November 24, 1999 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS Vol. XLIV No. 38


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we get to the routine proceedings, the Chair would like to welcome to the gallery today fifty-one Grade VI students from St. Andrew’s Elementary School, in the District of St. John’s North. They are accompanied by their teachers, Kerry Norberg and Janet Cadigan, and parent chaperones, Donna Power and Wade Worthman.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of privilege, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today on a point of privilege with respect to actions in the House Monday by the Minister of Health and Community Services. In view of information that came to light on Monday, and as recently as last night, I believe the minister’s actions on Monday constitute a serious violation of my privileges as a member of this House.

First, let me put the matter in context. Last week, in response to concerns raised by the Opposition in the news media regarding the dangerous levels of cancer-causing trihalomethanes in many municipal water supplies around the Province, the government took two actions to allay public fears.

Firstly, on Friday they brought before the news media two officials of the health department, Dr. Minnie Wasmeier and Dr. Catherine Donovan, both of whom provided public health information that was subsequently issued by the department as a written news release.

Secondly, on Saturday, the government published in the newspapers an advertisement containing public health information. On Monday morning CBC Radio broadcast an interview with a Health Canada official, Dr. Barry Thomas, stating that the information provided to the public by doctors working with the minister’s department and information contained in the newspaper advertisements was, in fact, outdated and wrong.

Doctor Wasmeier herself has since admitted the information was outdated and wrong. In apologizing to the people of the Province through CBC television’s Here and Now program on Tuesday, she stated, and I quote: My mistake is, usually I call Health Canada. I looked at all the data, did not call Health Canada, and that was my mistake.

Yet, just hours after the people of the Province had heard the CBC Radio news story and Dr. Thomas’ own voice stating that the advertisement contained wrong information and that the department’s doctors had provided wrong information, the Minister of Health and Community Services stood in this House, in response to my question, and gave the following answer - and I quote, "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."

We now know that the Health Canada officials did not say the information provided by the physicians was absolutely correct. In fact, they said the opposite. We now know that they did not say the information in the advertisement was, in fact, accurate. In fact, they said the opposite. We also know that they discounted the information publicly and that they did so prior to the minister standing in the House on Monday and stating otherwise. The only conclusion any rational person can come to, based on the evidence, is that the minister provided information here in this Chamber that she knew at the time was wrong and that the people of the Province now realize she knew at the time to be wrong. She colored the statements of Health Canada officials regarding critical public health information in a way that was not only misleading but absolutely inaccurate.

This Chamber, the Parliament of the Province, cannot function properly and we, as members, cannot do our job, except in an environment of honesty and integrity.

The minister, through her actions on Monday, has undermined the integrity of her office as minister and has comprised our ability as members to serve the people we were elected to serve by providing them with honest, accurate, public health information.

I am asking that the Speaker find the minister has breached my privilege as a member, and I ask that the House make the appropriate motion for action to reprimand the minister for her action. I will table a copy of those statements and transcripts accompanying this particular statement.

 

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

 

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, if there has been a breach of the privileges of this House, I say to the hon. gentleman that he has just committed it -

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. TULK: - by using what is one of the most fundamental laws of a Legislature or a Parliament, to carry on a debate that has been carried on in this House under Question Period, and an attempt to draw attention to that debate using a point of privilege.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell the hon. gentleman that what he is talking about here, and the question -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. gentleman that I listened to him and I would ask him to do the same thing.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. TULK: The Speaker will decide -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: A point of order (inaudible).

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me tell the hon. gentleman that I am on a point of order.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible). He is on a point of privilege.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is speaking to the point of privilege.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: You can’t get up on a point of order. How stupid are you?

 

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman knows that what you just ruled is correct, that you cannot rise on a point of order when there is a point of privilege being disputed in this House.

Mr. Speaker, let me refer the hon. gentleman, for the sake of clarity, for him, to 31 of Beauchesne. I do this only to point out - because I know that the Speaker will not allow the point of privilege. I feel that he cannot, and the hon. gentleman know it too. You cannot stand in this House and, under a point of privilege, question the honesty and integrity of ministers or any other member of this House. That is exactly what the hon. gentleman has done here.

Let me say to him that under 31(1), it reads: "A dispute arising between two Members, as to allegations of facts, does not fulfil the conditions of parliamentary privilege." One of the first rules that the hon. gentleman knows, as the Opposition House Leader, that we abide by. Under 31(3), it reads: "Statements made outside the House by a Member may not be used as the basis for a question of privilege." That is fundamental. Under 31(2), it reads, "The failure of a Minister to answer a question may not be raised as a question of privilege."

Let me say to you, Mr. Speaker - and I know I do not have to tell you what the ruling should be here; he will make his own rule - but let me say to the hon. gentleman that the question of privilege in this House is one of the most fundamental rules, as his leader knows, of this House. It is a means whereby we all ensure that our own actions are protected.

Let me say to him that what he has done here today in my opinion, and I am entitled to it, I say to the hon. gentleman, is really a breach of the privileges of this House itself, by attempting to use one of the most fundamental and sacred tenets of a parliament, to stand in this House and use the integrity of this House to try to bring attention to what is a very serious issue. The Minister of Health has addressed it adequately, and gone beyond addressing it adequately. She has done yeoman’s service. What the hon. gentleman has done today is use his right to raise a point of privilege to bring to the attention of this House something that really belongs, as he knows very well, to Question Period and to debate in this House.

Mr. Speaker, this is no point of privilege unless it has broken by the hon. gentleman on the other side.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair will take the point raised under advisement.

 

Statements by Ministers

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

 

MS KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to take this opportunity today to update my hon. colleagues on one of the projects that my department has been working on over the last few years. This project relates to the Canadian Industrial and Regional Benefits Program, or IRBs, an Industry Canada initiative which is delivered by ACOA in this region.

The IRB’s focus is on major government procurements which are primarily in the aerospace and defence sectors. Although price and technical capability are always primary considerations, major contractors submit a Regional Benefits package, which is also a key factor when the federal government awards contracts. The purpose of this is to ensure that all regions of the country will benefit from subcontracting opportunities on major Crown projects.

My department works with our federal partners, and the companies, to lobby on behalf of our provincial firms so that they will benefit from these major contracts.

Our aerospace and defence sector is growing, and there are significant opportunities for Newfoundland and Labrador companies to do this work.

Several week ago, my department organized a seminar on the IRB process, and invited representatives from Industry Canada and ACOA to explain how the program works. Almost twenty companies from regions across Newfoundland and Labrador participated in this information and interactive session.

If my hon. colleagues are aware of any defence and aerospace firms in their respective districts that did not attend this seminar, I would like to ask you to encourage them to contact my department so that they can take advantage of this opportunity.

Through the work of my department, we have already had a number of companies benefit from the IRB Program. One of these is in my own District of Gander. Newfoundland Bonding and Composites was awarded the contract from Team Cormorant for work on the Department of National Defence Search and Rescue Helicopters Program.

In addition, over these past few years, NewTech Instruments Ltd. has been doing console work on light terrain vehicles for DND. This came as a direct result of an IRB opportunity with the Diesel Division of General Motors of Canada.

Last month, through another IRB opportunity, Lockheed Martin Undersea Systems awarded a $2.9 million contract to Northstar Technical Inc. The contract is for the fabrication and testing of fire control consoles for the VICTORIA class submarines that were recently purchased by the Department of National Defence.

Mr. Speaker, these contracts will have significant benefits for our Province, and for our economy. It is important that we work with our federal partners, and the private sector, to ensure that more benefits are accrued to our Province through major government procurement projects.

My department will continue with these efforts. As a matter of fact, it will be a priority in the upcoming months, and we will continue to ensure that the maximum benefits of these and other projects go to the people of our Province.

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement, and to say to the minister that any time through any level of government, whether provincial or federal, that we can access government programs to the benefit of this Province, that is what we should be doing.

The only thing I would like to say to this statement, minister, was that I would encourage you and your department to work hard towards making sure that Newfoundland and Labrador gets as much federal benefits for work in this Province as we can achieve. So I welcome this today, and I ask you to continue to work hard to ensure that we get even more from our federal cousins in Ottawa.

Thank you.

