March 17, 2005 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS Vol. XLV No. 3


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Hodder): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: This afternoon we have members' statements as follows: the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl, the hon. the Member for the District of Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune, the hon. the Member for St. John's West, the hon. the Member for Labrador West, and the hon. the Member for Bonavista North.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to acknowledge the accomplishments of my fellow Labradorian, Zoe Webb. Ms Webb, who is a good friend of mine, Mr. Speaker, has a biography that reads like a best-selling adventure novel. Ms Webb is the embodiment of the spirit of modern Labrador. Growing up in the village of Webb Bay, she was taught with her siblings to hunt, trap and live off the land, by their father, while their formal education was home schooling that was taught by their mother.

Webb Bay had no electricity. The only means of entertainment, besides reading, was exploring the Labrador wilderness, creating art and storytelling. The rugged lifestyle fostered a spirit of adventure in Ms Webb that led her to soar higher than most people can imagine. After graduating high school in Nain, Zoe left to attend Memorial University. During this time, her mind often returned to Labrador and a helicopter ride that she had taken years before.

One day, while walking to class, a helicopter flew overhead and at that moment she knew that she needed to change careers. After completing Visual Flight Rules pilot training, Zoe was hired by Canadian Helicopter Corporation in Goose Bay to fly in Labrador and Northern Quebec. As a pilot, she has been involved in medivacs, firefighting, mining exploration and military operations.

After eight years with Canadian Helicopter Corporation, Zoe decided to move to a new challenge and began training to fly using Instrument Flight Rules. Currently, she is employed by Cougar Helicopters, flying to offshore oil rigs. It is believed, Mr. Speaker, that she is the only woman in Canada flying offshore, and one of only a handful of women in the world who actually fly offshore.

Mr. Speaker, Zoe is indicative of the high-flying spirit of many Labradorians and I ask my colleagues to join me in congratulating her on her success in the aviation industry and breaking new ground for women in our Province and across the country.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand here today to bring congratulations to the Mount Pearl Frosty Festival Committee and the City of Mount Pearl.

From February 10-20, Mount Pearl held its twenty-third annual Frosty Festival. Mr. Speaker, this festival continues to grow more and more each year. Our opening gala was held at the Glacier with special guest appearance of Jason Greeley, who everyone knows in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This is the first year that so many events were sold out prior to the start date of the festival. There were variety shows, dinner theatres, various sports events and tournaments, battle of bands competitions, seniors and kids parties, old fashioned jiggs dinner, and karaoke nights. Mr. Speaker, these were just a few of the events that were held during the festival. Participation from the community for this festival was phenomenal, and I can definitely say that the community spirit is alive and well in our city.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the success of the festival can be attributed to this being a special year for Mount Pearl as they are celebrating their fiftieth anniversary. It has been fifty years for Mount Pearl being incorporated as a municipality. The City of Mount Pearl has combined their anniversary celebrations into the Frosty Festival, making it bigger and better.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, an event such as this involved a lot of hard work, and I take this opportunity to thank the committee members, the event organizers, sponsors, and hundreds of volunteers who gave so freely of their time to enhance our city. I ask all members to please join with me in congratulating them on their hard work.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge the tremendous contributions of Ms Vera Mullins to her community. Ms Mullins was recently named Harbour Breton's Citizen of the Year.

Ms Vera Mullins is very well known for her volunteer efforts. She has dedicated an incredible amount of time to many volunteer organizations, including St. Bartholomew's Church, Harbour Breton Lioness Club and the Harbour Breton Cadet Corps, just to name a few.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to her time contributed to groups and organizations, Ms Mullins has contributed in other ways. Recently, Ms Mullins was featured in a news article, praising her volunteer efforts for donating her hair for the manufacturing of wigs for children who use chemotherapy treatments. Thus far, Ms Mullins has given nearly three feet of her hair to the cause.

Mr. Speaker, upon accepting the award for Citizen of the Year, Ms Mullins stated she loves being a volunteer in the community and that she never thought of an award when she started volunteering in community activities.

Ms Mullins is an asset to her community and her dedication to make Harbour Breton a better place to live for everyone, from children to seniors, is indeed rewarding for all residents.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all members of this House join me in congratulating Ms Mullins for her outstanding volunteer efforts and her strength for continuously helping others.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I am delighted today to congratulate Beaconsfield Junior High School on being officially designated as a member of Peaceful Schools International. This took place in a ceremony at the school on Monday past and Beaconsfield Junior High will now have the proud honour of flying that organization's flag on the school grounds.

Peaceful Schools International was started in Nova Scotia in 2001 by an educator, Hetty Van Gurp, whose son was killed in a bullying incident in school. To become a designated member of this organization, schools must demonstrate a strong commitment to a peaceful school environment.

Mr. Speaker, the staff and students of Beaconsfield Junior High have worked very hard over the past three years to achieve this designation. Among other things, the school has implemented a bullying intervention program and a classroom buddy system. It has also held workshops on such topics as drug awareness and suicide intervention. Students themselves have taken active roles in food drives, recycling programs, peer tutoring, and a host of community service programs and fundraisers. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the students and staff became so involved that they actually surpassed the qualifications required for this designation.

Everyone involved in this endeavour should be very proud and I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating Beaconsfield Junior High School on this wonderful achievement.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to congratulate Joey Russell, a sixteen-year-old figure skater from Labrador West who has, and continues, to excel in the figure skating world.

I am pleased today to inform Members of the House of Assembly of Joey's most recent success, winning a gold medal for Canada in the junior men's division of Mladost Trophy Figure Skating event held in Zagreb, Croatia on March 10-12.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Joey won both the short and free skates event to claim the gold medal. This was his first international event outside North America.

Joey's past successes, Mr. Speaker, include seven regional titles, six provincial championships, a silver medal from Skate Canada Eastern Challenge, a bronze medalist at the 2003 Canada Winter Games, a bronze medal in the 2005 BMO Financial Group Skate Canada Eastern Challenge in the junior men's division, and a two-time silver medalist in the Canadian Junior Nationals.

He also competed internationally with Team Canada at the North American Skate Challenge in 2003 and 2004 and Lake Placid, New York and San Jose, California where he won a bronze medal.

Joey is a member of the Polaris Figure Skating Club in Labrador West and is currently training under Jan Ullmark at Edmonton's Royal Glenora Club. There is no doubt in my mind, Mr. Speaker, the name Joey Russell will soon be a household name in this country.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members to join me in congratulating this outstanding young figure skater and wish him success on his accomplishments to date and wish him well in his future endeavours.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARDING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to offer congratulations to the New-Wes-Valley Corps of the Salvation Army. The New-Wes-Valley Corps includes the combined corps of Greenspond, Wesleyville and Deadman's Bay.

On March 5, the corps officially opened the doors to their new citadel in the New-Wes-Valley area. I had the honour of attending this special event and was very impressed by their new $800,000 facility. It is, indeed, a far cry from the second floor of the waterfront store where their first meeting was held over 110 years ago. The event was a tremendous success and it was made possible through the leadership of the corps officers and the hard work and dedication on the part of the corps membership. This new facility will enable the corps to continue to deliver the spiritual and social programs that have helped sustain and strengthen our region throughout the past century.

I call on all hon. members of the this House in offering congratulations to Captains Paul and Kelly Rideout and the New-Wes-Valley Salvation Army Corps in recognition of this milestone in their history.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services; and the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to inform my hon. colleagues about Les Rendez-vous de la Francophonie. From March 4 to March 20, Les Rendez-vous de la Francophonie is a time for Canadians to recognize and celebrate our nation's French language and French culture. The aim is to bring out English-speaking and French-speaking communities closer and to foster mutual respect between them.

Mr. Speaker, here in our Province there are many activities taking place to mark the occasion, and today, government welcomes representatives from the Province's francophone organizations who have set-up an information display in the main lobby of our Confederation Building. The purpose is for all of us to learn more about and develop greater appreciation for our Province's rich francophone culture.

