December 13, 2001 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS Vol. XLIV No. 48


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin our routine proceedings today I would like to welcome to the gallery the former Member for the District of St. George's, Dr. Howard Hulan, along with Mr. Drago Kersevan of Italy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, the Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador recently presented Volunteer Medals to ninety-six exceptional volunteers in special ceremonies at various locations across this Province.

I think we can all agree that this is just a small way to pay tribute to these individuals who make such meaningful contributions to our communities. I would like to give two examples of the kind of volunteers we have in this Province and mention the medal winners from the District of Port de Grave.

Elizabeth Jerret, Bay Roberts; Elizabeth Jerret has served as a volunteer for thirty years. She has taken administrative, executive and leadership roles at the local, regional and provincial levels of charitable recreational, educational and youth guidance organizations. Most notably, she was the driving force between the formation of the Bay Roberts Heritage Society.

Vernon Petten, Port de Grave; Vernon Petten has been a volunteer for more than thirty years. He has served his community as a member of his local heritage and museum societies, as well as in various church and community development organizations. He has travelled at his own expense to devastated areas of the world to assist in educational development and disaster relief efforts.

In mentioning these names today, I realize that there are many around this Province who also tirelessly volunteer their time to bettering their communities.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members to join with me in paying tribute to the volunteers of this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to note the recent passing of the late Mr. William R. Smallwood, Q.C. who passed away on Tuesday, October 30, 2001. Mr. Smallwood had enjoyed careers both in the legal profession and as a member of this House of Assembly. He served as the Member for Green Bay in the 1960s and 1970s.

Bill served his constituents for some fifteen years. As the son of the hon. Joseph R. and Clara Smallwood, certainly Bill was raised around politics, seeing firsthand the involvement of his father in the Confederation (inaudible), setting up the first provincial House of Assembly and serving as the Province's first Premier.

Although well known in public life, local residents knew Bill as a neighbour and a great outdoors person. Whoever showed up at his door on Roaches Line were welcomed, and his home was yours. As an outdoors person, Bill could be seen any day roaming the woods in and around Roaches Line, Ocean Pond area, an area he literally knew like the back of his hand. He was a great lover of animals. As an avid traveler he traveled, not so much I guess to see places as to meet people, to understand their culture and their way of living.

His presence in my district will be missed, his passing a reminder perhaps of a past era in Newfoundland and Labrador politics. Bill is survived by his wife, Marcella, his sons; Andrew, Billy, Douglas; daughters, Leslie and Tanya, four grandchildren, his sister Clara and his brother Ramsay.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members of this House to join with me in offering condolences to the Smallwood family on the passing of Bill.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin-Placentia West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS M. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, too often we take volunteers for granted, too often we fail to recognize the important contributions they make. With this in mind, I want to join my colleagues today in recognizing those who have been awarded the Newfoundland and Labrador Volunteer Medal. In the district I represent, David Brenton of Marystown and Marguerite Martin of Burin, were the two selected from the many possible nominees.

David Brenton has been a volunteer for thirty years at the local, regional, provincial and national levels. He has served as a town councillor, at all levels of the Kinsmen Club and was a founding member of the local youth club. His primary area of service has been in sports, particularly basketball, softball, and recreation. He is a member of the Sport Newfoundland and Labrador and the high school athletic foundation.

Marguerite Martin has been volunteering for over forty years. She has served as treasurer of the Royal Canadian Legion Ladies Auxiliary and has knit for the Red Cross since WWII. She is active within her church and women's association, has served on the local library board and as president of the senior citizen's club in Burin.

Mr. Speaker, these are two people who provide examples of the power of the individual to change things. Through their efforts they have had a tremendous impact on the communities where they live.

I ask all members to join in paying tribute to those volunteers, especially the two volunteer medal winners from Burin-Placentia West, in the Burin and Marystown area.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

It is my pleasure today to offer sincerest congratulations to two residents of the District of St. John's West: Michael Duggan of Boyle Street and Taryn Stone of Lamanche Place. Today, they received the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award from the Governor General of Canada, Her Excellency, The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson.

This is a very prestigious award. It is valued by a range of organizations and employers. It is non-competitive. The people who are participants set their own standards. It is a real personal challenge, quite demanding and very rewarding. I am certain that both Michael and Taryn felt most rewarded for the efforts they have put in over the past year or eighteen months towards attaining this award.

I am sure they felt very rewarded this morning when they received their awards and I ask the House to join with me in sending warmest congratulation to them.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SWEENEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in this, the International Year of the Volunteer, people from all across this Province have received the Newfoundland and Labrador Volunteer Medal. I want today to pay tribute to the two volunteers from the District of Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

Firstly, Lillian Parsons of Victoria. Lillian has been active in a variety of volunteering roles for more than thirty years. She has served her town as a councillor, as well as through church and community events. She has been involved with minor hockey and the hospital auxiliary as co-ordinator of volunteers.

Last, but not least, Doug Moores, Q.C., of Harbour Grace. Doug has served as a volunteer for thirty years, contributing locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. He has leadership roles in numerous sports, arts and culture, health care, and business and development associations. He has made significant contributions to the Conception Bay North Development Association, the Harbour Grace Board of Trade and the Baccalieu Chamber of Commerce, among others.

Mr. Speaker, these two individuals exemplify the meaning of community service and we are much richer because of their contribution. I ask members to join with me in offering congratulations and thanks to these two medals winners.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today, with the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition and the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, I will move at a later proceeding, after Question Period, that Mr. Fraser March be appointed as Citizens' Representative effective February 1, 2002.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: I might make just a few comments, Mr. Speaker, and I know that the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the New Democratic Party, the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, would also like to make a few comments as we have just unanimously welcomed Mr. March as the newest officer of this Legislature. He is here with us in the gallery today.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that this proposed appointment has been made, as I indicated, by the agreement of all parties. As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, we made a commitment to appoint a Citizens' Representative to ensure greater confidence in the institutions of government. It is a priority for government to create a greater level of trust, openness and accountability.

Mr. March, as our new Citizens' Representative, will have a mandate, Mr. Speaker, to hear public concerns regarding the administration of programs and services. He is independent of government and is free to make recommendations which he feels are necessary in carrying out his duties.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. March is no stranger to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. His work as President of the Newfoundland Association of Public Employees for more than a decade gave him a heightened awareness among not only public employees in the Province but all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. He was also a teacher for many years, Mr. Speaker, both in the regular day school system and in the adult vocational system, and in recent years was self-employed as a labour consultant. Mr. March's skills as an experienced negotiator and competent communicator and leader will undoubtedly prove invaluable to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in his new position.

We look forward, Mr. Speaker, to having Mr. March serve this Legislature and the people of the Province in his new role as the Citizens' Representative.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I commend government on this appointment. I cannot think of a better person, actually, to be elected as the Citizens' Representative than Mr. March. I told our caucus this morning there was overwhelming support throughout our entire caucus for that appointment.

Mr. March, of course, as we all know, has always been a champion of the people, and I think that this will probably be the pinnacle of an illustrious career. We go back a long ways, back to political science class, actually, at the university, which we shared with George Baker, so there were a few personalities came out of that one, I can tell you, but those were great times. They were Jerry Murphy's classes, I am sure you remember, Fraser. As well, of course, I actually voted for Fraser as President of the Students' Union, so I am prepared to publicly acknowledge that today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: He is a wonderful individual, as the Premier has indicated. He has taught and he has instructed for a decade. He negotiated, of course, and was a renowned labour leader. Basically, he stood up for what he believed in, and paid a price from time to time. I admire him for that. I think he is going to serve us very, very well.

As the Citizens' Representative, of course, he does have to be the champion of the people. He does have to be an advocate. We, as a caucus, have complete faith and confidence in his judgement, and again we commend government for that. He brings to the table a position as a student activist, as an educator, as a negotiator, as a labour leader, and as a politician. I commend him for that as well.

We think it is a marvelous appointment. I even think in his role in the Freedom of Information Act, the role that he can bring there, and possibly if we are able to agree on some of the amendments down the road, if he is able to have the power to be able to order and enforce his judgements, then I think he is going to serve the Province very, very well.

I wish him all the very best.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is with great pleasure that I rise to endorse the appointment of Fraser March. I want to congratulate him and congratulate the Premier on giving this office the first representative who, I think, will meet the wide approval of all people in Newfoundland and Labrador. He is a man with whom I think we have all had personal relationships, going back with Fraser March. I think I first met him in about 1967, when I was on the Student Union at Memorial University and Fraser was the president. I think I worked on his first political campaign in 1968. So that is how far back we go in terms of knowing each other. From that day forward, Fraser has always been known as a person who champions a cause of people, whether they be fellow employees or ordinary people. I think there may be only one group in this Province that have some regret that Fraser March will be the Citizens' Representative, and that would be the home care workers in the Province for whom Fraser most recently has been active in advocating on their behalf. They may feel the regret that they have lost a champion, but I am sure there will be others come forward to assist them in their cause.

I conclude by saying, I think it is a terrific appointment. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition. I can't think of a better person to hold this office, and I welcome him as an Officer of the House of Assembly and look forward to working with him in the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, I ask, by leave, that we have to formalize the appoint with a resolution under the act. If we could have unanimous consent, I could read the resolution now and we could put it to a vote and make it official.

MR. SPEAKER: Do we have leave? Is it agreed?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move that under section 3(1) of the Citizens' Representative Act that Fraser March be appointed as the Citizens' Representative effective February 1, 2002. Mr. Speaker, I ask that we dispense with the normal proceedings and put it to a vote at this point in time, if it is agreeable with the House.

MR. SPEAKER: You have all heard the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Against?

I declare the motion carried unanimously.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In the mood that we are all in and because it is Christmas, I may only have one question for the Premier today. Of course, it depends on the answer.

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General is required by law to table her annual report with yourself, Your Honour, the Speaker of the House, by January 31st of each year, and release it at the earliest available sitting of the House. It appears that the report will not be submitted in time for release during the present sitting of this House and will not be released, therefore, before the next sitting which may be in March of 2002.

Will the Premier agree to pass an amendment to the Auditor General's Act today that will direct the Speaker to release the report to the members of the House and to the public as soon as it is formally received by the Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think that we would need to debate the bill, but I can tell you that I would gladly give a commitment. As soon as the Speaker receives this next due report from the Auditor General we will gladly, in the spirit of openness and accountability that we represent and champion, have it released immediately and then if we need to come back and actually debate a bill so it happens year after year after year - but this report that the Auditor General, I understand, has almost ready and prepared, could be released as soon as the Speaker gets it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do appreciate the Premier's comment and the Premier's answer. Premier, we have taken the liberty of preparing an amendment for your perusal today, if you could consider. If it is satisfactory and if it could be passed by leave of the House, we could do it today. If we could present that to you at some point as soon as we finish Question Period that will be done.

PREMIER GRIMES: (Inaudible).

MR. WILLIAMS: That's fine. Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We will gladly have a look at it as soon as it is presented. Probably our Justice Minister and a couple of others will review it quickly and if the spirit of what I understand is there, and in the spirit of all of us, want access to the information at the earliest opportunity, we will certainly give it consideration later today by consent.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Dioxions and furans have been linked to cancer, birth defects, skin, liver and thyroid problems, as well as reproductive problems. As persistent organic pollutants they accumulate in living organisms and the environment. They move through the food chain to humans, have long-term toxic effects and can be passed from mother to child. This Province have emission numbers on the incinerators in the Province. Instead of releasing them, we hear of them through a national newspaper.

I ask the minister: Since Environment Canada have released their concerns and declared both dioxions and furans as toxic substances in 1990, how many of this Province's forty-odd incinerators have been shut down?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I do not have the numbers in front of me of how many have been shut down to date, but I can tell you he is referring to a report that was in The Globe and Mail yesterday.

I want to make it very clear that this government's first commitment to waste management in this Province is to shut down the Harbour Grace incinerator. We have made a commitment to shut down all incinerators in the Province by 2008. If it was up to me, Mr. Speaker, I would shut them down tomorrow, but to do that we need to have alternative arrangements made for waste management. That is why we are putting together a waste management strategy for the Province so that we can effectively deal with waste and manage waste in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

As a result of Canadian regulatory guideline initiatives, dioxin and furan emissions throughout the entire country as a result of incinerators have been reduced by over 80 per cent. I ask the minister, how much have they been decreased in this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just outlined in my first answer what the Province is doing in terms of shutting down incineration. I also want to say, Mr. Speaker, that we should be very careful about what we are doing here in trying to cause alarm. What the hon. member has in his possession is some numbers that were released by Environment Canada without anything to substantiate these numbers. We have to be very careful because the information that I have is that the full report is not out until sometime in the spring of 2002. He should also keep in mind that the information that he has is not from actual scientific monitoring. It is based on a model that was created in a laboratory based on the amount of garbage collected or burnt. Numbers are derived from that based on an emission number. What he is talking about is not actually scientific monitoring. So we have to be careful, Mr. Speaker.

As I said, our first commitment is to the people of this Province, to shut down every incinerator in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

The figures I am quoting are from Environment and Health Canada. According to Health Canada, because dioxins and furans accumulate in bodies of both animals and fish, the populations are in areas that co-exist with incinerators and hunting and fishing are at a greater risk.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Has this provincial government released to people in areas where there are incinerators, guidelines, notices or warnings about hunting and fishing and the health hazards to people who live, hunt and fish in these areas?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

As the hon. member ought to know, incineration is not the only source of furans and dioxins. There are other sources from industry accumulated around the Province.

It is quite interesting. I heard the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi speaking here the other day on this very same topic, when the Member for St. John's South put numbers in his head that we here in Newfoundland were actually producing 40 per cent of all the emissions in Canada. This is the kind of information that is absolutely false. It is absolutely false. It should not be done. These numbers that have been put out have been done by Environment Canada, not by the provincial Environment Department.

We know, Mr. Speaker, that the Department of Environment has made arrangements with the Conception Bay North Incineration Committee to collect the information of the amount that they are burning. In terms of what the exact emissions are, it is done on modeling.

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

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

You can argue with Environment Canada's number is you wish. I am not going to.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister: Why have you not released warnings or guidelines to people who live in areas where there are incinerators, about the health hazards of hunting and fishing in those areas?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

As I have said, we in this Province are on a mission of managing the waste that we produce. Our first priority is to shut down all incinerators in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, with the Harbour Grace incinerator being the number one.

Thank you very much.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I would like to ask the minister, while these incinerators are still in operation, will you release warnings, notices and guidelines about the health hazards of hunting and fishing in the areas where incinerators are currently operating, to warn people of the health hazards?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I will certainly consult with my colleague, the Minister of Health and Community Services, to take a look at where we are going. I believe everybody in the Province recognizes that there is a problem with open burning, not just with incinerators, Mr. Speaker. It is also a concern with open burning of garbage.

Mr. Speaker, we are, as I have said, moving to eliminate incineration in this Province as soon as humanly possible.

Thank you very much.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Finance.

Several Newfoundland entrepreneurs established a business with an innovative product and they incorporated in March of this year. Win a Grand Incorporated is in full compliance with section 74.06 of the federal Competition Act of Canada and the product they sell is a non-lottery product.

A police investigation back in May concluded that they have confirmed there is no violation of any laws, including section 206 of the Criminal Code; however, the Atlantic Lotto Corporation, of which our Province is an owner, has written the Newfoundland and Labrador Retailers' Association, forbidding them to sell such products or they will remove Atlantic Lotto Corporation tickets from their stores. I want to ask the minister: Will she verify in this House today that the Atlantic Lotto Corporation has no authority over legal non-lottery products?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

The real issue here is: Is it a non-lottery product? There is some disagreement, obviously. We believe it is. We believe that, because the revenues from the Atlantic Lottery go into the public coffers of the Province to provide services, we are challenging that. We believe it is a lottery item.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On November 30, and recently on December 10, her deputy minister wrote the marketing director of this company indicating that neither the Provincial Lotteries Act nor the Criminal Code of Canada gives Atlantic Lotto Corporation statutory authority or control with respect to legal non-lottery products sold in stores.

Mr. Speaker, an estimated $3 million of economic activity is generated by every 1,000 boxes of those tickets that are sold ,and 95 per cent of that stays here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: I want to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker: Will the minister tell the Atlantic Lotto Corporation to stop threatening hundreds of Newfoundland and Labrador businesses and desist from its unfair and illegal actions?

AN HON. MEMBER: Good question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, we believe that the revenues from Atlantic Lottery should be put into the public coffers of the Province so that we are able to provide public services. The member opposite, who knows, and who stands on his feet every other day and asks for money for paving in his district, or roads, or this or that, or health care or hospitals or whatever, knows that this Province needs the revenue. Our argument is that it is a lottery product and therefore it should not be sold. We believe - and we are getting our own legal opinion on it to verify where we are coming from on this - we believe that we should be able to maintain those revenues to provide the public services of the Province, and we stand by that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Failure to act is condoning and facilitating unlawful practices of a government-owned corporation and could result, I might add, in a class action suit on behalf of hundreds of businesses here in this Province.

I want to ask the minister: Will the minister immediately inform Newfoundland and Labrador lottery retailers that the government will stop the Atlantic Lotto Corporation from taking any punitive action against retailers in this Province who sell legal non-lottery products?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr .Speaker, the issue is that we believe they are lottery items. They are not non-lottery. Because you put a recipe on the back, or whatever it is, as the member is referring to, does not mean it is not a lottery ticket. Our view is, these are lottery tickets. We believe that we should be able to use the revenue to put back into our provincial coffers to deliver publicly-funded services in this Province, and we will stand by that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Health and Community Services. Currently, Mr. Speaker, there are ten people in the St. John's health care region alone who are in the hospital, medically discharged, but waiting for home care so that they can go home. Some of them have been there since August, waiting to go home and waiting for home care services that have not been provided by this government because they are on a waiting list.

Will the minister today, being the last day that the House is scheduled to be opened, assure these people that they will be able to go home for Christmas and have the proper home care that they need? Can the minister say this today? She said, on December 5, she needed a few days to review these cases.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BETTNEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is a very difficult situation, as the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi understands, and we have had several conversations on this issue. My department has completed a review of the emergency and urgent cases which exist not only here but across the Province. I would hope within the next few days to be able to determine whether or not we will be able to work with the boards to be able to do something in those cases, but I cannot say today that I can respond positively in this regard.

As the member knows, home care is a service that is provided by our Health and Community Services Boards, and in this regard I must work with the boards to try and resolve this issue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, certainly it is a difficult situation but if someone has been in the hospital since August or September, medically discharged and cannot go home, been on a priority list since then, waiting, presumably, for someone to either die or give up home care to be able to get access to the service, that is not good enough.

Can the minister not say that these people who have been waiting since August or September, and the others - there are ten people. We are not talking about hundreds of people. Ten people in the St. John's region. I think there are less elsewhere. We have been trying to get the figures. Can the minister not give them a guarantee that they will be treated as an urgent priority, and will be given home care within the next three or four days? Can the minister do that?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, what I can say here today is that I will do my very best to ensure that this issue is resolved before Christmas. I know that these cases are considered to be very urgent, by all of us: by the boards, the Health and Community Services Boards, by the officials in my department, and also, of course, by the Health Care Corporation and the other hospitals which have responsibility and are actually having to accommodate people who have been medically discharged.

At this time, my officials are working on it. I am working on it actively. I hope to have the matter resolved within a couple of days. The next few days is the best that I can say, Mr. Speaker, at this time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions this afternoon are for the Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs.

This past weekend, while in Labrador West, many residents expressed a number of concerns facing them on a day-to-day basis. One such concern was the highway between Labrador West and Goose Bay, particularly at certain times of the year. They described the road, Mr. Speaker, as impassable from time to time, resulting in the hindering of business development and the limiting of job growth by restricting the transport of goods and materials across the region.

I ask the minister: What steps has he taken to ensure that road conditions are maintained to the point that would protect the economy and secure the day-to-day lives of local residents?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Labrador & Aboriginal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the hon. member for his question. Is he referring to the Trans-Labrador Highway or Route 389 going down to Baie Comeau, because there are two totally different sections that impact on our economy? Mr. Speaker, the section from Lab City to Goose Bay is the section that we maintain as a Province. I am not quite sure if he is accurate in saying that the road has been, at times, closed. In the last few years, since we have done the major upgrading of $65 million worth of work on that particular section of highway - there is one section that needs topping. Mr. Speaker, that is a section of highway of about 200 kilometers between Ranger Lake and Ashuanipi Lake. That, Mr. Speaker, will be dealt with in this coming construction season to ensure that the topping of that highway is in the same shape as the new section between Churchill Falls and Goose Bay. We can ensure then that it will not impact on the transportation back and forth between Lab City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, I have a question on another transportation matter, Mr. Minister.

The residents of Labrador are unanimous in the expression of concern over the exorbitant costs of airfare to and from Labrador with other parts of the Island. This is a real issue and has to be addressed, I say to the minister, by all levels of government.

In view of this week's federal budget, could the minister tell this House and the residents of Labrador what discussions your department has engaged in, with your federal counterparts and other possible provincial ministries, which would help alleviate this most restrictive impediment to the people of Labrador generally?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can assure the member from the other side that we are no happier about the security levy on this side than they are on that side.

Mr. Speaker, I just had word this morning that this particular levy will also be incurred on Twin Otter service which is a service up and down the coast. We will be discussing this with our federal counterparts, and I can tell you we are going to be very aggressive in dealing with this particular issue, because we believe that it is another charge that we don't particularly need. We have been downgraded in our transportation service and we will be dealing with this, Mr. Speaker, with the Minister of Transportation in Ottawa as well as our Transportation Department here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I say to the minister, this issue is critical and it does require some aggression. The issue is critical to the needs of the people of Labrador, in particular, I say to the minister, those residents who, for health reasons, must travel to St. John's, for example, for care and treatment.

I ask the minister: Is he prepared to specifically address the concerns of those people to ensure that their care and their treatment is not being blocked by these exorbitant travel costs between Labrador and other parts of the Island?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I again appreciate the hon. member's question. Let me tell the hon. member, and the members on the other side, that we are dealing on a daily basis with the airlines, with the transportation initiatives that we have in place and with the health boards, to ensure that medical service is not impeded by the lack of service that is provided to the Labrador part of the Province. Also, Mr. Speaker, we always try to encourage the airlines to offer lesser cost services when people have to travel for medical reasons. Mr. Speaker, not only for the patients, but we also try to do it for the escort that a lot of times has to be used with a patient to come to St. John's for a particular service.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, on November 29, the Minister of Works, Service and Transportation stated in this House that Bill 25, An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act, was introduced because the Auditor General recommended that this legislation be brought forward. Can the minister tell the House where and when the Auditor General recommended that this legislation be introduced?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The officials within my department do a lot of dialogue with the Auditor General's department. In meetings that the Auditor General had with my officials he indicated that we should bring in this amendment to the Public Tender Act because the things that we do with our emergency work on our marine services is not an emergency thing. It is a rule, actually, because of the nature of our marine services. Rather than do an exemption to the Public Tender Act we should amend the Public Tender Act so that we do not have to go to public tender.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I say to the minister: Isn't it true that the Auditor General has never recommended that any changes be made to the Public Tender Act with respect to this proposed Bill 25? Won't you admit that here today?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, this government and this department is very concerned with providing efficient service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, in the isolated communities around this Province where the only link with the mainland part of this Province is a ferry. We do not want a ferry to be tied up for any great length of time, so we can provide a good service. What we are saying in this amendment to the Pubic Tender Act is this will make the department more efficient and be able to provide the service to the 750,000 passengers that use our ferry services every year. If this Opposition is against that amendment, I suggest you vote against it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Why won't the minister answer the question? He never went near the question with that answer, Mr. Speaker. I ask the minister again: Where and when did the Auditor General recommend that this legislation be brought forward to amend the Public Tender Act, and if he has information why will he not table it in this House of Assembly?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BARRETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not know how more clearly I can say it to the hon. member. The discussions that the officials had with the Auditor General's department - within my department with the Auditor General's department - have recommended that we do an amendment to the Public Tender Act. I do not know what the hon. member is trying to prove. All they want to do is to shut down the ferry service in Newfoundland and Labrador. If that is what they want, vote against the amendment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. I ask the minister if he would inform the House if there is any money budgeted by his government to defray the cost of sports teams travelling outside Newfoundland and Labrador to represent the Province in sports competitions?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question.

We have increased our budget in the last couple of years to assist with sports groups in the Province for them to develop sports within the Province. We have a very limited funding for sports events for outside the Province but where we can we try to do our best with the budget we have. Our budget has been increased within the Province. As a matter of fact, this year we will also be having the Winter Games in Gander, where we are going to have the largest number of athletes participating. We are looking forward to Gander hosting. I am not sure what exactly the member is getting at, but where we can we try to assist for outside the Province. Again, we have a lot of sports groups and we do our best within the Province. We concentrate there most of the time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the minister if he would inform the House what criteria is used to decide who is in and who is out? Maybe he would also like to admit to the House if funding is only available to people from Liberal districts or used at election time to sway the electorate?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, he is at it again. He is trying to politicize sports in the Province. He issued a press release about the girl's hockey team for the Gander Games coming up. The day he issued the release condemning the government for not having fixed it, we announced the same day, about an hour later, that we had it fixed. He is at it again. Let me tell him that we look at every request on a fair basis. Our officials, by the way, are doing a great job. I tell you, we had the best results at the Canada Summer Games than we have ever had this summer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. K. AYLWARD: I tell you, we put every dollar into our sports people in this Province. I will tell you something else, they very much appreciate it, not like the member.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has ended.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER GRIMES: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER GRIMES: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier is on a point of order.

PREMIER GRIMES: On a point of order, just to ask for leave for a minute to deal with the request for the amendment today. What I would ask to facilitate the work with respect to the Auditor General's Act is that the Auditor General is one of, what will be four Officers of the House. We have the Auditor General, who is an Officer of the House. That is why the reports are tabled in the House, because the person is an Officer of the House. We have the Chief Electoral Officer, who is also the Commissioner of Members' Interests, who table the reports in the House because they are Officers of the House. We just named the next Officer of the House, who will be the Citizens' Representative. We are also, hopefully, going to be back here shortly after Christmas naming the fourth Officer of the House, who will be the Child and Youth Advocate.

I would ask if, maybe, the Official Opposition and a representative of the NDP could work with our Justice Minister to get a more encompassing amendment that would allow all of the Officers of the House to table the report to the public even if the House is not open.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. WILLIAMS: That is fine, Mr. Speaker. We would be prepared to do that today if the Leader of the New Democratic Party is available as well. If we could deal with that this afternoon and have it dealt with, unanimously, today.

Thank you.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To that point of order, certainly we would be happy to cooperate with the Minister of Justice and a representative of the Official Opposition to ensure that all reports that are made by the Officers of the House can be available to members as soon as they are given to the Speaker.

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

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I table the exemptions to -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. BARRETT: - the Public Tender Act for the months of May, June, July, August, September and October. I would hazard a guess that a lot of them in there are exemptions so that we could provide efficient marine services to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to table today the Annual Report of the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board ending March 31, 2001.

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

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to table today, as per section 5 of the Social Assistance Act, a report on the Income Support Program of the Department of Human Resources and Employment.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we continue with the routine proceedings the Chair would like to welcome to the Speaker's gallery today a former member for the District of Port de Grave, Mr. John Efford.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: As well, I would like to welcome to the gallery the Mayor of the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor, Mayor Walwyn Blackmore.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Answers to Questions for Which Notice has been Given

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

MS BETTNEY: The question which was tabled by the Member for Trinity North which requested that I provide information showing the long-term debt of all Institutional and Community Health Boards as of March 31, 2001. I am tabling that information, the capital debt and the operational long-term debt as of March 31.

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

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to table the information requested by the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi regarding the breakdown of the Waste Management Trust Fund allocations of funding to community groups, municipalities, businesses and others for development and implementation of waste management initiatives since the inception of the Waste Management Trust Fund, July 20, 1999.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, we are going to get into some third readings today and we would like to call from Orders 3 to 13. They would be Bills 21, 22, 26, 28, 33, 35, 41, 57, 50, 34 and 46, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, the following Bills 21, 22, 26, 28, 33, 35, 41, 57, 50, 34 and 46 read a third time, ordered passed and their title be as on the Order Paper:

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Teacher Training Act." (Bill 21)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Forestry Act." (Bill 22)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Registered Nurses Act." (Bill 26)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act." (Bill 28)

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Protection Of Endangered Species." (Bill 33)

A bill, "An Act To Facilitate Electronic Commerce By Removing Barriers To The Use Of Electronic Communication." (Bill 35)

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Protection of Farm Practices In the Province." (Bill 41)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Historic Resources Act." (Bill 57)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Financial Administration Act No. 2." (Bill 50)

A bill, "An Act To Permit An Action By One Person On Behalf Of A Class Of Persons." (Bill 34)

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Child and Youth Advocate." (Bill 46)

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to discuss Bills 54, 40 and 59.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Mercer): Order, please!

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act." (Bill 54)

On motion, clauses 1 through 14 carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 15 carry?

The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have some concerns about clause 15. In Committee of the Whole, I guess, this is the appropriate place to raise concerns about a particular clause. Clause 15, as it is proposed, says the following, Mr. Chairman, "Subsection 34(2) of the Act is repealed and the following substituted:..." So, if we pass this particular clause, what I am about to read will become the law of the land. (2) "An employer shall pay the wages to which an employee is entitled..." in any or one or more of the following ways: (a) "in lawful currency of Canada;..." - in other words, in cash; that is not too much of a problem - (b) "by cheque or order drawn on a bank in which the employer maintains an account; or..." - generally, that is not much of a problem - (c), "in accordance with subsection (3)." Section 3 is this, "An employer may pay an employee's wages by direct deposit into an account of a bank of the employee's choice."

