November 22, 1999 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS Vol. XLIV No. 36


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we call the routine proceedings, the Chair would like to rule on several points that were raised on Thursday and Friday, when we last sat.

On Thursday, November 18, the hon. the Member for Terra Nova raised a point of order with respect to the way in which questions were being asked. The hon. member cited Beauchesne, §409.(8) which states that a question previously answered must not be asked again. The hon. the Member from Terra Nova goes on to remind hon. members that a minister is not obliged to answer any question.

The hon. the Member for Terra Nova is, of course, quite correct in his comments, and I refer hon. members to Beauchesne, §410.(9), "Questions should not repeat questions already asked although this does not mean that other questions on the same point are out of order.

It is possible that a member could ask several questions on a given subject which would not necessarily be exactly the same; however, the Chair wants to remind all hon. members that it is in everyone’s best interest if members phrase their questions concisely, and that ministers answer equally concisely, and a variety of topics in this case could be covered. If, in the opinion of the member asking the question, the minister’s response is not satisfactory, then he or she may take advantage of the Late Show to revisit the question.

On Friday, November 19, the hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy raised a point of privilege with respect to certain questions asked by the hon. the Member for St. John’s West and comments by the hon. the member about government policy, the Member for St. John’s West stating in Hansard that certain officials have told her what government policy is. The hon. the minister states that the hon. the member is misrepresenting what government policy is.

It appears to the Chair, in fact, that there is a difference of opinion between two hon. members about the interpretation and the application of a section of a statute. Therefore, in the Chair’s opinion, there is no breach of privilege and no prima facie case has been established.

 

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It gives me great pleasure to inform my hon. colleagues that Standard and Poor’s has upgraded Newfoundland and Labrador’s long-term issuer credit rating to A minus from triple B plus.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DICKS: Standard and Poor’s also upgraded its long-term senior debt ratings on the Province and on Newfoundland Labrador Hydro to A minus. The agency went on to affirm it’s A-2 short-term credit ratings on the Province’s treasury bill program and it’s A-2 short-term ratings on the commercial paper of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

This is the first time since the collapse of the ground fishery, and the credit downgrades which resulted, that this Province has held an A minus rating from any agency. In fact, Mr. Speaker, until today, we were the only Province not to hold an A rating from any of the major credit rating agencies.

I am pleased to say that this is the second time in twenty-five years that we have received a credit rating upgrade, and that both upgrades have occurred during this administration’s time in office.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DICKS: The other came from Dominion Bond Rating Service in 1998, which upgraded us from triple B(low) to triple B.

It is pleasing to see Standard and Poor’s, one of the most influential credit rating agencies in Norther America, echo our confidence in the economic growth of Newfoundland and Labrador through this credit rating upgrade. They cite strong GDP growth in the past two years, which is expected to continue into the medium term, as an important rating consideration. They go on to say that the Province’s, and I quote, " ...firm fiscal restraint has resulted in the stabilization of the provincial debt burden, even including the direct debt incurred to make special pension contributions."

Mr. Speaker, Standard and Poor’s also note that offshore oil production is a major contributor to GDP growth, that employment gains are broadly based, and that consumer confidence has been bolstered. I would point out that their analysis has taken into account the impact of delays in the development of Voisey’s Bay, as well as the recent tax reductions announced by this government.

This upgrade is good news for Newfoundland and Labrador. It enhances the ability of the Province, and its Crown corporations, to access the financial markets on more favourable terms and at lower interest rates. It affirms what we have said about the economic status of this Province, and is yet another positive third party endorsement of the success of our plan for economic growth and development. Finally, both at home and abroad, these third parties are reiterating what our Premier has been telling the world - in New York last week, and in Toronto again today - that Newfoundland and Labrador is a good place in which to invest.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

We on this side join in congratulating the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. H. HODDER: We are pleased when the credit rating for this Province is upgraded. It means, of course, that we are seeing some success in the growth of our fishery, the oil and gas, and the total market value of our retail business.

We know, of course, that lower interest rates will mean that there will be more money. Less money paid by way of servicing our debt will mean there will be more money potentially coming into the Province to service some of the social needs we have.

We still have difficulties with out-migration. We have health care expenditures and education expenditures. We have a lot of people who have fallen through the economic net. We look forward to measures being taken by this government to handle such things as high student debt loads, and the work that we need done in assisting some of our seniors to be able to live comfortably from day to day.

Mr. Speaker, we say to the government: This is good news.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. H. HODDER: We look forward to improvements in the months and years ahead.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

While we are pleased that the Province now has an A credit rating with Standard and Poor’s, I remind the government that it got a D from the world wildlife fund for the protection of open space in this Province. By any scale, they would get an F for the number of food banks in the Province and the fact that 6.6 per cent of the population goes to food banks.

If the rating of the Province is dependent upon the recent unfair tax reductions and on the proposal (inaudible) by the Province -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. HARRIS: - to turn over public service to private investors, then I would rather have a lower rating and have better services.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to inform my hon. colleagues on the status of the activities of the Ministerial Panel on Educational Delivery in the Classroom.

The hon. Premier and I announced the establishment of the Ministerial Panel in August of this year. The panel is co-chaired by Doctors Ron Sparkes and Len Williams, esteemed professionals in the education field.. The role of the panel is to review curriculum and support to the K-12 education system and make recommendations as to teacher allocations throughout the Province and the breadth and depth of the Province’s curriculum.

When government initiated education reform in the mid-1990's our focus was on governance and bringing efficiencies to the administration of our school system. This has been achieved with the establishment of eleven elected school boards from twenty-seven denominational boards. Now our focus is on the classroom.

The panel has been mandated to review how teachers are allocated and how they are deployed throughout the system. The panel also will be looking at the course offerings in the K-12 system to ensure a balanced program for our students, no matter where they live in our Province, whether it is in a rural community or an urban centre.

The Ministerial Panel on Educational Delivery in the Classroom has conducted extensive consultations to date with a wide variety of interested groups and individuals across the Province.

Consultations have been held with students, schoolteachers, school councils and boards and community groups on the Burin Peninsula, in Clarenville, Gander, Grand Falls, Labrador, St. John’s and Spaniard’s Bay, and there are still more meetings to come.

In addition, meetings have been held with about thirty other interest groups and individuals including the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association staff and executive, a Distance Education Group, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils, the MUN Telemedicine/Telelearning Centre, and the Newfoundland and Labrador School Boards Association.

The panel is hearing a great deal of opinion and many concrete ideas to ensure a high quality education system continues in our Province in the next millennium while recognizing the challenges of declining student enrolment and the vast geographic dispersement of our population.

The establishment of this Ministerial Panel is a clear indication that the government of this Province is listening to those concerned with education in our Province. We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure that all children in this Province, regardless of where they live, have access to a balanced and quality education.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the final report of the Ministerial Panel which is due on February 28 in the year 2000, and the commencement of the implementation of the panel’s recommendations in the 2000-2001 school year.

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Education reform, indeed, is an ongoing process that has gone on through the years. It is very interesting today to hear from the Minister of Education that the focus now is going to be on the classroom, when, indeed, the focus throughout all the year should be on the classroom.

I say to you, minister, that you are saying in the mid-1990s it has begun. I say in the early 1990s there was a report issued by Doctor Williams that clearly gave a blueprint of where reform should have gone over the last seven years. Those recommendations have been ignored as have other reports, one of which I brought up one of the last times I spoke, regarding Doctor Canning. I say to the minister that certainly it is time to focus, but the blueprint was there. In actual fact, all that the reform has been the last seven years has been a restructuring with very little in the way of educational reform that is absolutely needed. Again, Dr. Williams gave an excellent report in 1992. We are now in 1999, and where are the recommendations? Like the Canning report, they are on the shelf.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. HEDDERSON: I would suppose that you will probably say to Dr. Williams what you said to Dr. Canning. Maybe Dr. Williams would be out to lunch as well.

 

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

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I welcome the focus by the Department of Education on what goes on in the classroom, and the principle of equitable access to balanced and high quality education for all of our children is of course most important.

I hope during the course of this evaluation we will look at some curriculum issues that have been alive in the Province lately, such as the installation of a Newfoundland history course in our high schools. I would like to see also a revisiting of the whole issue of public examinations as a way of, at the end of the day, certifying that we do have quality education throughout our Province in both rural and urban areas.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It gives me great pleasure to inform hon. Members of this House that later today, I will be introducing a bill to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

This bill is designed to improve occupational health and safety in the Province, as well as the effective administration of the existing legislation in a number of key areas.

This bill demonstrates a flexible approach to dealing with occupational health and safety, while at the same time maintaining and enhancing the high standards of health and safety required for the protection of workers in the Province. It reinforces government’s commitment to working in a balanced partnership with employers and employees to build healthier and safer workplaces for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

This new legislation will, among other things: place greater emphasis on employers and employees with respect to the safe operation of devices and equipment at the workplace; make occupational health and safety committees mandatory for workplaces where ten or more workers are employed; provide flexibility in obtaining the services of medical practitioners with expertise in occupational medicine; significantly increase the fines and penalties that can be imposed for violations of the legislation.

Health and safety on the job, Mr. Speaker, is everyone’s responsibility. Employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all their employees. Workers have a responsibility to ensure that they work safely for their protection and for the protection of their fellow workers. Government must ensure that the proper regulations are in place to ensure a safe workplace and that violators of these regulations are held responsible for their actions.

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

This is a strange time to be introducing a bill. While I agree that there needs to be much more done to protect people in the workplace, and to enhance occupational health and safety, there also is a lot that has to be done to improve the way people are treated, when they are injured, by workers compensation. As well, it is ironic to see the minister talk about health and safety and his concern about people’s health and safety when we see the same minister, just last week, ignore the health of people in this Province by not tabling information, from a report that he has in his possession, on our water.

It is one thing to stand and say nice things in the House of Assembly -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. T. OSBORNE: - but it is another thing to show action, and actions speak louder than words.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for a copy of his Ministerial Statement. There isn’t anything more important in the workplace than occupational health and safety. I know that the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council worked very hard over the past while putting together their recommendations for the minister to act upon, and I am pleased to see that some of them have been taken into consideration.

I do echo the last comments made by the Member for St. John’s West, though, that workers in this Province, when they do become injured, the support system for them is not there in many ways.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to inform members about a recent initiative that will give youth access to valuable career information.

The Department of Human Resources and Employment, in partnership with Human Resources Development Canada, recently launched a new feature on our employment and career Web site, the Newfoundland and Labrador Work Info Net (NLWIN).

"Career Information Profiles" provides our young people with access to over 150 occupational profiles. These profiles include provincial information on wage rates, training availability, employment potential, and other information specific to an occupation. These profiles were developed under the direction of the Federal/Provincial Labour Market Information Committee with about $150,000 in funding from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Agreement on Labour Market Development. Students hired by my department and HRDC during the summer months gained valuable work experience as they compiled this information.

Mr. Speaker, before this initiative, our youth would have to settle for career statistics and background information that came from much larger centres such as Ontario or Alberta. While this information was useful, it didn’t reflect the unique characteristics of our provincial labour market. Now, when a young person accesses information through our Web site, either at home or in their schools, they will be reading local labour market information. They also learn which provincial educational institutions offer training for a particular career, where in the Province they can find employment, and the current labour market status for a particular career.

Young people need detailed information on career and educational opportunities that exist right here in our home Province. In addition, thanks to the labour market research, our young people can see first-hand what job areas are currently on the rise in the Province and how they can take advantage of current labour market trends.

"Career Information Profiles" benefits the entire Province. Besides being a valuable resource of information for our youth, the profiles also promote local educational institutions and local employers. Youth can discover that there are many opportunities for them in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador recognizes the challenges our youth face when preparing to enter the labour market. My department, together with other government departments, has a variety of programs and resources to support our youth. This latest initiative is another valuable resource to add to our ongoing programs and supports that address youth employment.

I invite everyone to visit Newfoundland Labrador Work Info Net, which can be accessed through the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Homepage. Once you visit the site, I think you will share my enthusiasm for this. This is the first time in the Province that such a broad range of career information pertaining to our own Province has been offered in such an easily accessible manner.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

Initiatives that get out youth into the workforce are always great. What I find, though, is that when youth come out of school their credentials don’t always match what the employers are looking for. Probably what is necessary, in addition to that, is a committee made up of representatives of all the markets out there that are looking for people when they come out of school, that they could probably present what they will be looking for in youth and have those particular items added to the curriculums in the schools.

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.

We certainly welcome the addition of this information to be available to young people in the Province on a Web site. I hope that, in addition and in total connection with these career information profiles made available on that same Web site, is the Minister of Education’s recent report on post-secondary outcomes, so students can also look at what are the outcomes that they expect to receive from various courses in terms of wages, in terms of the quality of the courses and programs, and in terms on their ability to get jobs based on the various programs that are there.

If you are equally setting forth the various post-secondary education programs, I think it would be unfair to students not to let them know what the outcomes have been from these very different types of organizations as well.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. HARRIS: I welcome the proposal, but I hope she expands it to include that information.

 

Oral Questions

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask questions of the Minister of Environment and Labour.

On Friday morning, outside the House, two public health officials stood before the cameras - and through them to the public - to assure, in their words, the people of the Province about the risks and the level of risk associated with what is contained in a report that this government will not release.

