November 17, 1999 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS Vol. XLIV No. 33


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

 

Statements by Ministers

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

 

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wish to advise the House today that a total of thirteen one-day educational seminars are now taking place throughout the Province to ensure that all elected officials and administrators are thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the new Municipalities Act.

I am also pleased to say that the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Administrators and the Combined Councils of Labrador have made a firm commitment to these information/education seminars.

The initial seminar was held in November at the annual convention of the Federation of Municipalities in Corner Brook. It was well received by the more than 500 delegates who attended from municipalities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The remaining seminars will take place over the coming weeks with the last seminar scheduled for the general meeting of the Combined Councils of Labrador in January.

Mr. Speaker, the new Municipalities Act which was proclaimed during the 1999 spring session of the Legislature comes into force in January of 2000. It is a significant piece of legislation and confers greater freedom, flexibility and autonomy upon communities in the areas of taxation, administration and financial management. As well, it provides new authority in the area of economic development.

The new Municipalities Act is more user-friendly and it constitutes a major part of the department’s legislative reform program for local governments. Together with the new Urban and Rural Planning Act and other legislation currently under review, our reform programs will ensure that our municipalities are structured and managed in a way that will enable them to more effectively deliver the type of services that people will require - and are able to afford - as we head into the new millennium.

For the information of members, I am attaching a list of the times, dates and locations of the thirteen educational seminars. I would ask members to assist me in urging all municipalities throughout their districts to have appropriate representation at these important sessions.

Mr. Speaker, I also wish to advise the House that my department entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on training and development with the Federation of Municipalities, the Association of Municipal Administrators and the Combined Councils of Labrador. The signing of this MOU which took place earlier this month is a public declaration and recognition of our willingness to continue our collective approach to municipal training.

The signing signifies a commitment to partnerships - one that encompasses consultation and information sharing. To mark this MOU signing, the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs made a one-time grant of $50,000 available to the partnership. It is in addition to funding already identified in the MOU and is intended to provide a kick start to the many worthwhile and valuable training initiatives that are being developed by the partnership. Our joint efforts clearly demonstrate the advantages gained from mutual cooperation and coordination.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

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

First of all, I would like to thank the minister for the copy of his statement a few minutes before the House sat.

I would agree that the legislation that will be coming into effect in January is an improvement over the previous legislation. I would not agree, though, that this new act is going to help the municipalities in any way; to help them to be able to afford more services for the people in the new millennium. As a matter of fact, with the respect to this Administration and the cuts to the MOGs, and the hard times that these municipalities are having with the infrastructure within their applicable towns, this government leaves a lot to be desired.

I would urge and agree that as many municipalities as possible should have as much representation as possible at these sessions to learn the Municipalities Act and the workings of it because, from my own experience in dealing with a lot of municipalities, I find that a lot of the councillors really do not understand the legislation, and it is important for them to do so.

With respect to the last paragraph, talking about the MOU, the Memorandum of Understanding, and the announcement of $50,000 - actually, if you look at the number of municipalities in this Province, $50,000 does not go very far.

At the very end of that Memorandum of Understanding there was a disclaimer by this government that said they were not committed or responsible, or legally bound, to anything that was said in the Memorandum of Understanding. With respect to that, again, as usually with this Administration, it is a lot of hullabaloo about nothing.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Of course, training is always welcome and important, particularly now with the new legislation coming down, and it is important that the councillors who volunteer their time be made fully aware of what the new legislation is, to better enable them to do their job.

I have one concern with the statement, though, and it is the schedule for Labrador in terms of the number of councillors from the various regions who will be able to attend with the high cost of travel in the Labrador region. If you look at the combined council meetings that have taken place in prior years, Mr. Speaker, the councils outside of the area where it is being held send very few representatives, simply because of the cost of travel. I wonder if the minister could take a look at that? Have they already dealt with it through the Combined Councils?

Thank you.

 

MS JONES: Point of order.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair on a point of order.

 

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just wanted to point out for the member opposite that the training for the communities in Labrador is being done in conjunction with the annual Combined Councils meeting this year to ensure that all municipalities in Labrador have the opportunity to participate.

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods.

 

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I will be today tabling the annual reports of the Newfoundland Crop Insurance Agency and the Livestock Owners Compensation Board for the year ending March 31, 1999.

I want to take a moment to outline the background of both these reports. The Newfoundland Crop Insurance Agency is a Crown corporation of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador under the authority of the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods.

The Livestock Owners Compensation Board was established in 1977 and operates under the Livestock Insurance Act. A new Agricultural Insurance Act is currently being drafted which will replace both the aforementioned pieces of legislation.

The objective of the Crop Insurance Agency is to provide for comprehensive all-risk insurance, which in years of crop losses will provide compensation to the farmer to help minimize the financial loss due to crop failure. The Crop Insurance program offers protection against uncontrollable crop loss caused by all natural hazards from date of seeding to final date of harvesting. For the 1998-1999 crop year, and also for next year, the program will be offering plans for potato, turnip, carrot, beet and cabbage.

The premium cost-sharing arrangement between the federal and provincial governments and producers provides a base level of coverage at no cost to producers. We want the farm community to, again, get this information this year. The federal and provincial governments pay 100 per cent of the premium for 60 per cent coverage and producers pay nothing. Producers can also purchase coverage as high as 80 per cent of their average yield and pay only 50 per cent of the incremental costs.

Hon. members, both the Crop Insurance program and the Livestock Insurance program are voluntary. We are encouraging farmers to participate in the program because of the fact that up to 60 per cent it is free coverage.

In closing, the Newfoundland Crop Insurance Agency and the Livestock Owners Compensation Board provide valuable and important funding through insurance compensation, which in times of loss help support farm incomes. I encourage all eligible farmers to participate and incorporate this into their farm management practices, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Windsor-Springdale.

 

MR. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the minister for forwarding a copy of his ministerial statement beforehand.

Mr. Speaker, this has been an ongoing program for many years, and I think it is a very important program for the agriculture industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is very important that we support our farming community in this Province because we do not have control over the environment sometimes, and lots of times we have disasters that can devastate farmers in our Province. I think this is a good program and both programs are very good for our communities.

I can only congratulate the minister for keeping this program ongoing. I hope that in the future we could enhance and make sure that our farming industry gets more attention, and provide more safety nets in the years to come. I am very pleased with this program, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am certainly pleased that the minister is giving us a report on the existence of this federal program, but what I am more interested in is what the minister and his department is going to do to promote the development of livestock in this Province. There are thousands of acres of productive land that could be used for livestock development in this Province, and I haven’t heard anything from the minister lately about what his department is doing to develop that.

Down in the Burin Peninsula there are thousands of acres. In the Codroy Valley, the West Coast, even in the minister’s own district, there are thousands of acres of land that could be producing more livestock. When is the minister going to tell us what he is going to do about that?

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. minister’s time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

 

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased today to provide an update for the members of the Legislature on the Churchill River Power project.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, members will recall that on March 9, 1998 Premier Tobin and Premier Bouchard announced that their respectful utilities, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and Hydro-Quebec, would negotiate the details of a Memorandum of Understanding for the development of an additional 3,000 to 4,000 MW of power from the Churchill River. The proposal at that time included several components: diversion of two rivers from Quebec into the Smallwood Reservoir in Labrador; construction of a new 1,000 MW generation station next to the existing facility at Churchill Falls; a 2,264 MW generating station at Gull Island and associated transmission lines in Labrador and in Quebec. They also agreed to study the feasibility of developing an additional 800 MW of power at Muskrat Falls. The final component, announced at that time, was a transmission line to the Island from Labrador, which was to be negotiated between the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Since March 9, 1998 the utilities have conducted detailed financial and engineering work on each of the component parts. In June of this year, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and Hydro-Quebec agreed to divert only one river rather than two. It was also agreed to increase the utilization rate of the existing eleven generators at the Churchill Falls facility rather than build any new ones at that site. A new 2,264 MW generating station will be built at Gull Island, as well as the necessary transmission lines in Labrador and Quebec.

The new configuration that is still currently under negotiation will deliver essentially the same amount of energy, but reduce the costs to the Province. It will mean increased profitability for the whole project, and it will mean fewer environmental effects since the project no longer includes partially diverting the St. Jean River, a major salmon river inside the boundaries of Quebec.

We are continuing to study the feasibility of developing Muskrat Falls. The most recent financial analysis suggests that the Muskrat Falls 800 MW project is marginally viable at this time. However, we will not commit to a development at this point in time, but we are leaving it open as an option for future consideration.

This time, in this negotiation, there will be no upper price limit, and revenues will reflect market prices. We will ensure a progressive royalty regime that will increase with project profitability, as opposed to the fixed royalty regime in the current Upper Churchill contract.

This time, Newfoundland and Labrador’s exposure will be limited. We have secured a price floor from Hydro-Quebec for energy being sold in the United States and Canadian energy markets. The price floor will ensure that no matter how low market prices go, the Project itself will receive sufficient revenues to ensure repayment of any debt incurred to finance the new construction.

In the meantime, and unrelated to the construction projects, we signed a three-year agreement with Hydro-Quebec to recall 130 MW of power for a total of $78.9 million. The Province is already in receipt of about $60 million in revenue from that total. When that contract expires in 2001, we will be in a position to renew the agreement with Hydro-Quebec or find the best alternative use for the 130 MW of power at that time.

In June, the Boards of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and Hydro-Quebec approved the Guaranteed Winter Availability Contract and a new CF(L)Co Shareholder’s Agreement. The Guaranteed Winter Availability Contract is proof of Hydro-Quebec’s commitment to fixing and securing the financial situation of CF(L)Co, which is owned two-thirds by Newfoundland and Labrador and one-third by Quebec. The Guaranteed Winter Availability Contract will provide an additional $1 billion from Upper Churchill power for the Province over the life of the existing power contract agreement.

We are committed to a thorough, single environmental assessment for this Project, one that is similar to the Voisey’s Bay environmental assessment just successfully completed.