Mr. Chairman, the problem with this section - and I hope the minister and government will be open about it - is that, however small it might be, there are still people in this Province who do not maintain a bank account and who, for whatever reason, have no intention of maintaining a bank account. They might be small in number. They might be few in number, Mr .Chairman, but there are some. If an employer decided, for whatever reason, that he was going to go to direct deposit without the employee's consent, then there is a problem. It should be, it must be, with the employee's consent.

Mr. Chairman, my understanding of the committee that reviewed this legislation, the report of the committee recommended, as I understand it, that this particular clause contain the wording: with the employee's consent.

Now, there is no problem with an employer moving to a direct deposit system to pay wages and other monetary benefits owed if the employee consents to it, but if the employee does not consent then it would be wrong for the law to allow the employer to proceed to do it anyway. It would be wrong. It would be an imposition on the employee without the employee's consent. It would be forcing something on the employee that the employee may have a great deal of difficulty living up to.

You know, Mr. Chairman, it is not as easy to open a bank account in this Province today as it was just a few months or a few years ago. Do you know that you cannot walk into a bank today, or any other financial institution, and demand to open up a bank account? Do you know that you have to phone a bank today, make an appointment with an employee of a bank, to come in at a certain time with picture ID and all that kind of stuff, before they can even open an piddly little bank account for a student anymore? Do you know that is what you have to do in this Province today in a chartered financial institution? Now there are some people -

AN HON. MEMBER: It would hard to open one in Old Perlican, I would say.

MR. RIDEOUT: How do you open one in Old Perlican where they are just closing out the Scotia Bank, if some employer in Old Perlican decided they were going to move to a direct deposit system?

I do not want to belabour the point, Mr. Chairman, but I am prepared to belabour the point because there is a fundamental right involved here. The fundamental right is the right of the employee to agree. If the employee agrees, then I have no problem whatsoever, and if that wording is in the legislation, I have no problem whatsoever, I will sit down and that will be the end of it. But we should not and we must not put employees in a position in this Province where, in order to access the wages that they have earned by the sweat of their brow, in order to access the wages that they have earned by their daily word, that they have to open a bank account.

Some people might prefer to continue to put their money in a sock, Mr. Chairman. That is their right. If they want to stuff their money under their mattress, that is their right. It should not be the right of an employer to dictate, without the employee's consent, how they are going to receive the remuneration for their wages.

If the minister is going to insist on leaving out the words, and the words are very minimal, with the consent of the employee, that is all that is necessary and I understand that is the way it was recommended to the government by the committee that worked on this legislation: with the consent of the employee. If the minister is prepared to do that then I am prepared to say that is the end of it and sit down, but if the minister is not prepared to take some advice on this, if the minister is going to dig in her heels and be unmindful of what we are saying and the legitimate concern that we are expressing here, then I tell the minister and the government they will have a rough ride for the rest of this day and however long it takes on this particular clause.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I rise to speak on clause 15, which is a matter of some great interest to me because it affects all employees in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, whether they be government employees or private employer-employees. Right now the law is that if you are an employee you have to be paid in certain ways. You have to paid either at your place of work, during working hours, or paid by delivery of money to your home, or by deposit into your bank if you have one. Those are the only three ways that you can be paid.

With respect to the method of payment, it has to be either in lawful currency of Canada or by a cheque or a money order drawn at a bank. That is the only ways in which you can be paid. Now, this amendment being proposed will allow an employer to dictate that they will not pay you by cash or cheque, that they will only pay you by depositing money into a bank or a credit union. You get to choose which bank or credit union but you do not get to choose whether you are going to be paid in cash or cheque or not.

Mr. Chairman, I think that is wrong, that an employee, whether a seventeen-year-old or eighteen-year-old going to work at a takeout for $15 or $20 a week or whether it be a person who lives in Hopedale, Labrador, or in Old Perlican, or in Frenchman's Cove, that person has the right to be able to get their cheque in their hands so that they can go and spend it.

Most people, Mr. Chairman - I do not know about members of the House - most people in rural Newfoundland, when they get their cheque, they take it to the grocery store or they take it to the supermarket to change the cheque to get their food and their groceries to put them on the table. They do not feel like necessarily driving twenty miles or thirty miles to a community with a bank to get access to their money, so that they can buy their groceries or pay their bills or look after their obligations.

Mr. Chairman, this legislation is bad legislation. It forces employees in a situation where it should not have to. Now, it is all very well for anyone to say well, we are in the modern era and everybody has a bank account, yadda, yadda, yadda, but I do not think that is the case, Mr. Chairman. Everybody does not have a bank account, and neither should everybody be forced to have a bank account. There are many people who do not have bank accounts or, as the Member for Lewisporte said, in some cases have a lot of trouble getting access to a bank account, cannot get a bank account.

Banks will not give you a bank account these days, if you are a bad credit risk. Banks will not give you a bank account, if you are a bad credit risk. They do not want trouble from people who have bad credit problems or bad credit histories with a bank. Now, this legislation is going to say that the employer can choose whether they are going to pay this. Are we going to have, for example, Mr. Chairman, if Voisey's Bay goes through, are you going to have Inco deciding that they are going to do electronic transfer up in Sudbury or Toronto and pay somebody who happens to live in Rigolet or Hopedale by a direct deposit to a bank? Where is the bank going to be? In Happy Valley? In Nain?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The minister says that is a matter of the employee's choice. What if he lives in Old Perlican? He does not have a choice, does he, because there is no bank in Old Perlican; they are just closing it down. There is no bank on Bell Island; they closed it down.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: It wasn't the people of Bell Island's choice that the bank close down, I say to the minister. It was against the wishes of the people of Bell Island that they close down the bank. There is no bank on Bell Island.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The minister is saying they cannot pay the employee that way. I understand that. That is the law right now. They cannot pay the employee that way right now, but this amendment will now say that the employer has the right to pay by direct deposit, whether the employee consents or not.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Alright. That is exactly what it says, "An employer may pay an employee's wages by direct deposit into an account of a bank of the employee's choice."

Now the minister is saying that if the employee does not choose to have one, they have to pay it in another way. If the minister's interpretation is correct, and there is good argument to that point, I know the Legislative Council has said that may be an interpretation that would fly, what I am saying to the minister, and to members opposite, is: Let's spell it out in the act.

The minister shrugs. I guess that means he shrugs in agreement. Let's say it in the act. Let's say: With the consent of an employee, an employer may pay an employee's wages by direct deposit into a bank account of the employee's choice.

I do not think that is a startling amendment. I do not think it is a startling change. It is not a change in the current law. It provides for direct deposit. In fact, some members of this House receive their paycheque through a direct deposit to a bank if they so choose. If this legislation is passed today, tomorrow or next week sometime, then the government could turn around tomorrow, or next week, and say: As a result of a policy change we are only paying employees of government through direct deposit. Tell us the name of your bank and we will deposit it there.

That is what I am trying to avoid, Mr. Chairman, by making it clear to an employee - whether it be a seventeen-year-old or an eighteen year-old working part-time for a fast food takeout, or whether it be an employee of Inco or the Iron Ore Company of Canada, or any other employer, that they can go by direct deposit if they want - all the employee has to do is sign a form - but if the employee does not consent and wants to take either a cheque, or cash - I think we have gone past the point where an employee is entitled to insist on cash - an employer can pay by cheque or by cash, both of which are considered to be lawful tender, and both having the protection, I say, Mr. Chairman, of either the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation or the Credit Union Act, that an employee can have that right. It is not up to the employer; it is up to the employee.

That is the amendment I am proposing. In fact, I would like to move, seconded by the Member for Labrador West, that subclause 15(3) be amended by adding the words "with the consent of an employee" before the words "an employer" at the beginning of subclause 15(3).

I have the amendment in writing. The minister already has a copy of it. I can make it available to the Clerk. The labor critic for the Official Opposition also has a copy of the amendment. I would ask the Chair to rule as to whether or not the amendment is in order and then I would like to speak to the amendment.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Labor.

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

With reference to clause 15, I would like to advise the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi - pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Mr. Chairman, I would like to continue and say again that with reference to clause 15 of Bill 54, the amendment, as presented by the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, I do concur with.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Okay, so we have the amendments as written.

The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Chairman, I just want to take thirty seconds to thank the minister for concurring in the amendment that was proposed by my friend from Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi and supported by us. I think it is a good day for democracy in Newfoundland and Labrador when this kind of thing can happen.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: We will just move on and come back. Call the next clause.

Prior to voting on clause 15, we are going to consider the other clauses of the bill and come back and vote on the amendment later.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I understand that the Law Clerk has a suggestion that the wording, as proposed to the amendment, might better be worded a different way so we will set that aside for a moment. I should say though, for the record, that the Legislative Council has had this proposed wording earlier today. It was not this particular council, but the wording has been around for a day or so.

Mr. Chairman, when this bill was called in Committee I was conferring with the minister on the proposed amendment that is now before the House. I wonder if we could revert to clause 9? I think we went past clause 9 while I was conferring with the minister. I wonder if we could have consent to revert to clause 9?

CHAIR: Does the member have leave to convert to clause 9?

AN HON. MEMBER: I can't hear (inaudible).

CHAIR: Order, please!

The members to my right are saying that they cannot hear what is going on. I would remind the members to my right, I cannot hear very much myself for the noise coming from the right.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to thank members for consenting to revert to clause 9.

Clause 9 of the bill, Mr. Chairman, refers to overtime provisions under the Labour Standards Act. Under the current Labour Standards Act, clause 9 provides that time off be given in lieu of overtime under certain conditions as laid out in the proposed amendment. What it also does is take the existing section 25 of the act and renumbers it as Clause 25(1).

The issue that I want to refer to is the issue of whether or not the new provisions for overtime ought to appear in the act. Right now the current regulations to the act says that overtime is time and a half the minimum wage. If the minimum wage were, for example, $5.50 an hour and an employer paid $8 an hour, the employer might say: Well, we pay $8 an hour but we don't pay overtime on this job. So, if you are working fifty hours a week you will still get your $8. Now the minister has said that the policy is going to change. The new policy based, on the recommendations of the Labour Standard Review Board, is going to be time and a half the regular rate of pay. That we agree with. I think that is a very positive and progressive move.

The real problem is with the current section 25 of the act. The current section 25 is a very convoluted - and follow this if you can, Mr. Chairman, it says: Where an employee works in excess of the standard working hours as permitted by this part - which is forty hours a week - the employer shall pay to the employee the rate of wages for overtime that may be set out in the regulations by a prescribed formula which may differ for different classes of employees in different undertakings or part of them. Now that does mean something to a lawyer but you then would have to go and get some regulations and look up and see what the regulations are.

One of the major recommendations of the Labour Standards Review Board - what we are talking about here is the board appointed by the government with representatives of labour, representatives of employers and independent people, to go around the Province and have hearings and come up with a report. They made a recommendation that all employment standards, with the exception of the rate of minimum wage and exemptions from the standards, should be set out in the act and not in the regulations. What does that mean? What that means is if the Legislature should set out this, not the Cabinet by regulation, and an employee, who wants to know what the rules are, can look at the act and see what the act says.

That same section that is now going to have this very convoluted thing in section 1 will have in section 2: That an employer may compensate an employee for overtime by giving an hour and a half off for every hour worked for overtime. The problem is this, the employee reading that then goes back to say: Well, what is overtime anyway? There is no provision for overtime other than this convoluted existing section 25.

What I have proposed to the minister and the minister's officials - and I think it is agreed that this is what the intention is - that this is no longer tied to the minimum wage. The time and a half of the regular hourly rate is no longer tied to the minimum wage at all. It is not a part of the rate of minimum wage. It is one and a half times the regular hourly rate. That is now going to be the rule - and it will not be the rule unless the government follows through on changing the regulation. Now I don't distrust them on that, but the policy issue that came out of the Labour Standards Review Board was that labour standards and the time-and-a-half of regular hourly rate is a labour standard, should be in the act and not the regulations. The only thing that the regulations should deal with is the rate of the minimum wage. So we now have a new labour standard, and that new labour standard is, that any overtime be paid at time and a half the regular hourly rate and there is provision there for time off in lieu that we are now introducing.

I have another amendment that I have proposed to the minister and to the minister's officials which would have the effect of changing that existing section 25. It would now read as follows: That where an employee works in excess of the standard working hours as permitted by this part - that is what is there already - the employer shall, subject to subsection 2 and 3, which is time off in lieu, pay as overtime paid to the employee one and one half times the regular rate of wages of that employee. The new section 25 would now flow very sensibility from the time and a half regular hourly rate in the first part to an opportunity, if there is agreement between the employer and the employee, to take time off in lieu of overtime.

I know the minister is looking in the longer run at further changes to the act, but this is one that he can fix now. It now will read very sensibility, that if an employee - this is a matter of controversy, I have to say to hon. members, it has been for years, as to what the overtime rate is. Now, with my proposed amendment, it will appear in the act and not require someone to read the act and say: Well, what does that mean? Then have to go and find regulations or make phone calls or do other things.

It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that this is a very sensible amendment that would avoid the confusion and would comply - I have to say, not only would it comply with the recommendations of the Labour Standards Review Board, but it also complies with the consensus of employers and employees, which occurred later on in the fall, as a consensus that was brought about by both the representatives of the employers' council and the representatives of the Federation of Labour and others who participated in these discussions. So all parties are agreed that all employment standards appear in the act and not in the regulations. Here is one labour standard that we are making some amendment to right now. We are fixing up the provision for overtime. We are following the recommendations of the Labour Standards Review Board. We are following the recommendations of the consultative committee in terms of allowing for time off in lieu of overtime where an employee so consents. I am making a very sensible suggestion, that an employee who is now able to access the new act after it is passed into law by looking at it on a government Web site, where it will appear, can look at that and say: Now section 25 deals with overtime and its say, overtime is time-and-a-half the regular hourly rate. Instead of that, Mr. Chairman, an employee would look at something that talks about the rate of wages for overtime maybe being set up with regulations by prescribed formula which may differ for different classes of employees.

I think this proposed amendment is a very sensible one, and I want to move the amendment to clause 9, seconded by the Member for Labrador West, that clause 9 of the bill be amended by deleting the existing clause and substituting the following, which would read, that section 25 of the act be repealed and the following substituted, and set out in that is the new proposed section 25(1) and the existing sections (2) and (3) which are contained in the amendment. I would like to make that motion, Mr. Chairman, and perhaps the law clerk could consider that.

There may be other speakers who want to speak on that, but perhaps we should have a ruling as to whether the amendment is in order first.

CHAIR: The Chair will take a moment to consider the amendment, to see if it is in order.

[The Chair takes a moment to consider the amendment.]

CHAIR: Order, please!

The Chair has determined that the amendment, as presented, is in order.

The hon. the Minister of Labour.

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to thank the member opposite, the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, for making the amendment. I understand his concerns and I appreciate his comments here today. What I would also like to say to the member opposite is that, the issue he has raised is already guaranteed, in effect, in what we are putting through here today. I also want to say to the member that the whole act itself, the Labour Standards Act, Bill 54, needs a complete overhaul. As he described, a lot of the language in it is convoluted and we want to make it more user-friendly, Mr. Chairman.

So I am committing here today, in our annual consultations and through Legislative Counsel, that there will be a rewrite of this act. If the item that he is raising today is a concern, once we meet in our annual review I will certainly take that into account and incorporate it into the new act, if that is a problem at that time.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I accept the minister's commitment; however, you know, we recognize that the legislative process itself is, frankly, a slow one. We had the Labour Standards Review Board appointed in 1999. It had meetings throughout 1999 and 2000. They made a report and the report wasn't acted upon for a long, long time. It took the Employers' Council and the Federation of Labour to come to the department and say: Let's get moving on this. Then it took a whole other process to get some sort of consensus from those groups as to which recommendations were going to be accepted. Now, we are here today with some amendments to the act.

We are dealing with something that everybody knows, and everybody agrees - I mean, the minister has just agreed that what is there now is convoluted. It is not user friendly. It is not comprehensible, frankly, to an ordinary person reading the act and will now be reading a new section of the act which has three provisions all related to overtime. Two of them you can understand, and the other one you cannot. The two that you can understand will deal with the ability to take an hour-and-a-half off for each hour of overtime worked. The one that deals with how much you get paid for overtime, you cannot understand. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't tell you anything except that there may be a formula in the regulations that might apply. You know, the parties have already gotten together. They have already identified. I do not think the parties to the consultation process have actually seen this, the act itself, and determined whether or not it complied with all of the recommendations that they made, because it clearly does not comply with recommendation three, which was that all employment standards with the exception of the rated minimum wage, and exemption from the standards, should be set out in the act and not in the regulations.

Mr. Chairman, that is a circumstance that I think can be changed right now so that next year, after Christmas, an employee who wants to know what the rules are with respect to overtime, can look at one section of the act and find three rules. The three rules will be as follows: rule one, if you work overtime, you get paid time-and-a-half through regular rate of pay; rule two, that you can take time off in lieu of overtime if you and the employer agree; rule three, that there is a certain period of time in which that time off has to be taken.

That seems to me - and I recognize the minister is committed to consultations with people over the next while, and the next annual review and so on, but I do not know if this will be considered a priority enough, or important enough or whatever by itself, to even be considered by this group.

Although, I recognize that there have been two recommendations coming out of the Labour Standards Tribunal, which is the one that had all the hearings and listened to all the people, and came back with recommendations. They made two recommendations. Recommendation number one was, in fact, that the Labour Standards Act be replaced with something to be called the employment standards act. Well, that is fine. They are going to wait on that, and that is fine. Recommendation number two was, that the new employment standards act be drafted in plain English so that it is clearly and easily understandable to employees and employers. That has been supported but there is a long-term plan associated with that because that is not something that can be done overnight. It takes some considerable period of time, as part of a long-term plan, to say okay, we will take this legislation and we will try and write it so it legally has the same meaning, but it is easily understandable.

If you look at the priority of the recommendations, recommendation three is that the labour standards be contained in the act and not the regulation. This is a new labour standard, one that did not exist before the minister committed to changing it. Let me say this: One thing that the minister did say is wrong. What we do here today will have no effect on the rate of overtime. The only thing that will have an effect on the rate of overtime is what the Cabinet may do when it changes the regulations down the road. So, what we pass here today will not affect the overtime rate. It will still say, if we pass this legislation without amendment, that the rate for overtime may be set out in the regulations by prescribed formula which may differ for different classes of employees, in different undertakings, or part of them.

Are we going to have different rates of overtime and different formulas for different employees, for different classes of employees in different undertakings or parts of undertakings? I hope not. I do not think so. But if what we pass here today what the minister is proposing in her amendment, what we will have is a situation where there is no overtime rate at all other than the one that is in the existing regulation which says that it is one-and-a-half times the minimum wage.

What the minister say is wrong. We need this amendment in order to include the time-and-a-half for overtime standard into the act, which was recommended by the Labour Standards Review Tribunal.

CHAIR: We are voting on the amendment to clause 9.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

On motion, amendment defeated.

CHAIR: We are voting on the amendment to clause 15.

MR. HARRIS: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

As a result of the discussions with the Legislative Counsel, the amendment that was proposed by me and read out to the House has been proposed to be changed slightly. Perhaps the Chair would read the amendment as reworded. The minister has a copy of the reworded amendment, as do I. I am assuming that everybody has seen it.

CHAIR: Yes.

MR. HARRIS: Perhaps you could read it out so that all members would know what the new wording is to that amendment.

CHAIR: That is what the Chair was about to do.

"That clause 15 of the Bill be amended at the proposed subsection 34(3) by adding immediately after the word "wages" the commas and words, "with that employee's consent."

MR. HARRIS: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: There are another several words that the Chair has left out, at least on the version I have with me, which says -

CHAIR: Not on the section that I have.

MR. HARRIS: - immediately after the words "wages...".

CHAIR: Perhaps the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi would like to read what he has and I will compare it with what I have here.

MR. HARRIS: What I have is: That subclause 15(3) be amended by adding the words and commas, "with that employee's consent" immediately after the word "wages".

CHAIR: Yes.

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause 15 as amended carried.

On motion, clauses 16 through 44 inclusive carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill, with amendment, carried. (Bill 54)

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Chairman, Order 16, Bill 40.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991." (Bill 40)

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Just a few very brief comments on a couple of sections. Rather than get up on two or three occasions, I will be very brief. I have addressed many of these points in second reading and I just want to reiterate that we do not have a problem with those specific clauses there, but I think it is certainly noteworthy to indicate support for clause 4 of the bill and I will make some general comments on this particular one, rather than do it clause-by-clause, I think, in the title of the bill. When the minister called it earlier, I stood.

To allow for return of contributions made by employees with interest at a rate prescribed for periods of pensionable service, a terminating employee with at least five years of pensionable service..., I think that option was not there before and I think it is important to at least allow that particular choice there that was not there before. I think it gives certain flexibility to an individual to be able to make that decision and not have to be legislated with only one condition. It now gives an alternative or gives a choice to them. That is certainly positive there.

Also, under clause 7(6), "A former employee with at least 5 years pensionable service whose employment terminated before this Act comes into force and who did not receive a refund of contributions may, before becoming eligible to receive a pension under this Act, make the same election as a terminating employee under section 9.1."

They would have that option under this particular one, so we are certainly supportive of that. We think that is also a positive piece of legislation here in that.

There are a few other points, I think, that reflect conditions and appropriateness. For instance, section 30 of the act on the pension benefits there under the Family Law Act, so rather than belabour the point, Mr. Chairman, I will just indicate our support for all particular clauses here and I will not have to be up on each specific clause.

On motion, clauses 1 through 9 inclusive carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.(Bill 40)

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Chairman, Order 17, Bill 59.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991 and The Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991". (Bill 59)

CHAIR: Shall clauses 1 through 5 carry?

The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Once again, I want to make a specific point here. I think what it does here in this particular clause2 of the Public Service Pensions Act, in clause 2 of the bill, subsection 23(2) of the act, right now, basically, people out there who report that they are drawing a pension to government would have it clawed back if they are receiving Canada Pension. When they indicate they are getting Canada Pension at age sixty, they will start clawing back a percentage of their Public Service Pension, basically. If government did not know until you were sixty-five that you were drawing Canada Pension, it would then claw it back then; so basically it was not a level playing field. It was depending on the honour system, if you indicated it, or whether the department was going to be aggressive in finding out that you were drawing a pension. I think what this does here now, Mr. Chairman, is the right thing by indicating it is the same for everybody now, that when the age of sixty-five occurs, that clawback would be initiated.

I asked a question at an earlier stage, and I am not sure if the minister can answer it now. I know I asked it in second reading, and I did not have an opportunity to research it, to be honest with you. I am not sure if the minister did, when I asked the question. What about somebody who does not retire at age - let's say keeps working at sixty-five, does not pay into Canada Pension for instance, or keeps paying in and works beyond sixty-five and still draws their pension? Is that going to be clawed back then automatically at sixty-five, or must you be receiving your pension to have it clawed back? That's just a question I would like to have answered.

If I would have had the opportunity, I probably would have called and followed on this specific thing. The minister says it automatically would start at sixty-five whether you are getting Canada Pension or not. In other words, if someone decides that: I am not going to get Canada Pension at sixty-five, I am not drawing any benefits on Canada Pension, even though I am sixty-seven or sixty-eight. We are going to find out that the Province is going to start clawing back on your Public Service Pension even though you are not getting Canada Pension.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, but I said to the Premier last year: somebody could have qualified for a Public Service Pension or one of the government pensions, could have taken that early and gone to work somewhere else and working on some other job, paying in premiums and might not be drawing down on their Canada Pension. Would they then be clawed back on their Public Service Pension or whatever plan? I think the minister said they would be, so in other words it would be the same. Once you hit sixty-five you are deemed as if you are drawing it, and automatically it would be clawed back. That is my understanding from what the minister said.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

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

If you are drawing down a pension and you are at age sixty-five, you have the deductions taken out at age sixty-five. It is an automatic thing that will happen. Like the legislation, that is the way it is. If you are working and you are not drawing down a pension, then you are obviously not going to have the deductions if you are not receiving a pension. Is that what you are asking?

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MS J.M. AYLWARD: No, okay, just so we are clear. If you are receiving a pension and you are sixty, you happen to let the Department of Finance know at some point, then you would have had the deductions taken out at age sixty. Now, what we have done is, because it is virtually awash in terms of the monetary impact, everybody will have their deductions taken at age sixty-five and it will be consistent right across the board.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

No, I fully understand that, minister, what the bill is saying here. I am quite clear on what the bill is saying. Somebody could be working today at age sixty-seven but drawing a Public Service Pension Plan or one of the government pension plans or they could be working at some other job, or gone to some other occupation and working and paying benefits and drawing a salary from that. The question I asked was: When they are sixty-five - and I think the minister said yes. Once you are sixty-five you are automatically getting clawed back that amount as if you are getting Canada Pension, whether you are or whether you are not. That is what the minister said.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, that is what I understood there. It is not relevant whether you are working or not. If you are working at a job in which you qualify, the government pension is relevant but you could be working at another job - retired when you were fifty-five, fifty-seven, fifty-two, gone somewhere else and went to work at another job, as many people are doing today, it is going to be taken back automatically there. I would assume the reason for that would be when contracts were negotiated and rates were paid, they were paid under the consideration that there would be a Canada Pension available to that person at age sixty or sixty-five - we will now deem - therefore maybe you would have had to pay in higher premiums if you were not going to get a Canada Pension. So we are going to take back a portion of that, claw back on your pension because of that. That's my understanding of the rationale behind that. In any event, it is not -

MS J.M. AYLWARD: It is not relevant to that legislation.

MR. SULLIVAN: It may not be relevant to it, but one thing: that I support this clause on the grounds that it was an honour system. If somebody decided to tell the Department of Finance: I am drawing my pension at sixty; and someone else drew it at sixty but did not tell the Department of Finance, one person got clawed back and the other one did not. Therefore, it was not even. At least right now everybody is treated the same. It is automatic. That is one of the positive aspects of that particular legislation.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

On motion, clauses 1 through 5 carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

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

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

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report that Bills 40 and 59 passed, without amendment, and Bill 54 passed, with amendment, and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted, Committee ordered to sit again on tomorrow.

On motion, amendments read a first and second time, bills ordered read a third time presently by leave.

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

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991." (Bill 40)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act." (Bill 54)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991 And The Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991." (Bill 59)

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

MR. LUSH: Order 29, Bill 60, second reading An Act To Amend The Economic Diversification And Growth Enterprises Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 60, Order 29.

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly do not want to take a lot of time today, I say to the minister, but I want to make a few comments on Bill 60, and say, I guess in this phrase: It is with cautious optimism that I approach this bill. I support any initiative or any notion that, first of all, acknowledges that in rural Newfoundland - which we have discussed for a number of days - there certainly needs to be some attention - with some interest that we support any initiative or notion that would improve the economies of rural Newfoundland. I say that in a very constructive way.

I say to the minister, as I read through the bill and see the initiatives that it takes, and it moves a bit further on where we refer to it as double-EDGE, Mr. Speaker. I guess the real proof will be in time in history, as we move on with this to see that it works. All I can say is that I hope in six months from now or a year from now that we can stand up and talk about positive things that have happened in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

The bill onto itself, is not the total answer. I guess anybody would agree with that. Just today, just this morning as a matter of fact, I did an interview regarding rural Newfoundland and some of the questions about infrastructure in rural Newfoundland.

It is quite true, as councillors and mayors tell me, in these smaller communities around Newfoundland and Labrador, with initiatives like this, they can maintain infrastructure within their communities. The line is repeated over and over by mayors and councillors and town clerks who I talk to at the rural level, if they are going to have any chance at all at economic rejuvenation within these smaller communities, they have to at least - to have any chance at all - maintain, if not improve on, their infrastructure within that community.

Whether you are going to attract the business that hires five people or fifty people, all those investments depend on whether that community can offer basic infrastructure, anywhere from roads, water and sewer, right on up to schools availability, recreation within the community and so on. That is also a part of the puzzle. That is why, in this particular interview this morning, I stressed the point that if these communities are going to have any chance at all of rebounding, initiatives like this with EDGE, hopefully that will attract somebody that would come to that community. Well, Mr. Speaker, part and parcel of that is the fact that these communities have to maintain an infrastructure. You cannot have a town that is falling down around you, and expect to encourage an investor to come into that community.

Mr. Speaker, I used another example this morning of a community when it sees its first bit of pavement come into the community. Besides the actual economic investment - because I have always considered it as an investment, not a cost, when you put basic infrastructure in a small rural community - it is an investment, because down the road in that community, their spirits are lifted, they see something happening.

I guess no matter which government is in power, when a rural Newfoundland community sees an improvement in their basis infrastructure, they have faith also that the government of the day, whoever that may be, is supporting rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, some communities are worse off than others, if you want to look at it that way. Communities that have some chances and have some interest in different companies, whether it be big or small, to come into that particular community, well, good for them.

I just had another case in point in my district, the community of Little Bay, which has a mussel farm and a mussel plant there that is not in operation right now - there were some previous problems with the previous owner - but they have a chance. They have a chance if they can have this plant up and running. They can put twenty, thirty or forty jobs in the community of Little Bay. Well, that is their Voisey's Bay. That is what is important to them. They are not looking for the mega projects. In a lot of cases, indirectly, they are not really interested in mega projects. They are interested in what is going to work in their small communities, what is going to allow them to live in the communities that they want to stay in, maintain their homes and call home. They want to stay there. If they have some chances, they have to have the opportunity to invest within their community, start something like this mussel farm and plant in Little Bay, which would not take a lot, and hopefully at the end of the day that small community of Little Bay can provide a decent living for the people who are there.

I could go on with many more examples, the point being - and I will not belabor this today; I am going to look at it with cautious optimism, support it with cautious optimism - hopefully, whoever sits in this House in a year from now or two years from now, that they can stand up and say there was something positive happen, and somebody actually went to work in some small community.

This is going to be the proof. This is where it is going to come down to - when a mayor in some small community can stand up and say: We have attracted an investor. It is a small project, but it is putting ten real jobs in small town rural Newfoundland. That is when we can start to see the positives here in this Province.

