: - I'm not going to trust the government until I see what is in the proposal. That is what we are asking for today. That is all we are asking for.

Final question, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. E. BYRNE: It is called doing your job, Minister. Maybe you can take a lesson from it.

Mr. Speaker, this is a final question to the Minister of Mines and Energy. We have seen publicly that there is a problem with respect to Aboriginal concerns on the Quebec side of the border with respect to the diversion of the St-Jean River. Are there any other parts of that framework agreement that are not as they were announced on March 9, 1998, that have changed a year later? Could you inform the House if there are any other changes, fundamentally, to the principles on which that framework was announced and sold? Could you tell us today?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If there are to be changes, and some have been openly speculated about by ourselves as the government, there may be a single diversion instead of two diversions. That is not yet finally decided. There may or may not be a re-configuration at the current Churchill Falls plant to install new turbines. The other option being explored is whether or not we just take the current plant and operate it at a higher rate of capacity.

Those issues, none of them have been finally determined between the partners who are looking to build this project: basically the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Quebec, except for the in feed which is the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada. If there are to be changes in what was talked about and announced a year ago in March, they will be announced when they are decided. There have been no changes decided upon. There are a number of examinations occurring.

With respect to whether or not people should have some confidence that things are going fairly well to date, there have been two accomplishments that I will remind people of again. As a part of this discussion and negotiation we have achieved an extra $1 billion over the life of the current Upper Churchill contract for the people of the Province through the recall provision, and through the Guaranteed Winter Availability Contract we have achieved an additional $1.5 billion that will benefit the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that otherwise would not have existed.

Even before we get down to the details of exactly what we will build, how many rivers will be diverted, whether it will be transmitted to the Island or not, we have already enhanced a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians by $2.5 billion. I would expect there is some reason for the people of the Province to have some comfort and confidence that so far this negotiation is going fairly well.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: This past year the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association signed a MOU with this government that acknowledges that the NLMA is the sole and exclusive negotiator for physicians in this Province.

Government, however, has unilaterally implemented a block funding arrangement for St. John's emergency room physicians. The NLMA, in a letter last Thursday to their membership, stated that they were only advised of this by receiving a copy of the letter that went from your department to the Health Care Corporation of St. John's. The president in that letter stated he believes that this unilateral action will have serious repercussions and create further instability in the health care system.

I want to ask the minister this. Minister, why did you violate the very MOU that you signed just a few months ago?

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

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

Whenever you have any sort of an arrangement when not all parties can agree, there is a process put in place that allows one party or another to go through that process to find resolution. When all three parties - and there are three parties involved - in particular -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, when all three parties involved, including the Health Care Association, my department, and the NLMA, cannot come to an agreement - on this particular case, where the money is coming from - then we refer to a process whereby the outcome is decided by that process. It is no different than any other appeal process. That is what will happen in this case.

With respect to it being an issue made only known over the last number of days, that issue that we presented has been known for a number of weeks as the process has been worked through. As pointed out, because not unanimous agreement was reached the process then follows whereby it goes to an independent person to identify the outcome.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last year, when I asked about provision of doctors pulling service out of nursing homes you indicated it has to go through the Medical Association. It had to be negotiated. Now you are taking a different stand, I say to the minister.

The NLMA stated in their letter that they have written you condemning this unilateral action and they are calling for a return to the bargaining table. The NLMA, in the president's letter, says: this will increase the cost of providing emergency room services and government has not acknowledged the obligation to fund these costs.

There was not enough money there in the beginning Minister, and they go on to say that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: - to reach parity with Atlantic Canada - and the NLMA board has consistently stated that progress in one area could not be achieved by taking money from another.

I want to ask the minister if she will tell the House if that is the case or is there new money being provided, for example through the Contingency Reserve Fund, as is happening with the hiring of new nurses in the Province?

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

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

It is good to hear the member opposite identify the new money made available for the hiring of new nurses but particularly -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, with respect to the specific question in terms of money available, the money identified has been identified through existing block funds. That is the issue under dispute that is going forward to have a decision made on whether or not the money is there by the part of the process outlined in the MOU.

There are three parties involved with this particular case. My department has identified block funding by which this money can be achieved. Mr. Speaker, not all parties are in agreement, so that will be sent to an independent process to identify if in fact that is the outcome.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is exactly what the Medical Association feared, it is rob Peter to pay Paul. Minister, you know it is difficult to attract emergency room doctors in rural parts of this Province. There are several areas of this Province now that cannot recruit. There are locums coming in, in Gander and Corner Brook. There is not one full time emergency room doctor in Clarenville, for example. How do you expect to solve the shortage in rural Newfoundland, particularly in emergency departments - not to say here in the city alone - when you are paying doctors $17 an hour less to do service in rural Newfoundland emergency departments than you are doing here in the city? You reached that unilaterally, I might say to the minister. Why the discrimination between rural and urban Newfoundland?

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

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

I think it is very important, for the record, to clarify that this is not robbing Peter to pay Paul. This is not taking money out of rural Newfoundland and putting it in urban Newfoundland. It is important, because many days in this House there is so much misinformation and it is important to set the record straight, that there is no reallocation of money from rural Newfoundland into urban Newfoundland. This is an amount of money that has been identified from existing block funds. Let me also say that we have been working with groups of physicians, individually and collectively, about putting together all kinds of new payment schemes and new approaches to alternate payment, and the invitation stands.

I think for the information of the House it is important to note as well that we have a new arrangement about to start in Bonavista, as well as in the Clarenville area, with a new alternative pay schedule, this very arrangement that we are talking about here. I am glad to hear that the member opposite is happy that the urban issue has been resolved. As well, we are also working again with another proposal around the Springdale area to also address issues around money, around how physicians are paid. We are open to any of those.

So again, I say, Mr. Speaker, trying to link what is happening here with other issues again is one more example, I believe, of trying to instil fear in people when we are open to all kinds of new arrangements and funding arrangements.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude her answer.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Any party is entitled to make their view clear. Obviously the view of the NLMA is that they would like to see new money but, Mr. Speaker, we just reached a $32 million agreement by which we believe -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude her answer quickly.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: - that there is existing monies available to pay for this new arrangement.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

My questions are for the Minister of Environment and Labour regarding the former Argentia naval base and the clean up currently being conducted at that site.

I would like to ask the minister where the contaminated materials from that site are going. Who, if anybody, conducts testing on the materials that are removed? How often are those tests done?

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

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my understanding that the federal government is in the process of preparing a site to look after the contaminated material that is in the Argentia area.

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

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

They are preparing a site, but does the Province conduct any auditing of the materials that have been taken from that site to date, for example contaminated liquids, to ensure that what is removed is accounted for? Can the Province account for the quantity of material removed? Can they account for what happens to the material once it is removed from that site?

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

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We have the inspectors from the department that monitored the site at Argentia regularly. I cannot tell you all the details here now, but when I go back to the department I will get it and give it to the hon. member tomorrow.

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Are there any contaminated materials such as oil or oily water being dumped at the Robin Hood Bay site? Can the minister give us a breakdown of the amounts that are being dumped, the hydrocarbon content, and who is doing the dumping at that site? Table the findings.

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

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I suggested to the person earlier, I want to check with the inspectors when I go back this afternoon. Tomorrow I will give a briefing to the member opposite as to what is happening in the Argentia site.

The inspectors are there regularly. In fact, I have had some of the contractors tell me that the inspectors have spent more time in Argentia than elsewhere. I will check it out and find out.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Minister, less than one month ago you stood and read a prepared ministerial statement stating how happy you were that after a long, hard lobby with the federal government, your cousins, that finally S.C.B. Fisheries would now be allowed to import all female diploid steelhead trout, which are more commercially viable. You went on to say how this was good news for S.C.B. Fisheries and other aquatic operations in Bay d'Espoir.

I ask the minister if this is now a done deal. Are there any problems with S.C.B. Fisheries importing this strain of fish in the numbers they require?

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

MR. EFFORD: There is no change, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister, it is my understanding that this struggling operation may have to wait another twelve months before they are allowed to import the quality of diploid fish that they now need. In fact, Minister, the 20,000 eggs that were imported have now reached the stage that they should be in ocean cages, but remain at Jeddore Lake because of your department not being prepared to allow the transfer to happen. I ask the minister if this is his way of helping this particular industry to succeed.

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

MR. EFFORD: None of that is correct, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, this is not what I am hearing, I say to the minister.

Minister, it is also my understanding that the problem of importing the diploid strain of steelhead trout into this Province now lies with your department and not the federal government.

Will the minister admit here today that the decision to delay the importing of female diploid fish is due to his department's decision to now do an environmental study, which shows that his very own department was not even ready for the very thing that he was lobbying the federal department to accept?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, there is no delay in bringing in the diploid fish. Here is what happens, for the hon. member does not know, and if he would search out the answers instead of listening to the news media and drawing his questions from that, he would know more about it.

First of all, you have to import the eggs. Then you put the eggs into the hatchery. Then they grow into what we call smolts. Then you take that and you put them into the lake. Then they grow into steelhead trout. Then we ship them out of the Province. Before we do that, before that can be done, it has to go through an environmental process. Until you bring in the eggs you cannot go through the environmental process.

There is no delay. Everything is on schedule and will be on schedule. What was talked over on CBC radio this morning is not correct. There is absolutely no delay. It stated that Minister Anderson had delayed it for another year? That is wrong.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister that if that information is wrong, and the minister stands here and continually says the dollars that are put into this operation are for research and development - there were 20,000 diploid eggs and 20,000 triploid eggs put in Jeddore Lake. The triploids are now in ocean cages, the diploids sit in Jeddore Lake, whereas the minister will not give permission for them to transfer from freshwater surroundings into salt water surroundings. Why?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, first of all, we are not going to go repeating the mistakes that were made in S.C.B. Fisheries in the past. We have come through a total review of S.C.B. Fisheries. There were some mistakes made, and that was the reason why it is not up to a financial situation today where it can make some profits.

Now it is easy enough to say: Let's take the diploid fish out of Jeddore Lake, put them in the ocean, and then we will probably bring a disease into the ocean and destroy all the fish that are there. Until we are absolutely sure where the proper place is to put them, the diploid fish will not be moved until we go through the environmental process and we are satisfied.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the money that was put in last year, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the operation of S.C.B. Fisheries in the future. Bringing in a new strain of fish will enhance the ability of S.C.B. Fisheries to be successful in the future, but to jump and do it without going through the proper procedures would be repeating the mistakes of the past. I am not going to do that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has ended.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Internal Economy Commission Act," Bill 19.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the President of Treasury Board.

MS THISTLE: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Provide An Accountability Framework For Public Bodies," Bill 20.

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

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following private member's resolution:

WHEREAS parents, students, teachers, administrators, school board members, school councils and others throughout the Province had for many weeks been demonstrating their deep concern over the impact of the proposed reduction in 1999-2000 of 182 teaching positions will have on the quality of education available to students in their areas;

AND WHEREAS the Minister of Education has challenged the Opposition and the people of the Province generally to show the government the impacts the pending teacher cuts will have on schools, programs and students;

AND WHEREAS the Minister of Education and her colleagues in Cabinet have dismissed the concerns of parents, students, teachers and officials that have been reported to the House of Assembly by the Opposition caucus committee on education, but the ministers has provided no similar means for the public to express to government in an open forum their concerns about the impacts of teacher cuts on their schools;

AND WHEREAS the continuing protests and demonstrations throughout the Province indicate public concerns have not been diminished by the minister's approach to the situation;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this hon. House urge the Minister of Education and her colleagues in Cabinet to immediately appoint a task force chaired by an independent non-partisan commissioner to hold public hearings throughout the Province to order to give parents, students, teachers, administrators, school board members, school councils and others a public forum in which they can express to government their information and concerns about the impact on schools, programs and students of the proposed reduction in teaching positions and where people can also discuss generally the kind of education system they want for their children.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, if I could have the attention of the Opposition House Leader. There is standard motion there which just says that the Public Accounts Committee be authorized to consider and report upon evidence taken by the Committee during the Third Session of the Forty-Third General Assembly. I wonder if I could ask leave to give notice of that now and still move it?

Mr. Speaker, I would move that the Public Accounts Committee be authorized to consider and report upon evidence taken by the Committee during the Third Session of the Forty-Third General Assembly.

MR. SPEAKER: All those in favour of the motion, `aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Those against, `nay'.

Motion carried.

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. Member for Cape St. Francis asked five specific questions in the House on Friday with respect to the move of the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Maintenance Division from Hallett Crescent and from Mount Pearl to one new location on Blackmarsh Road.

While the information that I provided him in the House was of a general nature, I undertook to give him some specific details or to report to the House on specific details of the leases that have been put in place; the cost associated with the new facility that we are going into; the basis upon which acquisitions were made for goods and services, labour and materials, that sort of thing; and what the projected savings would be, given a ten-year time frame and assuming renewal of a five-year option for a second five-year period.

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling in the House today, for the information of the hon. member and for the information of the House, specific answers in some detail to all of these questions. I hope they will be satisfactory to the member.

If he has additional questions with respect to this particular issue then I would be happy to entertain them and provide for him the information in the House in as timely a fashion as I can, if indeed we cannot provide it immediately during the Question Period exercise.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the President of Treasury Board.

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to respond to a question asked by the hon. Member for St. John's West last week. It was in reference to Executive Council Estimates and pertained to 2.8.01, Women's Policy. The question was about the budget for $317,500 in the Salaries section, 01, revised to $348,000. The answer to that question is that it reflects the removal of the funding for the twenty-seventh pay period provided in 1998-1999.