Since the March 9, 1998 announcement, we have developed a positive working relationship as well with Innu Nation, and they participated in both the 1998 and 1999 environmental fieldwork programs. The utilities continue to consult and invite all affected Innu communities in Labrador and Quebec to the table, and are moving forward with Innu Nation and Natashquan on the Project. They have adopted an open door policy to enable other Innu communities to join the negotiations when they are ready and positioned to do so.

We are continuing discussions with the federal government on the Infeed to the Island. Engineering studies have confirmed that that project will cost about $2.1 billion, which at this point the Province cannot absorb on its own.

We have made significant progress. We are committed to working with the affected Aboriginal groups and ensuring a thorough environmental assessment for this Project. We are committed to ensuring value from our resource, and we are committed to getting the best deal for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Negotiators continue to meet regularly in an attempt to resolve matters to the mutual satisfaction of both partners. A full report will be provided to the two Premiers at a meeting slated for on or about December 10 of this year here in St. John’s. Further details, as well as the expected date for signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, will be available following that session with the two Premiers.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. E. BYRNE: I’m sure that my good friend and colleague in the House, the Minister of Mines and Energy, would not want to be misquoted because there must be a typo in the ministerial statement. It says: "Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to provide an update on the Churchill River Power Project." Essentially what he should be saying is: I am pleased to provide an update on the update on the update on the update of the Lower Churchill River Project.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Because there is no new news in this. This is an attempt again to regurgitate, an attempt to spit out again, what is taking place or what is not taking place. The important part, I say to the minister and his colleagues, in this statement for the people of the Province is this: Does government stand by what the chief negotiator said in an interview in 1998 that this potential agreement on Lower Churchill, the possible impact upon Muskrat Falls development, hinges upon the fact that a transmission line comes to the Island? That is what the chief negotiator said. There is no update on that.

Last spring in this Legislature when I asked the minister directly about the transmission line, on information that I had that the federal government had said absolutely no to it because of the cost, he could not answer, and has failed to this point to answer to the people of the Province on that important issue.

Seriously, the most important statement in this document is: "Negotiators continue to meet regularly in an attempt to resolve matters to the mutual satisfaction of both partners." What people are looking for, Minister, and I say this to the Premier as well, is: What are those matters that need to be resolved? What are those details that are still outstanding? What are the details that will ensure that the people of this Province, on this particular resource, get the best possible deal. You have failed miserably in providing that.

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are a long way from a $1 million press conference in Churchill Falls on March 9, 1998. A year and a half later, a year after the MOU was supposed to be signed, we still do not have any significant progress here other than what was announced on March 9. Sure, there is a revenue stream coming to the Province, but it is a revenue stream that should have been used to promote further economic development through hydro in Labrador West by putting a feed to Labrador West to provide economic development, such as would have necessary for the pellet plant.

The minister talks about changes in the project. The St. Jean River is out of the project now. What confidence does he have that the Romaine River is going to be included in the project, given the state of water transfer issues in this country, given the state of the claims by the Innu in Quebec regarding that river, and given all the other problems that are going to arise?

We have no assurances other than reports that we hear. We keep hearing reports of delays, of canceled meetings, of negotiations not going forward. There is a certain window here over the next couple of years before this development becomes no longer feasible, given the developments of natural gas in Canada, in our offshore, in the offshore of the Atlantic, that will make or break this project if it does not happen soon.

Mr. Speaker, we do not have any real assurances that this project is going ahead, that the problems of the Romaine River has been solved, that the problems of the Infeed to the Island have been solved. What we are having is continued delays and non-negotiation as opposed to answers and solutions.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

Oral Questions

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

My questions today are for the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods. It is my understanding that several months ago the government initiated talks with a private company to take over IPL and entered into negotiations with that company for the takeover of Integrated Poultry Limited. I wonder if the minister would not mind today standing in his place and updating this House and the people of the Province on what the status of those negotiations are, why they were initiated by government, and what presently is the situation with IPL?

 

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

 

 

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that first off this government, over two years ago, privatized Newfoundland Farm Products because we as a government and as a people do not want to be in the commercial production of chicken or poultry. We decided to move it to the private sector and IPL was formed.

Approximately a year ago there was a further investment made by a variety of agencies to assist the company and they have since then indicated that they are further seeking further investment, and at the same time trying to become a viable company after over thirty-odd years of losses when this was a Crown corporation. The loss by the public treasury over thirty-odd years was to the tune of over $220 million in 1999 dollars.

That company is a private company out there now seeking private investment. We are not doing the negotiations, we are facilitating with IPL, and we have said to them we are willing to help in every way possible. We have also said that we do not want to and are not going to put in further funding because we have put a lot of funding in already to assist in the transformation to a private industry which we want to see get on its feet and stay here in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, that is a private company out there trying to seek new investment. I’m not sure what the Leader of the Opposition’s point is in asking us today to comment on their - right now, I suppose, I do not know what he wants. Is it financial statements about the company? Maybe he should talk to them.

 

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, it is very clear what the Leader of the Opposition wants and what we want. We want an update on $23 million worth of public investment. We want to understand and for you to clarify to the people of the Province why you initiated discussions with another private company on what you call a private company. We want an update on what the financial situation of IPL is. Can the minister provide that? That is what we are asking for, Minister.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods.

 

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, as the former minister, Ed Maynard, who in 1977 was the agriculture minister, said: We should have privatized it then. Well, the government of the day has privatized that corporation.

It is a private business out trying to lure investment. I am not sure... The Leader of the Opposition, I have to tell him, if he wants to find out where the money went, we have provided public statements over the last two years as to exactly where the funds have gone, to capital cost that they have invested; they have invested in capital cost for the company and into operations.

I would just suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that the company is, at this point, still trying to attract more investment. It is working to try to become viable. We are not running the company. The company is a private company.

 

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, last year it was suggested that we were trying to undermine the company. This year, the same old story, the same old song, from the same old bunch.

If accountability and transparency are not the principles on which we stand in this House -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: - then this place will become nothing more than a rubber stamp for that crowd.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. E. BYRNE: What you should be concentrating on, Minister, is answering the hard-hitting questions being put forward to you and stop shunning your responsibility as a minister.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the minister has failed, the minister has not answered the questions, so let me ask him this: He has indicated that the company is seeking further investment. Can he confirm that the government - they are looking for further funding, he said - has actually put in an additional $1.7 to $1.8 million in the last couple of weeks, either directly through government or through farm products? Can he confirm they are poised to put in another $1.5 million to this company for feed, for winter feed, in the next couple of weeks? Could the minister stand and confirm that?

 

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

 

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, all I can figure is that the Leader of the Opposition -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. K. AYLWARD: Oh, I am going to answer the question.

All I can figure is that the Opposition has decided to put this company in jeopardy. That is what I can figure, Mr. Speaker, because this is the most irresponsible - we have put in our investment. Our investment is fully accountable, fully accountable. It is more accountable than three-quarters of the stuff they did when they were government.

You do not need to talk to me about accountability. I will confirm, the answer to the question is: As we have done in the past - even though this is a private company - for the industry, for the agrifoods industry of the Province, we have, through the farm products board, on occasion, financed a grain shipment. That is nothing new. We have done that in the past and it is 100 per cent recoverable. It is not new liability to the Government of Newfoundland. Mr. Speaker, I am not so sure -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Is he asking us to close it down?

 

MR. K. AYLWARD: Maybe he is asking us to close that down, that option.

Again, the more that I get into this - I am also going to be commenting - he wants us to comment on the financial statements of a private company that is out there with over 300 people trying to make it. Not so, Mr. Speaker, we are not going to do it.

 

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Same answers this time last year. What we are asking, Minister, is for you to update the House. The people of the Province have a significant investment in this company, $23 million put in, in loan guarantees, direct financial assistance, more financial assistance that was re-done last October, more money again this year. What we are asking is: How is the Province’s investment, how is the taxpayers investment, in the business? Just to update us. You have been involved in negotiations and I suppose, if I may ask the minister this, the reason that you have been involved in negotiations is because, as the Crown, on behalf of taxpayers, on behalf of the people of the Province, is that we do have a substantial investment in this industry.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. E. BYRNE: That is what we are asking for, and I will ask again today. I will ask again right now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to take his seat.

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Can the minister update us on the status of those negotiations, yes or no?

 

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

 

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is asking me to get into a discussion about a private company’s private negotiation; a negotiation for an industry in this Province that is trying to get on its feet after thirty-five years. I can only assume - I suppose we could get into it back and forth about what the offers have been from different companies and so on and so forth but we do not run the company. We privatized it for a reason. We are not going back into the business. We are out of the business. Over $220 million, in 1999 dollars, was invested by the taxpayers of Newfoundland over the last thirty-five years. We have privatized the corporation. They are trying to make it, and we are working with them to make it. I can only assume from the questions which the Leader of the Opposition has, which are totally irresponsible at this point in time - totally irresponsible, as a matter of fact.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. K. AYLWARD: I won’t say more - I could, but I won’t - because this company is out looking for all kinds of investment. They have advertised themselves. They have a process under KPMG with their accountants where they have been seeking investment. It is quite publicly known for the last seven or eight months. He wants us to get into the vivid details of a private company trying to make it. I can’t believe it.

 

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: A final question, Mr. Speaker.

If it is irresponsible for myself, as Leader of the Opposition, to ask where $8.5 million of public taxpayers money, $10 million that the government is putting in on behalf of the public in a loan guarantee, another $1 million government loan guarantee -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: - other investments by this government on behalf of the people of the Province, if that is irresponsible, for me to ask about the protection of that, then so be it, I am irresponsible.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. E. BYRNE: I will not apologize to the minister or government for it.

All I am asking, and I will ask this question, Mr. Speaker -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: I am not asking for the minister to comment on a private company. I am asking him to update the people of the Province on their investment in this company, which now is running about $23 million to $24 million. Is it safe or not, Minister?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has had very good answers and very responsible answers from the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture. The reality is, the amounts of money the Leader of the Opposition just referred to were announced the day the company was privatized two years ago. The Leader of the Opposition wants to now have the House believe, or through the House the public believe, there is something new about this.

Let me tell the Leader of the Opposition what is really at stake here. What is really at stake is the fact that the owners of this company - former individuals who ran barns around this Province growing stock for this operation - have taken it over. They have their lives invested. They have everything they own invested. They employ 400 Newfoundland men and women who hope to have a job and a solid future through this Christmas.