 

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are delighted to see Newfoundland companies get contracts from federal government work, but I would invite the minister to outline to this House, at an early occasion, the percentage of federal government contracts, whether it be defence and aerospace, shipbuilding or other work, that actually come to this Province. It is all very well to say we are getting some work but if you look at the kind of defence spending that goes on in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, what comes to this Province is a very small amount indeed. I would ask the minister to show us the dichotomy between that and outline the way she plans to do something about it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last December, as a key component of its education reform agenda, government announced a major new school capital construction program valued at $75 million. Today I would like to take the opportunity to update members on the larger school construction projects, those valued at over $1 million.

Twenty-four projects around the Province, excluding those for the Avalon East School Board, received funding under this initiative. Of these projects, five have been completed. They are: Peninsula High School in Picadilly, Greenwood High in Campelton, Dunne Memorial Academy in St. Mary’s, and new all grade schools in Hopedale and Rigolet.

An additional four projects are at least 95 per cent complete. These include Jens Haven Memorial in Nain, Bayview Heights Academy in Gambo and new all grade schools for Buchans and White Bay.

The completion dates for the remainder of the projects vary over the next several years, with the final projects scheduled to be fully operational by January 2002. Work on these projects includes renovations and the construction of new facilities and extensions.

Of the $75 million announced in December, $15 million was allocated for restructuring projects for the Avalon East School Board. Twenty-seven of these schools were identified to receive renovations, ranging from minor alterations to major repairs and extensions.

Mr. Speaker, work was done over the summer at thirteen of these schools. That work was substantially competed on time and on budget for the beginning of the school year.

Mr. Speaker, the expected cash flow for all of these projects for 1999-2000 is approximately $26 million. I know I speak for my colleague, the hon. Judy Foot, Minister of Education, when I say that this is a significant investment by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador in our children and our children’s future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, again a thank you to the minister for providing us with a copy before meeting here today.

Again, good news, but be it very, very old news.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HEDDERSON: Last December, this was announced. We are talking about progress, and to follow through on that commitment we have five projects complete, four in the works, and fifteen not even started, at a time when we need buildings. Again, I say to the minister that we need to make sure that if the commitment is there, that we follow through and get it done as quickly as possible.

As well, the minister can erect the buildings but again I say to this government, if you are erecting buildings, what you do inside is more important. We need to make sure that not only do you action the buildings, but also the program that goes on inside.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We in this Party are pleased with the allocation of $75 million, and pleased with the fact that the vast majority of these funds are being spent in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. However, we do see that in the next round of capital commitments for schools there is a need in the Avalon East district which does, after all, have one-third of the students of the Province.

We see a capital need in St. John’s West to ensure there is a high school there. We see a need in my District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi for school construction in Virginian Park, Mr. Speaker, and other needs have to be met.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. HARRIS: We look forward to new announcements for new capital spending by this government.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. K. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to advise the House of Assembly of an initiative currently underway with our Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods which could have substantial environmental and economic benefits for the Province. Our department is currently examining the feasibility of establishing a multi-million dollar de-inking facility in the Province. This examination is being spearheaded by our department with the pulp and paper industry, both Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and Abitibi Consolidated.

A de-inking facility uses a process of taking waste paper which has its printing ink removed through a variety of processes. The result is a pulped product which can be utilized in the paper making process, thereby reducing the pressure on our forest resources. The use of this technology is common throughout the world and there are currently twenty-three plants in Canada. Of the Canadian plants, four produce de-inked pulp exclusively for sale on the open market.

Mr. Speaker, with continued timber shortages and more environmentally-driven legislation requiring recycled content in paper, it seems clear that de-inking capacity should be seriously considered. Some studies even suggest that there is a net social benefit in employment and environmental preservation related to recycling paper in a de-inking plant.

Mr. Speaker, while it is clear that the technology exists to create and utilize de-inking capacity, a number of important questions remain regarding the viability of a de-inked pulp in Newfoundland and Labrador. Representatives of our department and the pulp and paper industry are presently in Europe researching and assessing the de-inking facilities in the European market. The objective of this visit is to begin to address the following issues:

The cost of a pulp mill capable of supplying any substantial quantity of de-inked pulp will be considerable. Some estimates are as high as $60 million to $70 million for the capital construction. We need to get a clearer understanding of what those costs are.

Confirmation also that de-inking pulp can be produced in the Province at a cost of which the Province’s three existing paper mills can afford.

A clear understanding of current markets for waste paper to identify the supplies of waste paper required for the operation of the plant.

Mr. Speaker, the Allowable Annual Cut for the Island is about 2,050,000 cubic meters. The present demand for fibre, on the Island portion of the Province, is about 300,000 to 400,000 cubic meters in excess of this supply. The wood supply issue is very important to the sustainability and growth of our forest industry. The Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods will continue to work with the industry to find new and innovative ways to address the supply deficit. A de-inking plant would not only assist in addressing the current wood supply situation but could also provide for further growth in the forestry sector, in particular the sawmill sector.

We are optimistic, as we do this evaluation, that this may be an opportunity for us in this Province.

 

Thank you very much.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to thank the minister for forwarding a copy of his statement.

The initiative is certainly a good initiative. I think it is about time that we took this initiative to relieve some of the pressure on our forest resources. I believe that by doing this, it will alleviate a lot of the problems in our landfill sites in Newfoundland and Labrador. We all know the amount of paper products being disposed of in our landfills.

I think this should be a condition of operation of any company in our Province today that is producing paper. There should be a condition that we should have a policy in place to have a de-inking process in their daily operations in their paper mills.

I think the timber shortage in Newfoundland and Labrador is certainly a very big problem. I see this problem in my district a lot. Anything that could alleviate the problem of timber shortages is certainly welcome in my books.

One thing that I noticed in this statement, that drew my attention, is the annual allowable cut of 2,050,000 cubic meters. With a demand of 2.5 million cubic meters to be cut in the Province, I would like to know from the minister today, why is it not that some changes have been made in the department to look at this?

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. HUNTER: I hope that in the near future the minister will look at this problem that we have today in our annual allowable cuts.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure it was an oversight, but in the absence of an advance copy of the statement it is difficult to respond in detail. We here are very concerned about the destructive forest practices in this Province and the problems with the inadequacy of reforestation and silviculture. Anything that can be done that is going to reduce the demand for fibre and also improve the ability of this Province to recycle paper is certainly a positive note. I hope that this can be a successful venture and I look forward to hearing what else the minister might have to say about it in terms of this government’s participation.

 

Oral Questions

 

 

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

Now that the Premier and the Minister of Mines and Energy have had time to see what each other has said publicly with respect to the proposal that is before the Province from Inco, I would like to ask the acting Minister of Mines and Energy today: In view of the fact that we know - at least if we can take what has been said publicly - that the proposal that is before government is to build a pilot plant, or a test plant, in Argentia to test a new method to process nickel from Voisey’s Bay - hydromet, or hydrometallurgy process is what it is commonly known as - and that this pilot project will go on for about three or four years, the test plant. There are a number of questions that obviously must be asked and obviously must be answered.

First of all, how much of that concentrate or how much of the ore and the concentrate from Voisey’s Bay will be used in that pilot plant? Since only a small part of that - if we take what the Minister of Mines and Energy said yesterday, publicly, that some of it could be stockpiled, and some of it, he said earlier in June, may go outside of the Province, how much of it will actually stay in the Province? Those are two questions I would like to ask the acting minister today.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

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

 

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, first of all let me correct the underlying premise of the question that the Leader of the Opposition put forward. He assumes there is a proposal. There is no proposal. There is no formal proposal presented by Inco to the government.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell the truth.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I am telling the truth. I resent the hon. member saying, tell the truth.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. FUREY: I am telling the truth. The truth is - you may not want to hear the truth, but the truth is - there is no formal proposal presented to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador from Inco with respect to this project. In fact, the Minister of Mines and Energy, as I understand it, is in Toronto - yesterday, today and tomorrow - negotiating and speaking with Inco about the concepts that they are putting forward in terms of presenting a formal proposal. Now whether they will present it, or have presented it yesterday, today or tomorrow, that is yet to be seen. It is very difficult to answer a question that is based on a hypothesis when the premise of the question is incorrect.

 

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the only difficulty that is occurring in this Legislature - and has for some time but more people are beginning to see it - is government’s inability of providing information and answers to questions from the Opposition. That is what is going on.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Let me inform the minister -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

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

Let me inform the minister, or let me ask him this: Is he aware that the Premier himself, Sunday past, talked about the hydrometallurgy proposal that Inco has put forward on Conversation with the Premier? Is he aware of that? If he is aware of that, let me ask him again: Based upon the comments made by the Minister of Mines and Energy last night - you are a member of Cabinet, you were a former Minister of Mines and Energy, and you should be aware -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Based upon that, will all the ore from Voisey’s Bay going to this possible pilot plant, or test plant, will all of it be processed in Newfoundland and Labrador to a completely finished product?