I have said many times - and I know the minister agrees - as goes Newfoundland so goes rural Newfoundland and Labrador. That is the point. If we can rejuvenate the smaller communities of Newfoundland and Labrador, and give it back its pride of living in small town rural Newfoundland and Labrador, then we have done something positive for this Province. I believe that is when we will see this Province as a whole revive and get up to where it should be. With the resources we have today, there is no reason why anybody in rural Newfoundland and Labrador should not be working.

While we say that we support this, we caution and we will watch it roll out to see where it goes, because we have to support any chance at all and anything that adds an element, a possibility, of investment in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, then we have to support it. But we have to also keep in mind, Mr. Speaker, that the basic infrastructure in those small communities have to be maintained, I say to the Minister of Transportation, and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, with whom I have had some good discussions, they know that if those small communities are going to avail of anything that this bill may provide us in a year to two years from now, they cannot be beating over rough gravel roads, or unpaved roads like the ones going into the community of Harry's Harbour where they have just developed a beautiful trail down there, but tourists turn away because they do not want to go down over the gravel roads. The same in Little Bay, the old pavement that is there, people, tourists, turned away this year from driving down the road because they did not want to go down over that road. Then the La Scie Highway, I have said so much about that. The minister knows full well that we almost actually had a mine close down there this year because the basic infrastructure of a road was not there. That would be a sad statement for this Province, when a gold mine would have to close down because the road was too rough to travel over.

Mr. Speaker, I guess to conclude on this, we do support it with optimism, but with cautious optimism, that this bill will be a part - in whole there are other elements, as I mentioned, the infrastructure that comes with it - of the answer, but it could be a small part of the answer. Everything has to come together so that we can say to people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador that if you believe that you have a future there and you want to attract investment, the government who provides the basic necessities of water and sewer and roads is going to support you in your efforts to attract and make a living for yourself in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

I have said many times before, those people have lived there for years, are proud of where they live. They do not want a handout; they want a hand up, to be able to do it on their own, to be able to say they live there and provide for their families. I do not think that is too much to ask. I think it is possible, if everybody works together, and hopefully this particular piece of legislation, Bill 60, double-EDGE as it is so-called, will provide some of those communities with a ray of hope that they will attract some investment and that they can go on living in a place that they call home.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Trinity North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ROSS WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, thank you.

I am glad to be able to make a couple of comments about Bill 60. I have to say at the beginning that I do agree with the minister in his introductory comments as he talked about creating prosperous regions. I thank him for acknowledging the Trinity North area, and more particularly he referenced Clarenville as being one of those centres that has had some prosperity. He and I have talked about this many times and I, too, acknowledge that we cannot have industries in every nook and cranny in the Province. It is important to establish some strong economic regions. I agree wholeheartedly with that concept. As the minister talked about yesterday, I have to acknowledge that, yes, Trinity North, fortunately, happens to be one of those kinds of regions of the Province.

I just want to talk a little bit about how that actually works. One of the things that the minister did point out, as we talked about strong economic regions - let's talk about some of the things that make regions prosperous. It is fine to talk about having a community at the centre of that economic region.

Yesterday, the minister pointed out that the Mayor of Clarenville had been in talking about all the great development that was going on there and how the potential existed for future development. One of the things that mayor was in to talk about was infrastructure for industrial development in that community.

Right now, Clarenville, for example, is at a point where it can no longer expand -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Rural Development.

MR. TULK: I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. A point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Rural Development.

MR. TULK: I made no comment yesterday about the Mayor of Clarenville being in here. I don't know who he has me confused with.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Trinity North.

MR. ROSS WISEMAN: The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs made the comment about having the Mayor of Clarenville in to visit, to talk about the expansion of an industrial park. Right now the Town of Clarenville is in a position where it can no longer expand in its industrial or commercial base because it is hampered by not having adequate water and sewage supply into an industrial development area.

It speaks to the notion that if we are going to create economic centres then we need to have strong infrastructure. It is important that government, in its commitment to capital projects, recognize that it has to provide the necessary infrastructure for communities to grow and prosper, and Clarenville just happens to be the community that is at the centre of that region. But one of the things that the minister talked about is, he referenced economic zones as having a strong network of viable communities in its region. I just want to use a couple of examples. Last year I was down in Hodge's Cove, down in the Southwest Arm area of Trinity North, meeting with the local service district and the fire department, and fundamentally these individuals have said: We enjoy living in rural Newfoundland. We want to stay in rural Newfoundland. We do not ask for very much. What we really want is a little bit of money to maintain our water supply systems, and we want a decent road to drive over. We have people living in that area of the Province who are working in an oil refinery in Come by Chance, making a good living and taking their $40,000 and $50,000 vehicles over roads and they are beating them up, because we do not have the necessary road infrastructure to allow them to continue to live in Hodge's Cove and that area of the Province, and commute into Come by Chance to work, and commute into Clarenville and area to gain services like banking, shopping and so on.

If we are going to talk about creating strong economic zones, allowing people to live in small rural communities, while having some degree of prosperity in the region where they can travel to work, we need to have that kind of infrastructure. Last night was the premiere of the movie The Shipping News, and that was the second movie to be shot in the Trinity area - Random Passage and The Shipping News - but last year, Mr. Speaker, a couple of days before that movie crew was moving in there, the community recognized that the roads that these people had to drive over to get to their accommodations just were not fit to send a vehicle over. Thank you to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, but it was a mad rush a couple of days before the crew arrived, we were down there trying to make the road passable for people to get in to shoot the movie. That area has developed into one of the most popular destination points for tourism in the Province. The Minister of Tourism has already commented many times about what a great destination point that is. The problem, Mr. Speaker, is that the roads in that area have not been paved for some thirty years. So, one of the most popular destination points for tourism in the Province does not have the necessary road infrastructure to allow people to travel in there. That is important, to maintain economic regions, but the critical thing is employment.

Out in Trinity North, it finds itself in a unique geographical location, in that it borders on the District of Bellevue which has a fair degree of industrial development. Right now, there is close to a $500 million investment out at Bull Arm, an investment of what has been taxpayers' money gone into that site, and the big question today, Mr .Speaker, is whether or not there is going to be continued industrial work at that site. If we are going to put in place a massive infrastructure like a $500 million fabrication site in Bull Arm, to be the model and to be the future of oil development in this Province, then it is important that the Province, who now has ownership of that site, continue to very aggressively market that site as a major fabrication site for the offshore oil and gas industry. But if, in fact, that site is not going to be used for future fabrication projects, it is important to use that site for other kinds of applications, and I suggest to the minister that we look at that site as having tremendous potential to continue to provide well-paying prosperous jobs in that area.

So, if you look at creating and having had, in this Province, sustainable economic zones, a couple of key things are important. One is to have the centre where there is a lot of employment, to be able to make sure that people are able to be gainfully employed, make a reasonable living, and to stay in those regions. The second thing is, we need the necessary infrastructure to allow people to stay in the communities in which they now live. We do not need in this Province, large numbers of people moving from small communities into central points. What we need to have is a network of small viable communities that has the necessary infrastructure. An infrastructure Mr. Speaker, in most of these communities simply means a decent road to drive on and clean, safe water to drink. That is basically and fundamentally what we are talking about when we talk about infrastructure. Infrastructure in small rural Newfoundland is not massive. It is very simply, roads to drive on and safe water to drink. In order to be able to have people stay in those areas, in that kind of environment, they need to be able to make a living. We need to have economic development and jobs - whether they are commercial, industrial or whether they are in agriculture or in the tourism industry, we need to be able to allow these people to make a living.

Mr. Speaker, in as much as we support any initiative that provides for and attracts economic growth and development to this Province, it is important to recognize that these people, these organizations and these companies will only relocate to an area and establish themselves and be able to attract the necessary people to work for them if the communities in which they live and the communities in which they are asking their employees to live, will have the necessary infrastructure and services to provide for a safe quality of life for them.

My suggestion to the minister is: in addition to this particular initiative, it needs to be augmented with a commitment to providing the necessary infrastructure to allow people to live in those communities. Secondly, the necessary support to foster economic development so we can create sustainable jobs, sustainable well-paying jobs so people can have a reasonable standard of living.

Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to speak to this particular bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

If the minister speaks now he will close the debate.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate all of the positive comments that I have heard from the other side. I was tempted to ask leave to move that we not even put the bill into Committee, that we call this third reading, but my friend from Kilbride said: Now Beaton, don't go carrying on with that kind of stuff. So, I will respect his wishes and just move second reading.

Thank you.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Economic Diversification and Growth Enterprises Act," read a second time, order referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 60)

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, Order 20, Bill 53, second reading of An Act To Amend The Child Care Services Act.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Child Care Services Act." (Bill 53)

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

MS BETTNEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to speak today about the proposed amendments to the Child Care Services Act. The purpose of these amendments is to really clarify the intention and the direction of our Child Care Services Act. This act was passed by the House of Assembly on July 5, 1998. It came into force on June 1, 1999.

Mr. Speaker, should I stop? I understand the Opposition are having real difficulty hearing me.

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the hon. member could take his seat?

Members indicate that they are having difficulty hearing the member speak. I am just wondering if it is possible to have the volume turned up on the speaker?

The technician indicates that he is going to turn up the volume on the minister's mike. Let's try it again and see how it works.

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of these amendments is to clarify the direction and the intent of the Child Care Services Act. This Act was originally passed by the House of Assembly on June 5, 1998 and came into force on June 1, 1999.

In March of 1999, Cabinet approved the new child care services regulations, Mr. Speaker. These took effect upon proclamation of the act. This new legislation repealed the existing Day Care and Homemaker Services Act and it really reflected a major change in government policy. For the first time in this Province legislation supported infant care in child care centres. It also allowed for child care in private homes to be licensed, should the provider so choose.

With the proclamation of The Child Care Services Act, the Province has been able to enhance and solidify supports to children, families and communities. Of course, through the National Child Benefit Program and the Early Childhood Development Initiative, we continue to make significant improvements in our child care services.

The programs that are supported include a significant increase in child care subsidies, equipment grants, training for those working in child care and monetary supplements to early childhood educators. In fact, Mr. Speaker, in just four years the child care budget has more than doubled. It has grown from $3.1 million in 1997, to a current annual expenditure of $6.8 million.

The Department of Health and Community Services and the regional health and community services boards have continued to consult and collaborate with our community stakeholders since our legislation was introduced in 1998. As part of that ongoing consultation, areas were identified that required amendments to the act in order to achieve the original policy directions.

The proposed amendments to the Child Care Services Act are really intended to address these issues. Specifically, the amendments will now allow flexibility in the number of children which can be cared for in a regulated private home, up to a maximum of eight. Under normal circumstances, Mr. Speaker, the maximum number is six children. This amendment will enable the director of child care in the region to approve one or two additional children to attend on a limited basis under special circumstances. They can, however, only attend up to a maximum of an hour-and-a-half a day or one full day a week. It is really intended to address the circumstance where perhaps a child of the family or even another child requires just an hour or so care after school, and under the existing regulations that could not be accommodated. This provides more flexibility, but as I indicated, it would be approved individually by the director in each region reviewing the circumstances of the care provider and the situation, specifically one-on-one.

The second process that we would like to also amend is the warrant process. What we are suggesting is through this amendment, we would remove all references to Justices of the Peace. What we are proposing, Mr. Speaker, through the amendment is that only judges will be able to issue warrants on the basis of reasonable grounds that a person is contravening or has contravened the Child Care Services Act. We feel it is appropriate for judges only, to decide on this matter given the intrusive nature of the warrant.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, the amendments will clarify the roles and responsibilities of family child care agencies. These agencies are licensed by health and community service boards to approve and supervise family child care. This authority to approve was not clearly articulated in the act. Consequently, we are defining that much more clearly through this amendment.

During the consultation process, it was identified that clarification was also required in some areas which give the minister authority to make regulations. These include clarity in exempting certain programs. For example, it was found that recreation programs required different standards than child care services programs. The amendments enable regulations to be developed allowing a transitional phase between the old legislation and the new legislation. These areas include things like building requirements, educational requirements and group sizes.

Mr. Speaker, again, as I indicated, it is purely to be able to allow a smooth transition from the current situation to the new requirements, in order to assist some of the difficult areas that we were experiencing after we had the act proclaimed.

Mr. Speaker, the proposed legislative amendments do not alter the intent or the purpose or the essential policy direction that was originally approved by government, and will facilitate, I believe, continued and improved implementation of our programs and services related to providing licensed child care in this Province. The changes reflect feedback from stakeholders in the Province where possible, and are necessary to complete the transition to our new child care service arrangements in this Province.

These consultations, that we have conducted almost continually since we brought in the act, have also identified a need for change to our child care service regulations. As a result, officials in my department are now re-drafting these regulations and, where possible, we will be addressing other emerging concerns that have been expressed concerning these regulations which, hopefully, will provide greater flexibility. We are now in the final stages of drafting these regulations and we will be presenting them to these stakeholder groups very early in the new year.

Mr. Speaker, I remind my House colleagues that these amendments do not reflect a policy shift from the intentions of our Child Care Services Act. We continue to be committed to providing children and families of this Province with options for the provision of child care. We believe this act will allow this to happen, and that by making the amendments, which I am putting forward today, it will further clarify areas of the act and allow for more flexibility in others.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

As the minister said, the amendments to the Child Care Act are sort of a work in progress. I realize that this is a living act and that it is going on.

There are a couple of things that I would like to speak to, however. One is the regulations of which the minister was speaking. The Child Care Act was passed and assented to on June 5, 1998. Now, as far as I know - and I have not heard anything different lately - the regulations that are supposed to be drawn up around this act are also in the works since that time. In May of next year that will be four years that these regulations are presently being drawn up. There are some very big gaps here. One is regulations around children twenty-four months and under, in terms of getting into licensed child care. So, what happens with the mothers and with the children here is that they have to resort to private homes. Not that there is anything wrong with private homes, and in many instances excellent care is provided there; in most instances I would like to say. It would be very nice for parents of children twenty-four months and younger to have the option of being able to go to either a licensed daycare or to a private home.

I understand that Nova Scotia has had some regulations around children twenty-four months and younger for quite some time now. The demographics are not that different in the Province of Nova Scotia and the Province of Newfoundland. It is beyond me why the department, or why the committee which is drawing up these regulations, has not been able to get in touch with somebody in the department in Nova Scotia and say, you have had this on the go for quite some time now, you have had regulations around children under two years of age, what is working, what isn't working, and put a grid down on that and come up, very easily, with regulations around children under twenty-four months. I know that any regulations that we draw up pertaining to children have to be copper-fastened for the protection of children. As I said, I don't see the difficulty in getting in touch with other provinces who have these regulations in place. Consult with them and say: What is working in your regulations? Where do you see loopholes? Where can we make amendments to ours? Because we want to get on with it.

As I said before, in May of next year, in another five months time, it will be four years since this bill was given assent and we are still waiting for the regulations on that. I would like for the minister to address that when she is responding, or when she is closing debate on this act, and let us know when can we expect regulations around children twenty-four months and under.

The rest of the amendments that are made to the act seem to fairly straightforward. There are a couple of things that I would like to ask. I notice that Justice of the Peace has been taken out. In an event that a judge isn't available, what would be the problem with a Justice of the Peace giving a warrant for somebody to enter a daycare premises? That is basically my main concern about this.

As I have said before, and as I have stated many times both inside and outside this House, one of the main things around child care is the regulations concerning the children twenty-four months and younger. I look very much forward to regulations being bought in around that.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just rise to say a few words on the child care legislation before the House. The importance of child care cannot be overestimated when it comes to, in this Province and in this country as a whole the way, the way and the method that families can actually support themselves. We have a system now where there have been major changes in economics and demographics in this Province, in this country, where families, in order to support the style of living, are required to have two people working in many cases.

In very many cases, we have single parent families who require child care in order to be able to provide, to pay their rent and buy the groceries and look after their children. It is one of the areas that is consistently being identified as a barrier to the equality of women, because the lack of affordable, accessible, quality daycare has been recognized by the Canadian Council on Social Development, by the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, by womens' groups throughout the Province and country, as being a significant barrier for women to get out of poverty. We do know that 56 per cent of single parent mothers in Canada live below the poverty line. One of the reasons for that has to do with pay equity generally, both in the private and in some cases in the public sector. Another significant reason has to do with the availability of affordable child care.

We have seen, on a national level, the Liberal Party has promised, I think in three successive federal elections, to produce a national child care strategy and a national child care policy and they have not delivered. It is a program that our Party, the New Democratic Party, has been promoting and supporting for as long as I can remember, and certainly since I became active in the Party in the early to mid-80s. As a member of Parliament and as a member of this House we support a policy of a national child care policy based on not-for-profit child care. We have a mixed system in this Province. We would like to see supported child care.

In recent years, myself and my family have had the need for child care. We now have three children and I am pleased to say that we have excellent child care facilities and preschool facilities for children over two years of age. In our case, we have our children in a not-for-profit center which operates very well. The parents control and operate the center, and it is run on a not-for-profit basis. These are very rare in this Province and they are not supported by a child care strategy that make these things possible. Parents can make them happen through a lot of effort on their own.

Mostly we have commercial child care facilities in this Province, and our preference would be a national policy which provides for child care on a not-for-profit basis with an opportunity for everyone to have access to quality child care at an affordable price. We do have the ongoing situation in this Province, Madam Speaker, where we do not have the regulations in place for the under two years of age. That is a problem that needs to be addressed. I hope the minister will speak to that when she rises.

I do want to put on the record, in speaking to this bill, the enormous importance of putting in place a universally available child care system, recognizing, of course, that we would have to have special provisions and understandings with respect to shift workers in some cases, particularly the problems of rural communities where it is not always so easy to organize some of these types of activities.

We would like to do it under the umbrella of a national child care policy because under those circumstances we would have national standards. We would, hopefully, have national government support financially for ensuring that for those who cannot afford to pay the full cost of a quality child care arrangement, for a quality daycare care center, that there would have to be subsidies in place, because that is what is necessary, frankly, Madam Speaker, to achieve equity. You cannot achieve equity without having that kind of national program. You cannot achieve equity for women without achieving that kind of program.

It is a women's issue, primarily, because most of the single parent families are headed by women, 60 per cent of which families live below the poverty line. It is also an important women's issue because, despite attempts by some to maintain equality between the genders in families, the responsibility for children, most often than not - I am sure all members will agree - falls upon the mother in a family situation. So when child care responsibilities are there, most often it is the mother who ends up with those responsibilities and it becomes an additional obligation in a relationship. Quality child care is one of the ways that these issues can get balanced out.

In saying that, in the principle of the bill the amendments themselves seem appropriate at this time, but we would like to see some action on the below two years, and we would also like to see this government express its support for a national child care strategy and a national child care plan, which we have been promised again and again by the Liberal government, but on which promise they have not delivered.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER (M. Hodder): The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

If the hon. minister speaks now she will close the debate.

MS BETTNEY: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

In closing this debate, I, first of all, would like to thank my colleagues in the House for their support for these amendments, recognizing that what they will do is make a very good piece of legislation so much better by including these refinements and adding additional flexibility.

Before closing, I would respond, specifically, to the question which was raised around infant child care by both members who have spoken and, indeed, to inform you that the good news is that very early in the new year we will be implementing, and be able to license, this model of child care.

Madam Speaker, it has taken considerable time to develop these policies. However, I think that members of the public, and members of this House, would understand that in moving into a new area such as infant care our officials really wanted to ensure that they took advantage of the best expertise and really consulted widely to ensure that we use best practice in establishing these policies and putting these services in place.

I understand that, at this time, the policies are now developed. They have been presented to the Health and Community Services Boards who are now in the process of running some focus groups with parents and with stakeholders from across the Province. It would be our intention that, when this final piece of consultation and information has been concluded, we would be in a position to implement these polices and be able to actually, for the first time in this Province, license daycare to provide care for children under two.

As I said, Madam Speaker, I thank the members who have given support to the amendments that I have introduced today and look forward to their speedy passing.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Child Care Services Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 53)

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Order 18, Madam Speaker, Bill 45, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Environmental Protection."

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Environmental Protection." (Bill 45)

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

Bill 45, obviously, has been highlighted by a number of our colleagues on this side of the House as being a significant bill. It draws together a number of acts already in law in terms of dealing with protection of the environment. Our critic, and a number of other of my colleagues on this side of the House, have outlined in the last week the significant and outstanding issues that we had concerns about with respect to Bill 45. These concerns have been a matter of debate in this Legislature, publicly thus far, and also a matter of debate between both the Government House Leader, in his role as House Leader, and myself, with respect to some recommendations that we have made.

I am happy to say today that we had intended, as the Official Opposition, on this bill, when we concluded second reading, just before we did, to put an amendment to the bill which essentially called for government to send this particular piece of legislation to a Legislative Review Committee of the House of Assembly. Had that amendment passed, Madam Speaker, what it would have meant was that a committee of this House, members of this Assembly, would have taken that piece of legislation to the public in a variety of different forums to discuss and debate, in a more detailed way, the impacts of what was contained in that bill.

I am happy to say today that we will conclude second reading with myself, because there has been an agreement reached on this particular piece of legislation that sometime today the Government House Leader - I, on behalf of the members of this side of the House and the Official Opposition, applaud the reasonable approach taken and the suggestion made by our critic the Member for St. John's South, who did a significant amount of work on this legislation in preparing, for ourselves, the concerns outlined and thus a significant amount of work for the public of the Province. I want to acknowledge that publicly, Madam Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: We want to say that we will conclude second reading with myself indicating and saying to the Government House Leader that our concerns were, in our view, legitimate and real and we appreciate the government accepting, I guess, the recommendation put forward to the Minister of Environment through the Government House Leader in doing exactly what we have talked about in sending this, to use the words of the Minister of Environment, to sending this very important piece of legislation to a Legislation Review Committee so that if there are any amendments or more proposals come forward, when this House next sits, Madam Speaker, that hopefully the legislation that will come forward will contain amendments that will see this act taking the place it should take as the leading piece of legislation not only in the country but in North America. On that, we thank the Government House Leader and the government.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I just wanted to add my expressions of pleasure that this bill will be sent to committee. As I have said a number of times thus far in this sitting of the House, we do have a procedure where we have Legislation Review Committees in place and if there are detailed proposals for amendment or bills that need a detailed study, the best place to do that is in a committee where each party is represented and detailed study can be given to legislation without the kind of necessity for people digging in, in stands in the House, in public, and perhaps making amendments that would be easier to put together in the House when the House next meets.

I am pleased that the government has agreed to use that procedure, to send this bill to committee for a detailed study so that when it does come back to the House hopefully, unless there is principled debate that might take place on a particular item, that people will be satisfied that the legislation has had a thorough review and that there are no surprises there or no chances for misinterpretation.

With that, Madam Speaker, I will take my seat and we can vote on second reading of the bill.

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment.

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

I certainly want to thank the members opposite for their participation in the debate in second reading on Bill 45, the Environmental Protection Act.

I am sure, Madam Speaker, that it will get a thorough review. I am also very positive that the bill will stand the test. There has been quite a bit of discussion on the bill. It is probably the first time in the history of the Province that a bill went before the people to be looked at before it came to this House.

Again, Madam Speaker, I certainly want to say that, with the scrutiny that it will get, this bill will stand the test. I am certain that those people who took part in the public hearings certainly voiced their views on the bill. What changes they asked to be made were made, Madam Speaker. Where there was any concern by the general public, it was dealt with, and I feel quite confident that in this short period of review, that in the upcoming session this bill will pass very expeditiously.

MR. E. BYRNE: With amendments.

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: The hon. Opposition House Leader says with amendments. I am certain that he does not want me to get into the proposed amendments that were presented to me. We are a very open government, very co-operative. We want to do the right thing, Madam Speaker, for the people of the Province, so I hereby move second reading of the Environmental Protection Act.

On motion, a bill "An Act Respecting Environmental Protection," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 45)

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Order 19, Bill 44.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting The Control And Management Of Water Resources In The Province." (Bill 44)

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment.

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

It is certainly a pleasure for me today to introduce, in second reading, Bill 44, an act to protect the water resource of this Province. Like the Environmental Protection Act, Madam Speaker, this bill has gone before the people of the Province. Again, the first time in the history of government in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador that a piece of legislation scheduled to go to the Legislature was presented to the public on September 19. Public hearings were held around the Province, and I must say I am pleased with the results. Somewhat disappointed, of course, in a sense that what I got from the people who were out there and looked at this particular bill and the Environmental Protection Act, the only overriding thing that they had said was: Don't let this sit on the shelf.

I can assure the people of the Province, Madam Speaker, those who took the time to come out to those public hearings, that it will not sit on the shelf. I understand that the Government House Leader, at some point, will move that this particular bill also, like the Environmental Protection Act, will go to a Committee of the House to be once again scrutinized.

I must say, Madam Speaker, I want to certainly applaud the leadership of our Premier here, who had the foresight to say that yes, we are going to send this bill to the public; yes, we are going to go out there and get the views of the people. Madam Speaker, it is actually a landmark.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: It is actually a landmark that the people of this Province saw, at the same time that the Opposition did, a piece of legislation that was coming before this House this fall, and we did it. We got an overwhelming response in the sense that people were quite pleased that this government is so open. Not only open, Madam Speaker, but accommodating, because any concerns that were raised in those public areas were addressed by the people in my department. We took a look at what their concerns were and we made the necessary changes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: I can understand, Madam Speaker, the turmoil that starts to rise on the other side, because this government, led by Premier Grimes, is doing what is right for the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are not afraid. We are not afraid to stand up and say, this is what we are prepared to do. If you have a question, if you have a concern, we are prepared to look at it. I can understand fully, Madam Speaker, the turmoil that the Opposition is in over there. I can understand and accept that, as legislators who sit on the other side of the House, who got an opportunity the same time as the people of the Province to have a look at a bill, are very, very disappointed.

What do they do? They want the bill to be reviewed by this particular Legislature, and we will have a look at it in March. Madam Speaker, I am satisfied to do that because I am very, very confident that the work that has been put into this bill by the Legislative Committee and the people in my department is actually a good job.

Madam Speaker, I thank you very much for your time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

This is one of those bills - and I will not even talk about one of those ministers when I am speaking - but this is one of those bills again that, as the Opposition, had very significant concerns with the contents of the bill, particularly as it relates to the discretion provided to the minister on a whole host of issues; discretion that would have allowed, in our view, the minister to create separate rules for separate individuals, for separate companies, without any debate publicly, without going to Cabinet or the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, which is the Cabinet, to discuss those rules. We had significant concerns about the legislation because of the discretion that it would allow. What would have been the fallout for that? There may have been certain standards that would have been allowed in certain sections of the Province. Those standards would not have been equal across the board.

Our critic, again the Member for St. John's South, the critic for the environment, did a significant amount of work on this piece of legislation and, as I said earlier, on Bill 45. All of the amendments proposed - and he did provide to the Minister of the Environment a significant number of amendments that would have corrected what we felt were the deficiencies contained in that legislation. While the minister was very quick to applaud the legislation - I guess that is his point of view - I can only hope that the minister, over Christmas, is not rushed into the Emergency Department either in St. Clare's or the Health Sciences Complex to deal with the backslapping and continued backslapping and back clapping that he has given himself on this piece of legislation.

The fact of the matter remains that, on this piece of legislation, Bill 44, on the preceding one we just spoke about, Bill 45, that we propose to send this legislation, in its entirety, to a public review by a committee of this Legislature. The government agreed to do that because if they feel that it will stand the litmus test of public approval in that process, fair enough. We feel that, as members - and we will have membership on that committee, obviously; the Member for St. John's South and the critic for environment will play a leading role for our caucus in that, if not the lead role - we feel that as a result of sending that to the Legislation Review Committee, that we can strengthen the bill. We can make it better than it is today. In so doing, in sending these pieces of legislation to a Legislation Review Committee, it confirms how this place should operate. It confirms the importance of the Legislation Review Committee process. It will confirm and affirm, I say to members opposite, indeed all members in this Legislature, of the part that each individual member plays in this Legislature, irrespective of what side of the House they sit on. Who wins? Ultimately, the only group that wins in this process agreed to by the government is the public at large. Now the ball will be in their court to come to the legislative review process to hear the concerns put forward by all members of the House, to listen to what strengths the bill offers to the public in the protection of the environment and also in dealing with a regulatory and legislative regime dealing with water resources. There is only one winner, and that is the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I also want to take this opportunity as well, because we have concluded second reading on Bill 49, a bill before the House by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General dealing with the Freedom of Information Act. As those people in the public, Madam Speaker, have been watching the debate unfold on that particular piece of legislation as well, we also know that we, as the Opposition, through the leadership of our leader, the Member for Humber West and the Leader of the Opposition, in a very succinct way, a very professional way, but in a way that ultimately dealt with protection of the public on privacy issues and on access to information, our leader articulated that very succinctly in the second reading of this piece of legislation.

I want to say that I appreciate the government again. We made a recommendation to the government, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, who was provided earlier this week with a significant number of amendments to that piece of legislation dealing with how we again felt it would strengthen two things: access to information that the public should have, ought to have; and, secondly, dealing with the issue surrounding the release of information on personalities, on people, their backgrounds, origins, et cetera.

The government has agreed on that piece of legislation as well, Bill 49, to send that to a Legislation Review Committee of this House, again demonstrating, I think, Madam Speaker, and affirming the role that not only the government plays in proposing legislation, which is their constitutional role, but also our role as the Official Opposition.

There are times when in this Legislature members opposite have accused members in the Opposition of being, I believe if I could quote the Government House Leader: prophets of doom and gloom. I want to say sincerely that people ought to know that in order for the House of Assembly or any assembly, or the Parliament to operate effectively, it does take the government in proposing and putting forward measures, because they are the government in terms of the legislative agenda, in terms of what it sets out to be, what is in the best interest of the Province.