Mr. Speaker, the government has worked on interim financing to assist with grain. The company has improved its position dramatically. They are looking for private sector partners, and what the Leader of the Opposition is doing very irresponsibly, to the determent of those 400 women and men who work for IPL, is calling into question the viability of the company through this House, and I assume trying to cause a run on the company.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. Premier to conclude his answer.

 

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, that is irresponsible. You may want a headline but that is no way to get it, on the backs of the working men and women of IPL.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Premier, and they are with respect to alarming information and concerns, I am sure, being shared by many thousands of Newfoundlanders with respect to information concerning water supplies in this Province.

Thousands of people around the Province are worried about their health and the health of their children because of evidence, Mr. Premier, presented on CBC this morning, that some municipal water supplies contain unacceptably high levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals.

Your government has been sitting on a report for approximately three years, known as the 1996 State of Newfoundland Water Supply, and that report can either confirm or deny the evidence.

Will you now release the report, Mr. Premier, so that the people all over this Province can see for themselves just how bad this problem is?

 

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

 

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to correct the member opposite in saying about this report. I had a news conference earlier and it is nothing more than an internal technical document written by one of the staff members of the department. It is that particular report that is used not only from my department but from other departments of government.

In that report, when you talk about THMs and so on, over the last three or four years, every three months we test for THM levels for municipalities; in fact, 180 municipalities across the Province. That information is given back to the municipality. The officials from my department work with the people in the particular councils to assess what is there and to provide ways to improve the levels of THMs.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, as we speak we are working as a pilot project with the Town of Gander because they have had high levels of THMs over the years. My Department of Environment and Labour, along with the Town of Gander, along with the Community and Health Service, is putting in a pilot project to address the levels of THM, whether to have a different level of chlorine or to find some other disinfectant to use to bring that in line. In fact, I can also say that my department also worked with the Town of Clarenville, and their levels of THMs were really high and we brought them down tenfold from what they were. We worked with Musgrave Harbour, we worked with Botwood and other municipalities such as Grand Falls-Windsor. For you to suggest that there is a crisis in the Province, it is fearmongering. It is same type of thing that the environment critic did in Westport this year.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

 

MR. LANGDON: I call him the Tom Quixote of St. John’s South because he worked the people into a frenzy, talked about the things - where hydro was (inaudible) information, and it did not happen.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

 

MR. LANGDON: When we got an independent environmental company to go into Westport, they dug sixty test holes and just found two traces of PCBs in levels that were traceable once and then not the second time. It is the same type of information you are giving today.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am appalled that the minister can stand in this House today and say what he just said, when the health of our citizens is being effected.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. OTTENHEIMER: In your press release - and I quote from the minister’s press release - you say: Of the 194 public water supplies tested, forty-nine have THM levels which exceed the recommended guideline.

My question to you, Mr. Premier, is: Do the people in these communities, those forty-nine communities, have they been advised? Are they aware of the situation of their drinking water? And, are they aware of the possible health consequences?

 

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

 

MR. LANGDON: Mr. Speaker, we do the testing for the municipalities. They ask us to do it. We do it in an independent lab and give it back to them. Whether the councils in those communities deliver that information to their people in the community, you have to ask them that question. We have done our work, and we have worked with them.

When you talk about levels exceeding the national level, that is not only here in Newfoundland. It is across North America, and it is across Canada. In fact, Health Canada has struck a committee to look into THMs. Also, one of the people from my department is part of that committee to study the levels of THMs.

Sure we are concerned, but obviously the thing is, if you did not chlorinate then the results would be worse. That is what we are saying to you, to chlorinate the water supply, and I am saying that to the municipalities out there now.

 

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

 

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister and the Premier: Tell the people. There is a report. There is documentation in the hands of this government, that the Cabinet is fully aware of, which is of relevance and importance to the health of the citizens of this Province.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I say to the Premier, release the information. If there is nothing to it, relieve the thousands of Newfoundlanders who are obviously concerned. I say to the Premier, release the information and let Newfoundlanders know exactly what is going on. This is an important issue. It affects their well-being. It affects their health in a very real way. Release the information.

Finally, I ask: What is it he is afraid of, and why are you covering up this information?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER TOBIN: Well, Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to have to disappoint the member opposite, who really is stretching his own credibility with this kind of alarmist talk in the House.

I can tell the member that I had to ask this morning, somebody to come and brief me on what THMs were. I had never heard of them in my life. They have never been the subject of a Cabinet discussion that I presided over, and they are not a matter that the Cabinet is withholding from anybody. I didn’t even know what they were.

Mr. Speaker, I asked the officials to come in because I heard from one of my staff that there had been a story on CBC Radio and it would probably be an issue today. Of course, the Minister of Environment is well on top of the question.

I understand that this is an issue associated with chlorination right across Canada, or anywhere in the world, in which chlorination is used; that there is a national committee struck dealing with the problem; that there are pilot projects underway here in the Province; that the testing which is done is given to all of the councils involved. Is it an issue that government is concerned about, the appropriate officials and appropriate departments? Of course it is.

Someone passed me Health Canada’s Web site report, which they pulled off the Web today, which said, "Current evidence indicates that the benefits of chlorinating our drinking water - reduced incidence of water-borne diseases - are much greater than the risks of health effects from THMs."

Now I just heard about it for the first time today. I assume there is some cause for concern about high levels of THMs right across Canada but that, on balance, chlorinating the water represents a better option. In the meantime, nationally, there is a committee of officials representing every Province of Canada working to improve those methods now being used to deal with this problem.

To suggest some conspiracy is really beneath the member who ordinarily has a little more credibility when he is on his feet in this House.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for St. John’s East, a final supplementary.

 

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A quick question, a simple question: Do you agree, Mr. Premier, that the people in these communities have a right to know?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. LANGDON: They already know. The councillors are government in their community. It has been released to them for years. It is released to them every three months, so we are not hiding it. It is out there in the community. If the people in the municipality want it, they can get it.

 

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

 

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

My question is for the Premier. There is legislation coming before the House during this sitting to ban the bulk export of water. My question to the Premier is simply this: Is this a short-term ban to alleviate public pressure, or is it a long-term indefinite ban on the bulk export of water?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Province is introducing an unqualified ban on the export of bulk water from the Province. Now unless the member and his Party some time in some decade, well into the next millennium, actually find themselves on this side of the House, I think bulk water is safe.

 

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

 

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

I say to the Premier, your Parliamentary Assistant, who represents you when you are not in the House, seems to have a difference of opinion. I am wondering, did he let the cat out of the bag, Mr. Premier, or is there something that you are not telling us?

The member stood in his place yesterday and pointed at your seat and said that he would be proven right -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Premier, my question is: Did your Parliamentary Assistant let the cat out of the bag? Is this an indefinite ban, or is there something you are not telling the people of the Province?

 

PREMIER TOBIN: You know, Mr. Speaker, the difference between those who sit in the second row on this side of the House and those who sit where the hon. member sits in the second row on that side of the House, is that those who sit in the second row this side can think for themselves.

Yes, the hon. member - I want to tell you something so that it is absolutely clear - the hon. member is one of the people who asked us to very thoroughly examine the proposal that was brought forward because it presented an opportunity for employment in his constituency. He has said that publicly. Mr. Speaker, we have acknowledged that publicly. The hon. member said: Government, don’t make a snap decision. Look at this issue very carefully. Work with us to try and develop other alternatives - bottled water, if that can be accomplished in my constituency.

I can tell you, the hon. member is a tireless, ferocious, effective, deadly efficient member of the House of Assembly on behalf of the people of Bellevue district, and you should only wish that you, Sir, were the same!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

My stand will be proven right in the next ten or fifteen years. We will have no other alternative but to ship water in bulk from this Province.

When the Member for Waterford Valley said that it was a difference of opinion from yours, he said he didn’t care, that his position would be proven correct.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary. The hon. member ought to get to his question.

 

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, my question to the Premier again is this: Is your Parliamentary Assistant out of the loop, Sir, or is there something that you are not telling the people of this Province?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, You can tell that the Opposition has spent a great deal of time in caucus researching very carefully these hard hitting and relevant questions, relevant to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, by the quality of the questions that are being asked.

The fact of the matter is the government has spoken very clearly on this issue. We have a member who is doing an excellent job asking government to examine every possibility for his constituency and I am very proud to have that member as my parliamentary secretary. He is an effective member doing a good job. The government’s position on this is very clear.

 

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance who has announced tax cuts yesterday, to a total of $175 million, that in my calculations would benefit primarily those who are well-to-do, as opposed to those who are not.

I heard the statement this morning, the minister on radio, saying that the majority of the benefits of this tax cut would go to the poor. I would like the minister to explain how he figures that out, or what kind of bafflegab he can produce to support that notion which I heard the minister, with my own ears, say this morning.

 

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

 

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As we outlined in the House yesterday, and as we did in our press conference, the greatest savings to taxpayers, in percentage terms, is at the low end of the scale. The taxpayer who makes $10,000 will save 29 per cent when this is fully implemented and it gradually declines. At $20,000 it is about 17 per cent, and as you go up the scale it flattens out at about 15 per cent after three years.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, a proper analysis shows, actually, using the minister’s own figures, that someone at the lower end of the scale will save $3 per week while the people at - not even at the upper end of the scale, but the only figure that he mentions, the $75,000 income, would receive $60 a week in savings. That shows to me that this tax cut is aimed at the wealthy and well-to-do and not at the people who need this resource.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, why didn’t the minister bring in, if he felt he had $175 million to spend, measures that would ensure that people who are living below the poverty line, who cannot make it on their pensions, who have to go to food banks, have in fact a greater benefit from a tax credit from this government instead of turning around and giving tax relief to the wealthy?

 

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

 

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If the hon. member believes what he said he should take the advice of someone who gave it 2,000 years ago, "go and sell that thou hast, and give it to the poor..." Let me tell you what the government will do if the hon. member is not prepared to do it himself.

