December 2, 2002 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS Vol. XLIV No. 38


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

On November 28, 2002, the hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy raised a point of privilege concerning certain comments which he stated the hon. the Leader of the Opposition had made to the effect that the Leader of the Opposition and his caucus had been provided with information with respect to the Lower Churchill development by members of Cabinet and by members of the Government caucus. As has been stated before in connection with claims of breach of privilege, a case cannot be founded on the basis of statements made outside the House, Beauchesne's 6th Edition 31. Also, in order to found a case of breach of privilege, matters must be related to members' parliamentary duties, Beauchesne's 92. It appears that the comments in question were made outside the House and do not relate to the member's parliamentary duties and, in the opinion of the Chair, there is no prima facie case of breach of privilege.

As well, the hon. the Minister of Finance raised a point of privilege similar to the point of privilege of the hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy. In that case, the hon. the Minister of Finance took exception to the hon. the Opposition Leader's comments: If he is clean, what about everybody else? It is the Chair's opinion that those comments do not impede the hon. minister in the performance of her parliamentary duties and do not amount to a prima facie case.

As well, the hon. the Government House Leader raised a point of order after Question Period, on Thursday, November 28, concerning the raising of points of order during Oral Questions. While it is true that the practice is not encouraged, it is not prohibited by any rules. However, the Chair strongly discourages members from raising points of order during Oral Question Period as they do interrupt the flow of the questions, as the hon. the Government House Leader has said; and, perhaps more importantly, it takes up the time which should be devoted to questions and answers on matters of public importance and policy.

Again, I ask hon. members to keep their points of order during Question Period until the period is over, so that we can have a smooth flow and Question Period can be used as it is so designed to be used.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to inform hon. members that Mr. Edward Andrews, Biology Professor at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, was recently named a 2002 recipient of Memorial University's Distinguished Teacher Award.

The Distinguished Teacher Award is one of the most prestigious awards that Memorial University bestows on its faculty, and recognizes individuals who, amongst other things, show integrity, enthusiasm, innovation, and patience, as a teacher.

Professor Andrews has been a teacher at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College since 1976 and has shown a genuinely enthusiastic approach to his teaching.

Not only is Professor Andrews known for his teaching abilities, but also for his interest in computer-assisted pedagogy - an interest that led to his becoming the first Manager of Computing and Communications at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in 1994. His motivation in these areas eventually helped build the information technology infrastructure which exists at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College today.

For the past decade or so, Professor Andrews has also been involved with the Association for Biology Laboratory Education. Here, Professor Andrews served for two terms on the board of directors and recently held a three-year position as the editor of Labstracts, a publication which he successfully converted from a standard print format to a Web-based format.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join with me in recognizing Professor Edward Andrews on receiving this prestigious award.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, it is a distinctive pleasure for me to rise and offer congratulations to the Parish of St. Peter's in Mount Pearl on the Official Blessing and Dedication of their new church.

In 1977, Fathers Henri and Adrian, Parish Priests at Mary Queen of the World, decided to offer a weekend Eucharistic Liturgy at St. Peter's Elementary School. In 1982, the Archbishop decided to create the new Parish of St. Peter's and Father Raymond Lahey was appointed as its first pastor.

In 1985, when O'Donel High School was constructed, permission was granted to build a new chapel onto the end of the gymnasium and it has been from this site that St. Peter's Parish carried on its mission of faith to the community.

About ten years ago, the Parish Council decided to focus on the building of a new church. Under the leadership of Father Charles Kelly, the entire membership of the parish set about to establish budgets, set priorities, find the most appropriate site and oversee the architectural design and the construction phase.

The sod-turning ceremony for the new Church was held on July 22, 2001. Eric Jerrett and his team at ISR Architecture Ltd. were chosen as the consultants and the construction contract was awarded to Eastern Construction Limited.

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, all members of the House will want to join me in offering congratulations and best wishes to all parishioners at St. Peter's on the completion of their new church and to wish them continued success in their faith mission.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to bring attention to the recipient of the inaugural John J. Sullivan Award which recognizes those who have dedicated their lives to policing in this Province.

In late October, this award was given to Mr. Jim Lynch in recognition of his years of service in police enforcement. Mr. Lynch served in St. John's, Corner Brook, Placentia and Argentia. During World War II Mr. Lynch worked closely with commanding officers of the US navy and army forces on behalf of Newfoundland.

Mr. Lynch resigned from the Constabulary in 1950 and joined the CN police, where he served for the next thirty-two years. From 1960 to the time of his retirement in 1982, at the rank of superintendent, he was CN police officer in charge of Newfoundland, Labrador and Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, it is also important to note that Mr. Lynch has received other awards. He received the Canadian Chiefs of Police Service Medal, the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal and the Canada Exemplary Police Service Medal.

Mr. Speaker, John J. Sullivan, who this award is named in honour of, was the first native-born Newfoundlander to become Inspector General of the Newfoundland Constabulary. I ask members of this House to join me in recognizing Mr. Lynch on receiving this award.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As members of this hon. House, we all receive invitations to events and activities in our respectful districts.

A few weeks ago I received such an invitation. It was a birthday party in Branch, St. Mary's Bay, for Saturday, November 30 to celebrate the 87th birthday of a very special lady, Mrs. Annie Power. Mrs. Annie Power, known to all of us as Mrs. Nan was in great form on Saturday night as she was surrounded by over 200 family and friends who came out to celebrate with her.

Speaker after speaker talked about her generosity, her faith, her community spirit, but most of all her love and commitment to her family and friends. At eighty-seven years of age, Mrs. Nan is showing no signs of slowing down.

When she delivered her own address she spoke about the great life she has enjoyed, the wonderful warmth she has received from all her family and friends, and the fondness of her hometown and to quote her, "My happiest memories are here in Branch, St. Mary's Bay."

Mr. Speaker, Saturday night was a special celebration for a very special lady and I all members of this hon. House to join with me in extending warmest greetings and congratulations to Mrs. Nan Power of Branch as she celebrates her 87th birthday.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island.

MR. WALSH: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to make aware to the members of the general public and indeed, our colleagues in the House of Assembly, that the 60th Anniversary of Bell Island entertainer Harry Hibbs birth takes place this month. Unidisc Music Canada has re-released the entire ARC recordings of Harry Hibbs' career on compact disk for a new generation of fans here and across Canada to enjoy.

These eight albums were originally released on vinyl between 1968 and 1972, when Hibbs was in the peak of his career and have been out of print for more than twenty years. It is worthy to point out, Mr. Speaker, that through 1968 to 1969, Harry Hibbs sold as many records in Canada as every other Canadian artist combined. He was recognized with a Juno Award in 1972 for Best Folk Artist of the Year.

To see these recordings available again to the general public is a significant achievement. Mr. Speaker, I hope a new generation of fans can appreciate the pioneering influence that Harry Hibbs was for our musical industry, paving the way for successors like Great Big Sea and The Ennis Sisters.

I would also to credit the efforts of Wabana Music and Russell Bowers who reignited interest in Hibbs in the release of The Very Best of Harry Hibbs Volume One in 2000 and to ensure that these master recordings of the music legend, buried in a vault in Montreal, were acquired by Unidisc for distribution once again.

Harry Hibbs' music will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of everyone in this Province, especially Bell Islanders, and to see these recordings available once again will ensure that his musical legacy will not be soon forgotten.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: May I have leave, Mr. Speaker, to make a member's statement?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have leave to make a member's statement?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

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

I stand today to commend VOCM Radio and all the volunteers who were associated with the Dial a Carol radiothon yesterday, many of which included my colleagues here in the House of Assembly. Almost $6,000 was raised for the St. John's Boys and Girls Club to help offset the cost of their programs. As the MHA for St. John's Centre, I am fully aware of the very valuable work of the Boys and Girls Club as they operate from the Mews Centre on Mundy Pond Road and Buckmasters Circle Community Centre, both of which are in my district.

Mr. Speaker, the Boys and Girls Club offers a wide range of useful programs which offer social, educational, recreational and life skills benefits for the children in these areas. A measure of the merit of these programs was recently evident when students at an area school, Holy Cross Elementary, were recognized for winning a national award. It was the second national award in two years for that school and the school was also designated a peaceful school by an international organization.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the achievements of the students at Holy Cross, and other area schools can be directly attributed to the influence of quality programs offered by the Boys and Girls Club.

Mr. Speaker, many of these programs are available only to our children because of the volunteers who offer their time and energy to the Boys and Girls Club. I commend the organizers of Dial a Carol and their volunteers who helped make it even more successful than last year's event.

The Boys and Girls Club will be hosting Christmas Raffles on December 8 at Bingo Country on Ricket's Road and also on December 15 at the Mews Centre on Mundy Pond Road, so I would encourage hon. members and all people to make an effort to support this worthy cause.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise this afternoon to inform members that on Wednesday, December 4, representatives from nine Newfoundland and Labrador companies and organizations will be in New Orleans, Louisiana for the 2002 International Workboat Show.

This government made a commitment to market and promote the Province's marine technological capabilities and expertise in its Renewal Strategy for Jobs and Growth.

There is an abundance of marine technological expertise in Newfoundland and Labrador and the International Workboat Show is one way we can tell the world about it, and in turn, assist our companies in penetrating new markets.

The International Workboat Show is North America's premier trade show for inland and costal marine firms. It boasts over 900 exhibitors and has a twenty-four year history.

Attendees and exhibitors will include manufacturers, boatbuilders, distributers and service providers to the marine industry from around the world.

This is a very high profile event. It is an excellent opportunity to showcase the Province's sector capabilities and potential and hopefully will lead to new commercial business opportunities for the Newfoundland and Labrador companies that will participate.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in wishing the following companies well at the 2002 International Workboat Show: Aqua Purge, Lewisporte; Industrial Marine Lighting, Mount Pearl; Oceanic Corporation, St. John's; Genoa Design, Kelligrews; Consolidated Technologies Ltd., St. John's; ICAN, Mount Pearl; Diesel Injection Sales and Service, St. John's; C&W Industrial Fabrication and Marine Equipment, Bay Bulls; and The Marine Institute - Centre for Marine Simulation, St. John's.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Certainly, we, on this side of the House, join with the Acting Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology in congratulating those companies and promoting the renowned expertise and worldwide expertise of the industry that he has talked about. Any efforts that government can lend its hand to, and members of the House can lend their support or hand to, directly or indirectly, in promoting such expertise can only bode well for the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, obviously we want to be associated with the remarks of the minister, but I would also like to add this. We have seen the ingenuity and the experience of such technology involved in a local company and local person, I believe, whose hull design, for example, is now amongst the leading in terms of competition for the America's Cup, the international race, in terms of a sailing race.

Mr. Speaker, it is a natural advantage that this place has in terms of boat design, and one that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. E. BYRNE: Just by leave, to conclude?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. E. BYRNE: It is a natural advantage that we have, one that people in our Province, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, are continuing to build upon, using technology and innovation. Anything that we, in this House, or anything that this House can do, to support and attract and add to that, we would certainly applaud and lend our support to.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement.

I would like to say, also, that we wish these companies well as they go to New Orleans. There are many places around this Province, Mr. Speaker, that build great boats, some of the ones that are mentioned here that will be attending, and I know there are others in places like Centreville, Glenwood and other areas of the Province that build great boats as well.

As the previous speaker indicated, one of the companies here, Oceanic Corporation, helped design the hull of the boat that will enter the -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. COLLINS: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. COLLINS: - helped design the hull of the ship that will represent Switzerland in the America's Cup challenge, and they also helped design the hull of one of the American boats that is also entered into that race.

So, Mr. Speaker, we wish these companies well as they attend this International Workboat Show, and we hope that it generates much more business for this Province.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to provide hon. members with an update on the potential Gull Island development. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been much debate and discussion regarding this proposed project development. Many opinions have been expressed stating that this government has already concluded an agreement with the Province of Quebec, and that we have an agreement to present to the people of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I must confirm again today that no agreement on the development of the Gull Island Project has been finalized. Much work has been completed on this file; however, government has not reached the point of concluding a deal.

Mr. Speaker, there is still work to be done. We will take the time to examine the results of the deliberations of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro's Board of Directors and review the consultations that took place with the people of Labrador. We will reflect on the information and advice that we have received from each of these groups. The Prime Minister has also recently raised the concept of a national east-west energy grid, an idea that we have promoted for many years. This issue has been discussed as recently as September at the Joint Energy Ministers Meeting in Winnipeg, without much interest, I might add, from the federal government. We will be seeking clarification of the Prime Minister's position on this initiative.

Mr. Speaker, this government will take into account everything before concluding any deals on the development of Gull Island. We intend to take as much time as we need to do our work and review all the issues. Mr. Speaker, we will not be rushed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: Some hon. members would like to see government debate a deal that has not yet been concluded. We believe in informed debate: a debate that reflects facts, not assumptions or misinformed opinions. When we reach a deal, all details will be provided to the public for full debate. This will ensure that any agreement is presented in a fair and factual manner, a manner that will permit a thorough examination of all of the details. The Premier has committed to a full debate in the Legislature with a free vote to ensure that this process is completely open.

Mr. Speaker, this government was not rushed into concluding an agreement on the development of White Rose. This government was not rushed into concluding a Voisey's Bay deal. I can assure all hon. members that we will not be rushed into concluding a Gull Island development. We will only conclude an agreement on the development of this resource when we are certain that we have achieved a good deal on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This has been our standard, and this is a commitment we will keep.

Mr. Speaker, this government is confident about its economic development agenda. We have already witnessed the beginning of two major resource projects this year, projects that will provide substantial benefits to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We will continue to pursue an economic agenda that includes projects that we believe are indeed 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 St. John's East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is a superior example, Mr. Speaker, of full throttle in reverse, I say.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: What makes it interesting is, on day one of this session, Mr. Speaker, the hon. the Premier, when reading an update on the Gull Island hydro project negotiation with Quebec, concluded by saying: I am confident that we will conclude negotiations in the near future, one way or another, on Gull Island, maybe even this week.

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious and clear to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that this was a done deal. This agreement with Hydro-Quebec, the details of this deal, they were shared with the Liberal caucus members. The details were shared with the members of the Board of Directors of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. Mr. Speaker, the business case with Quebec was done. It was fait accompli, I say, it was a done deal.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, perhaps now, more than ever, what is required is the sharing of the details of this agreement with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who are owed complete and open and full disclosure as to these details; and, secondly, the second reason, to ensure that any errors or omissions are not repeated in any new and negotiated deal with Hydro-Quebec.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister, there may not be a deal but I think everybody in this Province agrees that there probably was a deal. Does the minister expect people in this Province to believe that the Board of Directors of Hydro voted and that two people resigned over what was a working paper? I do not think the people believe that, Mr. Minister.

I will say that when the meeting was held in Labrador last week, when that meeting was over, nobody at the meeting from Labrador were any more enlightened as to what this deal contained than they were prior to the meeting. What it was is, it gave the government some idea and some parameters of what people in Labrador expect on any deal that may be reached. I do not know why - with the talk now of a national west/east energy grid - this government would insist on pursuing with a Lower Churchill deal in a short period -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. COLLINS: By leave, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. COLLINS: I would say, Mr. Speaker, that this government should wait - if it is delayed another year - until we see what happens with that east/west grid, and see if there is a better benefit for the people of this Province in developing the Lower Churchill rather than rushing full steam ahead to develop in conjunction with the Province of Quebec.

Thank you.

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

My questions today are obviously in light of the ministerial statement delivered by the Minister of Mines and Energy. My questions are directed towards him.

The minister has used today words like: proposed development; no agreement; still a work in progress; work to be done; will not be rushed. Mr. Speaker, let me ask the Minister of Mines and Energy this: How can he stand today in the House and reconcile on the one hand that nothing has been done, that nothing has been proposed, that we will not be rushed, and at the same time say to the people of the Province that what they presented to the board of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro was just some hypothetical agreement, some hypothetical proposal that seen the two directors resign over it? How is it, Minister, that you can stand today and say there was no agreement and last week you presented one and when you ran into trouble you are now in full retreat?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I would remind the hon. member that what he suggests or states I said - in fact, I did not say that no work had been done on the concept of developing the project. On the contrary, I said in my ministerial statement a couple of minutes ago that a lot of work had been done with respect to moving this project forward and to moving this file forward.

In point of fact, Mr. Speaker, the truth is actually and factually this, it is very simple: until we get conclusion reached on things like framework agreements and other agreements that have to be concluded on, there is no final agreement on project development.