Notre province a une longue et riche histoire franaise et acadienne. C'est une histoire qui continue B s'crire au 21e siPcle. Nous saluons les personnes qui travaillent au sein de nos organisations francophones et qui font de bnvolat dans nos communauts francophones afin d'assurer que la langue franaise continue B s'panouir et B prosprer B Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador. [Our Province has a long and rich French and Acadian history, a history that continues to write itself in the 21st century. We recognize those individuals who work in our francophone organizations and volunteer in our francophone communities to ensure that the French language continues to grow and prosper in our Newfoundland and Labrador.]

Mr. Speaker, I ask and encourage all hon. colleagues to take the opportunity to visit the display and to meet representatives from our francophone community. These individuals have given generously of their time so that government many learn about the work they perform every day to promote and protect francophone interests in our Province.

Mr. Speaker, today I also want to acknowledge the work of the Office of French Services for organizing this event. This office is focused on building the provincial government's capacity to deliver quality services in French and to contribute to the development and vitality of the Province's francophone community. Through its various activities, including French language training, translation and linguistic support, government-community liaison and intergovernmental co-operation on Francophone Affairs, the staff at the office ensure that we, as a government, and as a public service do our best to consider the needs of all French-speaking Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, to all those participating in Les Rendez-vous de la Francophonie, enjoy the event.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear1

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the minister for an advanced copy of his statement today.

Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House would also like to thank and acknowledge the francophone community and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador for the excellent work they have done over the years in preserving the rich culture of our francophone society.

Mr. Speaker, earlier today I had an opportunity to visit the display booths in the lobby and to talk to people from the francophone society that was representing the youth, representing community services and programs, and representing education.

Mr. Speaker, it is sad that we have seen so many cuts to teacher units in this Province that we are running the risk of having French programs and French Immersion programs in schools, especially like those in Labrador West, being eroded from the system. Mr. Speaker, two regions of our Province border on the Province of Quebec, the Labrador Straits and the Labrador West region. It is important that children in those areas of our Province have the opportunity to seek French language classes and French Immersion classes.

Mr. Speaker, the people of Labrador West, along with their MHA, have fought really hard over the last number of months to have a commitment to keep those programs in the school in Labrador West. I think, Minister, during Francophone week it would be timely for government to step up to the plate and to make that commitment to people in Labrador, to the children there, to ensure that they have access to French programs in their schools and that they are educated in the way that they should be, I say to the minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to commend the minister on his French capabilities.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: However, I would like to say to the minister, how much better it could be if he had had early French Immersion when he was going to school.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, there is no question about the influence that the French culture and language has had in our Province. Last year we celebrated the 400th Anniversary of French culture within our Province, a very important milestone. The French language, Mr. Speaker, in my area of Labrador West is extremely important and there is a lot of interaction.

I find, Mr. Speaker, that I am sort of confounded, because here, on one hand, we have the minister today acknowledging how much of a good influence our French culture is in this Province -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has expired.

MR. COLLINS: By leave?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

MR. COLLINS: - that provides to our Province the riches, and yet on this hand, Mr. Speaker, we have the future of French Immersion hanging in the balance. What a contradiction!

I want to say to the minister, and the Minister of Education, and this government, that during this Budget review, instead of looking at cutting French Immersion programs in Labrador, and Labrador West in particular, where 50 per cent of students are enrolled at Kindergarten, they should be expanding that.

However, Mr. Speaker, I will acknowledge the statement by the minister that reflects upon the importance of the Francophone Associations within our Province, and the tremendous amount of work that they do. When we have two societies interacting together with different cultural backgrounds, it certainly adds to the richness of our Province.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in referencing the future of Abitibi's operations in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Minister of Natural Resources said in his Ministerial Statement in this Legislature, and I quote, "... this government agreed to a request from the company to provide a contribution of $1 million, which offset the power rate increase for a period of 60 days...". That was his quote right here in the Legislature. Outside the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker, the same minister contradicted this statement and told the media that this money has not actually been given to the company at all.

Would the minister like to clarify for us in the Legislature the discrepancies between what he said inside the House and what he said outside the House?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, it being St. Patrick's Day, I am reminded of the words of a famous Irish poet by the name of George Bernard Shaw, who, responding to a long time critic of his, said this: It has never been characteristic of his critic - and this is what he said, Mr. Speaker, not what I say, of his critic - to let the facts and the truth of a matter interrupt with a good story that he is about to tell.

Mr. Speaker, let me say this: What I said yesterday in this House was an absolute fact, that there was an agreement and an arrangement reached. Now, the fact of the matter that we reached an arrangement does not mean that the money has already been expired or the money has already been spent. The fact of the matter is, there are obligations under the arrangement with respect to Abitibi that they have to meet. Now, if they do not meet those arrangements, which includes the closure of Stephenville at the end of March, then they do not get the money. Even though, if they do not get the money, what we wanted from it, which is the intellectual property, engineering financial studies and other, and, I might add, the consideration for discussion and negotiation on water rights -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the minister now to complete his answer quickly.

MR. E. BYRNE: I will.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

- discussion and negotiation on water rights, we end up getting anyway.

If that helps clarify the situation for the Leader of the Opposition, then so be it. I look forward to more questions, Mr. Speaker, on the future of the pulp and paper industry, and potentially the constructive role that he and some of his other members might like to play.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is another saying, too, that you should always keep your words sweet because you might have to eat them some time. I would suggest that the minister is starting to eat some of his words.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, as well, the Minister of Natural Resources confirmed that Abitibi-Consolidated told him three months ago, in December, that they intended to close the mill in Stephenville permanently. This government's only response so far has been to fall back on Bill 27, an initiative of members on this side of the House - nothing new from the government, no permanent solutions at all.

Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, he also confirmed that the company will not be given any priority access to wood in Labrador, and the company will not be given access to wood from Central Newfoundland, and, Mr. Speaker, that sixteen months after the election there is no plan to deal with energy costs in Stephenville.

I ask the minister, Mr. Speaker: Where is the long-term solution promised to the people of Stephenville nearly two years ago, that they were going to act on immediately upon being elected?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, let's not confuse any of the questions or notions being put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. Because he suggests that there has been nothing done does not mean that nothing has been done.

Let me say honestly, Mr. Speaker, to the people of the Province, in particular to the people of Stephenville, on this very important matter, that discussions and negotiations are ongoing. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition would understand why he is not my lead consultant on this file.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is clear that they have great difficulty answering direct questions because they do not have any answers, just like yesterday.

Mr. Speaker, again, a final question, the minister stated yesterday as well that he intends to follow the remedies set out in Bill 27 and pull Abitibi's timber rights if they do not maintain a two-paper-mill machine operation in Grand Falls-Windsor. He said it quite emphatically I ask the minister: Will he confirm, in this Legislature, that he will use the legislation that applies to Abitibi and to ensure - as he said yesterday - that they will lose access to wood supply and fibre if they downgrade production in the Grand Falls-Windsor mill? And, has he personally advised the Abitibi representatives of that, or has he just said it through the media like he did yesterday?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I am having difficulty, like most people in the Province, to be honest with you, finding out where the Opposition is on any issue.

Yesterday, the critic condemned me. This morning, his colleague, the Member for Windsor-Buchans, applauded me. This morning, the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune applauded me and this government through me.

The fact of the matter is, yesterday, in a Ministerial Statement in this House to the people of the Province, we affirmed and confirmed to the people of Central Newfoundland and Labrador this very thing, that the laws of this Province that we are sworn to uphold we will uphold them. That is the bottom line now. Abitibi got the message and so they should have, and so did everyone else in the Province, Mr. Speaker. We are not ashamed of standing up for the laws of this Province, for the people if this Province, and holding companies, corporations, or individuals to the commitments that they made to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Yesterday in the House, and today on Open Line, and again in this Legislature, the Minister of Natural Resources has made it emphatically clear that he would use legislation passed by the Liberal Government to protect workers at the Grand Falls mill. Access to timber resources are tied to production levels in the Grand Falls mill. Mr. Speaker, I applaud the minister. I told him so this morning and I do it here now, so the people across the Province can see it. I really do.