In this country, and in this Province, let’s take a single parent with two children, earning, say, $30,000. After this person pays $1,245 worth of basic federal tax, a provincial tax of $859, for a total of $2,104, but receives from both levels of government a GST credit of $310, the Canadian Child Tax Benefit of $1,836, the National Child Benefit Supplement of $918, for a net benefit to them of $1,000, $960 to be precise. If you go through the same mathematics at $25,000 worth of income there is a net benefit of $3,170. For a single parent with three children, if you do the same analysis, at $30,000 actually receives $3,624 more than they pay into government.

I say to the hon. member that it is one thing to sit here and to be well off and keep advocating that we give to the poor, but we have done that. We do it and we advocate it but we live it, and we pass regulations and laws that do that.

I say to the hon. member, let’s not forget that it is a broad society. At some point or another, people who pay for the system, when the system is prospering, when the government is doing a good job, also deserve to have a little tax relief. I can tell you I had an e-mail from somebody this morning who is concerned that she and her husband earn $75,000 -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to conclude his answer.

 

MR. DICKS: I will, Mr. Speaker. Let’s not forget that there is a case to be made for middle income earners. A lot of people in this Province are struggling on what appears to be a fairly good salary.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

 

MR. DICKS: The truth is, Mr. Speaker, that a lot of advantages that are there do not accrue to the middle classes. These are the people who want, these are the people who pay for the benefits for other people, and those are the people who deserve it, and that is what we did yesterday.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The average family income in Newfoundland is $30,000 per year. Those people in that group, the middle income earners, will save $10 per week in taxes and those who are in the $75,000 group will save $60 per week in taxes.

Mr. Speaker, what the minister fails to talk about when he talks about how people on the lower income get tax credits -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. HARRIS: He fails to answer this question. Why in this Province then do we have 6.6 per cent of our population going to food banks, three times the natural average, if the poor are so well off?

 

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

 

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should confer with his colleague in Nova Scotia, Mr. Chisholm, who is advocating that Nova Scotia do what we are doing.

As I’ve just stated, there are an awful lot of social benefits for people on low income. Granted we can do more, but I say to the hon. member, that the reason the tax break in absolute terms is so little in absolute dollars, for people at low incomes, is that they pay very little in taxation. What the hon. member, if he were going to honest, would have regard to is the fact that in percentage terms they benefit most from this tax plan.

I say to the hon. member that the benefits of society have to be spread around to all members, and if we expect and if we wish to continue the support of the general population to keep providing benefits to the poor, we cannot keep taxing them to death to do it. I say to the hon. member that those who pay for the programs also deserve some of the benefit from them.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has ended.

The Chair would like at this time on behalf of all members to welcome to the gallery Mr. George Fizzard, Mayor of Grand Le Pierre, in the District of Bellevue.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees

 

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

 

MR. K. AYLWARD: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to present the Newfoundland Crop Insurance Agency annual report and the Livestock Owners Compensation Board annual report.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Petitions

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Placentia & St. Mary’s.

 

MR. MANNING: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today which reads as follows:

We, the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, wish to petition the House of Assembly to oppose the bulk export of water from this Province. Every major resource such as Churchill Falls that has been developed in Newfoundland and Labrador has resulted in the majority of benefits going outside the Province. It is time that we demand our full and fair share. With water being one of the few resources remaining where we have the opportunity to deliver maximum benefits through jobs, spinoff from secondary processing, as well as royalties, we demand that any water sold must be bottled and processed in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, this is one of the many petitions that we had brought to our offices over the last couple of days from people are very concerned about bulk export of water in this Province. As we know, over the past several months we have had several debates throughout the Province, in smaller communities and larger communities, through councils all throughout the Province, concerning the bulk export of water.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. MANNING: Mr. Speaker, does the Minister of Mines and Energy have a problem with me presenting a petition in the House of Assembly on behalf of the people of the Province? I am appalled at the minister.

I am pleased today to stand and present this petition on behalf of these people because it is a very important concern. Over the pasty fifty years we have dealt the resources of this Province to multi-nationals, to people throughout this world, and one of the last greatest resources that we have left in this Province is our water. It is very important that a full debate be held on this issue. I was very pleased yesterday to see that legislation is forthcoming in the House this session to deal with this bulk water export, but I am just concerned by any attachments that any government may put to this legislation.

We have to have a full and fair benefit for the people of the Province. We have to make sure that this last great resource in this Province is used to the benefit of the people of this Province. It is very important that the government realize that. We stood in the House yesterday and we got conflicting concerns raised. I refer back to the parliamentary assistant to the Premier who stood in the House yesterday and made a comment that he will be proven right in ten years time that we should have bulk water exports. I find that very strange coming from the parliamentary assistant to the Premier: that the Premier would stand and announce one policy, or issue a statement that would certainly reflect the policy of this government, while his parliamentary assistant would differ from that point. That surprised me. It certainly surprised many people yesterday in the House to hear the parliamentary assistant state that the Premier will be proven wrong over the next several years. I found that very interesting for the Member for Bellevue, the parliamentary assistant, to make those comments.

It is a very important concern for the people of this Province. It is a very important concern for the future of the Province as it deals with, as I said, one of the latest, the greatest, resource that we have, and indeed something that the whole world is crying out for. We want to have a clear policy from this government.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MR. MANNING: Yes, you are very quiet today, I say to the Member for Bellevue. You must have been told to tone down. You were sandbagged yesterday I expect, and you were sandbagged a couple of weeks ago when the announcement was made. We will end up with a `sandbag’ group on that side.

 

I say, Mr. Speaker, if the Member for Bellevue has something to say he can stand and say it. Don’t be mumbling.

It is very important that we get a message across to the people of the Province concerning the bulk export of water -

 

MR. BARRETT: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Bellevue.

 

MR. BARRETT: I just want to stand and remind the hon. member that I have to leave the House to attend to important business. I have a meeting with the mayor of Grand Le Pierre. We want to talk about a bottling plant for Grand Le Pierre. I am not running away. I have important business to take care off.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for St. John’s South.

 

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

I am going to speak to this petition again. That is good news, because that is what we want. We want bottling plants for any of the water that is exported from this Province. It should be processed here and should be bottled here. All of the secondary processing and all of the spinoffs should be in this Province, as opposed to exporting anything in bulk. That is the problem that this Province has faced over the years.

We have many resources, yet we have not seen these resources exploited to the best interest and the maximum benefit to the people of this Province. They have been exported, providing jobs elsewhere, providing spinoff elsewhere, and providing profits elsewhere.

We heard a promise not too long ago, to bring every mother’s son home. The reason we have not been able to do that is because we have not utilized our resources to our best interest. We have not demanded that all of the jobs and all of the spinoff take place in this Province. That is what we want with this resource. That is why, on this side of the House, we are so adamant about insuring that this resource give full and fair share maximum benefits to this Province, as opposed to seeing one drop go out in bulk.

We want to see the people of Grand Le Pierre working. We want to see people in other remote communities who have a good, clean, fresh, pristine water supply given the opportunity to work.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to take his seat. His time is up.

 

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

 

Orders of the Day

Private Members’ Day

MR. SPEAKER: It now being Wednesday at 3:00 p.m., Private Members’ Day, I call on the hon. the Member for Terra Nova.

 

MR. LUSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In my time serving in this House, I have presented many resolutions from both sides of the House. I cannot say that I presented a resolution from that physical side, but from the symbolical side I have, and presented resolutions and motions from this side of the House, from the north, south, east and west.

I can truthfully say that there is not a resolution that I have felt more conviction for, there is not a resolution that I have had a stronger resolve for, there is not a resolution for which I have had a stronger feeling for, than I have for the substance of this resolution today.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, it is a social, economic and political truth that transportation is very vital to any country. It is what unifies the country. It is what binds and keeps it together. That is how this nation was formed, on the condition that we have a railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Transportation was so vital that when we joined Confederation, when we joined Canada, the Gulf ferry, that very important transportation link, was enshrined in the Constitution. The funny part about it, to tell you where we were, was the condition was that when the Trans-Canada was completed and we got motor vehicles and the like, that we would have a ferry service capable of handling that traffic.

Mr. Smallwood always said that one of the most important benefits of Confederation was getting rid of isolation. The curse of isolation, he called it. That was one of the great blessings of Confederation provincially, getting rid of isolation done by road transportation, linking up communities with communities. Hence, as I have said, it is an irrevocable, an unequivocal truth and maxim, that transportation plays a vital role in the development of a country.

In this nation we have an inadequate and weak chain in our transportation system, and it is the Gulf ferry service. The Gulf ferry service has not kept up with the expectations and the demands of the traveling public and of commercial activity of today. Indeed, the inadequacy of that system is impacting negatively on the economic growth of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I want to say that I do not believe that my feelings about this resolution are unique today. I do not believe I have a monopoly on patriotism. I believe that all members of this House feel equally the way that I do, that we have to improve, for the benefit of the people of this Province, the Gulf ferry system. We have to make it a world-class transportation system, very efficient, convenient and comfortable for the traveling public, and also a system that will expeditiously move not only people but goods. That it will be very effective for the commercial activity.

I do not feel that I am the only person who feels that way, but I believe today we should demonstrate to the federal government just how strongly we feel about it. We should demonstrate to the federal minister just the kind of commitment that members of this House have in terms of ensuring that we have a world-class ferry system in the Gulf, which, Mr. Speaker, is the lifeline of this Province.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LUSH: The Gulf ferry system is the marine highway for Newfoundlanders.

 

MR. TULK: It is the pavement.

 

MR. LUSH: It is the pavement. It is the economic lifeblood of this Province, and because it is not being developed in the manner in which it should be developed, the economy of this Province is not growing in the manner in which it should grow.

To show its concern about this, the government had a series of forums - I think they had five -throughout the Province in September seeking from the people of this Province, various sectors of the Province -

 

MR. TULK: It is still coming up (inaudible).

 

MR. LUSH: The House Leader says it is still coming up, to show the compassion that Newfoundlanders have for this ferry system, and to show how clear it is in our minds that we want to have the inadequacies of that system remedied, corrected, and we want it done immediately.

As a result of these forums, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation put together the report called "On Deck and Below". In that report there is a compilation of the concerns expressed by the people, and that is converted into twenty-four recommendations to the federal government that would have the result of improving the Gulf ferry system.