This place cannot operate effectively if it is not for a strong, credible Opposition whose first and primary function is to challenge government on every piece of legislation to ensure that what it is doing is correct, that what it is doing is in the best interest to the public, and ultimately, in what it is doing the government will be held accountable for. We, I believe, have done that. We have all seen legislatures where there has been an imbalance, shall we say, in the numbers on either side of the House. When that happens, in my view, the public are the big losers.

So in this sense, Madam Speaker, I will conclude by saying this: With respect to Bill 44, the Water Resources Act; Bill 45, an act for the Environmental Protection Act; and Bill 49, the freedom of information and protection of privacy act ; that we had significant concerns on all of these three major pieces of public policy, as we read in the legislation. We had concerns with many aspects of the clauses in that bill. We did our homework on that. We presented amendments to the ministers responsible for sponsoring that legislation. As a result of that, I think that we see today that government believes, in their view, they are strong pieces of legislation. We believe, in our view, that they could be strengthened and we did our homework to show where they could be strengthened. But, as a result of the agreement reached, I think what is most important right now is that the public at large in Newfoundland and Labrador will make up their minds and their decisions and they have an opportunity on three major pieces of public policy to have direct input into them, and in so doing, may affect the amendments or potential amendments being bought forward. Ultimately, to provide for the best legislative and regulatory regime on these three matters of public policy that can be provided for.

Madam Speaker, thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I am not going to speak at length on this bill which has been agreed would be referred to a committee, but the act with respect to water resources, I can say this though, that there is nothing of perhaps more importance and perhaps controversy in this Province in the last year or so, indeed throughout the country, is the concerns about the issue of water; whether it be the quality of water, whether it be the water resources of the Province and the quality of water in our ponds and lakes, or whether it be the pollution of our waters and lakes. Indeed, in Question Period today the issue of dioxins and furans in our water or escaping into our water were brought forward. We have had controversies about the export of water. So there are always issues with relation to water resources and the use of water resources in this Province.

To have a piece of legislation which is attempting to consolidate various bits of legislation and provide a complete code on this issue is an important step and I want to acknowledge the work of the minister in making that happen. However, because of its great importance, it is also quite important that we have an opportunity to fully examine and debate the possibility of changing that act or provisions to that act in detail. It is something that cannot be done in this House in the kind of time that is available to us, given the schedule of the House, and the fact that we opened our sitting on November 19, and the scheduled day of closing has been set by a House calendar, and today is that day.

So I think it is appropriate that bills that can't be dealt with properly in the House be referred to committee. I suppose the alternatives are to open the House earlier or to have it sit again earlier in the new year, but we do have a committee process. As I said on previous pieces of legislation, the committees of this House consist of members of this House who have the obligation to review legislation, to look at it in detail, and, in that setting, if it is necessary to hold hearings or listen to experts or ask officials of the department to come and explain the various sections, rather than through the minister, then there is an appropriate opportunity to do that through these Legislative Review Committees.

I think that when these committees had worked in the passed, they worked well. We have done it with special committees in the past as well. But the Legislative Review Committees are there and they are going to be given the task of reviewing this legislation and bringing it back to the House with amendments, if they are deemed appropriate, or not.

Having said that, Madam Speaker, I won't deal with the substance of the bill, but say that I think it is appropriate that it go to a committee. Since we have already spoken about the Freedom of Information Legislation as well, rather than say the same thing on that bill when the motion comes forward, clearly we support that legislation being reviewed in detail as well by a Legislative Review Committee of this House.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Madam Speaker, I am not going to unduly tie up the time of the Legislature on this particular bill this afternoon. I have spoken at great length already on the Environmental Protection Act.

AN HON. MEMBER: And did a good job.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Thank you very much.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Madam Speaker, we had some major concerns regarding both of these pieces of legislation. I would like to thank the Government House Leader and, of course, the minster, for taking into consideration the concerns that we had and for having the foresight to agree with us in sending this to a legislative committee. We felt that these two pieces of legislation would give very broad discretionary powers to the minister.

The people of this Province today, Madam Speaker, are far more environmentally aware than they were ten, twenty, thirty years ago. As a result, they are looking for legislation that will give the people of the Province the ability and the feeling and the comfort to know that the environment of the Province is going to be well protected. That is the type of legislation we want to see brought forward. By bringing this legislation to a Legislative Review Committee we will be assured that if there are any amendments needed to this legislation that the amendments will be put in prior to it coming back to this Legislature to be debated again.

Madam Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity again to acknowledge the foresight of the government side in accepting our request that this legislation, both pieces of legislation, the Environmental Protection Act and the Water Resources Act, go to a Legislative Review Committee.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment.

If the hon. minister speaks now he will close the debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

I will just speak for a few moments, saying that there was a great effort that went into preparing those bills for the House. I said, in my opening remarks, that it was the first time in the history of the Province that those bills had gone before the public.

I want to correct some things that have been said by the Opposition House Leader. He said that he had some very serious concerns. I don't classify them as serious. I want to set the record straight, Madam Speaker: There were absolutely no amendments given to me on the Water Resources Act. I want to make that clear.

The other thing I want to make clear is that the Opposition House Leader said that I was slapping myself on the back. Now, it is unfortunate that the Opposition House Leader would see things that way. I stood here, Madam Speaker, to congratulate and to express my appreciation to the staff of my department who worked hard on this legislation to get it ready for the House, and the Legislative Counsel of government who worked diligently on it, working with legislation right across this country. I want to say very clearly, Madam Speaker, that both pieces of legislation are in keeping with legislation right across this country.

In the spirit of co-operation and the rules of this House, Madam Speaker, we understand where the Opposition is coming from. We understand that, as legislators, they want to have a look at it. I understand that three months is not long enough to determine what the problems are. So, Madam Speaker, in the spirit of cooperation we have agreed, our Government House Leader has agreed, to allow this to go to a Committee.

Having said that, Madam Speaker, I move second reading of the Water Resources Act.

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting The Control And Management Of Water Resources In The Province," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 44)

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, Order 25, second reading of Bill 55, An Act To Amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act." (Bill 55)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I rise today to make some introductory remarks with respect to the proposed amendments to the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act, otherwise known and referred to as the PNG Act.

I am sure, as the hon. members are aware, this is a very important piece of legislation, a very important act with respect to the petroleum industry in this Province and to the emerging - we hope, sooner rather than later - gas industry. The amendments that we are bringing forward today are designed to clarify the Province's administrative procedures, basically, in our ability to collect royalties in return for the development of our petroleum resources from both the offshore and onshore.

Mr. Speaker, part one of the act basically deals with licensing procedures and other administrative functions on the offshore. Part two of the act governs the collection and administration of royalties in our onshore area as well. This section is specifically adopted by reference to the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act, making it, of course, applicable to the offshore area, thereby enabling the Province to set and benefit from offshore royalties. Over the last few years we have seen a significant move in the development of our petroleum resources offshore, as well as some activity onshore.

In 1997 the Hibernia field came on stream and we witnessed the beginning of a brand new and emerging industry in this Province. A development plan has been submitted, and has been approved. Construction has taken place and we now have the Terra Nova Development with a FPSO on site, ready in days, fairly soon in any event, to start producing oil from our second field.

A development plan has been presented with respect to the third oil field, the White Rose Husky development and within the matter of a few days, I will, on behalf of government, be announcing our decision with respect to the affirmation of acceptance of the benefit plan or otherwise on that project. We have to do that within a thirty day time frame and obviously, December 27 being the deadline, one would anticipate that we would be doing it some time within the next week or so.

Mr. Speaker, Canadian Imperial Venture Corporation has received approval as well for the onshore gas and oil activity that is out there and they are now in a circumstance where they can move on their development application plan as a result of our approval being given to that just about three weeks ago.

To date we have had about twenty-three significant discoveries offshore, which has firmed up about 2.1 billion barrels of oil and about 9.9 trillion cubic feet of gas, as well as 432 million barrels of natural gas liquids.

The C-NOPB also estimates that there are about 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas yet undiscovered and maybe as much as 12 billion barrels of oil yet to be discovered in our offshore area. These are numbers that are put together on the basis of seismic work that has been done, and preliminary geological analysis that has been done. We hope that sooner rather than later we will see the level of exploration that will hopefully prove up considerably more reserves than we currently have.

Government must also, of course, balance our demands in terms of these developments with the needs of the respective companies that are operating offshore, with a view to ensuring that we are in receipt of the right level of rent, royalty on our natural resources. These are non-renewable resources and, of course, taking into consideration the business case that is made by the oil companies on the account of what they need in order to be able to move with these developments.

Over the past several years we have developed royalty regimes in order to provide the companies with certainty regarding royalty structures. These regimes were developed based upon extensive consultation, of course, and upon negotiation with the industry stakeholders to provide a balance between government and companies needs and benefits. The PNG Act alone, along with, I should say, the detailed royalty regulations such as set out or which are set out, specifies each of the royalty regimes. Currently, Mr. Speaker, we have four royalty regimes in existence in the Province. That is, of course, the Hibernia royalty regime, the Terra Nova royalty regime, the generic onshore and the generic offshore regimes.

The Hibernia royalty regime was put in place by way of negotiation and is a separate arrangement. The Terra Nova project, with respect to their royalty framework, it was also a negotiated circumstance. The third project that is hopefully going to be dealt with, assuming it is dealt with positively, will be operating under the generic royalty regime as will all future projects. Also, the onshore projects, Mr. Speaker, will be operating on the basis of generic regimes that I referred to a minute ago.

Our generic offshore regime, Mr. Speaker, was announced in 1996 and since that time we have taken an opportunity to review the acts that we have in place, the 1994 and 1996 onshore and offshore royalty regimes; and, in an effort to bring them in line with and to be consistent with other acts in other jurisdictions in the country, such as Alberta and Nova Scotia in particular, and also to ensure that they are succinctly compliant with and consistent with the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Benefits Act, Mr. Speaker, we are proposing today some amendments that will tighten up the regulations, make the language more user friendly, give a greater level of assurance as to our ability to enforce regulations, particularly in the area of audit and collection procedures, and also to give greater certainly, Mr. Speaker, to the industry so that they will know exactly where it is they stand under the royalty regimes and under the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act that they operate.

Mr. Speaker, the majority of the changes to the act are administrative in nature. These amendments will ensure that the act is consistent, as I have said, with the other acts that we have reviewed and paid some reference to. It will, of course, also remove ambiguous language to make the act as clear and as concise as possible.

Mr Speaker, I would take just a minute to run down over the various changes that are being contemplated under section 30 of the act. There will be some definition changes. The term debtor has been removed from section 40. The term interest holder will clarify who is liable to pay royalties and will better align with the Accord Act. The term royalty share will be used as a catch-all phrase for all royalties owing as well as interest and penalties, and the term secured creditor will be used to correspond with changes in the Liens Act.. The term security interest will be used to clarify lien provisions, and these changes, of course, Mr Speaker, bring the language of this act more consistent with language in other acts that relate to the enforcement of collection of royalties.

Section 31, royalty generally will be amended and will now be called royalty reservation for clarity purposes. Also the words, in right of the Province, will be deleted and replaced with words under this act and under a lease, to clarify the reservations related to petroleum products under a specific lease.

Mr. Speaker, section 32, basic royalty, and Section 33, incremental royalty, will be combined into one section, royalty share. This was done, of course, to avoid repetition between the two sections. So you can see, Mr .Speaker, clearly the amendments we are making are housekeeping in nature.

Royalty agreement will be amended and subsequently become section 33. Section 34(3) and 34(4) were deleted because they are procedural matters that will not need to be dealt with, in fact, under the act at all.

Sections 35 to 38 deal with payment in kind with respect to how we can take our royalty benefits. Section 39, regulations will be amended to update the list of powers where government can create regulations.

Section 40, notice to pay Crown, will be amended in order to delete section 46(7) because notice provisions will be dealt with under regulations. Section 41, Mr. Speaker, has to do with the reporting and returns and audit sections of the act, and the powers that we have in that regard. There has also been some minor language change in this particular section, Section 41.

Section 42 deals with failure to pay interest.

Section 43 deals with the issue of assessment and assessment notices.

Section 35, the changes there deal with liens for royalties and deals with our ability to be able to put in place liens if they are required, to ensure the protection of our royalty and our taxation base.

Section 36, liability on payment will impose personal liabilities on third parties who sell property of the defaulting interest holder.

Mr. Speaker, there are a whole bunch of other amendments but clearly, I think, I have indicated in those comments, that all of the amendments we are bringing forward really are very much of housekeeping in nature. I do not want to use the valuable time of the House in reading or citing what all of these individual housekeeping items mean.

So, Mr. Speaker, I would simply conclude with saying this: That while this is an important piece of legislation, not only to government, but also to the industry, we want to deal with it prudently. We want to deal with it and make changes that are the absolute right ones to tighten up the act and make sure that it functions as it is intended to function so that the offshore can grow in an orderly fashion so that the industry can get on with their business knowing what the exact rules are, and so that government has absolute certainty that we have protection for our revenue, our royalty base that comes from these fields.

I will conclude with those comments, Mr. Speaker, because I am sure my critic, the hon. the Member for St. John's Centre, will want to speak to this bill as well, and maybe others. I would indicate also that at the committee stage of this bill I will be giving notice of movement of one more amendment. That will be an amendment that really we should have picked up originally, and put in the bill. It is subclause 9.(7) of the bill is being amended. We are going to add a clause that says: 5.(4) Shall not apply to a regulation made under this paragraph. That means nothing absolutely in terms of trying to relate that to what is in the act. What it really means is that while we are saying that under the act, that particular 9.(7) section of the act, we have powers to retroactively make regulations.

We are also saying specifically, although it is intended and overtly expressed in the bill as it currently stands, that we might be able to go back and make retroactive regulations with respect to royalty payments and royalty rates. We want to ensure, for purposes of the industry's comfort, for purposes of everyone's comfort, that we are not intending to go back and change royalty rates retroactively today, nor do we indeed to give ourselves, as government, the ability to go back and change royalty rates anytime in the future. While regulations can be retroactively adjusted, royalty rates cannot be, will not be, and were never intended to be retroactively adjusted. Certainly, that level of comfort and assurance is not only appreciated by the industry, but is absolutely essential for their greater certainty and for our own certainty in knowing where we stand with each other vis-à-vis royalty regimes that have been approved, that are in place, that are operating, that are yielding up a certain rate, and that nobody has any fear that we are going back and retroactively change royalty rates.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your time. If there are any questions raised during the debate I would be glad to address them when I close debate on second reading.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to take this opportunity to speak for a few minutes with respect to Bill 55. As the minister indicated, it is an important piece of legislation, obviously dealing with our petroleum and gas industry in this Province. Of course, when we talk about either onshore or offshore resources, as are contemplated by this particular piece of legislation, we are dealing with policy issues which are fundamentally important to the fiscal reality, both in the present and hopefully in the future, as it specifically relates to the well-being of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

I want to mention at the outset, that the minister was kind enough to share with me the proposed amendment. We have had an opportunity to review the amendment which has been pointed out and distributed. I would like to take the opportunity to indicate to the minister that we will be certainly supporting the amendment, as it is in keeping with the references that were just made by the hon. minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, the minister uses the word housekeeping, that this piece of legislation is largely housekeeping in nature, and to some extent I agree with that. However, it does deal with some significant points and amends some interesting features of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act. Of course, this particular piece of legislation attempts to facilitate the receipt of royalty interests in kind. Secondly, it collects a royalty share owing to the Crown. Thirdly, it clarifies the ability of the Crown to determine the amount of royalty share owing. Perhaps the more important reference as found in this amendment is the fourth component, namely, monitoring compliance with agreements.

So essentially there is somewhat of an investigative power that is now given to the Crown to assess the books, and to assess the record keeping, and to assess the particulars of the companies to ensure that what is being presented to government is in accordance with what was originally agreed to. I think that is sort of supervisory power of the Crown that is certainly essential and what it allows, I guess, is a double check to ensure that the documentation that is being provided and obviously the monies that are presented to the Crown for the general well-being of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is in strict accordance with what was agreed to.

The minister indicated that there are essentially four royalty regimes in the Province. Of course he is referring to, first of all, the Hibernia royalty regime which was a separate exclusive agreement between government and the Hibernia partners to ensure that there was a regime that was put in place. Whether it in fact now results in what is in the best interest of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is for debate, and not necessarily for debate at this particular time.

There is obviously a second contract in place with respect to the Terra Nova project, but as the minister indicated, there are two generic royalty regimes: one, dealing with our onshore resources, and the second dealing with our offshore oil and natural gas resources. The first onshore regime, Mr. Speaker, resulted from an announcement that was given by the then Minister of Mines and Energy, and this was back in 1994, and as I say, this was with reference to onshore petroleum resources only but the regime was composed, at that time, of three components.

I would just like to list them for the benefit of all members. One, there was a royalty holiday - 2 million barrels or equivalent; secondly, there was a basic ad valorem royalty, at the time 5 per cent of gross revenues; and thirdly, Mr. Speaker, there was a two-tier net profit tax. Tier one, 20 per cent of net revenue after a rate of return of 5 per cent plus the long term government bond rate, and tier two, 5 per cent of net revenue after a rate of return of 15 per cent plus the long term government bond rate.

In 1996, some two years after that, a second generic royalty regime was introduced by, again, the then Minister of Mines and Energy dealing with petroleum resources in Newfoundland and Labrador with the exception, of course, of Hibernia and Terra Nova. Because, as I have just indicated and as the minister indicated in his introductory remarks, Mr. Speaker, they were separate contracts between the companies and government at that time. It is interesting to note that, that particular royalty regime consisted of a basic royalty or an ad valorem royalty increasing with production from 1 per cent to 7.5 per cent of gross revenue and again there was a two-tier royalty. Tier one, 20 per cent of net revenue after a rate of return of 5 per cent plus the long term government bond rate, and tier two, 10 per cent of net revenue after a rate of return of 15 per cent plus the long term government bond rate. We can see that the various royalty regimes combine a mixture of basic royalties, two-tier net royalty plans and incentives. However, with respect to the onshore royalty regime, as I indicated, we also saw the reference to a royalty holiday of some 10 million barrels or equivalent.

The onus is certainly on government in establishing any royalty regime, and the minister perhaps knows this better than anybody, that the onus and the obligation is on government to enter into these relationships with third parties to ensure that the people of the Province are the beneficiaries of this arrangement. It has been questioned, from time to time, whether or not we are truly the beneficiaries to the extent that we ought to be, Mr. Speaker, because our natural resources in this Province, particularly with respect to the onshore petroleum resources and our offshore petroleum and gas resources, are so essential, I say Mr. Speaker, to ensure that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are truly the beneficiaries.

When government, at any time, undertakes to enter into these types of discussions and negotiations and relationships with the companies, it has to ensure that it is, at all times, prudent and vigorous, and, to use a word that came up in Question Period today, aggressive, in ensuring that all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are truly the beneficiaries of these arrangements.

Mr. Speaker, whenever the issue of petroleum natural gas is raised, and whenever, particularly, the issue of royalties is raised, as the critic in Mines and Energy, I always attempt to bring forward the importance of an arrangement that was entered into many years ago which acts as a safeguard to protect the interests of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I am talking about the Atlantic Accord. The Atlantic Accord is fundamental in the protection and the security of the interests of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. As the minister will recall, it was an agreement between both the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador on the joint management of the offshore oil and gas resources off Newfoundland and Labrador, and the sharing of these resources for the exploitation of these resources - and this is set out right in the preamble of the Accord.

It is also indicated, Mr. Speaker - and I think it is worthwhile reviewing because it is important that all members present have an awareness of, and are reminded from time to time, of what the purposes of the Accord are and what, in fact, the significance of the Atlantic Accord means to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; and they are important. They are brief, but in my opinion, they are worthy of repetition at this time.

The purposes of the Accord, which is the frame work of all relationships and all activity with respect to our natural resources regarding petroleum and natural gas, are: This is the first one, "to provide for the development of oil and gas resources offshore in Newfoundland for the benefit of Canada as a whole and Newfoundland and Labrador, in particular." Clause 1 sets out, obviously, where the Accord is going, the direction that the Accord is taking, and the significance of it.

Secondly, "to protect, preserve and advance the attainment of national self-sufficiency and security of supply." Even noting the importance of that provision, it is important to note and, I think, it is essential to note, that the first priority, and the first note in this section outlining the purposes of the accord, makes it quite clear that the development of this resource is for the benefit of Canada as a whole, but for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in particular.

The document goes on to indicate as well that this Accord ought "to recognize the right of Newfoundland and Labrador to be the principal beneficiary of the oil and gas resources off its shores, consistent with the requirement for a strong and united Canada....".

Again, reference to Newfoundland, recognizing Canada in general, our nation in general, but certainly recognizing how Newfoundland and Labrador ought to be the primary beneficiary of this resource, in terms of any agreement or relationship that we enter into, keeping in mind the importance of this Accord and the importance of the wording in it for the benefit of all of us.

Mr. Speaker, the Accord goes on to state that we ought "to recognize the equality of both governments in the management of the resource, and ensure that the pace and manner of development optimize the social and economic benefits to Canada as a whole and to Newfoundland and Labrador in particular...".

Again, we see similar wording. When the purposes are spelled out clearly in the Accord, we see reference to benefit to the country but, in particular, primary beneficial interests to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Another purpose of this Accord "to provide that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador can establish and collect resource revenues as if these resources were on land, within the province...".

That provision, I submit, Mr. Speaker, is perhaps more in keeping with what this bill today is all about. We are talking about an amendment to the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act, an amendment to the Province's ability to collect from the companies, the royalties that are essential for this Province to operate on a day-to-day basis; again consistent with and in keeping with a specific purpose of the Accord as outlined in the beginning sections.

The document continues to state that another purpose of the Accord is "to provide for a stable and fair offshore management regime for industry; to provide for a stable and permanent arrangement for the management of the offshore adjacent to Newfoundland by enacting the relevant provisions of this Accord in legislation of the Parliament of Canada and the Legislature of Newfoundland and Labrador...", and, "to promote within the system of joint management, insofar as is appropriate, consistency with the management regimes established for other offshore areas in Canada."

Whenever we discuss this industry, Mr. Speaker, particularly when we discuss what ought to be the true and real benefit to the people of this Province in terms of what we can receive as a province as a result of the natural resources that are found both onshore and offshore, it is fundamental and essential, I say to all members in this Legislature, that we be mindful of the fundamental and founding document which is so important, has to be in the mind of any government, has to be in the mind of any opposition member when questioning government on this issue, to bring out the importance of and the significance of this Accord and what it means for the well-being and benefit of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Mr. Speaker, I do wish to have a few more minutes in the continuation of this debate for a second reading; however, I note that the time is now suggesting that we ought to recess for a little while. At this point I do wish to have a few more minutes, I say to the Government House Leader.

At this point, Mr. Speaker, I ask that we adjourn and that we recess for the break and that we resume in due course.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, before we recess, I would like to give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act. (Bill 64) That is the act that the Leader of the Opposition talked about today. To give effect to that bill, I move that I give that notice, Mr. Speaker, so that we can do it today.

In that regard, I wonder also if the House would give us leave to move first reading so that the bill can be distributed and then passed.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, leave is granted and the request is granted by the Government House Leader. We give leave to read in first reading for Bill 64, so that after the supper break we can begin our debate on that.

Thank you.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act," carried. (Bill 64)

On motion, Bill 64 read a first time, ordered read a second time presently, by leave.

MR. LUSH: We will now recess, Mr. Speaker, until 7:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: This House is now in recess until 7:00 p.m.


The House resumed at 7:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: We adjourned debate by the hon. Member for St. John's East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am just going to take a couple of more moments to conclude my remarks with respect to Bill 55 in second reading. As the minister indicated, and some points that were brought out during second reading, we are talking about a bill to amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act. One of the points, I guess, that was mentioned by the minister is the fact that these amendments are designed, in part, to monitor compliance with agreement. I made the point before the break that, really, what this amendment does as well, it allows some investigative part and investigative powers being given to the Crown to ensure that the arrangements and the agreements entered into, with respect to these royalty arrangements, are, in fact, carried out. Therefore, the Crown is now empowered to seek documentation and records to meet this end.

With respect to that, and furthermore, section 43, as proposed by this amendment in Bill 55, appears to give the officials greater access to books, records and other documents necessary for monitoring compliance. That, I would say to the minister and to members present, is perhaps one of the more important features of this amendment. The requirement to provide access to books and records mirrors, under this act, provisions as found interestingly, Mr. Speaker, in sections 231 and section 231.5 of the federal Income Tax Act. So there are significant powers given to the Crown to ensure that there is compliance and to assure that any documentation that is required in order to carry out this compliance is, in fact, met and provided by the companies involved.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, the minister mentioned that in the next few days there will be the releasing of information with respect to C-NOPB's presentation of information. I believe in the House a few days ago the minister mentioned that the details would be provided on or before December 27, but I gather from the minister's remarks that this will be done now some time next week.

In closing, it is important to remember what was said in the report of the public review commissioner for the White Rose Development Application. I am sure I do not have to remind the minister of certain recommendations that were brought forward by the commissioner in this report, specifically recommendation 4.1 where the commissioner recommended that the board not approve the Canada-Newfoundland Benefits Plan of the White Rose Development Application. Secondly, that the commissioner recommended that the board invite the proponent to rewrite its benefits plan to correct deficiencies identified by the commissioner and to reflect the improvement suggestions outlined throughout the report.

I say to the minister, we, on this side of the House, look forward to what the minister has to say in response to documentation that was provided to him approximately two weeks ago. In particular, Mr. Minister, we look forward to what his department, representing government, has to say in response to these specific recommendations as found in the report of the public review commissioner for the White Rose Development Application.

So with these few remarks, Mr. Speaker, we stand to support Bill 55. We are dealing with a very important industry in this Province and we certainly hope - and I speak, of course, on behalf of my colleagues and the Official Opposition - we certainly look forward to regimes being put in place that are always being done, keeping in mind what is in the best interest of the people of this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on this bill dealing with the very important question of petroleum royalties in the Province; oil and gas revenues for this Province.

As the minister has said, we are dealing here with administrative matters in relation to collecting of royalties, how those royalties will be collected, how we will play a role as government in Newfoundland and Labrador in determining the accuracy of the royalty payments, providing for liens, et cetera, in relation to those royalties; and certainly, we do not have any objection to the provisions that will make it easier for us to collect royalties. I think it is an opportunity to talk about the serious principle issues that we face in this Province in relation to oil and gas development.

The reality is, as the Member for St. John's East has pointed out, we do have four different royalty regimes in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I am not sure if any of them are satisfactory to the majority of the people of this Province, although we do have some understanding of the way that they may have come about. In the case of the Hibernia royalty regime, this was part of a negotiation, part of an opportunity to so-call kick start the offshore oil development in this Province and as a result, certain extraordinary concessions were made with respect to royalties. I think they were generally accepted at the time because at that time the offshore oil, although it was a reality in the ground, it was a reality geologically, there were not a lot of believers out there when it came to a huge investment of money, a huge investment of capital, to make the thing happen.

We are in a very different era today, Mr. Speaker, with the Hibernia platform producing oil beyond the expectations of the oil companies involved, beyond the expectations of the people of this Province, and showing an extraordinary profit when one looks at the operating costs of producing a barrel of oil from Hibernia as compared to the world oil price. Oil per barrel is being produced at Hibernia these days in approximately the $1.50 per barrel range. Those would be the operating costs of producing one barrel of oil in the offshore of this Province right now; $1.50 a barrel when the world oil price has been hovering - it fluctuates obviously from time to time - between the twenty and thirty-plus range, now back in the twenties. So we see on a per barrel basis there are enormous revenues from the offshore oil from Hibernia alone. We are not yet fully conversant with the costs of production when it comes to the Terra Nova field or, obviously, the White Rose field which is yet to be even allowed to be developed. Perhaps in the very near future, Mr. Speaker, there will be an opportune time for the whole of all of our royalty schemes to have a second look.

The second regime is the Terra Nova deal, a contractual deal which is tied in with profits, as is the royalty regime for onshore oil, as is the royalty regime for the offshore so-called generic royalty regime. When you tie in a royalty regime with profits in these circumstances and in these cases, when you look at the way, the detail, in which the royalty regime is calculated, while the Province is not guaranteeing a profit to the oil companies, it is certainly guaranteeing that we will not get our share or any share until the company makes a substantial profit; a return on investment, a return on its capital, plus a return on investment equal to the bond rate. What that says, Mr. Speaker, is that Newfoundlanders get paid last. It is our oil, it is our resource, and when the companies who are coming to take it away pay all of their costs, pay all of their capital costs and start making a profit, after a certain high level of profit we get to get a royalty payment. That means that we pay ourselves last. I do not think that, in the long term, this is going to be acceptable to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

One of the reasons we have to have the extensive and expensive, I say, auditing functions in this legislation is because our royalty is not based on a per barrel or per barrel per the price of oil, a percentage of the price of oil per barrel. So we do not get any money off the top, as it were. We have to wait until the oil companies get their return investment back, make a profit, and then, if they are making a healthy profit, we get a royalty.

Who is taking the risk on that? Granted, the employers, the companies, are taking a risk in terms of whether they make a profit or not, but we are taking the bigger risk. We are saying to these oil companies: Come and take away this oil, and if you can make lots of money on it, good for you. If you can make even more money on it, we will take some of it. The incentive for the company is to have lots of costs, at a certain point. At a certain point, the incentive for the company is not something that would want them to increase their profit beyond a certain level because it would be lost in royalties.

We have to look around, Mr. Speaker, and see what other countries, states or provinces do that sort of thing. You do not see that in Alberta, except to the extent of the oil sands, where the cost of production of a barrel of oil is probably ten times, or more, the operating cost of producing a barrel of oil at Hibernia, at $1.50 a barrel.