Just as there is a piece of legislation that covers Abitibi, there is also a piece of legislation that covers FPI. That company is leaving Harbour Breton and taking its community historical resources with it.

Won't the minister stand up to FPI the way that this minister is standing up to Abitibi and have the resources remain in Harbour Breton?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure that the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune - I don't know about his colleagues - but I am sure that the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune and most people will recognize that trees on land in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador fall solidly under the jurisdiction of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Fish in the water off the Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador falls solidly under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Mr. Speaker.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, we have indicated to the people of Harbour Breton that we will support them along the way in trying to find a solution for the people of Harbour Breton and the people of the Connaigre Peninsula. We worked with them over the past number of months on that. We have committed a fair amount of money to helping them find a resolution both in the short term and the long term. We will remain committed to that and we will continue working with the people in that area to find a solution.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister, that the FPI Act is not offshore it is right here in this Legislature.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LANGDON: Minister, you have ordered production quotas for crab in the Province, you have directed where crab production is to take place, and you have directed how much is to be produced at any one plant. When you were asked to do that for the Town of Harbour Breton, you said that you do not support a portion of FPI's quota to be left in a community. Minister, why the double standard?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, to correct one of the member's statements. We did not say that we did not support the people of Harbour Breton. We did not say we would not support the request for quotas. We did not say we would not support one-third of the quota. We said that we were prepared to work with the people to find a viable solution for Harbour Breton and the Connaigre Peninsula, and that we would - and we have informed them of this and the member knows of this - be prepared to give them up to $250,000 to develop a business plan that identifies a long-term solution for the people of Harbour Breton, and if that included some quotas or allocations being tied to Harbour Breton, then, Mr. Speaker, we would support that. We have said that publicly, we have said that privately, we have said that in this House and we have said it outside this House.

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, on the issue of the FPI Act; the FPI Act governs the company, yes, but the Government of Canada, through the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and the Fisheries Act, have total authority under the constitution of this country, have total authority over the harvesting sector of the fishery in this country.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune.

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

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear the minister say it, but it was reported to me. I have not played politics with him and I think you will agree with that because it is too important for the people of Harbour Breton and the whole Connaigre region; it is an area that needs recognition.

The minister was supposed to have said: If the people of Harbour Breton think that they are going to get a portion of FPI's quota, they have blinkers on. I did not hear the minister say it myself, but it was reported to me.

Minister, you say that production quotas for crab producers will stabilize the industry and protect rural areas of our Province. If you really believe this, you will also have an opportunity to do the same for Harbour Breton and the entire Connaigre Peninsula by standing up to FPI and demanding that the historical quota stay with the town. Will you commit to doing that?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, if the member is going to stand in the House and repeat rumours, then he should, at the very least, tell us who said it because it certainly did not come out of my mouth.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, what we have said time and time again in this House, outside of this House, in the public media and inside closed doors, in the Premier's boardroom, and wherever, with the people of Harbour Breton, the IAS committee and all of the people involved, is that we would support the people of Harbour Breton, and if that required support on quota allocations, quota retention and what have you, then we would do that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TAYLOR: We told them that we are prepared to give them $250,000 in order to identify a long-term plan for that region, Mr. Speaker, that takes into consideration the wild fishery, quota allocations, the aquaculture industry and the whole gamut in that area. That is what we have committed to because we are looking for a long-term solution not a short-term political fix.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I will just ask this question of members opposite: Where do they stand on community quotas and plant production -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yesterday afternoon, at 12:19 p.m., I spoke with an official of Occupational Health and Safety who advised me that he had just returned from the office on Water Street, met with the staff there and said everything was fine, there was no concern for personal safety. Today, that office has been evacuated because of dangerous conditions which the department has known about for some time.

I ask the minister: Why did it take her so long to act on this issue, and what contingency plans have been put in place to deal with the chaos which will be caused because of her tardiness in dealing with this situation?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we are aware of the issues with the downtown office and it has been reported in the news. The building next door is in the process of being demolished. We are also following the situation. Today, we removed the workers from the building under the orders of Occupational Health and Safety. The main phone lines still remain open. The workers are available if we need them. We will be issuing the pay centre from the West Coast until the situation has been dealt with. The clients still have access to services. The phone lines are located in Regatta Plaza. Other than that, we will continue to monitor the situation. Our priorities are the health and safety of our workers and the fact that the clients' needs are being met.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, I say the priority came into effect after I called Occupational Health and Safety.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUTLER: There was no -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the hon. Member for Port de Grave District.

MR. BUTLER: There was no concern, Mr. Speaker, for personal safety yesterday up until 12:19, and today the office is evacuated.

Can the minister confirm that the serious backlogs that already existed, coupled with the latest situation which will mean serious delays for some of the most vulnerable people in society, and what plans have been implemented to take care of the situation?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resource, Labour and Employment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, in case the member across the way did not hear the first answer I gave, we are going to work with the situation. We do have our lines open. Clients do have access to leave messages. Everything will be dealt with. Our workers are on notice in case we need them. The pay centre on the West Coast will pick up right now if we cannot process from our downtown office.

Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate, the importance of this situation is the health and safety of our employees and equally as important to that, is that the clients who need service from that office will continue to receive the services.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Education and it raises concerns that people in Labrador, in general, have over the cancellation of the Early French Immersion program in our schools.

Mr. Speaker, residents of Labrador, and Labrador West in particular, and other organizations in our Province for some time now, in excess of a year, have been after the Labrador School Board and the Department of Education through the ministers, to make a decision that French Immersion will continue to be offered. We have had twenty years of Early French Immersion in Labrador West. Currently, 12 per cent of all students under the Labrador School Board are in French Immersion programs; 50 per cent of all Kindergarten intakes are enrolled into French Immersion for the past number of years.

I ask the minister, will he commit today to the people in Labrador, and Labrador West in particular, to protect the integrity of the Early French Immersion program?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. I certainly agree with him with regard to the value of the French Immersion programs throughout this Province, as well in Labrador West. Again, I would indicate to the member opposite that certainly from the department's standpoint, we have been working closely with the board in an attempt to resolve this situation. We continue to work with the board to resolve this situation and I would hope in the very near future that that situation will be resolved.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to say to the minister, and ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, given the fact that jobs in the local economy in Labrador West, because of the close proximity to the Quebec border, because there are three large mining companies in the area, and at times suppliers to these companies have to speak in the French language as well, given that consideration, that mostly all jobs that are posted require people to be bilingual, given the fact that we have graduates from our French Immersion program in Labrador West who are now professors at major universities across this Province, and given the concern that in the local papers today in Labrador West there are advertisements from other school boards across this country soliciting French Immersion program instructors, teachers, because the word is out that the French Immersion program may not be there, will the minister address this immediately to allay the concerns of the parents and the students in Labrador West? Again, I ask the minister to commit, to stand in his place today and commit to the people of Labrador West, that this program will indeed be continued.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I say to the member opposite that I certainly will commit to work with the board to resolve this situation. Again, a reminder that the French Immersion program within Newfoundland and Labrador is an optional program, it is the board decision whether or not to continue with the program. That is why I say I will work closely with the board to make sure that we do everything possible to make sure that program continues.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, the recent Hay Group report that was done for the Northern Peninsula and Southern Labrador focused on saving money and not saving health care services in that region. Mr. Speaker, medical staff in the St. Anthony area - we have been made aware - are now tendering resignations. People are fearing the worst. Community leaders will, this evening, start a rally in this area to try and protect medical services.