I would ask hon. member to ask the question of themselves: What is it that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians expect of the Gulf ferry service? What is it they want? What are they looking for? What is it that we think will turn that into a world-class transportation system?

As I read the report, I can look at four areas, I think, that the people of this Province and the various sectors that were represented in these forums look to for improvement. One has to do with capacity, increasing the capacity of the ferry service such that everybody wanting to come to Newfoundland can get here. The capacity will address getting people, taking care of delays - delays commercially, delays by truckers - in terms of getting goods to this Province. We want extra capacity. That was point number one.

The report recommends that there be an extra ferry. It also suggests or recommends looking into a faster type ferry. It looks into these two things to address the problem of capacity.

Mr.Speaker, if we do not address that, if we do not have sufficient capacity, it discourages people from traveling to this Province. The impression, the concept that people have about coming to Newfoundland, for the most part now, is that it is almost impossible to get here, and they do not even bother to book. We need extra capacity for the movement of people and the movement of goods to make it easier to get here.

The other thing that they address is quality of service. All of the recommendations address quality, making sure that we have a level of service that is equal to that experienced by users of ferry services anywhere else in Canada or anywhere in the world. We want quality service.

The third has to do with rates. We want rates that are fair, rates that are competitive, rates that are reasonable.

The fourth point has to do with governance, the administration, the management, of Marine Atlantic or whoever it is that is running the show. We recommended here that the President and Chief Executive Officer live in Channel-Port aux Basques; that the Board of Directors be given more control; that the Board of Directors be composed of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Mr. Speaker, never in this House have I promoted policies that shut out people from other provinces or from other parts of the world. I have never subscribed to that kind of narrowminded, myopic thinking. Because if one subscribes to that, one also has to look at how generous other parts of Canada and other parts of the world have been to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians -

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LUSH: - who can move freely; not because we experience a level of prosperity that we say no to our friends from Nova Scotia, no to our friends from Ontario, no to our friends from Alberta, who have been so generous and kind to us. You cannot have it both ways.

In this particular incident where we are dealing with something that is uniquely Newfoundland - if we are dealing with mines, if we are dealing with electricity, engineering is the same and the expertise is the same wherever you are, but dealing with the marine link from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, you have to feel it in your stomach; you have to have palpations in the heart. For that reason, it has to be somebody - there have to be Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are directing and managing that particular company.

These are some of the major recommendations that are made in this report. I will sit down and give other members a chance to speak, but in conclusion I want to again point out how vital, how absolutely necessary, a modern, efficient Gulf ferry service is to the economic development of this Province.

I believe that we should send the message to the federal government, a message that strongly indicates that we will not relinquish, that we will not relent, on ensuring that the federal government lives up to its constitutional responsibility, its constitutional obligation, in providing this Province, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, with a very efficient, modern ferry service.

I believe that we should stand solidly today, solidly behind the government, solidly behind the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, to let them know that we stand together in this vital transportation link, that we stand together to ensure that we are not going to let the federal government abdicate its responsibility in this respect and that we are going to demand that they provide us with the best Gulf ferry service possible.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to say first of all that I am very glad to see this come before the House today, and I commend the member for bringing it forward. If there is an issue in my time in this House of Assembly - on all sides of the House and every Party in the House - that I think we have to be together on is this particular issue. It is a debate that has gone on for a long, long time. The history of it -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SHELLEY: Oh, there is no doubt about that. We have all echoed the same comments that the member has just put forward. We have gone over it over and over. It is one of the longest running debates in our history because it has been a problem since we joined Confederation in 1949. It is enshrined in our constitution, as the member has already pointed out. It is something that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have expected ever since the day that we voted to join this great country of ours, but it is something that has gone on and on for too long and never been resolved or come to a head. It is time for it to come to a head, especially when the member talks about in his resolution that we must continue to demand.

Yes, we continue to demand but it has to come to a point where it has to be resolved or we have to take every means possible by this Legislature and every elected member and every person in Newfoundland and Labrador to get a final result which is going to be satisfactory to the people who live here.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SHELLEY: I went around to some of the forums, I would tell the member, and I saw the same passion in those forums that we heard for years before that. As a matter of fact, it was last spring when the now Minister of Municipal Affairs was the acting Minister of Transportation, when I raised the issue in the House here about getting the people all riled up again, worked up again, getting ready, get on the road. When I suggested that, lo and behold, the forums began and people did get worked up.

I commend the minister for doing that because all of us at the same time had the same notion that: Listen, we have talked about this for so long; it is the same old cliche over and over. The truth is, at the forums - and I was at the forum in Corner Brook, well attended, some great presentations - for the three hours that I spent in that forum - and the minister knows this; the Minister of Tourism was there and the Minister of Transportation - the truth is, for the three hours or three-and-a-half hours that we spent there, we should have gone in and in thirty seconds everybody stand up and say, ‘ditto’ and leave, because we said the same thing over and over and over again; the same arguments over all the time.

There is one thing that is clear, and the member knows it is clear, and maybe it is a good reason for bringing it forward to this House as a private member’s motion: He will get 110 per cent support on this particular issue; because, truthfully, we are all sick and tired of talking about it. I have experienced it myself.

Even this summer past, in visiting some family and friends in Nova Scotia with my family, the same story again. I really take the time now more than ever - when you have those extra hours waiting at the dock and you have your family there and it was a little bit boring - to go around and talk to people. You see a license plate from Arizona or New Hampshire or New York or British Columbia and so on, and you take the time to go over and have a little chat and ask them where they are from and so on. I have done that.

This particular summer I talked to a few people who were packing up and getting ready to leave, who were outside the parking lot. I decided to go out and talk to them, from one of the states - I don’t remember now - and basically they said they had just gotten there. They never had plans to go to Newfoundland. They were one of those tourist - I don’t know the exact name on it, but basically to do some ad libbing as they go on their travels and they decide to go to certain places. When they got to the East Coast of Canada they heard more and more about Newfoundland and Labrador and decided that they wanted to go have a look, but they were turned off. These people were turned off and they were heading back. They are not in the statistics that Marine Atlantic uses. They are not in those books that say they turned away people. They did not even consider it because they talked to other people who said: Well, boy, you are going to have to wait at least two days, maybe three days. Then, of course, they checked out the cost, as the member talked about, and they definitely were not going then.

I just wonder, besides the statistics that Marine Atlantic puts out of the number of people who were turned away, how many people are there that we don’t know about? If there is one industry in this Province that we all talk about that is growing is tourism. The member mentions it specifically in his motion. If tourism is growing, and here is the link to this Province of how most tourists come in, and we are spending all these dollars through the provincial tourism department, the millennium, Cabot 500 and all those celebrations, we are spending all that money and then we are hitting a bottleneck coming into the Province. People have been turned off and they are going back again.

The real shame is - I just wonder today if we could have some real statistics of how many people in the last five or ten years, or fifteen years, have actually turned around and left and not bothered to come to the Province. That is what the shame of this is.

It is something that is long overdue. It is something that every single person in this Legislature and around this Province all agree upon. There is no opposition to this whatsoever so, as a Province and as a Legislature, everything possible has to be done. This is the funny part of it, Mr. Speaker. It is getting a little bit confusing, though, because one day you hear the federal minister make a small announcement of maybe some possibilities and then the next day - of course, our local provincial minister has not said a lot about it lately because he does not have a lot. In all respect to him, he does not have a lot of information. Then the tourism minister talks about, when are we going to get a report? Nobody knows what is going on. Then, lo and behold, in the middle of nowhere, our federal minister, Mr. Baker, jumps up and tells us we are getting a ferry but he is not sure if it is ten or twelve stories.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SHELLEY: He is not sure if it is 300 or 400 rooms. He is not sure if it going to be next week, next month or next year, but he is going to guarantee us because... Here is how he is guaranteeing us. If you watched his interview the other night, it was so ridiculous, Mr. Speaker. Here was our minister, now in Cabinet, he has been in Ottawa for twenty-five years - see if the Member for Bellevue understands this now - and his comment was: Yes, I am sure it is going through.

Debbie Cooper said: How do you know? He said: I am on Treasury Board. Oh, that is good. It is going through because you are on Treasury Board.

Now, the next question: When is it going through, Mr. Baker? Well, I don’t know that; I haven’t been in Cabinet very long. I have only been up here twenty-five years. I don’t know how the process works.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, but everyone knows the process. I was here for two months and knew the process of going through Treasury Board and Cabinet and everything else.

Mr. Speaker, our federal minister didn’t know when it was going but he could guarantee it because he was on Treasury Board. So, I guess any member in government who is on Treasury Board, if they agree with it, then it is going to be approved. Is that right?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SHELLEY: No, it is not right, I say to the Member for Bellevue. If he is that naive and gullible at this stage of being in politics, that is why you are going to be in that second row for a long time to come, I say to the Member for Bellevue.

You have to understand that the problem here has been mixed messages. That is what is going on. It is a bit disjointed right now, and I would suggest to the provincial minister and the tourism minister to get together with the federal minister and our own federal minister and see exactly where this is going.

The point I want to make about this is that the Argentia ferry - or the phantom boat as some people are starting to call it - they are not sure if it is coming, when it is coming, what it is. That is only one issue. That is only one part of it. If they think they are going to put a new ferry on the Argentia run and all of this will go away, they are going to be in for a surprise, Mr. Speaker, because I agree with the member. There are twenty-four recommendations which we support - every single one of them, and we want to see them all addressed - that are not going to solve the capacity to the Province; to Port aux Basques and Argentia. It is not going to solve all of that.

The service remains to be seem. Are we going to improve the service? The cost. Is it going to increase cost? Maybe the extra boat - they are going to come back to us, the federal government, and increase costs. Is that right?

Then, Mr. Speaker, another one the member mentioned was management. To believe that we have to go to New Brunswick to talk to the CEO of Marine Atlantic for this Province. The ferry service to this Province is in place because we are an island. It is here because we are here. That is why it is here. It is not here because of Nova Scotia, PEI or New Brunswick. It is here because we are an island and they use a boat to come to the island. That is why it is here. Why should a CEO be sitting in New Brunswick? If somebody has a complaint here and want to talk to the top, which they should do at times, why do we have to go there?