The generic oil regime, which applies to the White Rose and subsequent developments, is a regime that is based on the Tar Sands model, the Tar Sands model where they are actually literally mining the sands that the oil is in, with very heavy equipment, mining equipment, dragging equipment, and then they have to take that sand, that tar sand, and turn it into a petroleum product. In Hibernia, and our offshore, while it is different than conventional drilling, what you are bringing up from under the ground, under the ocean, is oil. You are not bringing up sand, tar sand, that has to be treated like Syncrude in Alberta, and converted into oil, a synthetic process converting one product into oil. You are pulling oil up out of the ground, oil that then has to be refined, like all crude oil, but a very, very light, a very fine, crude oil that is worth money before there is any value added from refining. When you are dealing with Syncrude, they are mining tar sands that then have to be converted into oil at a great cost before they constitute a barrel of oil. So, the production costs in Syncrude for a barrel of oil are enormous compared to the offshore in Newfoundland and Labrador. While you may have great capital costs up front, once those capital costs are recovered, your operational costs are so low that it is almost comparable to an on-land facility.

We have to re-examine that, Mr. Speaker, and I do not think we have really seriously done that. We have been concerned in this Province, overly concerned, with development. Are we going to get a development? Is it going to come? When will it come? Will it be approved? What are the terms and conditions? How many jobs are we going to get? All of these are important things, but if we are in a situation that we find ourselves in now where it is almost laughable, our royalty return from Hibernia is almost laughable, and even the royalty return is clawed back by Ottawa, we are almost at the point where we can be considered a joke. We can be considered a joke in North America in terms of the fiscal return that Newfoundland and Labrador is getting from its oil. The government brags, Mr. Speaker, about in 2003 we are going to be producing 40 per cent of Canada's crude oil requirements - 40 per cent of Canada's crude oil requirements by 2003 - or maybe it is pushed up to 2004. If 40 per cent of Canada's crude oil requirements are produced in Newfoundland and Labrador, how can we, without being a laughing stock to the country and fools ourselves, be in a position where we are still one of the poorest provinces in the union?

That is the reality that we face here, and the reason we face that reality is because our royalty regimes are not properly designed. There wasn't proper consultation on them. The generic royalty regime was announced and signed by the government without proper consultation, without any proper review, without any real review by this House of Assembly, frankly. The time has come, Mr. Speaker, where all of that has to be looked into, and looked into on a public way that opens it to scrutiny; and let's have people who talk about these things not with their own stake in it because they are representing an oil company, or they are representing the petroleum industry, but people who are independent, truly independent, and are able to properly advise the public and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador what alternatives are available. Because we see on every score where - there are four aspects to this issue of benefits from offshore oil and gas. There is the development aspect: Will it come? When will it come? How fast will it come? There is the issue of: Will we get our gas developed or not, or will we accede to the company's wish to leave it in the ground as long as it suits them? What level of benefits can we demand and insist on for Newfoundland and Labrador, and what are the royalties? In the long run, Mr. Speaker, the royalties are going to make the difference between whether or not we become a have-Province or whether we do not.

If you look to Alberta, Alberta's revenues from royalties are what makes the difference between them being a have- and a have-not province, because they control the royalties, and their return per barrel of oil developed in Alberta is in the $3 and $4 range; $3 or $4 per barrel. Our return per barrel, I think someone suggested, when you calculate it out, was worth about five cents per barrel. That speaks volumes about what this Province has been pursuing by way of policy on oil and gas revenues, by way of policy in the long run in the fiscal health of this Province.

We know we are dealing with huge international companies. Some of these companies have budgets bigger than the budget of Newfoundland and Labrador and probably the poorest hundred countries in the world put together, because they are enormous, huge, international corporations that have enormous power, enormous influence, and information at their disposal that they can bring to the play. We, as a Province, wanted Hibernia to be developed; we wanted to see it happen. It was very touch and go as whether it was going to happen when it did. When one of the partners sold out their interest and the Government of Canada had to step in to help make it happen, it was touch and go. So the companies, Mr. Speaker, got a good deal. We wanted it to happen and they got a good deal because we wanted it to happen. There is no doubt there has been enormous benefit from the Hibernia development. There is no doubt about that, whether it be in the construction jobs, whether it be in the long-term offshore jobs, whether it be in all the associated activity that has happened as a result of Hibernia proving, by reality, that we are an oil producing area, an oil producing Province. They proved that, obviously, by showing that it can be done and having a -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The minister, if he wants to make a motion, can make whatever motion he wants when I finish my speech, because when I finish my speech the minister can have the floor. He can move until we meet tomorrow, if he wants, but I intend to speak on this issue because it is one of the most important issues faced in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Our future depends on it, Mr. Speaker, and our future depends on whether we get it right or whether we do not. So far, let me say, we have not gotten it right.

The relationship between this Province and Ottawa is wrong. The relationship between this Province and the oil companies is wrong. The royalty regimes that we have in place are wrong. If we continue with the generic oil regime that we have in place, we are not going to get any better because it is based on the wrong formulas and based on the wrong operations.

In the area of benefits, Mr. Speaker, we have the C-NOPB. We used to have a petroleum directorate that was supposed to look after our interests in negotiating with the oil companies. When the Atlantic Accord was signed, we got rid of our petroleum directorate. We decided we did not need it because we had the C-NOPB, the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board. Was that a good idea? What has the C-NOPB done for us?

On the Terra Nova Project, when the Supreme Court of Newfoundland agreed that Terra Nova had not met its commitments under the contract with respect to engineering work being done in the Province, they also said: ...but we do not have the authority to make the C-NOPB insist on the contract.

Where was the Newfoundland government left in this? Nowhere, Mr. Speaker. No ability to force the C-NOPB to do anything, no ability of any other party, like the City of St. John's, who brought the matter to court, to force the C-NOPB to do anything, and we are left with a board not willing to insist that Newfoundland and Labrador get the level of benefits that the company had contracted to do when the development was approved. So, what do we have here? A paper tiger? The C-NOPB is supposed to be, we think, acting in our interests but is really doing something else.

We have now the White Rose Development Project and an independent commissioner, independent of the C-NOPB, says these benefits proposals are so vague as to be discretionary, that the commitments of Husky Oil are really discretionary. That is what the commissioner said to the C-NOPB, after having public hearings and listening to the arguments. What are we going to have? Are we going to have another proposal where the C-NOPB says it is okay, we think this level of benefits is fine. We are going to have the government go along with that and have another company who has the discretion as to whether or not to give the benefits that they claim they are going to give or not? Is that the way we are going to guarantee that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians maximize the benefits from our offshore resources? I do not think so, Mr. Speaker, but we will find out. We will find out in a few days because next week, when the House is closed - I underline that: when the House is closed - the minister is going to make his announcement. If we do not like it, we can issue a press release the week before Christmas. If we do not like it, on this side of the House, we can issue a press release the week before Christmas because the House is not going to be sitting. The House is not going to meet again until some time in March, unless the Premier decides that we are going to have a session in January or February.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I would be happy to do that.

Mr. Speaker, that is the history that we have had so far. We had a special deal for Hibernia. There is no point arguing now about whether it was a good or bad deal. We wanted the offshore to start and we made that deal to get it started, so I suppose we have to live with that.

We had the Terra Nova Project, with the C-NOPB unwilling to enforce a contract, an obligation, that they took on. We have now the White Rose Project, with what Commissioner Clarke has described as weak and vague commitments on benefits for Newfoundland and Labrador.

I know their intentions may be good, Mr. Speaker, and I met with the people from Husky Oil - their interest in having activity take place in Newfoundland and Labrador - and we understand that. They did some things that I have a lot of respect for, in terms of doing their engineering work here, in terms of making sure, up until now at least, that a lot of their work is being done here. They are doing those kinds of things, but when they made their proposal - and they may have followed the guidelines. There are guidelines in place for development application, and they may have followed them to the letter, but those guidelines are fifteen years old. Those guidelines were set in 1986. What was our state of knowledge and understanding of what went on, and goes on, in the offshore in 1986 compared to today? I hope we are better informed. I hope, after fifteen years, we know more about how to maximize our benefits than we did in 1986.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: If I may have a minute to clue up, Mr. Speaker?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: I am being given leave only to clue up, Mr. Speaker, because I will not go on very much longer.

We do have development application regulations set by the C-NOPB that are fifteen years old. Perhaps it is time we reviewed them, Mr. Speaker, and upgraded them. Perhaps it is time we considered as to whether or not we, ourselves, should have our own petroleum directorate to ensure that we have benefits and fight for Newfoundland and Labrador within the Department of Mines and Energy like the Nova Scotia government has. They still have a petroleum directorate and they have a Nova Scotia Canada Offshore Petroleum Board too, but they have a petroleum directorate with a benefit section fighting for benefits for Nova Scotians. We need to look at that model here, Mr. Speaker, and see whether it is time for us to bring back the petroleum directorate with a heavy duty benefit section and with a much stronger policy and opportunity to review these royalty schemes so that we can improve the position of Newfoundland and Labrador vis-à-vis offshore development.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

If the hon. minister speaks now he will close the debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am especially indebted to the extended applause by my Member from St. John's West and from her colleague, the Member for Ferryland, my good friend, across the way.

I will not take as much time as my colleague from Signal Hill took in closing debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: I will just say though, Mr. Speaker, for the record, because I think it is necessary to make a comment on what both he and the Member for St. John's East were speaking about, that is the issue of the Atlantic Accord. I have been thinking about it, of late, in dealing with the other issues in the department, including the project that we are going to speak to very soon in terms of sanctioning or otherwise. I come to the conclusion that probably no piece of legislation has been more analyzed, no accord or act has probably been more talked about and scrutinized, than has been the Atlantic Accord; the Accord under which C-NOPB operates in terms of regulating the offshore. I guess there are three pieces to it: there is the act as it is and what it actually says and allows and does not allow; there is the perception of what the act is all about; and I guess there is the reality of what we would like - now that we have had fifteen years experience living under this act - to see in the act.

The reality of the situation is this, that the act - notwithstanding what we would like to see in the act today if we were writing it as opposed to what was agreed to back in 1986 when former governments in this Province and former governments in Ottawa signed off on this Accord - notwithstanding that, Mr. Speaker, there is a reality that the act has certain limitations with respect to what it can and cannot do, what it can and cannot allow to be or cause to be imposed, or to be prescribed by C-NOPB, particularly in the area of benefits, because it is the area of benefits that causes us all, I believe, to want to see and want to ensure that we extract from the gas and oil development off our coast, the absolute maximum of benefits that can be accrued to this Province, not only during the construction phase, which is important, but also through the development phase.

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day the decisions that C-NOPB makes with respect to recommendations that they have put forward, and the decisions that we make as government, whether we, today, like an act that is fifteen years old or not; whether we, today, think the act is what it should be; the reality is that we have to deal with, we have to work within, we have to be guided by, we have to be subject to the restraints, the limitations, and the prescriptiveness of the current Canada-Newfoundland offshore oil act regime.

I would say to the hon. members that there is nobody on that side of the House - with respect - who has any greater desire to see us maximize the offshore benefits that we can maximize from every oil project. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the measure of where we are going, with respect to the development of our offshore, can be sensed and can be seen when we take our first project -which was the Hibernia project - and compare what it was we achieved out of that in terms of benefits; we take the Terra Nova development, which is now about to start production, and see what it is we achieved by way of negotiation and by way of benefits as a result of what the companies were able to do on our account on that project; and hopefully, in future projects, to see what further progress, if any, we have made with respect to benefits. I believe that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador expect us to move in this fashion. They expect us to move up. They expect to see us achieve a higher level of incremental benefits for this Province on each successive project. I believe that will, in large measure, be the standard against which we will be judged, as government, as legislators here who are participating in this debate and wanting to see us do the best we can by ourselves.

I appreciate the comments that have been made by members on the other side. I appreciate their diligence in allowing this act to move forward as expeditiously as you have. Obviously, the amendments - although there are many - are, as I said at the outset in my presentation, largely housekeeping in terms of what they are about.

Mr. Speaker, having given notice that in the Committee stage I will be moving one additional amendment, or one further amendment to the act, I move second reading.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 55)

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, second reading of Bill 64, An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act." (Bill 64)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I don't intend to or need to speak at length with respect to this bill, just to give a brief explanation because this is being done again, as I understand it, by consent of all the parties. It is an issue that was raised today - earlier today the Official Opposition, and representatives of the NDP, did work on this particular amendment. The issue that Officers of this House - and I do apologize for indicating today that we only had four, we have five; a very important one being the Clerk of the House who is here with us all the time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: In fact, he was kind enough to remind me that while he is our fifth Officer he does not have to submit a report. He is probably very lucky. He is probably the luckiest one of the lot that he does not have to submit a report.

The issue that was brought forward today was the fact that when this Assembly is not sitting and reports are finished and ready for tabling by the Officers of the House of Assembly, who are currently only the Auditor General and the Chief Electoral Officer, that then there is a period of time in which the courtesy has always been that since they are Officers of this House they would present their report in this Legislature when it was opened.

I believe that there is consensus from all parties, as brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition today and concurred in by the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, that it is in our best interest, all of us collectively as legislators, to have access to the reports as soon as they are finished and available. I believe all three parties have looked at this amendment and rather than just amend the Auditor General's Act, or rather than amend four separate acts, that a mechanism has been found whereby we amend the House of Assembly Act to suggest that when an Officer of this Legislature has an annual report that is ready to present to the Speaker, who runs this Legislature with the Clerk of the House on our behalf, that it then be deemed to have been tabled in the House and made available to every member and the general public so we can begin examination and debate of it right away, if we want, rather than wait until the Legislature opens sometimes two months later, or sometimes a month later and so on. I believe that serves the purpose and the intent of the issue that was raised today.

I certainly concur, the government concurs, and I understand that we are all in concurrence, that that is in the best interest of all of us in trying to do the jobs that we are sent here to do. It reflects exactly what we want to accomplish and that it would not matter who was the government. We happen to be the government and proud to bring forward this amendment so that we can deal with it tonight. I understand that if the Official Opposition were the government they would be bringing forward this amendment and treating it the same way, as would the NDP if they were the government.

Mr. Speaker, with that I am proud to have an opportunity to present this in second reading. I am pleased to be able to respond to a request made today, because we have had examples many times in the past. This is another of them, that when there is an issue which is clearly in the best interest of all of us, as the forty-eight legislators that are sent here, the House does have the ability, this House of Assembly - and it shows it repeatedly, as it will here now - does have the ability to act appropriately and, in the spirit of co-operation, to accomplish something that is in the best interests of the running of this Legislature, and in the best interests of all forty-eight members in doing the jobs that they want to do.

With those few comments, Mr. Speaker - I will not read the actual amendment into the record because it will be there when tabled - I am very pleased to move second reading of this particular bill and listen to the debate from members opposite with respect to the principle of it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I concur with the comments of the Premier and I thank the Premier and the Government House Leader for their co-operation in acknowledging what is a very, very important amendment. Premier, it makes good sense to do this and that is why, I think, we have unanimity here in the House to make this amendment.

I think there is also a message in it for me, tactically, that if I ask one question from now on, as I indicated today, I will probably get better results. I think that is something. I learned a lesson from that for the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: This is a very worthwhile amendment and I do not want to make light of it. I say that certainly in good taste. It is very, very important that the House of Assembly and, of course, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, have prompt and immediate access to information. Of course, that is what this is all about and, again, that is what the Freedom of Information Act is all about as well. It is all about access to information so we can now have this promptly, as quickly as when it is tabled. As well, in addition, that anything tabled by the other officers or officials of the House be tabled at the same time and presented expeditiously.

I again thank the Premier and I thank the government for their co-operation in this. We support it wholeheartedly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr .Speaker.

I will not repeat the comments of the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition about the importance of the bill, the fact that we now will have access immediately to any reports presented to the Speaker. That sort of speaks for itself.

I think what is important to note is, that while we have in this House different political philosophies, different political parties, and an adversarial system where the people on this side have a role of challenging the other side, challenging the government, bringing them to account, that there are also opportunities and there are also occasions when the wisdom of a suggestion on this side of the House is immediately recognized. I think it is a credit to this government and to the Premier to have recognized that and dropped the combative stance. He could easily have taken the combative stance and been the adversary of this side, as we try to be the adversary of that side. Instead, the Premier and the government said: Well, this is a good idea and we are prepared to adopt it.

To go through not only all three stages of the bill in one day, but to go from conception, as it were, and the idea of coming forward to a bill at the end of the day, is an extraordinary thing to do, and it is done over something that I think we obviously all agree on, but that is an important thing. Even though we are combative and adversarial, when we find something that we can co-operate on, it can produce good results, which we have here today. I am hoping that we will go through all stages of the legislation today and put it into law before we close for Christmas.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

If the hon. the Premier speaks now, he will close the debate.

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I think everything that needs to be said has been said. We look forward to the same spirit of co-operation in working together as legislators with a common interest in terms of the three bills that have been referred to committees of the Legislature, very important pieces, two with respect to environmental protection and water resources and, of course, a substantial piece with respect to freedom of information. I know that the members who are named to that committee will work diligently in that House committee to try to effect the same kind of results that we have here today, where hopefully we can come back and have unanimous consent for a better piece of legislation, if we can achieve that through that process.

I am pleased to move second reading of this bill, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 64)

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, continuing in the spirit of co-operation, and in terms of initiating and executing effective legislation for the people of this Province, I move the following:

Notwithstanding Standing Order 80, that the following bills entitled, "An Act Respecting Environmental Protection,"(Bill 45), and, "An Act Respecting The Control And Management Of Water Resources In The Province," (Bill 44), be referred to the Resources Committee for examination, and that the Committee conduct its meetings in St. John's during the winter recess and report its findings to the House of Assembly on the day on which the House next reconvenes.

Maybe I can make a second motion in that regard:

Notwithstanding Standing Order 80, that a bill entitled, "An Act To Provide The Public With Access To Information And Protection Of Privacy," (Bill 49), be referred to the Social Services Committee for examination, and that the Committee conduct its meetings in St. John's during the winter recess and report its findings to the House of Assembly on the day on which the House next reconvenes.

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

All those in favour of the motions, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Motions carried.

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

MR. LUSH: Order 21, Mr. Speaker, Bill 42, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Securities Act.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Securities Act." (Bill 42)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I guess this is going to be one of the exciting bills that we will have to deal with here this evening. I do not really anticipate that it is going to take up a lot of time of the House. It is really a bill encompassing some fifty-odd pages of administrative changes to the Securities Act, to bring regulations in our Province in line with regulations in the other provinces, and national regulations, so that issuers of securities in our Province and investors in securities in our Province can have access to the markets on the same equitable basis as issuers and investors in the other provinces of the country.

The content of the bill is pretty well described in the Explanatory Notes. If members are interested, I would be happy to go into some detailed explanation as to some of the particular amendments; but, in the absence of having an indication of their interest, Mr. Speaker, I will simply propose that the bill be given second reading at this time.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. Barbe.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. YOUNG: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just like to make a couple of comments as well. First of all, let me say that the Securities Act is a very important piece of legislation because investment in and the trade of securities has an enormous impact on our lives. It affects us from the very beginning, from the time we were born, on through to the medical standards that we receive, and our education that follows, on through, and then to our working days until retirement. It has a complete effect on our lives.

It is through securities exchange that the government is able to finance debt, corporations are able to secure money they need to carry out business activities, and investment income pension plans are generated. Thus, the proper functioning of such an industry is important in many aspects of our economy and our personal well-being.

I guess, with amending this act, the thing that we would be looking for is balance. I guess the proper balance is what would be important in a bill like this, because when you bring in balance we have results that can help us out and see that the market is functioning as it should. When we have a market that functions as it should, then our economy generates along in a way that it should.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands. If the hon. the minister speaks now, he will close debate on the bill.

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

In view of the rapid progress this piece of legislation is making through the House, I trust it will be a harbinger of the accelerated economy activity we are going to see in this Province in the year to come.

Mr. Speaker, I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Securities Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 42)

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

MR. LUSH: Order 22, Mr. Speaker, Bill 56, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Provincial Parks Act.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Parks Act." (Bill 56).

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

This bill will amend the Provincial Parks Act to authorize the minister responsible for the act - me - to permit transportation on the Newfoundland T'Railway Provincial Park, associated with logging, mining, mineral exploration or hydro-electrical development. Basically it would just allow transportation through the park, not allowing for these activities to occur, such as mineral development within the park, but just transportation through the park.

It is a minor amendment. We have some permits that we authorize for this activity already. It would just see the ability for this to occur.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise to say a few words on Bill 56. I say to the minister, I am a little bit disappointed in the bill. I am a little bit disappointed that he did not include the cabin owners as well, to be able to use the T'Railway in order to get to their cabins. That has been an issue that has been brought to the minister's attention many times. I do not know why the minister would want to tie up his time and the time of cabin owners having to come to get the minister's permission and to get the minister to issue a permit to allow cabin owners to use the T'Railway to access their cabins. It has been something that they have always been able to do. Even when the train was running, I say to people opposite, many times the T'Railway was used, and they used the train to get to and from their cabins. Since the track has been removed, now the cabin owners find themselves having to come to the minister in order to get permits in order to access their cabin. Maybe the minister might want to take a second look at this and include that in this particular bill, or bring in an amendment to this particular bill, to allow that to happen.

I certainly fully support loggers and the other people mentioned here in this piece of legislation being able to use the railway bed, the T'Railway as we know it. Mr. Speaker, I know that I made many calls to former ministers who have been responsible for the T'Railway park, seeking permission to have loggers in my own particular district to be able to take their logs and material and bring it up over the T'Railway to an area by the roadside where they could access it by public transportation. It was a situation where, up until now, people could use the T'Railway with their trikes. They could used the T'Railway with their ski-doos. They could use the T'Railway with any other form of transportation; but, because somebody wanted to use it for gain or to support their business, or to support their logging operation in those particular cases, Mr. Speaker, we had to go to the minister to get a permit. I think we have to get away from that and we have to make the T'Railway accessible.

I say to the minister, I am a little disappointed that he did not take this piece of legislation, Bill 56, a step further and allow the people, the cabin owners - I think the Member for Lewisporte just came and had a chat with me about the people he has been in contact with, and some of his constituents who call him and are disappointed and frustrated that they have to come to the minister to get permits in order to be able to access their cabins.

Sometimes maybe we do not realize the importance of a cabin to people. That has been our nature over the years. For many people, that is their holiday, that is their vacation. It is not a trip down to Florida, or it is not a cruise; it is to go and visit their cabin. It is a place that they hold dear. It is a place that they call theirs. It is a place that they frequent for most weekends of the year. It is their getaway.

I say to the minister, in his remarks maybe he might want to pass comment on this particular suggestion that I am putting forward. I say again, I am disappointed that cabin owners are not included here. I think they could have been, and it would not have taken anything away from this particular bill. It would have made it more meaningful and allow other people access to this particular T'railway.

Thank you.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to speak on this legislation for a few moments. We are dealing here with a provincial park which was the property of Canadian National after Confederation, and was transferred to the Province and declared to be a provincial park. The purpose of the park - it is a linear park that runs from one end of the Island of Newfoundland to the other. I was almost going to say one end of the Province to the other, but that would obviously be wrong. It runs from one part of the Island of Newfoundland to the other and is a part of the Trans-Canada trail system, or is supposed to be. It is supposed to be preserved for use as a park.

What the minister is now doing is introducing legislation to overrule a decision made by the Supreme Court that found what the minister was doing was illegal. Now we are going to change the laws to make legal what was found to be illegal. In other words, to use the park for the purposes of a logging road. There are many people, Mr. Speaker, who use that park and want to continue to use that park for recreational purposes, for tourism purposes - to develop an area of trails, whether it be for ATV use in the summer months, fall, or spring, or for snowmobile use in the winter - who are very concerned about the condition of that trail. In fact, its status as part of the Canadian T'railway System is in jeopardy because of activities that can take place or that may be permitted on a part of the T'railway.

There is a tremendous opportunity with respect to development of tourism and other recreational uses on this T'railway. All we have now is a piece of legislation that says that the minister can allow it to be a logging road. There are a lot of people who use the trail who are very upset about the fact that logging trucks destroy the roadbed; that the place is a mess. When the logging trucks are using it, and after the logging trucks are finished, the place is a mess and cannot be properly used by recreational users, let alone people trying to drive to a cabin. What this minister is doing is basically saying that he is going to be permitted - the legislation is going to allow him to allow it to be used as a logging road.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, what this minister wants to do is have it treated as a logging road without any conditions as to its condition, whether they have to remediate it - what they are going to leave behind them when they use it as a logging road. Is it going to be deteriorated to the point where it is no longer capable of being used for recreational purposes? Is its value as a park going to be destroyed? Is there any other way that these companies can get access to the wood supply by building logging roads, for example - which there are hundreds and hundreds of miles of in this Province - or are we merely providing a cheap method of access to a timber supply where there may be other ways of doing it?

Mr. Speaker, I have a great deal of concern about this legislation. In principle it is undoing something that was found to be illegal and the minister can say: Well, we disagree with the interpretation placed by the judge - who was a former minister of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and had a great deal of knowledge and interest in resource development. In fact, he was the minister who introduced much of the forest legislation and the forest management tax legislation in the Province; who interpreted the legislation and the government disagrees with it so they are going to change the act. Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that is the best way that we can provide for public policy in this Province. The minister said nothing about: What are consequences on the park itself for allowing it to be used as logging grows?

I want to raise those points and concerns, and I hope the minister will deal with them when he responds.

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

If the minister speaks now he will close the debate.

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

I appreciate the comments from both of the opposition members; the Leader of the New Democratic Party and the critic for Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

To the issue of cabin owners; cabin owners are allowed to use the T'Railway Park. They have always been allowed to use it. I have not had a request or hardly any expression of concern about the permitting process that we have now. The member has raised it, and I will look into that matter to see whether or not it is of any major consequence to the users, but at this point the permitting process that we have seems to be working fairly well.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. K. AYLWARD: Yes, but what I will do is - I will look into how we are now administering the process. If there is a way to improve that, we will improve the process. It is a legitimate concern and we will certainly look into that, but cabin owners have been permitted access since the inception of the park and its designation. We will look into whether or not that process is working as good as it can.

On the issue raised by the Leader of the NDP; this park and the designation of the park, it was not our intention to not allow for certain other activities. As a matter of fact, these activities that we are now allowing are for only temporary time periods. There are some logging interests along the T'Railway Park but they are only temporary. They are over the next two, three or four seasons, and then it will not be used for that purpose in that area. We also require anybody using it for a purpose, and for the short-term, to put it back to proper repair and proper upgrade. So we have conditions on it. We require the users, if they have any impact on it, on conditions of the permit, to put it back in proper order. It is a compromise that allows for certain types of economic activities to occur along the T'Railway since it is a facility that is very lengthy in this Province. It is a great park and a great protection mechanism that we have in place but we also have some activities that we want to continue to allow on a temporary basis in the future; some economic activities.

Mr. Speaker, we are also working with the Department of Forest Resources to look at alternative roads to forests that are near the T'Railway. We are working actively with the Department of Forest Resources now.

On that note, Mr. Speaker, I would like to move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Parks Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 56)

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

MR. LUSH: Order 23, Bill 25, second reading of An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act." (Bill 25)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure tonight that I stand to propose second reading of this amendment to the Public Tender Act.

As people are well aware, the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, through its marine services region, owns and operates twelve ferry vessels to provide public transportation to residents in several isolated areas of the Province. The departments entire ferry operation of the twenty-one vessels, serving sixteen routes, is the second largest provincial fleet in the country. Many areas who utilize the ferry service rely upon it as their primary source of transportation for supplies and people use it for business purposes.

For example, last year in our ferry operations we carried 750,000 passengers, 450,000 vehicles, and we made over 20,000 round trips. A lot of these ferry operations, like Little Bay Islands, Fogo Island, and all these other communities, rely quite heavily on the ferry operations. For example, in the Little Bay Islands' fish plant, we have to make sure that we have a ferry operation, not only for the passengers and the freight but also - we have a fish plant on the island and we have to get the fresh fish over and the frozen product back.

AN HON. MEMBER: Paul Shelley's district.

MR. BARRETT: In the hon. the Member for Baie Verte's district.

The vessel refits are scheduled throughout the year. As you recall, a few months ago we did a refit of the Flanders, the one that serves the Bell Island route. Of course, while she was on refit we had problems with the Beaumont Hamel. We faced some difficulty there.

We had another vessel, the Sound of Islay, that was - one of our swing vessels had to be taken and put down on the Change Islands run. Because we were doing some major repairs to our dock on Change Islands we had to take that vessel and put it on that particular run. Of course, we ended up then with one vessel, and one vessel that had some problems on the Bell Island run.

These kinds of things happen quite often because when you are operating these vessels on a continuous basis - 20,000 round trips on a vessel is a lot. All acquisitions for maintenance, repairs and major refits go to public tender. We always go to public tender. The Flanders, for example, we put out a tender for the refit of that particular vessel. The three shipyards within Newfoundland and Labrador tendered on that refit through the Public Tender Act.

If we have one of our vessels tonight that has a problem with one of its thrusters or one other of the operations on the vessel, it is impossible to go through the public tendering process for these kinds of emergency repairs. You may say that we could do it under the Public Tender Act. The Public Tender Act permits us to do it on an emergency basis but if it is something that happens quite frequently it is not an emergency, and I think we are abusing the Public Tender Act.

My critic, from time to time, one of his favorite hobbies is to say that the minister is, again, contravening the Public Tender Act; he is going outside the Public Tender Act; he is using a section of the Public Tender Act; he is using it for emergency purposes. What we have here, in terms of our ferry operations, is not emergencies in the sense of the Public Tender Act, but is a routine thing. It is a routine thing that has to be done from time to time. What we are proposing here is an amendment. We are not going to go out and acquire a vessel under this clause, under the Public Tender Act, we are going out as if we have an engine fail on one of the vessels. The hon. Member for Windsor-Springdale is quite aware of how important the Island Joiner is to the -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. BARRETT: Yes, we had some breakdowns with that particular ferry. We had to have parts flown in from the mainland and from various other locations. What we are requesting in this piece of legislation is to permit us to go out and get three quotes. Right now, if we do it under an emergency basis we don't have to really go out and get the three quotes. I am prepared to table here tonight, and I gave the information to my hon. critic this afternoon, that what we have done, once this legislation is passed, is to make sure there are strict guidelines that would be enforced, that there will be three quotes for every emergency repair on any of our vessels.