 

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

 

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, again the Leader of the Opposition’s premise is without foundation. How can you stand and respond to a question based upon a proposal that has not been received or put forward by -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, as I told the hon. Leader of the Opposition last session, if he is going to bring his attack dog in here, he should at least feed him once a week.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask hon. members to let the minister answer the question without interruption.

The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

 

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, the company talked about a new technology as opposed to an old technology, the smelting and refining process. They talked about hydrometallurgy, which is a new process. Now, what did the Premier say in response to the exact same question yesterday? He said, "We do not want to enter into a formal negotiation unless the bottom line of the Province is going to be met, and that is that the ore from the Labrador deposit be processed and finished to a nickel product within this Province. If that cannot be guaranteed or ascertained, there will be no formal negotiation. On the other hand, if that is the clear intention of Inco, then we would consider entering into a formal negotiation."

Mr. Speaker, how much clearly can you make it than the words of the Premier yesterday, quoted from page 1392, on the bottom, which speaks directly to that question?

I go back to what I said earlier. The hon. member’s premise is faulty.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. FUREY: He starts from a certain premise, and that premise is that a proposition has been put forward by the -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. FUREY: Can you control -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. FUREY: He starts from the premise that there is a formal proposition presented to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. That is inaccurate.

 

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

 

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, it is not inaccurate. The premise I am starting from is the very premise that the Premier talked about himself. He chose to talk about it in Wall Street, Toronto, outside the House, and on Conversation with the Premier. The premise I am starting with is based upon information provided by the Premier.

Let me ask the minister this: Has Inco made a commitment to further exploration, in terms of the Eastern Deeps and Western Deeps? Has that commitment been made to the Province?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, again let me say to the hon. member, there is no formal proposition put forward by Inco. The whole package, whatever is in that package, has not been presented to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and therefore to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Let me say this: The Province has always been on record that we want to see production here. We want to see a mine and a mill here. We want to see further exploration here. Now he may be against that. He may be against further exploration. He may be against maximizing benefits right down to procurement, which a former government did not get right under Hibernia. Do you remember the Peckford Atlantic Accord? All procurement for the offshore happened out of where? Montreal. That is never going to happen with our resources ever again.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answers.

 

MR. FUREY: So I say to him, his premise remains incorrect. He is building his questions on a very faulty, very foolish foundation.

 

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

 

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

This is the same minister who, in the summer of 1998, was on CBC panel speculating about sending ore out of the Province. That is the same minister. Let’s be correct.

Mr. Speaker, these are legitimate questions based upon a premise put forward by the Premier, not one that is being fabricated by the Opposition. They are based upon information put forward to the public in a variety of different venues by the Premier. I will ask again. Has Inco committed to the Province for further exploration in the Eastern and Western Deeps? Yes or no?

 

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

 

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, negotiations and discussions and talks occur on an annual basis. I remember it, I was there myself. You discuss things with the company, you talk about their plans for the future, they lay out their exploration plans every year. In fact, I think if my memory serves me correctly, their exploration plans last year were for $24 million.

I say to the hon. member: Stop getting hyper. Stop making accusations about a proposition that has not even appeared before the government. I say to him yet again that the basis for his questions is faulty, the premise for his questions is faulty, and his logic is completely out of whack.

 

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are to the Minister of Health and Community Services. Minister, this Province built a new forty-bed long-term care facility in St. Lawrence under the Trans City deal, and I am sure that you are quite familiar with that. However, several years later ten of these beds still have not opened. Residents of nearby areas are being sent to Grand Bank, further from their family and loved ones, instead of being sent to this new facility. A sixty-six year old man from Burin who was just discharged from hospital cannot get the home care he needs and he must now resort to a nursing home, not in St. Lawrence where he wishes, but at Grand Bank.

Minister, why are you forcing elderly people to go to nursing homes against their wishes when ten beds lie empty just a few miles from their home?

 

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

 

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

As the member opposite would know, I am sure, we use a single entry system for the placement of people. We do it based on a number of issues. We use the whole continuum, from home support to personal care homes and to nursing homes. We make the decision based on the numbers that are required and also based, of course, as always, on our ability to pay for services.

We have factored in all of those components. We are working with the boards. As the member knows, and he is very aware, we are doing a complete review of our long-term care sector including personal care homes, home support, and nursing homes. Because as we all know, we have an aging population with demographics that are showing that we will need more of these facilities, or at least more alternative types of those kinds of care, for patients across the Province. That is being incorporated. Mr. Speaker, as I said, we are working with the board on those issues.

 

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is not an acceptable answer. It has nothing to do with single entry. Since the early 1990s ten beds have remained closed and never opened in a new facility you built to put to use.

This sixty-six year old man has worked for forty-three years and he supports a wife who falls short of a pensionable age. The family was informed that the man’s pension cheque would be used for his nursing home care and his wife would be left without any income now and must resort to social assistance for the first time in her life, living in their own home. Minister, is that a fair policy?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame, shame!

 

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

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, again, the member opposite always likes to come forward with an individual case about a particular situation -

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

 

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

I think if the member wanted the examples and wanted them addressed he would be dealing with the boards on this issue and not raising it in the House of Assembly to try to get headlines again, as usual. I know you will get them whatever way you can. The issue is that in this particular case we are working with the boards and we will do the allocation based on what we believe is the most appropriate use of bed utilization and home support programs that we have in the various regions of the Province.

We are working with the boards to try to identify the proper bed capacity in all of these areas, and as I have said, we use the single entry system. We will either use home support, personal care homes or nursing homes. People are financially assessed for their needs, and that is made based on the information that they put forward during that financial assessment process.

 

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: The policy to take the income to pay for the man’s home care comes from your department. It is not decided at individual boards. That is why I am asking you, minister. This lady is devastated. She has been two days in tears. She does not want to resort to social assistance, and they have lived independently all their lives.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. SULLIVAN: I say to the minister, this is abuse of the elderly. Will you change that policy and allow these people to live the rest of their lives with some dignity?

 

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

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I know the member opposite has tried to accuse me of a number of things, but abuse of the elderly I think is stretching it quite a bit. Again, like I said, anything for a headline.

This government takes its responsibility for its seniors very seriously, and we have been working all through the year to try to develop new policies to meet the needs of seniors in a growing aging population. I would say the policies that we use to look at what is needed across the Province, whether you live in St. Lawrence or whether you live up in Ferryland, are the same. We use the same policies. We do a financial analysis of what is required and what is available. It does not matter where you live. You are treated in the same manner.

Mr. Speaker, as I say, I do not know how many other times I can say it or how many other different ways. We are in the process of looking -

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude her answer.

 

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

We are in the process of reviewing all of our policies with respect to long-term care ranging from home support -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MS J.M. AYLWARD: No, Mr. Speaker, in fact we are involving all of the industries involved. We like to consult on this side and work with the various parties to do what we believe is best for all the people of the Province, including our seniors.

 

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

 

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

My questions today are for the Minister of Human Resources and Employment. I was at an event this morning, A Wake-Up Call For Child Poverty, and when asked one child defined poverty as follows: Poverty is when you have to pretend you forgot your school lunch. This child is not alone. One in five of our children live in poverty. Our food banks desperately need financial assistance to continue the battle against hunger. Minister, what is this Province’s policy on providing funding to community food sharing?

 

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

 

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I think this kind of day that is being - celebrated is not the appropriate use of words. The day that we are experiencing today is a day that all of us share concerns about, in the sense that whenever there is a child who is poor in this country or in this Province it is a concern to us, and it is a concern to all citizens in this Province.

I would have to say that if you look at the effort of this government in the past three years or more to try and alleviate child poverty, the actions that we have taken to address the circumstances of children in this Province - stemming from everything to changing child welfare legislation, to providing $1 million to the school Food Foundation that they can embark on a long-term program to assist to children in schools throughout the Province, to providing a Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit program, to working with the federal government on its National Child Benefit program, and on and on - I would have to say to you that if you look at all of these combined, people will generally recognize that we have made great strides in this Province. We have taken great efforts to address the issue of child poverty.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

Minister, in spite of all that is happening, there are still hungry children. The general manager of the Community Food Sharing Association tells me that at meeting with officials from your department, he was told that government cannot provide one penney of assistance to food banks because to do so would be acknowledging that this Province’s social programs are not working.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MS S. OSBORNE: Minister, is this true? Is this the position of the government?