I would like to ask the minister this: Wouldn’t it have been more prudent, Minister, upon completion of that report, that you, as the Minister of Environment and Labour, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, at the time that you received the release, to have those three ministers and those public health officials three years ago stand before the people of the Province to release the information in that report, and to advise the public then of what the risks were, and advise the public of what precautions they should have taken?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. LANGDON: I guess I should use the expression, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Because there is no way, in a sense, that you can get your message across to the Opposition, or even to the media for that matter.

I said here last week, that particular report they we are talking about was a working document that had not gone to Cabinet ministers, that had not been finalized, and it was a working document to use, in a sense, to inform the ministers on policies and so on that would be implemented by government.

The thing in that particular report, and I want to make it absolutely clear again today - and I don’t think the Leader of the Opposition was there when I said it - in that report there were thirty-five communities that were listed where there had been some sparse documentation done, and that particular information was compiled in 1986 and 1990. There we thirty-five communities that were listed in that report.

Today, in 1999, we have a report on 194 municipalities. Every municipality has the report, that whatever testing was done in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, they have it at their disposal. So, it is not in a sense that I am hoarding it; they already have it out there.

To give you an idea -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

 

MR. LANGDON: Mr. Speaker, I have here an article that was written earlier this year in The Packet, in Clarenville, that dealt with the same thing; where the council there said they had been dealing with it, working in relation -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minster to conclude his answer quickly.

 

MR. LANGDON: - with the people from the Department of Environment and Labour. So, for me to have held anything is not correct.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A supplementary, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, what is abundantly clear to this Legislature, to the media, to the people of this Province, is that this government has breached the public’s right to know. That is what is abundantly clear.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. E. BYRNE: There is nothing in the Freedom of Information Act that says that this minister or any other must consult with municipalities in particular about this particular report.

I will ask the minister this question: Won’t you stand today and make a commitment to release that report. If you won’t, could you explain why you won’t?

 

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

 

MR. LANGDON: Mr. Speaker, I want to say again to the hon. Leader of the Opposition that all the testing we have done on all the municipalities is at their disposal. They have it. In fact, I want to go even further than that. During the weekend, at the Federation of Municipalities Board meeting in Gander, the assistant deputy minister from the department went and briefed the Federation of Municipalities on that and they agreed as well with the officials. They have the information. We are not withholding information on the drinking water. Every community in this Province has that information. The councils have it -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. LANGDON: Okay, let me go one step further.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. LANGDON: Mr. Speaker, I can also say to the House that, as of Friday, I personally sent a letter to every town in the Province - I addressed it - asking for every town to release the information to the public on their provincial water supply. I asked every town, 194 of them, so what more can I do?

 

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, if the minister is so confident that all the information is out, why won’t he release the report in the House? I ask him again and, I say to the Member for Bellevue, I will continue to ask the question until the people of the Province get the answers they deserve. I will ask him again: Will he stand in the House and release that report through this Chamber to the people of the Province? If he will not, could he explain why not?

 

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

 

 

MR. LANGDON: Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition again: The information that every town in this Province, 194 of them - they have at their disposal, all the information on their drinking water. In that particular report, of the thirty-five towns that were listed in that report, there was only one of the towns that exceeded the level at that particular time, which was 350 micrograms per litre. That information is old news. The councils out there, they have the up-to-date information. They have it at their disposal, and I have asked them to release it to the public.

 

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that the minister wrote councils - this letter here to one council, on November 19 - Friday past - 1999. The reality is that people should have been informed in 1996.

Minister, I would like to ask you this question.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. E. BYRNE: You have indicated that the reason you did not release the report is because it would breach the Freedom of Information Act. Nowhere - and I repeat, nowhere - in the Freedom of Information Act does it disallow for this report to be released.

I will ask you again: Why is it that you will not release that report publically so that every person in the Province can take their own precautions, so that every person in this Province, who has a right to know what their government is up to, that in fact they do get the information and they do know. Why will you not release the report, Minister? You have not answered the question. I will ask it again: Why will you not release the report? If you will not, why not?

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member -

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, I will speak to the point made by the hon. Leader of the Opposition. His understanding -

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

 

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, this is the second example today of the hon. Leader of the Opposition illustrating his ignorance of the law. If he reads the Freedom of Information Act, he should direct himself to Section 11 and read Section 13 which sets forth a process that a minister has to go through in order to release information. The minister started that on Friday. He has indicated it will be released when he gets it back from the municipalities.

I have to say as well that the Federation of Municipalities today issued a press release indicting that it is encouraging the municipalities to agree to it. At the end of the twenty days, the minister then has a period of time to consider and has indicated that it will be released if and when the municipalities concur. If not, he can make the decision anyway but they have the right, for twenty days, to make some representation back to him.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, a final supplementary.

 

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

This is becoming somewhat of a joke. This is the minister, on Friday, who was asked questions about liabilities and stood at his seat and let somebody answer for him. Thank you for getting up finally, I say to the Minister of Justice.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. E. BYRNE: The reality is that my ignorance of the law - what is clear is that in view of the fact that the law has been breached according to the Freedom of Information Act, Minister, is that your government and this government failed to inform the public in a timely fashion. That is what is clear.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I will ask the Minister of Environment again, quietly, deliberately: Why won’t you release the report to this Chamber, and through this Chamber to the people of the Province? If you cannot, and if you will not, will you explain why you will not release the report? Answer the question, Minister.

 

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

 

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I said on Friday, and I will say it again today, that the report they are talking about is a working document within the department. It has not been presented to the Minister of Health or to the Minister of Municipal Affairs at that particular time. It is a working document, and the officials of the various departments use it to give information to ministers whereby policies are made for government. That is why.

 

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: This is a government that has trouble with accountability in releasing information. Seeing that the Minister of Justice got up, I would like to ask him a question that he made a commitment to last year. Minister, where is the Atkinson report? Why won’t you release it? You made a commitment that you would, and you still have not. Where is it?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am delighted that the hon. Leader of the Opposition is jumping all around. I read a comment lately that the most persuasive argument that intelligent life existed elsewhere in the universe was that it has not been in touch with us. The corollary to that obviously is that the proof that there is unintelligent life in the universe is that it has gotten in touch with the Leader of the Opposition and is starting to write questions for him. I expect that any minute I will see his finger waving. It will light up, and we will hear him somehow over the loud speakers here: EB, call home!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. DICKS: May I just say that the Atkinson report, I will tell the hon. member, will be released in due course. It is with the Minister of Health, being considered by Cabinet, and we will see it in due course.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. The NEOS bid to take over Fishery Products was launched in the midst of a court case in Ontario which determined that a bid for ONEX was illegal because the Air Canada legislation only allowed a maximum 10 per cent shareholding.

How could the Barry group have any confidence in proceeding in that atmosphere in this Province with a takeover a bid for FPI in expectation that this government would allow the 15 per cent to be removed? I want to know: What assurances did the Minister of Fisheries, or this government, give to Mr. Barry and his associates that the government would in fact lift the 15 per cent which was legislation in this Province?

 

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

 

MR. EFFORD: None, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, can the minister outline what, if any, discussions did he or his government have with Mr. Barry or any of his associates in terms of this bid, and this bid being brought forward, the campaign that has been taken place around this Province, and what criteria the government might use to judge whether the NEOS bid is acceptable to the government?

 

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

 

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A couple of days after the group informed the Premier and myself of their intentions to make a proposal to take over FPI, both the Premier and myself went public after we spoke to the group. We said the same thing in public as we said to the NEOS group: That we are not concerned about the shareholders or the partners of either one of the companies. What we are concerned about is what is in the best interest of the fishing industry of Newfoundland and Labrador, and in particular those people working in the communities where the present FPI plants work.

We told them that very, very clearly. We did not encourage them to go out and do it. We simply said what was in the best interest of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We operate in a democracy, in a free enterprise system, where people have the right to go out and make a presentation. We cannot stop the NEOS group or any other group from coming forward with a proposal.

 

MR. TULK: Or FPI.

 

MR. EFFORD: Or FPI, or anybody else.

What we can do is hold that 15 per cent in legislation, as we have. We have not lifted the 15 per cent, and we have not told anybody that we will lift it. We will only lift it if we consider, as a government, that it is in the best interest of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, the communities of Fortune, Marystown, Harbor Breton and Burin have all met with the proponents here and have come to the conclusion that this deal is not in the long-term interest of the people of those communities where there are FPI plants; the same with the Town of Triton. Will the minister advise whether or not he is prepared to listen to (break in tape) interest in the fishery of the future of Newfoundland and Labrador?

 

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

 

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, my first election was in 1985, and I knocked on every single door in my riding in 1985. Ever since then, I have communicated the same message to everybody in this Province, whatever my responsibilities have been, and I will speak for this government: We will listen to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out, year in and year out, and we will continue to do that.

 

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, my questions today are to the Minister of Health and Communities Services.

The Minister of Environment told this House on Friday that the 1996 report containing information on the presence of trihalomethanes in drinking water was developed by officials in the Department of Environment, the Department of Municipal Affairs and the Department of Health. So, Minister, your department knew about this report. In fact, your department collaborated in writing it. Did you also collaborate in the coverups -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. SULLIVAN: - and you now trying to control the damage?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to withdraw that.

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the word coverup. I asked her did she participate in it, keeping it from the public and not releasing it to the public.

 

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

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to this.

I think the level and caliber of the question speak volumes about the intent of what the members opposite are really interested in. I think the underlying issue here is about public safety in the drinking water as it relates to -

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

As I was saying, as it relates to the drinking water. I think if the members opposite were truly interested in allaying the fears and setting -

 

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, oh!

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Excuse me, Mr. Speaker. I thought I was recognized, not the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. Minister of Health to get on with her answer.

 

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

I think if the members opposite were truly interested in allaying the anxiety and setting the record straight, they would have done what we have done and speak to the sources at the federal Department of Health, namely Doctor Barry Thomas and Doctor Don Wigle, whom my officials have spoken to as lately as this morning. Because I think the report that was given this morning on CBC - I believe the reporter misunderstood the information. Because my officials specifically spoke to those two individuals responsible and they have assured us that both of the physicians who spoke to the issue on Friday were absolutely correct in their information.

 

The ad we had in the paper the weekend, while much of it was taken from their own website, is in fact accurate. I would say again -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: I would be only too happy to conclude, Mr. Speaker, in saying that the fear-mongering has to stop and proper information has to be reported and supported by people who are in positions to do so. I think if they are truly interested they would speak to the federal Department of Health just like we have to verify the information.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to take her seat, please.

A supplementary, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On Friday, the minister alluded to officials of your department who did go on the airwaves to argue that the risk from THMs was minuscule and it could be avoided altogether by simply putting a jug of water in a fridge over night or aerating it in a blender.

This morning the senior environmental health scientist for Health Canada rejected what your officials had to say about THMs. Why, minister, is the information given out by your department so wrong and so out of date?

 

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

 

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

No, I have to say again, and I have to encourage as well as to caution the member opposite, to speak to the source. What was said this morning was not indicative of what Doctor Barry Thomas nor Doctor Wigle said to my officials this morning. They both supported the documentation and the information both in the paper and in the information sent out to the municipalities. As well, they have supported what those two physicians have said.

I would ask him again, that if he is truly interested speak to the physicians who are actually saying it so that pieces of information are not extrapolated and fitted into a report. Those two physicians, those two federal government spokespersons with the Department of Health, have verified the aeration, have verified the refrigeration and in fact, made reference to the piece that was on this morning about putting it in the fridge, making reference to other organic materials.

I think it is very clear from the preliminary information that is available, through the Department of Health at the federal government and through these officials, that -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am only too happy to do so.

There is still quite a bit of information that is unknown and that is why they have put an inter-disciplinary committee in place, a multi-disciplinary committee, to look at many of the issues. I think the important point is that chlorinated drinking water is a safe product to consume whether it is in regard to cancer, pregnancy or anything else -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: - and fear-mongering has to stop, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What greater fear then not to see a report for three years when you sat on it. I have a verbatim transcript of what Dr. Barry Thomas said on radio this morning, I say to the minister. He does indicate that while boiling might get rid of most, it can actually increase the level of others -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: - and it is these others that may cause cancer.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. He does refute the boiling, he does refute the aerating in a blender, as not very effective.

I want to ask the minister this. If the Department of Health is going to be left with a shred of credibility after this fiasco, it must decide that it exists to protect the health of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, not to protect her Cabinet colleagues. I ask her: Would she cut loose from that and would she now tell the people of the Province what they deserve to hear and let them see that report, what they deserve to see, and make a judgement then on what is best for them?

 

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

 

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

Again, I take great offense to the comments that we are not giving all of the information. I also have to say -

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I still have the floor. Thank you.

I think it is important that if the member opposite is going to read from Dr. Barry Thomas, he should have read the whole piece of it.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: No, no, that is not true!

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) release the report and we can read it all for ourselves (inaudible)!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, my understanding when going to school is that you always start at the beginning of the sentence, not in the middle, and that is where you started when you started to read it.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, allow me to begin at the -

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, may I begin at the beginning of the sentence which he omitted? This is when he says that this is only "...one of hundreds of chlorine by products and in fact the evidence we have at the moment is that it’s highly unlikely that chloroform is responsible for cancer." That was how it started.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

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

All I am saying is that if the member opposite is truly interested, try the Internet, go to the website, look up the information yourself. Look at the questions and answers, read the paper.

I would like to finish by saying that what he is really saying is how little confidence he has in our medical officers, Mr. Speaker. Have a bit of faith.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Have a bit of confidence.