Mr. Speaker. another question a lot of people in Port aux Basques and Argentia ask is: Why are so many people on the shores of Nova Scotia employed by Marine Atlantic when those jobs could be in this Province?

I will go a bit further than what the member said. Not only do we believe the CEO should be in this Province; our stand is that any employee, unless it is absolutely necessary to be in Nova Scotia, must be in Newfoundland and Labrador. Anything, unless it is a complete necessity. The only employees who should be in Nova Scotia for this service - it should be in Newfoundland. They should be in Newfoundland. It is as simple as that.

We support the member in what he said, but we will go beyond and say that everybody related as an employee to this service should be in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, the debate has gone on for years. I am not going to go on much longer except to make those couple of points. First of all, we have to get together. The minister, the federal minister, our own ministers, get together, everybody get together so that we have the same message coming, and we have to make sure that if there is a ferry announced for Argentia, if there is a new boat for Argentia, that we do not all jump up and down and say: That is great, and we will all go away. Because there are many issues that we have to bring into this whole question of the capacity and the service to this Province.

So let’s not all get excited when Mr. Baker says he thinks there is a boat coming. I hope there is. We are going to applaud him for it. Then we have to address the capacity and address the cost, and the Minister of Tourism has to address what the federal minister is saying, which is to make sure that he is in step with him. Right, minister? Absolutely.

We have to get together on this issue, support it as much as we can. If it takes more than this, I say to the member, I think that this Legislature has to take every step possible. The Premier, the Cabinet, the government, the Opposition, the NDP, everybody has to do whatever it takes or whatever is necessary to resolve this particular issue, because it has gone on for too long.

We should not be worried too much, by the way, about who is going to be out running around doing the announcement because I think there is going to be a jam in the doorway the day they announce the new ferry for Argentia. I do not know if it is going to be the federal Minister of Transport or the Minister of Tourism. The Member for Humber St. Barbe-Baie Verte keeps wanting to have something to say about it. So there is going to be a logjam in the doorway for the announcement on the Argentia ferry.

All I say today is to keep in mind that even when and if there is an announcement on a ferry for the Argentia run, that is only the beginning of the issues that need to be resolved with this particular issue. We hope that happens and we will be watching it very closely.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

 

MR. SPEAKER (Oldford): The hon. the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. PARSONS: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this most important issue to the District of Burgeo & LaPoile. I also acknowledge the Member for Baie Verte. It certainly appears that he read my maiden speech because he has adopted many of the comments within it.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. PARSONS: This is a very important cause. In the course of doing some research for the recent Remembrance Day I came across a quote from a very famous writer and philosopher. He said:

The lesson of the tremendous days through which we have passed is that men cannot live upon the achievements of their forefathers, but must themselves renew them. We cannot escape the elementary facts of life, that for a people there is nothing for nothing, that what they have they must themselves make, that what they cherish, they must themselves achieve, and what they wish to keep they must themselves defend.

I can assure you that the people of Burgeo & LaPoile, and particularly the people of Port aux Basques region, intend to defend what they have and what they consider to be theirs.

All people in this Province have a vested interest to see that Marine Atlantic is the best that it can be. It is necessary for our economy, for the movement of people and freight. It is necessary for the growth of our tourism industry. It is also very important, on a local level, for the purpose of employment.

There has been more talk about Marine Atlantic in this Province in the last eight months than probably in the eight previous years, and that is very much appreciated because it is about time that the people who ran Marine Atlantic were brought to task, and that the service was made all that it ought to be. We have a lot of issues and a lot of people in the Province only heard about the capacity issues: we cannot get people and trucks in and out fast enough.

There are more issues than the capacity issue. That is one, but there are many more. Probably something that is being missed in this province is that this is a Newfoundland service. For many years it has been treated as a mainland service. We have had headquarters in Moncton and again, unless we are very careful in this Province, we will see that the balance of power is again shifted to Nova Scotia.

It is finally an acknowledgment, and it is very pleasing to see, that this government has endorsed, through the report "On Deck and Below," what is necessary in regards to Marine Atlantic. Yes, the capacity issue has been addressed, and regardless of the technology that is accepted it will cure the capacity issue and we will have a better, more efficient movement of people and freight into this Province, which is absolutely necessary to the growth of our economy.

We also have the issue of the CEO and the President. I would suspect that it is probably very imminent as to who that person would be. I think it is also fair to say that where goes the head so goes the tail. As recommended in "On Deck and Below" in recommendation number three, hopefully the head would choose to reside in Channel-Port aux Basques. I realize we cannot dictate to anyone where they have to live but we can certainly dictate where they ought to live, or suggest where they ought to live and dictate where their place of work is.

If they are working in relation to Marine Atlantic, which is a Newfoundland and Labrador service - it is not a mainland service, it is not a Nova Scotia service, it is our service for the benefit of this Province - they should live in this Province and hopefully they should live in the Town of Channel-Port aux Basques, as recommended in the report.

Another recommendation in the report was on procurement, and I have not heard any discussion on this issue. The Marine Atlantic budget, in the millions of dollars, is currently being spent, 92 per cent of it, outside this Province. Here we are with a service that we own, that is being controlled basically by people who do not live within our Province and the expenditures are taking place outside. That is about to change with these recommendations, once adopted. If the President and CEO comes to this Province, hopefully he will bring with him the other controlling interest in this company.

At the present time we have the vice-president of finance in Channel-Port aux Basques, but the decision-making of vice-presidents of human resources, training and administration are all vested not even in North Sydney, which was one of the other Constitutional links, but in Sydney and Point Edward. Hopefully, those links will also move so that the expenditures of millions of dollars by way of procurement will be done in this Province.

The other issue we have is that of employment. Currently, the reservations for Marine Atlantic are done primarily outside of this Province. It is unbelievable that the people who run Marine Atlantic will not allow Newfoundlanders to take and make reservations from people who live outside of this Province. There has even been suggestions that we Newfoundlanders cannot talk properly to make the reservations. Anyone living in Ontario who wishes to come here and calls the reservation system speaks to someone in the reservations in mainland Canada. Only Newfoundlanders make their reservations via a Newfoundland worker. That ought to and has to change. Fortunately, again, "On Deck and Below" address that issue by way of recommendation number twenty-three. Currently, the percentages in the reservation system are three-to-one in favor of Nova Scotian employees. I have nothing against Nova Scotia but I think we all ought to have the benefits of what is ours first, and principally ours. That should change.

The other issue is that of decision-making authority. Under the Constitutional structure of Marine Atlantic at the present time there are seven members on the Board of Directors. They supposedly make the ultimate decisions as to the administration and operation of that company. Three of those members on the Board of Directors live in the Province of Nova Scotia, three of them live in the Province of Newfoundland. As of October 28, one of those Newfoundland appointees, Mr. Don (inaudible), his term expired, so there is a vacancy there now vis--vis the Newfoundland position. The seventh and controlling person on the board, as constituted legally, is currently a Darrell Weaver from New Brunswick, who is the acting President and CEO. So Newfoundland does not have control vis--vis the Board of Directors as it currently exists. It is nice to see, again, recommendation number five which addresses this issue. It has been acknowledged as a problem and if the suggestions of this government are accepted, that board decision will change so that control of the Board of Directors in terms of numbers will be from people from within this Province. Again, it is the people of this Province having control of a corporate body that is and ought to be for their use only.

My learned friend from Baie Verte again talked about what ought and ought not to be in this Province versus Nova Scotia. From this member’s position it is quite clear. There are only to be enough Nova Scotians employed by Marine Atlantic to tie the boat on. Anything other than that ought to be within this Province. Every benefit, every place of employment, every opportunity associated with this company should be here in this Province. Again, from a control point of view, when we have summer employment hiring, for example, the hiring is not totally done from this Province.

To conclude in this matter, after many years of what we feel to be inequities in the system regarding Marine Atlantic we have finally reached a point where the problems have been identified. "On Deck and Below" has addressed the problems. The very valid, logical, rational recommendations have been made and hopefully they will be carried on. This government has certainly done its part in identifying the issues, conducting the forum and putting in black and white what needs to be done to make this service the best that it can be for this Province. I feel certain that it will only be a very short time when those recommendations will have been implemented and hopefully what is bad about Marine Atlantic will be a thing of the past and we will see nothing but good things coming from Marine Atlantic. As the writer McLandburgh Wilson said:

`Twixt the optimist and pessimist

The difference is droll:

The optimist sees the doughnut

But the pessimist sees the hole.

I feel quite certain, being the eternal optimist, that we people in Burgeo & LaPoile can look forward to seeing the doughnuts and not the holes from here on in.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER (Smith): The hon. the Member for Placentia & St. Mary’s.

 

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I’m pleased today to stand and to make a few comments on the Gulf ferry service resolution that has come before the House. While the spirit of the resolution is something that I certainly have no problem at all in supporting, I find it ironic that we stand here in the House, almost at the end of November, when this report was passed to the federal government on September 28 of this year. We are still wondering how we are going to continue to demand the federal government to adopt the recommendations when they have them almost two months.

I think that if the so-called cousins in Ottawa of the members opposite were intent on improving the ferry service in this Province that we would not be standing here almost two months after these recommendations were sent to Minister Collenette asking this House to continue to demand that the federal government accept the recommendations. While I support the resolution, I feel it very strange that we are standing here today with that concern that I just raised. These are very important recommendations.

I want to go back, if I can, to the beginning of the birth of these resolutions and the report "On Deck and Below." I would say, certainly for the last twenty-plus years this issue of the Gulf ferry service has been discussed in this Province by all political strips, by all levels of government, municipal, provincial and federal. It is a very important issue, not only for the people in Argentia or Channel-Port aux Basques, but indeed for the Province as a whole, and it is an important issue for many reasons. That is why I am very concerned that, after almost two months of the federal government having this document in their hands, we are here in the House of Assembly today asking for a continuation of pressure on the federal government to accept these recommendations.

These recommendations were almost a uniform voice right across this Province. I attended the ferry forum held at the Star Hall in Placentia and I was among many of the speakers from our area who put forward concerns as it relates to the ferry service. Because of where that forum was held - it was in the Placentia area - and the fact that the Argentia ferry is so important to that region, most of the concerns that were raised there at that forum were particularly concerned with the situation in Argentia. I would just like to touch on a few of these that some of my colleagues have spoken on earlier.