I want to ask the minister today: Will he commit that obstetric services, psychiatry, radiology, gynecology and pediatric services will not be eroded from the hospital at St. Anthony, regardless of the Hay Group recommendations that are now in his department?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. member opposite knows full well that the report that was released several weeks ago, released publicly for everybody in the Province to see, was a series of recommendations; in fact, Mr. Speaker, some 270 recommendations.

What government is now asking is for a variety of stakeholders in health, whether it be our medical profession, our nurses, our employees within the system, our municipalities, our advocates in health care, to assess and to consult publicly with our new CEOs, with our new health authorities, which will be coming into effect just in a matter of days.

It is a consultation process, I say to the hon. member. There are no decisions made. There are no prejudgements. There are no biases. There are no preconceived notions. There are no decisions. These are simply recommendations, and we now ask publicly for a variety of individuals, for a variety of bodies, for a variety of (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Still no commitments, though, Mr. Speaker.

In January, I visited the Captain William Jackman Memorial Hospital in Labrador West and I was shocked to find the deplorable condition of the hospital, especially in the emergency department, with the ceilings falling, with the plaster peeling off the walls, and very little privacy there.

Mr. Speaker, I know that the minister himself is also now aware of the condition that exists there. I know that last week he announced $200,000 to do a study on whether there should be a new facility. Well, Mr. Speaker, even if there is a new facility, it is years down the road if that is the way government wants to go.

I say to the minister today: Will you commit to invest, from your new-found wealth on the other side, some money into bringing the hospital in Labrador West up to a standard that is required to provide adequate services?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I, too, had the opportunity and the privilege to visit the very facility that the hon. member is referencing. We have had support, I might add, recently from the mayor of both communities in Labrador West, the Mayor or Wabush and Labrador City, with respect to the approach and the announcement that was made during our recent visit in Labrador.

I say to the hon. member that strategic decisions will be made by our new health care authorities, by our new CEOs, and these decisions, in time, will be made that will address what is indeed in the best interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with respect to any issue that they are confronted with.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my understanding that, although the mayors welcome the $200,000 study to look at a new hospital, they would certainly welcome some money to do the repairs that need to be done there right now, I say to the minister.

Mr. Speaker, another troubling recommendation in the report was to remove doctors from the Forteau health centre, to have the 3,000 residents in the Labrador Straits use the Blanc-Sablon hospital in Quebec as a referral service for health care in that region.

Mr. Speaker, the minister already said, quite clearly, that he would not accept the recommendation by the Hay Group to close clinics in Southern Labrador. I ask him today to stand and tell me he will also not accept the recommendation to remove physicians from the Forteau health centre, that he will not accept the recommendations to have 3,000 Labradorians use a hospital in (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can only repeat, I guess, my response to her first question. Again, this is a document with a series of recommendations. These are not decisions. The public at large, and interested individuals, they will consult, they will engage. They will apprise the new health care authorities and the new CEOs of their position and, in due course, a proposed implementation plan within the next three or four months will be presented to government. At that time, and in due course, I say to the hon. member, and indeed all hon. members, that government, having consulted with and having received the information gleaned over the next few months, will make the appropriate decisions, again in the best health care interests of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are also for the Minister of Health.

What rubbish! He talks about a report, and he waits for consultation and input from the general public. He has already looked at the Hay report and made his decisions about clinic closures. What a farce this is! We know what they do with reports. The Minister of Fisheries yesterday said, when you get reports over here they act on them. They do not let dust grow on them. They intend to implement the Hay report.

I say to the minister: When will you end this tardiness and pointing this issue out to the public endlessly, end the uncertainty and commit that you will not implement the Hay committee report recommendations?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite is very familiar with the process. He is a member of a party that, a number of years ago, engaged the same advisors with respect to a report that ultimately was used and of great assistance to the Health Care Corporation in St. John's. There was an Atkinson Report prepared several years ago, I might add, Mr. Speaker, that members opposite were afraid to release. They sat on it. It was under lock and key for some twenty-four months.

What I am saying to the hon. member who just asked the question is that we will take this obligation and responsibility seriously. Our new boards and our new CEOs will listen to what the public has to say, will listen to what the Town of Port aux Basques has to say, for example, will listen to the physicians in your community, will listen to the nurses in your community, and having heard and having consulted with those individuals, who are indeed the appropriate individuals to make representations, in due course -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister again, he has already acted on the Hay Report. He said in his press release of February 24, the report recommendations about clinic closures will not proceed. If he can make that decision then on clinic closures without any consultation, he can make other decisions about the recommendations.

Now, the report recommends drastic downgrading of the services at Stephenville and termination of the obstetrical services at Port aux Basques. We already know your government's plan for rural Newfoundland is still blowing in the wind, but little did we ever dream that it might include that we couldn't have a baby west of the Wreck house.

You stopped the clinic closures, Minister. Will you commit today that you will stop this foolishness about the obstetrics recommendations?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I will allow the process to unfold and to carry out in the way that it should, again to respond to individuals, to respond to professionals, and to respond to municipalities that are impacted. In due course, Mr. Speaker, our new CEOs, our new health care authorities, will present to government a proposed implementation plan taking into account everything they have heard and the representations that have been made to them. Having their own assessment completed, it will be forwarded to the department, it will be forwarded to government, and the appropriate decisions will be made, again in the interests of those impacted.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: We just have time for a very brief question and an equally brief response.

The hon. the Member for the Bay of Islands.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JOYCE: My question is for the Minister of Health and Community Services.

One of the recommendations of the Hay Report, 172, would allow a procedure whereby long term care patients waiting for placements would be transferred from Corner Brook to Stephenville. This would separate parents from children, spouses from each other, and create an unacceptable level of stress and anxiety for patients.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. JOYCE: This is a very serious issue, I say to the Minister of Finance. Parents are going to be separated, spouses are going to be separated -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member, he has limited time and I have to provide for a limited response. I ask the member to finish his question.

MR. JOYCE: Will the minister now do the right thing and cancel this recommendation 172, as you did to the other closures of the clinics because, Mr. Speaker, you are putting a lot of stress on spouses, senior citizens, and families in the Corner Brook area. Will you take recommendation 172 off the table to relieve the stress?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there are 270 recommendations. The process that I have outlined will carry out. There will be a process put in place whereby their boards and those impacted will respond, and, in due course, the appropriate decisions will be made. We are simply not going to pick, as in the example that was given, pick and choose recommendations. What we are saying is that there is a process, there is a procedure. It will be carried out, Mr. Speaker, and it will be carried out in the interest of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allocated for Oral Questions has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of documents.

Notices of Motions.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow move the following motion, that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further Notices of Motion.

The hon. the Member for Trinity North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I wish to give notice today that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a private member's motion which reads:

WHEREAS the Government of Canada has declared 2005 as the Year of the Veteran; and

WHEREAS throughout Canada all citizens are being asked to pay tribute to veterans of the wars of the last century; and

WHEREAS Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have volunteered to serve their country, many of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly call on all citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador to seek out veterans in their community and to thank them for the contribution they made to preserving democracy, restoring peace to the world, and to pay tribute to the many veterans who gave their lives to our freedom.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further Notices of Motion.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been given.

Petitions.

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 Labrador and the Province. The petition deals with the French Immersion program, and the prayer of the petition is as follows:

WHEREAS the Labrador School Board has made a decision not to offer French Immersion beginning in 2005; and

WHEREAS this decision is totally in opposition to the goals of the federal government who have set a target of having 50 per cent of high school graduates bilingual by the year 2013; and

WHEREAS this program is very valuable and is high demand within Labrador; and

WHEREAS bilingualism provides our students with greater opportunity in their future careers and opens many doors that would otherwise be closed; and

WHEREAS the Early Immersion program is in itself a benefit that can be used to attract new families to Labrador; and

WHEREAS ultimately where it is the responsibility of the government to ensure our students receive the best and broadest education possible.

We, the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to direct the government to intervene and take whatever action is required to have this outrageous decision cancelled and reversed so that children in Labrador can be better prepared to meet the challenges facing them upon graduation from high school.