 

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

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MR. MANNING: I have the floor, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. MANNING: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the acting Minister of Tourism, whoever that may be. It has to do with the special celebrations agency which is responsible for hiring people for the Soiree `99 events and the Viking Millennium Celebrations.

I would like to ask the acting minister to explain the process that these people were hired to work on these events, please.

 

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

 

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, the process used for hiring people through this special events agency is the exact same process that has been used in previous years and is used by all government departments.

 

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Placentia & St. Mary’s.

 

MR. MANNING: Mr. Speaker, I ask her once again to explain the process please.

 

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

 

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I do not work in the human resources department of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation or in the special events agency. If you would have specific questions around the hiring process, please submit them to us and we will make sure that you get a correct answer.

 

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Placentia & St. Mary’s.

 

MR. MANNING: Mr. Speaker, I have specific questions. They concern thirteen people who were hired through the special celebrations agency without any interviews, very few interviews, without job competitions being posted, and no ads. Thirteen people, and all friends of that side of the House of Assembly, and a total of $550,000 in salaries. I would like to ask the minister to explain how this Liberal patronage is allowed to go on?

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I would assume that some of these positions are like positions all over government, that they would be either contractual positions or positions that are maybe under thirteen weeks. There are many different forms of hiring all throughout government. It depends on what the job is and what the criteria around it is, what the Public Service Commission requires, etc. So I’m sorry, we will have to have more details before we can give you the answer that you are requesting.

 

MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Placentia & St. Mary’s.

 

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have thirteen questions I would like to ask. They concern people who are receiving salaries up to $60,000 that there were no competitions for. That is what I ask the minister today. I would like to ask the minister, would you admit that none of the people hired for these celebrations went through job competition, that all these people were hired on the basis of names that were submitted to the Department of Tourism - again, no competitions, no ads - and what we see here is nothing short of blatant political patronage?

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. MANNING: Minister, I say to you, when I look at this list, you should know how this process works also.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, without having the details, I can’t imagine there has ever been a time in the history of this government that we have hired people inappropriately, without qualifications, for the jobs they are required to do. I am sorry, we will have to have more details, but I have never seen a person hired in this government who did not have the appropriate qualifications.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Acting Minister of Tourism. With respect to the Millennium 2000 Celebrations on the waterfront this year, there is going to be a major fireworks show. Can the minister tell the House if the fireworks material and the show itself was tendered, seeing that the Province has put up somewhere over $200,000 into this project?

 

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

 

MS KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will have to take the question under advisement. I am not aware of the circumstances around the process of putting the fireworks in place.

 

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

 

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

I expect the minister will have to take this one under advisement also. Will the minister confirm that this project is going to an outside firm, a mainland firm, and that no local firms were asked for proposals? I would like to know if not, why not? Seeing that there is a local firm in and around St. John’s that was asked at the last minute to the July 1 celebrations here for the Department of Tourism, if this firm was good enough to do the July 1 celebrations on the fireworks, why aren’t they good enough now?

 

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

 

MS KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The question actually was not very clearly worded. I am not sure if the member was saying if the contract has been awarded or are you basing this on rumor or innuendo. I really do not know and we will have to take the question under advisement and get you the answer within the next twenty-four hours. That is not a difficulty at all. It is very simple to find that out.

 

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

 

MR. J. BYRNE: All I am asking the minister is: Will they confirm that local firms were not asked to tender, and if not, why not? It is going to a mainland firm.

 

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

 

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, for the third time, we will take the question under advisement and we will find out the answer for you. Would you like to ask the question again? Because the answer will be the same.

 

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

 

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Minister, I will refer to a news release that you put forward on November 3 whereby you referred to the number of licences that were issued for cod farming, cod grow-out licences, I say to the minister.

I would like to ask the minister how he issues such licenses. For example, do you require people who apply for these licenses to give you performance assurances before you issue the licenses to them? If there are any requirements, I would like to ask the minister if he would provide us the information on how many enterprises did actually start up in 1999 and if those licenses will be reissued again this year.

 

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

 

MR. EFFORD: In all instances, Mr. Speaker, whether it is for cod grow-out or whether it is for private processing or secondary processing, we require a proposal to be set forth to the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

In the case of cod farming we would not ask for a major business proposal to go out and spend a lot of money, but certainly to send in a form of a business proposal in a two- or three-page letter. At the same time, we would want to know their ability to finance and if they hold fishing licenses. So yes, we do ask for a proposal to be submitted, and once the proposal is submitted it is judged by a committee within the department to see how many licenses will be issued and who will receive those licenses.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South has time for one quick question.

 

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last year, minister, you issued thirty-eight grow-out licenses. Only seven were utilized. If you require some assurances of performances before you issue a license, why did only seven of those thirty-eight licenses carry on a cod farming operation last year? Minister, why would you continue to provide the licenses to those same people this year while restricting the number of licenses that you pass forward?

 

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

 

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, the fishing industry is an unpredictable industry. When somebody submits an application for a cod grow-out license the first thing we would ask them is: Do you have a core license or a fishing license? Yes. Do you have a cod trap? Yes. Will the cod come in? I do not know. If the cod does not swim in the trap, then certainly they cannot grow them out.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. EFFORD: That is a pretty simple answer to that, Mr. Speaker. Extenuating circumstances would cause us - that if we issued twenty-five or thirty licenses and the cod does not come in a particular bay or particular area, then you certainly cannot grow cod that year.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. EFFORD: That would be one of the main reasons why we would not have such a number of licenses -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has ended.

 

Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees

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

 

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have reports here that I want to release today. They are: the Workplace, Health, Safety and Compensation Commission, 1998; the Workers’ Compensation Review Division, 1998; and Labour Relations Board, 1998, annual reports.

 

Notices of Motion

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following Private Member’s Resolution. I might add that it is on behalf of my colleague for St. John’s South who was detained.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SULLIVAN: You will certainly want to vote for it when you see it, I say to the Minister of Mines and Energy.

The resolution reads:

WHEREAS Newfoundland and Labrador eliminated the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner (also known as the Ombudsman) a decade ago and became the first jurisdiction with an Ombudsman to eliminate that office; and

WHEREAS the Office of the Ombudsman is established as a check and balance on government to give individuals and groups the right to commission an investigation of an action, decision, recommendation or omission of a government department, agency or official when they feel they have been wronged; and

WHEREAS the Office of the Ombudsman has quasi-judicial powers which are not currently at the disposal of individuals and groups in Newfoundland and Labrador who want such matters investigated; and

WHEREAS the Office of the Ombudsman operated in the past, and could operate in the future, at a relatively low cost and constitutes a sound investment in public accountability; and

WHEREAS Members of the Opposition, members of the media and the general public who have difficulty accessing information through the Freedom of Information Act could seek recourse through the Office of the Ombudsman;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT this hon. House urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to reinstate the Office of the Ombudsman.

 

Petitions

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

 

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased to present a petition today. The prayer of the petition is 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 benefit 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, once again we stand and present a petition on behalf of several residents of Newfoundland and Labrador who have been part and parcel of this process now over the past several months and have been very concerned about the fact that there was contemplation earlier on that we would be exporting water from this Province, namely Gisborne Lake, through a bulk process.

Since that, I am very pleased - and this side of the House, I must say, has been very pleased - to have Bill 31 placed before the Legislature in the past few days and to begin discussions on what hopefully will be the final nail in the coffin as it relates to bulk water exports here in the Province. While we on this side on the House certainly have some concerns with certain parts of the bill, we fully support the bill to make sure that there is no water taken out of the Province by bulk.

It is an ongoing concern, certainly not only here in Newfoundland but indeed across the country, as it relates to the shortage of water that is throughout the world today. For all intents and purposes, what the experts have shown is that in the next ten to twenty years there is going to be a major rush put on the last freshwater resources that are in the world, and Canada has 20 per cent of those freshwater resources. It is very important that we protect our water supply, not only for ourselves but indeed for generations to come.

As Bill 31 points out - hopefully we will send a message not only to the people in the Province but indeed the people throughout the country, that we are very serious about the freshwater resource in this Province, that we are very serious about protecting it for the future, that we are very serious in sending the message to any company, any individual, any organization that may be interested in exporting bulk water, that Newfoundland water is not for sale in bulk form.

Mr. Speaker, that is the concern that these people bring forward through this petition today. That is the concern that people have been bringing forward through the media, through telephone calls and letters to Members of the House of Assembly. Indeed, over the past several months these people have been passing that concern on.

Hopefully, over the next few days we will get into the nuts and the bolts of Bill 31 and we will make a firm commitment here in the House of Assembly that there will be no bulk water export out of this Province and, as I said earlier, that we will make sure that our freshwater resources are here for generations to come.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

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

I rise to support the petition put forward by my colleague relative to the bulk export of water. We, on this side of the House, take this piece of legislation very seriously. We have anticipated its arrival, although last Thursday when it was brought into the House, the Premier tried to rush it through. He kind of said: Let’s do it now. That sends a signal to us that we had better be a little bit cautious. When the Premier comes in and says: I want this, and I would like to have it passed this afternoon... - that tells us to raise a flag, because it makes us kind of suspicious as to why you would want to do it so fast.

Certainly, in the last seventy-two hours or so, with the consultations that we have done on this side of the House with internationally-known experts, it has become quite apparent that this piece of legislation may not be able to achieve the purposes that I am sure the government intended.

We want to say to our caucus colleagues who have spoken during second reading, during the principle of the bill, that we appreciate their participation. We had to hold up second reading long enough to give us time to do the research. What happened here last Thursday, if the members on this side of the House had let the second reading go ahead in principle, we would not have had the same opportunity to do the research that we have now completed.

Earlier today, the Leader of Progressive Conservative Party, together with the Member St. John’s South and internationally-known lawyer Barry Appleton, held a press conference here in the building in which we outlined for our caucus the serious reservations we have and the problems we have with several clauses of this particular piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, that goes to show that the people of this Province should be aware that this government - wanting to rush the thing through - may have not had the best interest of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador at heart. Because, with the research now done, we are prepared, on this side of the House, as the leader of the party said at 12:30 p.m. today, to facilitate its passage through the House. We believe there are certain serious flaws and we will bring these forward at the appropriate time.

We certainly support the intent of Bill 31. We just want to make some amendments to it that will enhance it, that will assure that what it intends to achieve will indeed be achieved. Our amendments are deemed to be friendly amendments. They are amendments that will do what needs to be done to protect the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Not to reiterate everything that the Leader of the Opposition said in the press conference, or certainly not to try to remember everything that Barry Appleton said at that press conference, but certainly I think there are message there that we want to communicate to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. When this bill completes its second reading and gets into Committee stage, we will look forward to putting forward these amendments. They are publicly known, and are known to the government, and I am sure they are now being looked at by the legal officials. We will put them forward as friendly amendments in order to strengthen Newfoundland and Labrador’s position and not certainly to do anything other than that, because we believe that the intent of Bill 31 is indeed in the best interest of all Newfoundlanders and all Labradorians.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to present a petition to the House of Assembly. It reads:

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

WHEREAS the areas of the Province administered by the Provincial Health Care Corporation do not have dialysis services available and the people in our area who require regular dialysis services often must relocate permanently to St. John’s and incur the financial and emotional costs of being uprooted to get the health care they need in order to live; and

WHEREAS it is our understanding that working dialysis units are being sent out of this Province to other countries when the local need is great; and

WHEREAS it is a principle of Canada’s medicare system that people should have reasonable access to basic healthcare services without suffering discrimination on the basis of where they live;

WHEREFORE you petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to approve the stationing of a dialysis unit in the area serviced by the Peninsula Health Care Corporation and also provide staff, training and resources to ensure the regular operation of this dialysis unit; and

As in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, just last week I presented a 6,000 name petition. This one has come in since that particular time. There are approximately 130 names on this particular petition, and it comes from the Marystown area.

There are residents from Marystown, Burin, Little Bay, Rocky Harbour, Creston, all down around the Burin Peninsula. Those people, as well, are asking the government to look at stationing a dialysis unit or two, whatever the need requires, to look after patients serviced by the Peninsula Health Care Corporation. They are not asking that we put dialysis machines in Burin, Bonavista and Clarenville. They are just asking that this service be made available somewhere in their district where they might be able to travel to, access the services and travel home on a daily basis. There are people down in my district, people from the town of Melrose, seniors who have had to board up their homes, move into St. John’s and rent an apartment in order to access dialysis treatment.

I brought forward a story, in the last petition I presented, where this gentleman has been coming back and forth to St. John’s on a regular basis now for four consecutive years. He gets up Monday morning, takes his belongings, takes his clothes, takes his food, puts it in the box of a pickup truck and comes to St. John’s. He has to get his wife to unload the truck and carry it up to his room in the hostel on a weekly basis, every Monday morning. Every Friday evening he loads it all aboard the truck again and heads back to his home in Open Hall in Bonavista Bay, a three-and-a-half hour run. He is not coming to St. John’s to go to work. He is not coming in for entertainment. He is coming to St. John’s on a weekly basis so that he might be able to continue to live. This treatment at home is not an option for this gentleman. This treatment in Bonavista right now is not an option. This treatment in Clarenville is not an option. He has to travel all the way to St. John’s, move into the hostel, and has to go to social services in order to get money to buy his food.