This service is very, very important to these various communities except, I guess, for Long Island. About the only place we could put a causeway would be to Long Island. The other ones will always have to rely on the ferry services. We hear all kinds of silly and stupid comments about the fact that our ferries are old, rusted out old things, but they are always supervised, enforced and inspected by the Canadian Coast Guard and Canadian Ship Safety. We have one of the best vessel fleets within this Province, and we are very proud.

Last year we only had four breakdowns of our vessels. What we are talking about here is probably regular maintenance things that need to be done from time to time on the vessels. What we are asking for is permission that we not have to go through the public tendering process, but just go out, get three quotes, and do the essential and important work that is necessary for these vessels.

I will wait for my critic to respond, and I am sure there will be lots of comments for me to make afterwards.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I want to say a few words on Bill 25, An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act. There may be more than a few words, I say, Mr. Speaker. I say up front that I should not, cannot, and certainly will not, be supporting this piece of legislation. There are a number of reasons, many reasons, actually.

This legislation before this House today is completely unnecessary. It is already covered under the existing legislation, the existing Public Tender Act. It is ironic that today in this House of Assembly - and the minister talks about exemptions under the Public Tender Act - that today he submitted to this House, tabled in this House, some 600 to 700 exemptions to the Public Tender Act, from that very minister who is now looking for more exemptions under the Public Tender Act. It is absolutely unnecessary.

Mr. Speaker, that minister, on November 29, said in this House of Assembly that the reason this legislation is being brought to this House of Assembly is because the Auditor General requested it to be brought here. Let me tell you right here and now, matter-of-factly, that it is completely untrue.

The Auditor General always has had problems with this Administration and the way they treat the Public Tender Act. Since I have been in this House of Assembly, since 1993, this Administration has had nothing but contempt for the Public Tender Act. In 1998, this Administration brought in changes to the Public Tender Act that was put in place in the first place to protect the public, the money that has been spent by the taxpayers in this Province, on any purchase that the government should make, and it is supposed to be, therefore, a level playing field for the businesses in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. But, in 1998, when the courts found that this Administration broke the law with respect to the Public Tender Act with respect to the Trans City deal, what did they do, Mr. Speaker? They changed the Public Tender Act. They weakened the Public Tender Act to allow them to do what the courts said they were not allowed to do in the first place.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General has said many times - and I could have a list here of how often the Public Tender Act has been breached by this Administration.

The minister was on his feet over there a few minutes ago talking about how proud he was of the ferry system in Newfoundland and Labrador, and he threw out some figures. I have them here: twenty ferries to provide services to sixteen interprovincial routes. There are forty isolated communities and/or islands which are served, Mr. Speaker. The government owns twelve of these vessels, and he is saying how proud he is of the system. Yet, he has to bring in amendments to the Public Tender Act because of the routine breakdowns of the ferry system in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Eight of the twenty vessels are over twenty-five years old - from twenty-five to forty-three years old - and the life span of a vessel is twenty-five years.

That begs the question: Why is this legislation before this House of Assembly? In my mind, there is an ulterior motive. I have heard from the industry that this piece of legislation - and the minister basically confirmed it when he was on this feet. Today, he talked about trying to rationalize and trying to justify this piece of legislation before this House of Assembly now. He brought in these guidelines under the legislation today and gave them to me in the House of Assembly. I appreciate it.

He talked about the procedures with respect to the exemptions, and how they would proceed with getting the exemptions. There are six there, but the one that is the most curious of all in this is number six. It says here: Since this procurement falls outside the Public Tender Act, the requirements for public openings and reporting requirements are not applicable.

This is the Administration, Mr. Speaker, talking about openness within their system, and right within their own guidelines and regulations they are not going to be required to have a public opening on any of these so-called tenders - or, when they call for tenders, they were going to call for three proposals but they are not going to have to tell us what they were, who put in the proposals, how much they were, or anything of that nature. We have to trust them. Now, why would we trust them when the courts have consistently found them to be breaking the law? They want to weaken the Public Tender Act even further with respect to ferry vessels.

Mr. Speaker, here is what they are proposing in this proposed legislation. Now, just listen: Where they want to purchase or do any work with respect to ferry vessels, where the work involves emergency repairs. Now who is going to define an emergency repair? The minister? Pretty broad, I would say, Mr. Speaker. Where the work involves maintenance; no definition on the maintenance. How much maintenance? When?

AN HON. MEMBER: They already can do that.

MR. J. BYRNE: They already have the right to do this.

Where the work involves "...unknown work identified during refit...". Now, Mr. Speaker, what is that? Define that for me. How much latitude is the minister going to have? This gets better: "...where an acquisition is required on an emergency basis...". I will repeat that, "...where an acquisition is required on an emergency basis...". I have had people in industry contact me with respect to that very clause. Now, what is going on here? Seriously. Are they going to be able to go out now, government - maybe not even this government, it could be any government in the future. It may change in a year, six months, or two years down the road, but where an acquisition is required on an emergency basis the government can go out and purchase a vessel. From whom? That is the question. Will it be from their friends, which we have known to happen in the past? I will quote a few of those later on.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the purpose of the Public Tender Act is to ensure that taxpayers get the best value for their money. This will not allow that to happen, to ensure that companies are given a fair opportunity to compete for government work. If this is going to be done behind closed doors with three proposals that are not going to be made public - who made the proposals? How much the proposals were for? What the proposals were for? Now, tell me how that is in the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As I said, in the 2000 report the Auditor General said that the government failed to comply with the Public Tender Act when refitting the Captain Earl Winsor and the Ahelaid. Now let me talk a few minutes about those. The Captain Earl Winsor was put in for a refit and it came out with an extra $1.3 million worth of work that the government never tendered. They did not tender, and now they want to go back and change the Public Tender Act to allow them to do what they did not do before. That is what is going on here.

The Ahelaid; they went out and purchased the Ahelaid, - as I referred to, and the minister made a comment with respect to my comments talking about rust buckets. The Ahelaid is a vessel that was bought two years ago and so far has cost $4.1 million. It is still tied up and not yet being utilized by the ferry system. For example, we had the Bell Island ferry system this past fall with two vessels on dry dock at the same time having work being done on them. They put out a vessel over there that could not handle the work.

That brings to light the statements by the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island the other day, when he was up talking about speeches that I had given about how I was meandering; following a cow meandering through the meadow. Mr. Speaker, I would rather be following a cow meandering through a meadow than going underground like the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island did when those two ferries, this past fall, were on dry dock. The service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador (inaudible) Bell Island. It is hopeless, Mr. Speaker!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: What did we hear from the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island? Not a word, Mr. Speaker; hidden away. So, that is what is there.

That is not the end of the story of the Ahelaid: $4.1 million so far; $2 million more allocated to be spent on her, but I lately heard there is an extra $2 million. Now we have over $8 million allocated for the Ahelaid that is still tied up, not utilized yet, and the minister over there is trying to change the Public Tender Act. I would say, give us a break, Mr. Speaker.

The government will define emergency when it wants repairs. Presuming any work that is done on a ferry is an emergency, could be considered an emergency; any work, any time - too much latitude to the minister. Again, I think that it goes back to ulterior motives why this legislation is before this House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I have to go back to the purchases. We want to strengthen the Public Tender Act. If a government's attitude toward the Public Tender Act is - instead of strengthening the Public Tender Act - to weaken it and not abide by the intent of the Public Tender Act, what does it mean for the legislation? You may as well not have any legislation. We have seen this Administration in the past completely show contempt for the Public Tender Act. I think that instead of weakening the Public Tender Act - and I called for this in the past, by the way, Mr. Speaker. I called for this Administration to strengthen the Public Tender Act. As a matter of fact, in our last policy manual we said that we would strengthen the Public Tender Act back to where it was when it was first brought in. Maybe it needs to be strengthened even further to where it was when it was first implemented for today's situation, today's economy. That is what this Administration should be looking at. They should not be looking at weakening the Public Tender Act at all.

Mr. Speaker, it says right now in the existing legislation: where in the opinion of the head of a government funded body that inviting a tender would not achieve the best value then a tender is not required. That is there in the legislation now: where in the opinion... I really do not know how much more latitude the minister needs. I really do not know, Mr. Speaker. It is beyond what it should be right now at this point in time. It gives the government wide discretionary powers; it actually does. Again, I have to go back and raise the question: Why is that legislation here now? I will read directly, in a few minutes, from the existing Public Tender Act.

Mr. Speaker, I have said in the past, in this House of Assembly, that the existing Public Tender Act is very weak. I have asked questions of the minister in this House of Assembly with respect to the Public Tender Act not long ago. I thought, at that point in time - I wondered, in my own mind - has the minister really read the Public Tender Act? Has he actually sat down and studied it, to see what he can and cannot do? Any minister within the government, any head of any government funded body that comes under the jurisdiction of the government, can use the Public Tender Act. There are wide exemption powers there right now that give the minister the very authority to do what he says he wants to do right now.

It talks about - value judgements, in these instances, are based on opinion, again. If the minister wants to use his discretionary powers, use his opinion, he has that now and it is a value judgement. That is not very strong criteria for any minister to use to award a tender, or to not call a tender, or to ask for work to be done.

The minister talked about proposals earlier on, requests for proposals. Three proposals he referred to. In my mind, I will say it again, he is trying to rationalize and to justify something that cannot be rationalized and justified. It more particularly cannot be justified; you can rationalize anything, I suppose, Mr. Speaker. In my mind, opinion is no standard of fairness for the public. It is not. There should be certain criteria set down and it should be followed if you want to protect the public of this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The minister is not doing that. He is not doing it, again.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) level playing field.

MR. J. BYRNE: We want a level playing field here.

Mr. Speaker, I want to read directly from the Public Tender Act. Under section 3, this is important, with respect to this piece of legislation. It is very, very important. I see the minister being very attentive over there, and I am glad that he is. I am going to read for him because I am not sure he has ever read this. I am really not sure he has, because if he did he would not have this piece of legislation before this House.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Give me a minute or two, I say to the minister opposite.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) an hour.

MR. J. BYRNE: I know how much time I have.

It says here, under section 3, Tenders required, "3.(1) Where a public work is to be executed under the direction of a government funded body or goods or services are to be acquired by a government funded body, the government funded body shall invite tenders for the execution or acquisition. (2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), the government funded body is not required to invite tenders...". There are ten, but I will just read three. Again, I will repeat: A government funded body, or the minister, or any department, or any funded body that is controlled by government, is not required to go to tender here.

Section 3.(2)(d) says, "in the case of a pressing emergency where the delay resulting from inviting tenders would be injurious to the public interest...". If a ferry vessel was broken down, stopped, or whatever the case may be, I think that clause could pretty well qualify, no problem, could easily do it now. That is what I assume it was put in place for. That is section 3.(2)(d).

Under section 3.(2)(i), again, a tender is not required, Mr. Speaker, "where, in the opinion of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, and subject to the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, the work or acquisition is for an economic development purpose..." That may sound to be stretching it, but is it really? When you look at the guideline that the minister gave us today, when he talked about: Since this procurement falls inside the Public Tender Act, the requirement for public openings and reporting, requirements are not applicable. Also, where the tenders - and it is right in there with respect to acquisitions. In the clause itself here, the amendment to the Public Tender Act, it talks about acquisition. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology could certainly make the case that if they were to purchase a vessel to go between point A and point B, that an improved vessel would improve the economy. There, Mr. Speaker, is another case where they can do the acquisition. The other one, subsection (c) could actually be used for maintenance and refit, or whatever the case may be.

Here is another interesting one, section 3.(2)(j). Again I repeat, Mr. Speaker, the government would not need to go to tender: "where, in the opinion of the head of the government funded body, inviting a tender would not achieve the best value and the government funded body has, through the minister responsible for it, obtained the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council to carry out a request for proposals, as prescribed by the regulations, instead of a tender call." Instead of a tender call. There, that is all-encompassing. It falls right in line with number six of the guidelines that the minister produced for me today to justify the legislation before this House right now; the legislation that we are talking about. Again, this is not needed. It is unnecessary.

I will talk about something else, Mr. Speaker. I will talk about the Public Tender Act, and the abuse of the Public Tender Act that I have talked about so often when I was Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, as the critic for Works, Service and Transportation and various other things. This government, over the past five years, has paid out $22 million in court cases; $22 million. Eleven million -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, that is another one, a recent one.

Some of these court cases, mind you - now we have the government talking. The minister, and in particular the Premier of the Province, really tries to spin out the openness of this Administration. Many of these court cases, by the way - 11 million - 5 million of them have non-disclosure clauses in the settlement. We have the people of the Province footing the bill for this government's errors, mistakes, court cases, whatever you want to call them, and the people of the Province are not allowed to know. To me, it all goes back to the intent of this legislation. It goes back to the intent that this government has with respect to the Public Tender Act.

Again, I want to say that I am opposed to this amendment to the Public Tender Act, not because of this Administration or this group on this side of the House - who might be in government a year or two or five or whatever down the road, or there might be another Liberal government in power - but the problem I have with it is that it gives any government the authority to circumvent the Public Tender Act. It does not matter which government is in power, they could have the authority to do it.

I am going to talk about a few of the contraventions of the Public Tender Act and why I am so opposed to it. I think most members on this side of the House would be opposed to it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: All.

MR. J. BYRNE: All members on this side of the House would be opposed to it.

Mr. Speaker, recently, not long ago, the air service (inaudible) a contract in Gander; $6.7 million awarded.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: No tender at all.

I referred to the Trans City deal a few years ago. Again, the hospital contracts cost some $5 million. I mean this is money that no government, no matter what stripe, should have the ability or the wherewithal to allow it to happen. Some $5 million, Mr. Speaker.

The Auditor General reported in the Health Care Corporation of some purchases totaling $9.7 million without adequate justification. I will not list them all that I have here. The government spent $1.3 million - which I talked about earlier - on the Captain Earl Winsor. Also, the Auditor General, again, found in her report that the Department of Works, Services and Transportation failed to abide by the terms of the public tender contract to repair equipment at the Lewisporte ferry terminal. I want this to stop. That is why I am standing up here today speaking to it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: Here is another interesting one, Mr. Speaker. Only nineteen of the 133 leases reviewed by the Auditor General in her 2000 report were tendered, despite legislation requiring it to be tendered. That's all, nineteen out of 133 that were tendered. Why is that? Should we have a Public Tender Act that is so weak that the government can do pretty well what they want whenever they want; any government.

Also, the government awarded a $17.8 million ferry contract for the MV Appollo of The Straits. Again, the Auditor General felt in her report that the tender was manipulated. Also we have the front-end loaders. The list goes on and on.

Mr. Speaker, again, I will say this: the Public Tender Act, or any legislation, is only as good as the government's willingness to abide by it. If we do not have a government that is willing to abide by the Public Tender Act, regardless of what government or what administration, what is the point of having it in the first place? If a government can be consistently sued by private industry, by private individuals, what is the purpose?

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to go on all night. I wanted to make certain points, and I have made most of the them, I think. But, for the minister to get up in this House of Assembly and say that the Auditor General wanted this legislation brought forward when I know, and members on this side of the House know full well, that that is not the case. We know that by bringing this legislation forward and passing it that it is not going to do anything at all, whatsoever, to improve the ferry system, the twenty ferries which provide sixteen ferry services to forty isolated communities and their islands in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This amendment will not do anything to improve that, where the government of the day has the authority under the existing Public Tender Act to do exactly what they want to do, what they say they want to do with respect to this piece of legislation. So there is no need to have this legislation. I will be recommending to members on this side of the House that they oppose this and vote against it, Mr. Speaker.

I hope the minister - when he is concluding and finishing debate on second reading - can let us know what this legislation is doing before the House of Assembly. From my information, Mr. Speaker, I do not think that the justification he gave when he introduced this piece of legislation to the House is quite accurate, to say the least. I think he should come forward and let us know the real reason that this legislation is before the House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I want to conclude by saying that I have had, over the past number of years - especially since 1998 when they made amendments to the Public Tender Act, to weaken the Public Tender Act, to water down the Public Tender Act - major problems with it since. We have seen court cases supporting my view. We have seen the Auditor General supporting my view in her reports, every year, that the Public Tender Act should be strengthened up, not weakened. The minister is trying to rationalize that the Auditor General wants the Public Tender Act weakened. That is not the case, by any stretch of the imagination. I will ask the minister - I know he is not going to withdraw it, I suppose, but maybe he might want to move an amendment to strengthen the Public Tender Act rather than weaken the Public Tender Act.

Mr. Speaker, with those few words I will sit down and let someone else speak to this very important piece of legislation. I thank the minister for his time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to say a few words on this legislation, and I do actually mean a few words because I do not have a lot to say on it, on the legislation itself. I think, recognizing that the ferry services are important to keep going, there may well need to be special provisions.

I do have a problem with a particular part of the wording in the legislation. It says, emergency repairs or maintenance. I presume that means emergency maintenance as opposed to general maintenance. Maybe the minister can clarify that - "where the work involves emergency repairs or maintenance..." - I am assuming that means emergency maintenance as well - "...or unknown work identified during refit, or where an acquisition is required on an emergency basis, in relation to ferry vessels operated by the government."

The question that I have is, why the minister, in having this legislation drafted, did not be more specific. When he is talking about acquiring a vessel on an emergency basis, does he mean temporarily acquiring a vessel to replace an existing service? Or does he mean, because we have an emergency, if a vessel goes out of service totally, or sinks, that we can avoid the Public Tender Act and acquire a new vessel because we are acquiring it on an emergency basis? Does that mean that the minister intends to avoid the Public Tender Act if he has to replace a vessel on an emergency basis? Or, does he mean to temporarily replace a vessel on an emergency basis? If he means to temporarily replace a vessel, or replace a vessel or acquire a vessel for a temporary period of time, then perhaps, Mr. Speaker, the legislation should reflect that, because what he is asking for here is a blanket exemption from the Public Tender Act when it comes to acquiring a vessel, if the vessel is required on an emergency basis. The emergency we are talking about here is the emergency that deals with the acquisition of the vessel, not the period of time for which the vessel is to be used.

Mr. Speaker, I think there is going to be a lot of concerns about this on this side of the House if the minister is not prepared to make that more clear; because, while I understand and I listened to much of what the Official Opposition critic had to say in general concerning the Public Tender Act, and there is much merit in what he says, we are dealing here with a specific, particular amendment. For the purpose of this debate, I would like to concentrate on that, because I think the minister is right. When we look at these exemptions from the Public Tender Act, the fact of the matter is that many, if not most, of them seem to be related to ferry work. We got three books today. We get one for -

AN HON. MEMBER: Seven (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Seven books today, I am corrected here. We get one for every month of the year, and sometimes we see twenty, thirty, forty and fifty items going on for page after page of exemptions to the Public Tender Act, based on an emergency, based on if we needed a part to keep the ferry in operation.

I think members on both sides of the House recognize that the operation of a ferry service is very important, obviously, to people who live or need to access islands that are served by ferries or other ferry services between the Island and Labrador. We understand that requires that the minister not go through the Public Tender Act which could take - I am not sure what the average process is. Is it six weeks? Or something like that. It may be possible to do it in less than that, to advertise for tenders and go through the process. I can understand that there are difficulties in doing that, and we need some special provisions.

Mr. Speaker, this particular legislation goes even further and says that if there is an emergency we can acquire a vessel. If it is required on an emergency basis we can acquire a vessel and that could, in a broad interpretation of this section, say that we could buy a new vessel. We had an emergency and there was a vessel for sale so we went and bought it. We went and bought it because it was for sale. We do not have to go to the Public Tender Act because we have a new provision in the act, that the government in its wisdom said: Well, this vessel came up. It was a good price. We needed it for the short term anyway, so we figured we would pay the full purchase price and buy it and not go to public tender when it is quite possible there would be another vessel available.

That is the problem I have with this legislation, Mr. Speaker. We are at second reading. There will be an opportunity, I presume, for amendments in committee, but I would like the minister to, when he closes debate, deal with that question because I think that is a flaw in the legislation that is put forward. I think it goes too far. It asks for too much and I do not think that I am prepared to agree to broaden the powers of exemption to that extent to allow the minister to actually acquire a vessel without going to the Public Tender Act. If he was leasing it for a month or two months or while the vessel was on refit, if it was a temporary acquisition - and maybe if we put the word temporary in there - the emergency temporary acquisition of a vessel, then that would be satisfactory, but it seems to me that we are giving this minister and this government far too much leeway with respect to the acquisition of the vessel. Even though there might be an emergency short-term need, we would not want to see it to be a full-scale acquisition.

We have seen controversy over the acquisitions of the Appollo and the refit of the Appollo based on changes at the last minute to the Public Tender Act, (inaudible) through tender specifications itself, which appeared to favour one particular bidder as opposed to another particular bidder who had a vessel in service on the Labrador Coast for many years. That was criticized. The government was criticized for doing that. I would not want the government to be able to rely on legislation that we are saying is passed for one thing and to actually do something quite different if the occasion arises down the road, where an emergency situation arises and the government chooses to use that as the occasion to avoid the Public Tender Act and acquire a vessel.

That is all I have to say, Mr. Speaker. I understand there may be other speakers on this debate.

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

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased tonight to stand and say a few words on Bill 25, An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act. I have to echo the comments of my colleague from Cape St. Francis who does an admirable job as critic for the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, and certainly did as the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. He was doing a wonderful job bringing the concerns of the Public Tender Act to the people of the Province, and bringing the concerns of the Public Tender Act to the House of Assembly. I would certainly listen to his advice when he says that it would not be in our best interest to support this piece of legislation, for the simple reason that under present legislation the government has the opportunity to conduct itself under the Public Tender Act in dealing with emergency situations. This act, as it reads, has to deal with emergency situations.

As the Member for Cape St. Francis put forward a few minutes ago, this act now gives ample opportunity for the minister, gives ample opportunity for the government, to deal with emergency situations such as ferry breakdowns or ferry repairs. We, on this side of the House, believe that there is some other reason for this piece of legislation. To be honest with you, we do not know exactly what the reason is but there is certainly some other reason for this piece of legislation because under the act now there is opportunity to deal with emergency situations.

We look to this government for accountability because that is what the Premier put forward in February in the runup for the leadership. The Premier put forward the fact of accountability. As a matter of fact, in the brochure that the Premier used he said he has a straightforward and honest work plan which invites public scrutiny and accountability. That is what the Public Tender Act is all about. It is about public scrutiny, but most importantly of all, public accountability.

We are dealing with public funds for many different purposes, Mr. Speaker, and it is important that we have a piece of legislation here before us in the House, before the people of the Province, that makes sure that the dollars of the people of the Province, that the taxpayers' dollars are well spent and properly spent. It is important. That is why back in the days of the Moores' Administration the Public Tender Act came forward. The Public Tender Act came forward to give that level of accountability to taxpayers' dollars. That is why we see amendments coming forward. It is amendments that make us very concerned because, as I said before, there is ample opportunity for the minister to deal with emergency situations, but in this amendment we see where it involves maintenance. It involves unknown work identified during refit. It involves where an acquisition is required on an emergency basis. We have no problem, Mr. Speaker, in dealing with emergency situations. There are times - with so many different ferries operating here on the Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador - that there needs to be emergency repairs done and many times that there needs to be emergency repairs in a very short period of time. If you went to public tender with it, the time it takes to go to public tender, the time it takes to award the tender and get the work done, we fully understand that it cannot be done all the time in regard to following it straight through. That is why there is ample opportunity in the act, as it sits now, to deal with emergency situations; but it is a situation we have now where the minister - whomever that minister is, whether it is the minister who is in place now or whether it is the minister who will be in place in three or four years' time - will be able to say what is and what is not an emergency. The minister will be able to say what is and what is not maintenance. The minister will be able to say what is and what is not unknown work.

Mr. Speaker, we have a grave concern with that because of the record of the people opposite in dealing with the Public Tender Act. We have very major concerns with that because we believe that the Public Tender Act has been taken from the top to the bottom and rearranged to suit hon. members opposite, and that concerns us very much on this side of the House.

If I could go back, Mr. Speaker, just to shoot back over the past number of years and touch on a couple of the places and a couple of the incidents dealing with the Public Tender Act. My hon. colleague from Cape St. Francis, as I have said, touched on a couple earlier.

We have had the Auditor General come forward year after year after year, since I came to this House, with a book load of concerns in relation to the Public Tender Act, time and time again. I am sure the Auditor General would like to see strength put in the Public Tender Act, but these amendments do not give the Public Tender Act the strength that the Auditor General would like to see it have, that the people of the Province would like to see to have, and definitely the people on this side of the House would like to see it have.

If I could touch on a couple of the instances over the past number years, Mr. Speaker, when the government decided to award its air service hangar contract in Gander for $6.7 million without going to public tender; $6.7 million. Another glaring example that the Auditor General used is the hospital contracts awarded by the Wells' government to Trans City Holdings in breach of the Public Tender Act, a decision that has cost the Province $3 million in civil lawsuits; $3 million in civil law suits, that has cost the government here. As reported in 1997, the Health Care Corporation of St. John's neglected to tender seventy-nine purchases totally $9.7 million without adequate justification. In 1998, the Auditor General reported that fourteen of twenty-five purchases by the Health Labrador Corporation were not made in compliance with the act. Government spent $1.3 million extra in refit work for the MV Captain Earl W. Winsor in 1998 without going to public tender.

Mr. Speaker, only nineteen of 133 leases reviewed by the Auditor General last year, in 2000 - and I repeat, because it is very important - only nineteen of the 133 leases reviewed by the Auditor General in 2000 were tendered, despite legislation requiring it.

Today, I sat here in the House and we received six months of Public Tender Act exemptions. I am willing to bet here tonight that the Auditor General will be reporting once again, next year, about the immense number of leases that were tendered, despite legislation requiring this; because these six books are full of them in relation to leases that have not been tendered, despite legislation, and have been awarded.

Another one that many people spoke on in the past: government awarded a $17.8 million ferry contract on the MV Apollo. We all know the concerns that were raised by the Auditor General in relation to the Public Tender Act on that particular topic.

Mr. Speaker, in 2001 it came to light that the government purchased computers manufactured in the United States, when comparable products manufactured in Newfoundland and Labrador were available for $2 million less.

Then, this year, we have on record - thanks to the new minister - the fiasco with buying the loaders last winter when we had a competitor here in St. John's who has been in that business for years and years and years, who said they could have bought the loaders in this Province for $500,000 less; but, no, they decided to do their own thing once again with the Public Tender Act.

Mr. Speaker, all of these situations that I just touched on have to deal with taxpayers' money. All of these situations have to deal with the public purse, and I think it is important that we put forward concerns on this side of the House that will hopefully strengthen the Public Tender Act.

I ask the minister to seriously consider taking this act off the Order Paper tonight, because I believe that it is not doing anything to strengthen the Public Tender Act. It is only giving an opportunity here to manipulate the act once again. We have to ask ourselves, time and time again: Why do you want the opportunity to be able to manipulate the Public Tender Act, when the purpose of the Public Tender Act is to make sure that the taxpayers' dollars are spent in a wise way.

The act, as it sits now, gives the opportunity for the minister to award a tender. The minister can award a tender under the act we have now. He can request a tender. If it is under a certain amount of money, in some cases under $10,000, he can request a tender from three bidders. He can ask for proposals. It is important that the minister have some latitude in dealing with some emergency situations, but we on this side of the House are very, very concerned that this act will give the minister, whomever the minister may be at the time, just a little bit too much power to deal with the Public Tender Act in his own way, or her own way, whatever the case may be.

Mr. Speaker, it is important that the Public Tender Act allow fairness to be seen across the Province, that it allow the perception of fairness to be seen, that it allow that people who are out there, who see the taxpayers' dollars being spent, see them being spent in a fair and equitable way, and that we are getting the best value for the dollars that are spent. We are very concerned , very concerned on this side of the House, that that is not the case.

We have, over the past number of years, seen many challenges to this government by different companies out in our Province, because of what they believe are breaches to the Public Tender Act. We have seen many challenges. Over the past number of years the taxpayers - not the government, not the people opposite, but the taxpayers of this Province - have had to fork out $22 million in court cases because of what the judge decided, or the courts decided, were breaches to the Public Tender Act; $22 million. We are talking about an immense amount of money because of breaches to the Public Tender Act.

I believe that this Bill 25, this piece of legislation that we have here before us - under this new act, the new Minister of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, in my view, is taking the Public Tender Act down a very steep, slippery slope, and there is not enough salt in the world to straighten it up. There is not enough salt in the world to straighten up that slope with the new Minister of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. It is giving a carte blanche blank cheque to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation to do what he feels like with the Public Tender Act.

I have just gone through many, many of the blunders of this Administration and past Administrations that have cost the taxpayers of this Province $22 million in court cases, Mr. Speaker. Along with that, we have an opportunity here. Many, many times we have had opportunities to do something right, and we have an opportunity here to put strength into the Public Tender Act. We have an opportunity here in this House to give the people of the Province the feeling that their money is being spent wisely and that we are getting the best value for our dollar.

We believe, on this side of the House, that Bill 25, An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act, is not doing that, and that is why we will not be supporting it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

If the hon. the minister speaks now, he will close debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I think we heard much ado about nothing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. BARRETT: If the hon. Member for Lewisporte could be a bit quiet, I think this is an important topic. It is a very important issue for people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

On Wednesday, in this debate in this House of Assembly, we were talking about rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and how important it was, and this government did not have a plan; and when the minister rises in this House with a plan to try to improve services in Newfoundland and Labrador, we get members on the opposite side getting up ranting and raving about all kinds of old foolishness rather than talking about the importance of the ferry operations to rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: If the hon. members have problem with the word acquisition, then this minister, in the interests of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and providing a service to the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, is willing to change the acquisition to say ‘a lease'. Because, do you know something? Tonight, in our operations, we could lose a ferry to St. Brendan's Island. The Greenbay Transport could break down and we may not have a ferry operation to operate to that particular community.