 

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

 

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the member that in March of 1998 the provincial government formed a partnership with the school children’s Food Foundation and Petro-Canada, and that this government announced $1 million endowment to enable this foundation to work with schools in establishing these meal programs across the Province.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, the member started her comments by saying that we have not done enough. I couldn’t agree more with the member opposite that we have not done enough. We have to continue our efforts, and we will continue our efforts with the goal being, like that with every citizen across this country, that we would like to come to a point where we will no longer see a single child in this country who is considered poor.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s West, a final supplementary.

 

MS S. OSBORNE: I am not sure if the minister heard my question. I am talking about food banks, the Community Food Sharing Association that provides food to food banks. When he was sitting in a meeting with officials from your department, asking for financial assistance because the shelves are empty, he was told that the government would not provide one penney because to do so would be to acknowledge that the social programs are not working. I ask the minister: Is this true, and is that the position of this government?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, there are many ways in which governments respond to this issue, and I have mentioned just a few of the new initiatives that this government has embarked on to try and address the issue. We recognize that in communities today there are food banks. All across this Province there are food banks, and right across the country you see food banks. This is a community response to try and address very much at a community level, the issues associated with hunger in their communities. That is a very admirable response by communities.

Government responds in other ways. We respond through our various income support programs. We respond through our National Child Benefit programs. We respond through the School Lunch Foundation program that I referenced.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MS BETTNEY: The Food Sharing Association and the food banks is the community response.

 

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

 

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

My question is for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. Minister, this summer, a high profile committee of ministers and officials travelled this Province at length - on the Gulf ferry service - and the end result was, of course, this On Deck and Below, and some twenty-four recommendations.

Minister, I have a question today to ask you: Are you prepared to apply the same standards of service you want for the Gulf ferry service to our own provincial ferry service?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

 

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, I attended most of the those meetings on the Gulf ferry forums around the Province. They were very worthwhile. At the end of the day, we filed what I call a very good report. Although a lot of the recommendations have not been met at this time, I look forward, in the next couple of weeks, to some of them being implemented anyway.

We have, as a Province, last February, frozen rates in the Province, for ferry service in the Province, with the promise to put a mechanism in place to review all ferry rates. Included in that, I have a committee now going around the Province meeting with the stakeholders and meeting with the community leaders, and they can bring up anything. They can bring up anything - rates, review, accommodations - anything at all they can bring up. In fact, we had a request from the Federation of Municipalities to put a member on that board and I went along with that decision to show some independence. The Federation of Municipalities have a member on that board as well.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, it is probably news breaking to a lot of people in this House that there is even a consultation taking place in this Province on the provincial ferry service. There is no public relations campaign like it was for the Gulf service, let me tell you. There are some mayors who are getting one day’s notice that there is a consultation process about to take place.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, many people in these communities did not know - as a matter of fact, I am sure it is a surprise to members here today - that half the meetings are now over, and the members were supposed to be notified of anything in their district. I wonder - and that is according to the minister’s own letter, that a member would be on this committee.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. SHELLEY: I ask the minister: Were members notified? How much public relations were done in these communities to allow them to speak at these consultations?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

 

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, we have gone a little further than we went on the Gulf ferry forums, because we only went in five areas of the Province. We are going into every municipality. Every community that is affected by a ferry service in this Province, we have gone into them. We have already gone into them or are about to go into them. We are meeting with all the stakeholders, including the mayors of municipalities, whoever wants to meet in those areas. They have been notified and I cannot help it if - they have been notified and there has been representation made.

I want to further stress that we have gone into all areas. A lot of the Users Committees in those municipalities, in those areas where the ferry services take place in this Province, have been contacted. They are the representatives of the communities that are affected. They are also represented by the Federation of Municipalities who requested that, and we have also had officials from our department. Mr. Speaker, we can’t do much better than that.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. SHELLEY: I say to the minister, you can do a lot better than that, especially when it comes to public relations.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SHELLEY: Mayors and people in the municipalities not even knowing that the meeting took place; three meetings within one day, Change Islands, Fogo Island and so on, by one committee.

The minister just said that they were making sure every single community that were affected by interprovincial ferry services - there are sixteen. There are three that you left out, Minister. Why isn’t there any consultation going on with the three that are going to Labrador? Is Labrador still a part of this Province?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

 

 

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker -

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has recognized the hon. Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

 

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, I have consulted with the member for the southern part of Labrador.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) people?

 

MR. WOODFORD: With the people. I went with the Member for Torngat Mountains and visited every community, met with every council.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WOODFORD: I did, personally. For two full days I met on the North Coast of Labrador, with every council, every stakeholder in the area. I have also met with the people in Southern Labrador as well. I personally went to St. Lewis, went to Mary’s Harbour -

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, you cannot stand here and accuse this minister of not doing his duty!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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. A few weeks ago, a new company was formed, known as Falcon fisheries. The minister had agreed to go along with the suggestion of allowing an exploratory fishery for offshore crab to be landed in three communities on the South Coast; namely Burgeo, Ramea and Gaultois. I wonder if the minister would give us an update today in the House and let us know how many of those plants are being opened, if those three plants are being operated now from this exploratory fishery, and how much of this product has been landed?

 

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

 

MR. EFFORD: That is the best way to answer that question, to bring in a Ministerial Statement on all the positive things that are happening on the South Coast.

First of all, it is an exploratory quota and an experimental quota to see, number one, if there is enough crab out there to put in an allocation or quote for next year; number two, to see if the crab can be landed from that distance to Burgeo, Ramea or Gaultois in the boats without any special systems, or is it the time of year to harvest that crab.

We have learned, number one, that there are sufficient amounts of crab out there to make a recommendation next year to put a quota. Number two, we have learned that the appropriate time to catch it is the spring of year. Number three, about fifty boats, to date, have landed crab from 3N+3O to the South Coast. So they have proven all of the things that we were concerned about, and we are now ready to make a recommendation to the federal government to give some hope, a breath of life for the future of those communities on the South Coast.

Two plants that have processed so far are Burgeo and Gaultois. Ramea, at least up until a week ago, was not up and processing. It is not the intent to have all three plants up to full capacity this time of the year. That will be in the planning for next year if the federal government allocates a quota of crab for that division.

 

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

 

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister that when this new fishery was announced on The Fisheries Broadcast I heard the minister on talking about how he had doubts that our own boats, our own fishermen, were capable of going out 200 miles and landing a quality product in those communities. I ask the minister if he would give us an update as to what type of quality those boats are now landing and if he has changed his mind. The very fishermen that he doubted could land the quality resource, has he now changed his mind and admitted that our own professional fishermen are capable of fishing for this product?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, there are so many good things happening in the fishery of Newfoundland and Labrador today that the member cannot even get a question to ask in the House of Assembly to get some news media coverage out of it.

First of all, I never, ever said the fishermen -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, you did!

 

MR. EFFORD: I said the boats. There is a difference in the fishermen going out without a boat.

There is a difference. I said I had -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh yes you did!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

 

MR. EFFORD: We were talking about (inaudible) the Coast Guard got on the fishermen from 2J+3KL or any part of Newfoundland and Labrador: wooden boats with iron men. My concern with the fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador is they have the nerves of steel to go out 350 miles this time of year. My concern is a 45-foot, 48-foot or a 55-foot boat. My concern is for the safety of people of Newfoundland and Labrador!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. EFFORD: That’s my concern! I also said, Mr. Speaker, that if companies can have 85-foot boats, Newfoundland fishermen should be allowed to have 85-foot boats.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has ended.

 

Orders of the Day

Private Members’ Day

 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Today being Wednesday, we will move to the private member’s resolution, and I believe it is the private member’s resolution put forward by the hon. the Member for St. John’s South.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

This private member’s resolution is to bring back the office of the Ombudsman. It reads as follows:

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.

Mr. Speaker, I guess some of the roles of what the Ombudsmen do would be to act as a public watchdog to help citizens right the wrongs done to them by government, and also to hear grievances respecting the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. That is presently not there, and we see a need for that on an ongoing basis. That is something that cannot be accessed by the public. We constantly hear complaints that they have gone to departments, they have gone to the minister, that they have asked for help. They feel that they have been wronged; they have nobody to turn to.