What I said today in the House is consistent with what the Premier has said and what I have said on other occasions, we have not reached full conclusion on all matters that need to be brought to a conclusion in terms of discussion in order to be able to move the project to a point of sanction. Until we get there, and unless we get there, there obviously will be no announcement to be made. We are confident, Mr. Speaker, in our economic agenda, we are confident in our focus on doing projects like the ones we have done in past and like the ones we hope to do in the future to move the economy of this Province forward rather than backward.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, may I conclude again by saying this? Our economic development policy and agenda is not a rear-view approach. We are looking forward. We are not looking backward, and that is the way we intend to stay in terms of focus and progression.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Wouldn't the minister agree that if he stood in his place today and said the deal that we had, and that the Premier negotiated, was not the right one, that we have reevaluated and we are not proceeding on it? Wouldn't he agree that creditability today for him and his government would lie in being forthright with the people of the Province?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, wouldn't the minister agree that creditability for him and his government would lie in the fact - that if he stood in his place today to say that the deal that we had was not acceptable to the caucus or to the people of the Province and that we have agreed to start again? Wouldn't that be the creditable approach, minister?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, on the contrary; what I will agree to, and what I will state again, is that the principles that we have stated, the ones that we have outlined, the objectives that we are trying to reach an agreement on, in any conclusion that we come to on a deal are, in fact, good, sound, supportable, defensible and promotable positions. We are intent on getting a project done with 100 per cent Newfoundland and Labrador ownership. We want to ensure that we get the right North America escalator clause that provides us with full and fair benefits forevermore. We intend to have recall rights that will be acceptable and appropriate for us and the principles are the ones that we are moving towards, hopefully, fleshing out in language and stated ways forward so that our principles -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: - can be more than supported, they can be clearly seen as having been achieved in a deal, if and when we get it done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Let me ask the minister this, some very specific questions: Isn't it a fact that one of the contentious items of the deal that is now scrapped is this, that while the minister, the Premier and the government maintained that the project was going to be 100 per cent owned by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, that it was going to be primarily managed by Hydro Quebec? Isn't that one of the reasons why you stood in your place today and said that now you have backtracked on the deal you were proposing last week?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned three principles that were in the announcement we made back in August, the Premier made with respect to moving this project forward that we wanted to achieve on. The fourth one, that I did not mention a minute ago, is the exact one that the member opposite brought forward, and that is whether or not the project was going to be done and managed and owned and executed by somebody other than us. On the contrary, to the concept of having Hydro Quebec or anybody else doing this project, I can assure the hon. member and the people of the Province that this project, if and when we do it, will be managed in Newfoundland and Labrador. It will be staged out of this Province. The engineering, the procurement and all of these activities will occur in this Province. I can assure the hon. member that the appropriate benefits will be achieved on this project as they were achieved on the Voisey's Bay and the White Rose projects. So, we will follow our own good example. We will follow our own good lead in what we do on this project, if we get it done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the minister will excuse me if I am somewhat skeptical about the promise. Isn't it a fact that one of the reasons the deal was put on the shelf, so to speak, from his ministerial statement, is because members of the Board of Directors of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and members of his own caucus were upset by the fact that Quebec and Hydro Quebec would chose who would do the engineering work and that Newfoundland and Labrador would have no say in it? Isn't that a fact, Mr. Speaker?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This time, Mr. Speaker, I will try -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This time I will try to get it a little more accurate and correct. The hon. member puts forward a proposition that is at least 180 degrees - if not 360 degrees - away from the truth and from the principles that we will have in a deal when we do it. We are moving forward, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the people of the Province to try and get a good deal. I would remind the hon. member that while I, as minister, announced - while as Inco announced last November, by way of example, that we wanted to get the Voisey's Bay negotiations done by the end of December if we could. We felt that was a reasonable objective. The fact of the matter was, Mr. Speaker, that December 31 on the Voisey's negotiations actually occurred on June 11 of the next year.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: I say that to make this point, that we are not going to be bamboozled or rushed or coerced or pressured by anybody into doing anything unless we believe it is the right thing for the people of the Province and for the development of the economy that we all will benefit from.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, isn't it a fact, I ask the minister, that while government and he, himself, were maintaining that this project was going to be 100 per cent owned by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, that Hydro-Quebec and the Province of Quebec were going to have equal say in terms of the distribution of jobs and benefits. Isn't that, in fact, one of the reasons why government today - because of pressure from the Liberal caucus, because of the resignations at Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, because of pressure from the Opposition, and ultimately from fear of what the people would do to the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador - that you are backtracking on the deal that you had last week?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, to the contrary, we are not backtracking. We are not moving in reverse. We are not at all looking in the rear-view mirror, as the people on the other side so frequently and so - they do it so well, actually, Mr. Speaker. We are moving forward, but we want to assure the people of the Province that, in their interest, we are moving forward prudently, we are moving forward cautiously, we are moving forward, taking into account all of the advice and all of the best information we have available to us, and we are moving forward so that at the end of this negotiation, if we are successful, not only we on this side of the House, but, we believe, any fair and objective-minded Newfoundlander and Labradorian, will conclude, when we get this done - if we get it done - that we have just as good a proposition, and just as supportable a deal -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: - as we had when we announced the Voisey's Bay deal and the White Rose deal, and as we had at the end of the conclusion of the boundaries resolution between us and Nova Scotia. We want to (inaudible) on behalf of the people of the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, we have yet to have the minister answer a question. I will ask him another straightforward question: Isn't it a fact that one of the reasons that the minister stood in his place today and went 150 degrees in the opposite direction of backtracking from the deal they had last week is because people in this Province, and advisers to the government, said: Be careful, because you are selling energy to a company like Hydro-Quebec for forty-five years and they are also lending you the money to do the project. Isn't it a fact that people warned the government that this was a very risky political economic and social proposition?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The answer to the question is not yes; it is no. Let me clarify for the hon. member in part why we need to advise the people of the Province periodically where we are on these major developments. It is precisely for this reason, Mr. Speaker: It is because people on the other side of the House spin a yarn, put forward a proposition, lay out what they allege to be a statement of fact, suggest that they have information and deals in front of them that, in fact, they do not have, and cause the people of the Province to be misinformed, to be misled, to cause the people of the Province to be put into a situation of getting not even half the information but no information that, in fact, has been put out by the government.

We have to operate so as to ensure that the people of the Province know what our agenda is on their behalf and know what the political agenda is by the people on the other side of the House who are interested primarily in one thing, and that is, to find a way, after fourteen years, to wander back on this side of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: I say to the people of the Province and to the people on the other side, keep waiting, be patient. You have been so far, and you will still need more patience for the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I just heard from the minister that they have all the information. They will not give it to the people, and now we are ones at fault for trying to bring out into the open a terrible deal that this government was about to do.

Mr. Speaker, let me ask the minister this question: Isn't it a fact that one of the reasons you backtracked from the deal that you were proposing in the last two weeks is that the cost of borrowing was going to be so high that what we would have ended up paying back to Hydro-Quebec would have been way beyond what would have been considered prudent financial management on behalf of the government?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the hon. member and the people of the Province that we are not, in any circumstance or by any standard of measurement, backtracking at all. What we are doing is updating the people of the Province that we are moving forward cautiously and prudently and carefully so as to ensure that we get the best possible deal in their interest.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: We have no intention of rushing forward simply because somebody might believe there is a political agenda or a political advantage for us or somebody else to do this in a very quick fashion.

Last week, two weeks ago, as last November with the Voisey's deal, we felt that probably we could move this agenda and this project forward a little more quickly than, in reality, we have been able to do, but that, Mr. Speaker, is not a condemnation of the process nor a condemnation of the concept -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: - nor a condemnation of the deal itself. It is simply saying that we are going to take the time we need to do due diligence to every aspect of this negotiation and this project so that, if and when we get it done, we will be happy to bring it forward and we will be happy to debate it with the people of the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

A final supplementary. In the last two weeks in this House, members of the Opposition have been called fear mongers, scare mongers; we are not proposing the truth; the questions we are asking were not appropriate. In an effort to clear all of that up, so the people of the Province can decide who was doing what, in view of the fact that the minister has now moved back from his statement, or the government have moved back from the deal, let me ask him this, Mr. Speaker: Will he, on behalf of the government, table the documents that he presented to his caucus, table the documents and the resolutions that he presented to Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, so that people of the Province can decide who was on the up and up as it relates to the development of the Lower Churchill?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge that the members of the Opposition have a very critical and a very important role to perform in our democracy, in our parliamentary system. I want to remind them again, and I want to ensure the people of the Province because I believe they understand, that when you are negotiating a project, whether you are in the private sector to private sector, whether it is government to government, whether it is government to private sector, whatever, no negotiation of any magnitude, let alone one of this magnitude, can be done in the public domain. Discussions have to be held privately. They have be held in confidence. They have to be held in a fashion where you can have good and hard negotiations take place so that when you get your work done you can bring forward not all of the things that you discussed when you went through it, not all of the working papers that you had around you, not all of the documents that were put forward for review and that sort of thing -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: - so that when you move a project forward to conclusion, you bring forward one set of documents. It is called the final deal and that everybody can see what it is, examine it for what it is and -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister now to take his seat.

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 are also for the Minister of Mines and Energy.

On Thursday the Leader of the Opposition asked the Premier about a report in the National Post that the Prime Minister of Canada, in a meeting with the Premier of Ontario, had raised the possibility of federal support to build a transmission line to transport electricity to Ontario from a proposed new hydroelectric development at Conawapa in Manitoba.

My question is: Is the minister aware that on Friday past the federal Minister of Environment confirmed that Ottawa is examining the feasibility of federal support in the amount of $1.4 billion to allow a transmission line to get Conawapa power to Ontario?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, the comments of the Prime Minister last week with respect to the federal government's interest in a national energy grid for electricity is most interesting. To some extent, I must confess, I am a little curious about it because this issue of an energy grid for electricity to go across this country freely and uninhibited - much like oil moves across the country, much like natural gas moves - is something that for the last two years I have been raising, and my colleagues at the provincial level have been raising, with the federal minister over and over in federal/provincial ministers' meetings. We have gotten zero level of interest expressed to us.

For many, many years the governments on this side of the House - previous to Liberal administrations, PC administrations - have been trying to attract the interest of the federal government on in-feed issues, on support for a project that we might develop with an in-feed or even without an in-feed. We have gotten zero level of support from the federal government.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: All of a sudden, in the context of Kyoto, this becomes a national issue. I am curious about it, and I am aware of the comments of the Minister of Environment, the hon. David Anderson. As a matter of fact, I have them here in front of me right out of the Winnipeg Free Press.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: I am more than interested to find out, through the Prime Minister's Office, what the real interest is of the federal government in terms of this megaproject on behalf of the people (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, in view of comments emanating from Ottawa, has this government requested now today, up until today - in view of the comments last week, Mr. Speaker, have we requested federal financial support to transport power from Gull Island to Ontario or the Maritime Provinces or the Northeastern United States or Labrador or the Island of Newfoundland?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member could have added a few more "ors", because I can tell you that we are interested and have been for many years, as a people in this Province, in developing our hydroelectricity and selling it to wherever we can get it to that gives us the best value for the product we have to sell.

What I can say to the hon. member is this, that we have continuously raised with the Prime Minister directly, with the federal government more generally, over and over and over again, the concept of their support for the development of our projects, and we have had zero level of interest expressed.

We hope, Mr. Speaker, that this latest statement by the Prime Minister does, in fact, represent a change of position by the federal government in terms of their support for mega hydroelectricity projects. We will soon see because we are at the enquiry level at the officials level in Ottawa. I can tell the hon. members, without saying more, that at the political level we are also raising this issue for clarification and, hopefully, for finding out that, in fact, there is something more now in terms of possibilities than there has been for the last eight or ten or twelve or fifteen or twenty years, even, in terms of the feds' position.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, the same minister told the House of Commons on Friday that Ottawa would look at any proposal from any province - he said any province - or from any provincial hydro corporation for assistance to transport electricity to markets.

I ask the hon. minister: How does that statement square with this Premier's repeated claim that Ottawa is not interested in anyway in helping out with Gull Island?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We, Mr. Speaker, cautiously but sincerely hope that the federal government has, in fact, expressed, through the Prime Minister and the Minister of Environment last week, a new approach and a new position with respect to their interest in and probable and possible support for hydroelectricity developments anywhere in Canada. Because, guess what, Mr. Speaker? If they have come to a new position and if they have a new approach and if they are prepared to have discussions that heretofore they have shutdown and dismissed out of hand, we will be the first at the table, we will be the first in the door, we will be the first to push on behalf of this Province our interest in terms of any new and adjusted policy that they might now have as a matter of position.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, last week the Romanow Royal Commission released its final report and acknowledged that there is a critical of nurses in this country, and that each province needed to move quickly to ensure it didn't become a crisis.

I ask the minister: In light of that kind of environment, why is it that health boards in this Province are still only offering graduates coming out next spring, the 100 graduates, casual positions, when recruiters from across the country are coming in here offering permanent, full-time jobs, much higher paying than we are offering here in Newfoundland and Labrador?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is nice to see that the hon. member has acknowledged the Romanow Report and indeed, it is a good piece of work that has been done. It does, in a very, very sincere and comprehensive way, put forward many issues that everyone in this country is concerned about. The issue that the hon. member raises is one of these. There is, in fact, a national study that was released just a short time ago which references some of the issues, the broader issues, that the hon. member has referenced.

In terms of the situation as it applies in this Province, in fact, I think our record in terms of recruitment and retention of our health care providers, including our nurses, is second to none.

In terms of what is happening with our various boards; again, I say to the hon. member that the function of our health care boards is to operate as autonomously as they can. He understands that. He was part of the system.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SMITH: This minister and this government does not presume to micromanage the health care system in this Province. But, quite frankly, I think I have a little more respect for the CEOs and those people who are out making those kinds of decisions on the ground and I do feel that they have this matter in hand.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Trinity North, final supplementary.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, again, on the Romanow Report. In an interview with a local radio station that was aired last night the Premier expressed optimism that the new funding could be used to pay for such things as debt reduction of health boards and negotiated salary increases for health practitioners, particularly physicians. Considering that the Province's share of the $6.5 billion will only be $115 million, that is when all of the recommendations are fully implemented: Can the minister tell this House if this will be sufficient funding to cover the costs of those two initiatives alone?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not know the remarks that the hon. member attributes to the Premier, I never heard the interview, but I would assume his remarks were couched and the point of view that - I think most jurisdictions in this country were hoping that from the Romanow Report there would have been something there that would have referred to the immediate situation as it pertains in the various jurisdictions, including Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, everyone in this House has an understanding of the amount of commitment that this government, at this point in time, is making to the delivery of health care in this country. I would say to him, in terms of his math, I would have to suggest to him that certainly at this point in time I think it is a little bit premature. Romanow and his report does not reference the fact - his recommendation is that any allocations be made on a needs basis, strictly on a per capita.

The hon. member, I would suggest in terms of the math that he has done -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SMITH: - is strictly on a per capita, and to this point in time we are not sure - I hope it is not, but we are not sure at this point in time. That is the way the matter is going to proceed.

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

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is great to see that most of the debate which occupied the last three sessions of the House of Assembly were dominated by Labrador issues, but those of us who live in Labrador, Mr. Speaker, while we are interested in them, we have other issues as well.

My question is for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

In July of this year I issued a press release about communications along the Trans-Labrador Highway. The minister responded the following week by stating that he would address them. To date, no action from the minister. I want to ask the minister, given the fact that communications on this highway could mean the difference between life and death, and given the fact that this is a public safety issue for which you are responsible, will you commission the coverage of cellphone usage along the Trans-Labrador Highway for the users of that highway?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I agree with the hon. member, that communications along this highway is a very, very important issue and it is an issue that we take very, very seriously. For me to order that there would be cellphone use along the highway, that is not within my jurisdiction. Cellphone coverage comes under the private companies, and I guess we are not at liberty to order the companies to provide cellphone coverage. If that was the case, I guess we would have all of Newfoundland and Labrador covered. We do have instances on the Island similar to Labrador in terms of long stretches of the highway where we do not have telephone service. What I have done, under my control, is, we do have the ability to be able to put satellite phones in strategic areas along that particular highway. I have commissioned somebody in my department, we are negotiating with the satellite companies, and I would anticipate we would be in a position pretty soon to outline where we are going to install those phones on this particular highway.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister that battery operated phones and satellite phones have a purpose but they are going to be a great distance apart, which still leaves people stranded in emergency situations.

I say to the minister, we want a system where people have the ability to use their cellphones so they can communicate wherever they are stranded, not twenty-five kilometers from where they are.

Again, I ask the minister, given the fact that this is a public safety issue - this is not a cellphone use for profit - that you must address -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. COLLINS: - will you take your responsibilities seriously and address that issue?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I do not disagree with the hon. member. I think there are two companies in this Province that provide cellphone coverage.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who are they?

MR. BARRETT: Rogers and, I think, NewTel.

AN HON. MEMBER: Cantel, the other one.

MR. BARRETT: Cantel, the other one.

I guess, from a point of view, they should look at - right now, what they are doing is putting in cellphone coverage in terms of where it is economically viable and where they make tremendous profits. I think these companies should be required -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. BARRETT: - as part of their licence, to provide full coverage, to take from the areas where they are making a lot of money and provide coverage to areas where they cannot make any money. I think that should be part of the contract with the CRTC and I think that all of us should lobby together. I am with the hon. member in terms of that (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has ended.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table copies of the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2002.