I might also add that under Professional Services, 05, that budget was forecast to be $82,600 but only $40,000 was spent, which means that $40,000 of that - or less than that - was moved up to Salaries, which reflects the transfer of Professional Services funding into Salaries for a contractual employee. I might also note that the Professional Services projected was less than budgeted for the same reason.

Under the heading 2.8.02, Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women, section 10, Grants and Subsidies, there was a question as to the amount there: $203,800 and reduced to $201,200 for this coming year. The reason for that is that it reflects the removal of funding for the twenty-seventh pay period for council staff provided in the 1998-1999 budget.

Thank you.

Petitions

MR. SPEAKER: 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 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 five kilometres of Route 235 from Birchy Cove to Bonavista.

As in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, this is another petition brought forward by the residents of the Port Union, Bonavista, Birchy Cove, Newmans Cove, Upper, Middle, Lower Amherst Cove area, again putting a plea to government to ask them if they would look at this particular section of roadway that the residents of those five communities travel over every day of the week.

We have had petitions presented here, signed by schoolchildren. We have had petitions signed by parents. We have had petitions signed by people who do not even live in the area but have seen the condition of this particular strip of road and have said: By God, we are going to do our part and send a letter to the minister as well.

I understand the minister's office is getting faxes and letters. In fact, over 600 letters have been sent to the Acting Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. I understand the minister's deputy, in turn, is sending them probably on to Clarenville where the superintendent of that particular district has been receiving them and has answered some of them, so he takes it very seriously.

In conversion with Mr. Goodman, who is the area superintendent there, or the administrator of the eastern area, the Clarenville-Bonavista area - if somebody took the time to write and have a chat with Mr. Goodman, I think he would be very quick off the mark if you asked him the question of where is the worst section of road in the district that he serves. He would certainly tell you that the worst section of road is between Birchy Cove and Bonavista. The section of roadway which he gets the most complaints from, or the area under his jurisdiction where he gets the most complaints from, would certainly be from the Birchy Cove, Upper, Middle, Lower Amherst Cove, Newmans Cove area.

Those people, the residents in this particular area, have written the minister. They have been calling the minister's office, they have been holding public meetings, and they have been calling me. What they are asking for is to have this particular section of Route 235 upgraded and paved. They have identified 2.5 kilometres of the five kilometre stretch between Bonavista and Birchy Cove. They have said: Look, even if we could get that 2.5 kilometres upgraded and paved, that would satisfy our immediate need.

It is not the point of, we want a super highway. All we are asking for is a decent highway that we can drive over safely, so the children can get aboard the school bus and travel to and from school safely, so that we can go to Bonavista and access our health care facility there, access the only doctors in the area, and access the only government buildings in the area, Bonavista being the service centre of the whole area in that particular part of the Bonavista Peninsula.

The plea has been coming through here, through me. They have been using my voice in the House of Assembly to bring forward their concerns to the decision-makers in this Province, and hopefully this year - even though I understand the capital works budget has already pretty well been precluded - the Department of Works, Services and Transportation might be able to find funding in their maintenance budget to at least look after the worst section of this particular roadway.

As the petition states, this particular section of highway was built over twenty-five years ago. It has continued to deteriorate. The situation now is that we are doing patches on top of the patches. The sides of the road, the shoulders of the road, have all fallen away. A lot of the times you are driving along and in order to get away from a hole existing in the pavement you have to go out on the shoulder of the road, and that in turn offers more potential to have an accident.

When this particular section of road was built, the standards were certainly not as high as they are today. Even back in those days, I am not so sure if anybody realized -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: - that this particular section of road would have to last twenty-five years or would have to contend with the amount of traffic and, I suppose, the type of traffic that travels it every day.

It is a plea to the House once again to have this particular section of roadway upgraded and paved.

Thank you.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I would move first reading - and I will do those, if I can, all in one bunch - of Motions 4, 8 and 10. They are:

"An Act to Amend The Income Tax Act". (Bill 6);

"An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act". (Bill 16);

"An Act To Amend The Jury Act". (Bill 17)

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act", carried. (Bill 6)

On motion, Bill 6 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend the Public Tender Act", carried. (Bill 16)

On motion, Bill 16 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend the Jury Act", carried. (Bill 17)

On motion, Bill 17 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before moving on to introducing further Orders of the Day, I think it is appropriate for us to announce that the House will sit on Thursday morning starting at 9:00 a.m. and go to 12:00 noon. That is so we can make arrangements for hon. members to attend the funeral of the late Irene Woodford in the afternoon.

Mr. Speaker, I call Order 5, Bill 10, "An Act To Amend the Denturists Act".

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend Denturists Act". (Bill 10)

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

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

This is a bill that was on the Order Paper last session and is back again this session. It is a bill in agreement by both the dentists and the denturists which would allow basically denturists to do partial dentures as opposed to - many of them are doing it now - the practice of doing it, but this would allow them the legislative ability to do it for legal purposes as well as for liability purposes.

Again, this is something that has been worked through with both parties, the denturists as well as the dentists. Again the definition speaks very clearly to it, that it is a removable, fabricated substitute and is not anything to do with fixed appliances whatsoever.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Official Opposition do not have a problem with allowing denturists, under the Denturists Act, to make partial dentures. I am sure it only allows them to be able to perform commensurate with the basic skills they have, and hopefully give the public access so there is not a larger bite come out of the pockets of consumers and so on. It gives the opportunity to denturists as well as dentists.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, at least they can get their teeth into it. It is something that does not - certainly, if anything, it enhances the competitive aspect basically to allow this particular partial denture to be made. I do not see any negative, adverse effects to the public or to the people involved and affected directly by this particular act.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to express my support and the support of the NDP for this amendment. I know it has been a matter of some controversy when the Denturists Act first came in, that denturists were only given the right under the legislation to manufacture full dental plates.

Of course, the technology of dental work and the provision of dentures is such that there are lots of other ways of meeting the needs of a patient without the provision of a full plate.

This is something that seemed to me at the time to be an unnecessary restriction on denturists. The same technology, the same methodology, seemed to be in use to produce the partial plate as well as a full plate, at least in certain circumstances. I am not fully familiar with all of the techniques and technology required, but it certainly seems to me that this is a forward step for the denturists to permit them, within their level of expertise, to provide dentures of a partial plate nature as well as a full dental plate.

It seems to me that this is something that can be supported by all members of the House. The fact that we have not heard any complaints from anybody else about it is obviously an indication that this is legislation whose time has come and we wish to offer our support as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services. If she speaks now she will close the debate.

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

I move second reading of Bill 10, "An Act To Amend The Denturists Act".

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Denturists Act" read a second time, order referred to Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 10)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before calling the next order of business, I would like to move that the House not adjourn at 5:00 p.m.

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

All those in favour, `aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Those against, `nay'.

Motion carried.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order 6.

AN HON. MEMBER: We will close at 4:00 p.m. if you are going to talk, Harvey.

MR. TULK: Well that is entirely up to the Opposition, what time we close. They usually keep us here until about 11:00 or 12:00 at night.

"An Act To Amend The Tobacco Control Act". (Bill 11)

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Control Act". (Bill 11)

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

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

This bill again is "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Control Act". It is one whereby more onus and responsibility will be placed on those who sell cigarettes, particularly to minors, in such manner that those who sell to persons under the age of nineteen would have increasing fines laid upon them, with the eventual loss of their licence to sell tobacco.

Each of those in the process of selling would have to obtain a licence without any charge, and that licence again would be allowed to be held as long as the holder of the licence sold cigarettes to those who were over the age of nineteen.

Again, we see this as the beginning of an ongoing campaign, one whereby we have committed a significant amount of money in conjunction with many other groups to begin to very much target and monitor sales of tobacco and also target younger people specifically.

The fines are set out in this piece of legislation. As well, it is very clear the age limit, being age nineteen, and that the onus again of responsibility is placed on the vendor/seller of cigarettes to minors.

This piece of legislation is one again that we have been working on for a period of time and have been very much consulting with the various stakeholders including the Canadian Cancer Society, Newfoundland Heart and Lung, physicians' groups, the Newfoundland respiratory group -

AN HON. MEMBER: Tobacco companies?

MS J.M. AYLWARD: No, not tobacco companies.

It is interesting to note, though, that the day before we did introduce this into the House of Assembly, a representative group of tobacco companies conducted a public relations campaign, in my very own district I might add, to allocate a very small portion of money again to enhance the whole issue of tobacco sales. Even though to a government like ours the amount might be significant, to those in the tobacco industry it was a very minor contribution. When you compare the revenue they receive from young people starting to smoke, particularly when we know that cigarette smoking is more addictive than heroin. We see that in the increasing numbers, particulary of youth, who have begun to smoke across this country, but more specifically in our own Province. Every two years we have a survey which indicates that we are seeing an increase in the number of young people smoking, particulary young women.

We are very pleased to move forward with this piece of legislation. We know that very soon to follow we will have another piece of legislation that we believe will go hand in hand with this one, allowing a more firm approach so that governments may sue tobacco companies for the damages done to a person's health.

Again, all of the information is contained in the bill, and I would be only to happy to answer any questions. We do know that this piece of legislation has the support of the community at large, all of the various advocacy groups, and those that have been working for years to try to address the hazards of smoking so that it can be prevented before it has to be cured.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly stand in support of this particular bill. We are all aware that it is a major growing concern today with increasing smoking among particularly young people, and young people getting access. Anything that would limit access has to help the problem. It may not solve it completely, but it has to help it and reduce the incident rates.

It is a concern here when people nineteen and over are out purchasing cigarettes. I know you can go into schools today and pay so much and get a cigarette. People sell them and peddle them around schools. Some of them, I guess, could be nineteen years of age at schools today, it is not uncommon. That is a major concern too.

I say to the minister that it is positive to take action on people who are selling these, to limit access to young people. We also have to be cognizant of people who are buying them for others, the same as they buy alcohol and give it to young people. That is a serious offense. I know there is provision, I guess, under the law on cigarettes, I would think, under some other aspect of legislation. I am sure my legal colleagues might be aware of that, but anybody who gives beer to minors can be charged with an offense. I was just wondering, with reference to tobacco, if someone buys cigarettes and gives cigarettes to them, is there anything in our laws that would -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I am not aware of it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, that is right. I am not aware of that. The minister confirms that and my colleague too, the legal profession. That is a concern too, to have people out there today - a nineteen-, twenty- and twenty-one-year-old - buying cigarettes and selling them or giving them to younger people too. It is a major problem and concern.

I encourage the minister to have an aggressive anti-smoking campaign and accelerate this particular program within our school systems. It is important. People get the impression at an early age when they see people smoking on t.v. and figure it is the cool thing to do. Cigarette manufacturers, while they are out certainly supporting certain aspects of limiting that, are also today becoming increasingly more involved in the production of movies. Private companies out producing movies today, major motion screen pictures today, financing for these has to come through the basic company that is producing it. To take money from cigarette manufacturers and tobacco companies, to have the person driving a car and smoking a cigarette, that is creating impressions on people that it is the fashionable thing to do, it is in vogue, it is cool to do that. That is a back door supporting of smoking.

Those type of things, too, we need to have tough legislation on. I know a lot of these major movie productions emanate in the United States, but some are in Canada also. We have to be cognizant of that because you can never take too strong an action, I suppose, to discourage or to hinder access to cigarette smoking. Because it is costing untold dollars on our health care system today. It is probably the largest contributor, I think, today to health, circulatory diseases - in particular heart -, and respiratory problems associated with smoking, not to mention cancer itself. Many people think smoking and cancer are the main - but it is not the main effect, cancer from smoking. The main problems are heart and circulatory in nature.

So I certainly support the legislation here. I am sure there is an ample period - that it will come into effect September 1, 1999, that all people will give at least three months' notice, sent out in the regular manner, to all people that are licensed. Because you have to be licensed now and there is no fee for it, thank God. There is not another tax on this one. At least they have to register and they will get their appropriate notice and appropriate warnings. If they did not follow the proper procedures to be able to identify people who purchase cigarettes - and these little notes from parents and notes from other people to give my little Johnny or Mary, twelve- or thirteen-years old, cigarettes to bring home. Those types of things have to be avoided because they are not always authentic, those little notes that people get in stores.

So anything that would discourage people from smoking and prevent people from getting access to it, we support, and we support this particular piece of legislation.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to speak at second reading on the amendment to the Tobacco Control Act. I believe that these amendments are certainly helpful in the attempt to decrease the number of young people with access to tobacco.

I note that a number of years ago when the Tobacco Control Act was brought in and the age was raised to age nineteen for the procurement of tobacco, and at the same time the prohibition of selling loose cigarettes was introduced or strengthened, there were hearings held in this House and a legislative committee - which was active in those days; they appear to be totally inactive now - actually held hearings and heard evidence from people involved in the control of tobacco who had serious concerns about the approaches being taken by the tobacco companies in their efforts to recruit new smokers, particularly young people, and how they worked both nationally and internationally.

It is astounding that these companies who produce these products are increasing their market around the world. I read something the other day - I'm not sure I can get the exact quote - but it appears that what is happening throughout the world is that the number of deaths related to communicable diseases is going down, and the number of deaths related to issues such as tobacco and other... I hesitate to call them lifestyle issues, but the number of deaths related to preventable types of diseases that come from things like tobacco are going up, to the point where in a very few years we are looking at probably the most significant cause of death in the world will relate to the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

So I think we have a very serious problem on our hands. We are sort of having a bash at it, I suppose, with this type of legislation. We really have a worse problem here and I guess it is coming down to a moral problem. There is a group of individuals who are producing tobacco for a profit, and that product that they produce has serious addictive consequences to individuals, or most individuals I suppose, who use these products. They have very serious, deleterious health effects on those very same people, resulting in premature death.