The powers of the Ombudsman would be to subpoena witnesses, to obtain documents, to obtain statements under oath, to enter any government premises, and to publicize the findings and recommendations.

The Ombudsman’s Office hear over 900 complaints in 1989, which was the last full year of operation. At the time the government decommissioned the Ombudsman’s Office there were over forty countries and all provinces, with the exception of P.E.I., that had an Ombudsman. Newfoundland had set a dangerous precedent because there was no other jurisdiction that had removed the Ombudsman from office. Newfoundland has the dubious distinction of being the first government in the world to remove that right.

The reasons that government at that time give for the action was that the Province said that the services was too expensive, and there are other ways for citizens to voice their concerns about their treatment by government. We now know that statement was not accurate. We now know that there are citizens, groups and committees in this Province that feel that they have no other recourse, that they have nowhere to turn to when they do not get action from a minister or from a department.

Maintaining the Ombudsman’s Office cost approximately $236,000 a year, the third lowest per capita expenditure of any province. Moreover, there was no other independent person with the powers of the Ombudsman to seek redress for citizens, grievances. As of last year, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec retained the Office of Ombudsman.

I find it appalling that government had removed the Ombudsman from office in this Province. The citizens of this Province find it appalling. We have heard time and time again from the citizens of this Province, and from groups throughout the Province, that they are asking for the reinstatement of the Office of the Ombudsman. We feel it is necessary.

One example was just last week when we saw calls from the media asking for information under the Freedom of Information Act and they could not obtain that information. It was information that should have been released. The very same information was requested by the Humber Environmental Action Committee quite some time ago, and I believe it was requested twice by that group, and it was not released. The reason that the minister gave for not releasing the information was because it was Cabinet secrecy. Yet the information was released individually to various communities throughout the Province that had problems with their water supply, so it was not that secret. The information was released on an individual basis to these communities. Grouped together, if somebody had the time, or if the municipalities were willing to release the information to an individual, someone could have obtained all of the information they were looking for through the Freedom of Information Act to the minister. So it certainly was not Cabinet secrecy.

Our party has made it a policy platform that we will reinstate the Office of Ombudsman. It was our party that brought the Ombudsman in. I believe the date was 1975. I stand to be corrected on that. My colleague across the House can probably remember. I believe you were a member of the House at that time. The most recent Ombudsman, if I recall correctly -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MR. T. OSBORNE: No, it was called for in 1970. It was established in1975.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: The first office was (inaudible) in 1975?

 

MR. T. OSBORNE: The first office was 1975, I say to the Member for Bellevue. I stand to be corrected again, but I believe I am correct in saying this that my colleague across the way, who is still a member of the House and is probably the longest sitting member of the House at this time, supported the last Ombudsman that this Province put in place.

I am sure that he will agree with me that we need an Ombudsman. From 1975 right through to when the Liberal government took office our party kept the Ombudsman in place. We felt it was necessary. Our party operated in an open manner and allowed the Ombudsman to carry on his duties, to investigate ministers or departments or agencies of government when that was deemed necessary. Within a year of going into power, the Liberal government had removed the Ombudsman from office. We feel here, on this side of the House, that the Ombudsman is necessary. If the Ombudsman’s office is not reinstated, I say to the Speaker, before we get to government, we will reinstate that position. However, we are calling for it today. We feel that if government feel they are operating in an open and fair manner, they have nothing to fear from the Ombudsman’s office.

I am going to let other members of the House of Assembly speak on this important private member’s resolution at this time. I call on all members to reflect very carefully on the debate that takes place in this House today and to consider very carefully what is being said. Because I believe that the Office of the Ombudsman is a necessary tool, a necessary avenue, in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Terra Nova.

 

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member who just presented this resolution is right. I spoke not in favour of the legislation, because the legislation was before my time; the legislation was in 1970. I spoke in favor of the person that was filling that job who I thought fitted the job admirably, who was a competent person, and I say that to this day. There were those who thought it was political patronage back in those days. I was not among those that thought it was political patronage.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Chris Decker (inaudible).

 

MR. LUSH: Pardon?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. LUSH: I was not among those. If it was political patronage, it was a good appointment. The gentleman who filled that job was a good compassionate citizen of Newfoundland and did a fine job. Now, that was in 1976, was it?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MR. LUSH: Pardon? No, when the position was filled.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Nineteen seventy-five.

 

MR. LUSH: In 1975. During that time, from 1975 until 1990, I think, when the government of the day did away with the position, in a number of areas we developed channels of appeal that were heretofore not in existence, so people had the right to appeal. We felt that citizens had appropriate areas of appeal. Combined with the kinds of issues the Ombudsman was dealing with, it was the view of the government that it was a cost and an expenditure that we could do without. That in terms of its costs and in terms of the work done, we could abolish that position without doing any great harm to the citizens of this Province in terms of their being treated fairly and justly in all areas of government.

Just to illustrate the point, from the 1988 submission of the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner just let me read a couple of the items, for example, indicative of what the Ombudsman dealt with. That will give members an idea as to whether or not we needed that position today.

We will do one under Education. This is a kind of sample. In education, a mother complained when government funding for her learning disabled child to attend a special school in another province was denied. The department felt that with the new policy and procedures for special education in effect - and this was the hon. gentleman’s government - the child could be adequately educated within the Province. After an extensive review of the file, the Ombudsman could not make no recommendation in favour of the complainant.

Now I ask, could that not have been achieved without putting the Ombudsman through this work here? It was a simple problem. The Province stated the policy and naturally there was nothing the Ombudsman could do about it. You and I deal with it every day.

This next one is Justice. They are done in the areas under which they have come in. A former head warder of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary complained that he had been unjustly treated when he was forced to retire after twenty-five years of service. The obvious people to go to is your union today, isn’t it? A check with the department revealed that his retirement was in accordance with the regulation which existed at the time. So there was nothing that could be done.

An inmate of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary complained that his rights had been violated and that he had been subjected to mental cruelty. An investigation revealed no substance to the complaint. On and on we can go and find out that really these issues could have been dealt with other than with the cost of a special office for the Ombudsman.

Here is another one, for example, of the kinds of complaints that came in, still in Justice. An inmate complained that he was not allowed fresh milk for his coffee and tea unless he paid for it, in spite of the fact that he was allergic to powdered milk. The Penitentiary was contacted and it was learned that a doctor must certify in writing that allergies exist before food changes can be made. No proof could be found of the inmate’s allergy through a search of hospital records. However, the problem resolved itself when the man was released shortly thereafter. So it was a problem that resolved itself through procrastination.

To think that these are the kinds of things we were dealing with. Matters that could be resolved by a call to the people in charge, to a union, and this is generally what happened. Let me read one from social services, and there were a myriad of inquiries. I think I heard a distinguished union leader the other day calling a myriad of complaints from social services. I will just again give an example of the kind: A recipient of social services had been assaulted and his upper dentures were broken and lost. His social worker said arrangements to get new dentures would take about three weeks. He felt that this was too long, as he was unable to eat solid food and was losing weight. In a check with the department it was learned that the man had been given explicit instructions on how to make an application for funding for replacement of his dentures.

One other that is interesting: A man called to say that his wife, from whom he had recently separated, desperately needed emergency assistance; a caring man, no doubt. A man called to say that his wife from whom he had separated desperately needed emergency assistance. The social worker on the case was contacted and a home visit was set up for the next day. A follow-up revealed that while assistance was granted on a temporary basis, certain forms are required from the woman before anything could be done to help her case.

Mr. Speaker, it hardly seems to me inquiries for which you would need an Ombudsman. On and on this goes.

I will just read another to show how you and I meet these problems every day, just to demonstrate another, to deal with medicare. This is an interesting one, one that we have all had to deal with from time to time. A Central Newfoundland resident had to take his son to Montreal for medical attention. He felt that medicare should pay all transportation costs, but medicare pays no transportation whatsoever. The Department of Health administers - at that time - a non-emergency medical transportation program which will pay 50 per cent of that part of transportation cost which is in excess of $500. Our complainant was not eligible for assistance under this program because transportation was less than $500.

Let me read another - this is in transportation - one other to show the kind of inquiries, and for the House to ask itself: Really, was it necessary to have a Parliamentary Commissioner to look into these kinds of inquiries? Nine hundred, as the hon. member mentioned. I think in this particular one there were 908. This is the 1988 one. He was quoting, I believe, from the 1989. In 1988 there were 908 inquiries but this is the level; this is what it was.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. LUSH: Pardon?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Were all 908 silly?