Petitions

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

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of a number of residents of this Province. I will read the petition, Mr. Speaker:

WHEREAS in 1998 the Province provided funding for four new multiple sclerosis drug therapies, Betaseron, Avonex, Copaxone and Rebif, under the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program; and

WHEREAS the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program only provides medication coverage for seniors under the Senior Citizens' Drug Subsidy Program and people on income support; and

WHEREAS these drugs can cost between $1,800 and $3,600 a month; and

WHEREAS all citizens in other Canadian provinces can receive assistance with high cost MS drugs, using co-payment and sliding scale programs, not limited to social assistance income levels; and

WHEREAS these drugs can significantly improve the quality of life for people with multiple sclerosis;

WHEREFORE we the undersigned petition the House of Assembly to direct the government to implement a co-payment or sliding scale program for Betaseron, Avonex, Copaxone and Rebif so that people who do not qualify for assistance under the existing programs can get financial assistance with these high cost drugs, as in the case in other Canadian provinces.

And as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, there are many people in this Province who suffer from MS, people who need other expensive drugs or hormone replacement therapies, all sorts, Alzheimer's and many others. This is the only Province in our country that does not provide any assistance whatsoever for our citizens.

What really irritates us is not the fact that they will not provide service, because they will - so this government cannot say it is too expensive because, in the end, they will provide service - it is what they force people to do to themselves first that really irritates me and upsets the people who have signed this petition.

Mr. Speaker, if a person is working for a living, and has a drug plan that they can claim these drugs under, then a lot of these drug plans have a maximum lifetime cap. I think you can appreciate, with the cost of these drugs, that does not take long to reach, leaving with them no coverage for any other illness that they maybe afflicted by later on.

Mr. Speaker, the diseases that I have mentioned that these drugs are for, they are not things that people brought on themselves. They are not brought on because someone went out to abuse themselves, or any other reason. They inherited these diseases, so they should get the assistance from this government.

Every other jurisdiction in this country has a sliding scale or a co-payment system of helping people who are afflicted by these diseases. I think it is a sad reflection on this government when the hard-working people of this Province have to ruin themselves financially by cashing in any RRSPs they may have, or spending any money they may have put aside in their children's education fund, by having to reduce themselves to income support levels before this government will offer any assistance whatsoever. I think that it a deplorable situation and I think it is one that this government should be addressing.

I noticed in the Romanow report, Mr. Speaker, that this problem is addressed and that he says, to the provinces, that money should be provided for this, but I hope, Mr. Speaker, that this government does not wait -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. COLLINS: By leave, just to clue up, Mr. Speaker?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. COLLINS: I hope, Mr. Speaker, that this government does not take the position that on all of these issues now, that it is contained in the Romanow report, therefore we are studying it and we will make our decisions later as to what will or what will not be done.

I say to this government, it is important for the people of this Province that they act immediately and provide assistance to the people who need these high-priced drugs so that they do not have to destroy their lives before this government will offer any assistance.

Thank you.

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

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition to this House of Assembly, and the petition is on behalf of members of the Retired Teachers Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. If I may read the petition:

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

WHEREAS retired teachers in this Province have made such a valuable contribution to the education in this Province; and

WHEREAS retired teachers have not had any increase in their fixed income to match ever-increasing costs of daily living since January 1989; and

WHEREAS the Retired Teachers Association believe a retired pensioner should be able to maintain a standard of living close to that enjoyed at the time of their retirement;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to initiate immediate action to review the current situation and reinstate regular escalation, in the form of annual ad hoc increases, to retired teachers' pensions.

Mr. Speaker, I bring this petition on behalf of the couple of hundred people, retired teachers, who signed this petition, and others, and I bring it to the attention of the House because their voices need to be hear. These retired teachers, I do not have to tell you or this House the contribution they have made. Looking down over the list, there are teachers, I am sure, who have taught some of the members of this House; and, of course, there are members in this House whose colleagues have retired. As a matter of fact, there are almost as many teachers now retired as are active in teaching.

The Retired Teachers Association, at the last general meeting, I believe, in November of 2002, put together a resolution that they have presented to the Premier and to members of this House, and I assume that most of the members have seen a copy of this. It is entitled: Losing the Race, and it is making the case for regular increases and pension benefits to retired teachers.

I say, Mr. Speaker, up until 1989, there were increases on a yearly basis to try and stay ahead of the rising cost of living, and these increases were able to maintain, I guess, some standard very much comparable to the standard of living which these teachers retired under.

Since 1989, for whatever reasons, the government of the day has decided that these increases are not to be granted. What the retired teachers of Newfoundland and Labrador would look to see is, for it to be addressed, that the situation be looked at, and that the brief be taken into account.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HEDDERSON: If I might have a minute just to finish up?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just in finishing up, again, this is a legitimate petition presented in the hope that the government of the day would look at the situation. We certainly do not want to see retired teachers, certainly retired professionals of any group, to be living in a situation where they are well below the poverty line as set down in this particular Province. So again I urge the government to take this under advisement, to look at the brief that has been presented, and to act on behalf of the retired teachers of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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.

I stand today to present a petition as well. The petition reads: To the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador in legislative session convened, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador;

WHEREAS the government has requested the Board of Regents to consider a name change of our University; and

WHEREAS Memorial University of Newfoundland is excluded under the Newfoundland and Labrador Act; and

WHEREAS publicly funded universities can be named for a region of a province; and

WHEREAS when other political entities changed, the name of the university within it did not; and

WHEREAS our educational mandate is not limited to this Province; and

WHEREAS the University is on the Island of Newfoundland; and

WHEREAS the first university in other provinces did not reflect the entire name of the province; and

WHEREAS there will be enormous costs to undergo this name change; and

WHEREAS there are enormous disadvantages to not having a geographic identity attached to the University; and

WHEREAS another proposed university in this Province is more suitable to have Labrador added to its name

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to retain the current name, Memorial University of Newfoundland, as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, this is a petition again with hundreds of names on it. As I was looking through the names they are certainly not names from only one location.

I also would like to read what is printed on the top of each page where people's names are signed underneath. It says: Petition to keep the name of Memorial University of Newfoundland. It goes on to say: we, the undersigned, disagree with the proposal to change the name of Memorial University of Newfoundland. We believe the name should remain as it is in memorial to those who served in WWI and WWII when Newfoundland was a colony and not a Province of Canada. It should not be shortened to Memorial University or lengthened to Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Many of those petitions, Mr. Speaker, are signed by people who are active members of the Royal Canadian Legion throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The petitions that I have presented here are representative of legion members from places like Botwood, Bonavista South, Bonavista and other names right across the Province.

My understanding is the name proposal that was brought forward is not acceptable to some of those people. They would like to see the name of Memorial University of Newfoundland left the way it is. They feel the enormous costs that would be associated with making this name change, the money could certainly be spent otherwise, when you consider the rise in tuition fees and the drop in enrollment and the cost of getting an education today.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to members in the House that this is a petition signed by hundreds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and I, too, will be adding my name to this petition as I agree with the people who have put this petition forward.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from my district. It has been looked at by the Clerk of the House. The petition is not in an order that is acceptable to the House, so I would like to ask leave of my hon. colleagues to present this petition on behalf of over 400 of my constituents.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS JONES: Yes, it is.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This petition is submitted by people from the South Coast of Labrador. I will just read what the petition says. It is in support of the community of Williams Harbour.

WHEREAS the community of Williams Harbour is currently not connected to the Trans-Labrador Highway; and

WHEREAS it is essential to make any community economically viable, a cost-effective transportation infrastructure system must be in place;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the undersigned are hereby petitioning government to construct a road link to the Trans-Labrador Highway for the community of Williams Harbour.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to present this petition in the House of Assembly today and to offer my support to the people in Williams Harbour, the community of Williams Harbour and the surrounding communities, who are lobbying government to have a road connection into that particular community.

Mr. Speaker, Williams Harbour, not unlike many of the communities in my district, has been for many years a small and isolated outport that has had to meet many challenges over the years, and those challenges, not only from an economic prospective, but also from a social perspective.

In the last five years we have witnessed tremendous investment in highway development in Labrador, primarily. We have seen well over $130 million invested by government to allow the connection of communities like: Mary's Harbour, Lodge Bay, St. Lewis, Port Hope Simpson, Charlottetown and Cartwright.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot stop there. Last year we made a decision to allocate funds to do a road connection into the community of Pinsent Arm. That connection will be finished in September of 2003. This positions Williams Harbour to be just eighteen kilometres from the now constructed Trans-Labrador Highway system. I do not think we can stop with our investments at this particular time. While we continue to build the highway from Cartwright to Goose Bay, we also have to continue to focus on connecting as many communities as we possibly can to this very essential highway network.

Mr. Speaker, the people of this particular community have had to use the services in Port Hope Simpson and Charlottetown, whether it came to hospital services or other services, over many, many years.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MS JONES: May I have leave just to clue up, please?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MS JONES: Thank you.

I think that we have reached a time in our history where we have to be able to connect all communities in our Province where possible and where economical to a highway connection. This is a community that allows us to be able to do that on both fronts. So, I think we should give every consideration to the request that has been put forward. I will certainly lobby very hard on my part, as the MHA for this particular area, to ensure that this community is able to avail of a proper transportation system and be serviced as a lot of outports within our Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Orders of the Day

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, Order 14, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Adoption Act. (Bill 14)

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Adoption Act." (Bill 14)

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

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is indeed a pleasure for me to rise in this House today to bring forward -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SMITH: Yes, I am certainly prepared to move if the hon. members opposite - because I think this is a piece of legislation that we all agree is in order. Certainly, I know in the time that I have been with the department there has been a considerable lobby right throughout the Province with regard to bringing this forward.

Mr. Speaker, I guess just to put it in context, what we are, in fact, doing here today is introducing a number of amendments for a very progressive piece of legislation which was brought in a while ago. I guess in the process of travelling the Province and informing and updating people who would be carrying out and delivering this act, in briefing them, there were a number of issues that came to light. The general consensus was - rather than just proceed with proclaiming the legislation with some of the improvements that had been recommended - that the proper thing to do would be to bring the amendments before the House, have the amendments made to the legislation before it is proclaimed and it does, indeed, become law in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, the amendments that are in there are - well, in the main they may seem fairly straightforward. They are, in fact, very, very important. These are things that, as I said, got overlooked in the original legislation. For example, they include such things as the definition of a court - being the Supreme Court of Newfoundland, the United Family Court, as well as Provincial courts - as both levels of court deal with adoption applications in this Province. On the surface it seems to be fairly straightforward. I think if we look at it you could see where there could be, unless there were clarification, the basis here for causing some problems as people move forward in this area.

There are a number of those there, Mr. Speaker. I am not going to go through all of them in great detail. I am sure all hon. members who propose to speak in this debate will reference them. I know that hon. members on both sides of the House have been lobbied in recent days to have this brought forward. I had hoped that we would have been able to deal with this piece of legislation at our spring sitting but unfortunately, there was a lot of other business that took precedent and as a result this piece remained on the Order Paper.

Mr. Speaker, the one piece, as well, that I guess I should reference briefly is as it relates to international adoptions because this is a piece in the area of adoptions that in recent days has been very much in the news. It has been prompted by one or two cases here in the Province of adoptive parents who have expressed some difficulties with the way that international adoptions have proceeded. The regulations as they exist in this country, and as they certainly will now exist, because under these amendments we are making here we will now, in fact, be able to deal with international adoptions and its right to its conclusions ourselves, that we will put the necessary framework in place.

The concerns that are there are on two fronts. I know I have dealt with some hon. members opposite in dealing with specifics from their own districts. One, Mr. Speaker, is to try to make sure that the rights of everyone involved in these adoptions are protected, keeping in mind that some of these countries where adoptions are made, their laws - the controls and systems they have in place are certainly a far cry from what we enjoy in this country. As a result, we have, I think - it is on all of us that we certainly do not want to encourage a situation whereby children are, by illegal means or otherwise, being taken from rightful families in these countries and brought into this part of the world.

The other concern, Mr. Speaker, as well, we do know of cases where adoptive parents from this country, and indeed this Province, have been taken in by people who have purported to be able to fast-track the process for them and, after expending a considerable amount of money, they found themselves in a situation where they have been no further along.

Mr. Speaker, I think we all have a great deal of empathy and respect for people who bring themselves forward to be adoptive parents. I think their motives are unquestioned and I certainly applaud, as I am sure all hon. members do, those people who come forward out of a genuine love for children and who want to make a real loving home for them. The unfortunate thing for us now in this Province is that in recent years the number of children who are becoming available for adoption within our own Province is very, very small, and that is why, more and more, international adoptions are becoming more of an option that is pursued. That, Mr. Speaker, is an important piece of this because it does put in place now and will allow us to have the mechanism here in this Province, because one of the difficulties that we have run into, to this point in time, is that they have been forced to go through agencies outside of this Province because we have not had the wherewithal here in order to deliver all aspects of it.

Mr. Speaker, I think this is a good piece of legislation. I know everybody who has had an opportunity to examine it - and it has been vetted widely throughout the Province, certainly to people who work within the health and community services system, our social workers and all of those who work in the area of adoptions - recommend it highly. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, I think parents generally are anxiously awaiting the proclamation of this piece of legislation. It is long overdue and it is my pleasure today to introduce it here in the House and to recommend to my colleagues a speedy passage of this very important piece of legislation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

In a press release on February 16, 1998, when the minister released the Green Paper on Adoption, she stated that the Adoption Advisory Committee, after reviewing the options for changing the current adoption legislation, believed that the first responsibility in drafting legislation is to the child. However, the adults involved are entitled to have their concerns handled with sensitivity and understanding.

Mr. Speaker, there will always be people who feel their best interests are not being served by any legislation that we bring in. I know people on all sides of this issue. There are children out there who are looking for their birth parents, and have been for a lot of years. There are parents who are looking for their children, and have been for a lot of years. I know children who have been in contact with their birth parents. Some have had good unions and some have not been as fortunate. I know of adopted children who have absolutely no desire to search for their birth parents, and they actually hope that the birth parents will never look for them.

I know of a woman who was forced by her parents to give her child up for adoption some thirty-five years ago. She is still looking for her child. To be reunited with that child is one of her concerns, but the other concern is that the father of that birth child died at a young age and he died with a disease that could very well have been passed on to the child. Even though that it just within the last thirty-five years, the post-adoption department has been unsuccessful in tracking down that child who is presently basically, I suppose, a walking time bomb and does not know. He was adopted by Americans when the base was open, and they have been very unsuccessful in tracking him down. In bringing in any new legislation or in amending any legislation, how do we choose whose interests we serve?

There has been some representation made to me recently about people who have adopted children in the past, and they are concerned about the retroactivity of the openness legislation. Neither Bill 45 nor Bill 14 have done anything to alleviate the concerns of the adoptive parents and they actually made representation to the department and to the advisory committee. What they are saying is that in 1993, in that particular act, or in the amendments that were made in 1993, a child had a right to seek the birth mother or not. If the child did not want to find the birth parents, they did not need to do anything, just carry on with their lives, but they had the right to initiate.

The rights of the children in any legislation must remain paramount. The choice at the present time, under the present legislation, is with the child who has the best of both worlds because they are not precluded but they are not forced to make any decisions. Bill 45 and Bill 14, the combination of both of them, will see that even retroactively the child has to do a veto and a no-contact representation. Some of the parents who adopted under the old law are very concerned about that. They would like for it to go about as it is now and let the child make the decision but not have to make a decision to veto or no-contact.

Under the new act, we are told, and these parents were told, that the new act would not be retroactive. It is retroactive and it affects the existing legislation. Birth parents or even relatives have the right to seek any information, and the only way for any of them to stop it is for the child to file the veto and the no-contact form.

For a person who has gone through one of the most important decisions that they will make in their lives, and that is to become adoptive parents, and to have adopted under the old rules, now the rules are changed midstream and many of them feel that their child has been put in a pressure cooker. The rights now go with the birth parents and relatives.

One of the other things that I would like to discuss is that under existing or new legislation, nowhere is it mandatory for birth parents to give all medical information that pertains to them. One of the suggestions that has been made to me, particularly in light of the woman who gave her child up for adoption thirty-five years ago and then, in the interim, the child's father became very sick and did, in fact, die, and this could be passed on, that would certainly underpin and certainly emphasize the need for it to be mandatory for birth parents to give any medical information, not only any medical information that would be pertinent at the time but that forms should possibly be sent out to them or they should be mandated, probably every year or every couple of years, to update any new medical information that could arise that would have any effect on the child that they gave up for adoption.

Persons who are already adoptive parents have made representation to me. What they are saying is, under the present legislation, adoptions that are ordered in Newfoundland and Labrador, as in all other provinces, are only possible with the informed consent of the birth parents. Birth parents do go through consultations, they are consulted as to other alternatives to giving their child up for adoption at the time. In all circumstances, a birth parent is full informed of all available options, including the option of receiving financial support from government and raising a child as a single parent. That is presently given to them.

An adoption order takes away the legal rights from the natural parent, guardian or person in whose custody the adopted child has been, and it frees that person from legal obligations and duties with respect to the child. It makes the adopted child, for all purposes, the child of the adopting parents, and that is legally, morally, emotionally and everything. It imposes upon the adopting parent legal obligations and duties as if the adopting parent were the natural parent of the child from the date of the adoption order. The adopted child shall, unless otherwise ordered by the judge, receive the surname of the adopting parent.

Under the provisions as well, copies of birth certificates and/or adoption orders would be made available to adoptive parents or the adopted person. An adopted person who is nineteen years of age or older may request the release of information contained in his or her file and for information about other parties to the adoption. For instance, the child may seek information or can say that they will have information released to the birth parents.