What is particularly reprehensible is that these companies are actively recruiting new entrants to the smoking of their products through advertising, through sponsorships, through product placement. As the Opposition House Leader said, you see a movie, and a particular cigarette or tobacco product would be associated with a movie star. You walk into a convenience store and what do you see in many cases behind a counter? A vast row right in your face, a whole panel or two panels of cigarette products right in your face. They are not allowed to advertise but they can stick their products in your face and make it appear that these are totally acceptable products from a consumer's point of view when, in fact, they are addictive, toxic substances that will cause premature death, poison your system, destroy your health, cost innumerable dollars to the health care system, and yet we continue to permit this activity in our midst and permit companies to make a fortune producing and selling these products.

I would be more interested in finding ways to prevent these products from being sold. I will say that one thing this Province has done, for the most part, with the exception of the Labrador circumstance which is, I suppose, a special case, is that when the Canadian government reduced the taxes on tobacco, our Province refused to pass those along to people. One of the most significant deterrents to young people smoking - the evidence we heard in our committee - was that the price of tobacco to young people continues to be a deterrent.

If you can keep the price up, I suppose, attempting to force tobacco retailers not to break up packages and sell cigarettes one at a time, that is one way of providing some deterrent. Obviously, people who have access to these products - young people themselves, if they get access to the products - they can sell them or resell them on an individual basis, but price continues to be an important factor in preventing recruitment of new smokers to the companies who want to make money on this poison in our society.

Mr. Speaker, the minister talked about the other part of the government's program. We first heard about this in June of 1997, during a federal election. During a federal election in June of 1997, the Premier spoke about an effort on behalf of this Province and other Atlantic Provinces to tackle the tobacco companies through court action. The next time we heard anything about it was during the last provincial election, almost two years later. The next time we heard a peep out of this government about tackling the tobacco companies was during the previous election in February of this year; almost a two-year wait to hear anything about it.

We keep talking about legislation that could be used to make it easier to sue tobacco companies. I hear noises being made but I do not see any legislation. The Government of British Columbia introduced that legislation some two years ago. They have already issued a statement of claim. They are actively pursuing this matter in terms of litigation. The way has already been paved by the Americans. A number of American states and the American federal government have pursued legal action.

This is not something that takes a tremendous amount of time. It is not quite a no-brainer when it comes to taking this type of action because you are dealing with a very serious matter and considerable amounts of money. The path has already been beaten in Canada and in the United States, and it is not something that we would have to do a tremendous amount of work in taking any particular leadership role in this matter. The way has been prepared and it is time for us to start taking that action.

I did note some talk during the election campaign that the government was considering putting out some sort of a plan whereby lawyers could participate in suing the companies on a contingency basis. I did notice something about that in the campaign of the government as part of their way of funding lawsuits against tobacco companies. When I heard that, I was very surprise that in a situation where the way has already been paved by other provinces and states of the United States in pursuing the companies, that government would even consider not taking on this action by itself. I do not think any other jurisdiction has done that.

I would certainly think that the government has competent, capable lawyers able to initiate a lawsuit of this nature against the companies. I would certainly hope that the government would do that, and if they did not have capable and competent counsel experienced in that field, surely such could be acquired very easily either from our own profession or Bar here or in other parts of Canada.

I would hope that we would not expect, if the government was suing for the recovery of the health care costs associated with looking after people who are victims of tobacco, cigarette smoking and addiction, I would hope that the taxpayers would recover that.

I have never ever heard before of a government considering a contingency legal action. That is done for people who cannot afford to take the risk involved, who cannot afford to pay for legal counsel and have to have a contingency arrangement because they cannot afford the cost of litigation. That is not something that government should be doing.

That sounded very odd to me, that government would even be contemplating - that the Minister of Health would even contemplate - sharing the recovery of health care costs with members of the legal profession operating on a private basis. I would be very surprised if government would actually pursue that. I have never heard of any government ever doing that, but wonders never cease in this government.

I would hope that existing government lawyers in the Department of Justice are capable and competent in carrying out such litigation. If they need assistance from other counsel, whether they be in the private Bar here in the Province or with other governments - I am sure the Government of British Columbia who has already passed the legislation, who has already initiated legal action, would be prepared to assist by seconding someone to this government for a few months to help with this process or share their knowledge and experience with the lawyers working for the government here in this Province. That progressive British Columbia Government who has already changed their legislation, making class action suits possible; who has already changed their legislation to allow this litigation to go forward; who has already initiated legal process in the court, I am sure they are prepared to share that knowledge and expertise and research information with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

If there are any difficulties in that regard, I would be happy to write the Premier of British Columbia and ask him to do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Sure, I would be happy to write and ask him to share the expertise of the British Columbia Government, because there seems to be a danger that this government does not feel that they have the ability to do it themselves. They want to give it out to private lawyers outside of the government.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman must know that within two weeks the NDP Premier wrecked the economy of New Brunswick. I suspect that he would do it down here in one day, with the size of our economy.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see and say that the progressive Government of British Columbia has taken the initiative in changing their legislation to allow a proper action against the tobacco companies. They have already initiated court action in British Columbia. I know that the government is talking about following the lead of the NDP government in British Columbia in that regard.

I am suggesting that there could be a level of cooperation here. If the spade work has already been done, if the research has already been done, if they have taken this lead, I am sure that the lawyers in the Justice Department are quite capable and competent in following up on that lead and pursuing legal action without the government having to say to private lawyers outside of government: We will give you a piece of the action if you will take some of the risks. I do not know if there is any risk.

I think that the result of this litigation is a foregone conclusion. In the United States, for example, many states have reached agreement - including the federal government in the United States - with the tobacco companies for a significant amount of restitution of the costs of looking after people whose health has been destroyed by the use of tobacco.

I am sure that our government, if they are prepared to be aggressive - a two-year wait, so far, does not appear to be very aggressive, but - if they are prepared to be aggressive, I think we can achieve some results in saving, in recouping some of the money that our health care system has been spending and will continuously spend in looking after people who unfortunately have become addicted to tobacco and whose use of tobacco has caused very serious problems to their health, has resulted in premature aging, premature diseases, and premature death in many instances.

I think it is one of the modern scourges, a scourge of our times, the consequences of tobacco use. I say this as someone who smoked for a number of years myself - many years. I started as a young teenager, just barely a teenager. It took a long time; it is a very difficult addiction to break.

I encourage anybody who has succumbed to that addiction to work very hard and get motivated to stop because it is obviously going to lengthen your life if you do so. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we take whatever measures we can to prevent and discourage young people from taking up smoking. It is a very sad fact.

I know that the Minister of Health mentioned it. I know the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women has to be very discouraged to know that the most significant number of recruits to the smoking population are in fact young women. I think that is a very, very discouraging piece of information, and any effort that can be undertaken to stop that - if anybody has any methods that we can undertake to prevent that or discourage that in any way possible, whether it be the use of negative advertising, the demonstrating of what a turnoff tobacco smoke is and tobacco breath is, if you want, to young people, I think any measures should be undertaken.

I hope government is also considering using some more of its money that it collects from the tobacco companies - because we do collect a considerable amount of money from the tobacco companies - using more of its money to perhaps have some targeted advertising against a particular group.

I wonder if the minister can elaborate on what government is doing or plans to do in that regard. Is the government going to look at this particular group now being recruited by the tobacco companies into the legions of people who smoke? Is the minister going to do that?

I know she knows that one of the again startling statistics that we see happening is that lung cancer is on the rise in women because principally, if not for the sole reason, there are more women smokers, or there have been more women smokers historically, and it is going to continue to rise for some time because more women are smoking for longer. The effect of that smoking is now having consequences on people in the form of lung cancer and other diseases that come from smoking.

I wonder, does the minister have any specific plans to target young women as potential victims of the tobacco industry. Is the minister prepared to look at this as a serious health problem in young people? Probably one of the most serious health problems facing young people today, particularly young women, is getting into the clutches of the tobacco industry by being addicted to smoking cigarettes, by being addicted to tobacco. What specific plans does the minister have to target this group of people who are potential victims of the tobacco industry?

So in addition, Mr. Speaker, to amending the Tobacco Control Act to make the ability of government to enforce legislation against tobacco use more effective, what specific measures would the Department of Health be undertaking to ensure that we are able to discourage young women from smoking cigarettes and from becoming addicted to tobacco? Young men too, of course. I am not suggesting that this is solely a problem of young women but it is a startling statistic, that there are more young women being recruited than young men. I hope that the minister will undertake an enhanced advertising program using some of this money to ensure that we have as strong a program as we possibly can to try to curb the use of tobacco by all citizens, and particularly young people.

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

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

Before I move second reading, I would like to take the opportunity to answer a few of the questions raised by the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi with respect to the focus and attention that would need to be put on addressing smoking, particularly in young women in the Province. This particular piece of legislation, by reading it of course, would not do that because this is a piece of legislation that is very much focused on the ability of government, through a licensing process of vendors and retailers, to limit the sale of tobacco to those under the age of nineteen and to impose fines, as outlined under the bill, ranging from smaller fines to higher priced fines with repeated offense, and eventually involving the loss of the license to sell tobacco, which I am sure would be a big loss to retailers, particularly because of its revenue generating capacity.

Specifically with respect to issues around smoking and prevention, the issue does not lie with government alone. As I have mentioned in a former ministerial statement in this House, government has been working for the last two years with representatives of the Canadian Cancer Society, Newfoundland branch, with the Newfoundland and Labrador Lung Association, with the Heart and Stroke Association, with the Newfoundland Lung Association, with physicians, particularly pediatricians, and other concerned citizens around, addressing it as a community based issue. That is one of the reasons why our government announced a $900,000 initiative over the next three years to begin to address the issues around smoking and particularly targeting high-risk groups, namely young women. We know that the incidence of lung cancer has increased. In fact, it has equalled or surpassed the incidence of breast cancer in women, and that is a very startling figure because of its relatedness to smoking and second-hand smoke.

We are very concerned, not only from a health perspective but also from a human perspective where we know many of these very cancers can be preventable if we are able to target those particular age groups before they start smoking. So yes, the focus of this campaign - which again is not identified in this bill. This is a bill specifically related to vendors and those that are selling cigarettes, outlining very clearly the sale of cigarettes to minors being an offense rising in intensity over time and in violation. It very much makes the store owners responsible and does not put children in a criminal position by buying cigarettes if they are under the age of nineteen.

We are working on a very focused approach. The challenge we have is that we are competing with tobacco companies with billions of dollars sunk into advertising right across the country. They are not multinationals, they are transnationals. They cross all over the world. You know, if you have been anywhere in the United States particularly, there are huge billboards targeting young people with cartoon-like figures. We know that it is very successful in its advertising capacity to attract young smokers.

So we are working with all of the various groups. One of our main, I think, approaches is to actually work with young people who started to smoke and do some focus testing around what it was that actually tuned them into smoking, so that we can learn from their own personal experiences and maybe use some sort of an anti-campaign, based on that information, on how to prevent other children from starting to smoke.

Again, the ages are becoming younger, which is very disturbing. We do believe that many of the children have greater access than ever before. Maybe not from their parents, but from school yards and from people that are only too happy to sell to minors. There is a campaign underway. The various groups - the coalition is what we are calling ourselves - in fact have come to the final process of hiring a coordinator to begin that particular part of the process whereby they will target their campaign at younger people, and also try to lobby government and other parties to really become much more aware of what is happening with smoking in our homes, in our restaurants, and in other entertainment establishments.

Perhaps the area of biggest concern is the introduction of young children, babies, to secondhand smoke. We are seeing, also, a very much increased incidence of asthma and other allergic reactions because of the introduction of secondhand smoke. Now we are becoming much more aware of the hazards around secondhand smoke. We are very concerned and we are working with all of the groups to try to put in place a very directed campaign.

Mr. Speaker, I now move second reading of "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Control Act," Bill 11.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Control Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 11).

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order 3.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act". (Bill 5).

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the hon. member, when I get through all the bills of the Minister of Finance today I may just get the Oscar.

This particular amendment is fairly straightforward. As hon. members may recall in the Budget that was presented in the House in late March, we moved the threshold for the payment of the post-secondary health and education tax from $120,000 minimum payroll per year to $150,000. In order to accommodate that upward adjustment in the threshold level we need to put this amendment through the House.

It is simply an issue of housekeeping. The new threshold has the affect of removing several hundred small businesses from the responsibility and obligation of having to access and remit the particular tax in question, which is a positive thing. It has been well received by the business community, the Board of Trade and those groups. We think it is a good thing to do.

There is a lot of debate and discussion about this particular tax. While we, as government, are in no position to, obviously, indicate that this tax will not be with us for some time, we are doing our best efforts to raise the threshold level against which remittances have to be assessed and made to a point where it is having less and less impact on small businesses.

I guess I do not move second reading until the Opposition has had a chance to speak to it. Those are the guts of the bill. I am pleased to be able to present it for discussion in the House on behalf of the Minister of Finance who is not here today.

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

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

Certainly, on this side of the House, we support the general thrust. We had hoped the minister and the government would have seen fit to eliminate the payroll tax altogether. The aim of the government, as announced a few days ago by the Minister of Finance, is that that is the objective. We had hoped that it could have been achieved.

I cannot help but note the title of this particular act. It is called, "An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act." That title seems to camouflage the real reason. This is a payroll tax, a tax on jobs, a tax that stifles the investment incentive that businessmen have, particularly small business people.

As well, we note that the rate as announced in the Budget, the amount has changed from $120,000 to $150,000. That again is good news. We note as well that this bill, in effect, I say to the minister, is really ratifying what has been existing for the last two years; because this particular piece of legislation probably should have been amended last year but was not because this particular amendment covers both 1998 and 1999. So, in essence, it covers two years rather than one year. Of course, these changes were announced in the 1998 Budget and they were amended in the 1999 Budget.