It is not only the fact that we need a new ferry. There have been many comments made over the past couple of weeks, different ferries that are being looked at by Marine Atlantic throughout the world. The federal minister, Mr. Baker, has been involved in the media explaining that there is a possibility that there is a ferry forthcoming for the Argentia run. Even if they place a ferry in Argentia tomorrow morning there are many concerns that the people in my area and indeed the people throughout the Province have in relation to the ferry service.

I would just like to touch on a couple of those if I could. One certainly relates to one of the recommendations that was in the report, that at the present time now we are going to have a problem to follow on for the simple reason that one of the recommendations asked that we have a schedule in place for this coming season by October 10, 1999. October 10 has come and gone. November 10 has come and gone. October 10 has come and gone, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. LUSH: (Inaudible) hon. member permit a comment?

 

MR. MANNING: I can’t hear the member, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. LUSH: Would the hon. member permit a comment (inaudible)? I just wanted to say to him that that is true, that (inaudible), but I think the next one says that the planning should be done every year by (inaudible).

 

MR. MANNING: Yes, and I thank the hon. member for pointing that out. I was about to get onto that, I say to the hon. member. Number eleven recommendation says: Announce the new ferry schedule for 2000 before the Atlantic Canada showcase by October 10, 1999.

Then recommendation number twelve states: On an annual basis, establish ferry schedules for the coming year no later than October. Preferably the schedule should be set at an earlier date. I totally agree with recommendation number twelve. I totally agree with recommendation number eleven. What concerns me is that we have a federal government which didn’t seem to care about recommendation number eleven because if they cared about recommendation number eleven, if they cared about the ferry service in this Province, we would have a schedule in place by the time of the Atlantic Canada showcase. The Atlantic Canada showcase is an opportunity, not only for Newfoundland but indeed for all of Atlantic Canada to show themselves to the world. In order for tour operators, in order for a company to put schedules in place, to put plans out to promote their businesses, they have to have a ferry schedule a couple of years prior to, definitely a few months.

Here we are now almost to December, I say to the hon. member, and we still do not have a ferry schedule for next year. I think it is a disgrace by the federal government. It shows that they just do not care about the ferry. This is what worries me about all the other recommendations. Because if a simple recommendation such as having a schedule in place could not be followed, I wonder what is going to happen to the other twenty-three recommendations that are in this report. The federal government just turned back on to Newfoundland as it relates to the schedule and that concerns me about the other twenty-three recommendations. The schedule is an all important part of this whole debate about the Gulf ferry service, schedules as are related to the area in regards to promotion of the Province.

This Province spends millions of dollars on promoting Newfoundland and Labrador to the outside world and we have been doing that for a number of years. Our budget doubled last year, which I was very pleased to see. Our budget doubled in promotion of the Province, and still we do not have a ferry schedule in place, and people have to get here by the ferry, Mr. Speaker, so that is a major concern.

The schedule itself - and I bring it back to Argentia, which I am most familiar with. The schedule in Argentia has been changed over the past five or six years. The departure time and the arrival time of the ferry has changed over the past four or five years on a continual basis, not only for the traveling public that are coming into the area but indeed for the businesses in that area that are depending upon the tourism seasons. They are depending upon the ferry schedule - depending upon the ferry system, I should say - in order to survive, and are having a job to adapt and indeed a job to just nail down what the ferry schedule will be. At our forum in Argentia, several issues were put forward but there seemed to certainly be an agreement on a proper ferry schedule for the Argentia area.

The fact that we have in the wings now a possibility of a ferry that will have 300 to 400 cabins is certainly great news for the Argentia, Placentia, southern Avalon area. Indeed, I hope this becomes a reality. I am concerned about the fact that one minister wants to be announcing something one day, and another minister wants to be announcing something else. My only worry is when the announcement will come that a new ferry is scheduled for Argentia that will alleviate the congestion that is there in the peak tourist season, that will alleviate the concerns of the passengers who are traveling on that ferry, and will alleviate the concerns of the business people in the area who are depending upon that ferry service for a living.

Mr. Speaker, I proposed at the forum in Argentia - in Placentia I proposed that there be a five-year plan put in place for the ferry service, and I am pleased to see that one of the recommendations, recommendation 8, says that we: Freeze ferry rates for five years until such time as service has been rebuilt and is operating in a modern and efficient manner.

I was not the only person to put forward that concern, but indeed it was one of the ones I had because I felt that, from a business point of view - and the ferry service has to be treated as a business - we have to put a five-year plan in place. Then we can go out and promote the Province and know exactly what the rates are for five years, know what the schedules are for five years, know what the people out there as asking. They plan two and three years ahead, especially tour companies that are coming into the Province, are planning two and three years ahead.

I guess another concern that was raised, certainly at the Argentia forum, was procurement, and the fact that because of the fact that the ferry arrives and she is gone within a few hours, we have no opportunities to avail of the services in that area which in turn employ people, which in turn bring money into the local economy.

The fact that back a few years ago, back in the days of the Ambrose Shea and other ferries that were coming into Argentia, there were indeed many of the services that the ferries needed in that area, and I think there should be something there to make sure that such things as food, dry cleaning, fuel that the ferry needs, there should be some way of dividing that up to give Argentia area at least an opportunity to provide some of these services to Marine Atlantic.

I certainly want to touch on the Board of Directors, because that was a very important issue that was raised throughout the Province but indeed in my area. I find it appalling, to say the least, that we have a ferry service that is only for Newfoundland - the ferry service would not exist, only for Newfoundland - a ferry service which the people in Argentia area are very dependent upon, and we do not have one person from our area sitting on the Board of Directors of Marine Atlantic.

Last year, when they were appointing a Newfoundlander, the local Chamber of Commerce, the red board in the area, the council in the area, put forward names, and very credible names, to Marine Atlantic, people who have been involved in the area for a number of years in different capacities, and for some reason or other we were spurned. They did not even consider the names that the people from that area put forward.

We have a Board of Directors with a CEO in New Brunswick. We have three members from Nova Scotia, three members from Newfoundland, and a member from New Brunswick are the seven. I am sure we all agree that this service, because it is a Newfoundland service, should have Newfoundland control, and I believe that every member on the Board of Directors of Marine Atlantic should come from this Province. The seven members should be Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I believe that, and I believe the only way this Province will get a fair shake with the ferry service is if we control it.

Mr. Speaker, back a few years ago, Conrad Black, the owner of The National Post and other newspapers, made a comment. He said: It is not what you own, it is what you control that counts.

I believe we have to control ferry service in this Province, and the only way we can control it if we have a Board of Directors made up of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

I want to touch on a couple of things. The reservation system - we spoke about that here in the House before. It is amazing that you have to make a reservation in Nova Scotia to go across on a ferry from Argentia.

I had a person who came to me, who had called down to Argentia office on two occasions and did not get any answer. When he went down to the Argentia office, went to the payphone, he could not get a reservation. When he went up to the booth, he got a reservation. It is total chaos when it comes to the reservation system, total chaos.

The reservation system should be set up in this Province, and I am sure the reservation system not only would employ Newfoundlanders but indeed would give a sense of efficiency to the reservation system that we need. This whole system is dependent upon a Newfoundland touch, and we do not have that at the present time.

I was very pleased at the Placentia forum. The largest turnout of any of the forums held in the Province was held in the Placentia, and that is certainly a credit to the people in that area. There were representatives there from all organizations. There were several individuals who stood up. The largest turnout for any ferry forum held in the Province was held in Placentia, and the reason for that is because it is a very important service to the people in that area. It is a very important service economically to the people in the Placentia area. It is an important service because not only do we depend upon it for a growing tourism business, a growing tourism industry in the Placentia area, but indeed for an employment opportunity.

Talk has been going on too long. We sit here today with twenty-four recommendations that the federal government has yet to accept. I say that the federal government is going... If, for some reason or other, we are standing here next spring - and I say to the hon. Member for Terra Nova, if we are standing here next spring, in April or May in the House of Assembly - and the recommendations in this report have not been acted upon, I say that we should have another resolution on the floor here, and I hope that the Member for Terra Nova will come forward with another resolution at that time because this resolution today is asking us once again to continue to demand it of the federal government.

We have spend twenty-five years, on both sides of this House - twenty-five years this Province has spent - asking the federal government to improve the ferry service to this Province. Twenty-five years we have been doing that. We have been shunned for twenty-five years. The time is here to improve the ferry service, the time to make it a Newfoundland ferry service. I think we should change the name. I am surprised that either one of the recommendations -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. MANNING: - said to change the name to the Newfoundland ferry service.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. MANNING: By leave, if I could, just to finish up, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

 

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

 

MR. MANNING: I am pleased to stand today and support the resolution put forward by the Member for Terra Nova. I hope we do not have to be here next spring supporting another resolution when the federal government fails to follow through on the recommendations of this report.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on the resolution brought before the House by the Member for Terra Nova. I want to first of all thank him for bringing this matter for debate in the House so early in this session.

This is, as the member has said, one of the most fundamental issues that concerns our role in Confederation - it being transportation - and the way which we are able to communicate with other parts of the country by road.

Transportation and communications are almost the same thing, because we are talking about physically being able to communicate with other parts of the country by travel, by transportation of goods, by being able to participate in the economy, and by being able to allow people from other parts of the country to visit us. All of this is fundamental to our place in Confederation, and I want to underscore what the member has said about its importance and its fundamental nature. In fact, the government itself has talked about the Terms of Union in terms of a fundamental legal obligation. There is some question as to the adequacy of either the Terms of Union itself or how it is being implemented and the kind of attitude expressed in Ottawa about their obligations to this Province.