Mr. Speaker, I spoke earlier today on the value of the Early French Immersion program and the number of people in Labrador who have benefitted from this program, and because of the program itself, have gone on to far and greater things in life. I also talked to the minister about the local employment opportunities that require people - because they are dealing with two provinces and three mining companies, to have this program reinstated because any potential employment opportunities for a lot of people in Labrador, and in my district, depends upon a person being bilingual.

Mr. Speaker, the demand, generally - in politics, government should listen to the demand of the people, and the demand there is clear, when we have in excess of 50 per cent of the intake at Kindergarten opting to enroll in the Early French Immersion program; that speaks for itself, Mr. Speaker. It is the minister's ultimate responsibility, not the school boards, to ensure that this program is available to students in Labrador through the education system.

Mr. Speaker, 50 per cent of early enrollment in Early French Immersion, I think speaks volumes about the success of the Early French Immersion program. As I indicated earlier, 12 per cent of students under the Labrador school board are indeed enrolled in Immersion programs. Mr. Speaker, that is the highest of any school board in this Province. It is totally ludicrous. It does not make sense for this government to condone a school board, or anyone else, denying opportunities to the students and to the parents of Labrador when numbers like this suggest that the demand is very high for the Early French Immersion program to continue.

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage and urge the minister -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The member's allotted time has expired.

Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

MR. COLLINS: I would encourage the minister, Mr. Speaker, because Monday, in politics, the Budget will be coming down for the Province. I would encourage the minister, that in this short time - if it is not done already - between now and then, to think long and hard about the problem that we are experiencing with the cancellation of Early French Immersion and to do what is in his power to meet with the people who are concerned, to meet with the representatives of the school board and to make sure that, come Monday, this program will be allowed to survive and flourish the way it has been for more than twenty years now.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Lake Melville.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the hon. House today to present this petition:

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned, being residents of the Districts of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, Labrador West, Lake Melville, and Torngat Mountains;

WHEREAS the auditorium committee has the support of all of Labrador communities for an auditorium in Happy Valley-Goose Bay; and

WHEREAS the committee has obtained $300,000 funding for the Department of Canadian Heritage, dependent on provincial money and has raised $20,000 locally; and

WHEREAS there is no performance base in Eastern Labrador and it needs to be within walking distance for students to use;

THEREFORE we ask the government to provide the $2.4 million designated, but not deferred to begin construction during this season, as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to make a couple of comments about this.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HICKEY: There are a number of key infrastructure needs for us in Labrador, particularly in my district, and the auditorium is certainly but one. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that we have a number of needs, and this is certainly one of the top priorities that has come to me as an MHA from Labrador. I will tell you that we have given, certainly, my views on this, as an MHA, to the Premier and to the Cabinet, and I hope that we will see some success in this particular file on this particular issue in the forthcoming Budget.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if there is going to be a revolt in the back benches over there, or if the money is actually in the Budget for the auditorium, but it has to be one or the other.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to rise today to present a petition on behalf of people in Labrador with regard to a campaign that has been on the go to have a kidney dialysis unit put in Labrador to service the population there.

Mr. Speaker, the people of that area have found that over recent weeks and months they have had to have their loved ones go outside of Labrador, to move to places in different parts of the Island of the Province, to seek medical care. They feel that this is a very legitimate request, and I support them in it. Most places in the Province right now where there have been a number of people that have required kidney dialysis, we have put the money there to put the units there to provide the services to the people. Now, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having difficulty hearing the hon. member. We are aware of the fact that the acoustics are not good in here, and the sound system is not operating as we usually have it. I ask members for their co-operation.

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, in recent weeks, and in the last year, we have seen more people in Labrador requiring kidney dialysis than we have before. We have a number of people right now who are on portable dialysis systems at home, and we know that it is a matter of time when they will require more significant services. That is why the campaign is on now to have a kidney dialysis unit put in Labrador to service the population there.

I talked to a man only a few weeks ago, from Cartwright, whose parents had to move to Conception Bay South to live because they were not able to access the service in Labrador itself, and this has been very traumatic for families. They do not always have the financial ability to be able to come down here to visit their parents, who have had to move away from home at a very young age. It is causing a lot of turmoil within these families.

I know that the stats are not at the level where government would like them to be to make this investment, but I am asking them today to please consider this as an important piece of medical equipment that needs to be placed in Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, you already know, the Department of Health already knows, that there is a growing rate of diabetes in our Aboriginal community, that there is a growing rate of diabetes in the Labrador population in general, and that we have reason to believe that, in the coming years and future years, there will be more of a demand placed on having this kind of a service in the Labrador region.

Mr. Speaker, I am asking government. This year you had almost $50 million in new money, in transfers through the Department of Health. You have also signed the Atlantic Accord, which will bring in billions of dollars in new money to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. I ask you to sincerely give consideration to having a kidney dialysis unit placed in Labrador, to service the Labrador population, so that we can keep our people at home in their communities and accessing a service that is in Labrador, and they do not have to -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The member's allotted time has expired.

Does the member seek leave?

MS JONES: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, the Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans.

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise again today to offer a petition to this hon. House on behalf of the Central Regional Committee Against Violence in Grand Falls-Windsor.

That committee is doing wonderful work, and their only wish is that they will be able to continue this wonderful work. A couple of months ago, they were advised by the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment, and the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, that they might discontinue funding for violence prevention. Now, that is a big statement to make - discontinue funding for violence prevention.

That office has operated there in Grand Falls-Windsor, at 5 Hardy Avenue, for the past seven years. That office has received government funding to do its important work for the past seven years. Prior to that, the central co-ordinator of that particular organization worked from her home, gave out her own telephone number so that the public could seek her assistance. This has now become a government-run office, which it should be. Can you imagine the partnerships that have developed with the RCMP, with Health and Community Services and so on? I can just give you one example that has happened most recently.

The RCMP needed a non-institutionalized centre where they could interview children who had been abused. Naturally, this was the perfect setting for them to use, so they went to the violence prevention office and they struck up a partnership where they could use their office to interview victims of sexual assault. Their resource office provided a much less threatening environment, so they, the partners, furnished and equipped rooms to interview victims.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot allow this office to close. When you think about child abuse, sexual abuse, elder abuse, all kinds of family abuse, how can the minister responsible for this office say funding is a problem when we already know that the Atlantic Accord will bring in excess of $2 billion to this Province? They are looking for such a small amount of money to operate, and mostly all of the operations are done by volunteers. There are only a couple of paid staff.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to impress upon this House and the minister: Reconsider your decision. Don't lose sight of what important work is being done by this office, and how many people are depending on it. Reconsider. You are a few days away from your Budget, and I know all you decisions have been made. The funding arrangement for this office is pittance when you consider the value that government will get for the investment. Government should not consider cutting off funding. They should consider investing more in violence prevention. That is the way to go, and -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The member's allotted time has expired.

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just hope I will be able to convince the minister otherwise.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition, signed by a number of resident in this Province, calling for a referendum with the view of banning VLTs in our Province.

WHEREAS the alarming statics in our Province indicate that there is one VLT for every 155 adults - the highest ratio of any province in this country; and

WHEREAS gambling addiction has increased with the availability of VLTs in restaurants and bars; and

WHEREAS it is estimated that at least 5 per cent of those who gamble face an addiction which has led to not only costs to society but tragic consequences in the lives of those afflicted; and

WHEREAS the people of our Province should have a right to decide on whether or not they want to have something that causes as much destruction as VLTs in our society;.

We, the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to direct government to immediately increase funding for problem gambling, strictly enforce the existing VLT regulations, remove VLTs from venues frequented by individuals under nineteen years of age, limit the number of VLTs to bars, and to hold a Province-wide referendum in conjunction with the municipal elections in 2005 to determine whether or not the people of our Province want to have VLTs in our midst.