We on this side want to say that we look forward to the day when this government will listen to what the Board of Trade is saying, listen to what the Chamber of Commerce is saying, listen to what small businessmen are saying, and see fit to be able to eliminate this tax altogether.

Mr. Speaker, just in case the minister thinks there has been any change in the revenues to the Province, in essence these changes have been made without any impact at all on the revenues to the Province because in Exhibit II, the Estimated Provincial and Federal Revenues in the Budget, you will note that the estimated revenue from this tax in 1998-1999 was $68.5 million. The estimated revenues for the year 1999-2000 is equally $68.5 million. So, in essence, the ceiling has been raised from $120,000 of remuneration to $150,000 of remuneration, and it has not cost the government one cent in terms of revenue if you follow their budgetary figures.

This particular change has not been a big burden or a big loss of revenue for the Province. It certainly means a lot to small business, but it has not meant any decrease in revenues to the Province. One has to assume that the increase in the businesses that have total remuneration packages in excess of $150,000 are sufficiently healthy that they are able to, shall we say, make up for the losses of revenue in the case of the people or companies who have revenues under $150,000.

We say to the government as well that it is this kind of taxation that has a great deal to do with driving business out of the Province. It has an impact on job creation. Many small businesses say that they would be prepared to expand if by expanding they would not end up putting themselves in a position whereby they would have to pay extra taxes.

Mr. Speaker, this particular tax is a factor that prohibits and discourages some small businesses from establishing in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a fact that this tax has no other equivalent tax in other parts of Canada, so therefore it is a tax that is particular to Newfoundland and Labrador and as such it certainly does not do much by way of encouraging business to relocate here or those that are here to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador in the future.

We on this side say, good to the government. We applaud them for at least moving in the right direction. We just say to them that we look forward to the day when this government will be able to eliminate the tax. We have again given a commitment on our side, and it is part of our policy, that in the life of the mandate that we will have in the near future that we give a commitment to the business people of Newfoundland and Labrador that, over the life of that mandate, we will eliminate the payroll tax. It is a tax that is wrong, a tax that drives business away. We will reverse it.

In fact, it is a misnomer to call this tax anything connected to a health and post-secondary education tax. This tax is nothing more than a tax grab by the government, and has always been a tax grab by the government. It was a tax that was thought up by the Clyde Wells administration. It never existed during the PC administration.

We also have questions about whether or not this $68,500,000 is specifically targeted toward either health or education. We question it because we see the cutbacks that have occurred to education funding, and particularly post-secondary education. We know the health care budget has increased, but there has never been any direct connection between paying this tax and offering better health services, and it certainly has not resulted in better educational services at the post-secondary level.

We on this side say that next year you should be looking to eliminate it altogether. This is a second step in the right direction but, on the other hand, it should never, ever have been introduced at all in the first place.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. If he speaks now we will close the debate.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is interesting to hear the Opposition critic for finance over on the other side talking about the elimination of the post-secondary education and health tax, the payroll tax. I marvel at his logic.

I cannot help but, before I move second reading, make the observation that on the one hand every tax that is involved, the hon. member wants to eliminate. On the other hand, he is going to increase spending by hundreds of millions of dollars are per his Blue Book platform. In the context of all of that, he is going to increase services. It is very difficult to put it all together.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. MATTHEWS: I do not want to raise the level of debate beyond where it is so, against great protestations, I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act", read a second time, order referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 5)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I am in dread of bringing in the next one. I am afraid what the Minister of Municipal Affairs (inaudible) might stir up, but I am going to call Order 7, Bill 14, "An Act Respecting Municipalities".

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Municipalities". (Bill 14)

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is probably not for everybody sitting in the House as important a day as it is, in fact, for the members of the councils and municipal governments around the Province, because today we are giving second reading or introducing for second reading a bill in the House that is, in effect, a bill to amend the Municipalities Act that governs the operation of every municipality in the Province, with the exception of the three cities that operate under their own pieces of legislation.

MR. EFFORD: And Port de Grave.

MR. MATTHEWS: And Port de Grave, that operates under no legislation.

In effect, 287 towns and 175 local service districts in the Province are governed by this piece of legislation. The legislation has been developed over the past eight years of consultation between the major stakeholders in the Province, that being: the towns themselves, the Federation of Municipalities that represents them and their interests, the Association of Municipal Administrators, who have been involved in the development of this legislation, and in addition to that, the enormous amount of public opportunity that was given for the public to have input into this particular bill.

I am more than heartened to refer to not only letters from the Federation of Municipalities that speak to the timeliness of this bill and the importance of it being passed through the House in this spring session so that it can take effect for next January and that sort of support, but I am also encouraged by the level of support that the general public seems to be giving this bill, if judging by the editorial in The Telegram recently has any validity and affect to it.

On May 21 the editorial board of The Telegram wrote that this is in effect a piece of legislation that is long overdue and that should be passed at the earliest possible opportunity so that towns can take advantage of what is in it.

I think with the adoption or introduction of a bill of this magnitude it is important that I highlight for the House some of the provisions of this bill, because it is a fairly extensive and expansive revision of the Municipalities Act. As a matter of fact, it is almost a complete rewrite of the act, notwithstanding amendments that have gone through the House over the past number of years to improve the ability of towns to deliver services to the people who they serve.

There are five areas that are covered in this new Municipalities Act. It deals extensively with the expansion of the tax base and the latitude for imposing and collecting taxes that municipalities will have. It allows for improved flexibility in the administrative and financial matters of the town's operation. It clarifies certain statutory and procedural matters as well as governance provisions. It is in effect a more user friendly act in terms of how it is laid out and how it is worded so that it can be more easily understood and applied by the municipalities. Of course, it provides new authorities for the municipalities. As I said earlier, the stakeholders are eagerly awaiting the introduction or adoption of this piece of legislation.

One of the reasons why we need to get this done as quickly as we can, and why we have introduced it in the spring sitting, is so that upon passage of this bill out of this session we will be able to move very quickly to do a high level of in-servicing for town councillors, town clerks and others who are affected by this act in their day-to-day business activities. We need to get on with it so that we can do those things over the next several months preparatory to January 1 being the actual implementation date of the amendments.

With respect to the scope of expanded tax imposition and collection capabilities, the bill provides that, amongst other things, arrears of poll taxes can be collected by way of payroll deduction. We have expanded that provision to include not only current year's taxes, but also taxes that are due further back than the current year's poll tax. Municipalities will no longer be able to collect under this new act both a poll tax and a property tax from a husband and wife who jointly own property in which they have tax obligations. The provision of the current act as opposed to that does not allow for that distinction, so a double taxation situation exist which must be corrected.

In addition to that I would highlight the fact that as of July 1 each year, under the new act, there will be a deadline set whereby taxpayers claiming an exemption from poll taxes will have to file a form in a prescribed fashion. This will address the problem that municipalities currently have with respect to people applying for exemption back over many years. There will be a statutory limitation put on the exemption for poll taxes in that regard.

The bill also contains a definition of what constitutes a business. This provision, or the amendment in the new act, will allow municipalities to be able to collect taxes from businesses which, while they may not have a physical presence in a town, in fact do business in a town. At the moment that is not possible, but under the new act the municipalities will be able to find, source out, identify and tax businesses that, while they may not have any presence, while they may not have any domicile in terms of address in the town, nevertheless are doing business in the towns. They are selling their services to the people who live in a municipality, but at the moment they are escaping the levy of any type of a municipal tax. That will be corrected and that tax base will be effectively expanded in the new bill.

The new bill also provides the ability for municipalities to impose a direct sellers tax on sellers that are otherwise operating within a town boundary, as well as businesses that are doing business in a more generic fashion within a town boundary, and expand their tax base somewhat in that regard. The bill provides new authority to regulate and to put those taxes on a basis where they will be legally binding and therefore appropriately assessable and collectible.

The act provides a number of other changes. The ones that I will refer to now have to do mainly with administrative and management matters with respect to town councils. The bill now provides that a manager can be absent from a council meeting with council approval. Currently they are required, by law, to be in attendance at council meetings. The current act requires a manager, as a matter of fact, to attend all council meetings. Sometimes that may not be necessary or may not be possible for various personal circumstances. The new act clarifies that and gives the council latitude to exempt a manager or a town clerk from being at a certain meeting if in fact it is not necessary.

The new act allows the municipality to set, in a more relaxed fashion, the terms of employment and the basis on which people can be employed and/or dismissed as employees of the town. That is important, because currently it is a very prescriptive regime. We believe that town clerks and other people who are employed by towns should be able to be employed on a basis that is suitable to and meets the needs of the town within which they are working.

These are important changes and these are changes that have all been endorsed by the Federation, by the towns and by the administrators. My colleagues here are anxious that I conclude this introduction, but having spoken to this bill about ten days ago when we announced in the press conference we were going to bring this forward, and having spoken to some of the provisions in the bill in the Estimates Committee that was held recently with respect to the estimates of my department, it became clear to me that this is an important piece of legislation, for purposes of the Opposition, and they might want to debate and discuss some of these provisions.

There are about thirty other new provisions in the act that affect how towns will operate or be able to operate in the future. I don't want to take the time, because I don't have the time at this point, to outline all of these. Let me say this. The changes are all important, they are all significant and they all together will culminate and have the accumulative affect of providing a better circumstance for town councils and for those who work for councils in running their affairs.

I would like at this time to say no more in terms of introducing the bill, other than to say to the members on the other side of the House that if there are specific questions or concerns with respect to any amendments that this act contains, I would be happy to answer them at the conclusion of the debate when we move second reading.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

MR. J. BYRNE: It will be the first time you answered all the questions, I say to the Government House Leader.

Mr. Speaker, this piece of legislation, Bill 14, "An Act Respecting Municipalities", is a long time coming, some eight years in the making. There has been a lot of consultation going on with the municipalities.

One of the better things, I suppose, with respect to this piece of legislation, and it was actually in the news release from the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities, is that it has produced a very user-friendly act.

We all know that in municipalities and towns across this Province there are all types of individuals getting elected, with varying degrees of intelligence, with varying degrees of education and what have you, and the previous Municipalities Act was a very difficult piece of legislation to follow, and very confusing.

Oftentimes we saw members of councils in a conflict of interest and they really did not know they were in a conflict of interest. I have had concerns, calls from my district, from municipalities, where people were wondering if such and such is in a conflict of interest, and even councillors themselves and mayors. This piece of legislation should help clarify that. I will get back to that later on in my comments with respect to this piece of legislation.

The minister says there is a bit of a rush now to get this piece of legislation through and get it passed through the House of Assembly. I think we on this side of the House would like to see this piece of legislation go to the Legislation Review Committee.

We all know that this piece of legislation does not come into effect until January 1 of the year 2000. That is some seven months away. If it goes to the Legislation Review Committee, there is a reason for that. Yes, the Federation of Municipalities supports it. There are a lot of towns out there that support this, but there are a number of municipalities in this Province that are not represented by the Federation of Municipalities. They have some concerns with some of the changes that are being made and proposed in this piece of legislation, Bill 14, An Act Respecting Municipalities.

In fact, the minister is correct when he says that this is basically rewriting the whole act. In fact, it is. I think that to refer this to Legislation Review Committee, and have some input from people who may want to have some more input, would not unnecessarily delay the time that this piece of legislation comes into effect in January of 2000, but could actually give people a better time to review and to understand the impacts of this piece of legislation.

I have gone through it, and have gone through the comments that were made by the minister, and the brochure, I suppose, or the comparative analysis that was done by the department with respect to the act, the subject, the current act, and the new act. I am going to hit on a few of the concerns that we, and I, on this side of the House have with respect to this piece of legislation.

In the act itself, I have made a few notes, I say to the minister. On page 39, section 96, it talks about unauthorized expenditures. Just listen now, Mr. Speaker, to this: "(1) Where, without the prior approval of the minister, a council uses money borrowed under section 94 for a purpose other than the purpose for which the minister approved the raising of the loan, the councillors who voted for the use of the money are personally, jointly and individually liable for the restoration of the money to the council..."

That, to me, can be pretty heavy-handed because, as I stated earlier, there are people on councils who get elected with different degrees of education, full of good intentions and what have you, but when certain motions are put forward oftentimes vote on them but maybe do not really understand the impact of what they are voting on.

In this situation here, a person volunteering his or her time could come back to owe may hundreds, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars to the municipality. I think it is something that needs to be looked at closer, I say to the minister. Hopefully he will address this in his concluding comments before we approve this today. It is a very important issue, I say to the minister. I think it is.

Another point I want to bring up while I am on my feet is the issue with respect to the poll tax. On page 48, section 126.(1), "A council may impose an annual tax, to be known as "the poll tax" on... (b) a person who is 18 years of age or older and who is employed in the municipality for not fewer than 90 days in total during the financial year..."

Now they are going to be going after people who are working in a municipality, who are moving in to do a job, work there ninety days or more, and then they are going to try and get money out of those individuals. To me, that could be a bit of a tax grab, I would say. I would say that is happening all over the Province.

An individual in that situation could be paying property tax in his own town and he is going to have to pay a poll tax in another town because he works there.

I heard on the news the other day, on one of the Open Line shows, where an individual phoned in with respect to a teacher teaching in another municipality but living in a different one, who would pay a property tax and go out there and have to pay a poll tax - paying tax twice. That is something that I have concerns about, no doubt there.

Also, the issue where the municipalities can demand that a business collect a poll tax and pass it on, that is something that is there now from what I can understand but it is something that I have a concern about because, in actual fact, a business then can become a tax collector for the municipality. It is something that I have a concern with, of course.