This particular gentleman has had five or six bypasses done. He has had a colostomy done. He has lost a kidney. One particular trip to the department of social services was a plea to say: Instead of giving me meal vouchers where I have to go down in the cafeteria and buy cafeteria food, maybe you might be able to give me the value of those meal vouchers so I can go out and buy the food that I need in order to look after my diet so that I can cook or prepare it myself? He is not allowed to do it. It is against government policy to do it.

So it makes you wonder if we are sincere about trying to heal somebody or trying to cater to somebody’s health and wishes, or are we just trying to go along with a policy that is put in place and have to abide by it for this simple reason: Because it is government policy. This is a cry that has gone out not only from two people from my district, I say to members opposite, not only from those people from Marystown -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. FITZGERALD: - Burin, Rocky Harbour and Creston, but it is a plea from the whole area, and I join with them and support them in their wishes to have this particular treatment offered somewhere in the area serviced by the Peninsulas Health Care Corporation.

Thank you.

 

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

 

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

I am pleased today to stand and support my colleague in this particular petition because I too, in my part of the Province have experienced that, and know people personally who put up with this every single day. I spoke about it about a year ago in this House when the Premier was here. At that time we talked about at least, if we do not get dialysis machines throughout the Province, in closer proximity for the people who have to use them, how about looking at some kind of compensation for the people? For instance, in my area somebody from Fleur de Lys has to drive over those types of road conditions to Grand Falls, two-and-a-half hours away, just so they can access a dialysis machine. It is not just the emotional stress on them, it is also the financial stress.

My colleague mentioned some of the examples in his area of the Province. It is happening all over Newfoundland and Labrador. With the geography of this Province, something has to be done to address this problem. It is a hardship on the family. The particular gentleman that I referred to, in Fleur dy Lys, worked all of his life and now he has to use this type of machine, and the stress that it has put on that family is incredible. His wife and his children talk about it every day. I sat in the kitchen with this man who was so stressed out, both financially and emotionally, because of what he has to go through. It is a shame. It is a crime that they have to go through this these days.

That is why I think it is important for every member in this House of Assembly. I am sure there are people in every district who have the same problems, when it comes to the geography, in accessing those machines. It is bad enough that they have to travel over the road conditions in the summertime, which are bad enough, but when you have to move that into the wintertime it is very bad. One constituent of mine in La Scie finally could not put up with it any more. So he would get a bit closer, he bought a cabin at Badger Lake so he could stay at the cabin. He had to move out of his home, and the only way that he could it that it was affordable is that he would live out of a cabin during the winter months so it would not be so hard traveling over the road. I mean, how ridiculous is that when it comes to that stage?

It is something that the Premier did not turn down flat that day. He nodded and said it was something we should look at. Even in the interim, while we are waiting for more dialysis machines to be placed around the Province somewhere in proximity, depending on the geography of the situation on different peninsulas and so on, why don’t we at least look at some kind of help, financial compensation that can at least alleviate that part of the stress that these people and families are feeling?

The people have been out of work. They have worked all their lives and now they find themselves having to use this particular piece of apparatus. The emotional stress on the family is there, yes, but also the financial stress. Even if we could relieve that to some point, and maybe study it to find out in what ways we can help. I think it is something that is worthwhile doing. I have heard the complaints many times over. Certainly I have many in my district, because of the geography of the length of the Baie Verte Peninsula, the road conditions and so on in the wintertime, and having to go to either Grand Falls or Corner Brook . We are right in between those two larger centres. There is a lot of stress on those people.

So if we could look at something in that neighbourhood of at least compensation for them in the interim while we look at the whole bigger issue of placing more dialysis machines - and the cost, and we know there is a cost associated with that, obviously - but if there is something that we can do to help those families that would be great.

By the way, I also mention, I guess because of aging population or whatever the reason is, that there are more and more every day. Every day I have found out about a new case in my district in the last two weeks. More and more people have to go to this particular dialysis unit to use it. That is another thing we have to keep in mind, the growing numbers of them, and hopefully we can alleviate in someway the stress and the burden upon these families. I certainly support my colleague in his petition, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

 

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

 

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My colleague has joined us here in the House but she did want me to make just a few comments because she was not here for the presentation of the petition. Certainly the petition is one that deserves serious consideration and will be considered, and is being considered, within the Department of Health and Community Services at this point in time.

The government is always challenged through the Department of Health to provide the appropriate speciality needs because these are very specialized treatments, very expensive as well, but we understand that the cost is not a factor for people who are threatened with their lives and so on. There are other specialty ones, not as directly related as the dialysis, but issues of mammography, bone density and so on where the department is trying to find the appropriate distribution of locations throughout the Province so at least access to the service can be as readily available as possible for the individuals. We appreciate the sentiment raised in the petition.

Also, I think it we would be remiss as well if we didn’t all at some point, even though it is difficult sometimes for the Opposition to give credit for what has actually happened, acknowledge a couple of things. There are more speciality services like these that we have mentioned available in Newfoundland and Labrador today than ever in our history. That is a fact.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. GRIMES: That is not a political statement. That is a fact, that there is more dialysis available in Newfoundland and Labrador today, in 1999, than there was in 1998, than there was in 1990, than there was in 1960 and so. So we are trying to make the improvements, and we are trying to meet the challenge of the most appropriate geographic distribution, so that it can be closest to the people who have the greatest needs.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that when a position is presented as it has been today, seriously taking into consideration the needs and wishes of those who signed the petition, it is incumbent upon all of us in the government to try and make sure that we do give it full and due consideration. It would be nice every now and then if we could actually get some acknowledgment for the fact that there have not been financial cuts in health care since this group - for example, just in the years that we have been the administration since 1989, in years where there have been cutbacks in some actual departments, the budget - and I think people should acknowledge this - for the Department of Health has gone from just over $900 million to just about $1.2 billion.

So there have been incredible investments in the health care sector. There are a range of services available today that are better than they have ever been and more extensive than they have ever been. There are still some issues that we are dealing with, but, Mr. Speaker, we will certainly give due consideration to the petitioners in this case.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

 

Order of the Day

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Provide for the Conservation, Protection, Wise Use and Management Of The Water Resources of the Province". (Bill 31)

Let me say to the Opposition that we saw their press statement this morning. Obviously, at the time I was hoping they would, if they were going to put forward amendments for government’s consideration - Without committing ourselves to anything, let me just say to them that I guess the time to do that is in Committee. Today we are talking about seconding reading, the principle of the bill.

 

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I assume that Bill 31 has been called.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

 

MR. SULLIVAN: I adjourned debate on it on Friday, so I am prepared today on our side of the House to put up no further speakers on second reading of that, to sort of expedite matters on the Bill and to certainly give approval in principle. There are two particular clauses of that Bill, clause 5 and clause 7, in which we propose to make amendments when we get to the Committee stage of the Bill.

With that having been said, we will not have any further comments at this time. We will not have any unnecessary delaying of that. Whenever government is prepared to call that in Committee and deal with it, we will be ready to move.

 

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 this legislation before the House, Bill 31, an act which will have the effect of banning the export of bulk water from the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I was prepared the other day to see second reading reached immediately, on Wednesday, when the Bill was introduced - or, rather, the day the House opened and the Bill was introduced - because we felt here that it was something, the principle of which was something, that the Province’s mind was made up on.

The Province’s mind was made up on that as a result of a lot of public discussion and open debate - at least open on one side. Open on the side of the public, the media, the discussion that took place, the calls to open lines, comments, press conferences, and various other matters that were very openly discussed.

On the other side, on the government’s side, there was very little. The Minister of Environment and Labour gave what he called the red light when he was given the green light.

I know the minister is a new minister and he performs well. He performed well in the House the other day, but when I heard about a press conference where he announced that he was giving the red light to the McCurdy Group, when actually what he was doing was approving it and sending it on to Ottawa, I figured that this minister has been studying too long how to mislead the public by using phrases and words that don’t say exactly what they mean.

When the Premier finally announced on behalf of the government that the government was prepared to respond to the public demand to ban the bulk export of water, I was delighted. In fact, we called for the legislation on September 28 to say that it was not enough to say that it was a problem. There needed to be legislation brought in that would give effect to a ban, and we distributed at that time copies of the legislation in British Columbia which effectively did that.

We have a piece of legislation before us which in principle I can support. When we get to discussing the details, and discussing the clause-by-clause analysis - I understand there was a press conference today and the Conservation Party has some amendments to the legislation that they will be bringing forward, and that is all to the good - we certainly look forward to seeing them and debating them.

I do want to say a few words, though. It is a bit curious. This legislation has been opposed for a number of reasons in this Province. One of them, of course, is one that affects all sorts of legislation and resource development. That is the fact that we would be exporting something in bulk which should be subjected to further processing here, from an economic point of view.

We saw advertisements placed on the World Wide Web by the McCurdy Group, Mr. White’s company, offering to sell tanker loads of water for distribution to bottling plants around the world for pennies a litre. That was the quote from the Web site of the McCurdy Group in a company called Canada Wet Incorporated. That was, in fact, the gist of the proposal, that this was a bulk water export proposal that intended to provide a source of drinking water for bottling plants around the world.

It seems to have been denied by the McCurdy Group up until then, and the government did not give any indication one way or the other of what it was. The government never indicated one way or the other what it thought the proposal was all about.

I see the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal saying he never saw a proposal for it. Well, I saw documents two inches thick from the McCurdy Group outlining what the nature of their operation was to be.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, if I am one of the few people then I am surprised that the Minister of Environment and Labour had not reviewed the documentation presented to the minister on behalf of the McCurdy Group as part of the environmental assessment, because that was what it was all about.

Contained in those documents was all sorts of information about the nature of the project envisaged; how much water would be extracted; how big the size of the pipes would be; what the volumes of water would be. All of that information was there, inches thick, I say to the Government House Leader and members opposite.

That was the proposal. The proposal was to export bulk water. That ran afoul of any notion that we have in this Province of economic development to take place here. If there are bottling plants that are begging for product in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, or somewhere like that, because the American brewing industry has consolidated its operation, then I am sure they will be right ready and anxious to turn their facilities over to Newfoundland water to be bottled and sold at a great price in the United States of America or elsewhere.

Mr. Speaker, that is one reason why this legislation, to me, is important and valuable, because it does say that we will not commercialize water in bulk and export it out of our Province because of our concern about basically being a source of profit for somebody else at the expense of our environment and our resources. I was certainly pleased with that legislation, and that was part of what they debated about, but another important part of what they debated about was NAFTA.

What surprised me about the NAFTA side of the debate was that while my party and a number of other organizations have been challenging the NAFTA agreement for many, many years, going back to 1986 and 1987 when the Brian Mulroney Conservative government in Ottawa brought in the Free Trade Agreement, with John Crosbie leading the charge on behalf of the Tory government in Ottawa, we challenged that. I was part of a caucus in Ottawa that challenged that legislation, that challenged the Free Trade Agreement. One of the bases on which it was challenged. One of the bases on which it was challenged was the fact that water was in danger of becoming a commodity and that Canada’s fresh water would be on the table, would be exposed to the trade legislation and would be exposed to at least three provisions of the NAFTA agreement and the trade agreement that would place danger on our water.

Trade legislation is notoriously complex. I am not claiming, at any point, to be an international trade lawyer, and I am sure the Member for St. John’s East, learned scholar that he is, learned it in the law that he is, would not claim to be an international trade law scholar. That is why they - I don’t think they have overlooked him. I think they recognize that this is a special area of expertise. They have gotten a second opinion from this mainland lawyer, I think, because they wanted to be sure that they had their bases covered.

I am not claiming to be an international trade lawyer, but I will point out what is there in the common knowledge of the trade agreement: three areas where our water is endangered by the NAFTA agreement.

The first provision of the NAFTA agreement that places water at risk once it is traded is the national treatment element. This provides that no country can discriminate in favour of its own private sector in the commercial use of its own water resources. Once you grant a permit to a domestic company to export water, the corporations of other NAFTA partners have the same right of establishment to the commercial use of that country’s waters as is domestic companies.

In other words, if the McCurdy Group were given the right to export Gisborne Lake water to anywhere outside the country, then any company in the United States, Europe or elsewhere, could not be denied the right to export water on the basis that it was not a Newfoundland company. So that is an important provision - national treatment.

The second provision is what is called the investor or state provision, otherwise known as chapter eleven. That allows a corporation in a NAFTA country to actually sue the government of another country - not their own government - so no other Canadian company could sue the Government of Canada or Newfoundland, but a Mexican company or an American company could actually sue the Canadian government for cash compensation if the company has refused its national treatment rights or if the country implemented legislation that effectively expropriated the company’s future product.

Whether that is a real threat or not we will find out, because a corporation in California is now suing the Government of Canada in a Sun Belt Water case filed in the fall of 1988. A Santa Barbara California company is suing the Canadian government because they lost the contract to export water to California when British Columbia banned the export of water in 1991. Those are two of the dangers under the NAFTA agreement that we face.

The third is a provision called proportionality, which a government under the NAFTA country cannot reduce or restrict the export of a resource through another NAFTA country once the export flow has been established.

To boil in down into a phrase that I used during this debate, and others have used as well, once the tap is turned on you cannot turn it off. Even if Newfoundland were to ban the export of water after it had started the flow, it could be sued first of all by a company outside of Canada who did not get national treatment. Secondly, they could ensure or insist that Canada continue to provide that water from another source. You can be sure that Canada would not be very happy about that and would expect Newfoundland to provide that water or make us pay one way or the other about that.