Mr. Speaker, in recent days there have been some new developments on the issue of VLTs in other provinces. The Province of Quebec is taking steps to reduce the number of VLTs. The Opposition in Nova Scotia have gone public, calling on government to decrease by 50 per cent the number of VLTs in their province by the end of this year, with all of them to be eliminated by the year 2008. Mr. Speaker, that is a direction that this Province should be taking as well. We do not need things in our society that cause the problems that VLTs cause. They are known by experts in the addiction field as the crack cocaine of gambling, and they are known as that for a reason, Mr. Speaker, because of the speed and the so little time it takes for people's lives to be destroyed.

Mr. Speaker, recently, in yesterday's The Telegram, there was a case in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, where a person lost his income tax refund to VLTs, and he went home, got his axe, came back to the club, and you know what he did with the five VLTs. Well, they might not have paid out but they did not take any money after either.

Mr. Speaker, that is what these machines can drive people to do. He did not get thrown in jail for that, Mr. Speaker. When he went to court, he was placed on probation and ordered to pay the damages, but the judge understood what this man was going through as a result of losing so much money to an addiction that he had with the VLTs.

Mr. Speaker, this Province has to consider the amount of damage that has been done to people, the people who have taken their lives, the people who have ruined themselves and their families financially. I think it is time for the Province to take a serious look -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The member's allotted time has expired.

MR. COLLINS: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted for some concluding comments.

MR. COLLINS: Hopefully next week, on Budget Day, we will see some sign that this government is willing to relinquish the millions of dollars taken in; because this money that they can go without, by getting rid of VLTs, will come back into the economy in other ways, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to the day that government takes its responsibility and calls for the elimination of VLTs in this Province.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of people from all regions of Labrador, Mr. Speaker. This petition is in light of the Province's new fiscal position that they find themselves in, but basically -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Basically what the petition says, Mr. Speaker, is with regard to the funds that will be received on recall power being sold by the government, exported into the United States. They are calling upon the Premier and the government to now invest these funds solely into infrastructure in Labrador, to have the highway through Labrador paved, and to start the building of transmission lines to transport cheaper power for industry development into Labrador communities.

Mr. Speaker, in 1999, the Liberal government, under Brian Tobin, did sign a deal to export recall power on the Upper Churchill. Last year, the Premier of the Province, Premier Williams and his government, renegotiated and signed that deal as well to continue with the export of power. As far as I know right now, there is about 90 megawatts of power being exported into the U.S., that the government this year will earn $45 million in profit on that particular resource. It is a five-year contract that will bring in about $230 million in profit over a five-year period.

Mr. Speaker, when this deal was signed almost a year ago, the Province was in a very different fiscal situation. They were not in a position to be able to cover off the daily expenditures for social programs within the Province, and it would have been unrealistic for Labradorians to expect that this money could be put into a separate fund or into separate investments for their community.

Well, in light of the fact that the government has now signed the Atlantic Accord, has made a special case within the federation of Canada to allow Newfoundland and Labrador to keep 100 per cent of its royalties on oil and gas, now Labradorians also want the government to consider their fiscal and their need for infrastructure, and ask the government to give them some priority under this particular agreement.

Mr. Speaker, I am not talking about power that is being sold under the winter availability agreement - I understand how that works - but this is power, 130 megawatts, that was reserved for Labrador communities, to be used to supply them with options for industry development. They are not able to access it simply because they do not have the infrastructure at this time. So what we are asking is that government, when they receive this profit over the next five years, make a commitment to invest it directly into Labrador, to start building the transmission lines - which I understand now the cost of a line that would run from Churchill Falls into Happy Valley-Goose Bay would be somewhere around $55 million. A line that would see an upgrading, addition of a substation and running into Labrador West, would cost about $60 million.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The member's allotted time has expired.

MS JONES: Just a minute to clue up, Mr. Speaker?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted for some concluding comments.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, we know that it is well over a $100 million expenditure to be able to deal with that problem, but we also know that in five years, when the agreement runs out, there would be an opportunity that this power could stay in Labrador communities and be used to attract alternative industry, as well as seeing some of it invested into upgrading and paving of the Trans-Labrador Highway.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

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

I am always interested to hear the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair. I am not trying to diminish the issues that she raises, because they are all important to the people of Labrador, but I am not sure if it is a farewell speech or a final dash for the cash in terms of the nomination that is coming up on March 29.

Having said all of that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish her well. What she is doing today is either one of two things: Either the Member for Torngat should get back here, or she should get back up there. I am not sure which is true, Mr. Speaker.

Having said that - I do want to be clear that I am not trying to diminish the importance of the issues that are being raised, because they are important - many of the issues that she has raised are issues that government is dealing with. The decisions, the potential decisions, will unfold in due course.

Mr. Speaker, with that, I move Motion 1, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Whole on Supply to consider certain resolutions for the granting of Interim Supply to Her Majesty, Bill 2.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that I have received a message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor.

MR. SPEAKER: All rise.

The message from His Honour reads as follows:

As Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, I transmit a request to appropriate sums required for the Public Service of the Province for the year ending 31 March 2006, by way of Interim Supply, and in accordance with provisions of sections 54 and 90 of the Constitution Act, 1867, I recommend this request to the House of Assembly.

Sgd.: _________________________________________________________

Edward Roberts, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move that the message, together with a bill, be referred to the Committee of Supply.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the message, together with a bill, be referred to the Committee of Supply.

All those in favour, aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, nay'.

Motion carried.

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Bill 2, An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Expenses Of The Public Service For the Financial Year Ending March 31 2006 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just rise to comment briefly on the Interim Supply Bill which is, as members are aware, seeking approval for $1,446,010,500, which is really technically an advance on the Budget amount for this year, which will be brought down on Monday, and approval to be able to carry on the functions of government until the Budget will get approval from this Legislature, which may be in May or may be in June, depending. Last year it was in June. We hope it won't be August. If so, we will have to come back to the House with another Interim Supply Bill, if it goes much beyond July.

The numbers are all there, so the department can continue to pay employees, so it can continue to meet payrolls for income support, to be able to advance money for road construction, operation of ferries, maintenance of buildings, and pay utilities, the costs of running government operations. That is the purpose of an Interim Supply Bill, to advance monies to enable the workings of government to go on. Without Interim Supply, as we know, and no legislative authority to spend, activities of government would stop, without legislative approval.

That is basically the intent of it. The amounts here are just percentages of the amounts needed to run each department. Some requirements are obviously higher than others at certain times. Sometimes approval may be getting monies out, whether it is a tender process. Some programs require early expenditures of money and some require expenditures later in the year. The cash flow on programs vary, depending on the type of program, the involvement of the program, the season of the year and so on, and the financial requirements needed to be able to meet those ongoing commitments.

Of course, the Legislature is one of these, to be able to function, to be able to be here beyond the end of March. Technically, we need approval so the Legislature can even meet and be able to get paid, to meet and be able to approve then the general budget and expenditures associated with it. I am not going to belabour any of these points. In due course, between today and I am sure on Tuesday or Thursday, whenever this bill passes, we will have ample opportunity to look at all the details. Within the next legislative day we will have an opportunity to look at the Budget, the estimates. Every detail of that particular bill will be encompassed within the Budget and within the total estimates in our spendings for the 2005-2006 year.

So, with that, Mr. Chairman, I will conclude my comments. I am sure over the course of this afternoon or next week during debate on this, I will add other comments to it if necessary and so on.

Thank you.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans.

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

This is a rundown, I guess, or a warm-up for next week. So it is a preview of next week, starting Tuesday.

MR. SULLIVAN: It is a preview of next year, actually.

MS THISTLE: Well, it is a preview of what we are going to be saying, starting next week.

The first thing I wanted to say, Mr. Chairman, yesterday the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board laid a special warrant on the table. Now, my ears are still ringing with his words to me, when I was the President of Treasury Board, about special warrants. I can tell you, when I was the President of Treasury Board there were very few special warrants.