The act provides that the minister, upon receiving such a request, will release non-identifying information and would release identifying information with the consent of the birth parents. The adopted person has the right to seek contact, again with the consent of the birth parents. Equally, if an adopted person chooses to maintain his or her privacy and not seek or disclose identifying information or have contact with the birth parent, that also is that person's right under the existing legislation.

While the provision for openness clearly exists, it is in the hands of the adopted person to decide whether or not to seek such disclosure or contact and at what period of their adult lives they do want to pursue it. So, presently the adoptee has the right to either seek or not to seek. They also don't have to make that decision at any certain age. For instance, under the new legislation the adoptee would have to file a veto at eighteen years of age.

The representation that has been made to me on behalf of these parents, and some of their concerns, is that the new legislation fails to respect the rights of parties to legally-ordered adoptions under existing legislation. Their biggest concern is, it would retroactively remove and adversely impact the existing legislated rights of adopted persons and adoptive parents.

This is quite emotional for them. To make a decision to adopt a child is probably the most important thing that you will do in your life. When these parents made that decision, ten, fifteen, five, seven years ago, they made the decision under the existing legislation, and now they are contending that the rules of the game have changed for them partway through. They figure that it is going to result in undue hardship to adopted persons and the adoptive parents. The veto mechanisms will put young adopted persons, eighteen years of age, on the defensive, forcing them to file vetoes to avoid release of personal identifying information about themselves and their adoptive families without their consent, and to avoid unwanted and unsolicited contact by birth parents or relatives of birth parents.

What these parents are contending is that it is creating a very pressured situation and could easily result in emotional harm to young adopted persons who have to make that decision at a very specified time in their lives, rather than having the latitude, at whatever age of their adult life they are, to make the decision at that time.

In a conversation with two adoptive parents a few months ago, the director spoke on how difficult a disclosure contact decision can be, even for adopted persons who are forty years of age. Basically, this is what these adoptive parents are saying, that if the adoptee could choose at what point in their lives to make the decision, whether or not to contact, then it would alleviate the pressure, but to put the onus on the adoptee to make that decision when they are eighteen years of age is putting undue emotional harm on them.

The new legislation fails to honour commitments to parties who have adopted under the current legislation. The legislation fails to differentiate between adoptions ordered under existing legislation and adoptions in the future. These people are not questioning the fact that these laws will be in for people who adopt on a go-forward basis, but they are contending that they negatively impact the people who did adopt before this legislation came in place and does affect them retroactively. The legislation fails to distinguish between adoptions of infants and older children. In the areas of disclosure and contact, the legislation is out of line with virtually every provincial jurisdiction in Canada.

I would like to talk about the adoption legislation in some other provinces, and make some comparative provisions. In Prince Edward Island, the legislation and the amendments were brought in, in 1993, and that compares more closely with existing legislation in this Province. It respects privacy and the rights of the adopted persons and the adoptive parents, re: disclosure of identifying information and contact, but it is permissive where the adult adoptee initiates and the birth parents consent. That is much the same as is happening now in our Province.

In New Brunswick, legislation was brought in between 1997 and 2000. It also compares more closely with existing legislation in this Province. It respects privacy and rights of adopted persons and adoptive parents, re: the disclosing of identifying information and contact. It is permissive where an adult adoptee has registered a wish to contact the birth parents and siblings, and other persons have voluntarily registered a willingness to be contacted.

In 1996, Nova Scotia legislation was brought in, and the existing act resembles closely the existing legislation in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, re: the disclosure of identifying information and contact, and is only permitted with the written consent of the parties.

In November, 1999, a new Adoption Act was tabled in Nova Scotia, and this is interesting. That tabled act contained more openness provisions and it incorporated disclosure veto and no contact declaration mechanisms. There was strong negative reaction to the provisions and the legislation was not enacted.

At that time, when that legislation was not enacted, there was a ministerial advisory committee established and a public consultation process provided for discussion of potential impacts with all affected parties. They brought in unanimous recommendations, and these recommendations were: that proposed new rules governing adoption would apply only to adoptions in the future - this is what the present adoptive parents in our Province are saying - and that any amendment to the legislation show consideration for persons who may not wish disclosure or contact with respect to adoptions made prior to the enactment of the proposed amendments. That legislation is still under review.

In 1997, Quebec brought in legislation that more closely compared with existing legislation in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador re: disclosure of identifying information and contact. Adopted persons may initiate the request; birth parent must consent. Disclosure to birth parents only if the adult adoptee has consented, and consent may not be solicited.

In Ontario - interestingly enough, the people who made representation to me were speaking with the Director of Child Welfare at the time and the Child Welfare said that our new legislation would closely resemble Ontario's. In Ontario, the legislation compares more closely with the legislation in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It respects privacy and rights of adopted persons and adoptive parents re: disclosure and contact. The Adoption Disclosure Register permits adopted persons and the birth parent, birth sibling, to register if they wish disclosure and contact. They do not have to veto it. Disclosure and contact is only where both have registered. The adult adoptee may initiate a search for the birth parent, if not registered, but the consent of the birth parent is still required. A birth relative may not initiate a search for an adult adoptee.

Manitoba's legislation, which was brought in, in 1999, is permissive with respect to openness in adoptions but respects the privacy and rights of adopted person and adoptive parents, thereby differing materially from the proposed Newfoundland and Labrador legislation re: disclosure and contact. It distinguishes between adoptions under previous and new legislation.

Once again, I emphasize the importance of go-forward on new adoptions as compared to retroactive, which will affect people who made a decision to adopt before this new legislation.

There is de facto grandfathering of rights of adoptive families who adopted under the previous legislation. Veto mechanisms are available to adoptive parents. Previous legislation adoptions - disclosure and contact only if both parties are registered in a post-adoption registry. Veto mechanisms are available, but no disclosure or contact unless. Vetoes are applicable to previous and future adoptions and they extend beyond death. Our new legislation will provide for a year after death.

The Saskatchewan legislation was brought in, in1998. Since 1995, provision for more open adoptions to take place. However, provisions governing adoption vary significantly from the proposed Newfoundland and Labrador legislation. There are some statements by government officials in Saskatchewan, "We don't order people through the law to be open. We recognize an open adoption is not for everyone; if someone wants a closed adoption, it would be accepted."

Re: disclosure and contact, the act distinguishes between past and future adoptions. The act does not require adoptees to file access or contact vetoes. Once again, this is the point of contention: the fact that the adoptees have to file as opposed to filing only when they feel they are ready. Disclosure and contact are permitted only where adult adoptees and birth parents both consent.

Legislation brought in 2000/2002 in Alberta: Since 2000, Alberta has made provision for more open adoptions but, like Saskatchewan, the provisions governing adoption vary significantly from the approach being proposed in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Re: disclosure and contact, the new act differentiates between past and future adoptions. Re: disclosure and contact as well, adoptive families including adult adopted person are not forced to file vetoes to avoid disclosure or contact. Rather, they are given the opportunity to seek disclosure and/or contact if desired. That is a very, very important part of this legislation. There is no disclosure or contact without prior consent. The veto mechanism is also available to all parties who wish to register a no-disclosure/no-contact position, and it applies to previous and new legislation. Once again, in providing to the previous legislation, nobody is forced to file a veto to avoid disclosure or contact.

In British Columbia legislation that was brought in between 1996 and 2000: The provisions of this act are, in some respects, more comparable to those contained in the proposed Newfoundland and Labrador legislation. However, many provisions in the proposed Newfoundland and Labrador act go far beyond even the B.C. act governing adoptions.

The people who made contact with me and who have asked me to bring their voice to this hon. House have provided some solutions. They have no difficulty with government trying to respond to the request for openness, but they "...question to what extent this relates to an administrative problem as opposed to a legislative requirement." They, "...also question why this has any relevance to the changes in the legislation which would adversely impact the existing rights of adoptive parents and the rights of adoptive children."

"Government is concerned that not all adopted persons have always been told of their adopted status."

"To this concern..." they say, "...in the vast majority of adoptions in more recent years (10-15 years) this has not been the case. It may have been more of an issue a generation ago." Senior departmental officials also agree with this. "It is not an acceptable reason to retroactively remove legislated rights of parties to adoption under existing legislation." Basically, what government is proposing to do is remove the rights, retroactively, to contracts that these people made before this new legislation came in.

They are questioning "...whether government would intend to contact all existing adoptees to inform them of their status or how the provisions of the proposed legislation would address this stated concern."

They are asking that legislation be introduced "...which recognizes some of the changing conditions affecting adoption (eg. adoptions of older children, increasing requests for international adoption, etc.)." But, "...there is no need and no legitimate reason to retroactively remove or alter the legislated rights of parties to existing adoptions. In this respect the proposed legislation is out of step with virtually every jurisdiction in Canada." And that includes the jurisdiction of British Columbia where it has been working pretty well, but the Newfoundland and Labrador proposed legislation goes far beyond that.

There was an ad in the paper concerning adoptions and that ad was placed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, by the Department of Health and Community Services, when the present Premier was then the minister of that department. It says, "Adoptions - Bringing Families Together. Modern and Open Approach. Did you know we are updating our adoptions legislation in the province? Our present legislation is fifty years old, and people in Newfoundland and Labrador have been asking for changes to our policies and law. That's why we introduced a new Adoption Act in the House of Assembly last fall." That would be the fall of 1999. "The new Act, which will come into effect in about a year..." - the act has been passed but it has not been proclaimed as yet, and now we have some amendments to the act - "...will allow some children to maintain contact with their birth family following adoption. Among other things, it will allow direct placement of infants with adoptive parents...", who have been chosen by the birth parents and that, of course, must be approved by the director. "There will also be an easier process for relative/step parent adoptions...". But the key part of this is, "But don't worry, we'll respect the confidentiality of adoptions occurring prior to the new Act being in place."

So, government basically promised people who had adopted children, prior to the new act being put in place, that the confidentiality would be respected. This is where those people are coming from. "And, as always, the best interests of children will remain our focus." As I said, the people who had made the very, very emotional and very important decision to adopt children prior to the new act coming in, did make representation to the minister and were told that the confidentiality of children adopted prior to the new act would be respected.

There are some other issues in the act. With respect to the duties of the director and the adoption agency, the present act charges the director and the adoption agency with the responsibility to make sure that the child, if sufficiently mature, has been counselled on the effects of adoption. This bill, however, replaces the reference to sufficiently mature, which is in the old act, with the requirement that a child five years of age or older be counselled on the effect of the adoption.

With respect to direct placement, the requirement of the director to ensure a child of sufficient maturity is counselled on the effects of adoption is changed by this bill to ensure that a child five years or older be counselled on the effect of adoption.

Furthermore, specific references in section 15 of the present act to the ability of the birth mother who has given consent for the adoption to revoke that consent within twenty-eight days, even if the child has been placed by the director, has been removed by this bill. The bill permits the director of child, youth and family services to approve revocation of consent after the twenty-one day period where the child has not been placed with the prospective adoptive parents, an application to the court is not required.

I did have representation from a couple who had applied for adoption here in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. They had been given a child, and it was a new baby. That child was brought to them from the hospital. This was within the past couple of years. After they had the child in their house for a couple of weeks or close to a month, the birth mother changed her mind. The social worker called the adopting parents and told them that the mother had changed her mind. Of course, the adoptive parents were devastated, but they were even more devastated when the social worker said to them: The birth mother cannot get into town until after the weekend, would you mind taking care of the baby until the birth mother gets into town? They were totally, completely devastated. So, I would like to see some provision in the act to prevent anything like this happening, because as well as being sensitive to the children, we have to, as well, be sensitive to the adoptive parents who are making a very, very important and very emotional decision which will affect their lives and the life of the child or children whom they adopt.

With respect to the court to effect a name change, this bill changes the act to lower the age from seven to five, at which time the child's views are to be considered. Somebody who was a birth mother and their child was in a foster home made representation to me also within the past year. The foster mother had changed the name of the child; the name the birth mother had given the child. The foster mother had not even adopted the child. The child may or may not have been in a position to be placed for adoption. The birth mother had absolutely no idea that her child's name was changed until the social worker started to discuss the baby and was using a different name than the birth mother had given. It was at that point that the birth mother realized that this foster parent had gone and changed the name of this baby to a name other than was given by the birth parent. That, of course, should never be allowed to happen.

This bill also allows for greater post-adoption openness. Under the present act, the adoptive parent of a child and a birth relative of that child or an adoptive parent of a child and an adoptive parent of a birth sibling of that child could "...register with a director to indicate their interest in making an openness agreement." This bill also allows another person who has established a relationship with a child to register with the director.

Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no problem with children being able to seek out their birth parents. What I am saying here is that by making it retroactive, we are basically trampling on the rights of people who adopted children under the old legislation to find partway through the game to have a child in their house and now new rules are being imposed. Whether they would have decided to adopt under the new legislation, well, that is for them to decide but, at least, this legislation should not be changed for them. The rules of the game should not be changed for them partway through the process; rules that affect both them and, most importantly, affect their child and put the onus, put the pressure on their child to apply to the director not to be found as opposed to letting the status quo remain and let that child, at whatever point in their adult life - whether it is eighteen, nineteen, twenty-five or forty years of age. When that adoptee is ready to seek or not to seek its birth parents, the child should be able to make that decision.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. ROSS WISEMAN: I apologize, Mr. Speaker, and I thank you for the opportunity to say a few words about this particular piece of legislation. I think this is, obviously, a very important piece of legislation. It has been well discussed, and as the minister indicated, introduced some time ago and finally getting down with the recommendations for the amendments to the legislation before implementation.

I just have a few points that I would like to make, Mr. Speaker, about the legislation itself. I guess some of these comments could possibly be reserved for third reading but I raise them now because they are something, I think, when we are talking about amendments particularly - the legislation has been introduced earlier - these are some refinements and some amendments that we are making to fine tune the legislation, and it is in that spirit that I raise them now in second reading.

I am referring particularly to the clause here, the provision here, to ensure that children who are being adopted, who are over the age of five years of age - I am referring particularly to section 18 of the legislation, where it talks about ensuring that children who are between the ages of five and twelve have had an opportunity to be consulted. They have received some counselling, they fully understand the implications of the adoption process.

I think I understand the spirit of having this provision in the legislation: to ensure that children have the ability to fully understand. I can appreciate why the minister would want to select an age of between five and twelve as an age where a child may have some level of understanding of the issue, may have some level of understanding around what is happening with them at that particular point, but I wonder, Mr. Speaker, around the merits of ensuring that we have put it in the legislation. What challenges does it open us up to? It is a very subjective provision. If the director is going to ask an individual to sit with a child who is five or six years of age and determine, number one: Does the child have the capacity to understand the issue? Does the child have the understanding and the capacity to ask questions, to fully appreciate the significance of this decision and the implication of this decision?

Not that you are asking for consent, Mr. Speaker, but you are wanting to ensure that the child has a full and good understanding of the issue, and I question whether or not a child who is of the age of five years has the capacity to understand such a very complex and significant issue in their lives. For that reason I was wondering about the significance of having such a piece of legislation or having such a provision in such a significant piece of legislation.

The other issue I raise, Mr. Speaker, is found a little later in the legislation in section 18. If I understand this particular provision, and the way it is written, if you have a parent who decides today to place their child up for adoption, and decides also that they would like to have their information concealed - they have signed the veto, they do not want any information disclosed, they would like that file sealed and never to be released - and they have made that decision, well informed, fully understanding the implications, fully understanding the consequence, but consciously made the decision that they do not want that information released, according to this provision here, as I read it, then one year after that person dies, up until their death and one year after they die, that information remains sealed. If I read this provision here correctly, after one year that information becomes open and public.

I ask, Mr. Speaker: Is it reasonable to have an individual who has decided today that their information will never be released - and as long as they stay alive it will never be released - they have the ability to, in fact, make that conscious decision, but after they have been dead for one year it can no longer be sealed. It will be automatically released, against the wishes of that individual.

Now, I suspect many would argue that circumstance could change. Maybe new information could surface. Maybe there is some critical information with respect to their child's health or safety, and some of the answers to some of the questions may be held in that parent's file, and it may be important to have that file reopened; but I am just wondering, Mr. Speaker, is there some potential for conflict here on what might be the resolution? If this same individual were to die today, and have a will that gave very clear direction to their executors as to how their affairs may be dealt with, how issues may be disposed of, and very clearly the executor has to, in fact, carry out the wishes of their deceased client, one of those wishes may be to honour all obligations and commitments and contracts. It may, in fact, have a wish to conceal all information with respect to their past life, their health, issues around their adoption or placing their child up for adoption. I ask, what might be the conflict here, Mr. Speaker? I ask the minister if he would give some reconsideration or have some answers for this particular issue when we get to the Committee stage of debate around this particular point, because I think it is important, given the sensitivity of this issue, given how important and how much time - there has been a significant amount of time put into developing this legislation.

We heard the minister comment earlier around its introduction in 1999 and the subsequent consultation that has taken place, and the input that has been solicited and provided to government in putting together these amendments that we are dealing with here today. So, obviously, it is a significant piece of legislation. It requires a lot of thoughtful consideration. It would be a crime, I think, to proceed without dealing with some of those very significant legal issues that could place either the child who has been adopted, or the adopting parents, at some future challenge in the courts or in some compromising position where they have conflict between this piece of legislation and what might be other legislative powers or authority given, I use as an example, through an executor in the event of carrying out the wishes of a deceased natural parent.