 

MR. LUSH: I am not saying any of them were silly. I am not labeling them to be silly. That is not the way I would characterize them. I would characterize them as problems that could have been solved without an Ombudsman’s office. They could have been solved with a call to the department, solved by a call to you or me and our offices.

 

Mr. Speaker, there is another. A worker with the department - this is transportation - felt he should receive the same benefits as other workers in the same classification. A check with the department showed that at the time of hiring the worker was aware that no compensation for traveling expenses or meal allowances could be claimed. The job was accepted with his understanding. The Ombudsman in the circumstances could make no recommendation in the complaint’s favour.

Without reading further, I think I have read sufficient numbers to make the point that I was making, that over the years there evolved within government many areas of appeal that we felt were more effective than had been in the past; that, combined with the level of inquiries that were coming from the Ombudsman, inquiries that could very well be answered by officials in the department. A lot came from Revenue Canada as well that could be answered by a call to Revenue Canada.

When you have that kind of a position, naturally, hon. members would appreciate, you generate a lot of inquiries that could be called less than urgent, could not be classified as real complex problems. There may arise the occasion when, out of 900 complaints, there might have been a percentage that were legitimate, but I would say there were none that could not have been addressed through the avenues that are available today.

The social appeals board - I think I mentioned there were twenty in social services. We have a process of appeal in social services today that I think ensures that any citizen is able to advance their case. We have the same thing in the workers compensation. Then, if it is in legal matters we have the courts with Legal Aid. Those who cannot afford have access to Legal Aid.

Then, we have a multitude of advocacy groups who help people who feel they have been dealt with unjustly. Single parents, women’s groups, and on and on the list goes. These groups set up to help advocate and to help citizens who experience problems.

Mr. Speaker, when one weighs all of the avenues which are available to citizens today who feel that they have been treated unfairly and unjust, they have all of those areas of appeal by government, all of those advocacy groups, and they have MHAs. They have forty-eight good MHAs. Weighed against the cost -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Fourteen, maybe sixteen.

 

MR. LUSH: Pardon?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Fourteen for sure, maybe sixteen.

 

MR. LUSH: Fourteen what?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: MHAs.

 

MR. LUSH: Fourteen?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: You said, "good".

 

MR. LUSH: I think the hon. member does the House a disservice by saying that. I believe we have forty-eight hon. members, forty-eight good members, from what I can see, all working diligently for their constituents.

Of all of those problems that I addressed here today, those inquiries that I read, I would venture to say there is not an MHA in this House but would have acted on either of those inquiries and provided the citizen with the appropriate answer.

Mr. Speaker, it is not that this Province or this government doesn’t want an Ombudsman; it is a matter of priority.

 

MR. SPEAKER(Smith): Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. LUSH: I will just clue up, Mr. Speaker.

It is a matter of priority with the avenues available balanced against the cost, balanced against the type of inquiries that were coming with the Ombudsman, that this government did away with the position.

If we start getting extra revenues coming in from the offshore oil and the growth in our economy, goodness knows we may restore him again. But in the circumstances of the time and in the present economy, as I said, balanced against these avenues that I spoke of and the issues that came before the Ombudsman, we felt at the time that it could be better taken care of in other areas.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Twillingate & Fogo.

 

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is more of a point of clarification because the WHEREAS clause in this resolution is not that well written and it is somewhat confusing. I would like for the hon. member who presented this, the Member for St. John’s South, to maybe clarify it before we go any further.

He says that a decade ago we became the first jurisdiction - the first jurisdiction - with an Ombudsman to eliminate that office. Does that mean that other jurisdictions have since eliminated that office, or that we were the first one with one? What I want to know, I guess, is: Have other jurisdictions eliminated the Ombudsman? Or what other jurisdiction have them currently?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: You weren’t listening when I was up, were you?

 

MR. REID: I wasn’t here, I am sorry. I was meeting with a constituent in the back room.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

 

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this particular private member’s resolution put forward by my colleague for St. John’s South.

The Member for Terra Nova drew reference to the fact that the legislation pertinent to this particular office was brought in by the Smallwood government in 1970. It was duly passed by this House; however, between 1970 when the enabling legislation was brought forwarded and became an act of this Legislature, nothing was done with establishing the office until 1975. The office continued to exist until 1990 when, in the Budget of 1990, the government of the day, the Wells’ government, had the following statement. It said that government would shortly be introducing legislation to repeal the Parliamentarily Commissioner of the Ombudsman act. In government’s view, the number and substance of complaints investigated by the Ombudsman and his staff do not warrant an office costing $236,000 annually. In future, complaints against departmental actions will be brought directly to ministers and to other Members of the House of Assembly.

 

MR. LUSH: (Inaudible).

 

MR. H. HODDER: Two hundred and thirty-six thousand dollars. I respond to a question by the Member for Terra Nova as to what the cost was in 1990.

Mr. Speaker, I make note as well that in the information in the background data, we find the office was effective starting in August of 1975. In that first year, the first five months of that year, there were 209 complaints. The average number of complaints from 1976 until 1989, which was the last year in which there was a full year of operations occurring in that office, there were on average about 560 complaints a year. Over the life of the office there were 8,425 complaints listed with the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner.

We on this side believe that the Parliamentary Commissioner has a useful function. Certainly we know that in many parts of this world, and in many provinces of Canada, the Parliamentary Commissioner does continue to operate. For example, just today I went into the Internet and was looking at the work done in Northern Ireland by the Parliamentary Commissioner, where the office is respected by the Members of Parliament. The write-up on the homepage for that office is very interesting because it outlines some of the actions taken.

I also refer to the fact that when this office was eliminated in this Province, we had some members on the other side now who had misgivings. In fact, I came across some of the statements made in the House, including statements made by the Member for Terra Nova, when the Commissioner was appointed in 1986. Nowhere in the appointment comments that were made at that time - the Member for Terra Nova spoke, as did Mr. Flight and Mr. Carter, who were members of the Liberal Opposition at that time. They spoke very positively, all three of them, about the gentleman who was about to be appointed. I would assume that they would be supporting the office. They were certainly very, shall we say, positive in their commentaries about the gentleman who was appointed at that time.

In the write-ups there, and I have read them, noting the comments - and the hon. member acknowledge when he spoke, before I did, that he had great respect for the Parliamentary Commissioner as a individual.

Mr. Speaker, we on this side have said that we believe there is a need for this particular office to be reconsidered.

I refer to an article in The Evening Telegram. The Evening Telegram, in 1990, ran an editorial in which they said: Save the Ombudsman. That was the headline in the editorial at that time. It said that they were very much in favour of keeping that office. They said that it was a noble office; it was the right thing to do. They even said that the kind of actions that were done in 1990 were more to be associated with - I will quote here - a tin pot dictatorship than one of the world’s oldest democracies.

What it is saying is that fundamental to a democratic society, it is a right of the ordinary person to have his or her issues addressed. While we might read out the list - and I have the report here for 1985 - I would agree with the Member for Terra Nova that some of these matters can be addressed in some other ways; but there are many items here that show that the Parliamentary Commissioner did perform a worthwhile function. The government of that day, in a budgetary consideration, decided to cancel that particular office.

I can quote from an article I have here by Peter Boswell, writing on this very same topic. He scolded the government of the day for abolishing the Office of the Ombudsman. The political scientists at the university have been unanimous in their opposition to the elimination of the Ombudsman office. Let me quote as well -

 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. H. HODDER: I know the hon. Minister of Fisheries is not interested because he has no interest in having people challenge his decisions.

Let me quote from Stephen Owen. Stephen Owen was President of the International Ombudsman’s Institute. He said: The office is seen as a fundamental, democratic institution all over the world. In its elimination, Newfoundland has to be seen as a backward step.

He says, in fact, that the elimination of the Ombudsman office in Newfoundland was an embarrassment to Newfoundland and to all of Canada.

We are talking here about some of the world’s best political scientists. Doctor Donald Rowat of Carleton University was regarded as Canada’s foremost expert and world authority on the Ombudsman. He was appalled, he said, by the decision of the Liberal government to eliminate the Office of Ombudsman in Newfoundland and Labrador. He said, at that time - he was writing in 1990 - the proposed abolition is incredible. The concept has worldwide acceptance as a necessary requirement for modern, democratic government.