The special warrant that he laid on the table yesterday was dated March 9, 2005. Now, when you present a special warrant, it has to be an urgent situation to have a special warrant into effect when the House is not in session. Now, he knew full well that within a week the House of Assembly would open. His special warrant was dated to the Lieutenant Governor March 9, and we opened the House of Assembly March 16. I would like for him to tell me what was so urgent that it could not wait seven days so that it could have been - there was nothing in the media. I did not hear in the media anyone wanting special emergency funding. I did not hear doctors crying out, saying that they needed extra money. I did not hear health and community services crying out in the media there was any panic - no panic buttons to be pushed. Yet, for all of that, the Minister of Finance, who was always the strong proponent of no special warrants, could not wait seven days until he got in the House to do it properly. So, we will all be interested in hearing what his excuse is when -

AN HON. MEMBER: He wanted to do it under the cover of darkness.

MS THISTLE: Yes.

I am sure he will have some reason to tell us, but I cannot imagine how there would be anything that life shattering or earth shattering -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Oh, I know you are itching to answer, but you just hold onto your seat, your britches, and you will get plenty of time.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: Now I would like to talk about Bill 2, which is the Interim Supply. I had to go and check when I saw Bill 2 -

MR. SULLIVAN: A point of order, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, on a point of order.

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Chair, the hon. member has made a statement that is not correct. I think it is important at this time, rather than to move forward, to spell that out.

We had hoped to wait until the House opened to be able to deal with this. We were told that there was not sufficient money in the vote to be able to pay doctors. There was an extra $7.5 million extra money on doctors because there are sixty-five new doctors in the Province since last year. There was not enough money in the vote for the fee for service and we would not be able to pay the doctors. We had hoped it could last until the House opened, but because it could not - we held it as long as we could, hoping we could wait until the House opened and get a supplementary supply bill. We were told if we did not issue it then, they would not get paid. That is the reason why, and that is what warranted a special warrant in the opinion of the Minister of Health.

CHAIR: Order, please!

There is certainly no point of order, just a point of clarification.

The hon. the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans.

MS THISTLE: Well, Mr. Chairman, you can see he is pretty sensitive, isn't he? After standing on his feet for ten years talking about special warrants - complaining about them - and here he could not wait seven days. He had to go and issue a special warrant.

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, we could wait but we did not want the doctors to wait for their cheques.

MS THISTLE: What do you mean you did not want doctors to wait for their cheques? They are dropping off like flies. They are quitting sure.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Well, that is what we are hearing. They are dropping off like flies.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I ask that the hon. Member for Grand Falls-Buchans be heard. Every member will get an opportunity to respond and have an opportunity to speak to this resolution.

 

The hon. the Member for Grand Fall-Buchans.

MS THISTLE: Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, I hope that his point of order is not cutting into my time because I was looking over this Bill 2, this Interim Supply, and I would say to the general public out there watching this telecast this afternoon, there is going to be big spending in the Budget on Monday. There is going to be big spending in the Budget. We already know that they are looking for Interim Supply, almost $200 million more than they asked for this time last year. They are looking for almost $200 million for Interim Supply to run the services of government more than they did last year, and that tells a lot of things about this government. They laid off a lot of staff. They cut a lot of services. They generated new income by way of new fees and so on, but still, for all of that, they are going to spend close to $200 million in this request alone.

Now, where are they going to spend this money, I wonder? That is the key. Where are they going to spend this money? I have an idea where they could spend money. I can tell you that the people of Grand Falls-Buchans - on Monday they are expecting a huge announcement in Grand Falls-Windsor. We are expecting a huge announcement in Grand Falls-Windsor on Monday. I do not think I will be wrong in this, but I think the government has realized that the Central West Health Care Board, which has a new name now, their request to government for the cancer clinic will be approved on Monday. The request for the cancer clinic in Grand Falls-Windsor will be approved on Monday. That is an announcement I am going to make and if I am wrong, I will not believe it because there will be no excuse. There will be no excuse that this government will be able to produce that will cover off why there would not be an announcement on the cancer clinic on Monday. The board has done their homework. The need is there. The requests are by many. The endorsements come from every sector that you might imagine. The Canadian Cancer Society has endorsed this request. Every community within Central Newfoundland has endorsed it. There is no excuse, under the sun, why the people of Grand Falls-Windsor will not get their cancer clinic on Monday. I am truly expecting it, and you will never satisfy me with any reason why it will not be announced on Monday. So, I am going to write that down as a very positive decision that this new government is making on Monday: There will be a cancer clinic in Grand Falls-Windsor.

I was on my feet a few moments ago and I talked about the centre for violence in Grand Falls-Windsor, which has a very legitimate request. We are not talking about a lot of money, but we are talking about a lot of good this centre can do for a lot of people. It has already been proven that this centre helps many people from Eastport to Westport. They cover four geographic regions, and they have partnerships with everyone connected to social issues in Central Newfoundland.

I would ask the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment, the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women - I am looking directly at her as I speak - I ask you to sell this idea to your Cabinet colleagues, if you have not already done it, because you will be doing a lot of good for the people of Central Newfoundland and, in particular, Grand Falls-Windsor.

If the RCMP and Health and Community Services can partner with the community violence organization and ask that their premises be used to interview sexual assault victims, and raise money and furnish that office for that purpose, can you see the good in that? Can you see the money that you are saving as a government? Because mostly all the people in that office are volunteers. They have a record of doing good over the past seven years. There is very little money required.

Make the right investment. Do the right thing as a government and you will not need to second-guess your decision. It is the right thing to do. So, I call upon the minister to make that decision on Monday. I am sure it has been made already. Let the people in Grand Falls-Windsor know they can continue their violence prevention, and those victims have a place where they can turn, and they can pick up a phone and they know there will be somebody at the other end to help them in their time of need. You can make no better decision. I would like to impress upon you that importance.

I want to congratulate Jessica Magalios and the Canadian Federation of Students. They have outwitted the Premier. They have outwitted the Premier. When I saw Jessica Magalios and her entourage do their press conference, they used the posters of the commitment that Paul Martin made to our Premier, and they used them so effectively. It did not cost them any money to do it. They just recounted the words that our Premier used against Paul Martin. It was so effective. They came to see the Premier and the Minister of Education, not expecting a direct answer. The Throne Speech was on Tuesday, and they had met with the Premier in the morning.

I have to say cheers to Jessica Magalios and the Canadian Federation of Students. They upstaged the Premier with his own words, and he could not resist. He could not look away from it. He had to admit that he expected the Prime Minister of this country, once he made a promise, to keep it. The young people reminded our Premier that once he made a promise he should keep it.

The promises were all the ones that were outlined in this book, about freezing tuition for post-secondary students. He had to abide by his own words, because it meant so much during the Atlantic Accord.

I would say congratulations to our young people. They were able to secure that tuition freeze without spending any of their own money that they did not even have. Congratulations!

I wonder, is the Minister of Education ready to make that same commitment to the students who are at the College of the North Atlantic? Can he assure students, teachers and parents, that there will be no campuses of the College of the North Atlantic closing in the Budget on Monday?

They were able to secure a commitment from the Premier. Can people around this Province - students - secure that same commitment from the Minister of Education, that there will be no cuts to campuses of the College of the North Atlantic on Monday? Is he willing to stand in his place and give that commitment? I wonder.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS FOOTE: Did you hear what the Member for Gander just said?

MS THISTLE: I heard what the Member for Gander just said. I have a keen sense of hearing, and I am not going to even mention what the Member for Gander said. There is lots I could mention that the Member for Gander has said. I have a briefcase here of things that were in the media, that the Member for Gander has said. I will not embarrass the Member for Gander today. He will have lots of chances to get up on his feet and speak for the people in his district, if he wants to.