One of the items that is one of the more positive things, I think, is with respect to the conflict of interest, the conflict of interest guidelines. I have had many calls on this over the years. When I was mayor of a small town, it wasn't really quite clear what a conflict of interest was. I think it is going to be better defined in the act; there is no doubt there. There are clauses and regulations that will be in place to deal with conflict of interest.

I do have a problem, though, I have to say. I do have a problem with this, I say to the minister, and that is something on page 76, section 210, disclosure statements. Here in the House of Assembly we have Members of the House of Assembly having to give a disclosure statement on their financial assets and what have you. To me, I think that goes overboard. I think that is too detailed to be asking. Here we are, getting paid in the House of Assembly. We have trouble enough, I say to you, to get people to run for council. We have trouble enough now. Oftentimes we see by-elections, we get one person running, declared by acclamation. It happens in a lot of municipalities in this Province. Now we are going to ask people who are going to volunteer their time to a municipality - and volunteers make the world go round, in my opinion - to have a disclosure to tell what assets they have. I have a problem with that. I do not know if anybody else would, on this side of the House, but I certainly do.

I know if I was out there now - and I have seven years on a town council - and I was going to run and volunteer my time, which I did, and I was asked and I knew that I had to do this, I would not do it. I certainly would not do it and give that information to people on council. I would not do it. To ask people to do that, I think...

These are some of the concerns, I say to the minister, that if it went to a Legislation Review Committee then the people out there would have a chance to address these concerns. I cannot see an existing councillor now down somewhere - take one in my district, take Torbay, Pouch Cove, Flatrock, Bauline, Logy Bay, Middle Cove, Outer Cove, any of them, and say: Listen, if you want to run for council next time around you have to tell the councillors everything that you own. I cannot see it - and they volunteering their time. I really think that is something that could be looked at under the Legislation Review Committee, I say to the minister. I would like for him to address that in his concluding remarks.

Also, document inspection, 215.(1), "The following documents shall be made available for public inspection..."

Another good point, a good clause, I would say, inspection of documents, because oftentimes I, as an MHA, have had calls from people to say: Can I have access to certain things? The roll book, the taxation roll book, or minutes of meetings, or permits for things that were built, or contracts, and what have you? The people do not know. Oftentimes in the past, I say to the minister, these were points that needed to be addressed and are addressed here. There are good things and bad things in this act.

With respect to the document that was sent out by the minister in his statement a few days ago, there are some concerns that I have here that I want to address, and that is with respect to the business tax.

Where I think there are good things I am going to say, and where they are bad I am going to say that also - or not in the best interest of the people living within the municipalities.

It says, under business tax, municipalities are provided with new authority to impose a business tax on transient business.

That is what the minister was talking about. I would like to know, is the minister saying now that if we have a company that comes into the Town of Torbay doing lawns or what have you, that they can tax those individuals - a company, say, that is situated in St. John's? Is that what we are talking about? Or are we talking about companies like the phone company, Newfoundland Power and those types of individuals?

MR. MATTHEWS: The latter.

MR. J. BYRNE: The latter, okay. I am glad to hear that, but that is not what is really here. It is not clear, I say to the minister.

Also, the poll tax, it says, municipalities can establish an income level higher than the basic personal exemption for tax liability.

I think the basic personal exemption now is around $6,000.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: - and in tax returns. So what we are saying here basically is that if the basic exemption is $10,000 the municipality can say our basic personal exemption will be $12,000, where you will not have to pay taxes. So in actual fact it can be to the benefit of the citizen rather than hurting the citizen, which some people thought it may be.

Also, it says, liability for the poll tax for spouses where both spouses are property owners and therefore jointly liable for real property tax will be removed.

A good move, Mr. Speaker, because there are municipalities here now that were charging people for both. Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: Change the definition of spouse.

MR. J. BYRNE: Change the definition of spouse. They are going to have to now, that is right, because of the court decision that came down last week, the definition of spouse.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: No, it is not for you to do today but it is a point.

As a matter of fact, I had a man in my office this morning, today, talking about that very point: that he was assessed a property tax and a poll tax. So that will be addressed. That is good to see.

Also minimum property tax - this is under the expand tax imposition and collection capabilities - councils are able to establish one minimum property tax for residential property and another for a commercial property.

A good idea, I say, because - actually, I had a letter not long ago from an individual who had that very concern with respect to the property tax. As a matter of fact, when I was asking the minister questions in the House of Assembly last week I referred to a letter from the Town of St. Mary's who was suggesting that. That is what I say to the minister. So again, a good point.

Another one, it says that the councils must impose property tax if more than 50 per cent of the municipality is serviced by water. That is the current one. Now councils are able to decide whether or not they impose property tax.

That is a step forward because when I was mayor of a small town I was always talking to Municipal Affairs and the previous minister to give towns more autonomy and -

AN HON. MEMBER: How long ago was that?

MR. J. BYRNE: That was six years ago, just as I was elected to the House of Assembly in 1993, I say to the member. I resigned as a mayor and came in here. Pardon?

MR. TULK: You were probably a good mayor; you are not a good MHA.

MR. J. BYRNE: Now, Mr. Speaker, I take that as an attack, a vicious attack on me personally. I would say to the Government House Leader that I am a good MHA and over 2,000 people majority said that in the last election. His opponent, the one that the Premier had up in the gallery one day saying he is going to wipe me out, who wiped who out, I say to the Government House Leader? This kid here. This kid right here. I did the job.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, that is right. The Minister of Municipal Affairs, who is introducing this bill, just scraped it in the last election. The person who we had going against him was a week late getting into the campaign and he just scrapped it, and he is the one who is introducing it. I should be the one introducing this bill.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, thank God for that, I say. Well, we would not know. He would have to have a head like me to see if it was 6-6-6 or not.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I will continue on.

MR. MATTHEWS: You stay in your district in the next election and don't (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I am considering it, actually. I would consider that.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I would say to the Member for St. John's North, the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, I would not mind putting a little wager on that.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Will I call the question, I say to the Government House Leader?

Also, Mr. Speaker, tax collection: Councils are able to sell property for tax arrears without referring to the conveyance act.

That can certainly expedite matters for the municipalities, I would say.

Under section 2, improved flexibility in administrative and financial matters, there are some good points here. One of the ones that I want to mention is that the manager must attend all council meetings.

When I was the mayor of a small town, again, as I would say, there were times when the manager could not attend meetings. So, why would he or she have to be there? Again, this corrects that matter. Naturally, that came forward from the Federation of Municipalities.

The clerk now can speak in place of the manager, if he or she is appointed by the council, at public meetings. In the past, the clerk could not even speak at public meetings. Now he or she will be able to speak at the meetings.

Also, here is one that is very important, the tenure of senior employees: Clerks, managers and department heads hold office at the pleasure of the council. That is under the current act - at the pleasure of council. Now, that can lead to very dubious actions, I would say, but this provision is repealed and now you are going to have to treat those people like you would treat any employee from any business or any government agency. You have to have good reason to let those people go, which is a positive thing. The same thing with suspensions, actually.

Also, Mr. Speaker, expenditure and limitations. In the past the managers could only spend up to $500 without the approval of council. Now councils under the new act can basically set whatever figure they want. Again, that is a good thing for the better management and running of any municipality, that the managers can have more leeway in the money that is being spent - as long as he or she brings it to council after the fact, if it is an emergency situation.

Also, under the improved flexibility in the administrative and financial matters, the statutory duties are repealed - that is concerning the senior officials - allowing municipalities greater flexibility in determining appropriate duties and responsibilities for senior officials.

I remember when I was mayor, again - and right in the act itself, the duties of the senior officials of the town, the managers, the clerks and what have you, were set out in the act itself. At least this way there is a - pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Two terms as mayor, I say to the Government House Leader.

Now the council itself can set not the agenda, I suppose, but the job description for these people.

Also, in the present legislation the municipalities can only have a one-year budget. Right now, under the new act, they can adopt a multi-year budget, up to three years. Again, this is good for planning purposes. I am sure that did not come from the Minister of Municipal Affairs; I can guarantee you that. It had to come from the municipalities.

Also, under the section 3, clarify the statutory procedural provisions, they talk about the election of the mayor and the deputy mayor and what have you. Now they have to be elected by secret ballot in certain situations. That again it is a good move because when you have a council and you seven people on councils in municipalities there are friendships involved, and all kinds of things going on behind the scenes. Now, with a secret ballot, they can vote for who they feel does the best job, not necessarily vote for, when you put your hand up, your buddy. That is good in itself.

Also under this section, it says: A ministerial regulation will be developed that will address the financial and the administrative responsibilities of fire departments in relation to the respective councils.

I have a little bit of concern about that one because it says that the minister will produce the regulations through his department. We all know that, but we have to be very careful that these regulations - because the way this is reading here is not quite clear - will be consistent for every municipality, that the same regulations will apply to every municipality. I think that is something that needs to be addressed and we on this side have concerns about that.

This act, as I said earlier, is something that has been long overdue, there is no doubt in my mind, giving the towns in the Province more autonomy, but with that comes responsibility also.

Also, under clarify the statutory procedural provisions, the provisions are expanded to require a disclosure of conflict interest (inaudible) recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

That is a section that I touched on earlier. It is probably one of the more important changes and revisions under the current act. It also requires that a councillor leave a public council meeting or committee meeting once he or she has declared a conflict of interest.

I know where people have been sitting at the table and declared a conflict of interest and stayed there. By staying there, they could impact upon what certain individuals may say or want to say but, because they might be friends, enemies, business associates, or anything, they now will have to leave the meeting.

Also, once a person has declared a conflict of interest, if he or she votes, under the new legislation they can be removed from the council seat altogether. I do not have any problem with that as long as it is not abused, I suppose. Also, it talks about decorum. That is housekeeping, good there.

It talks about the voting, all pretty good stuff from what I can see. It now requires people to vote. You cannot sit at the table and not vote, which is good. Previously, we had people missing all kinds of things at a meeting and then they would not vote one way or the other. Right now they have to vote unless they are declared in conflict of interest. Good.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: What did he just say to you?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes I know.

A tie vote - I would like the minister to address this tie vote, because the provision is changed to indicate that a tie vote constitutes a defeated motion. I would like to know the reasoning behind that one. In the past, the mayor could break the tie. If you have seven people on council - I would like for him to expand on that one.

Under section 3, vacancies, this is what I mentioned earlier. This revision is expanded to provide that a councillor's seat must be declared vacant if he or she votes on or discusses a matter on which he or she has declared a conflict of interest. I would not argue against that.

This piece of legislation, as I said, has been long in coming. I would notice, though, that we were eight years waiting for this and it took the minister ten minutes to introduce it. It must be a really good bill, I say to the Government House Leader.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I appreciate that. Do not say that because I may end up using it, I say to the minister.

Provide a user-friendly act - under services and controls it says, these provisions are realigned into mandatory and discretionary sections and all regulars authorities consolidated in a regulation session.

As I say earlier with respect to this piece of legislation, many people are elected to council with different degrees of education and what have you, and different degrees of understanding of these things, and have not had any experience whatsoever with respect to reading bills, regulations or acts, and then all of a sudden they are thrown into this. They are voted on council.

It is very important that they can pick up an act, go through the act, follow it quite easily and simply, see the points they are looking for and be able to read and understand it. I have to say that the previous act was not conducive to that. The previous act had very many amendments made over the years to it, and now they have the one book. When this is approved, if it is approved, and after it goes through the Legislation Review Committee that we are recommending, then you can see we will have a good piece of legislation. Right now we do have some concerns.

Also under section 5, it says, provide new statutory authorities, economic development. The new act contains statutory authority for municipal involvement in economic development providing for the necessary authority for the creation and function of economic development in departments.

I think that is a good move, especially when we have these zones across the Province that we could work in conjunction with, and it could be easier for the towns to work in conjunction with the zones.

The minister the other day made a comment, when he was trying to be smart and sarcastic, when I asked him a question with respect to being down in my district and having a meeting in my district with the Northeast Avalon Towns Joint Councils -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, I know you were down there, I say to the minister. Everything is not as you say it is, all the time. The Northeast Avalon Towns Joint Councils are a group of towns from, I think, Holyrood across over to Witless Bay and everything on the northeast Avalon. As a matter of fact, I was chairman of the northeast Avalon joint councils for two terms. I know quite well what they do and what they do not do. They were very progressive for those two years when I was there. We had contacted Municipal Affairs and we had a lot of contact and we accomplished quite a bit, I say to the minister. So, he does not have to give me any lessons with respect to the northeast Avalon town joint councils.

That it something is, again, I say, positive, but we do have some concerns. I think I've addressed most of them. Anyway, I have just two left. One is: to provide for the new statutory authorities' taxation of credit unions and the non-municipal assets which is described here.

With that I just want, again, to ask that the minister give some consideration with referring this to a legislative review committee and address some of the concerns I have mentioned here. I am sure we may be having more question in Committee.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

If the minister speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I have just a few comments. I can answer in Committee stage some of the detailed questions that have been put forward, but let me say a couple of things. First of all, I am rather impressed and almost humbled -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. MATTHEWS: I am singularly impressed with the level of knowledge and understanding that my critic the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis has with respect to municipal issues. I do understand that he has spent a long time in municipal politics. That gives me all the more heightened level of `comfortness' in -

AN HON. MEMBER: "Comfortness," now. (Inaudible) another word.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. MATTHEWS: I am highly comforted with the contents of what we are putting forward under Bill 14, because the hon. member basically referred to almost every change in this as being a positive initiative, something that was long overdue, something that needed to be done, amendments that were appropriate, detail that was heretofore missing has now been included, and all that sort of thing.