Mr. Speaker, these are key provisions of the NAFTA agreement that have serious consequences for water, for this Province’s resources, for Canada’s resources, in a world in which water is becoming more and more important.

What surprised me was the degree to which the Progressive Conservative Party here in Newfoundland has taken up this NAFTA cause, and I happen to agree with them. I think NAFTA was wrong. I think it was wrong. I thought it was wrong in 1987 when I was in Ottawa fighting against NAFTA, against the Tory policy to bring in NAFTA. I thought it was wrong then. I thought it was wrong in the 1988 election when I ran against Tory candidates who supported NAFTA. I ran against it. I thought it was wrong in 1993 when the Liberals were against NAFTA and the Tories were also against NAFTA - were in favour of NAFTA - and what happened? Mr. Chrétien got in and signed the NAFTA deal, with no changes, with no amendments. So now we have a Liberal government defending NAFTA, signing the NAFTA agreement. We have a Tory government which brought it in, in Ottawa. I don’t know what the federal Tory position is on NAFTA, but I know the provincial Tories here are now all of a sudden against NAFTA. What I want to know is: Where were they in 1987, when their -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

 

MR. HARRIS: These guys. Where were they in 1987, when their government in Ottawa was bringing in this very agreement about which they are complaining? They were over there. They were over on the other side of the House.

 

MR. TULK: Cozying right up to their cousins in Ottawa.

 

MR. HARRIS: Cozying right up to them, according to the Government House Leader. Now I wasn’t there. The Government House Leader may have been here in the House watching them cozying up to their cousins in Ottawa, supporting whatever it was they did, and supporting the NAFTA agreement, the Free Trade Agreement, and all the other things that went with that; but now we have them deviating from the Conservative path and turning against the government on the issue of water. Water was very important then and it is very important now.

Bill Blakey, a very longstanding member of the federal NDP caucus in Ottawa, was a consistent and constant critic of the Government of Canada on the issue of water and what the NAFTA and the Free Trade Agreement would mean to the protection of Canadian water.

Nelson Reese, Sevend Robinson and numerous others were very vocal throughout this period talking about the consequences to our water supply of the NAFTA agreement and the Free Trade Agreement that preceded it. We still - we are not out of the woods yet. In fact, I don’t think we will be out of the woods on this issue until the other NAFTA countries, until the people of those countries start demanding that their government get together with Canada, with Mexico, and exclude water from the NAFTA rules. I think it is going to have to go as far as that before we have a real solution to this. We are seeing some evidence of it now.

There are the governors and senators in the Great Lake States who are quite concerned about what is happening - even in the United States - where a Canadian company has a permit to bring Alaska glacier water down from Alaska into the United States for sale in the United States and for sale outside of the United States. A Canadian company which was refused a license from British Columbia is now doing that in Alaska. In the Great Lakes, various governors, both Republican and Democratic, and a number of senators, have gotten together and are petitioning the American Trade Department to look into this issue because they are concerned about what the implications are for their country.

Those of us who have looked into this know how protectionist the American Congress can be and can get. We see many, many times how the American Congress acts to protect its own industries, its own resources, its own supplies, its own jobs in their own states. If the American Congress gets hold of this issue and develops it as an important political issue - which I think it is - then we may see, somewhere down the road, some change in this. In the meantime, we cannot afford to take any steps which would allow us to be subject to the kind of lawsuits that have been started by American companies already against Canada as a result of permits having been granted.

I recognize that although no formal proposal has been presented, there really isn’t anything to turn down at this stage, the fact of the matter is that the people of this Province were very, very concerned about this government’s intention because they had not said no, Mr. Speaker. They had not said no. Just as we have today, with Mr. Barry and his partners going around this Province with what is essentially an illegal proposal to buy more than 15 per cent of the shares of FPI. The government has not said no, so what we have is a great deal of uncertainty and confusion in rural Newfoundland as a result of this government’s failure to state a clear position as to what its views are of the future of the Newfoundland fishery. What level of concentration is going to be permitted?

These are the kind of things that this government did not do over the issue of bulk water and are not doing now over the issue of NEOS. They are not doing them now and they did not do them then. They are failing to provide leadership except when it comes down to the crunch, and when it is obvious to the government that public opinion is so far gone against it that they had to finally make the concession.

It reminds me of Premier Wells. After a year-long debate about Hydro, finally the premier of the day was forced to come to this House and tell the people of the Province that they were not going to privatize Hydro. So we did not privatize Hydro. We are not going to give away our water resources through a bulk water export. I hope we are not going to give away the fishing industry to control of an outside firm which is going to end up controlling in excess of 90 per cent of our fishery. These are very important issues, and we do need government to play a better role than it has to date in outlining the issues for the people of this Province.

I am delighted to see that the Conservatives have brought in somebody who is knowledgeable in this field, and I would very interested in reading their materials and background information. My learned friend from St. John’s East assures me that once I read the documentation I will be in full support of it. That remains to be seen. I certainly will be quite willing to look at it. Any amendments that would improve this Bill and make it stronger and more acceptable in terms of protecting the Province’s water from the consequences of the free trade deal would be very welcome indeed.

There is a section here on compensation and royalties. I think I recognize that this may not be a gold mine despite the value of bottled water per litre being more, almost twice as expensive, as gasoline at the pumps. This may not be a gold mine for the Province of Newfoundland. All the more reason why I was so surprised to hear Bill Matthews, a former Member of this House and now a Member of Parliament - and perhaps some of his cousins from inside the district could explain how it is that Bill Matthews was able to go on the radio and talk about $5 million a week in royalties. Was it $5 million a week Bill Matthews talked about?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. HARRIS: It was $5 million a week in royalties from Gisborne Lake. I do not know where he got his figures, Mr. Speaker. It is a funny thing to hear somebody throwing around figures like that, $5 million a week in royalties, when the only royalties in Canada on bottled water amounted to $28,000 in the previous year. We may not have a gold mine here. The royalty regime in British Columbia may not be one that we necessarily want to emulate either, but nevertheless it is the only province in Canada right now that has any royalties on bottled water.

When you go to a store and see that bottled water is sold for $1.25 for half-a-litre, then obviously there is an inherent value in this product certainly in terms of its retail value in marketing. If this Province can collect sixteen cents a gallon on gasoline at the pumps when they are being sold to our own people, surely we can expect to get -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MR. HARRIS: Sorry, sixteen cents a litre. I’m wrong about that. If the Province can collect sixteen cents a litre when people are buying gasoline at the pumps here in Newfoundland and Labrador, surely we can expect to get some return on a bottled water enterprise where the end product is being sold for twice the amount of a litre of gasoline.

The legislation that is before us is very important. I’m hoping, at some point, we will hear the Progressive Conservatives explain to us how it is their party supported a trade agreement and did not make adequate provision for the protection of our water. I’m hoping to hear that.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MR. HARRIS: I said I’m hoping, at some point, to hear the Progressive Conservatives explain how it is they supported the Free Trade Agreement that did not protect our water and now they are trying to help us fix it after the fact.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: The feds, the feds.

 

MR. HARRIS: Blame it on the feds. You can blame it on the feds. I understand that this group was sitting over there in 1987. This group up here was sitting over there in 1987 and supporting the trade deal in Ottawa.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) passage of this bill (inaudible).

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you coming over?

 

MR. HARRIS: When I come over, I say to the Government House Leader, there will be a lot more of our crowd coming with me. A majority.

Mr. Speaker, when I agreed last Wednesday to pass this bill I agreed to pass it because the principle is one that I have believed in, fought for and needed to see it put into place because it is the will of the people of this Province to have the bulk water ban. The detail, amendments, I look forward to a debate on the amendments, I look forward to seeing how the bill can be improved.

I myself have some great concerns about how the royalties are to be set up in this bill. Clause 8 talks about royalty on water resources, and the Lieutenant-Governor in Council making regulations prescribing the amount of a royalty. We can amend that as necessary. The point is that the method for choosing a royalty regime here is wrong.

We have a need for greater transparency in the establishment of royalties in this Province, not only for water, but also for nickel, for minerals, for oil, for all commodities for which there ought to be a royalty in place where we get the economic grant from products. We do not have one right now. I’m not happy giving the Lieutenant-Governor in Council an opportunity to prescribe the amount of royalty without having a proper procedure in place for adequate public discussion and input into a royalty regime, whether it be for water or whether it be for anything else.

One of the great failures of this Province has been in the return that the Province itself gets from the use of our own resources. That we have to change, and we may as well start right here with this bill currently before the Legislature, and devise a process that is open, that provides for input not only from members of this House but members of the public. Not just industry players who obviously have a big stake in having low royalties, but also from the people of this Province. Not just those represented on that side of the House, but from those represented on all sides of the House. Perhaps we ought to have a committee of this House review any proposed royalty scheme in order to ensure that it meets appropriate tests of guaranteeing an adequate return to the people of this Province for our resources. It is not enough for Cabinet to meet in secret and approve a royalty regime that has not met the test of public accountability, public transparency and acceptability.

In closing, let me say that I support the principle of this bill which is to ban the export of bulk water from Newfoundland and Labrador. I support that principle, I fought for that principle, and I’m pleased that the government has introduced the bill so early in the session.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Smith): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Humber East.

 

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to take the opportunity to say a few words on Bill 31, An Act To Provide For The Conservation, Protection, Wise Use And Management Of The Water Resources Of The Province. Clearly, I do support the Bill. There can be very little doubt that anyone would not support the wise use, conservation, and proper management of a water resource in this Province. There is no question about where my support may be. I just want to say a few words about the events that kind of led up to the introduction of Bill 31, or which some people might have you believe led up to the introduction of Bill 31.

As everyone knows, there was a proposal placed upon the table, submitted under the appropriate legislation, the Environmental Assessment Act, and a proposition was put forward that there would be the export of bottled water from Gisborne Lake, from Grand Le Pierre, and that there would also be bulk water as well. There is nothing new about that. That was submitted. It was made known to everyone in the Province. Anyone who was on the mailing list from the Department of Environment received notification, members opposite received notification, we received notification. Nothing secret, nothing hidden, no cover up as was suggested today on a couple of other issues. It was clear, nothing abnormal.

In the normal course of events, as would have been the situation with any other environmental assessment, a decision would have been made, a committee would have been struck with representatives of provincial and federal governments, departments and agencies and any interested parties, and a decision would eventually have been made.

In this case a decision was made, and the decision was very simple and very clear. That is, from an environmental perspective, there was nothing to say that the proposition for the export of bulk water would do anything to hinder or interfere with the environment of Newfoundland. There would be no decrease in the amount of water available to our citizens for drinking. Unfortunately, that was not the image that was portrayed on the open lines, not necessarily by members opposite but by members who were calling in and so on. There were all kinds of allegations made about that time, but the fact was that at the end of the day the assessment concluded that there was nothing environmentally wrong with making a permit or recommending that this could proceed, and that there would be no damage to our environment.

In that approval as in every other approval bar none issued by the Department of Environment, bar none, in my twenty-eight years in the public service, and in all the years that I have been involved with this particular legislation, it always contains a caveat at the end: Subject, of course, to getting all the requisite approvals from the departments, all the necessary permits, and so forth.

The process that was followed in the case of the Gisborne Lake issue was fairly normal. It was up to government to decide at the end of the day, when the applications were made for export, whether or not they would approve those based upon policy that was then in place, or policy which would shortly be brought in.

There is nothing terribly obtrusive about that, nothing terribly sinister, no plots, no coercions with other agencies, no golden handshakes. Also, at the end of the process, the Province decided to make a reference to the federal government, which was in my view prudent, because there is environmental legislation dealing with environmental issues. As you may recall, and as everyone in this Province recalls, there were great fears raised about NAFTA and the implications of this. As we know, the only one who has any control over international trade is the federal government, so the reference to the federal government was -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) the Member for St. John’s South.

 

MR. MERCER: With the exception of that member.

So the reference to the federal government was entirely appropriate.

In the middle of this part of the process, all sorts of issues were starting to be raised, primarily by the Member for St. John’s South. I do give credit where credit is due. The member did raise the issue. He did sensitize the public to the possibility that there would be bulk water export from Gisborne Lake. My hat is off to him for having done that. A number of good questions were raised: the impact upon jobs, whether or not we export in bottles or in bulk, implications with respect to how the water might impact upon the local economy at Grand le Pierre, and also the NAFTA implications. All those points, Mr. Speaker, were good and I credit the Member for St. John’s South for having raised them.

All of these things, I think, contributed to debate, they were very productive. Now I’m going to poll the Opposition. There is a big but or an however. Therein is where I have the problem. Because every day this past summer you turn on the radio and you listen to the open line or you read in the newspapers a story or a news report, you hear all kinds of information which, I must say, was most unproductive, and frankly it was most unbecoming of the Member for St. John’s South. Frankly, some of the statements I did hear during that period of time made me ashamed to be a Member of this hon. House, to be associated in any way with those types of comments. I know that is not a point of personal privilege but the way I feel, my privileges, as a member for this House, were violated by these kinds of statements and by these innuendos.

We live in a political forum, we live in a political debate, and I have no real problems engaging in political dialogue and discussion, but one of the problems I found with the debate this summer was that in the rush to try and convince the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that there was some sinister policy, some sinister plot afoot, that there was collusion between members of this government and the private sector, the first casualty in all of that, unfortunately, was the truth. For the rest of the summer right up till perhaps the present day, what you hear on the news is statements of innuendo, statements which have a modicum of truth in them but which the presenter who is making the statement knows is not the whole truth, all designed to leave an impression that this government was somehow, in some way, hijacking the water resources of this Province to send them to the south, the United States, or wherever it might be.