I was appalled to hear the federal Minister of Transport say that they had a concern about the Gulf service but the Argentia service was something totally outside their obligation. Now, obviously the North Sydney and Port aux Basques run was mentioned in the Terms of Union. The Terms of Union, like any Constitution, is supposed to be a living document responsive to the needs of the people of the day, not something that is locked forever in time, regardless of the change in circumstances, regardless of the change in the nature of how people live. I say to the Member for Humber East, pay attention to what the lawmakers of this country say about fundamental rights and obligations. Listen to what the Supreme Court of Canada said about a treaty that was signed in 1789 in Nova Scotia. They talked about the rights and obligations changing with the times. The times have changed in this Province in the last fifty years. We have transportation changes that have taken place. We have new types of boats. We have new types of ferries. We have population changes that have taken place in this Province. The Terms of Union and the relationship between Newfoundland and Canada must reflect those realities of the day, and if that means changing the Terms of Union, so be it. I don’t think we should shy away from it.

When I hear ministers of this government, such as the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, who was acting Minister of Works, Services and Transportation last spring in this House, say on the record in this House that we were being treated by the Government of Canada as second-class citizens when it came to ferry service, that to me speaks to a fundamental problem in the relationship between Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada. That is something that we have to do more than just pass resolutions in this House about.

Now the government, through the forum on the Gulf ferry, has certainly stirred up a lot of interest and a lot of focus on this issue within the Province. I do not think it was necessary to have a Gulf ferry forum to find out that people were dissatisfied with this service. We all knew that, and every single party in this Province recognizes the fundamental difficulties with the ferry service. Some of them are basic, and some of them are so terrible as to bespeak a total lack of concern by the people operating this ferry for the people who have to use it. When you look at the quality of service and the issues outlined in this report - poor quality food, limited selection, irregular cafeteria, insufficient medical facilities, poor quality, missing blankets and pillows for dormitories, stale air quality, lack of cleanliness, washroom cleanliness unacceptable, infrequent washroom cleanup, poor connection with bus service, people sleeping on the floors - these are not marks of minor inadequacies. These are marks of total neglect and a total lack of concern and care for the people who travel and who need to travel back and forth between Newfoundland and Labrador and the mainland of Canada.

If we are to be a full participant in Confederation we also want to have people from other parts of the country to be easily able to travel to this Province, not to face an ordeal. A trip from North Sydney, from Halifax or from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland should not be an adventure tour. They might go on an adventure tour when they get here through the wilderness of Newfoundland and Labrador, up to Labrador to the Torngat Mountains, up in the Main River or up high in Gros Morne. That is an adventure tour. Coming across the Gulf should not be an experience that one hears described about in books about the last century. There ought to be -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) an experience you will never forget.

 

MR. HARRIS: I say to the Member for Twillingate & Fogo, if they advertise it as an experience you will never forget I guess they are just about right. It is not the kind of experience that we want people to associate with a trip to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, all of the issues that have been raised, well, the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile has outlined a number of them. He talked about the headquarters and where people should live. The recommendation is that the President and CEO live in Channel-Port aux Basques. I do not think we just need to recommend that or urge that, we must insist and demand that that be the case. Employers tell employees all the time where they are expected to live. If he does not want to live there I suppose he can show up for work every day at 8:00 a.m., if he wants to live somewhere else and get back and forth from wherever he is to work at 8:00 every morning. That is fine too. If he has to come from North Sydney every day to do that, then I would say we would probably have a very improved ferry service. We might have a very improved ferry service if the President and CEO chose to live in Nova Scotia and had to show up for work in Channel-Port aux Basques every day. I would say we would have some ferry service on the Gulf of St. Lawrence after that takes place.

When we had a resolution in this House two years ago about moving the headquarters of Marine Atlantic to Port aux Basques I amended that resolution and said that the executive staff had to live there as well. What happened? What did they do? They took a number of administrative people out of an office in St. John’s and forced them to move to Port aux Basques or lose their jobs. They blamed it on this House, they tried to blame in on this member for amending that resolution. What I wanted was that the executive officers, the people who are running the company, including the president, reside and operate out of Port aux Basques because that is where the service is run. That is where the rubber hits the road in this service, in Port aux Basques, when people arrive here or when people get there in Port aux Basques and they are trying to get on the ferry and use the transportation service.

The issue of the Gulf ferry service is one that certainly all parties support. I am hoping, I am almost certain, that we will have a unanimous recommendation, or unanimous support, in this House for the resolution before the House today.

I want to know what else we are going to do as a House of Assembly, as a government. Are we going to send a copy of this resolution to Ottawa? Are we going to send it up by e-mail or send a fax to Ottawa saying: Here is the resolution of this House, here is how the Members of the House of Assembly feel about the Gulf ferry service. I think we certainly will do that, but I want to know whether or not the government is actually taking fundamental action on an important constitutional issue. Is the government going to Ottawa in full force saying: We have a serious problem that has to be resolved? We have a serious constitutional problem affecting our relationship with the federal government that must be resolved.

It is not simply a new boat. It cannot be solved by Mr. Baker, the new Minister of Veterans Affairs and ACOA, making a statement about a new boat. A new boat is not what is required. What is required is a new attitude, what is required is a new obligation, what is required is a new commitment from the Government of Canada towards the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The question becomes: How are we going to get that? Are we going to get it by passing a resolution in this House? Are we going to get it by a new vote? No, we are only going to get it if we have the concerted action of this government and perhaps of this whole House to do perhaps what we did with Term 17, with the changes in Term 17. Perhaps what we need to do is what we did there, or what we did when there was a concern about the future of the post-TAGS program. Maybe we need to go in force to Ottawa, a delegation from this House, from all parties, to impress upon the Government of Canada and the House of Commons in Ottawa the importance of this issue to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and to our place in Confederation.

 

That is maybe what we need to do. Passing a resolution is a very fine thing to do and I support it wholeheartedly, but we have a very serious problem. We do have seven MPs in Ottawa. We do, but we do not have a solution yet and we do not seem to have the level of seriousness at the official level, at the government level in Ottawa, to solve this problem.

We are being insulted daily by the continued running of this operation out of Moncton, New Brunswick. Marine Atlantic’s only operation is the ferry service to Newfoundland and Labrador. Their only operation is being run out of Moncton like we were some sort of colony, like we had been in part in historical times, of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Speaker, that has to change and it is only going to change if the attitude in Ottawa changes, if we are regarded as equal partners, and if this ferry service is regarded as a fundamental, legitimate, legal obligation of the Government of Canada, a service that is provided on a proper basis with certainty about what is happening. Not with a budget in mind, when they decide that they can - we know they can run the ferries faster than they do. The reason they run them slow is to save fuel. So we have a service that is slower than it could be because they want to save money on fuel, when what we need is an essential link between Newfoundland and Labrador and the mainland of Canada. It is important that we support this resolution and that we go further.

I would be interested in the member’s comments on what further action he would like to see taken by this House and by this government to follow up on this resolution and to follow up on the requirement to ensure that we have an adequate service between here and the mainland of Canada to provide for our needs, and to make sure that we are regarded as full partners in Confederation.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Oldford): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Terra Nova.

 

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I thank hon. members for their participation and contribution. The hon. Member for Burgeo & LaPoile in whose district Channel-Port aux Basques is located, it is obviously very important to him and his remarks demonstrated his grasp of the topic, demonstrated his knowledge of the circumstances surrounding this situation. I am especially delighted that he brought up two things: one, about the headquarters; and, secondly, about the reservations that I left open to other members to raise.

I want to thank also the Member for Placentia & St. Mary’s, and to say to him that I think we are all on firm ground now by saying that management, that this board, the management of Marine Atlantic, should be controlled by Newfoundlanders, because right now we are dealing with a Newfoundland service. This is a Newfoundland service and obviously it should be run by people from this Province. I don’t think anybody is being unfair or unjust when they demand that because, as I have said, we are talking about a service for Newfoundland and Labrador. Since it is a service for Newfoundland and Labrador, it should be managed and operated and run by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, people from this Province, because they are the people who have the greatest sensitivity for this operation.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, who talked about the importance of transportation and communications, and talked about how the two are interwoven. There is no mistake about that; they are.

He mentioned about what we ought to do. What was the follow-up? That is very, very important. What do we do to let the federal government know that we are resolute in this circumstance, that we will not compromise or we will not capitulate on this issue, that we are demanding that we have an efficient quality Gulf ferry service.

I am not going to spend much longer because I think we have made the point, but to demonstrate that we are together on this, to demonstrate solidarity, to demonstrate that we are standing up for the people of this Province, all speaking one mind, that we are cheek-to-cheek, jowl-to-jowl, on this important issue, I am asking, I am making a motion, that the Speaker be authorized to send notification, whatever it is the Speaker does - and I have been in this position - that the Speaker notify the federal minister, Minister Collenette, of the decision made by this House today - that the hon. Speaker do that - and I would even suggest that maybe he could close by saying - and I do not know if this is appropriate for the Speaker, I wanted the Speaker to do it so that it would not be politicized. I do not know if it is appropriate for the Speaker to say that the House eagerly awaits your response, but if the Speaker is permitted to do that, I leave it in the capable hands of the Speaker.

That is my motion and I trust that all hon. members will support it.

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?

All those in favor of the motion, ‘aye’.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: ‘Aye’.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Against?.

I declare the motion carried.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Unanimous.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Unanimously.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. TULK: It was passed unanimously.

Mr. Speaker, I don’t think we need a standing vote but I think all of us in this House would like to have the record show that the vote was unanimous in accepting the resolution that was probably put forward better than any resolution that I have ever heard in this House, by the Member for Terra Nova.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: The illustrious.

 

MR. TULK: The illustrious Thomas Lush.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: The infamous.

 

MR. TULK: No, not infamous.

Mr. Speaker, for the information of hon. members, if the Opposition House Leader would take a look at his Order Paper, tomorrow we will call Orders 4, 5 - I don’t believe No. 6 is printed yet.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. TULK: We might have to.

Orders 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, and I might call 11 first, "An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act". I might call that one first.

 

MR. SULLIVAN: It is not circulated.

 

MR. TULK: It is not circulated?

 

MR. SULLIVAN: No.

 

MR. TULK: It is not printed?

 

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

 

MR. TULK: That is not true?

 

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible). Order numbers, now, not bill numbers.

 

MR. TULK: I thought they were all done.

Okay, we will do 4,5,7,8,9,10 and if number 11 is ready to circulate now and can be given to the Opposition this evening for tomorrow, then I would probably call that too.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn.

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