As a matter of fact, I was taking notes of the areas where he had concern. He really had no real concerns of any account. A concern as to why a mayor would not be able to vote twice on an issue, I think, is rather obvious and self-explanatory. One person, one vote. If it cannot get by that process, if it cannot pass that litmus test of passing a four-to-three margin, then obviously the issue dies.

With respect to the conflict of interest issue, let me just say one thing to the hon. member, with great respect for what he has put forward, as being probably an inhibition or something that would discourage somebody from coming forward and offering themselves for council. These recommendations, these amendments, are the ones that have been proposed by the people who have been there like yourself. Councillors who have said: This is the right thing to do, this is the proper approach to take, and this is the way to go.

Having said that, I need to say only one other thing and that is at the great behest of my colleagues over here who would wish me to shut up and sit down. At the great behest of these, I think I need to pay due respect and give appropriate recognition to my former colleague and friend who was the minister under whose tutelage most of this work was done.

AN HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: As you know, this act has been in the making for about eight years. My former colleague and friend, the former Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace, was largely responsible for quarterbacking this and bringing it to the stage where it is.

I am delighted to be able to carry forward his great work to a successful and appropriate completion and successful passage of this bill in the House. I am sure that he will be pleased today if he knew that we were debating this bill in the House of Assembly in my name but in his honour.

Having said that on behalf of the former minister, I think I should also say due recognition must be given to the councillors, the mayors, and the individuals who offered great input into these amendments, such that today, as far as they are concerned, it is an historic piece of legislation that we are debating.

Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of the bill.

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting Municipalities," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before calling the next Order of the Day, I have consulted with the Opposition House Leader, and I want to call first reading of Bill 19, "An Act To Amend The Internal Economy Commission Act," and Bill 20, "An Act To Provide An Accountability Framework For Public Bodies."

Motion, the hon. the Government House Leader to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Internal Economy Commission Act." (Bill 19).

On motion, Bill 19 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

Motion, the hon. the President of Treasury Board to introduce a bill, "An Act To Provide An Accountability Framework For Public Bodies."

On motion, Bill 20 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order 4. I ask the acting minister, the minister who has been acting the whole day, to keep acting and do that bill.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To amend The Financial Administration Act". (Bill 4)

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This particular piece of legislation will not take very long on my account. It is simply amendments to the Financial Administration Act that contain three specific changes that are mainly of a housekeeping nature. The first one is to clarify the meaning of the phrase "public money" to expand its definition beyond literal cash to include things like cheques, money orders and that sort of thing.

The second part of the bill or the second amendment included in this is to make provision such that people who collect money on our behalf - in other words who are collecting money on our behalf by way of facilities such as Visa, MasterCard and that type of thing - can in effect deduct their commission from the amount of money that they collect and have to remit to us. The legislation now currently says that the full amount has to be remitted and then in effect government has to cut a cheque for the small commission, or probably large commission, that will be applicable to that collection and forward it out. The second change here in effect allows them to deduct the commission from the money that they collect and remit the balance to us as government.

The third change is really a change or an authorization in terms of an accounting procedure in which it allows due date processing to be invoked in terms of accounting for monies that are owed to the Crown but are not necessarily collected. In essence, it is an amendment that allows us to move to an accrued financial accounting basis as opposed to a cash accounting basis.

These are the three housekeeping items that are capsulized in this amendment. I would conclude debate to the deference of the Opposition.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

As the minister has said, this particular piece of legislation is essentially good housekeeping. However, I may have to continue on for some time. We agree on this side that the act probably needs, shall we say, the appropriate change in terms of defining public money. Also, it makes good sense, particularly to small business, to have the commissions they would receive because of MasterCard or Visa deducted at source.

We know that government sometimes can be quite slow in paying out commissions. Certainly the government is wise in that they have listened to the business people, who have said to them that when they take money through MasterCard and Visa that the commissions should be paid to them immediately. I understand from my contacts with the business community that sometimes they can be waiting for six months or longer trying to get back their commissions. That simply is not a friendly way to do business in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The ability to collect at source is certainly a step in the right direction. Also, the move to accrual accounting procedures is certainly something that has been recognized and followed in other jurisdictions. I understand that with the computer system now that can be done quite easily.

I bring to the minister's attention, as well, of course, that there have been a great number of concerns mentioned by the Auditor General in her report relative to the financial administration of the Province. Without finding the need this afternoon to get into all of those, there are lengthy sections there that talk about the government's need to address its financial management procedures, particularly its accountability procedures. I am pleased to note that the hon. the President of Treasury Board did give first reading today to a bill that was committed to, on behalf of government, in the Throne Speech and also in the Budget document.

With these few comments I am not sure whether my colleagues will find a need to address other issues, but our research team on our side says that this particular piece of legislation is advisable and we find no objection to its passage.

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

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We acknowledge the great contribution of the hon. the Member for that far lesser district of Waterford Valley. Lesser as compared to Baie Verte, White Bay, that type of thing. You know what I mean. Having acknowledged this contribution, I move second reading of the bill.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Financial Administration Act," read a second time, order referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Finance I have received the following two messages from His Honour the Lieutenant- Governor.

MR. SPEAKER: All rise.

The first message is dated April 22, 1998.

To the hon. the Minister of Finance:

I, the Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Newfoundland, transmit Estimates required for the Public Service of the Province for the year ending March 31, 1998. By way of Supplementary Supply and in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution Act, 1867, I recommend these estimates to the House of Assembly.

Sgd.:________________________

A.M. House, Lieutenant-Governor

The second message is dated May 11, 1999.

To the hon. the Minister of Finance:

I, the Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Newfoundland, transmit Estimates required for the Public Service of the Province for the year ending March 31, 1999. By way of Supplementary Supply and in accordance with the provision of the Constitution Act, 1867, I recommend these estimates to the House of Assembly.

Sgd.:________________________

A.M. House, Lieutenant-Governor

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the messages together with the amounts be referred to the Committee of Supply.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the Estimates together with the message be referred to the Committee of the Whole on Supply and that I do now leave the Chair.

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

[The continuation of today's sitting will be found in Hansard 29A.]


 

May 25, 1999              HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS            Vol. XLIV  No. 29A


[Continuation of Sitting]

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Oldford): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, Motion 2, Bill 8, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Additional Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1998 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service."

CHAIR: Bill 8.

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

I rise to have a few comments on Bill 8 because you will note that it is An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Additional Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1998.

This piece of legislation is a bit stale. It is a bit late getting here. I cannot help but note that the approval here which is being looked for is $88,601,000. This particular amount of money is what came forward in 1997-1998 by way of warrants.

The Auditor General had some words that I want to share with hon. members relative to this $88,601,000. In the Auditor General's Report which was tabled in the House of Assembly last December, the last day the House sat before the Christmas break, there were some comments made relative to this $88,601,000.

It is noted that special warrants are given under section 28 of the Financial Administration Act, and they are given for several specific reasons. In other words, the matter must be urgent; it must be seen by the government to be very necessary.

There were thirteen special warrants totalling $88,600,000. They were issued in the 1997-1998 fiscal year, of which $34.6 million happened to have been issued in March of 1998. The breakdown is provided on page 27 of the Auditor General's Report.

We note here that of that amount there was $21,800,000 that was allocated or approved for the funding of the Newfoundland and Labrador Education Investment Corporation. Of course, that came under the Education Department. That was approved on March 13, 1998. There was an additional $4 million in that same month, on the same day in fact - March 13, 1998 - approved for the Department of Education to provide additional funding for scholarships for needy students.

I wanted to note here the problem that the Auditor General has. She notes that an unusual number of special warrants were issued in that year. As a matter of fact, she notes that there were thirteen warrants used in that year by government - in other words, for matters that were not covered under the budget that was approved.

It appears from the Auditor General's Report that not all of the $88.6 million met the requirement that is outlined in section 28. (2) of the Financial Administration Act; in other words, that they were not urgently needed and that they were not for any new service. We know, for example, the $4 million for the education scholarships was for needy students. That was for a new service.

The difficulty is not in the number of the Lieutenant-Governor warrants that were issued in that year, which happened to be the highest number issued by any government in the last great number of years, but it certainly gave reason for some concern. It certainly is the highest amount of money ever approved under Lieutenant-Governor warrants.

For example, in 1993 there was $42,360,000 approved under Lieutenant-Governor warrants. In 1994 there was $40,000,000; in 1995, $57,855,000; in 1996, $32,516,000; in 1997, $75,700,000; but in 1998 there was $88,601,000 granted to the government by way of Lieutenant-Governor warrants.

The Auditor General says, "Of the $88.6 million in special warrants in 1997-98, $30.9 million were issued although it appears there was not an urgent requirement for the funding."

The whole concept of issuing money under Lieutenant-Governor warrants is that it is for something that is immediate, urgent and the government just could not function well without it.

It is certainly a concern to all of us. When the ministers go to Cabinet, I assume the process would be that each minister in his or her turn would go to Cabinet and put forward a position paper saying that this money was urgently needed and was required in order to carry out the public purpose.

When the Auditor General says that of the $88 million, $30.9 million did not meet the requirements of the Financial Administration Act, we have a problem. The Auditor General says that, in this particular case, government did not need more than one-third of the money that was allocated, and $30.9 million did not meet the requirements of the Financial Administration Act.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Thirty point nine million dollars of this $88 million did not meet the requirements of the Financial Administration Act, as found by the Auditor General, and commented upon in some great detail in her report on pages 27 to 29.

As a matter of fact, she makes the point on the Education Department. She says, and I am reading from her report, "Our review of the $21.8 million special warrant of the Department of Education dated 13 March 1998 disclosed that the $21.8 million along with an additional $3.2 million for a total of $25 million was paid to the Newfoundland and Labrador Education Investment Corporation. In the Public Accounts of the Province, the $25 million expenditure was charged to the 1997-98 year. However, the Corporation did not spend any of this funding prior to 31 March 1998."

In other words, they accessed the money on 13 March and it was not spent prior to 31 March. Her point is, of course, it could have waited until the next fiscal year.

"In fact, at 31 March 1998 it held the $25 million in an investment account at 4.7% interest.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Education Investment Corporation was incorporated on 27 March 1998. The affairs of the Corporation are managed by a board of directors appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council and all board members are full-time employees of the Province. The objective of the Corporation is to provide funds to school boards and others for construction, renovation, extension and equipping of education facilities in the Province. The Corporation did not issue its first cheque until 6 July 1998..."

Mr. Chairman, even though the corporation received $25 million before the end of March, 1998, it issued its first cheque on

6 July. So this money could easily have been included in the Budget document and not necessarily obtained through special Lieutenant-Governor warrants.

In the very same way, we have difficulties in the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. The matter here is very similar. Again, significant amounts of money were asked for by that department. As a matter of fact, there was $6.5 million granted on 22 May, there was $2.6 million on 13 March, and there was $367,000 on 13 March - three separate accounts. However, the Auditor General found that, of that amount of money which was granted to that department, not all of it - the total amount was $20,667,400; however, it appears that $6 million of that was not necessary and did not meet the requirements of the Financial Administration Act.

Mr. Chairman, while we note the approval that we are asking for here is to ratify $88,600,000, the point that we are making here is that the Auditor General has found that not all of that money was needed. In fact, $30.9 million was not needed and could have been included in the Budget and in fact was not spent until long after the Budget had been approved by the House.

Mr. Chairman, I could go into some further details but the point that I am making here is that the Auditor General found that there was an obvious willingness on the part of government to use Lieutenant-Governor warrants - thirteen of them in all in that year - a total of $88.6 million of which $30.9 million did not meet the requirements. in her opinion, the requirements of legislation were not met. Therefore, it seems to me that we are very cognizant of using Lieutenant-Governor warrants for purposes that are not immediate and do not meet the requirements.

Of course the message we want to send on this side of the House is to the government and to the Cabinet ministers, that certainly we cannot ignore our own legislation. When the Auditor General says that over one-third of that money was not needed in the time frames that the government said it was needed, it causes some concern to all of us. We expect government to be very, very diligent and live up to all the requirements as contained in the Financial Administration Act.

Mr. Chairman, with these few comments I move my comments at this stage. I am sure that perhaps other members of the Legislature might want to have some comments as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Resolution

"That it is expedient to introduce a measure to provide for the granting to Her Majesty for defraying certain additional expenses of the public service for the financial year ending March 31, 1998, the sum of $88,601,000."

On motion, resolution carried.

On motion, clauses 1 through 2, carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the resolution and a bill consequent thereto, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. TULK: No, I am not rising the Committee.

Mr. Chairman, Motion 7, Bill 13, to move Supplementary Supply, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Additional Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1999 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service."

CHAIR: Bill 13.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Chairman, this bill is very simple, very straightforward. It asks for the granting of Supplementary Supply in the sum of $136,051,900. I move that we move forward to get the bill passed.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, this is a Supplementary Supply bill for 1998-1999. Certainly, we on this side recognize that this is the money the government came into. With all due regard to my previous comments on the other matter, I've made my points in the other matter, I do not have any further comments to add at this time. I am sure that before the evening is out we will find other occasions to comment on this type of matter.

Resolution

"That it is expedient to introduce a measure to provide for the granting to Her Majesty for defraying certain additional expenses of the public service for the financial year ending March 31, 1999, the sum of $136,051,900."

On motion, resolution carried.

On motion, clauses 1 through 2, carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the resolution and a bill consequent thereto, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, before we rise in Committee there are two more bills. The first is Motion 3, Bill 7, "An Act To Amend The Local Authority Guarantee Act, 1957."

CHAIR: Bill 7.

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

I rise to have a few comments relative to this particular bill. It is An Act To Amend The Local Authority Guarantee Act, 1957. It is in this piece of legislation, I say to my colleagues, that you find here the approval for the loans that have been given to your municipalities.