I raise these points at this particular time in the debate to ensure that the minister may have an opportunity to research, to have his staff have a look at the issue and provide some response, a more detailed response, as we get to the Committee stage.

One of the other things that this issue raises, and I raise it here now because it is an important point, I believe, when we start talking about disclosing information about either the parents or the child's past health, and who has access to what information. Around this particular point in particular, Mr. Speaker, let's use this as an example: Someone today decides to place their child up for adoption, and some time between now and when that person were to die, a year after that, their health information becomes now quite open. It is available to the adoptive parents. When you start thinking about those kinds of questions, it raises the whole issue of privacy of information. Who owns the information? Who should consent to its release? Who has access to it, and what legislation protects that?

Last year, we sat in this House and we debated at length - after making many amendments - the Freedom of Information Act. A lot of discussion was held around access to information, who should have it, when they should have it, how they should get it, and how they should appeal, should that access be denied by government or a government agency or department. We did not, however, spend a whole lot of time talking about privacy and protection of people's rights. Who should have information, who should have access to it, and when they should have access to it.

I think this is an example here, Mr. Speaker, where we are introducing a piece of legislation where we are talking about access to information. At the time, in talking about the freedom of information, I posed a question to the Attorney General around this very particular point about privacy. Where was the privacy piece of the freedom of information legislation? If recall correctly at the time, his response was that we will deal with one piece at a time. This is the freedom of information; the privacy piece will be dealt with down the road.

To ensure there was some degree of public confidence in ensuring that health information, in particular, was secured, within that Freedom of Information Act there is an exclusion that deals with health information, health boards and health agencies. I have to question here, Mr. Speaker, whether or not, through this particular piece of legislation here, we are trying to provide access to health information or personal information about an adopted child, or the parents, or the parent or mother of an adopted child, in a manner different than we had intended to do it under the freedom of information.

Again, this is an issue that I ask the minister, and suggest to the minister, that when we come back for some discussion in Committee, and some debate, if he would have some preparation and be able to provide some comment for this House on that particular issue around the protection and the privacy of this information: who should have it, when, and under what conditions, and who should store it, and whether or not it is stored electronically.

A little later we are going to be debating in this House some legislation dealing with the Centre for Health Information and their ability, through that legislation, giving them the authority to have access to other information in the system through hospitals, through clinics, and giving the legislative authority to many other agencies to electronically transmit information to the Centre for Health Information, information that also identifies the patient involved.

This is an issue here, Mr. Speaker, where we need to ensure that we are not trying to introduce a separate piece of legislation here without giving the privacy of the information the adequate protection that may exist under some other piece of legislation.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I conclude, but I would ask the minister to be in a position to respond to some of those points I have just raised, when we get to Committee stage of the debate on this very important piece of legislation that is long overdue and long-awaited by many of the families in this Province.

So, I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to this very important piece of legislation before the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BETTNEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

It is a pleasure for me to have an opportunity to speak in favour of this very long-awaited and significant piece of legislation.

As the minister has indicated in his introduction, there has been a considerable amount of consultation and work that has gone into refining what is a very complex area and one that is certainly very delicate for all the people who are involved in this. It has taken years for, I know, the officials in the Department of Health and Community Services to work through this process in a way that could respond to the very real concerns that individuals on all sides of this issue have, and particularly to be able to bring our adoptions legislation in line with our other legislation, particularly the Child, Youth and Family Services Act.

I think we have all understood in recent years, with the introduction of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, that it is in the best interests of the child that we wish to align all of our legislation for the future. Mr. Speaker, we recognize the ultimate importance of child development and of the youth of our Province. Therefore, we want to ensure that any legislation that affects them certainly puts children and their interests at the centre of this legislation.

We believe that these amendments which are being introduced in Bill 14 bring the Adoption Act in line with the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, particularly on this principle of serving the child's best interests. It is consistent with what we intend there.

Mr. Speaker, you see this in a couple of areas in the legislation. In section 3 it indicates that, "This Act shall be construed so as to provide for new and permanent family ties through adoption while, in every respect, giving paramount consideration to the best interests of the child." That section goes on to further delineate what that means. What does it means when we are talking about the best interests of a child? Of course, we are talking about the child's safety, we are talking about their developmental needs, but it also goes on to define such things as the child's cultural heritage, the quality of the relationship the child has with a birth parent or with another individual, the effect of maintaining that relationship, the importance of stability and continuity in the child's care. Of course, we all recognize that all of these factors are, in fact, very, very important and ones that you would want to have taken into consideration if, in fact, we want to act in the best interests of the child.

I think it is significant that in this legislation, as well, there are many sections where it indicates that we will, through these amendments, consult with children even as early as the age of five. I think, when you see in section 7 we are going to say that before a child is placed for an adoption, a director or an agency shall make sure that if, the child is five years of age or older, they have been counselled on the effect of adoption.

I believe that, yes, even a child as young as five years of age needs to know what is happening with respect to their future, and needs to understand some of the things that means for their general relationships, and perhaps needs to have counselling about this to ensure that it is a smooth transition and that their development is not going to be in any way inhibited by this action.

Certainly, when you look at children who are twelve years of age or older, I think it is very appropriate and very timely that we put in a provision that ensures that the child has given his or her consent to the adoption. This is, yes, giving and putting an onus of understanding what is a very challenging matter, perhaps, to young children, but I do not think we need to underestimate the capacity of children to understand what is happening in this environment and to understand what is happening to them.

So I fully support these sections which ensure that we, as government, and that our officials, or an adoption agency, do have to consult with children and make sure their views are understood, make sure they understand what is happening to them, and particularly as it pertains to a child who is twelve years of age or older actually provides their consent for what is going to be happening to them.

I think another very significant piece of this legislation, which I am pleased to see here, is the provision for an adoption agency. This is something that has proven to be a stumbling block and an impediment to parents who have wanted to adopt in the past. It is something that has been asked for by many of the parents to be, that we have worked with here in the Province. I think it simply provides another mechanism to help these parents in getting through the process of adoption and getting through it well.

It is, of course, also particularly important in many cases when we are looking at the issue of international adoptions, that there be a capacity for an agency to be able to work on people's behalf to ensure that it is handled according to the Hague Convention and that this matter is made as smooth as possible for parents who are trying to undertake this process. So this is one area where I know it has been long-awaited to have the provision to establish and to licence agencies in the Province. Section 5 does provide the kind of conditions that would have to be met in order to licence an applicant for an adoption agency. These are quite appropriate, the kind of safeguards that you would want to have in place as a government in order to ensure that the people who are in this position are well qualified, have the appropriate employment and education and other qualifications, and that there is an accountability mechanism in place for that.

Mr. Speaker, there are other sections here that are new, and again I think an improvement to the existing Adoption Act which we have. One of those is the ability in section 9 to have a direct placement. What section 9 says is, "Where a birth parent or other person with custody of a child wishes to make a direct placement of that child...", they have the capacity to do that by notifying the director of his or her intent.

Again, as you can imagine, where a person is involved with a child's life in this way, and has a deep concern and a very real stake in the future of that child, I think it is very appropriate and reasonable that the person be able to indicate if they have a particular intent with respect to that child's adoption and where the child should be placed.

All of the other safeguards still apply, as you go through this section, to make sure again that the child has been counselled and the child has given their consent to the placement that is being requested here, and that the pre-placement assessment should all be done in the same way that it would otherwise, but I believe that it adds another important element of flexibility that did not exist in the past.

Mr. Speaker, as you go through the other sections that we have here, we find that the amendments that are being brought forward provide an ability for access to medical records for minor adoptees, for adoptive parents and for birth parents. Again, this is a critical piece of information that often the birth parents would like to know, the adoptive parents would like to know and need to know, but, most importantly, that the adopted children themselves would like to know. There are many, many cases, I know, where we have been informed of examples that individual family members would want to know if there is a family history that may have an impact on the health of the child. Likewise, if the adopted children themselves become aware of any kind of health implications, we have an ability to be able to share that back through the system to other family members and other relatives.

Mr. Speaker, I know again this can be looked on as something that is a concern as well, but if you have as the paramount principle that it is the interest of the child that is at the centre here, then it brings you to the conclusion: Yes, having that information and access to that information is important, and that is in the child's best interests.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that section 5, Part V, on page 11 of the legislation speaks to who may apply for adoption, and in this case it indicates in section 20.(1), "One adult alone or 2 adults jointly may apply to a court to adopt a child under this Act." Again, the section goes on to provide the kind of safeguards, for example, that a person be a resident of the Province for at least six months and so on, that you would normally expect, but again this sanctions and ensures that it is clear, through the legislation, that one adult alone, or two adults, may apply to adopt a child.

What we want to ensure through this legislation is that children have the opportunity to be placed in a loving, caring, nurturing environment. I think all of us would recognize that a child will blossom in those kinds of surroundings, and certainly a child could find that environment with one adult alone or they can find it with any two or more adults who provide that kind of love and care and attention to them. So this is an enhancement to our original but rather dated act and one, I think, which people will applaud and be pleased that it has been accommodated at this time.

Mr. Speaker, the intention of this act, and the amendments to the act, is to provide for a very open adoptions records system. We believe that the openness that is being sought here by government is in the best interests of the child. We recognize that there will always be concerns by those who feel that information may be threatening to people, and I can understand the kind of human dilemma that is surrounding all of this legislation, because any time you start to talk about something like adoptions, and how you give open access to information, people have concerns about what it means for them and for their families, and what it means for the children themselves, and what it would mean for siblings. All of that, I think, is very natural; however, I believe that openness is the best policy. It is a valid principle on which to found these amendments. I support them fully and I am pleased to see we are finally able to move forward these amendments which will not only facilitate that kind of openness, make improvements to areas that were problematic in the adoption process simply because they were lagging behind in terms of the times and the days that we have but also will make possible in a better, more effective manner, the international adoptions piece which so many of us recognize as something that families want to be able to access and to have success with.

Mr. Speaker, with those comments I will conclude my remarks and again just express my support for this legislation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MADAM SPEAKER (Ms Hodder): The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Madam Speaker, I last spoke on this particular bill or the original bill, which was Bill 45, in the session in December of 1999. In fact, we were discussing that bill on December 14, 1999, and it went then for some consultation. What we have before us today, Bill 14, is the result of that two-year long consultation process.

At that particular time, I said that the intent of the changes to the new adoption legislation is that we would become a little more modern, a little more consistent with what is happening in the larger world, and at that time I drew reference to the issues that were being discussed in countries in Scandinavia, what was happening in some of the other provinces of Canada, and I complimented the government on bringing forward this particular piece of legislation at that time. I do so again today. These changes to the adoption legislation are a step in the right direction.

When we were doing the study on children's interests some years ago, and the now Minister of Health and Community Services was chair of that committee in the second phase of it, and I was pleased to be the vice-chair, we heard from many of the parents throughout the Province and some of the children who were adopted who were, by that time, adults, that they were looking for changes to the adoption regulations and laws of our Province. We had quite an extensive dialogue on the entire adoption procedures, and what we see in this piece of legislation flows from the intent and the philosophy that was put forward in the report that was submitted to this House by the children's interests committee in June of 1996.

Madam Speaker, I also come to this discussion with some family interest and tell you that in the last several years my niece has adopted a young child, a young boy, out of Eastern Siberia, and, while the process was a bit complicated, our family welcomes into our midst this young man who is now just a little over two years old and is a charm and a delight to our extended family.

I also note, as did the previous speaker, the Member for Mount Pearl, that the philosophy is clearly spelled out in this new piece of legislation, the amendment, in section 8, and it says very simply, "Paragraph 13(1)(a) of the Act is repealed and the following substituted: (a) the court considers it to be in the best interests of the child." So, the overwhelming philosophy of this particular piece of legislation is the best interests of the child, and that is what should be our guiding principle in all of these matters.

I wanted to say that this particular piece of legislation, having been discussed in l999, probably should have been proclaimed, should now be the standard practice in our Province. It has not been, and certainly these amendments we are putting forward now, having resulted from consultation with some of the stakeholders in the Province, I do believe, is now appropriate and lets us move on so we can have this particular piece of legislation proclaimed. I note as well that the rights of the child are clearly contained here. I happen to believe that every single person should have a right to have an answer to the question: Who am I? Who am I? Who are my parents? What genes do I carry? What is my medical history? What is my personal history? Having that approach, I think, is certainly the right way to go.

Now, I understand the concerns of some adoptive parents when they say that they do not want to have retroactivity to the disclosure statements; however, I want to bring to the House's attention the practice in British Columbia. In British Columbia, there is a provision where any parent who does want to have the information kept private can apply to have a veto provision. That provision is here. Any parent who wants to have their information sealed forever and a day can have it done. However, in British Columbia they set a deadline date. If you did not apply to have the information sealed, then you were deemed to be open. That has worked very, very well. In fact, in British Columbia where they were working with some thousands and thousands and thousands of adoptions, they had a very, very small number of birth parents who said no, we do not want to have that information shared with the child under any circumstances.

Over the period of time, most birth parents, most adopting parents, want the child to know who they are. Along the way, however, there have to be appropriate consultations. There has to be respect for the rights of the child, respect for the rights of the adoptive parents, and respect for the birth parents as well.

If you practice that kind of philosophy, you try your best to make sure that there are people who will have free and open discussions, that there is good counselling going on, that there is a program in place that does not rush the process, that there is an openness that says: Let's discuss the implications of this matter that you are bringing forward, this information that you want to share or you want to know, or you want to find out in other words. When you have that kind of approach it certainly leads to, I do believe, contented and beneficial results for all parties involved. That is not to say that the issue of finding out who you are is not an emotional topic, is not an emotional experience for everybody involved. It is! It is, and certainly we have to respect that.

I certainly want to note as well in my few comments again the issue of the best rights of the child. The previous speaker mentioned some of the issues around consultation with the child as young as five years of age. I do believe that young children should know what is happening to them if they are being adopted.

The previous speaker as well mentioned the direct placement provision of section 9. This is an important provision in this particular piece of legislation. Certainly, that is that the birth parent have some say in who will adopt the child.

We have to recognize that in our Province many, many years ago, when children were born, they were not always raised by their birth parents. In many cases, they were raised by aunts and uncles or other people within the community. This direct placement provision does have beneficial effects for the child in particular and, of course, lets a good positive relationship develop between the birth parents and the adoptive parents.

I also want to note again the openness that was talked about in section 43, openness agreements. I happen to believe that we should be going forward, that we should be making sure that anybody who wants to have information about who their birth parents are should have access to that information, unless there is some direct provision that it is prohibited by the use of a veto.

When we are looking at that, I did have in my possession when we discussed this previously all of the literature from British Columbia, all of the handouts that went out to all of the people who were involved to put in public places. I say to the minister, before we move along this road that this act provides for, we should be very careful to make sure that when we are making these changes that there are effective communications. This is one area where I won't complain to the House if there is some information put out to the general public and taxpayers' money is used to do it. This is good, solid information that should be shared with the public, so everybody knows what the provisions are. This is not political commentary, it doesn't raise anybody's profile here in the House, but it does certainly fulfill a need in the community.

I say to the minister, when we finally approve this act and these amendments as contained here, let's make sure that we communicate with the general public on those changes in a rather effective manner, and that there are brochures put out into all the government offices and, if we have way of communicating these changes to the general public without going into extensive advertising campaigns, ways in which brochures can be prepared to let everybody know that there are changes pending.

Madam Speaker, I say again that the philosophy is right in this act as it was in Bill 45 in 1999. It is right here now, and I happen to be very content that this particular piece of legislation is indeed the right piece of legislation, it is a progressive piece of legislation and it is the right way to go because it does look after the best interests of all of our children, every child. Every adult has a right to know who they are, who their birth parents are, and to make sure that that need is fulfilled in a very loving and kind and respectful manner.

Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I rise today, as well, to speak on Bill 14, An Act To Amend The Adoption Act. I have listened with interest as colleagues, certainly on both sides of the House, have risen. I say to you, Madam Speaker, I certainly rise in support of this bill, a bill that is certainly overdue and a bill that, I understand, has been in the making now for any number of years. I think it has been on the agenda of this House for the last number of years. It is, I guess, amending an adoption act that is a little bit antiquated to say the very least, and to bring forth changes that are necessary given the changing times.

The Adoption Act, as we well know, Madam Speaker, is an act that certainly is there to facilitate the adoption of children. When you just look at the very first part of the bill, in section 2, it is in the best interest, or the best interest principles that are there certainly speak very well of the intent of this bill. The best interest of the child, I say to you, Madam Speaker, is the important thing that we have to consider here because at the birth and certainly during the developmental stages of the child's growth into adulthood, we have, as a society, to protect the best interests of that child.