All of the leading political scientists, the people at our local university, the people in all the other provinces - at that time the only Province who did not have one was Prince Edward Island - all of these people and all of these leading authorities said that Newfoundland and Labrador did the wrong thing when it abolished the Office of Ombudsman. These are not ordinary people. These are leading authorities.

What we have here, in 1990, was the government of the day - of which the Minister of Fisheries was a member; I cannot remember whether he was in or out of Cabinet at that time. The people here, the government of the day, said that this was a total waste of money. As a matter of fact, at that time the case was being made, and said by the Premier, that these jobs could be done by open line shows. As a matter of fact, it was said: Why do we need the Office of the Ombudsman? Because we have an open line show in Newfoundland and Labrador, and if citizens have a complaint they can call into the open line.

That was the logic, and that was said here in the House, because it is in the records. It is in the Hansard documents I have here. The government of the day said to ordinary folks: If you have a problem with government, call into the open line, complain through that process. They also, at the time, said that if you had a complaint that you could go to your MHA, you can get it addressed there. To some extent there might be some legitimacy in saying that MHAs should handle many of these things, and they do. However, the reality is that advising people in the various districts to call into an open line show is not a very sensible thing to do.

Again I can quote here from Dr. Peter Boswell. He certainly was very much opposed to the decision of government.

 

MR. LUSH: Where is he now?

 

MR. H. HODDER: The Member for Terra Nova asked where Dr. Boswell is. I assume he is still at the university, but I’m not sure. He may have retired, although I cannot confirm that.

Mr. Speaker, what happened here really in 1990, the truth of what happened, was said by the Minister of Health, I think it was at the time, and this was Mr. Decker. Because in that debate in 1990, Mr. Decker referred to the office holder as a Tory hack. Certainly, that would be very inconsistent with the comments made by the Member for Terra Nova, with comments made by Mr. Carter, comments made by Mr. Flight, in fact, in the debate - it is in Hansard - when the Minister of Health at the time, Chris Decker, refers to Ambrose Peddle as a Tory hack.

Therefore, that would lead one to the conclusion that the reason why the office was eliminated might have to do more with the previous political persuasions of the incumbent.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. H. HODDER: I say to the Member for Bellevue, I can only read from what is in Hansard. It is quite obvious in Hansard that Chris Decker, as the Minister of Health at the time, referred to the incumbent, the office holder, Ambrose Peddle, as a Tory hack. Certainly, that was not only insulting, but it was demeaning to the office holder and perhaps a very unfair comment.

It is certainly inconsistent with the opinions of the Member for Terra Nova, Mr. Flight and Mr. Carter as to Mr. Peddle’s independence and his personal integrity, but it may shed a little light on what the motivation of government really was. I would like to think that is not true. Certainly the principles were more, shall we say, closely examined than whether or not the incumbent was a member of the party in power or not.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Oldford): Order, please!

The hon. member’s time is up.

 

MR. H. HODDER: Hansard does show that there were comments made about Mr. Peddle that certainly were very unfair and insulting to him.

Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. I call upon government to reconsider and to appoint a parliamentary commissioner.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I take great pleasure in speaking for a few minutes this afternoon on this private member’s resolution. Because I was in this House of Assembly in1985 to1989 when there was an Ombudsman in place. In a few minutes I am going to give you some examples of the work that the Ombudsman did.

Before I get to that stage, or to that point of my few remarks, I have to question why the Member for St. John’s South, supported by the Member for Waterford Valley, would bring in such a request to have an Ombudsman here in the city to answer all of the calls that they get from their districts. I would suspect that if the hon. Member for Waterford Valley gets twenty calls a month, he gets 20,000. I talk to members in cities all the time. They are bored with their time. For what reason would you want to take $250,000 or so of the taxpayers money and put it in St. John’s to answer calls that they do not even get?

The other thing I think is that as Members of this House of Assembly, representing the electorate, representing our constituents, we get paid very well to look after our constituents. If they have a complaint they would make a phone call to my office, to my home. My number is in the phone book. My house is always ready to receive constituents. I meet with constituents periodically. Why do I need an Ombudsman to take care of my constituency calls? Why do we waste the taxpayers money in just taking the time to debate it? There is absolutely no reason for an Ombudsman’s office in this Province.

 

We have forty-eight elected representatives here. I know what we get on an average day, what my office gets on an average day: anywhere from twenty-five to thirty-five calls every single day. We have no problem taking care of those calls. In fact, I would say - according to all the electorates, all the votes since 1985 - my constituents are pretty happy. I think they are well served without an Ombudsman.

When we get the highest majority in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador on three occasions... The one thing I said to my constituents when I knocked on the door for the first election - 4,500 houses I knocked on the first election - I never promised jobs, never promised roads, never promised water and sewage. I promised one thing: I will be there when you need me.

I do not want anybody else to do my job for me.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: How many elections have you won?

 

MR. EFFORD: Only five to date.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: How many?

 

MR. EFFORD: Only five to date, and looking towards another five.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Not one, not two, not three, not four, but five.

 

MR. EFFORD: Five, and more to come.

Let me give you some examples, Mr. Speaker, of the onerous task that the Ombudsman had. Let me read a couple. Number one is transportation (inaudible). Where is the Minister of Transportation? Up in the back. A qualified truck driver complained because he had filed an application for employment periodically with a department depot for ten years and alleged he had never once received an acknowledgment of an application. Can you imagine that you need to pay an Ombudsman $250,000 salary and office expenses to find out why his application was not acknowledged? That is what we have telephones for. That is what we have e-mail for. That is what we have fax machines for. Most of all, that is what you get elected for. Why would you have to call an Ombudsman to find out why your application was not acknowledged? Pick up the telephone and dial them. This individual dialed the Ombudsman. Just think about it. He dialed the Ombudsman to ask the Ombudsman to do it. He could have dialed directly to the Department of Transportation and got the same answer. That is what we paid out $250,000, in 1988 dollars, not 1999 dollars.

Let me give you another example. A real estate salesman felt the department had procrastinated in sending back his papers that he had inadvertently failed to fully complete and which we needed in order that he could obtain his real estate license.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. EFFORD: Do you know what I should do? I should get out the pickle book because it makes just as much sense as that.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. EFFORD: Just imagine what the Member for St. John’s South, supported by the Member for Waterford Valley, supported by the Opposition House Leader, who is critic for health, who is

saying everyday that we need more money for health; we need more money for education says the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne. Yet, they want to forget more money in health, more money in education, and pay the Ombudsman. I would ask the Member for St. John’s South, what is his other job that he wants to be doing when he is not looking after his constituents? Is it what I have been talking about? Is it that little job on the side that he gets his suits every now and then from? It must be because you have to read this book -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MR. EFFORD: Did you see the one he had on Monday? I have to tell you where it came from.

Listen to this one. This is the Ombudsman report of 1988. A central Newfoundland resident had to take his son to Montreal for medical attention. He felt that Medicare should pay all transportation costs. Medicare pays no transportation costs whatsoever. My goodness, you don’t need an Ombudsman to answer that question for you. A call to a local office of Medicare, a call to your MHA, anybody can get those answers for you.

Just imagine wasting the time of the House of Assembly putting forward a private member’s resolution to bring back the Ombudsman and to have those types of things in the report. Why? Because I suspect they are getting very tired over there. They do not want to be looking after the constituents. They are bored. They have no interest in what they are doing.

Sit down here in Question Period and you will see how boring they are, you will see how tired they are. They are reaching for questions to ask in Question Period. Just imagine, the House of Assembly was closed from June until November and they come in dragging. I say it is a good thing we kept it closed that long. It is a good thing for you we kept it closed. You haven’t asked a decent question in the House of Assembly.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. EFFORD: This is the first thing their staff does in the morning: read The Telegram and turn on Jim Browne and Bill Rowe. That is how they prepare to come into Question Period. I tell you what you should do. Go back to Hansard from 1985 to 1989 and learn how to ask a question, when my hon. colleague controlled Question Period. I am just telling them a little bit of what we used to do over there. We have to teach them. They are boring. They are out of date.

Of course the Ombudsman might help you if he was there. I guess that is your other thing. Probably if the Ombudsman’s Office was there -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Not the one they appointed. Do you remember the one they appointed?

 

MR. EFFORD: Yes, I do. What was his name?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Ambrose -

 

MR. EFFORD: Ambrose Peddle. Now, I wish the Member for - what is it? - Placentia & St. Mary’s was here today talking about patronage. Who was Ambrose Peddle? What party?