There is a lengthy schedule, and all hon. members should be aware of the fact that this particular schedule will include a great deal of information which should be carefully analyzed by all hon. members. I have gone through some of the information here and this bill is pretty standard. It is something that is passed every year.

Members should take a look and see the kinds of monies that have been approved by all of the municipalities. Maybe later we will ask the hon. the minister, since he is doing a great job today of acting over there, to give the rationale for all of those particular expenditures. I am sure he has meticulous notes over there for every one of them, and all the breakdowns.

I do notice here, I say to my colleague, who is not in his seat at the moment, representing the great town of Bonavista, that they certainly had a great number of loans approved here. That is good. It is good to see the government is not totally cold hearted. They are still willing to be supportive of municipalities even if they are causing us now, at least, to carry an even greater burden of the tax load.

Mr. Chairman, we on this side recognize the intent. We give support to this particular initiative because without this kind of financial support the municipalities of Newfoundland and Labrador would not be able to do the job which they have under their mandate.

Resolution

"That it is expedient to bring in a measure further to amend The Local Authority Guarantee Act, 1957, to provide for the guarantee of the repayment of loans made to, and the advance of loans to certain local authorities."

On motion, resolution carried.

On motion, clauses 1 through 2, carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed a resolution and a bill consequent thereto, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, Motion 6, Bill 12. It is the bill respecting the raising of loans by the Province, a resolution, "An Act To Authorize The Raising Of Money By Way Of Loan By The Province."

CHAIR: Bill 12.

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, we on this side, again, recognize that the government from time to time needs to go to the market to be able to raise money with the intent to retire, repay, renew, refund or whatever they need to do relative to the consolidated revenues of the Province, and in keeping with the provisions made in the Financial Administration Act.

We on this side note that the sum is $250 million. We are sure that the Province will continue to try to get the best rates it can, try to save as many dollars as it can, and try to do all it can to cut down on the cost of borrowing. We know that this Province is burdened with a very heavy debt load and the cost of carrying it can be a tremendous burden to all of us, and has a tremendous indirect affect on the services that we can offer.

We say to government: Only borrow when you really have to and then try to do all you can to make sure the rates we get on our borrowing are indeed competitive, and that the money we get that way will of course, I'm sure, be carefully monitored by the Minister of Finance.

We on this side of the House will give our consent and approval to have this matter dealt with expeditiously.

Resolution

"That it is expedient to bring in a measure to authorize the raising from time to time by way of loan on the credit of the province the sum of $250,000,000 and the additional sum or sums of money that may be required to retire, repay, renew or refund securities issued under an Act of the province or that may be paid into the Newfoundland Government Sinking Fund."

On motion, resolution carried.

On motion, clauses 1 through 5, carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed a resolution and a bill consequent thereto, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, before we go any further, I understand the Members for Signal Hill-Quid Vidi and St. John's East have some questions they want to ask in regards to the Jury Act.

I understand that the Table has been attempting to get Calvin Lake (inaudible) perhaps have a discussion on the whole process. I'm prepared to certainly defer the Jury Act until tomorrow and then see where it goes from there. That would mean that if we are going to do it tomorrow we would have to get second reading in Committee on it tomorrow. That is okay, because we can do second reading in Committee on the same day anyway.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. TULK: That is what I'm saying. We will leave it until tomorrow, at least.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: We will wait and see, Roger.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) legislation.

MR. TULK: That is what I do not know. I have to find out from the Department of Justice what is going on (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: We have passed those.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again, Mr. Speaker returned to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): The hon. the Member for Trinity North.

MR. OLDFORD: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered the matters to them referred and has directed me to report that they have adopted certain resolutions and recommend that Bill 8, 13, 7 and 12 be introduced to give effect to same.

On motion, report received and adopted.

On motion, resolutions read a second time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that we now introduce the Bills for a first, second, and third reading?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the supply bills, Bills 8 and 13, be introduced and read a first time.

On motion, the following bills read a first, second and third time, ordered passed, and their titles be as on the Order Paper:

A bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Additional Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1998 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service." (Bill 8)

A bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Additional Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1999 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service." (Bill 13)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, we would now move to Bills 7 and 12.

On motion, the following bills read a first, second and third time, ordered passed, and their titles be as on the Order Paper:

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Local Authority Guarantee Act, 1957." (Bill 7)

A bill, "An Act To Authorize The Raising Of Money By Way of Loan By The Province." (Bill 12)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I think by leave we are going to do second reading on Bill 16, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act."

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act". (Bill 16)

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am rather glad to be back into some territory that I am little more familiar with. Having gotten all those finance bills concluded, I was about to introduce a bill to declare the real Minister of Finance the Maytag repairman so that he would not have to come back for a while. I think there are a couple of bills to go through tomorrow so we will probably need him in any event.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: What is that?

MR. FITZGERALD: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: It is a most comfortable circumstance to find oneself in, I say to the hon. Member for Bonavista South.

Having said that though, Mr. Speaker, the amendment that is now being proposed to the Public Tender Act is a very specific amendment in that it seeks to exempt, for purposes of having to go to public tender, voice telephone services including local and long-distance services that the government procures, of course, in the discharge of its business.

This amendment brings us into consistency with the practice that is occurring in all other jurisdictions in the country. I acknowledge that we are signatories to the internal trade agreement as amongst all provinces. We are signatories to the Atlantic Procurement Accord that exists amongst the four Atlantic Provinces. We have been reflecting on the issue of where we are with respect to the procurement of telephone services, given the fact that we have a sort of unique circumstance in the Province whereby there is in effect only one company that can provide local telephone services, but there is on the horizon, and of course there is in the marketplace, a number of companies that can provide long-distance telephone services.

It is our responsibility as keepers of the public purse to make sure that on behalf of the taxpayers of the Province we get at the end of the day the best possible deal for the taxpayers whose monies we are entrusted to spend. In terms of dealing with telephone services, we want to ensure that we get the best possible deal that we can for the taxpayers of this Province.

We also, of course, want to give due recognition to local industry where it is appropriate so that we are not without good cause doing procurement if you were outside of the Province, or through businesses outside of the Province, when we could be doing it at home.

The issue of long-distance and local telephone services is an issue that we have grappled with for a while and we have deemed it to be appropriate to exempt that particular service from the provisions of the Public Tender Act. The reality is that for local services we are not required to go to public tender even at the moment, because of course there is only one provider and where there is only one provider for that particular service, or where it can be only sole sourced from one source, then we have no choice I guess in a lot of ways but to take that service at whatever price. By exempting both long-distance and local voice telephone services from the Public Tender Act, we put ourselves in a circumstance of being able to negotiate a much better price for the taxpayers.

I can tell the hon. House with accuracy and with confidence that this will put us in a position of receiving a better rate per minute for our long-distance and local services than either New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or PEI are currently receiving from their current providers, which is MTT in Nova Scotia, NBTel in New Brunswick and Island Tel in Prince Edward Island.

As hon. members on the other side of the House - at least as representing their parties - suggested when they spoke to my statement in the House the other day, they believe that this, I gather, is an eminently sensible amendment to put in place for purposes of government containing its expenses for purposes of getting the best value we can for the money spent and for purposes of ensuring that in doing this we are not adversely impacting upon the local business community. On the contrary, it might very well strengthen the hand of our current capacity in the Province to provide this type of telephone service and this type of IT service.

I do not think I need to say much more, other than to say that I appreciate the support the members on the other side of the House indicated they would be providing to this amendment when it came to the floor of the House. In saying that I appreciate the level of support that they have expressed a couple of days ago, I would now suggest that it is an appropriate time to move this bill through second reading and on through the Legislature so that we can do the right thing.

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

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

In second reading we are certainly going to make a few comments on this, and maybe some further comments as we move into committee. Any time you have an exemption from the Public Tender Act, no matter what the issue, it certainly raises concern for a lot of people and we have to wonder if any - not to assume - if there are negative implications for this down the road and in the long-term. There are a lot of questions.

There is no doubt, when the minister talks about the best bang for the buck, we all agree with that. Who in the Province would not agree with getting the best deal? Everybody is going to agree with that - that is a given - but when you talk about getting the best deal, a couple of things come to my mind. One is, first of all, the process that we have used, I say to the minister, how this process would work now that it is going to be exempt from the Public Tender Act. That is something that has to be questioned, so we have to have more details on that, I say to the minister. It is not as clear-cut as again the government saying: We will get the best bang for the buck. You just trust us, how we are going through the process, and we will make sure we will get you there.

That is what we have to find more details on, there is no doubt about that, and also, whenever you exempt from the Public Tender Act, your accountability to the public, how the process unfolds and, at the end of the day, if we are in fact getting the best buck.

The minister made mention in his press statement that they have had discussions and so on, and they were good discussions, with NewTel. I suppose an obvious question would be: Have you had discussions with other potential people on this matter? Those are questions that you can ask. Not to say, at the end of the day, that we do not agree or disagree with this change. Those are the concerns that have to be raised. There cannot be just a blank cheque given and say: Yes, we trust you with this. We know you are going to get the best value for us, that the service will be provided, and that you will save the taxpayer on a service that has to be.

Although I am not going to speak long on this in second reading, those are some of the concerns that we are going to be raising that we are going to be looking at further in depth, talking to different people to see what their approach would be and how it comes out in the wash, I say to the minister, and at the end of the day that the process is valid, it is a proper process, and that we do indeed get the best value and also, at the same time, provide quality service. As we know with technology these days, the changes and so on, I am sure in NewTel, of course - the employment in this Province and so on - that there are definitely advantages to NewTel.

We have to make sure that at the end of the day we do go through a process that is accountable, that is transparent, and not a deal that is done in any back room anywhere by anybody; that when you talk about this process it has to be clear to everybody that we do go through a process that is clear to everybody.

Mr. Speaker, that is the only thing we will use on second reading to raise those few concerns. The government also talks about, in their statement, the relationship it has with NewTel, and the number of people - 1,500 persons with an average payroll of -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: The process and the accountability, those are the two main ones, I say to the minister. I think they are fair questions. They are something that anybody will ask down the road.

Also, in the beginning, as I said when I made these few comments, we will raise maybe some more specifics when we get into the committee stage. The bill is straightforward; there is no doubt about that. It is an exemption of the Public Tender Act. So whenever that happens, we certainly should ask those questions and by the time we get to committee stage we will have some more research done into this particular issue and hopefully have some more questions so that we do end up with the best thing at the end of the day.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is always interesting to hear these Liberal free traders talk about protectionist legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I see this legislation as being very important because it does give an opportunity to government to do something that I think should be done more often. We are looking at a company here that has provided a service for many years and has an established corporate culture within the community. It also has, Mr. Speaker, especially in recent years, a pretty heavy track record of investment in diverse parts of the economy; in the case of NewTel, with the NewTel systems. They are involved with Andersen Consulting in the takeover of what was known as NLCS. They are actively involved in the high-tech area, internet solutions they call it, I think. I don't know the names of all the companies, Mr. Speaker. They have a new name for it now. I can't keep up with all the trade names. They will probably change it again tomorrow. In any event, Mr. Speaker, they are very actively involved investing in the high-tech sector, employing lots of Newfoundlanders in what some regard as the cutting edge of technology. There is a lot to be said for the activities of this company. They are not saints, Mr. Speaker, by any means.

I know that the people of Newfoundland have contributed hefty sums, by way of contributions out of the Province, to Bell Canada, to BCE Enterprises. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador, through their telephone bills, have made a significant contribution to this company, but they have been active, certainly in recent years, Mr. Speaker, in diversifying their activity.

In saying that, Mr. Speaker, we have a company that has a significant level of investment in this community and a significant commitment to this community, but that does not necessarily go far enough. What I want to know is - and the minister, I hope, will address this if he is listening, I hope he will address this in his closing remarks or address this tomorrow, because I do want to say that this is an important piece of legislation - what are we getting, what commitments are we getting, for the exemption they are being given? They don't have to compete with AT&T, they don't have to compete with other companies that might be in a position to provide some of this service, Sprint Canada, et cetera, et cetera.

We all know there has been significant competition in the telephone industry, and we are saying to this company: We are not going to expect you to have to meet that competition. That is what we are saying. We are saying to this company, this very large company - I don't know whether they contribute to the Liberal Party or not, Mr. Speaker. I thought I heard somebody say that. I don't know whether they contribute to the Liberal Party or not. They probably do to the Liberal Party of Canada.

I want to know what the people are getting out of this, and what commitments do we have from this company, because they are being offered an exclusive deal without having to compete on long distance, without having to compete on local service, without having to compete in other areas of -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)?

MR. HARRIS: There isn't at the moment, but I would say there will be very shortly. The technology is there. If you read any of the reports coming out of the business press, Mr. Speaker, which I do, there may well be room for competition on local service to the cable companies, nationally.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Well, what the minister is saying is that when they are there they will be allowed to compete. Obviously, Mr. Speaker, they are not going to be there unless there is an opportunity for them to compete in a pretty important part of the market.

What I want to ask the minister is: What is it that we are getting in return? What kind of commitments are we getting? I know when we sold NLCS to the company, which is probably now called XWAVE Solutions - I am not sure what they are called now - we sold NLCS and we gave them an exclusive contract for seven years in return for certain conditions.

We are being asked here to allow government to enter into a contract with NewTel exclusively for telephone service, not only for government, I don't think, but also for school boards, hospital boards, and other sectors controlled by the government, so that they won't go to public tender either.

What I want to know is: What commitment do we have on the other side, for one? And the second thing that needs to be answered is: What mechanism is in place to ensure that we are getting the best price?