Again, in my experiences with regard to my life as a teacher, and in the community at large, I have seen firsthand, Madam Speaker, the successful adoptions that have taken place in the communities, which I was a part of. It is very, very heartening to see that the children of our society can be taken care of and taken care of in a manner which establishes a family; because that is what adoption is, the establishment of a family. Through the years I have seen many families come together under the circumstances of adoption and go on to be one solid, family unit within a community, within this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

When I seen this bill come to the floor of the House, I could not help, Madam Speaker, but to get up and show my support for this particular initiative. In saying that, I do have some concerns which I feel I need to bring out. I suppose the most direct involvement that I've had, happened over the last year or so with a young couple from my particular district who came to me indicating that they were in the midst of an international adoption procedure. Having said that, and I think the minister has already alluded to it, when we look at adoption now in this Province - and I do not know what the statistics are, I am just looking at the minister now - I do believe that there would probably be more international adoptions than, what I would call, local adoptions.

I know that in the past ten, or perhaps even longer, international adoptions have certainly become one of the areas where we, as a Province, had to adjust our - not necessarily our act of the adoption, but certainly the policies and procedures to cover international adoptions. To some degree, I think as a Province we perhaps fell down on the job in not facilitating these adoptions as well as we could. Looking at this particular bill, I feel that those shortcomings - again, I am going to ask the minister to maybe even elaborate on it to assure me that the problems with international adoptions - certainly ones that I have witnessed, even within the last year - are not going to be going forward any longer; that this bill will address those.

Just to talk a little bit about international adoptions - do you know what I mean - I know ten or even more years ago, friends of mine went to Romania, as a matter of fact, to adopt a child. Again, it was a successful adoption. The only thing about it is that - well in all cases - they had to work with an agency outside the Province, and in working with an adoption agency outside the Province, I can say to you, Madam Speaker, you can appreciate the difficulties which came into play in that particular situation.

So, in looking at section 3 of this particular bill, I see that the adoption agency licence is being changed. I would assume then that we can have an adoption agency licensed here in the Province that can take care of the international adoptions. I say to the minister, I think this is a giant step forward because, again - and I have to just outline some of the difficulties that I witnessed in the adoption of this couple within my district. They were trying to adopt from Kazakstan, as a matter of fact. The difficulties that they ran into would be to coordinate everything together so that their adoption would be facilitated, and not only would it be facilitated, but there would be a guarantee, I suppose, that everything would be done legally, morally and that the adoption could take place.

This couple went through an outside agency, and in going through an outside agency - of course, why they had to go through an outside agency was that there were no policy or guidelines within this particular Province to allow for the licensing of this type of adoption agency. That was problematic because they had to go to another province to look at their regulations. The agency had to be licensed through that province in order to work in this Province. In this particular case they thought they had such an agency, went to that agency, got all the arrangements made, only to find that the province could not grant them permission to go ahead with the adoption because the agency did not pursue a licensing in this particular country.

So, the control of it, Madam Speaker, was out of the hands of the individuals. Of course, when it comes to international adoptions you are talking about a fair amount of investment, not only in money, but certainly in time, in effort and, obviously, with regard to one's emotions as well. I cannot think of anything more emotional, I suppose, than making a decision to increase the size of your family, especially with the adoption of a young infant or a young child.

In looking down through section 3, I see that again the government will be putting into play some policy, some regulations, some guidelines and so forth, as to how an agency can operate in this particular Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is heartening again to see that this is taking place, that it will happen. With regard, I suppose, to what then takes place, I would assume, and I know, in looking at how this couple went through the adoption procedure, I do know that they worked closely with the Department of Human Resources of Newfoundland and Labrador, that they worked with Immigration Canada on a federal par, but with regard to their provincial involvement, as I understood, there was a social worker who was attached to their case and who would go into the home and do the investigation - that is what I would say it was, Madam Speaker - to see what the finances of the parents were, and their background and so on and so forth. Of course, it was the approval of that investigation that would allow the couple, I guess, to be able to go forward. Not only was it used in the Province, Madam Speaker, but it was also used on the international scene because approval from the Province was absolutely necessary in order for it to take place.

Again, I just pose it to the minister, I understand in reading through some of the sections here that the director now, I guess, of Child Services, will be delegating this adoption agency or- I guess what we would call an adoption agency - to carry out this investigation. I am assuming that, and I am just going to be asking the minister if indeed that is the case. Probably in Committee stage I might bring it up during those particular ones.

I just voice some concerns that, again, the investigation will be done, that it will be done by the adoption agency that is virtually hired by the prospective parents, and I just want to make sure that all avenues are looked at so that the investigation is done properly, that it is done in a sense that will certainly facilitate the adoption not only at the provincial level but certainly at the international level as well.

I guess we can see that, as soon as this act goes through, there will be, I guess, some entrepreneurs or some people who have been involved in the international adoptions, because there have been a fair number of them and there are individuals who not only, I guess, would be working for agencies outside the Province, Madam Speaker, but there have been a lot of support people involved in this particular segment of adoption, or this particular type of adoption. There has been a network grow up over the last ten or fifteen years that has been there to give support, not only through the adoption process but also in a follow-up once the adoption has taken place. Again, I am sure that these people have a good idea of the problems associated with international adoption and that they have been given the opportunity, through the consultation process, to bring these concerns forward to the minister in order for them to be addressed. I hope, in the clauses I see before me, that all aspects of that have been taken care of.

My main concern certainly was the concern that the international adoptions now take, I guess, the most in number when it comes to adoptions in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I also wanted to bring to the attention of the House that there have been some very serious problems with regard to international adoptions. Once the prospective couples got into the mix in looking for international adoption, oftentimes they found themselves totally consumed by the red tape. This couple which I refer to had really done a tremendous amount of work through the various agencies. They had gotten approval from the federal agencies, in particular, immigration, they had cleared the investigation from the provincial standpoint, that they were dealing with a recognized agency in the United States, I believe it was, but, when it came down to the crunch, Madam Speaker, it was the Province that really and truly put a stop to their, I guess, process of trying to get approval to adopt at the international level. It got snarled up in red tape, lack of policy, and certainly it was not what should have happened. This couple were delayed in the adoption from Kazakstan to the point now where they are in the process of adopting a child from another part of the world. They had to go with an outside agency in Manitoba somewhere. It certainly ended well, but, let me tell you, they were at it for close to two years. They were certainly at it for about two years, totally frustrated with the whole process. I am sure they are glad that there is an appeal, or a repeal, I guess, of the current adoption bill so that couples in the future will not have to go through what they have gone through.

In moving just a little bit further on, I mentioned, Madam Speaker, that the point of all of this is that we have a document, I hope, a bill, coming forward that will: protect the best interests of the child; that we have a bill coming forward that will provide for not only international adoptions but certainly local adoptions; that will make sure that prospective parents get fair treatment; that there is no influence; that the red tape is at a minimum; that any type of political influence or anything is totally eliminated; that the adoption agencies are certainly at arm's-length from the department; and that these international adoptions will go through pretty smoothly.

I guess the responsibility, I would say again, Madam Speaker, still rests with the government, with the minister's department, through the director, to make sure that the adoption agencies are monitored, that they are under strict guidelines and regulations, and, again, that our children are protected, and that the prospective adoptive parents, as well as the birth parents, are also protected as well.

I understand from some of my colleagues, with regard to records and medical records and so on and so forth, there is going to be movement on those as well. Again, when it comes to medical records, I would say to you, Madam Speaker, it is very important. Again, we have to look at disclosure as necessary, or as required, especially when it involves anything to do with medical conditions and so forth.

I would certainly lend my support to this particular bill, and say to the minister that indeed it is a bill that we welcome to the floor. It is a bill that we still need to go through in Committee stage.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that his time is up.

MR. HEDDERSON: If I could, just one last word?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MADAM SPEAKER: Leave granted.

MR. HEDDERSON: That is to say to the minister that I certainly lend my support to this particular bill. I am very, very pleased to see that the adoption agency will be a part of the bill, and I will reserve Committee stage for some of the finer points.

Madam Speaker, thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's.

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I just want to make a few comments, if I could, on Bill 14. As the members previous to me have said, adoption is a very important aspect of our society these days, and any piece of legislation, any act, anything that we discuss here and bring forward to certainly ease that, to clarify the Adoption Act and to make it more effective, is something that we on this side of the House would agree with.

In my own district, and definitely in my own personal life, I have talked to many people who have been adopted or who have placed children for adoption, and it is always a concern that the purpose of that is to hopefully create a life for the child that is positive and long-lasting. Certainly, anything of that nature which comes forward in this bill is something that we are willing to accept.

I just want to touch on, if I could, "Section 3 of the Act is repealed and the following substituted...". It goes through the best interest principles. I have a few moments, if I could speak on that, Madam Speaker. The things that are listed here are something of grave importance to the government, to the parent who has placed a child for adoption, to the parents who are going to adopt that child and definitely, I think, it needs to be reiterated, the importance of placing these at the top of their priority list, on anybody who is involved in this process.

Best interest principles such as a child's safety. We all need to be concerned about that, and make sure that a child's safety is number one. If anything causes any problems to any child in society - and especially those that, for some reason or other, are leaving their birth parents and are going off to adoption - that everybody work and do whatever is needed to be done to ensure that a child's safety is first and foremost. A child's safety, as we all know, covers a whole gamut of different things. In any way, shape or form that they would be addressed and improved on is something that we, on this side of the House, would certainly agree with.

Child's developmental needs; every child needs to have an opportunity to develop in a positive way. Hopefully, this new act will address some of these concerns. We find sometimes, Madam Speaker, that children who go out to adoptive parents, for whatever the reason may be, questions arise and concerns arise and sometimes there is not enough protection there from the government and enough assistance there for those adoptive parents to help with the developmental needs of the children. If the financial resources and the human resources are required to ensure that the child's interests are first and foremost, I think, is something that we can certainly operate and agree to.

The importance of stability and continuity in the child's care; again, with the rising costs of - I know, I have three children of my own - being a parent these days. It is important that the child has a stable home life; that the resources are there in whatever way they are needed to make sure the child is once again in a safe environment, but certainly in a stable environment. Whatever legislation it takes to ensure that, and I guess whatever resources are needed to ensure that, once again, is something that we all have to work towards.

Importance to the child's development of having a positive relationship with a parent and a secure place as a member of a family; we all know that there is nothing - in my own belief anyway - as secure as the love and the care that is shared between a family. We have children in our society, sad to say, who do not have that. They do not have the love and support of a family. If there is any way we can assist in that way and certainly through this act, hopefully, some of these issues and concerns will be addressed. That is something that we can, once again, support. There is nothing as important as a family unit to foster development, to help develop and create responsible adults in our society. It all starts in the home, Madam Speaker, and I guess that is what we all have to try to work towards.

The quality of the relationship the child has with a birth parent or other individual and the effect of maintaining that relationship; once again, we have found over the past number of years - many people will hear it on the local Open Line shows or whatever the case may be, where we have children calling in trying to find their birth parents. We have birth parents calling in trying to find their children. I guess to make that process a little more easier and to help facilitate that process - we have situations where sometimes the parents do not want to be known, or the child does not want the parents to find them, and all of that, but at least the opportunity is there. I think that is what we have to look at as a society now, to create that opportunity where people at least can try their best to find their birth parents or to find their child, or whatever the case may be. We have heard stories of why sometimes the parents had to put their children up for adoption, and sometimes it is not an easy decision. Certainly, it is not a decision that they take lightly but it is something they will look at in fifteen or twenty years after the fact, and sometimes forty and fifty years after the fact. It is something we can certainly work towards, and hopefully this act will facilitate some of that openness that we need to create in our society today.

A child's views and wishes, where possible; I think that is an important part of the best interest principles, that the importance has to be for the child. We have a situation, or many situations, where a child is put out for adoption, and finds a loving home - thank God that they do - where they can grow and nurture and develop. I guess it is left up to the child then to make a decision whether they want to be brought back to their birth parents, or whatever the case may be. Hopefully, this act will certainly help in that regard, Madam Speaker.

The effect on the child if there is delay in the making of a decision with respect to the child; once again, it always comes back to the child. I am very pleased to see that this is in the act we have before us today. Throughout this act we heard talks about an adopted person, but the main thing here has to be for the child. The main thing here has to be for the children of our Province who have been put up for adoption and that their interests are first and foremost in any piece of legislation that we put here before the House. We have to remember the effect that the adoption has on them. Even if they are in a positive home environment, everybody longs to know where they came from. Everybody longs to know their heritage, their culture, where their parents are from, where their grandparents are from, what part of the world they came from, because we all came here from somewhere. I think everybody has a right to know if they want to know. You do not want to upset the apple cart in trying to find that information. You do not want to cause undue burden on any family or birth families or whatever the case may be, but I think we have to have a process where a young person - just take, for example, a young person seventeen or eighteen years of age who is asking the question, who is concerned about where they came from, concerned about their bloodline and what part of the world they came to Newfoundland from. I think we need to have that openness and certainly create that situation.

We have found in the past number of years, Madam Speaker, due to sickness in people - they go to a hospital, and we all have had that experience where we have gone to a different health care facility here in the Province, and the first thing they ask you: Is there diabetes in your family? Are there heart problems in your family? Are there other different - cancer in your family? Most of us, thank God, can riddle off what the situations are within our own families and things, and it is easy to do that, but in the case of an adopted child - I know of an experience in my own district, Madam Speaker, where I dealt with someone not long ago who did not have their family health history and it created some problems when their own child got sick. That is certainly a situation where we need to have an openness in and if possible, wherever possible, to create as much of a history of the health issues within a family to make that much easier, Madam Speaker.

I dealt with a situation in my own district, as I said, where we had a couple who were looking to adopt, Madam Speaker. We went through a process, and they had some doubts about that. I remember meeting with the minister on that. I give credit where credit is due, that couple is very happy today because of the process that we went through with the assistance of the Minister of Health at the time. This family is off now to complete their family unit with the access that they have to adoption here in the Province.

I think it is a piece of legislation, Madam Speaker - as the Member for Waterford Valley touched on earlier, it is a piece of legislation that has been in the works for quite some time, back to the days of the committee which travelled throughout the Province. It has taken a long time, but it is like everything else, I think it is worth having here today. It is something that we, on this side of the House, will support, Madam Speaker, because we think it is a step in the right direction. It is a positive step to address the concerns of adoption and to address the questions and the issues that have been raised by parents and children alike throughout the Province. Hopefully the children of our Province, especially those who are put up for adoption or find themselves put up for adoption, that the interest of those are first and foremost. I think this piece of legislation will address that concern.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health.

If the minister speaks now he will close the debate.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SMITH: I would thank all hon. members who participated in the debate this afternoon on this very important piece of legislation. As we have heard all hon. members reference, it is a piece of legislation that the people of the Province have been lobbying for and been waiting in anticipation of its passage in this House. So, I am pleased that we are dealing with this, this afternoon.

Just a couple of comments in relation to some of the issues that were raised in the debate. There were some concerns expressed that within the general community some of the people who were involved with adoptions have expressed some concerns with regard to disclosure and the idea of that information being available or not being available.

Madam Speaker, one of the things I have to point out is that there has been a discussion in some quarters, which has been generated by the fact that there is a concern by some people who are adoptive parents, that they do not want to disclose to the adopted child that they are in fact adopted. It is the basis of that, that has caused some concern for these parents. As we have said to them, I think anyone who has had any experience in dealing with children - certainly I think it is commonly recognized that children who are adopted, the general feeling and understanding is that they should be made aware, at some point in time, an appropriate time, that they are in fact adopted. If they are, the research does demonstrate that they are able to deal with that and, in fact, not disclosing that and not revealing to them may be setting yourself up to cause all kinds of problems down the road. I guess, just that comment with regard to that particular issue, that while I respect and understand the concerns that have been raised in some quarters, I think, in the legislation, what we have tried to do is to strike a balance, keeping in mind the rights of the child and the rights of the parents, all parents, the adoptive parents and the natural parents as well, and it hasn't been easy.

In terms of the international adoptions, there is no doubt that right now, and certainly looking out, this is probably where there will be a lot of activity in the next number of years. At the present time in this Province we are averaging about twenty-five international adoptions a year. So, already it is significant. We have recognized that, at the present time because we do not have the adoption agency here within our own Province to facilitate families who are choosing to go abroad in an effort to adopt, that is causing a great deal of difficulty. Under this legislation now we will be setting up our own. That will certainly facilitate the process and I am sure it will be very welcomed by adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents who are out there now and looking at the international route as a way to go.

With that, Madam Speaker, I will conclude and move second reading of this bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Adoption Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 14)

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Madam Speaker, Order 21, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Forestry Act, Bill 27.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Forestry Act." (Bill 27)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker, everybody understands what happened over the last couple of weeks, especially as it pertains to the Abitibi situation in Grand Falls-Windsor. This bill, Bill 27, what that does is amend the Forestry Act to accommodate the extending of the licenses that would be coming due between now and 2010, and bringing forward the licenses that would be coming due in 2021, bring it all to a common expiry date of 2010.

There are a number of licenses, I think it is something thirty-eight in all, Madam Speaker, that will be accommodated with the amendment of this particular act at this time. I think there are four or five licenses that will be extended out to 2010. There was one big one up just last weekend, Madam Speaker, which comprises around 360,000 hectares, mainly around the Central Newfoundland area. That amount is around one-third of the total non-renewable licences that would expire as it pertains to the Abitibi Consolidated mill in Grand Falls. That represents around 25 per cent of the total production of the total AAC for the Grand Falls mill, which is very, very important to Central Newfoundland and other areas as well.