What we were asking for in this legislation - and they got up and ranted and raved about how we were going to go out and buy all those vessels and purchase all those vessels - what we wanted to be able to do, and the thing I investigated when we had the problem with Bell Island in the last month or so, I was checking to see if there was a vessel around that I could lease for one or two weeks so I could improve the services to the people on Bell Island. That is what I was asking for in this legislation, to be able to go out and do that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: There is no plot to do anybody in. This hon. member, if he were to make a dollar on it, would donate it back.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. BARRETT: The hon. member would donate it back, if he got a dollar out of it.

The hon. Member for Cape St. Francis, since I became minister - actually, since he became my critic - all I get, on a Friday afternoon, is this news release saying the minister again is breaking the Public Tender Act.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) you were.

MR. BARRETT: No. Every time I used a section of the Public Tender Act - there are exemptions within the Public Tender Act. There is a section in the Public Tender Act where you can go out and lease space, and do various other things, and it is within the Public Tender Act. If it is within the Public Tender Act, the minister is not abusing the act. There is no way that I am abusing the act if I am using the act, but the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis - it is nice to know tonight that, for the first time since he became the critic, he actually read the act. At least he read one or two sections of the act.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: They talk about the ferry service we have, the old ferry service and the boats that we have. Do you know something? We have the second largest fleet in this country, and we have the youngest ferry fleet of any province in Canada.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is not true, is it?

MR. BARRETT: Yes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: The average age of our fleet is twenty-five years. In B.C., it is thirty-five years.

If we are talking about going outside the Public Tender Act, let's set the record straight. The previous PC government went outside the Public Tender Act. Who owns the Beaumont Hamel? We do not own the Beaumont Hamel. It was built in Marystown. Who owns it? Who owns the Beaumont Hamel?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: If you want a trivia question tonight -

AN HON. MEMBER: Who owns it? Tell us!

MR. BARRETT: The PC government, in 1985, built the Beaumont Hamel in -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

MR. BARRETT: I wasn't going to get into this tonight, but when I listen to what is going on, on that side of the House, the Beaumont Hamel was built in Marystown, and I am very pleased that the PC government built that boat in Marystown. I am very, very happy that it was built in Marystown -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: - and I am very, very happy that this Liberal government paid for this boat.

AN HON. MEMBER: What?

MR. BARRETT: It was built in 1985, but this Liberal government paid for that boat.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. BARRETT: No, the Liberal government, the taxpayers of this Province paid for it: a $1 million-a- year lease on that boat to Xerox of Canada.

AN HON. MEMBER: What? No!

MR. BARRETT: Yes, Xerox of Canada. We are paying $1 million a year for twenty years. The boat cost $7 million to build, and the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador are paying $20 million for that boat.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. BARRETT: The Gallipoli, that runs out to Ramea, was built in Marystown at a cost of $8 million or $9 million, and who owns it? The trivia question is: Who owns it?

I hope you get me a book or a tape at the end of the trivia question. Who owns it? Canada Trust owns it. We will not own that vessel until 1995. We are paying $1 million a year to Canada Trust for that particular vessel.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

AN HON. MEMBER: Until 2005.

MR. BARRETT: A twenty-year lease. For twenty years we are paying on those vessels, at $1 million a year. To the Member for Ferryland, and his mathematics, that is $20 million we are paying for those vessels. If we are talking about the contravention of the Public Tender Act, and we are talking about freedom of information, I do not think this information was ever made public back in 1985. They announced that they were building the boats in Marystown.

As a matter of fact, the Beaumont Hamel was built without any input whatsoever from the department. They put it on the Fogo Island run and it couldn't get through one inch of ice.

AN HON. MEMBER: The fellow who designed it didn't know they had ice in the tickle.

MR. BARRETT: The person who designed it didn't know they had ice. That is what the Tory government did in Newfoundland and Labrador.

AN HON. MEMBER: They don't know about rural Newfoundland, do they?

MR. BARRETT: When we talk about rural Newfoundland -

AN HON. MEMBER: And Labrador.

MR. BARRETT: - and Labrador, twenty-five years is the average age of our fleet. In B.C. and in other jurisdictions, their average age is thirty-five.

I could talk on this subject all night but I am prepared, in the interests of rural Newfoundland and for the interests of the people on Fogo Island and Bell Island and Long Island and Little Bay Islands - I did not heard the Member for Windsor-Springdale or the Member for Baie Verte speak in this debate. The hon. Member for Bell Island got up, but he was not recognized.

I am willing, if they have a problem with that, to change the word from acquisition to ‘a lease'.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

MR. BARRETT: I am very pleased, in the interests of the people on these islands - and, after growing up on an island in Placentia Bay, I realize how important the ferry services are to these communities - I am prepared that we change, or move an amendment in committee, from acquisition to saying that we would only lease a vessel for a short period of time, to make sure that the people in these communities have a service that is very important in their daily lives.

I move second reading, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved and seconded that this bill be now read a second time. All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those opposed, ‘nay'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: I declare the motion carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act." (Bill25)

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a second time.

MR. E. BYRNE: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the votes have been counted. I wonder if we can have a count, because there are twenty members here. I know there are members over there who are not in their seats, who have been counted as voting but did not vote. Their vote would not count.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: It is too late for Division.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order. The voice count was taken. Clearly, the voice count carried. There was no call for Division. The Chair declared that the motion was carried, and I think the Clerk has already read the motion a second time.

MR. E. BYRNE: (Inaudible) voice counts in taking the vote, I want to be clear that I am not challenging the Chair. I am just looking for clarification that, if a member is not in his or her seat when a voice count is taken, their vote is actually counted. I just want to be correct on that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I am asking for clarification.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Obviously, from the voice vote that I heard, it was clearly carried. I did not check to see if every member was sitting in their seat. I have never, ever heard of that kind of a voice count. When members are called for Division, obviously they must be standing in their places in the House, but not on a voice count, to my knowledge.

Yes?

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I am just looking for clarification from the Chair.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I say to the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board that I am not challenging the Speaker. I am asking for clarification on a very important point. If I misunderstood the Speaker, I apologize; but, for everybody's sake: If a voice count is taken in the Legislature, if you are not in your seat and you participate in a voice count, does that mean your vote counts? Because, if you are not in your seat and your vote does not count -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair cannot tell which voice said aye or nay. That is an impossibility, for the Chair to be able to say this member did not vote and this member here did not vote. What we have in that case is Division. When Division is called, then members vote individually as their names are called in the House, and clearly we know who is voting and who is not.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 25).

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, Order 24, Bill 52, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Taxation of Utilities And Cable Television Companies Act.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Taxation Of Utilities And Cable Television Companies Act." (Bill 52)

MR. SPEAKER: Is this an adjourned debate on this particular bill?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has called second reading of Bill 52.

The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

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

Mr. Speaker, I am introducing, this evening, amendments to the taxation of utilities and cable television companies. They are essentially housekeeping measures. This act was implemented in 1992. The act gives the municipal council the authority to charge utilities and cable television companies a municipal business tax at a rate of not more than 2.5 per cent of the company's gross revenues for the previous year. The legislation also establishes a similar provincial business tax on the utility and cable television companies that provide services in an unincorporated area of the Province.

A number of deficiencies in the act have been identified and amendments are proposed to remedy these. The act is designed such that a utility company is subject to either a municipal business tax or for unincorporated areas serviced by the Province, the provincial business tax. An anomaly has risen in creating double taxation and it is certainly not our intent to do that, Mr. Speaker.

The Conne River Reserve, while not incorporated under the Municipalities Act, imposes a similar tax under authority of the federal Indian Act. The proposed amendment would exclude a utility from paying the provincial tax if it is required to pay a similar tax on a reserve in respect of that revenue. Currently, the act requires that a utility company remit the provincial tax by February 1 of each year, based upon gross revenue in the previous year in unincorporated areas. This reporting requirement has been found to be onerous and more flexibility is provided by extending that time frame to March 1.

It is also proposed to add a number of administrative and compliance provisions currently missing from this act, similar to provisions already existing in other tax acts. These include: authority to appoint or designate persons as inspectors to perform an exercised audit or inspection duties and issue tax assessments; provision for proper appeals procedures for taxpayers who are dissatisfied with an assessment; and authority to waive penalties and interests for just cause.

While these amendments are merely housekeeping in nature and really, for the most part, will mirror existing provisions in other tax statutes, I believe they will ensure greater fairness and help protect revenues.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With reference to Bill 52, I will indicate that this side of the House certainly does not support double taxation at all. I guess that is one of the reasons why this particular bill is being introduced here.

I did not hear the minister, when she spoke - it was certainly a little noisy and kind of difficult to hear - give her full reason why, even though I was listening. It is my understanding, from reading it, that this would allow areas where there may be a Band Council that have authority to collect the tax under the federal Indian Act, and an unincorporated community that happens to coincide and be designated, that they would not have to pay the tax twice.

I would like the minister, in closing on this particular bill - if she is paying attention - to answer that because I could not hear the explanation initially. I will just repeat it for her benefit again: that it is my understanding -

AN HON. MEMBER: It is impossible to hear.

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, could we have a little order here because I am finding it difficult to hear and get the question to the minister, that I need to know, on this particular bill?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member has asked for some order so that he can hear the proceedings here and I ask hon. members for their cooperation on that.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will ask for the third time now, and hopefully the minister will have an opportunity to hear it because it is kind of difficult to hear.

In this particular clause of the bill my understanding is that - certainly it prevents double taxation with reference to your first explanatory note here, and we support not having a double taxation for utilities companies. We endorse and support having companies pay a tax, but not a double tax. Is it a fact that this particular part of the bill would apply - for instance, a Band Council that has authority under the federal Indian Act to collect taxes from a utility, that that community, as a non-incorporated municipality, would not have to pay a tax in compliance as our current act requires every community, whether you are incorporated or not incorporated, to pay a tax? That is my understanding from what the minister said. When the minister closes debate on this bill she might answer that. If not, I could get to it in committee if she so desires when we move to the next stage of the bill.

We certainly would support increasing administration inspections and auditing powers and so on for compliance, to make sure that appropriate taxes are collected in that regard. We can certainly ensure that compliance is there and that we maximize the return on taxation that we get as a result of this particular bill, Bill 52, and of course the amendments that are accompanying the bill. I just want to say that we support that but we would like clarification again on the double taxation aspect there that the minister indicated earlier.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board. If the hon. minister speaks now she will close the debate on this bill.

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

The issue around Conne River is really based on the fact that it is covered, of course, under the Indian Act. What we are doing here, as the member has pointed out and concurred with my colleagues, is that -

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: - we are trying to avoid double taxation. While this group is not incorporated, they have the ability to levy taxes. They have given notice that they want to do it, so in an effort not to double tax we are asking, through this legislation, to withdraw our provincial portion to allow them to do it to avoid the double taxation. I hope that clarifies your question.

Thank you.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Taxation Of Utilities And Cable Television Companies Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 52)

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, we are going to change pace a little and move to Motion 3, the hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 3, the hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On Thursday, November 22, 2001, I tabled a report of the 2001 Newfoundland Provincial Court Judges Salary and Benefits Tribunal. As I informed the House at that time, the Provincial Court Act, 1991, requires that the House accept, vary or reject the report within thirty days of its tabling.

The resolution which I will be moving shortly contains my government's proposal to accept the bulk of the recommendations made by the Tribunal, vary some of the recommendations, and reject one recommendation on a minor issue. It is important, however, that this House review the recent history of the process for determining Provincial Court Judges compensation in the Province prior to considering the resolution. The procedure whereby salary and benefits issues were dealt with by a Tribunal began in 1991 when a new Provincial Court Act was passed that provided for the appointment of a Tribunal.

The first Tribunal was appointed in October, 1991, and is referred to - using the name of its chairperson - as the Whalen Tribunal. The Whelan Tribunal recommended, in April, 1992, increases in the salary of Provincial Court Judges from the 1991 level of $90,129 to $101,000 in 1992, and $112,000 effective April 1, 1994. The Tribunal also recommended enhancing other benefits to include a separate pension plan for judges with better benefits than the Public Service Pension Plan, to which they did and still belong to. The Whalen Tribunal Report was considered in the same session that the House extended the period of wage restraint under the Public Sector Restraint Act. Upon receiving the Tribunal's report the House of Assembly deferred consideration of the recommendations until the period of restraint, established under that act, expired. Amendments to the Public Sector Restraint Act were also passed at the same time to extend its application to Provincial Court Judges and prohibit implementation of a Tribunal Report during the period of restraint.

In 1996, another Salary and Benefits Tribunal was appointed. The Robert's Tribunal gave its recommendations in 1997, at which time the Whalen Tribunal recommendations still had not been implemented. The Robert's Tribunal Report, with salary recommendations, was eventually accepted by the House of Assembly in December, 1997, but the period covered by the Whalen Tribunal was not addressed by the House. Then, in September 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada released a landmark decision on judicial independence and the determination of judicial compensation. The court held that tribunals making recommendations on judicial compensation must be independent, objective and effective. To be effective, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that a tribunal's recommendations cannot be arbitrarily rejected by a Legislature. The court established a test that a Legislature's rejection or variation of a tribunal recommendation must be justified by rational reasons.

Following this decision, the Association of Provincial Court Judges took court action to force implementation of the Whalen Tribunal Report. A decision of the Newfoundland Court of Appeal, in September 2000, determined that the House of Assembly had not complied with the Provincial Court Act in its consideration of the Tribunal Report and that the recommendations had therefore become law, as of June 1, 1992. Salary increases were then implemented retroactively with judges receiving $101,000 as of June 1, 1992 and $112,000 effective April 1, 1994.

As full implementation of the Whalen Tribunal Report required further consideration of the proposed pension plan and other benefits, and the jurisdiction of the Tribunal had expired, a new Tribunal was appointed in 2001 to deal with all the outstanding issues.

The Tribunal, composed of David Day, Q.C., nominated by the Association of Provincial Court Judges, John Abbott, nominated by government, and the Chair, Lois Hoegg, Q.C., appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council on the recommendation of both parties, was asked to recommend on outstanding pension issues for the years 1992 to 1996, to allow implementation of the Whalen Report; salary and benefits issues, including pension benefits for the years 1996 to 2000, and salary and benefits issues, including pension benefits, for the years 2000 to 2004.

After careful consideration of the Tribunal's report, dated September 14, 2001, I am pleased to present our position on the recommendations in the resolution tabled this past Wednesday. You will see, as is set out in Schedule A to the resolution, that government recommends acceptance of the Tribunal's recommendations on severance, paid leave benefits, professional allowances, Chief Judges' salary differential, red circling of the Chief Judges' salary, pension benefits, and continuation of Northern Allowance and health insurance.

The Tribunal's recommendations on sick leave and salary continuance in the event of disability have also been accepted in principle, but are further clarified to require the payment of pension contributions during disability for service to accrue; (2) to indicate government's intention to provide the long-term disability benefit through a government-funded insurance program; and (3) to set guidelines to be used to establish and administer the plan, in particular regarding the co-ordination of sick leave benefits and salary continuance in the event of disability and adjudication of claims.

Schedule B sets out government's variation of the Tribunal's salary recommendations and government's reasons for the variation. The judges' current salary is $112,000. The recommended salaries are varied to provide the following salaries: April 1, 1996, $114,500; April 1, 1997, $117,000; April 1, 1998, $123,400; April 1, 1999, $130,000; April 1, 2000, $137,200; April 1, 2001, $139,000; April 1, 2002, $142,700; and April 1, 2003, $145,600. For example, at April 1, 2001, a judge will earn $139,900, compared with $153,000 recommended by the Tribunal.

Schedule B also sets out several reasons for the variation, which I will read in detail. The first reason relies on a table, setting out: (1) judges' salaries since 1991; (2), the Tribunal salary recommendations for 1996 to 2003; (3), government salary variation for 1996 to 2003; and (4), the Consumer Price Index increase for Newfoundland from 1991 to the present.

From this comparison you will see that for the period 1996 to 2000, the Tribunal recommended salary increases result in an increase of 30.5 per cent. The Consumer Price Index shows an increase of 8.3 per cent for the same period, and government's variation, an increase of 20.8 per cent.

The salary of $112,000 in April, 1994, was set in accordance with constitutional principles and brought about through the implementation of the Whalen Report. In this context, government does not accept that the disparity between cost of living increases for the years 1996 to 2000 - accepted as minimum increases necessary to avoid erosion or reduction of salary - and salary recommendations of the 2001 Tribunal for the same years can be justified. In other words, that circumstances relevant to judicial remuneration have changed so significantly, since 1995 in Newfoundland, to warrant an increase so much in excess of the constitutionally set salary in 1995 and Consumer Price Index increases.

The second reason for the salary variation is that government believes more weight must be given to the Province's economic circumstances in 1998 in setting retroactive salary for 1998 and the following years. The Tribunal's retroactive salary recommendation for 1998 results in an increase of 15.2 per cent over the previous year. While the 1998 Newfoundland Budget Speech showed a more optimistic financial outlook for 1998 than in recent previous years, that Budget document also detailed, under Public Service, a 7 per cent pay increase over thirty-nine months for public sector employees: 2 per cent, 2 per cent, 2 per cent, and 1 per cent, from 1998-2001. It stated that this increase was the maximum the public finances could afford at the time. Further, it is relevant that this increase came following seven years of no general wage increases for the public service. Clearly, the Province had taken, in 1998, a very cautious approach to wage increases.

The Tribunal's recommended salary increase to $134,800 in 1998, following increases of approximately 12 per cent in 1992, 10.9 per cent in 1994, during public sector wage freeze years, and 2.2 per cent in both 1996 and 1997, years with no public sector general wage increases, applies insufficient weight to the Province's overall economic condition, fiscal priorities and compensation policies for the relevant periods. The recommended salary for 1998 is therefore reduced to accord more closely with the percentage increases resulting from Tribunal recommended salaries for 1999 and 2000: 5.6 per cent and 5.3 per cent. The resulting 5.5, 5.6 and 5.3 percentage figures for 1998, 1999 and 2000 result in increases greatly in excess of Consumer Price Index: Newfoundland increases for those years.

Thirdly, "Any relevance placed by the Tribunal on recommended salaries of other recent judicial compensation commissions is rejected in the absence of evidence that the economic situations of the provinces involved or overall compensation packages of judges in those provinces are sufficiently similar to warrant comparison."

Further, it is government's believe that, "Benefit improvements resulting from implementation of the new Provincial Court Judges' Pension Plan and other benefits in the 2001 Tribunal Report, accepted in Schedule A, together with the salary variation set out above, provide an overall remuneration package which reflects the nature of the judges' work and their stature and ensures their financial security and judicial independence. It is impossible for a Tribunal or Government to gauge exactly the salary figure or remuneration package required to provide appropriate financial security for judicial independence and attract well-qualified, or excellent, candidates to the bench. Only actual experience will determine these issues. The significantly enhanced professional allowance, pension, annual leave, sick leave and disability benefits, provide Provincial Court Judges with greatly enhanced short-term and long-term financial security. As well, the varied salary increases provide judges with increases in excess of living increases for 1996 and 1997, significant salary increases (5.5%, 5.6% and 5.3%) for 1998, 1999 and 2000 and a fixed 2% increase for the years 2001 to 2003 to offset future cost of living increases until the next review of judges' salaries and benefits required under the Provincial Court Act, 1991."

Lastly, on the issue of salary variation, "There is no suggestion by the Tribunal that it compromised in any area of remuneration to justify salary recommendations. Variation of the salary recommendations is not considered to affect the continued appropriateness of Tribunal recommendations for other benefits."

I now turn to Schedule C, which outlines the only Tribunal recommendation rejected by government. The Tribunal's recommendation for an increased car allowance to 37 cents per kilometer is rejected on the basis that all persons paid from the public purse are paid the same 31.5 cents per kilometer rate. It is government's position that neither judges' work nor their independence requires that they be treated differently with regard to an appropriate car allowance.

Finally, Schedule D sets out, as recommended by the tribunal, that tribunal recommendations, accepted or varied, will apply only to judges serving on the date of implementation of the report. The implementation date is set at April 1, 2002. This date allows the time period recommended by the Tribunal for judges to make required pension plan elections and permits deduction of retroactive pension plan contributions from retroactive salary payments.

The Tribunal's recommendations clearly reflect their recognition of the Provincial Court as an institution of fundamental and serious importance to our society. We believe that it is important too, that we, as legislators, remind ourselves of the hard work of the Provincial Court bench in Newfoundland and Labrador. These judges adjudicate the vast majority of criminal trials in the Province and deal with, on a daily basis, other important and difficult matters, such as: child welfare cases, family disputes, custody, and small claims civil cases that affect the lives of many of our citizens.

The resolution before you, among other things, accepts the Tribunal's recommendation on pension issues, disability, sick level and professional allowances; and by variation of the Tribunal salary recommendations, results in very significant salary increases retroactive to 1996. We believe this resolution reflects and recognizes the constitutional principles of judicial independence involved, as well as our appreciation of the nature and importance of the work of the judges of the Provincial Court.

I now move the resolution.

Thank you.

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise on behalf of my colleagues to have a few words to say on the resolution proposed by the hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. First of all, I think it is necessary for us to - I would not be surprised, if there is anybody watching this evening, they would be totally lost as to what we are up to here.

What we are up to here is simply this, our democratic system of government is based on the operation of three separate branches of government: We have the legislative branch, which is ourselves here in the Chamber in the House of Assembly and, of course, we are elected by the people. We have the executive branch of government, which is the Cabinet, the government that carries on the day-to-day affairs of the Province and answers to this Legislature. The third branch of our elected democracy is the judiciary, and the judiciary are the judges that we appoint, in whatever form, whether they are federal - we are talking about Provincial Court Judges here - to enforce and interpret the laws of the land that we make. In order to do that, Mr. Speaker, it is very fundamental to our system that the judiciary be independent; not only be seen to be independent but they must be independent in every aspect of the word.

One of the aspects of independence, that was recently considered by the Supreme Court of Canada, is financial independence. Our judges cannot be seen to be beholding or under the influence of the government in any way. If they are unduly limited as to their financial independence, then that can be seen to be impairing the impartiality of our judiciary and therefore impairing the independence of the judiciary. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, it must be said that if we had had a government and a minister with the foresight, that this minister is displaying here tonight, back in the early 1990s -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: I was not here, but it was back in the early 1990s, I believe, when a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General and a former Premier, who himself is now one of the alleged leading lights in the judiciary in the Province - if they had handled that matter then the way that this minister and this government is handling it, we would not be here tonight facing this resolution. I am not looking for -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Deputy Premier (inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: I am talking about the Deputy Premier's friend, yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: Yes, that is who I am talking about, the Deputy Premier's friend.

If this matter had been handled back then the way that it is being handled now then the government would not have to face the financial implications of doing what we are doing under this resolution; but the government and the minister are doing the right thing. The minister is obligated by the Supreme Court of Canada's decision to provide a rationale to this Legislature - if he wishes and the government wishes - to vary any of the recommendations of the Tribunal. The minister has done that tonight. He has provided a reasonable rationale. He has provided an acceptable rationale and, I think, he has provided a rational that will be seen at the end of the day, if there should happen to be any further challenge of this, to be reasonable, to be rational and to be in compliance with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. That, unfortunately, was not done when it should have been done back in the 1990s but it has been done here tonight.

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 would like to speak briefly to the resolution before the House related to the response of the government to the Provincial Court Judges Tribunal. It is an important fact that the Legislature is bound by the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada which, in fact, reflects what has been said in this House this evening about the independence of the judiciary and what was said by the Opposition, including this hon. member and the Member for St. John's East, on previous occasions in this House when previous ministers were responding to previous tribunals.

The Whalen Tribunal has been mentioned, and the Robert's Tribunal has been mentioned. I think we have to understand that what the government is dealing with tonight, and this resolution deals with tonight, is trying to fix the problems that have been caused since 1992. The Supreme Court of Newfoundland, the Court of Appeal, told this government in the year 2000 that what was done in response to the Whalen Commission in 1992 was wrong and illegal, and they went some way to set the salaries for judges as a result of that decision. We are still, through the resolution and through the most recent tribunal, dealing with issues going back to 1992, ten years plus, on a go-forward basis.

I have read the Tribunal's report and I listened carefully to the minister's comments. Although there are many people in this Province who feel that judges, whether they be Provincial Court Judges or Federal Court Judges, are paid very handsomely, and they are. They are paid very handsomely across the country. That is a fact of life. It is a fact of life across the country. There is an unfortunate disparity of incomes in this Province. Partly as a result of that, of course, people find themselves being surprised and, in some cases, feel that they are being paid far too much. The reality is, Mr. Speaker, that when we are dealing with these kinds of tribunals we are bound by the law. The choices and the responses are limited. As the Member for Lewisporte, a former Premier of this Province, has said, and my learned friend, the Government House Leader says, I think it is important that, as a former Premier of this House, he said what he said here tonight about the fact that we are, in this Legislature, but one of the three constitutional branches of government that, in this case, make the law; in the judges case, interpret, apply and enforce the law; and in the executive branch, the Cabinet, carry out the business of government. We each have our constitutional roles to perform.

The Tribunal's report suggests one set of remuneration, in some cases providing a rationale for it, but in other cases it is not very clear at all what the rationale was for the numbers that were proposed.

The minister, in his response - and, as noted by the Member for Lewisporte, contrary to previous ministers in dealing with reports - has provided a rational basis for accepting or varying, to some extent, the Tribunal's report. As a result of the minister's comments, which were based on a reasonable response and a reasoned response to the report, he has made a rational argument for changing those recommendations to what still amounts to very handsome increases for provincial court judges, and, as noted previously, a very significant level of income for Provincial Court Judges.

Part of the rationale for that is to recognize the complexity, the importance, and the level of work that they do, but a significant part of it is recognizing that the independence of the judiciary is a basic pillar of our constitutional democracy under which we operate. We all have to support that in this House and on that basis, Mr. Speaker, I think what the minister has done will stand up in the view of this hon. member and, I believe, in the view of the court. It was not the case in the past. In fact, speeches that were made on this side of the House in response to previous ministers' comments were used in the court case and quoted by the judges as recognizing the necessity of the independence of the judiciary as opposed as to what was being done by the government.

I believe, with this resolution tonight, we will have brought an end to the long-simmering dispute between the Provincial Court Bench and the Legislature, but essentially the executive, because it was the executive who moved the motion in the past. The Legislature adopted the motions moved by the executive. I think that this resolution, and the rational basis for it supplied by the minister in his remarks this evening, I am fairly confident that this will bring an end to this dispute - let's call it a dispute, but really a disagreement between important constitutional players in our democracy - that I believe has now been resolved.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion put forward by the hon. the Minister of Justice?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Motion carried.

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

MR. LUSH: Order 26, Mr. Speaker, second reading of Bill 48, An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law." (Bill 48)

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

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, Bill 48, the Attorney General's Statutes Amendment Act, 2001, contains a number of technical amendments to various provincial statutes, and repeals statutes and regulations that no longer have any effect. This sort of legislation is introduced periodically to update the law as a result of various amendments or enactments made in previous sessions of the House. It is not always possible, when many pieces of legislation are brought forward in any particular session, to address the many interactions between them, particularly since it is not certain that every bill introduced into the House will pass as is.

As well, Mr. Speaker, legislation which has a limited affect in time needs to be repealed periodically to clear up the Statute books of the Province, and that is the intent of this piece of legislation here tonight.

There are a fair number of changes, but, as indicated in the name, it is anomalies in the act that we no longer need. So, it is basically a cleaning up of some situations that exist.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you that they are going to dance in the streets of Little Burnt Bay tonight, because we brought in this piece of legislation. They are going to dance in the streets because this basically, Mr. Speaker, is the yearly example of government sloppiness, where you don't do the proper job on legislation when you bring it before the House in the beginning. If you sent a lot of this legislation to a review committee, Mr. Speaker, in the beginning it would never be back here a year or two years later.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: So that is why -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, is there anything in Beauchesne that could be used to choke off the hon. gentleman from Bay of Islands.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, the members who are here should not be subjected to the rising decibels emanating from the hon. gentleman.

Why I say people are going to dance in the streets tonight, Mr. Speaker: Look at clause 40 of the bill. People are going to dance in the streets tonight because clause 40 is going to amend subsection 36(1) and paragraph 60(1)(a.1) of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Act, 1992, to correct errors in citations. In other words, when the act went through the House, back whenever it went through the House, there were errors in the citations of the act. Now, that is how really relevant and important this piece of legislation is, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, it is not worth the time of my constituent that we waste any more time on it, but pass it quickly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We have this bill which is called An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law, and in fact it does that, Mr. Speaker, in some cases. In some cases it fixes up spelling errors. It some cases it changes references and all of that. You know, sometimes the government hides a few substantive changes in these bills, so we do have to read them. It is something that does reflect, to a certain extent, on the process by which we pass legislation. I am hoping, Mr. Speaker, that in part, as a result of the experiences we have had during this session of the House, that more of our bills will actually go to Legislation Review Committees so that more members will actually have an opportunity to study them in detail, so that the kinds of errors and anomalies that creep into legislation, despite the best efforts of Legislative Counsel who are given the job sometimes of hastily drafting legislation for presentation to the House, that there will be an opportunity for closer study before bills get passed in this House.