 

MR. TULK: You know what? I believe he was elected once for the PCs.

 

MR. EFFORD: I think so.

 

MR. TULK: Now you talk about objectivity.

 

MR. EFFORD: Objectivity?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, seriously, to bring forth a private member’s resolution to bring back the Ombudsman, that is a responsibility of every elected member either municipally, provincially or federally, is absolutely ridiculous when we have so many other problems in this Province, so many other things that we need to address, to waste the time of the House of Assembly. This is such a frivolous motion to bring before the House of Assembly. The hon. member should come over and spend a few days with us so we can teach him the responsibilities of being elected. No member in any urban centre -

 

MR. TULK: Let me ask you something. Do you think you would have asked the question of the Minister of Transportation that he asked today?

 

MR. EFFORD: I think not. I will send you over a question that we used to ask the Minister of Transportation.

 

MR. TULK: They are reading Hansard now.

 

MR. EFFORD: What?

 

MR. TULK: The Leader is in there reading Hansard now (inaudible) what we were up to.

 

MR. EFFORD: Yes. Let’s go back to my critic. Would you ask me that question if you were over there? How good are things on the South Coast? They are excellent on the South Coast.

 

MR. TULK: Listen to me. You know this as well as I do, that if we were in charge of that place over there and you were the Minister of Fisheries over here, do you believe we would ask you a question?

 

MR. EFFORD: I do not think so.

Mr. Speaker, one more example. Seriously, we are talking about an Ombudsman whose office cost $250,000 back in 1980.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: The reason why they want an Ombudsman is so they can call him and say: What questions should we ask today?

 

MR. EFFORD: There is the driving force behind it, so he can relay questions to you and you can come in Question Period and be prepared to ask those questions.

Seriously, listen to this one, under Finance. This is the type of thing the Ombudsman dealt with.

A registered part-time fisherman complained because the practice of allowing fishermen to purchase ‘mark as tax free’ has been discontinued. The ‘mark as tax free’ allowance has been discontinued so you call your Ombudsman. I suggest you call any member over here.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MR. EFFORD: He will never wake up again. He has not been awake for the last ten years. He does not need a pillow to go to sleep, he has been asleep for ten years, sitting over there.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

 

MR. EFFORD: The Member for Waterford Valley. He has not been awake.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to conclude by saying this. Hon. members opposite should sit down and revisit their plans for the future, because I can tell you one thing: if they see it necessary to bring an Ombudsman back to prepare for Question Period than they are even in deeper trouble than I could ever imagine. With the evidence of the last week here, Question Period, probably that is the only hope they have for the future.

 

MR. TULK: Can I make a suggestion to you before you sit down?

 

MR. EFFORD: Yes.

 

MR. TULK: How many are over there?

 

MR. EFFORD: Ten, I think.

 

MR. TULK: Maybe we should appoint ten Ombudsmen to take care of ten Tories.

 

MR. EFFORD: That is what I thought we had over there. I thought we had ten. I do not need (inaudible). You have the lesson in what an Ombudsman is versus an MHA, versus a councillor, versus a municipal politician, versus a provincial politician, versus a federal politician. Let’s add another thing to the cost of the taxpayers of this Province, make your jobs even easier, and make you even more boring than you are today.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

Can you believe what you heard just a few minutes ago, when the Minister of Fisheries was on his feet? He bought into the line of his old buddy Clyde that the MHAs are the Ombudsmen. His old buddy Clyde sold that ten years ago.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. J. BYRNE: I will not get into that, but I will say something about the Government House Leader, his buddy, the clone of Ed Roberts. The present Premier went out looking for someone that he could get to be exactly like the former Government House Leader, Ed Roberts, and he could not have gotten a better example, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

 

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the hon. gentleman not to go attacking the former House Leader. Because I want to assure you that if you tell him that I am following in his footsteps he will feel attacked. I would not want the hon. gentleman to do that. Please, please don’t do it.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

MR. J. BYRNE: It is an unfair comparison I would say, Mr. Speaker.

The Minister of Fisheries was up here going with Clyde’s - I was going to say Clyde’s line - buying into his line that the members are the Ombudsmen. I would have to ask the Minister of Fisheries this question. These are the areas that have Ombudsman. Most of the Commonwealth - I think we are a part of the Commonwealth; are we a part of the Commonwealth, I say to the Government House Leader? - including the U.K., Australia, all the provinces except P.E.I., have one, plus forty other nations have Ombudsmen. The Minister of Fisheries is in his place saying that we do not need one.

He talked about the report. From what I understand, there were 900 complaints in 1988 and they picked out three or four that they wanted to use as an example. Of course, in any situation we always have the extremes. Sure we might have some very weak complaints that would have to be investigated, but we have some very legitimate complaints. What about the freedom of information that -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

MR. J. BYRNE: Good, I am glad of that. To the Minister of Government Services and Lands, I ask: How many calls do I get a week? Let me tell you this. The Minister of Fisheries was just on his feet saying he gets twenty-five calls a day. I was shocked. Here he is, a member for a rural district, a minister besides, getting twenty-five calls a day. Mr. Speaker, I get that many before I leave the house at 9:00 a.m., and he is complaining about getting twenty-five calls a day? Talk to the Member for Baie Verte and see how many calls he gets in the run of a day, and he is not a minister. If I were the Minister of Fisheries, I wouldn’t even have mentioned that.

I certainly support this private member’s resolution. I doubt very much if the members on the other side will. I will tell you how opposed they are to this. Oftentimes when we bring in a private member’s resolution, they will make amendments to it. They will make amendments to it, to change it around to their way of thinking.

 

MR. TULK: We gave up that.

 

MR. J. BYRNE: And they try to be smart - yes, they have given it up and a good thing. They are not even going to make any amendments. They are going to vote against it, carte blanche, done, it is over with; but this is a good piece of legislation.

 

MR. TULK: What legislation would that be?

 

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, a private member’s resolution.

Again, we have lots of situations in this Province -

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you ready to vote?

 

MR. J. BYRNE: No, we are not ready to vote. How long do I have?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: You have half an hour yet.

 

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I see that we want the Member for St. John’s South, who introduced this legislation, to clue up the debate on it but I wanted to be on my feet, on the record, talking about supporting this private member’s resolution. We had members on that side of the House a few years ago supporting, speaking in favour of an Ombudsman.

There is so much we could say here, but at least we know where the members on this side of the House stand. I am going to sit down now and let the Member for St. John’s South have a few words.

Thank you.

 

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

 

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

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries asked why we needed an Ombudsman. When you get the CBC, The Telegram, and members from both Parties on this side of the House saying that they cannot get information from this government, when you get Atlantic Leasing suing the government, when you get the Trans City scandal, you can go on and on and on, on why we need an Ombudsman.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Tors Cove Excavating

 

MR. T. OSBORNE: Tors Cove Excavating. My colleague here mentioned another one a couple of seconds ago.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Pay equity and human rights.

 

MR. T. OSBORNE: Pay equity and so on. We don’t need to stand here. We could go on and give example after example, reason after reason, why we need an Ombudsman. There are eight provinces in Canada now with one. There were only nine when we took ours away, or at least as of December, 1997. The most recent information on the Internet shows that the eight provinces that still had an Ombudsman when we took ours away, still have one. The people of this Province are calling out for an Ombudsman. The media, the Opposition, are calling out for an Ombudsman.

If the Minister of Fisheries is looking for ways to pay the Ombudsman, all we have to do is point to some of the patronage that has taken place since he has been a minister. Point to some of the patronage that has taken place and some of the law suits that government had brought against themselves, really, and you will see where the money will come from to pay for an Ombudsman.

All I can do is ask members to reflect very seriously and to consider very seriously this private member’s resolution. In a couple of moments when we stand to vote on this, I sincerely hope that the members of the other side of the House will consider very seriously the important job and the important role an Ombudsman has to play.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay’.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

MR. SPEAKER: I declare the motion defeated.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SPEAKER: No, it is defeated. The motion is defeated.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will do legislation - if I can get my glasses, we might find what we are going to do.

 

MR. SULLIVAN: We were, on the last day, on (inaudible).

 

MR. TULK: I have to be able to see here, Loyola.

Yesterday I think we were on Bill 27. Tomorrow, if we get that finished, we will proceed to Bill 29, "An Act To Amend The Coat of Arms Act". We will proceed from there to, "An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act", unless there are some intervening circumstances.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It being Wednesday, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow, Thursday, at 2:00 p.m.