All of this was done using statements like: The rumor or the story on the street, what I am hearing on the street is. That is nothing more than saying: The rumor around town is. If you want to be a spreader of rumors and half-truths, so be it, and unfortunately that is the level to which some members opposite found it necessary to stoop this past summer.

There were also statements made - I heard them time in time out on the open line, and there are all kinds of transcripts to show that what I am saying is correct - where members would come on, saying: I have not proof of this, George, Bill or Bass - or whoever the moderator was that evening - I have no proof of this, but... Then they would go on to spout a line of information which was completely misinformation, and if I were permitted to say that they were lies I would probably say that they were. All of this was, by and large, designed to spread baseless, unfounded accusations that called into doubt the integrity of various members of this House, some of them directly by name, and all of us by implication.

I know the members opposite are looking for the day when they can cross the floor and become members of the governing party, but I think there are ways to do that other than getting into a public discussion and talking about innuendo, half-truth, and leaving impressions with the public which people know to be wrong. As a member of this hon. House I do feel personally offended and insulted by some of the discussion and debate of this past summer. Frankly, while I lay a lot of the credit for sensitizing the public on this issue to the Member for St. John’s South, I also lay a fair amount of the blame for the innuendo, the half-truths, at his feet.

Also during this discussion this past summer - and the Leader of the NDP alluded to it briefly - there were statements made that if we were only to charge a royalty on this water, this God-given resource that we have in this Province in abundance, if we were to charge a fair royalty we would be awash in monies. Millions, I dare say even billions, of dollars would accrue to the provincial treasury. I can’t say ‘crock of’ because that is not parliamentary, but what unmitigated hogwash.

As we have heard in the last few days, the only province in Canada which levies an export value or a royalty on bottled water is the Province of British Columbia. In the Province of British Columbia there are some forty water bottling plants. Last year the total revenues accruing to the treasury of the Province of British Columbia on all the royalties for all the water exported out of British Columbia was a grand total of $27,000. Not millions of dollars or anything else, but $27,000. That is the amount of the bonanza that would accrue by the introduction of a royalty regime on bottled water.

I’ve also been informed, and I’ve taken the trouble to find out, that at the present time in this Province there has been given approvals to private sector parties to export something in the order of 107 million litres of water annually. That is already on the books. If the exporters today were to sit down and do what they have been given the permission and authority to do they could export 107 million litres of bottled water. If there is such a worldwide demand for this type of product, if there is such a tremendous demand upon the water resources of Newfoundland, and if we can, as everyone is saying, provide this to the world market and be the saviour of the human race - or at least as we know it - if this were the case we should be exporting at least 107 million litres of bottled water today. The figures, which are the latest figures available, in 1998, the same year that there was approval for 107 million litres of water to be exported, the grand total that was exported by all of those who were permitted to export was 3,156,000 litres.

If there is this tremendous market out there, if everyone is clamoring to get our water, if it is so inexpensive to bring it down to the south of the border, the only question I must ask is: Why are we only exporting 3 million litres when in fact we have given private entrepreneurs out there approval to export 107 million litres? Something just does not add up in all of this. I suspect I’m not the only person in this hon. House who is privy to this information. I’m sure the members opposite know. They must have known what the royalty regimes were in B.C. They must have had some inkling of what dollars could be accruing to the provincial treasury, and if they did not they should have, because if they are not doing their research they are simply playing politics of the most baseless kind.

Let us debunk the whole notion that there is a market out there that we can sell all the water to that we can produce and bottle. It is not true. The facts prove and show quite clearly that that is not, in fact, the situation in North America today.

Mr. Speaker, the one statement that the hon. Member for St. John’s South started on, right from the very first day he raised this issue in this House, dealt with the implications for NAFTA, particularly the export of bulk water. That was a theme that was built upon, it was expanded upon, and we were led to believe that as soon as the first large container of water, whether that be 100 litres or a tanker load, went out of this Province, we would have entrepreneurs from the United States, and I presume Mexico as well because they are all partners in NAFTA, knocking on our doors, demanding that they also be given equal access to our water supplies. The big issue then becomes the implications of NAFTA.

Mr. Speaker, then a very peculiar thing started to happen. I say peculiar and I will expand upon that very briefly. The party opposite is the party of free trade. They are, on the provincial level, representatives of the federal party that forced the NAFTA agreement through the federal Parliament.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. MERCER: Well, they were all Tories.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Two parties over there.

 

MR. MERCER: Well, the larger of the two parties.

Was this party aware of the implications of the NAFTA agreement, the one that they so blindly followed when their leader in Ottawa at the time, Mr. Mulroney, was pushing this through the federal Parliament? I cannot speak for the party, and I certainly cannot speak for any of the members, but I do know one thing: one of the most vocal, most vociferous opponents of the free trade agreement, the one that gave our federal representative in the federal Cabinet, the hon. John Crosbie, the most fits, if you wish, was a lady by the name of Maude Barlow. She attacked free trade on every turn. She attacked the minister on every turn.

I find it, just in passing, ironic, that when this debate comes up to export bulk water from Newfoundland, who does the provincial Tory Party, as represented by the Member for St. John’s South, align itself with? They align themselves with Maude Barlow, the lady who was opposed to the Free Trade Agreement right from the get-go, who gave our federal representative in the federal Cabinet at the time, as he would perhaps admit himself, a lot of disquieting moments, shall we say. So, when the chips are down, what does the party opposite do? They align themselves with Maude Barlow.

Mr. Speaker, it is quite trite to say that politics makes strange bedfellows, but I think this relationship between the Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative Party and Maude Barlow lends new meaning to this phrase ‘politics makes strange bedfellows’. I would say it goes further. It goes to say that members opposite, or at least some members opposite, there is no level to which they would not stoop to gain the necessary political power and points to find a way to get across to become the governing side.

In short, Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that by aligning themselves with Maude Barlow, they have said to the Newfoundland population: There is no level to which we will not stoop, there is no bar under which we will not crawl, to be able to become part of the governing side.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to summarize by saying that I do congratulate the Member for St. John’s South of initiating a debate on the one hand, but on the other hand I do heartedly condemn him as a private Member in this House for many of the statements that were made this past summer, the innuendos, the half truths, and the leaving of impressions which he knew clearly to be false. I do have a lot of problems with that. It is not my style of politics, but clearly it is the style of politics of some members opposite.

Having said that, I just want to make one concluding comment to say that I noted with great interest, a couple of days ago when Bill 31 was introduced, that the Member for St. John’s South - both in the House and, frankly, outside, before the camera - said: Well, yes it was a pretty good Bill. I didn’t see any real problems with it. Maybe there were a couple of points on which he would like to see some clarification. That was it, a couple of points on which he wanted to see some clarification. That is on TV; anyone can see that. Hopefully, one day when we get the cameras in this House, all Newfoundland will be able to see those kinds of things.

That was on Friday of last week. On Sunday, in The Telegram, what does the member say? Oh well, we have consulted with our lawyers -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: In Toronto.

 

MR. MERCER: - in Toronto - not even a Newfoundland lawyer; although, he did make some reference that he had also talked to some of the local lawyers, but obviously there were not up to the quality of the -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: That was John Ottenheimer.

 

MR. MERCER: Quite possibly.

Now, the Member for St. John’s South has, in The Telegram of November 21,said that there are a couple of amendments he is going to put forward and we would do well on this side to approve them. At least that is the quotation in The Telegram.

Mr. Speaker, I sit back with baited breath. I am sure that the amendments which are being proposed are going to be earth-shattering. I am sure, when we get into Committee of the Whole, we will be able to discuss those amendments and give them all the serious consideration that they do deserve.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The Minister of Environment and Labour.

If the minister speaks now he will close debate.

 

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased today to have the final word on second reading of the bill, "An Act To Provide For The Conservation, Protection, Wise Use And Management Of The Water Resources Of The Province".

There is no doubt about it, that there has been a lot of interest generated in the Province about bulk water; however, because of the legislation, they are not going to be able to do that. It is my prayer and wish that there will be somebody with the initiative that will do a bottling industry in Grand Le Pierre for that particular group. I am sure that in time there will be some entrepreneur that will come forward and do that.

This new legislation does protect and conserve our fresh water resources and, as I said, prohibits the removal of water in bulk from the Province. We also support a growing bottling industry. As the Member for Humber East already said, there are a number of bottlers already in the Province and we look forward to working with them and people who want to develop even more industry.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I close debate and look forward to the amendments to be made in Committee.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Provide For The Conservation, Protection, Wise Use And Management Of The Water Resources Of The Province" read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 31)

 

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

 

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order 4, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Securities Act". (Bill 9)

My glasses were off, Mr. Speaker. I need a new pair too.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Securities Act". (Bill 9)

 

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

 

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Two very simple amendments to the Securities Act: One would ensure that we are making legally binding the rules that we have instructed the Director of Securities to issue. This amendment is required on the basis of a court case in Ontario, where we found that the rule that is provided by the Director of Securities is not a legally binding decision that could be made.

The second amendment is just to ensure that we can permit electronic filing of documents under the Securities Act, straightforward into the 1990s type of thing, that is all we need to do. Those are two very simple amendments and I am pleased to present the second reading on this amendment.

 

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

 

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the hon. minister, there are many things that are simple about that side of the House that I cannot refer to today, including sometimes the minister.

It is great to see the minister on his feet and get an opportunity to say a few words. I am glad that he brought in Bill 9. I was a bit worried that the minister didn’t talk, but now I know he does so that is great news.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to stand and make a few comments on Bill 9. When we talk anything about security, I say to the minister, it is always an important issue. We are moving into the new millennium, and the fact that we are going to organize the files electronically is certainly good news indeed. With today’s technology, we in Newfoundland and Labrador have to keep up with the rest of the country and indeed with the rest of the world, and it is an opportunity for us to do that.

A bill to amend the Securities Act is something that certainly gives credence to the fact that everybody’s information, whether it is of a private nature or a business nature, it needs to be keep in confidence and secure at all times. I guess this is what this bill will be bringing forward.

In the explanatory note, "This bill would amend the Securities Act to allow the Director of Securities, with the approval of the minister, to make legally binding rules for the purpose of the administration of the Act."

 

In most cases I would not agree with the minister having the say on approval of anything, but in this particular case where it is not going to knock down any walls or not going to be of major importance, I certainly have no problem in agreeing that the Director of Securities, with the approval of the minister, would be able to make legal, binding rules for the purpose of the administration of the Act.

The Bill also permits documents to be filed electronically and it is certainly, as I say, keeping up with today’s technology. There is nothing earth shattering in that also. The minister is not the type of earth shattering individual anyway. He is a pretty low key kind of fellow who gets the job done, I say to the Government House Leader, and maybe he should take a lesson from the Minister of Government Services and Lands a scattered time. Instead of ranting and raving all the time, just take it slow and easy and get the job done, like the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. MANNING: What is that again?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. MANNING: I have never seen the like of it in my time, never, never. I thought the days of the government of the 1960s were long gone, but here we are. All we did was turn six up by nine and repeat it all over again. We are right back in the 1960s again with government patronage.

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to get back to the bill but the Government House Leader - I ask for protection. Here I am, trying to make a few comments on the Bill, and the Government House Leader continues to barrage me with comments about patronage. It think it is unfair.

I want to get back to the bill and say that it is very important that we keep up with today’s technology. It is very important that our files be filed away electronically, for security reasons. It is very, very important that everything that any individual has within the government - a business has - that it is kept on a private case. I say that to keep it consistent with national security is front and foremost. I am glad that the minister has taken the initiative to make sure that the files within the bowels of the Confederation Building here are safe and secure. It is great to see the minister on his feet and bringing this Act forward.

I am always concerned about - I refer to section 144.1(b) (ii), "requirements for the regulation of conflicts of interest..." Conflict of interest is a very, very important issue, especially with that side of the House.

When I look at an issue that I raised here in the House today with conflicts of interest and patronage, I would say that we certainly need regulations on conflict of interest. We more than need regulations on conflict of interest. We need a full debate in this House on conflict of interest. When it comes to any government expenditures of any type, when it comes to spending money out of the public purse, a conflict of interest is alive and well.

I beg your pardon?

 

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

 

MR. MANNING: I say to the Government House Leader, don’t worry about that. I paddled my own canoe and I take it very seriously. The issues I raise in this House are very serious, I say to the Government House Leader. We are talking about spending over $500,000 on thirteen positions through no job interviews, no process, and it is a very important concern.

Certainly, as it relates to the Securities Act, when we talk about the regulations of conflict of interest, I hope that the minister is serious about that. I hope he is serious about making sure that the conflicts of interest are regulated because it is very important, and when I look across the House here today, that question certainly raises up.

With that, I say it is a very small piece of legislation that we have here before us today, something we can live with on this side of the House, I say to the minister. It is something that we can live with. There are no major problems with this Act. With the amendment to the Act, there are no major problems, I say to the Minister of Government Services and Lands. He has done a fine job on presenting this and we on this side of the House have no problem with supporting the amendment.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

If the minister speaks now, he will close debate.

 

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to close debate on second reading of this Bill 9. A few more comments in the Committee stage that we can deal with, but I close second reading of Bill 9.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Securities Act", read a second time, ordered referred to the Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 9)

 

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

 

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Revise The Administration Of Medical Care Insurance". (Bill 26)

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order number?