Madam Speaker, this is a request by the company to have a common expiry date. In doing that, it is sort of a trade off. We looked at it as a good thing in a way, that we can get another seven years and put something in place with regard to the total expiration of those licences and make sure that we have public consultations with regards to whatever land tenure deal we go with after. What we were looking at is something along the lines of what they were doing in the rest of North America, and that is the twenty-year forest management agreements.

Under those agreements, Madam Speaker, there would be public hearings and public consultations into what type of licences or land tenure we might use with regards to dealing with the non-renewable licences of Abitibi Consolidated or anyone else. It just happens to be Abitibi Consolidated in this instance. In doing this now, the trade-off of the licences to 2010, and the recapture of eleven years on the other end, then everything will be coming due in 2010. We would have seven years now to put into place a good land tenure system for the management of our forests in the Province.

Whether it is going to be Abitibi at the end of the day, a twenty year FMA, or whether it is going to be something else, the other thing we have to watch is that the land tenure system in this country changes. It changes. Look at what happened last year with regard to the softwood lumber, Mr. Speaker. Everywhere else in the country had twenty-year FMAs, right here we had a licence system whereby - especially when you look at the Atlantic Provinces, we were not hit with the countervailing duties. We were hit with anti-dumping and one of the big reasons why we were hit with anti-dumping is because of the fact that they looked on us in this Province, on our landholdings, as private landholdings, by Abitibi, Kruger and the Crown. They look at it as private landholdings. That is one of the main reasons why we were exempt from the approximately 9 per cent that we would have been charged. Our integrated sawmill systems in the Province and our lumber would have been charged that fee. Some of the other provinces, over 19 per cent, in countervailing duties which would be detrimental to this Province and the sawmill industry itself.

As members know, the Member for Baie Verte knows and some other members in this area, the Member for The Straits, especially down in the Roddickton area, it is very important, and Central Newfoundland - the Member for Bonavista South knows full well how important the integrated systems are to our Province and to our economy, especially in rural Newfoundland.

This has changed over the years, Mr. Speaker. One time you could not get a log to go to a sawmill here. Now the companies are pretty well on side, everybody is pretty well on side, with regard to logs going to the sawmill industry first and then the chips going back to the mills for fibre. Even the sawdust, the bark, everything, is being utilized now as hog fuel by the companies as well. So pretty well everything now is being utilized.

 

The other big thing in this particular amendment, Madam Speaker, is that we asked that the company, in order for those licences to have a common expiry date, try to keep number 3 and number 7 going in production at substantially the same levels as the average of the last three years. That is very important, Madam Speaker, especially in the Grand Falls-Windsor area because this mill is one of the biggest contributors to the economy of Central Newfoundland and other parts of the Province as well.

There are logs coming from all over, there are chips coming from all over, there are chips coming from just the East Coast into the mill in Grand Falls, out around the Glenwood area, out around the Glovertown area, Bloomfield area, and, Madam Speaker, even in Labrador. Anything that is not being utilized in Labrador for a sawlog comes to the Island, especially the Bloomfield area. Now there are pretty well around 35,000 to 40,000 cubic metres a year coming into that area, whereby it is chipped, goes through in the small-sized saw, the small-sized number, and then goes into the chip form and then on into the Abitibi system in Grand Falls-Windsor.

So, Madam Speaker, this is one of the things that we have asked for. We have been criticized in some circles because we asked for this, and, as far as I am concerned, that is criticism that we can stand. We are even criticized from outside the Province. The company here wants to make sure - we cannot go giving up licences. We just got licences now that have been out there for ninety-nine years and taken back without any further commitments. They give a company licences and then, all of a sudden, they shutdown a machine. I think there is some lag there. Somewhere something has to be tied to it.

Under a different land tenure system, like the FMAs, well then you could probably look at - because in that system, Madam Speaker, you look at five years renewable licences, you look at our planning process and you look at the timber sales agreement that we have in place today, and most of our integrated systems are operating under timber sales agreements.

So, for the economy, Madam Speaker, in Grand Falls-Windsor, this sort of gives them some security for the next eight years and it also gives us time to have public hearings and public consultations and see what kind of a land tenure system we are going to have by the time those licences expire in the year 2010. So, we went out, spoke to Abitibi Consolidated in the Grand Falls area and a lot of the workers on Monday morning out there and it went over really well. I think we will have a good relationship here with regard to the new licences and, if and when this bill is passed, it will become law and hopefully, for the people in that part of our Province, it will add some security and some stability for the next eight years.

I can go on, and give other examples of what has been happening in the industry with regard to the sawmillers. This is nothing new. I have heard comments that we should be giving this to other stakeholders, and from the Sierra Club and others that we should have hearings. Hearings about what? In this particular case we do not have new AACs; we have no other wood to give out. This is the same wood. It is not like we have a different - and we are going to grow more trees overnight. There are no other allocations. This is an allocation that is there. You either give it to the people who are working in the mill in Grand Falls; if you take it from them and give it to someone else, then someone else is laid off. In this particular case, it gives security and stability to the mill in Grand Falls.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, if we had taken it back to the Crown, we could have given it out to everybody around the Province, but someone would have had to be laid off in the Grand Falls mill. If this was a total new allocation I could understand it, but it is not. We are working with the same figures, you are working with the same AACs, and despite what other people might say, when you look at the plans across this country today we have one of the best operating plans anywhere in North America, in this Province.

Whilst we will get criticized by some people for not getting this and not getting that; someone got 3,000 cubic metres and they would like to have 5,000; someone got 6,000 and they would like to have 10,000, but I know, as a minister here, I have to look at it this way: It is just like the fishery years ago. I sat down around the table - eighteen years in this business, and I have seen it where we need this allocation, we need that allocation. I am telling you, if you kept it up - every day of the week I get requests for more allocations. It is easy to say yes, but you have to hold the line and say no; because, as far as I am concerned, it is going to go the same way as the fishery if you still keep it at: Give me this, give me that, and you give it out every day of the week.

There is no doubt about it, there are certain areas of the Province that rely heavily on the forestry. Other members around this House know full well what I am talking about, and the areas that I am talking about. This amendment is a good one, as far as I am concerned. It is a win-win situation for the people of Grand Falls-Windsor and other areas of the Province that depend on the forestry industry.

I will just wait and see what are some of the other comments coming from other members in the House pertaining to this bill, Madam Speaker, and I will have a few comments right on the end of it when the bill closes.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HUNTER: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

It is a pleasure to rise today and have a few words to say on Bill 27, An Act To Amend The Forestry Act. Madam Speaker, the bill would amend the Forestry Act to provide the uniform expiry of the timber licenses of Abitibi Consolidated Company of Canada set out as proposed in section 13 (1) on December 31, 2010. Currently the expiry dates vary from November 23, 2002 to November 14, 2021. The continuance of the licences would be subject to the company continuing to operate two paper machines and maintaining production using two machines at substantially the same annual level as those during the preceding three years at the Grand Falls-Windsor mill.

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods for trying to put forward a plan to address the problem that we have at the Abitibi Consolidated Mill in Grand Falls-Windsor, concerning the production levels and the timber licences.

Madam Speaker, I have been speaking to many people in the last few days interested and involved in the forestry resources sector in the Province. A lot of them are concerned about how their business would operate and how they depend on the forests, some even directly depending on Abitibi.

Madam Speaker, I was amazed by the many different opinions and the many different issues dealing with the forest industry and Abitibi Consolidated. A lot of people in Grand Falls-Windsor are certainly depending on a two-machine mill to keep the town viable and growing as it has been growing for a number of years.

Madam Speaker, during the next few minutes I would just like to speak about and mention some of the concerns and opinions. I will give some of the e-mails and letters and faxes that I have received in the last couple of days from a lot of the stakeholders pertaining to the licence renewal for Abitibi Consolidated.

Madam Speaker, first of all I would just like to give a brief description of why Grand Falls-Windsor exists. Back in the early 1900s, of course, the Kind of England wanted to avail of the resources in the Province and Central Newfoundland was noted as a sawmill industry area. With the abundance of forest products in Central Newfoundland, it was decided to install a paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor to ship paper overseas to Europe. All of Central Newfoundland depended on the forestry back in the early 1900s. Back then we had sawmills in Millertown, Badger, Botwood, and places like that. Of course, then we had communities like Bishop Falls which depended on the forest industry. It was noted back then that there was a pulp mill at Bishop Falls that pumped pulp from Bishop Falls up to the Grand Falls-Windsor mill, and also a generator station there that produced electricity for the mill.

The importance of this to Newfoundland could only be seen back then when thousands of people from all over the Island flocked to Central Newfoundland. They came to the Grand Falls train station where people got off the trains and looked for work in Grand Falls-Windsor, and a lot of them got work. The town was built basically around the paper industry and the sawmill industry. They worked very hard, and committed to the industry. They worked hard to carve out an infrastructure, out of the wilderness at the time, and made a town and a paper mill. That paper mill provided a lot of jobs at that day. The process was really labour-intensive. Thousands of people came and worked their summer months, and fall, and some of them even went back to their own communities, in the coastal communities, but a lot a lot of people stayed and built a community. Today, that community is very vibrant and still growing but it is not a one-industry town any more. Grand Falls-Windsor now is a service area for all of Central Newfoundland.

We must respect and recognize what happened in the beginning. In the beginning, when people came to Grand Falls-Windsor to built the infrastructure and mill, they not only committed their time and their hard work, some even lost their lives over it. My uncle was one of them. My uncle came to Grand Falls-Windsor in the early 1930s, worked at the mill and, of course, was killed at the mill. My grandfather, my father, came to Grand Falls-Windsor many, many years ago. Both worked at the woods department in the log haul area, unloading flatcars of wood that came from other parts of the Province. That created a lot of jobs because at that time everything was done manually. Hundreds of people unloaded flatcars.

When they did that, they went to a stacking system where stackers piled the wood hundreds of feet in the air. I remember, as a boy, hearing the stackers at nighttime, hearing the wood fall from the stackers down on the pile, and you would hear that all night long. You hear the wood tumbling around the drum barkers, all night long. If we don't be careful, Madam Speaker, that might stop, and I think the people of Central Newfoundland recognize the importance of government producing good sound legislation and bills to ensure that the paper industry survives in Grand Falls-Windsor, to ensure that many people in surrounding areas and communities in Grand Falls-Windsor avail of the jobs and services that are provided there.

Madam Speaker, when I was finished high school, I went to work at the paper mill, just a young teenager, and the opportunities were a lot greater then than they are now. One of my first jobs was at the paper mill, and thousands of young people availed of jobs at the mill to get them started in life. Some stayed, but most went on to higher education levels and other jobs and careers outside of the mill.

Today, it is very hard to get employment at the mill. It is very hard to have our young people stay in our communities, stay in Central Newfoundland and get the jobs that we could have gotten years ago when there were thousands of people working at the mill, hundreds in one department. Today, it is not so. With the technology and the cutbacks and the better process of producing paper, that job force has really reduced to smaller numbers.

Madam Speaker, as I alluded to earlier, I have some concerns that were faxed in to me and sent in to me by a lot of the stakeholders. Some of these people are very concerned about this legislation, but most are in support of the legislation as it is because it secures production levels at the mill. Some of these people have been telling me - and I have some of the faxes here. I could read one that was faxed in to me from a concerned employee at the mill. Maintaining average production on each machine is frightening, as it is not tied to weeks of production or man-hours. It is simply production, so an increase in machine speed could cause even more downtime in the next three years. That is a big concern. If the company is forced to maintain production levels, then they may have to find other ways of keeping the levels and still going with their plans of labour reduction and cost reduction.

So, if people think that this legislation is going to maintain the number of jobs, it is not. If the company is forced to do that, then we could see more downtime. We could see the average production level lower. Even though we may maintain the same amount of paper, it could be done faster, which means more downtime and less jobs.

I have another few faxes here, that came in. These are just words from people who faxed it in to me. Some of it is a bit hard to pick out. Some people want shorter leases. They say shorter lease terms with leases and better employment benefits for the citizens within the terms of the lease. So it is an opportunity now, with these leases expiring, so stakeholders like these people who faxed all these concerns in to me, could have had input before this lease ran out. They had ample time. Four or five years past we could have been negotiating. We could have been coming up with new terms on a lease so that all the stakeholders, every stakeholder concerned with these long-term leases that Abitibi Consolidated had, would have their voices listened to, would have input, public consultation, so that when new leases are signed, then it would take into consideration all the stakeholders.

There is a bigger problem that exists more than what we see in this legislation. This legislation does combine the expiry dates of some thirty-eight leases, and it is a fair combination. They expire in 2010. Some of these leases run out in 2021, and some run out this year. I think, on the average, it is a fair thing to say that 2010 would be a fair date for all the leases, the thirty-eight leases, to run out, and then we would have new terms, a new agreement, that will involve all the stakeholders, that will involve consultation and input from the stakeholders.

The stakeholders will probably want to see things change more than we have been doing in the past 100 years. We had 100 years to find out what is the best way to harvest our forests. We had 100 years to make sure that, when these leases run out, we will do things differently; we will have a shorter period of time so that we could build into a new lease the terms and conditions that will protect the environment, protect the forests, make a sustainable forest so that not only paper mills but sawmills and other users of our resource can do it for many, many years to come; so that our children could have jobs within the forest sector; so that we could avail of the new technologies but still maintain that sustainable level; so we can have our paper mills still going in the future and we can have sawmills still going in the future.

As the minister said, there is not enough wood for everybody. There is not enough wood to open up these leases and put them out there for people to say, well, now is an opportunity for me to get more wood, because the wood is not there in that sort of way. We can maintain our AACs, we can maintain a sustainable level so that what we have now could survive even though back in the last ten or twelve years we have probably overcut and we have probably over-licensed some of the limits. Now, it creates a really big problem. There is a very big shortage of wood on the Island.

Now we have the Grand Falls-Windsor mill secure with production levels and a forest tenure settled in a way that makes a lot of sense, combined to an expiry date that is satisfactory to a lot of people. It is a bigger problem now that we have. What about Stephenville? Stephenville today is in big trouble. In the new year we could see downtime at the Stephenville mill for the first time. We could see very big problems arising with Stephenville not having wood. Do we have a long-term plan for the Stephenville mill? If we do, Minister, if there is a long-term plan, and this plan is not working, is there a Plan B? Today, we are importing 51 per cent of the fibre for Stephenville mill, to keep that mill operating. We need 410,000 cubic metres of wood to keep that mill operating on an annual basis. If 51 per cent of that fibre is coming from Quebec and Quebec decides that they want to stop the fibre from coming to the Province, then what kind of problem are we going to have in Stephenville? Do we have a long-term plan, a plan B, so that the jobs in Stephenville and the Bay St. George area are just as important as jobs anywhere else on the Island? The jobs at the Stephenville mill are certainly just as important as the jobs in Grand Falls-Windsor.

We have to secure the wood supply for the Grand Falls-Windsor mill, we have to keep two machines going at that mill, but what about the Stephenville mill? I hope that the government has been considering this. I hope the government has been making plans, and quick plans, because after January we may see that mill go down for even longer than a thirty-day period. If that happens and chips from Quebec stop, then we could see a mill in Stephenville stopped all together. Stephenville has certain advantages because of its port and a new mill making good quality paper, but if they do not have the wood supply, then all of that is not going to make any difference, when the time comes to fill an order and we do not have that wood supply to continue production at the Stephenville mill.

I know we have to avail of the Labrador wood. Are we working fast enough, are we going fast enough, to secure that supply in Labrador, to make sure that the people in Labrador have all the maximum benefits they can get from using that fibre in Labrador? That fibre in Labrador, Mr. Speaker, is aging. The fibre in Labrador is getting to a point where it probably will not be useful for anything. We know that the center of the wood in Labrador, because of its age, has become rotted and coloured, which is useless to paper making and useless to lumber producing.

If we are going to be serious about doing something for Stephenville, we must put the pressure on now to have a good deal for the people of Labrador, to maximize the production out in Labrador, sit down with the paper companies and come up with a plan where we can avail of all this wood and keep the jobs going in Stephenville and create many, many jobs in Labrador. We cannot have this wood rotting and blowing down. It is no good to anybody that way.

I talked to people from all over the Island in the forestry industry. Last week I talked to many people from the West Coast, the Bay St. George area. They are concerned. They are very worried about what is going to happen to their jobs. If we do not have a plan B - because plan A doesn't seem to be working right now - so that these jobs in Stephenville can be secure, then I am afraid the people on the West Coast are going to be very disappointed with this government. We must act now. We must have a plan in place now, a plan B, as fast as possible. We only have a few short months before a scheduled downtime, and if that happens, then, God only knows, the mill in Stephenville might never work again because we cannot afford to take wood from other commitments in the Province. There are commitments to Corner Brook Pulp an Paper. They have a secure wood supply that can keep their paper machines going. Now we have a commitment to the Grand Falls-Windsor mill producing 600,000 cubic metres of wood. Now we need a commitment to produce 410,000 cubic metres of wood for Stephenville.