That is all I have to say, Mr. Speaker. There are forty-four separate amendments here. There are forty-four separate errors or clauses have to be fixed in this piece of legislation. If we had a better process involving more members in the detailed study of legislation, we would have fewer reasons to have bills like this.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice, if he speaks now will close the debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) dancing in the streets of Port aux Basques.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, I guess there is dancing in the streets of Port aux Basques tonight as well. I am glad there is a videotape because we can go from praise to criticism in one quick move. Anyway, this is the first time on my watch that this has had to happen, and I hope it does not happen again, but these types of amendments are required. They are pretty standard under any Administration. Since 1949, I believe, we have averaged one every two years, regardless of the Administration. I hope we do not have many more of them, but they are certainly needed to keep things neat and tidy.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 48)

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

MR. LUSH: Order 27, Mr. Speaker, second reading of Bill 63, An Act To Amend The Limitations Act.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Limitations Act." (Bill 63)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak today about the importance of the proposed amendments to the Limitations Act, which will eliminate limitation periods placed on government's ability to collect taxes and fines. The amendments are intended to remove the six-year limitation period to collect taxes, and the two-year limitation period to collect fines, under the Limitations Act.

Taxing statutes and fine collection play an integral role in assuring that every citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador has access to necessary public services, such as hospitals, roads, and social assistance.

Mr. Speaker, in 1996, the Limitations Act was introduced, which created a six-year limit to collect taxes and two years to collect fines. This has the effect that six years after a tax becomes due, or two years after a fine is imposed, the sum cannot be recovered. In many cases, these time limits are not sufficient to collect taxes and fines due.

In terms of fine collection, the collection process required by law is quite complex and time consuming. We simply do not have the resources to ensure that collection efforts are undertaken with the huge volume of individual debtors within a two-year time period. Consequently, in the interest of fairness to all residents of the Province, the majority of whom pay their fines within the time allotted, we feel it is appropriate to amend the Limitations Act to allow us to continue to pursue those in default.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, we have embarked on new initiatives in fine collection. These initiatives were reported in The Telegram a short time ago. We have targeted our highest value fine defaulters, our top fifty, for vigorous collection efforts. Not only do we expect that this will result in the return of some monies owed to the public, but it will act as a strong message that this government expects that fines will be paid.

In addition, we will implement a process shortly whereby convictions which result in fines can be electronically registered with the Trial Division of the Supreme Court. This will allow us to more efficiently and effectively begin the collection process. All of those who have incurred fines totalling $500 and above will be electronically registered with the Trial Division and then with the Sheriff's Office.

Mr. Speaker, the Rules Committee of the Supreme Court will meet on December 17 to discuss a new rule of that court which will provide for electronic filing as well. I have every confidence that this new rule will be adopted.

Mr. Speaker, moving to tax collection; let me describe an example where such collection can take more than six years. The elimination of school taxes in 1992 meant that twenty different school tax collection systems were shut down, many of which were manually operated and very inefficient. The provincial Department of Finance was left with the difficult task of combining those assorted systems into one so as to take advantage of its tax collections experience and efficiencies in order to collect outstanding school tax from over 157,000 taxpayers. Since that time the Department of Finance has had significant success by collecting approximately 80 per cent of those delinquent accounts. However, there still remains about $6 million that is considered collectible. The unintended effect of the Limitations Act is that the Department of Finance is not permitted to pursue those amounts as they have aged more than six years. This is very unfortunate because most people have, by now, paid their outstanding school tax. It would be unfair to the citizens of this Province if other taxpayers were allowed to escape their tax liability due to the technical workings of the act.

Mr. Speaker, this amendment is about fairness for all taxpayers. The majority of taxpayers remit their taxes when required and pay fines when due. However, there are some citizens who choose not to pay voluntarily. Government should not reward a person for failing to remit tax, or pay a fine, by allowing a debt to expire. This would not be fair and equitable to the people of this Province. It is government's responsibility to ensure that every possible action is taken to recover outstanding debts. As previously stated, tax and fine revenues fund government services, such as hospitals and education. It is important that all taxpayers pay their equal share in contributing to these programs. Throughout time tax and debt collection has never been a popular government function, but it is necessary to the residents of this Province to provide them with the high level of government programs and infrastructure that they deserve.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This particular amendment is not as innocent as it looks, I have to say to the Minister of Justice. There is something about this piece of legislation that goes against the grain. You cannot be against the concept and principle of saying the government has to go out and collect fines and penalties and that kind of thing. If I have to pay my fine, my friend should have to pay his fine. That principle you cannot be against, but giving the government, giving the Crown, the right to never be bound again by a limitation period seems to me to be abhorrent, to tell you the truth. It goes against the grain. Do you mean to tell me that there is not a better way to do this? Isn't it possible to have some kind of reciprocal arrangements between jurisdictions across the country so that if some Newfoundlander who owes a traffic fine, finds themselves up in Alberta, that when they apply for a licence in Alberta it comes up on the computer screen up there that they owe a fine down in Newfoundland and it has to be paid before they can get their licence in Alberta? Can't that be done in this modern day and age, or is it necessary to have a limitation period that never expires? Because that is what this piece of legislation does. Normally there was a limitation of six years or two years. This particular piece of legislation takes away that. So there is something about this amendment that I do not like.

On top of that, Mr. Speaker, I do not believe the minister mentioned - but it should be mentioned - that this legislation is retroactive legislation. The amendments provided in this legislation will come into force, or deemed to have come into force, on March 31, 1996. So this legislation goes backwards in time. Anybody who happened to be outside the limitation is now caught by the retroactivity of this legislation. Retroactivity is something that we should use very, very seldom; unless there is a grave reason should we use the power of the Legislature to bring in retroactive legislation. This is going to mean that people are going to have fines and penalties and so on, outstanding on the books, and that those fines and penalties are going to accumulate interest.

We seen them in the paper here the other day; there was a story in The Telegram about interest on fines. Some individuals start off with fines of $40, $50 or $60 and all of a sudden, over a period of years, there are several thousand dollars that is owing because of the accumulated interest on it. Now people should pay their fines, yes. I have nothing against the government going after them to pay their fines but I think there is a better way of doing it. Here in the Province, if somebody has a fine imposed against them, we use the computer system at the Motor Vehicle Registration or some other source to get at the fine. I think that can be implemented right across the country, so that if somebody walks out and leaves a fine here when they apply for a motor registration in Ontario it can be picked up and collected. That is not too much to expect in this modern computer age, I say to the minister. Rather than doing it with the heavy hand of the Legislature, rather than doing it with retroactive legislation, I say to the minister, there is a better way, there is a more humane way, almost on Christmas Eve, than bringing in this piece of legislation. There is a more civilized way to do that than the way the minister is doing it.

What is the minister talking about in section (b) when he uses those words: "...to enforce an obligation arising from a statute." That is pretty vague. What is the minister talking about there? What does he have in mind? What kind of obligation is he talking about arising from a statute?

This legislation is dangerous, I say to the minister. I can't stop him from passing it, I know it is going to be passed, but I do want the people of the Province to know, Mr. Speaker, what the government is doing. The government is using the heavy hand of the Legislature in a retroactive manner to make sure that they can collect a few more tax dollars for the coffers of the Province. That is exactly what the government is doing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words on this bill, "An Act To Amend The Limitations Act." I think it is incumbent upon government to be as responsible as they expect citizens to be.

Just a little while ago, Mr. Speaker, we passed limits to the Labour Standards Act. In that act the employee has six months, from the time of a discharge, in order to file a complaint with the labour board. Mr. Speaker, this bill going retroactive certainly is something that the government should not be allowed to do, going back in time to recoup things, as they should have been doing at the time they occurred.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, I had a case in my district just recently, within the past couple of weeks, were a person had a fine going back seventeen years, and the government did not try and collect that fine until this month when their driver's licence was up for renewal. I say, Mr. Speaker, I don't agree that people who are fined legitimately through our point system should be able to walk away and not have to pay the fines that are imposed, but I also, Mr. Speaker, don't agree that anybody should be kept - because some people may have forgotten it over time. With this seventeen years, well someone was certainly derelict in their duty when that fine had not been collected.

There are many reasons, Mr. Speaker, why a person has not paid a fine. As I said, with time going by, they may have forgotten it. Somewhere on the books of this Province - there is somebody who should be responsible for dealing with things in a timely manner. That is the standard of test, Mr. Speaker, that the rest of the citizens of this Province are held to, and this government should be held to no less a test than what they place on the citizens of the Province.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that if any fine is outstanding for seventeen years, someone is not doing their job in either collecting that fine or making sure that it is pursued in a relevant and timely fashion.

So, Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that making a bill retroactive is the proper thing to do. I don't think it is the fitting thing to do, and I think that governments and court systems - if a fine is imposed, it should be followed up and people should have to pay the fine within a reasonable period of time. If, for some reason, as I said, that slips their minds, seventeen years later for government to come after them is not fair and it certainly shows, Mr. Speaker, that there is something lacking in our system.

Thank you.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the comments of the Member for Lewisporte. It is not usual that you would have a retroactive piece of legislation, particularly when it comes to tax collection, but the government feels, in this instance, that the greater good for the people of this Province in collecting these taxes outweighs any negativity that might exist there.

I would also point out that included in this amendment is section 2, which still provides a means whereby if there are equitable situations and circumstances whereby government would like, through the Financial Administration Act, not to collect, there is still opportunity there to make those considered cases.

I disagree with the Member for Labrador West, who indicates that a fine, albeit a certain time period, should not be paid. If it is a fine that was imposed as a result of illegal activity, I would suggest that no matter if it is two years old or twenty years old, it is still due to the people of this Province, to be used for the needs that they have.

I would move closure of second reading.

Thank you.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Limitations Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 63)

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I move the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to discuss -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) boxing act?

MR. TULK: What about the boxing act?

MR. LUSH: Oh, I am sorry, Mr. Speaker.

We have very appropriately left, Mr. Speaker, for the last piece of legislation, Order 28, Bill 58, An Act To Establish The Boxing Authority Of Newfoundland And Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Establish The Boxing Authority Of Newfoundland And Labrador." (Bill 58)

 

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to introduce this bill to the House.

The Member for Bay of Islands was very supportive of this legislation, I must say. He is a former athlete, a boxer, himself, who participated in the Canada Games back a number of years ago, I would say, and did very well.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I saw a bit of attempted boxing at the hockey game with the media a few nights ago, by a couple of MHA hockey players, but they would not meet this kind of guideline.

This is legislation to set up the boxing authority. It is supported by the sport in the Province. They would like to see it occur, it is time for it to occur, and it is necessary legislation that will see the sport be able to grow properly, and also to be able to host the boxing venues that they need to set up.

We would fully support the bill, see it brought forward for second reading, and we look forward to seeing support from the House this evening.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, this a new piece of legislation. I read the act and, as I was reading the act, I saw the final one there, section 13.(m). When the minister, in his introduction of the bill, talked about the Member for Bay of Islands, I thought of the Member for Bay of Islands as well. If this particular act was in place, and if that particular section of this act was pertinent at the time, the Member for Bay of Islands probably would not be in the condition that he is in here tonight: shouting, hollering, interrupting, and not even aware of where he is half the time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, let me read it to you. I will read the section that would have helped the Member for Bay of Islands, and would have probably allowed him to come to this Legislature and be a much better member and not get on with the blarney that he gets on with. Most of the time he is shouting and hollering across the floor.

Let me read it to you. It is under Regulations, 13.(m). It says, "The authority may, with the approval of the minister, make regulations concerning the medical examination of all boxers and the availability of medical assistance during a contest or exhibition."

Mr. Speaker, this piece of legislation came probably fifteen years too late to protect the Member for the Bay of Islands.

While it is a good piece of legislation, and it is something that we will support, unfortunately you did not protect your own in bringing it in, in a timely fashion.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I am glad that we only went one round on this one. I really appreciate that in the House this evening. The boxing community will welcome this legislation, and we look forward to seeing it go forward.

I would ask that we ring the bell and call second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Establish The Boxing Authority Of Newfoundland And Labrador," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 58)

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

MR. LUSH: I think, Mr. Speaker, it is safe to make the motion that I was going to make previously and that is: I move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to discuss bills in Orders 20 through 29, plus Bill 64. The bills are: Bill 53, Bill 42, Bill 56, Bill 25, Bill 52, Bill 55, Bill 48, Bill 63, Bill 58, Bill 60 and Bill 64.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Mercer):Order, please!

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act." (Bill 25)

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, I move an amendment: "where the work involves emergency repairs or maintenance, or unknown work identified during refit, or where an acquisition is required on an emergency basis, in relation to ferry vessels operated by the government;"

CHAIR: Order, please!

You have heard the amendment. Are we ready for the amendment?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

CHAIR: In my opinion the ‘ayes' have it.

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause 1, as amended, carried.

 

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill with amendment, carried.

CHAIR: Bill 52, An Act To Amend The Taxation Of Utilities And Cable Television Companies Act.

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Just one brief question; I assume that the exemption or the elimination of a double taxation would only apply to those who have status under the federal Indian Act, and Conne River would be the only instance. Would that be correct?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Taxation Of Utilities And Cable Television Companies Act." (Bill 52)

On motion, clauses 1 through 4 carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

MR. LUSH: Bill 55.

CHAIR: Bill 55, An Act To Amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act." (Bill 55)

On motion, clauses 1 through 8 carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 9 carry?

The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

An Act To Amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act: "1. Subclause 9(7) of the Bill is amended by adding immediately after the proposed subsection 39(4) the following: (5) Subsection (4) shall not apply to a regulation made under paragraph (1)(a)."

The effect of this amendment, Mr. Chair, is to ensure that government does not have the ability, because it does not have the intent, of making retroactive changes to regulations or legislation that would affect royalty rates already agreed upon and in place.

Thank you.

CHAIR: You have heard the amendment.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

On motion, amendment, carried.

On motion, clause 9, as amended, carried.

On motion, clauses 10 and 11 carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill with amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: We could probably do bills in Order 26 to 29 inclusive, plus Bill 64.

A bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law." (Bill 48)

CHAIR: Shall clauses 1 through 4 carry?

MR. LUSH: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, (inaudible). We are really cleaning up quickly now before we even get out of the session.

(Amendment to clause 5 and a new clause 45 were tabled.)

Clause 5 makes erroneous reference to a social worker, and I believe these amendments have been distributed to the members opposite, the amendment as provided.

Also, in this section (new clause 45, ed.) concerning the Newfoundland and Labrador Act, we make reference to only the act changing from Newfoundland to Newfoundland and Labrador, not the regulations. It has been recommended that this amendment be made by inserting a new paragraph 45 into this act, to make sure that all regulations in the Province also will now be properly certified as Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the act itself.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 1 through 4 carry?

 

On motion, clauses 1 through 4 carried.

CHAIR: Shall the amendment to clause 5 carry?

On motion, amendment to clause 5 carried.

On motion, clause 5, as amended, carried.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 6 through 44 carry?

On motion, clauses 6 through 44 carried.

CHAIR: Shall new clause 45 carry?

On motion, new clause 45 carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill with amendments, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: (Inaudible).

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the following bills without amendment, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Limitations Act." (Bill 63)

A bill, "An Act To Establish The Boxing Authority Of Newfoundland And Labrador." (Bill 58)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Economic Diversification And Growth Enterprises Act." (Bill 60)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act." (Bill 64)

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Chairman, back to Orders 20, 21 and 22, inclusive.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the following bills, without amendment, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Child Care Services Act." (Bill 53)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Securities Act." (Bill 42)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Parks Act." (Bill 56)

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

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

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

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report that Bills 52, 63, 58, 60, 64, 53, 42 and 56 passed without amendment, and Bills 25, 55 and 48 passed with amendments, and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted, Committee ordered to sit again presently, by leave.

On motion, amendments read a first and second time, bills ordered read a third time presently, by leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, we want to take Bill 25 separately. If we could do that, we would do the others as a group. We want to do Bill 25 separately.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader has asked that Bill 25 be dealt with separately in the third reading, so the other bills are moved to be read a third time.

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

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Taxation Of Utilities And Cable Television Companies Act." (Bill 52)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act." (Bill 55)

A bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law." (Bill 48)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Limitations Act." (Bill 63)

A bill, "An Act To Establish The Boxing Authority Of Newfoundland And Labrador." (Bill 58)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Economic Diversification And Growth Enterprises Act." (Bill 60)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act." (Bill 64)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Child Care Services Act." (Bill 53)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Securities Act." (Bill 42)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Parks Act." (Bill 56)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 25.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the said bill be now read a third time?

All those in favour, aye.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Against.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

AN HON. MEMBER: Division.

MR. SPEAKER: Division. Call in the members.

Division

MR. SPEAKER: All those in favour of the motion, please rise.

CLERK (Mr. Noel): The hon. the Premier; the hon. the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs; the hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Rural Development; the hon. the Minister of Education; the hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services; the hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation; the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs; Mr. Walsh; the hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board; the hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy; the hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation; the hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment; Mr. Joyce; the hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture; the hon. the Minister of Justice; the hon. the Minister of Youth Services and Post-Secondary Education and Minister responsible for the Status of Women; the hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands; the hon. the Minister of Labour; the hon. the Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs; the hon. the Minister of Environment; Mr. Mercer; Ms Hodder; Ms Jones; Mr. Sweeney; Mr. Butler.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against the motion, please rise.

CLERK: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition; Mr. Edward Byrne; Mr. Ottenheimer; Mr. Shelley; Mr. Jack Byrne; Mr. Rideout; Mr. Sullivan; Ms Sheila Osborne; Mr. Fitzgerald; Mr. Hodder; Mr. Ross Wiseman; Mr. Hunter; Mr. Manning; Mr. Tom Osborne; Mr. Taylor; Mr. Hedderson; Mr. French; Mr. Young; Mr. Harris; Mr. Collins.

Mr. Speaker, there are twenty-five ayes and twenty nays.

MR. SPEAKER: I declare the motion carried.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 25)

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor has arrived.

MR. SPEAKER: Admit His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Ladies and gentlemen, it is the wish of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor that all present please be seated.

MR. SPEAKER: It is my agreeable duty, on behalf of Her Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, Her Faithful Commons in Newfoundland and Labrador, to present to Your Honour a bill for the appropriation of Supply granted in the present session.

A bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Additional Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 2001 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service." (Bill 27)

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR (A.M. House): In Her Majesty's Name, I thank Her Loyal Subjects, I accept their benevolence, and I assent to this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: May it please Your Honour, the General Assembly of the Province has at its present session passed certain bills, to which, in the name and on behalf of the General Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour's assent.

CLERK: A bill, "An Act To Amend The Dental Act." (Bill 32)

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Practice Of Massage Therapy." (Bill 38)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Health Care Association Act, Hospitals Act And Licensed Practical Nurses Act." (Bill 23)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Motor Carrier Act." (Bill 29)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Lands Act." (Bill 30)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Assessment Act." (Bill 24)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Law To Consider Same Sex Cohabiting Partners In The Same Manner As Opposite Sex Cohabiting Partners." (Bill 36)

A bill, "An Act To Repeal The Economic Advisory Council Act." (Bill 31)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Judgment Enforcement Act." (Bill 39)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Local Authority Guarantee Act, 1957." (Bill 37)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Loan And Guarantee Act, 1957." (Bill 47)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Teacher Training Act." (Bill 21)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Forestry Act." (Bill 22)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Registered Nurses Act." (Bill 26)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act." (Bill 28)

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Protection Of Endangered Species." (Bill 33)

A bill, "An Act To Facilitate Electronic Commerce By Removing Barriers To The Use Of Electronic Communication." (Bill 35)

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Protection Of Farm Practices In The Province." (Bill 41)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Historic Resources Act." (Bill 57)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Financial Administration Act No. 2." (Bill 50)

A bill, "An Act To Permit An Action By One Person On Behalf Of A Class Of Persons." (Bill 34)

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Child And Youth Advocate." (Bill 46)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act." (Bill 54)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991." (Bill 40)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991 And The Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991." (Bill 59)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Child Care Services Act." (Bill 53)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Securities Act." (Bill 42)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Parks Act." (Bill 56)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act." (Bill 25)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Taxation Of Utilities And Cable Television Companies Act." (Bill 52)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act." (Bill 55)

A bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law." (Bill 48)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Limitations Act." (Bill 63)

A bill, "An Act To Establish The Boxing Authority Of Newfoundland And Labrador." (Bill 58)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Economic Diversification And Growth Enterprises Act." (Bill 60)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act." (Bill 64)

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR: In her Majesty's name, I assent to these bills.

I would like to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to wish hon. members, their families and their constituents, a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year.

His Honour, the Lieutenant Governor, leaves the Chamber. Mr. Speaker returns to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If I might, before I wish again, as His Honour just did, compliments of the season to everybody, just make a couple of brief comments.

We, on this side of the House, particularly appreciated the level of debate that has occurred here in the last four weeks of this session of this Legislature, and the attention that was paid to it. I do believe, my own recollection of thought would be, that there was probably a greater level of attention paid, as a result, probably, of the Legislature being televised. I believe it lend to a higher level and a greater degree of participation by more members, more often, on more pieces of legislation. I think we will all reflect on that as we prepare to come back again in the winter for the winter-spring session. The increased participation: I expect I will reflect on it for another reason. I have been saying jokingly, and I think I have shared it with some members of the Opposition, that I believe in terms of exposure the big winner here was the Leader of the New Democratic Party, the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, who I think logged more ice time, to use that phrase, than probably all the rest of us put together. I am going to check as to whether I speak a lot, because with all that increased exposure I understand you went down a couple of points in the polls. So maybe it is not the greatest thing to do. We will have to see whether that is good, bad or indifferent.

In fact, I do believe we have had an extremely productive sitting of the Legislature, and we look forward to the challenges and opportunities that will be presented when we return after Christmas to deal with next year's issues in terms of the budget, and we expect to be fully and completely challenged here in this Legislature as we were in this particular sitting.

With that, I want to thank everybody on all sides for their full participation and their full engagement in this session.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure we will hear from the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the NDP, and before we do have the movement to adjourn for the Christmas break, before we come back in the winter, I would like to compliment yourself, Mr. Speaker, and your Deputy Speaker and the Chair of Committees for keeping us under control, and doing a very good job of managing the affairs of the House; and, of course, the staff, the Clerk and all the staff here at the Table, the people who work for us in Hansard, the people who handle the challenges of broadcasting the Legislature, all those who have managed to do that for us. I would like to say thank you to the media representatives who came here to cover the events of the Legislature again so that all of our messages could be shared, not only through live television coverage, but through the other media that are available in all parts of the Newfoundland and Labrador; and as well, to thank all hon. members, as I said before, for the level of participation in the debate that we have had over the last little while.

I think I would be remiss, as well, if I didn't congratulate the two House Leaders. I think both are to be commended for doing a remarkable job.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: I know, jokingly, on this side, we say that our House Leader is the best one we have had since Beaton Tulk. In fact, he is the only one we have had since Beaton Tulk and certainly one of the best ones we have had since the Member for Bonavista North. As well, of course, we are served so well by the other staff, such as the Pages, our Sergeant-at-Arms and the Commissioners, who make us all feel very safe in here every single day. So, thank you to everybody for their participation.

What I do want to say, on behalf of everyone on this side, is that we wish all members and their families the very best of the season ahead, and we hope that nothing but the very best of circumstance befalls you and yours in this particular season, but into the new year as well.

Thank you to everybody, Mr. Speaker, for the attention paid to this session and the work that was done, because I believe it is close to an historic amount of work in terms of an action or agenda that was accomplished with due diligence and debate. There is some work that we still have to do with some committees of the House that will take their duties every bit as serious as we did here in the last month.

My congratulations to everybody and very best wishes for the holiday season.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I concur with the comments of the Premier. I think it is nice tonight, actually, that we have had a very civil session, which I think has been a very productive session as well for all of us. It has been a learning experience for me. I realize we could have gotten into a marathon tonight which probably could have gone on all evening. It would have been entertaining but I don't think at the end of the day it would have served any good purpose. It is appropriate, I think, that we came to a good conclusion. We passed a lot of legislation here, and good legislation. We have deferred legislation, and I think it is appropriately deferred. So I am very pleased with that and our caucus is pleased with it.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all members of the House of Assembly, you, Mr. Speaker, the Premier, all members on the opposite side and all members on this side, a very, very Merry Christmas and best wishes for a Happy New Year. I hope that you do get all your Christmas wishes, of course. I don't think it is going to be the same for the new year. I can't wish that you get all you want in the new year because there is going to be some conflict, I think, in the new year over who wants what and who is going to get what. We are actually hoping that this might be the last red Christmas, that next year might be a blue Christmas, and we may have a Santa blue next year. That depends on whether the Premier decides to call an election or not.

What I do want to say to hon. members is that I wish them a happy and a healthy Christmas, which I think is very, very important to all of us. To members in the House, and also to the people of the Province, I think we want to have a prosperous New Year and a peaceful New Year, because this has been a tough year for all of us. The September 11 incident has hit us all very, very hard. I think it shook us up. I think we were in a, sort of, mood of security where everybody felt they were comfortable and safe, there wasn't going to be any more war, it was never going to happen again. Then, it hit us like a ton of bricks. I think it shook us all up and it was sobering for all of us. The nice thing, of course, is what happened in this Province and the way our people reacted to our visitors. I think it put us on the map and we got some great coverage as a result of it. We are the best kept secret in the world as a people and as a Province, and I think that was very good for all of us. I do wish that we have peace, because I think peace is very, very important. We are not over the hump yet. They are still trying to track him down, I understand. I think there is going to be even more after that. That has been a big, sobering mess.

Of course, prosperity is the second message which I want to give to the people of the Province. Even though we banter back and forth, even though we debate here and even though we try to make our points - I guess it is tough for government to listen to, just as there are times it is tough for the Opposition to listen to government's position - really, we are here for the good of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and that is what it is all about. Collectively, I hope we can accomplish that, as an Opposition and as a government. I think that is really what our ultimate goals are here. Don't anybody ever misunderstand us or mistake our goals or objectives at any time as an Opposition. We are trying to do our best here. With regard to legislation, we are trying to achieve the best possible legislation that we can get.

If we can work together, Premier, if we can work together in any way when it comes to negotiations, deals or projects that are before this Province, if can assist, if we can have some input, if you think that our expertise can be of some assistance to you, then we are there. I make that offer with all sincerity. We have a job, I think, as Opposition, to point out where we think there may be flaws in some of the things that are before the Province, some of the deals and arrangements that are before the government, and I hope our criticism is constructive.

I would like to thank you, Mr. Speaker, the Clerks of the House and the staff, certainly for making my first visit here a comfortable one. I would like to wish all of you a very, very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I want to thank the recording staff, the broadcasting crew who have put our faces on television. I don't know if that is good for us, I don't know how good it is for the people out there, but they seem to stay tuned and hopefully we will be a little more fine-tuned in the next session.

As well, I would like to thank the people who are in the back room and, of course, the staff at Hansard who record what we say, whether it is good or bad. They do a great job of it, and, of course, they are behind the scenes.

Thank you one and all. I sincerely wish you a very, very Merry Christmas on behalf of all our caucus, and a Happy New Year.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am delighted to have an opportunity to say a few words in the Christmas spirit. The comments of the Premier, I think, are quite right. I probably have had more exposure, in the sense of time, in discussing bills than the other two leaders. I would really rather be in the position that either of the other leaders are, including having a dozen or more people to share the load with, so that I would not have to speak as often. Some members will remember that I spent nine years here by myself and I probably had more exposure than, even though we were not on television. At least now I have a colleague to share the load with.

It has been an interesting session of the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker. I think we all learned a little that we did not know before. I know we have two new members, the Member for Port de Grave and the Leader of the Opposition, and I think it had been a good first session for them.

I do not know if I am right about this or not, but it seems to me that during this session of the House, we have had either more amendments accepted or, in the case of today, the whole bill passed from scratch, offered by the Opposition. There has been that level of co-operation across the House. I do not recall a session where we have had that happen so often in the course of a very short session as it was. That bodes wells for the future and for people seeing their role as being adversarial, yes, but acting in the best interests of the people of the Province, on the whole, and I think that is a good thing.

I cannot help but reflect, in wishing everybody here a Merry Christmas, on the fact that one of our members is missing, the Member for Humber Valley, the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods. I want to wish him a special merry Christmas -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: - and ask, if he is listening - we are off the air now, so he cannot see us. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, we could pass on compliments, on his behalf, for the Christmas season and hope that he is back with us, well and recovered, in the New Year.

Mr. Speaker, perhaps we also should acknowledge the staff at the Table, the Clerk, the Clerk Assistant, the Legal Counsel, the people we don't see in Hansard and the Legislative Library who work diligently on our behalf, and those who most recently have put us on television for better or for worse.

By the way, I don't know if the Premier noticed but my understanding is that the NDP went up three or four points in the polls, but unfortunately it got buried in the statistical error. If you look very carefully at the polls you will notice that. So perhaps televising has had some positive affect after all. Anyway, that all remains to be seen in the new year, Mr. Speaker.

The Christmas season is a time for us all to reflect on what we have, enjoy ourselves and also, of course, to recognize that there are many who don't share the level of prosperity, comfort and security that we have, as individuals, as opposed to others in our Province, and others in the world. It is a special time of year. I hope we all do enjoy the Christmas season and, with our new boxing authority, come out fighting in the new year and do the best we can for the Province.

On that, Mr. Speaker, Merry Christmas to you all.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, before adjourning the House, I would like to thank the members here for their tremendous co-operation, and congratulate the Premier and the government for bring forward a tremendous and practical agenda, a heavy agenda but a very worthwhile agenda.

I thank hon. members opposite for their co-operation. Particularly, I want to thank the Opposition House Leader for his co-operation.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to say to the Member for Quidi Vidi that he has been here for nine years and he didn't have to get all of the missed opportunities in the one session.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Premier has been anxious all night to wish the Clerks of the House a Merry Christmas. I say we have to wish the Clerks a very Merry Christmas because without them there would be nothing here but a charade.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I just want to thank everybody and wish everybody a Merry Christmas.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I now adjourn the House to the call of the Chair.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned to the call of the Chair.