 

MR. TULK: Order 7, I think, on Friday’s Order Paper. I think it is the same thing.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Revise The Administration Of Medical Care Insurance." (Bill 26)

 

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

 

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

Just to give a little bit of a background to the proposed changes, the MCP Commission was created around the introduction of medicare in Canada in 1968-1969. Of course, this was a major shift towards medically insured services. It followed the hospital insurance program which was introduced in Canada in 1958. In the 1960s, the Department of Health administered a system of cottage hospitals through the Province as well as a number of other hospitals.

At that time, given the size and the role of the Department of Health, it was felt that this major new program, MCP, should have a separate governance structure in the form of a commission reporting to the Minister of Health.

In recent years, the role of my department has changed considerably. The department is not a direct service deliverer and no longer operates hospitals, medical practices or health and community services programs. As you know, these are now placed under regional boards which provide more local input and regional planning into our programs and services.

The new Department of Health and Community Services streamlines and integrates a number of functions that were previously operated separately, and now there is more focus on integration and coordination of government’s role in our health and community system. For example, community services of human resources and employment are now delivered with health services by our regional boards for improved coordination and service to the public. The governmental aspects of these programs have also been integrated under the Department of Health and Community Services.

So virtually all of the public consultation processes conveyed the integration, coordination message to government, without exception, and MCP is, in a sense, an arm of the Department of Health and Community Services that operates under a separate governance and administrative structure which reports to the Minister of Health and Community Services. In fact, MCP pays physicians’ bills, I guess to summarize it. We believe that because MCP’s work is so closely related to other parts of the department it should now be included as a part of the department which operates the counterpart hospital insurance program. The department pays hospital bills. Putting the two programs together makes good sense.

The Bill, we believe, would achieve this objective. The Bill would repeal and replace the current Newfoundland Medical Care Insurance Act. However, it does not make substantive changes in the MCP program or in its current legislation, and I think that is an important point to make.

The repeal and replacement bill is necessary because the references to the commission structure are contained throughout the current Newfoundland Medical Care Insurance Act. The Bill will remove references to the commission, and will bring the operational functions directly under the Department of Health and Community Services. The commission memberships have all expired over time, and staff will be integrated with departmental staff, and really this has been occurring.

The legislative changes will not effect the structure of the MCP programs or the services that it covers for the residents of the Province. I think this is also important to note. This is really about structuring administration as opposed to the process and the programming associated with that. The Bill will not change the rights of physicians under the medical care program, or how they deal with their patients. If the Bill is approved by this hon. House, some complementary regulatory changes will have to be made, and until this occurs the current regulations will remain in place.

The administrative changes this Bill makes are not new in Canada. A number of provinces do not have separate entities to operate their medical care programs. For example, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Yukon operate their medical plans through their health departments. What we would do through this change is entirely consistent with these other jurisdictions. The statutory and the administrative safeguards in terms of confidentiality of information will firmly remain in place. I would like to reiterate that. We will take care to insure that the statutory and the administrative safeguards with respect to confidentiality remain in place. These and the other provisions of the existing legislation are continued by the Bill.

In conclusion, this Bill allows us to achieve improved administrative and operational coordination between the medical program and other programs, including the companion hospital insurance program which the department has operated since 1958-1959. It makes our system consistent with seven other provinces and territories in our country. Finally, the Bill continues and maintains the existing safeguards on the confidentiality of information and does nothing at all to change the relationship between patients and their doctors, or the services that patients receive.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are a few particular areas there. I know the minister did not make reference to several particular clauses that have potential for concern there. I’m sure the minister will get a chance to address these in due course, but in particular sections 18 and 19, unless there is something I am not seeing there. Especially when we look at section 18, which first of all I want to touch on. That deals with levies. I would assume this is a new levy, a first time levy, I say to the minister, that is now being put upon the insurer that is not currently there now. Would I be correct in drawing this conclusion, I ask the minister?

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. Okay.

What it talks about here in particular, in clause 18(3), is this:

"The minister shall impose a levy to be paid by every licensed motor vehicle insurer with respect to each vehicle insured by that insurer for the purpose of recovering insured services incurred by insured persons as a result of personal injury or disability where the injury or disability was caused by, or contributed to by, or results from, motor vehicle accidents."

In other words, there is going to be a levy put on it. That levy is going to be based upon basically - and the rate, it looks at it by looking at what is called "earned vehicles." Now, "earned vehicles" is, it says in 18(2)(a), "the aggregate exposure, in car years, for automobile liability coverage derived from all statistical experience reported and accepted by the Superintendent of Insurance under all types..."

In other words, it is going to allow the minister to impose a levy to be paid by every licensed vehicle insured for recovering insured services in that. That is one that I am not aware - I know we brought in here, back (inaudible) just a little administration fee on insurance for people who do not have insurance. I think it was about an $11 policy fee thing which is certainly separate from the medical recovery part.

In clause 19 that possibly could have widespread implications. Clause 19 deals with recovery of costs for services. This is certainly interesting, some of these clauses here. It is not just taking responsibility in some of these, because I am not aware of any of these being present now. Not just taking the Medical Care Insurance Act and putting it under the department, I think basically is what the minister said, to be operated out of the department rather than under a separate MCP body like in other provinces.

I am just going to read a couple of aspects of these, and I am sure the minister will comment when she gets an opportunity. In clause 19(1) it says:

"This section applies where insured services are provided to an injured or disabled person, in this section referred to as the `insured person’, with respect to an injury or disability where the injury or disability was caused by, or contributed to by, or results from an occurrence other than a motor vehicle accident in which the person, whose fault, negligence or other wrongful act..."

I say to the minister, it says "...other than a motor vehicle accident..." Minister, what happens if I, as an individual, contributes to my own lack of health by being a heavy smoker? I have contributed to my own health by something other than a motor vehicle accident. Am I expected to pick up medical costs incurred by a hospital because that occurred by other than a motor vehicle accident? It said: "...in which the person, whose fault, negligence or other wrongful act or omission caused, contributed to or resulted in the injury or disability, in this section..." What happens if I punch somebody, broke a bone, or injured somebody in sports or just here in the House of Assembly. There have been some attempt at assaults in the past. If someone got injured just in a fistfight and went to the hospital, would this give the authorization to recover those costs from that individual who caused that, other than a motor vehicle accident?

There is a provision that covers motor vehicle accidents too. So I am saying, is this an extra method now where injuries occurred - more like a collection agency now, to go back and collect from people those costs? The minister must have briefing notes on clause 19 because that is a major concern I have here, unless I can see some background, maybe briefing notes, as to what the rationale was for putting it there. It was not referred to in your introduction, I say to the minister.

It goes on to say in clause 19(2):

"An insured person who receives insured services in respect of an injury or disability caused or contributed to by or resulting from the fault, negligence or other wrongful act or omission of a tortfeasor has the same right to recover the cost of those insured services from the tortfeasor as he or she would have had if the person had himself or herself been required to pay for the services."

It also makes reference, I say to the minister, to if the individual does not pursue liability to collect costs. For example, if you are the cause of an accident, someone goes to hospital and is injured, that person does not move to collect insurance. The minister now can move, in that person’s absence to move, and can initiate a suit , can take legal action on behalf of that individual, and recover the cost back to the government, back to the department, back to the minister, if that person does not initiate a suit to recover those costs.

What we have now, Minister, is a health care system in this country right now - in spite of what the minister says - we have a grand, publicly-funded health care system. We have seen, in the last several years, under the current federal government, a movement from 25 per cent of health care in Canada which was privately funded to 30 per cent, almost one-third now. Almost one-third of health care in Canada now is paid out of private insurance.

I want to ask the minister: Is this a move now to drive health care certainly more from a public domain into where increasing numbers are going to be collected now from private insurers, from individuals?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I am asking a serious question, Minister, a very serious question. I would like to know, and you, as minister, did not address it in introducing this bill. I would like to have an answer, and we certainly hope to get an answer before we get through this Bill here because it is important.

Anybody here in this House of Assembly who causes an injury to another person, right now, possibly - and I would like to hear an explanation - may be responsible to pay their hospital bills. They could be in for two weeks. They could pay their room, the medical costs, the operation, the surgery. If you hit somebody or push somebody out on the steps here and they fell down and broke an arm, they were injured and got a concussion, had to spend time in hospital, if they do not acknowledge, does government now have the right to move on their behalf?

There are some serious questions that were not addressed. This is more than a cosmetic change, I see. I am certainly going to be looking closer at the bill. I had an opportunity to go through it in reasonable detail, but far from the fine tooth comb that we are going to do over the next two or three days or so. It is difficult to digest all the bills we had tossed on us last week, but at least I had hoped to hear some explanation there.

It goes on further to say, in section 19.(3), that, "An insured person who, under subsection (1), recovers from another person the whole or a part of the cost of insured services shall, on recovery from that other person, pay to the minister the amount recovered and the minister may, if the amount so recovered is not paid to it within a reasonable time...."

In other words, if I sued the Member for Cape St. Francis and I recovered costs, then the Health Care Corporation - I would have to pay to the minister, if I had to be in hospital, or he had to be in as a result, whoever, the one initiating the action and being responsible would then pay to the hospital those particular costs for the operation, the surgery, the daily fees, the room fees, and the whole total cost in its totality for that service. In other words, medicare is now going to shift those costs from what is currently being done now onto the individual.

The minister, when she left her seat earlier there, probably to pick up something - I want to say I made a statement and she made some reference to PCs. It is a serious question. We have moved now to almost one-third of every single dollar in our health care system now in this country paid by private means, by individuals, out of their pockets. Whether it is through premiums on insurance who pick it up, the premiums are paid by individuals and the companies make profits on these. If they find out that they are not covering the cost they up the premiums; so it is privately funded, almost one-third of our health care system in the country today. This is an avenue now to take responsibilities from MCP, we will say, to shift them back into individual pockets again.

That was in the first three clauses. Under section 19.(5), "The rights conferred upon the minister by subsection (4) shall not be considered to restrict other rights of recovery of the insured person in respect of the injury or disability referred to in subsection (1) for loss or damage not the subject of insured services ..."

In other words, are we saying the rights given to the minister now shall not be considered as strict rights other than insured services, even if it is not insured? If it is not insured and I end up putting him in hospital, he has costs incurred, and he is in there for two weeks at $795 a day or $800 a day for fourteen days - $11,000 to $12,000 plus medical associated costs, $20,000 - I will have to pay for putting him in hospital, too, if I do not have that insurance to cover that.

If it is in an accident or if it is not in an accident, it specifies both. One is in a motor vehicle accident that certain insurance costs are covered and you collect from the insurance company. Today, most people here working with government have insurance that picks up whatever it is - 80 per cent, I think - of the particular cost. Automobile accidents are picked up, workers compensation will pick up costs, the Armed Forces, RCMP and other uniformed forces are picked up, and it comes back to our health care system to recover those costs. So, there are some very, very important parts in this Bill that did not get mentioned at all.

It goes on in clause (6) again, one of particular interest - I am not going to read it or go through it - "...not a defense to an action brought by the minister under subsection (4) that a claim for damages has been adjudicated upon...".

Further down, they are saying under clause (10), "A liability insurer shall pay to the minister an amount referable to a claim for recovery of the cost of insured services that would otherwise be payable to an insured person and payment of that amount to the minister discharges the liability of the insurer to pay that amount to the insured person or to a person claiming under or on behalf of the insured person."

Basically, what this is doing is, it is saying now that we are going to go to every single means we have to collect, even personally. What happens if kids are out playing on a playground and one pushes another off one of the pieces of equipment there? Is that individual or their family liable for the costs associated with that, if that person is in hospital for a day or two days, and all the related costs?

There are some of the things being pursued. Thirty-three per cent now, almost, or almost one-third of the costs are being recovered from some sources. Are we going to pursue and collect under those sources?

There are some parts of this that I do not see at first glance as having any serious repercussions, but there is one there in section 3.(1) that it makes reference to also. "A person employed in the administration of this Act shall preserve secrecy with respect to all matters..." Well, we don’t have a problem with that. It goes on to look at the penalty. While the penalty does not seem to be very severe for revealing secrecy and so on, it says, under 3.(3), "A person who contravenes subsection (2) is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $100..." It doesn’t seem to be a very severe penalty for anybody who violates secrecy in releasing information and so on that may be available within a medical association or dental association. That is quite important.

There is a fair amount in sections18 and 19. I made reference in section 18 a little while ago. I was asking the minister, and I did not hear it referenced there, that we have a new levy now, we have a new tax. There is a new tax just instituted, or going to be instituted, a new tax on health, a new health tax, and at the same time we will be burdened with health and post-secondary education tax, the payroll tax. We have a new tax now, a levy now on the health of individuals in our Province.

If the minister has another explanation, I would be delighted to give leave to hear from her now because I think they are important, and I would like to hear now. I would like to give her leave to answer some of those questions, if she could, because she did not address them and avoided those clauses in her introduction.

Would the minister like to have leave to address those particular questions?

 

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

 

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

I am keeping a running list of the all of the commentary and I will answer them in whole when I get the whole list and come back to him. Perhaps in Committee you might even have some more, so I am all ears.

 

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is all I want to ask at this time to her. If she could answer them, I will give her leave now before we have some others, because -

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Pardon?

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Okay, she does not want leave to answer. If that is the case -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

 

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

I do not need the member opposite to interpret what I said. I did say, for the record again, that I am keeping a running commentary on all the points he is making, and I will only be too happy to answer them in conclusion when we come back to Committee.