Mr. Speaker, if we don't soon make sure that all the forests are being managed, being harvested, and if silviculture work is not done properly, then we are not going to get ahead at all. The last fifty years we have been falling behind a lot. We still see overcutting, we still underutilization, we still see lesser dollars for the product being taken before more value-added dollars. I know people in the birch industry in the Province. They are using a stick of birch and getting fifty cents for that piece of birch when they could be getting $50. How much of our hardwoods are going that way? Thousands and thousands of cubic metres going that way when we could be creating value-added products to be shipped all over the world, basically, at a maximum value, maximum job creation, and that is not happening now. We need a process where all the underutilized species are taken and used and sorted and graded so that what is no good for value-added then goes to firewood. We cannot afford to take the best for firewood anymore. Those days are gone. We must have a new process in place to find out where this wood is going, where the underutilized species are going and how they are used.

Now, because of the existing agreements, we do not have any say, basically, in what goes on with the underutilized species in some of these licences. The paper companies do not want the underutilized. The birch and other hardwoods and other species are in their way. Yet, other people in the Province, sawmill operators, can avail of this very important resource. They can take this resource, value add to it and make maximum dollars and maximum jobs.

That is one of the things that a lot of people have contacted me on in some of the faxes and e-mails here. They say: We missed an opportunity to have some new ideas come forward with public consultation and input, and come out with some agreement with the company and the Province and the sawmill operators, to use all the underutilized species and hardwoods to maximize the jobs.

Now we have an agreement that is securing production levels at the mill. I do not think anybody is against that as such, and nobody is against us taking all the licences and combining them into an common expiry date. Everybody gains on this. The company gains because they are moving forward their licences that expired this year to 2010, and the government and the people of the Province gain because the licences are going to be moved back from 2021 back to 2010. So that gives us a short period of time, it gives us eight years to get ready, to have our public consultation and our input. The stakeholders must meet on a regular basis.

Eight years won't be long going. In eight years time we want to have that process in place, something guaranteed. It is in the legislation that it is not guaranteed for public input or consultation or stakeholder input. There is nothing in it to say that this is going to be guaranteed to happen. I hope the minister, through other parts of legislation, with environment and the forestry act, will find a way to have a process in place where all the stakeholders in the next eight years will have a say in the next new agreement that is going to come in 2010. That is a short period of time to make sure that we do not continue make mistakes like we made in the last 100 years. The last 100 years showed a great deal of jobs, but a great deal of mistakes, a great deal of abuse and a great dealing of wastage in our forest industry. We cannot afford to do that anymore.

I say to all the ministers over there, if we are serious about it, then we will make sure by 2010 a process will be in place to make sure all the stakeholders, every stakeholder who is dealing with our forest resources, has a chance for input, and something in legislation is going to guarantee public and stakeholder consultation. I am looking forward to that because the calls that I get here are from stakeholders. They are from people who not only cut the wood but from people who travel in the forests, people who avail of tourism and ecosystem tourism. It is important that we recognize all of the stakeholders, every stakeholder dealing with our resources. I say to the minister, I am looking forward to that process of that consultation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Mercer): The hon. the Minister of Labour.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am delighted to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill 27, An Act to Amend the Forestry Act. I am delighted to support my colleague, the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods, in this act. I might say to the people of Central Newfoundland, this is an historic day. The people of Central Newfoundland, with the passing of this act, have something today that they did not have yesterday.

When you talk about Grand Falls mill - and I will say Grand Falls mill rather than Grand Falls- Windsor and I am sure everybody will know that I am referring to the mill, not the community. The mill in Grand Falls is the heartbeat of Grand Falls-Windsor. It is the heartbeat of Central Newfoundland.

My colleague, the Member for Windsor-Springdale, gave a bit of an overview of the history. In 2005 we will be celebrating 100 years of having the Grand Falls mill in Grand Falls. Actually, it was the birth of the industrial age in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It was when an industry was carved out of the wilderness. People from all over the Island, and of course all over the world, came to Grand Falls to work in the mill.

When you look at the fact that in 2005 we will celebrate 100 years, this is a significant commitment. For the first time in our history we are looking at tying wood permit licences to the operation of a mill in our Province. I know, being the Member for Grand Fall-Buchans and the Minister of Labour, how important this piece of legislation is. I am proud to have been co-author, I think, on this legislation; along with all of my colleagues who sit on this side.

For people who do not understand the significance of the paper mill industry in our Province - I am sure all of us agree that it employs quite a lot of people. In fact, it employs about 10,000 people and is worth to our provincial economy about $800 million a year. When you look at the fact that two years ago we had a fishing industry that was worth in the amount of $1 billion, the paper industry plays a significant role to the economy of our Province. Some people have said government should not have done this. I, for one, would support it wholeheartedly. When you look at the fact that Abitibi, over the past 100 years, has been in Grand Falls, they have done very well because of the paper mill in Grand Falls. The people, the workers, all of Central Newfoundland and indeed, the whole Province, has done very well because of the mill. I do not think it is an unreasonable commitment asking the Abitibi-Consolidated mill to step up to the plate and agree to running a two-machine operation in Grand Falls. It is not unreasonable to ask Abitibi to keep the production levels as they were on the average of the past three years. It is called commitment.

Grand Falls mill has always had a guaranteed fibre supply, a guaranteed wood supply, from day one, was always guaranteed to the Grand Falls mill. In recent years they have had a surplus power supply that they have been able to put back into the grid and sell. There is no unreasonable commitment here. I am proud to be part of a government who has seen that it was reasonable to ask the company to provide that commitment.

Speaking from the labour side, it is no secret that the Grand Falls mill has been fought with labour problems over the past fifteen years. It is also no secret that in the past two to three collective agreements there has been disruptions. They have always been centered around a threat of the closure of the number 7 paper machine. That has provided a lot of instability for the workers in the Grand Falls mill and for the whole economy in Central Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker.

How do you deal with that uncertainty? This is the unique opportunity to deal with that uncertainty. We have a situation where Abitibi-Consolidated came to this government, they wanted a uniform expiry date for their wood supply, for their wood permits. There was give and take on both sides. We had permits expiring starting this year right up to 2021. They asked us, as a government, if we could roll all these permits together to 2010. In doing so, we said: Okay Abitibi, we will do that, but, on the other hand, this is what we want from you Abitibi. We want you to guarantee that you will run a two-mill operation as you have for the past 100 years and we want you to keep your production levels as they have been for the past three years. Abitibi has agreed to do that.

As the Minister of Labour I would say this is a new day. This is definitely a new day. We have a chance to sit down - both sides, union and management - and say, what is the problem here? Why can't we resolve these issues?

In March of last year the union asked me, as the Minister of Labour, to do an industrial inquiry. Everybody knows that if you do an industrial inquiry, you go into the workings of a company and you expose whatever workings there are, the company always has the option to look at the report and file it away. They are under no obligation to make any changes. You know that is always an option that I can use anytime. I can have an industrial inquiry if we see that is the route to go. But, our best chance to deal with labour problems at the Grand Falls mill is through this means here. We have a chance now - workers can go in tomorrow morning, after making that announcement last Tuesday, they can take their lunch basket, which is the custom still in Grand Falls, to go and take your lunch basket with your lunch in it, punch the time clock and go to work. They have a new lease on life. They can go in now and sit down to the table - union, management, workers - lay their issues on the table and they can deal with them. That is the only way to deal with issues, is lay them on the table. In an industrial inquiry we cannot really do that, but the option is there if we need to do it.

I would say to the workers in Grand Falls, this can be a unique opportunity. What I would like to see happen now, Mr. Speaker, is for Abitibi to come forward and say: Yes, this is a new day. We have uniform permits for our wood supply. We have a chance to improve labour relations. There is one missing equation. As Abitibi can rectify this situation, they can come in and make a capital investment in the Grand Falls mill, and that will solidify their commitment because they will improve the mechanism of that Number 7 machine and Number 3 machine. That was an offer that they put on the table on September 24, 2002; however, when union had concerns over some of the items in the offer, the offer was then pulled from the table.

I know there needs to be a bit of time lapse from this particular situation but, as the Minister of Labour, I am willing - and I said that the day of the news conference in Grand Falls-Windsor last Tuesday - as the Minister of Labour, I am willing to get those parties together again. We have been working on it ever since last spring, and long before that. I have been involved ever since I have been the Minister of Labour and, of course, before I had this portfolio. I want the union and the company to get together and start off on a new track.

When you look at the average age of the workforce in the Grand Falls mill, you are looking at late forties. What does that say? The same situation exists now in government. Here in the government, public servants, the average age is about forty-seven. Within five to eight years, ten years at the most, there will be a complete turnaround of the employees currently working at the mill in Grand Falls. We will be opening up new opportunities for new workers.

I would say to the company and the union, you know, you have had a rocky road over the past fifteen or twenty years. You have a couple of guarantees once this legislation is passed, that you did not have before. Now is the time to sit down, iron out your differences, so production can be key. There is only one thing you have to worry about when you go to work in the morning, in the Grand Falls mill: that you are going to make the best paper possible and production is the only thing that you have to think about.

What does the Grand Falls mill mean to Central Newfoundland? Every area in my district depends on that mill - every community - not only in my district but in surrounding communities, like the Member for Windsor-Springdale, the Member for Exploits, the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune. Many of his constituents, the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune, and Lewisporte, all over Central Newfoundland, depend entirely on the Grand Falls mill.

I can tell you, when that whistle stops blowing in Grand Falls, and it is down right now for maintenance, everything stops in Grand Falls. When the people in Grand Falls know that the workers have signed a collective agreement and things are in place, production is good, you know, the whole economy hums. I can see it everywhere I go. Right now in Grand Falls-Windsor, there are seventy-six new houses under construction. If they were to get word tomorrow morning that the mill was going to shut down Number 7 paper machine, I tell you, people would keep their wallets in their pockets. Everything happens, lives and dies, around that Grand Falls mill. Number 7 paper machine is the lifeblood of the economy - and I cannot say it enough - of Grand Falls-Windsor.

Mr. Speaker, I know there are several speakers who want to speak to this issue but I am understanding now that this will go to Committee after I am done. What I want to say is, besides the stability that it is going to provide for the workers and all of Central Newfoundland, we have a chance now, through the Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods, to develop a long-term management plan for our wood industry, our wood supply in this Province. Between now and 2010, that will give us ample time to go out and hear from the general public, hear from sawmillers, hear from loggers, hear from everyone interested, so we will have eight years to develop a great management plan.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I want to say I am in complete agreement with this. It is historic in nature and I think it will be the shot in the arm that everybody needs in Central Newfoundland. I think it is the right move and I support it 100 per cent.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will reserve some of the other comments for when we get into Committee. I would like to close debate now on this particular bill, and I understand that some other members of the House, especially the Member for Baie Verte, would like to speak. We can address some of those comments and some of those concerns when we do get to the Committee stage.

I want to thank my critic, the Member for Windsor-Springdale, for some of the comments he made. I would like to make one comment with regard to the public hearings, Mr. Speaker. Public hearings with regard to the legislative part of this are not necessary. Public hearings are a part of the FMAs. That is the only section in the land tenure system whereby public hearings, we will say, are mandatory. Timber sales agreements and some of the others with regard to one-year permits and with regard to a trade-off, we do not have to have it, but when it comes to twenty-year FMAs then we must have public consultation and public hearings, and that is what we are looking at going to over the next weeks, months and years ahead, Mr. Speaker, to try to have it all in place by the time we get to this common expiry date.

With those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I would like to close debate on second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Forestry Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 27)

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

MR. LUSH: Order 20, Mr. Speaker, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Access To Information And Protection Of Privacy Act, Bill 25.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Access To Information And Protection Of Privacy Act." (Bill 25)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to speak in support of Bill 25, An Act To Amend The Access To Information And Protection Of Privacy Act, commonly referred to very quickly by the staff as ATIP instead of FOI, which was the previous act.

In line with government's commitment to openness, transparency and accountability, in December of 2000, I announced the creation of the Freedom of Information Review Committee. This committee was tasked with reviewing the existing Freedom of Information Act and making recommendations to modernize the legislation and to create consistency with other Canadian jurisdictions who have similar pieces of legislation.

In July of 2001, after an extensive review and consultation process, the committee submitted a report recommending that the existing Freedom Of Information Act be repealed and a new legislative regime be enacted. In response to that recommendation, government took immediate action in drafting Bill 49, implementing the committee's report. The bill not only addressed the public's concern with rights to access but also their right to privacy and the protection of their personal information, which we never, ever had in this jurisdiction before, a privacy act. As a result, the ATIP Act was passed in this House in March of this year.

A cornerstone of the new legislation is the establishment of an independent non-partisan review mechanism to examine decisions of public bodies associated with the disclosure of information and the protection of privacy.

Under the current Freedom of Information Act, which is still in force, the only recourse was an appeal to the Supreme Court Trial Division, and the cost and time associated of course with that process was significant and was, in fact, a significant limitation and deterrent to individuals who wanted to use the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr. Speaker, in order to address those concerns government must provide an accessible and efficient alternative to having to use the courts as a first means of appeal. The review mechanism established under the ATIP Act is intended to provide such an alternative by allowing citizens of this Province the right to an independent review of information refusals and privacy complaints.

The original intent of this legislation was to delegate this authority as the review commissioner to the Citizens' Representative, in addition to the Ombudsman or Citizens' Representative duties and responsibilities under the Citizens' Representative Act. The Citizens' Representative, therefore, would have had a dual investigative function and would be responsible for reviews and complaints filed under the authority of both the Citizens' Representative Act and the ATIP Act. Since taking up office in March of this year, however, it has become very evident that the newly appointed Citizens' Representative, Mr. Fraser March, and his staff continue to dedicate all of their time and effort to their duties and responsibilities under authority of the Citizens' Representative Act. It would be unfair to expect Mr. March and his staff to expand his role at this time and to include the added responsibility of investigating access and privacy issues. This would not only adversely affect his ability to continue his obligation under the Citizens' Representative legislation, but would also interfere with the proper functioning of the ATIP legislation.

Mr. Speaker, it is for this reason that this bill we have, Bill 25, introduces a separate and dedicated information and privacy commissioner for the purposes of the ATIP Act. This commissioner will be appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council as an Officer of the House of Assembly and will act as an independent -

MR. E. BYRNE: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Just a quick point of order, Mr. Speaker.

It is now one minute after 5:30 p.m. I just want to make sure - because we do have an agreement on second readings today. So we must, I think by agreement, stop the clock so we can conclude with this, if that would be okay.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreed?

MR. LUSH: (Inaudible) necessity to, because we have a motion that we not adjourn at 5:30 p.m.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. LUSH: We don't? We will do whatever we have to do. We will agree to stop the clock at 5:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Is there an agreement that we stop the clock?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Agreed.

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is for this reason that this bill, Bill 25, introduces a separate and dedicated information and privacy commissioner for the purposes of the ATIP Act. This commissioner, as I said, would be appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council as an Officer of the House of Assembly and will act as an independent and accessible alternative to the court system.

During my opening remarks I referred to openness, transparency and accountability, Mr. Speaker. The decision to establish a dedicated information and privacy commissioner only highlights and strengthens the government's commitment to these principals.

In order for this legislation to be truly effective and to serve the purposes for which it was intended, it is essential that an appropriate review mechanism be available to the public. It is now clear that the current mechanism outlined in the ATIP Act would impede the public from enforcing their rights under this legislation, whereas introduction of a dedicated commissioner will eliminate this impediment and will provide the citizens of this Province with an effective, independent review mechanism which they deserve.

Mr. Speaker, I understand there are some further details - we are well aware, in Bill 25 - that may be forthcoming. We will certainly be prepared to address those when we get to the committee stage regarding the term of appointment, for example, of the commissioner. All parties, as I understand it, have been discussing a two-year appointment term and we can certainly get to those details when we get to the committee stage.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the comments of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. We have had, on this side of the House, an opportunity to review Bill 25 as it relates to access to information and the protection of privacy. We share many of the comments that were made by the Minister of Justice in his introductory comments, particularly the fact that this is a dedicated piece of legislation dealing with access to information and privacy issues.

As the minister has indicated, there are certainly a few points - and I know members on this side of the House would like to speak in some depth - particularly the term of office. The fact that this appointment is for a two-year term or, I believe, according to section 42.2.1, in fact it can be renewed for a further two-year period. I understand that members on this side of the House, and indeed, perhaps members opposite wish to make some comment with respect to that particular provision and maybe other provisions of Bill 25. However, Mr. Speaker, we will reserve those comments for our clause by clause debate.

At this point I think it is fair to say that on behalf of members of this side of the House we generally support this legislation. We see it as progressive and we see it dealing with a particular dedication to an issue that is very important to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, as was seen when the committee heard a number of comments and heard points of view with respect to this very important issue dealing with the release of information and privacy issues as it relates to the citizens of our Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

If he speaks now, he will close the debate.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the comments of the hon. Member for St. John's East, and we look forward to debating, discussing this matter further in committee stage. I move second reading of this bill.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Access To Information And Protection Of Privacy Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 25)

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I thank hon members for their participation and for their cooperation. I, again, give notice, under Standing Order 11, that tomorrow the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I understand that the Government House Leader is giving notice of motion.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House on its rising do adjourn.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Tuesday, at 1:30 p.m.