Now, I know the minister said, the other day in his Ministerial Statement, that they are anticipating a savings of $1 million over last year. I think that is what he said. But he didn't say what the comparison would be, or what estimates they would have, if the matter was out to public tender, in terms of long distance, for example. Would we save $2 million? Would we save $3 million? Would we save $4 million. I don't know the answer to that, Mr. Speaker, because that was not dealt with by the minister in his statement.

In principle, I don't have a problem with saying: You are going to be our telephone provider. We want to have the best price that we can get. One way most people would have it, the way to get that, is to go to public tender. That is the easy answer for government, as to how we get the best price; you put it out to tender, people put their bids in and whoever bids the lowest price that comes in. Now, that is only true in a perfect market.

I never did a Bachelor of Commerce Degree but I know about the perfect market; it does not exist, Mr. Speaker. There is no such thing as the perfect market, except in theory. So, if you put it out to tender you are not necessarily going to get the best price.

MR. MATTHEWS: That is what determined your political (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: That was enough. That was it, that was enough. There was no perfection in (inaudible) so I had to look else where.

Mr. Speaker, I know we are dealing here with a situation where you probably cannot put it out to tender, because there probably are not people out there able to compete on all aspects of it. I am sure Sprint Canada would offer government a good rate for long distance service but can't provide the local service. It is okay, I think, Mr. Speaker, in principle to make a deal with a company that is going to provide you with all the services in one package and hopefully make you the best deal that they can, but perhaps also offer some guarantees in other areas.

What I want to know, number one, is: What else is part of this deal? Are there any other commitments from NewTel, aside from the expected $1 million reduction, in the longer term? We are talking about legislation, we are not talking about a one-year contract, Mr. Speaker. We are not talking about a one-year deal, we are talking about legislation that this House makes today. Now, they could change it next year. That is true. What I want to know is: What are the people getting in exchange for that.

The second thing I want to know is: What mechanism is being used for us to determine that we are getting the best possible price? Is it just your ordinary negotiations or is there some special mechanism which government is using?

The other question I am hesitant to ask, Mr. Speaker, because I think if I put it on the record and ask it I probably won't get an answer, because maybe the government will not want to put it on the record. Does this legislation have anything to do with the obligations of Canada under the World Trade Organization, under the free trade agreements? Is there an issue there, Mr. Speaker, in relation to: if Newfoundland offers this for public tender now, is it something that would have to be offered forever, such as the water as Gisborne Lake which a lot of people worried about, not only in this Province but throughout the rest of Canada? Is it something that once offered for public tender has to be offered in accordance with our rules, the free trade agreement, the Americans and the Mexicans? Is it something that has to be offered for public tender, so that it is a business available to the Americans or to other people forever, on a permanent basis? That is something that occurs to me, Mr. Speaker, when we are talking about government services and withholding something from public tender?

My guess is, Mr. Speaker, that this wasn't considered when the Public Tender Act was amended and it was never intended, in fact, that this particular service be open to public tender; that by the wording of the legislation it was somehow included without that being considered. If that is the case, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that would make a difference under the trade rules.

Those are the three issues, Mr. Speaker, that arise in connection with that. As I say, we are generally supportive of having a provider to the government, certainly in return for certain guarantees from the company about their operations in the Province. We do have some concerns about that, but we want to know what government has asked for in that regard; secondly, how are we certain of getting the best price available; and thirdly, is there a trade issue here, Mr. Speaker, with respect to public tenders.

That being said, Mr. Speaker, those are all the remarks I have on second reading of this bill.

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

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

I am pleased to rise and make some comments with respect to An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act.

There is an important public policy issue here that we need to clearly understand. With respect to this Act, we have on many occasions stood in this House and asked government to intercede on behalf of local businesses to give them a competitive edge. We have done it with respect to the agrifoods industry and we have done it with respect to other technology companies. We have talked about national governments and national companies coming into the Province, and the provincial government failing to act in terms of ensuring that there is a competitive edge, where we can, where it is possible, where we have the legislative authority to act to give a local company that is providing significant benefits for the provincial economy, a competitive edge. We have called for it on many occasions. That is what this piece of legislation is about, as I see it.

There are always concerns, legitimate, bona fide, when any Legislature takes matters into its own hands with respect to the Public Tender Act, that calls for amendments to it that allow us, government outside of the public tendering process, to act unilaterally to not - the suspicion, I guess, is there and the perception of what is about to happen could be more of a concern that actually what happens; the perception that it is in the hands now of a body that is not going to be accountable to the Legislature through the Public Tender Act, with all the history associated with how our Public Tender Act has come about.

This is what we are talking about here. It is balancing that issue, of trying to provide a significant corporate citizen in this Province with an edge, if you can put it that way, with a competitive edge, in order to recognize the contribution that it makes, and will continue to make, in order to recognize and give it some sort of advantage because of the number of people it employs, the amount of corporate citizenship in terms of funding for groups, non-profit groups, et cetera, throughout the Province. At the same time, we have to be mindful that in doing this, in doing what we are doing here, there are legitimate concerns that right now are just being raised, concerns because this legislation is new. It has not gone through a public hearing process and it has not gone through an exercise where many people within the industry have talked about it.

I have listened to the comments of the minister. The Premier approached me on it some time ago, not some time ago but the middle part of last week. On the surface of what was said, what this piece of legislation is attempting to achieve, is admirable; in one sense. But at the same time, we have to be very, very careful when we take matters into our own hands, as a Legislature or government for that matter, or any member who wants to support such a piece of legislation, that the notion of accountability is not lost. Because we are doing that, we are taking away the competitive bidding process. There is no question about that, that is what this Act is doing. We may be doing it for all the right reasons, our objectives may be admirable, what we are going to achieve as a result of it may, in fact, be what we want to achieve at the end of the process, but at the same time let's make no mistake about it, that what we are doing is removing from the public tendering process a significant chunk of business that government is normally involved with and that has been normally tendered through an open bidding process.

What we are trying to do, as far as I can determine, and what this piece of legislation is attempting to do, is to try to ensure that a local company, which is now an Atlantic company in terms of a merger that it is going through, because of the commitment that it has made to the people of this Province in terms of its number of employees - I think there are 1700 or 1800 employees who work with NewTel now.

AN HON. MEMBER: Eighteen-something.

MR. E. BYRNE: Eighteen-something. Now, there may be some downsizing, I understand, as a result of the amalgamation and coming together of four separate telephone companies.

Notwithstanding all of that, notwithstanding any of that, the amount of infrastructure that they have provided is pretty clear. The amount of industry and revenue that comes into provincial coffers as a result of their existence in this Province is very clear.

You can compare that now with other companies such as Sprint. I am not taking anything away from Sprint. I am not going to try to strip down what they are doing. But it is very clear -

AN HON. MEMBER: Well, the facts are there.

MR. E. BYRNE: They are there. It is very clear, for anybody who wants to take the time to investigate or look at it, in terms of what this company has provided to the people of this Province and, I would think, what they are going to continue to provide, and what other companies or competitors provide. It doesn't even compare, not by a long shot.

This is, I guess, the second reading of the bill. I have had some enquiries today, for example, from people who are very concerned -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, there are some and I think it is important that we recognize them and talk about them here. We will have an opportunity in the clause by clause, in terms of Committee, to get into more detail. This stage of the bill is for a general discussion, general parameters. Once we get into the clause by clause debate we can actually debate the merits and demerits in a more detailed, specific way.

There are some concerns starting to emanate about this piece of legislation. Now, I don't know if there is any validity to them. I can't say for sure or not. I am not at this point in time prepared to be dismissive of what has been articulated to me today and communicated to me today, but I can say, by tomorrow, based upon conservations and discussions I hope to have tonight, and will review again tomorrow - generally, we support, I think, the direction in which this is going, trying to maintain a competitive edge for a company that has a long, proud tradition and history in this Province and continues, and hopes to continue, to have one. Any edge we can provide to our corporate citizens in that regard, fair enough; as long as we can assure that it is accountable and as long as we can ensure that in doing so we don't end up with a more negative sort of deal on behalf of the people of the Province than we would have gotten through an open bidding process.

The spirit of this legislation is what we should be concerned about and debating right now in second reading of this bill. Again, there have been many occasions, in this Legislature, where local companies have not been given the competitive advantage because of government's own public tendering process. I can list off many, many examples, probably forty or fifty examples, easily.

Do you want to take about firms from Quebec in terms of our health care services who are allowed to bid on all of the services, procurement services that we need in terms of our health care institutions, but at the same time local companies in Newfoundland and Labrador are not afforded the same sort of luxury, to go into the Province of Quebec.

Do you want to talk about the agrifoods industry, in our own cafeterias? We haven't given local juice manufacturers, who can provide the same product, a superior product actually, a much superior product at a very competitive price, we have not given them that competitive advantage in our own cafeterias here, and in others.

So, there are many areas in which the spirit of this legislation, in all aspects of government's dealings in terms of the public purse, what we need for services and what we spend on them, which we can look at incorporating or widening.

There is a concern too, legally, with this legislation. The minister has talked about how they are part of the agreements on procurement in Atlantic Canada, the tumbling of trade barriers within Canada and certainly within Atlantic Canada.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Exactly. Those are the big ones.

What are we doing here?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, very much so. That is an internal family matter in the context of Confederation, if you want to put it that way, minister. That is not in terms of what the federal government has done. I completely understand that. We probably haven't moved fast enough in some areas in that regard.

However, what are the implications legally? The minister will have the opportunity when he closes debate on second reading, but moreso we will have the opportunity when members of the Legislature can get into the thrust and throw of debate on this particular piece of legislation, and further investigate, what are the implications.

While the intentions are good, while the direction we are moving in and the spirit in which we are moving, and what we are trying to achieve, if I can take what the minister is saying at face value - fair enough! - we need to clearly understand, if we are moving in this policy direction with respect to the Public Tender Act, and alleviate concerns on the other front to other citizens of the Province who may have very valid concerns in terms of what we are doing here. Because we are eliminating competition in the bidding process. That is what we are doing.

There is no way that any piece of legislation or any act that governs all of us, our activities of the activities of government, will fit everybody all the time. We live in a world where the trade arrangements, the business arrangements, are becoming entirely more grey as opposed to black and white. It is the nature of the place in which we live, the nature of the world we are living in today. Things change quickly, they change radically in a short period of time.

With those opening comments, I will conclude my remarks until tomorrow. I say to the minister, that we will have an opportunity, in a more detailed way, to talk about the implications legally, the implications upon agreements that we have already entered into, the implications of what type of deal we are going to end up with and the implications of providing a sound, corporate citizen to our Province with the type of competitive edge that we have given them.

We have already given then a very competitive edge. When we privatized Newfoundland and Labrador Computer Services, many will say it was the beginning of NewTel's IT advancement or growth philosophy, a growth philosophy that has stood them well certainly, as a company, and has probably paved the way for the merger, amongst other things, that has happened. We have already given a good competitive edge, a very substantial competitive edge, in terms of privatizing of Newfoundland and Labrador Computer Services and then all of government work for a period of seven years thereafter.

It is important for us to understand, historically, the context of what we are doing, where this piece of legislation is coming from, so we can truly debate the merits and demerits of it. What is required now, I think, is an opportunity for all of us who want to participate in this debate on this piece of legislation, some time to investigate, have a look at the concerns that have been brought forward, certainly, to me today, and an opportunity for a full and frank disclosure of information, questions and answers in Committee stage.

With that, I will take my leave, Mr. Speaker, and look forward to participating more in this debate at Committee stage tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon.

Thank you.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The speakers on the other side of the House, who have addressed this bill, have raised some questions and points that they wish answers to or clarification on. I think it is not only appropriate and important, but I think we have an obligation to be able to respond to the points that have been raised.

I am not sure whether I need to take the time to do it now. We could probably wait until we get into Committee tomorrow, at which point we could do that. I would be happy to answer most of them tonight, if you wish. I understand that you have all referred to the opportunity in Committee stage to ask those questions, and I can assure you that we will be prepared to answer those questions for you.

Obviously, as the hon. the Leader of the Opposition said, any time you move in this direction, on the basis of public policy, it has implications and it has questions that when raised, as have been raised by him, the hon. the Leader of the NDP, and the critic for Works, Services and Transportation, the Member for Baie Verte, they need to be answered.

So, I have taken note of those questions and I will be happy to answer them and speak to this again in clause by clause, which I understand will probably be tomorrow, Mr. House Leader?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: A reasonable guess.

Thank you very much.

Having gained their acquiesence by way of agreement to responding clause by clause, I move second reading of the bill.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 16)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I think we are about ready to adjourn, but before we do I believe we have an agreement that tomorrow the private member's resolution is an education resolution put forward by the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne. I believe we have agreed that he would speak. We would have one, I guess the NDP would have one, he would clue up the debate and we would then move to try and accomplish second reading on, I think there are four bills left. There is, depending on what we find out tomorrow, the Jury Act, the Accountability Act and the IEC Bill. There are three bills, I think. That is all that is left for second reading, and then we will move into Committee, and move along tomorrow afternoon.

I think both Opposition parties have agree, by leave, that we would -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: That is the understanding that I have from the Opposition House Leaders. Well, first of all, we talked about doing the -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: There was. Okay.

Anyway, we will try to finish second readings tomorrow. After we have done that, we are going to move into government business, and we will see what happens from there.

Before we go, Mr. Speaker, let me just say also that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: No, no. By leave.

I think there is the matter of transportation to Deer Lake and Cormack on Thursday. I think there will be arrangements made for one o'clock. I would ask the Member for Topsail to make sure that everybody who wants to go is notified where and when they are to congregate, so that we can get that off the ground.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at two o'clock.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Wednesday, at two of the clock in the afternoon.