 

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will be only too happy to move an amendment now, because I am not satisfied to hear them in conclusion when the Bill is dealt with. I move the following amendment:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word ‘that’ and substituting the following: THEREFORE, Bill 26, "An Act To Revise The Administration Of Medical Care Insurance" be not read now a second time, but that the order be discharged, the bill withdrawn, and the subject matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Social Services.

This will give us an opportunity that we did not have today when the bill was introduced to explain the clauses and to avoid almost every clause in the bill. I expected here to have an explanation of clauses that are significant, imposing levies on health, causing individuals to have to recover and recoup privately, and to drive private insurance even higher now and to drive the cost of medical service.

Mr. Speaker, if the explanation was satisfactory it would not be necessary, but I think we need to look at this in more detailed form and to look at it in a committee. Who can refute going to a committee? If we hear submissions, somebody might was to put forth proposals to look at the implications of a bill here that is far more than shifting the operation of MCP in under the umbrella of the Department of Health. It seems to be far more than that to me. If there are experts out there, people who want to submit, I would like to hear from them, rather than have to rush something through.

I stood and opposed on Thursday rushing through a bill on banning export of water -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SULLIVAN: No, there are no notes. I have no notes. You are welcome to come over and look. You can come over and take whatever is on my desk and have a look. That is a copy I -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SULLIVAN: I can see him with it off and I can see you with them on. Between on and off I have all the bases covered, I say to the member.

What is wrong, I say to the minister? I would expect the minister to stand and support that, to get more information, more input. It is the same reason I stood Thursday in this House and said I did not agree with wrapping it up lock, stock, and barrel. The NDP wanted to do it, the Premier wanted to do it. They wanted to run this banning export of water through -

 

MR. SPEAKER (Snow):Order, please!

Before the member continues, I just want to say that I just had an opportunity to look at this amendment. The amendment is in order, so we are now debating the amendment.

 

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

Is there a seconder for the motion?

 

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. Seconded by the hon. the Leader of the Opposition. Unless the Minister of Finance wants to second that. I would certainly give (inaudible).

 

 

MR. DICKS: (Inaudible) point of order, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

 

MR. DICKS: I’m looking forward with great delight to the debate that will ensue.

 

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thought he might be in a good mood today now that our credit rating is up. We can borrow cheaper, we have an extra bit of money, and we might not need to be doing this levy.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the hon. the Minister of Finance.

 

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, our credit rating might be up, but we cannot afford the House Leader opposite.

 

MR. SPEAKER: No point of order.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

 

MR. SULLIVAN: There are avenues, I tell you. You are going to have to talk to the gentleman to my left on that one.

 

MR. E. BYRNE: He is watching too many episodes of This Hour Has 22 Minutes. I would not quit his day job if I were him. Would you?

 

MR. SULLIVAN: No, not at all. In fact, I know he is delighted when we go out to the market to borrow some money now and we get that little extra margin there. That can mount into hundreds of thousands of dollars that we could have. We do not need to be levying people then. We do not need to have a new tax coming in at the same time we are talking about eliminating post-secondary tax (inaudible), payroll tax. We are talking about a new levy, a new tax now, on the health of people in our Province, trying to get more private. The minister stands and tells us that we have a grand public system of health care. We do not have equal access to a heath care system here; we have ten-tier health care system, one for every province in this country. You only have to go across the country to see this.

I see an opportunity to go to committee, to look at this, to receive input, to gather information that I did not get here today that I had hoped to get, to be honest with you, in the introduction to this particular bill. I don’t know whether it was avoided for appropriate reasons. Maybe the minister wants to share her briefing notes, if she has any, on section 18 and 19. We would be delighted to hear them because I’m looking forward to getting more information on these. Because I interpreted certain areas there, or do not have sufficient information, to indicate on these as to what happens - now this could be the extreme end of it - if I smoke heavily and end up with lung cancer. Am I responsible, according to this Act? You might say no. That is one extreme. Am I responsible for the medical costs associated with dealing with my condition that was caused by my fault, negligence, wrongful act, or an omission? Am I now responsible for it? Am I responsible for the Member for Twillingate & Fogo if I trip him going down over the steps, he breaks his leg, and he goes into the hospital for a week? Am I responsible for the medical costs associated with that according to this Act?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) tripped me (inaudible).

 

MR. SULLIVAN: That is the question I am asking. Is that what you are saying?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, well, there you go. I’m asking for an explanation of that. Is the minister saying that is what is in the Act?

I’m sure, Mr. Speaker, that there are numerous specific areas here of concern, while granted, I see some of those clauses as being pretty routine. I cannot see why anyone would not want to sit around in the committee and deal with bills. Because a lot of bills that are in detail, we have seen here in this House before that many bills have gone through here and we are back doing amendments and changes to these because they have gone through quickly. I have seen it happen in dozens of different bills here where we are back to make the correction. To look at some (inaudible) in detail to there. I assume the minister is scrapping the operation of a separate MCP board. Is that what the minister is indicating, and it is going to come under the operation of the Department of Health? Is that what she is doing, what she said earlier? We wouldn’t dare have those things in the Department of Health. We should have these things out under a board.

I guess she is starting to see, right now, when you have an appointed board, it is just as well to have them in the Department of Health. Somebody said that before, I am sure. Somebody on this side of the House said that before.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) twenty minutes now. How much time do you have?

 

MR. SULLIVAN: I had thirty on the amendment, and there is thirty on the original one, which is - well, I am into the amendment now.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: You are going to talk for another half hour?

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, we do not have that long today but if you can bear with me I will do my best to entertain you. I know I have - my colleagues here want to get up too.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: You wanted to talk for a full half hour?

 

MR. SULLIVAN: No.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Plan B, you could move adjournment.

 

MR. SULLIVAN: We could do that. I could move adjournment; yes, I can.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SULLIVAN: No, we are not going to do that. I got my crack at him there at his roast. Actually, I indicated at his roast, I used an expression that the former House Leader over there - the former House Leader before this one, Ed Roberts, said, when he was standing up here one day going for - he must have gone on for hours - he looked over and said: Isn’t that the prefect cure for insomnia? I remember that one. I knew I would get a chance to use it sooner or later.

Now the former Government House Leader did occasionally come up with something that was a bit witty. It was mostly 99 per cent insulting, but he did have 1 per cent that might be a little bit witty on times.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, bad as he was, he managed to reveal the truth on occasion.

I am sure my colleagues and members on the government side are not going to try to throw any roadblocks into allowing people out there in the public, and allowing people to make representation to a committee here to look at exactly what this new bill is, what this new tax is. Is this a tax to replace the health and post-secondary education tax, this levy? It is going to be based upon what is called earned vehicles. That is what the tax is going to be based on. An "earned vehicle" is described in Section 18.(1)(a) as "...the aggregate exposure, in car years, for automobile liability coverage derived from all statistical experience reported and accepted by the Superintendent of Insurance under all types of business other than type 3, miscellaneous and fleets on an earnings, receipts or payroll basis, for those vehicle types exhibited annually in the Actual Loss Ratio Exhibits covering the general categories of private passenger, farmers, commercial, motor cycles, snow vehicles and interurban trucks; and...." It goes on and on there, so that is going to be a whole new hidden tax, a whole new tax.

Then they are going to tell us - the minister who does not want to see us lose our grandiose system, believes we have a one-level, one-tier system here in our Province when we do not. When we have waiting lists getting so long, I say to the minister, that people cannot get the service they need, they are resorting - thank God they have some insurance, I say.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Workers compensation and numerous others, would they pay? They get more rapid access to service if they can pay. That is not an equal service for all, I can say to the minister.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Where is that?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. In fact, I dealt with a lady just a few weeks ago, a constituent who got a bill, unbeknownst, for a room. They had no room on the regular ward so they put her into a private room and never indicated to her up front at all, okay you will be paying. They just said to her husband: Do you have insurance? They put her in this room and they sent a bill. There were no rooms available and the doctor said: You should not go home; I will get a room for you. That is all she knew, and went in and checked and got a bill.

I said: If there are no rooms available there you should not have to pay. Sure enough, she did not have to pay, or we hope she did not have to pay. I don’t know what the final result is, but where they cannot provide a room for you when you have to be admitted, you should not have to pay the cost, if it is 20 per cent or whatever it is. If you request it and you want to have it, yes, the insurance cost then, that is your choice in that. That is the way it should be, and I agree with that, if you request it and it is a choice that you make on those extra costs, but not when you have to be admitted, your specialist says he wants you to be admitted, and they just find out you have insurance and send you the bill, hoping to collect the money on it. That is not the route to go.

We are getting into a system that is far from the grandiose system the minister talks about, of how proud she is of her public system here, how proud she is really, she should say, of a ten-tiered system, how we have a different tiered system here than elsewhere. We have some extremely long waiting lists. We have people who cannot ever hope to get surgery until it becomes an emergency. We have people who cannot get surgery until they become an emergency. We have people who cannot get to see a specialist in rheumatology, that sub-speciality area. We cannot get to see - people have to wait for years, and people cannot even get assessed.

A person called me yesterday. I called back two or three times, trying to reach them, but I got no answer there. They called Friday. I called them back several times over the weekend and could not reach them. There was a note left with my secretary. In a part of this Province, a fairly large area, numerous doctors, a city in this Province, and cannot get to see a doctor. They are not taking on any new patients. This person is handicapped, disabled, has concerns, medical problems, and they cannot get any doctor to take them on.

Not only that, but also get a doctor on an area where it is wheelchair accessible for the disabled. That is another question. They are concerns we are seeing every single day in health care. I get a dozen calls a day on health care matters, along with numerous letters. I get copied on many of the ones going to the minister.

 

MR. H. HODDER: Adjourn debate.

 

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I do not think I will do that. The Member for Waterford Valley is just trying to get back at me now for all the good things I said about him at his thirty years in politics in that packed house. They were knocking down the doors, I might add, in Waterford Valley to get in. They had to limit it, didn’t they?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

 

MR. SULLIVAN: They had a full house anyway, we know that. Even if he did buy up half the tickets himself, we still had a full house. Nobody could get in.

I think it is important that the minister refused. I asked her. I said she could have leave to answer some of my questions. I did not want this to go beyond second reading of the bill without answers to some questions. She refused to give answers. I had no choice but to allow an opportunity for the proper discussion and the proper input into this particular bill to be able to occur in committee, where a fair number of bills probably should go. They should screen them though the committees. Some would move very quickly, some may need to be looked at a bit more.

I met with legislators in different parts of the country at numerous parliamentary conferences. For example, I was told in Quebec that you must have the legislation thirty days beforehand. They have a legislative calendar, a legislative agenda, and legislation must be known so you can properly look at it.

Still, here we were in this House on Thursday, Question Period was over, and after Question Period they came over and passed out a bill to limit bulk water. The Premier jumps up and says: Let’s do it right now and get it over with. I said: No, we want to examine that. We are delighted we did. We are delighted the leading expert on our export of water, the Member for St. John’s South - that is even acknowledged, I think, by the Minister of Mines and Energy, who even acknowledges him as one of the leading experts. He had in a member of his expert team to look at particular aspects because it is very important. It is an initiative to look at legislation so that we do not make a mistake. In this case, the water export is one that could have serious repercussions on the export of water right across this entire country. This was one. All legislation, fortunately, does not have the same widespread repercussions, but still they can cause a lot of concerns and a lot of problems and we have to keep revisiting.

I have seen much legislation have to be revisited here because the appropriate job was not done. All we asked for today was a satisfactory explanation of those clauses by the minister and the minister would not provide it. She refused to give an explanation. I do not know if she has it in her briefing notes or not. If she has, some ministers are very generous. They give us the briefing notes so we can look at them and say: That makes sense. We will check this out, we will approve that, and let’s move on, so that we do not delay things in the House. Or else they do not have any briefing notes and want to try to smoke one through the House on this one that we did not get to see. Whether that is the rationale I do not know, but at least we should have an opportunity to able to discuss this, deal with it in committee here, and to have some input by people into this particular Bill so we can see exactly the ramification it is going to have for people who are the cause of injuries to themselves or to others, and what right does the government have to force them to pay. That is a very fundamental question.

If you injure somebody, if you do damage to your system, whether smoking or whatever, and incur costs to our medical system, does the government have the right to recover all costs from you? It comes down, in many cases, to a judgment, but in many of these cases it can be a very fundamental question of access to it. Then our ten-tier system becomes maybe a twenty-tier or a fifty-tier system because we are not looking at equal access. I do not advocate that we should be able to go out - and maybe there is a certain responsibility. Someone has to be responsible for their actions, but it can be pursued in civil suits on some of these things. If they recover under a civil suit, what happens in this case?

I will use one example before I adjourn debate. What happens if the Member for Bay of Islands uses his boxing skills and puts a member over here in hospital? If, for instance, the hospital bills are incurred because you were the instigator and caused the damage, if I do not take action against you on liability, government can on my behalf go after you and recover costs and recover it back to the minister in the health care system.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SULLIVAN: We can go on all night. There is no need to go home too early. Sit back and put up your feet. It is just beginning.

There are some of things we did not get answered. The minister would not answer. I’m sure you are eager to get out of here today. With the Government House Leader or the Acting Government House Leader, or the acting-acting Government House Leader here now, I will adjourn debate so we can continue this very informed discussion here tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. DICKS: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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

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