I want to talk about an e-mail that I received today, just before I came to this House of Assembly. It talked about the money that was announced earlier this week by the Minister of Education and the Premier. It talked about the money that was announced regarding repairs to schools, and improvements. It did not talk about new construction. This parent impressed upon myself that all the talk about school repairs seems to be happening on the Avalon.

Now, there are lots of schools throughout the Province that are well in need of repairs and they are outside the Avalon. Apparently there was a meeting held - actually, there is supposed to be a meeting held this afternoon, March 17, with the Minister of Education and a group of parents and school councils from the Avalon to discuss school maintenance items.

I know that the Minister of Education is from the Avalon, but that does not preclude - I ask a question to the Minister of Education: Why do you just invite people from the Avalon when you are having a meeting? I mean, there are issues all over this Province; they are not unique to the Avalon.

We have three schools in Grand Falls-Windsor that have leaks, as well as those here in the Avalon. In fact, in Woodland Primary there was a leak in the roof last week and water came in through the library ceiling. Computer classes were cancelled because equipment from the library had to be stored in the computer room.

You are having a meeting today with parents and teachers just from the Avalon. Let me tell you that your jurisdiction is the whole entire Province and it would not hurt sometimes, when you are wanting a perspective from right across the Island, to invite people from different districts so you can hear different concerns being raised.

We also had notice today of a leaky roof at Millcrest gymnasium in three separate areas. So, you know how disruptive that is to sports programs that are being taught at the gymnasium and how disruptive it is for play and so on. So, $16 million, that is not a whole lot of money to announce for schools right across our Province. I hope that is just a preview that people can expect in our Budget on Monday, that you are going to see a whole lot of more money put into school repair and new school construction.

I want to talk about Bill 2, and I was trying to compare -

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. Member for Grand Falls-Buchans that her time has expired.

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am sure I will have another opportunity.

Thank you.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just wanted to address, in a little more detail there - I did not want to take too much time. With reference to - even though it is not a part, I say to the member, of this Interim Supply Bill, it is a monetary matter and it is a matter that pertains to the 2004-05 fiscal year while Interim Supply is approval for an Interim Supply Bill as a part of 2005-06 year, but I do want to comment on the special warrant as she raised it.

We, as a government, have been very critical of issuing special warrants, particularly where it could be debated here in the House under Supplementary Supply. In the past, what we have done over the past year, and even last year before March 31, we brought a Supplementary Supply Bill to the House rather than a special warrant because we could do it. In this instance, the House was slated to open on March 15 - or the second Monday of March, which would have been March 14, and the holiday. Then on March 15 we had hoped to bring a Supplementary Supply here and be able to deal with this under a Supplementary Supply Bill, but because the House was not open and the Department of Health issued a special warrant - because we were informed that if they did not have the money prior to March 10, the Department of Health could not meet the payroll needed to be able to pay the accounts, in particular to physicians on that basis. The money was not appropriated here to do it.

So, on that basis the Department of Health, and under a special warrant as issued by the minister of the department who considers it urgent to have to issue a warrant to meet an ongoing commitment - we consider it essential. It is in the interpretation of the minister, essential, that if we can meet a payroll or pay a cheque and the House was closed, that it was urgent, that somebody has to be paid and physicians had to be paid. Whether it was income support people who had to be paid, we would have a warrant or a Supplementary Supply Bill. If it is anybody in our system or any public employees of our Province who would have to be paid on a certain day, it would have necessitated that.

We have one special warrant tabled here in this House. Last year, I think there were fifteen special warrants. The former government passed them out like they were going out of style; like it was an everyday occurrence. There were dozens of them there at the end of the year, to move monies around and to avoid proper accounting procedures. We stand for proper accounting procedures. We want things done properly. We would have liked to do a Supplementary Supply Bill; we could not do it because the commitment had to be made. That is why there is a special warrant here stated for $7.3 million, a special warrant, and there will be a Supplementary Supply Bill debated in this House in this session to give approval to do that.

When we took over as a government in November, 2003, we had to deal with Supplementary Supply Bills from 2002-2003, from 2003-2004. We had to go two years back. The former government would not even bring a bill to this House and debate it for legislative approval for money that they issued in a special warrant and would not come to the people here in the people's House to approve that money. We had to do it. We had to clear off a whole backlog of bills when they did not exercise their responsibility to deal efficiently and expeditiously with bills on expenditures they had already made and did not bring it to the people of the Province. We are not going to do that, Mr. Chairman. Every single instance where we can deal with a Supplementary Supply Bill, we are going to it. If there is a forest fire that requires money and there is no budget and we have to deal with it through special warrant, that is a just cause. If people who work for this Province giving medical services, fee-for-service, whether they are specialists or in family practices or whatever, they have to do their jobs. Whether it is an operation, whether it is cardiac surgery, replacement of hips or whatever the case may be, they are employed indirectly on a fee-for-service by the Province, we pay for that service and we expect them to get paid.

In that $7.3 million, there was also a $2.8 million on top of the $4.5 million for physicians that was necessary to deal with medical services for out-of-province programs. That was the amount that we needed over and above what was allocated in the Budget. That money had to be paid, and when money has to be paid it has to be paid, and we are going to live up to our responsibility to do that. We are not going to expect people to wait until it comes to the House here to have to get paid. We have minimized it. We have it down to one.

Look at history. Read the Auditor General's reports in the past, how often the AG has cited the manipulation of funds at year end. There are numerous things, I say to the hon. member, that she would see as being done differently. It is done properly and it will be properly accounted for and be done in a manner that is open and transparent. We will give exactly the reasons for doing what we have to do.

It is a last resort when you see a Special Warrant issued. We had two earlier. Two were issued last fall. We dealt with them in a Supply Bill in the House last fall. One was 100 per cent reimbursable, $72,700 on a search and rescue program, I think it was, the Department of Justice. We had 100 per cent reimbursement from the federal government. If we didn't do it then, we would not have gotten the continuation of a three-year program and gotten 100 per cent of the money. That is a justification. They are not issues that have ever been raised in the past.

We had one other one this fall. We made a decision last fall - the House was not open and they wanted to add new RCMP officers in Labrador to deal with policing and problems of a justice nature - and last fall we brought a bill to the House, debated it here in this House, and approved it subsequently, a Supplementary Supply Bill to deal with putting RCMP officers in Labrador, and extra staff. They needed approval right away so they could have them in place. If they had to wait for the House to open it would have been a lag. In the opinion of the Minister of Justice it was sufficient to warrant that and the Warrant gets issued by the minister who is responsible for that department. It was one that we endorsed and we acted on. We put the wheels in motion to get those RCMP officers. In the process, arrangements were made to have them moved there and to be used in the necessary policing in Labrador.

We don't make any excuses for doing that. It was a very justifiable procedure. It was debated and got approval, I think. I cannot speak for that side of the House. I do believe it was supported, from memory, by that side of the House on that issue. It was open and transparent. Not only was it done, but the bill that gave authority to it was brought to the House immediately. I did a news release indicating that we had done it and it would be brought to the House in a Supplementary Supply Bill, not wait until the House opens.

This one was done very recently. I would have followed the same procedure if there was time, but since the House was open I wanted to give notice immediately on that. That is what was done when I tabled that yesterday at the very first opportunity, basically, when the House opened here on Tuesday. So, that is an opportunity to be able to be open, to be transparent and debate that issue. Even though that is not even related to the bill that is on debate here in the House, the minister raised it and I want to clarify that issue here so it is fully understood here.

What we are debating here in this House is an Interim Supply Bill of $1.4 billion, to get approval for this money so we can carry on the workings of government beyond March 31. That is what this bill is about; we want to be able to carry on the workings of government. The Province cannot shut down on March 31. It was common in the past, an annual thing, to have an Interim Supply Bill.

I must say, when we were in Opposition, and the current Opposition, last year, were always co-operative in getting this. I think they realize the importance of government being able to carry out its day-to-day business here. I have never in my time in the House, I think, seen problems associated with Interim Supply passing. That has always gotten the co-operation, I think, of everybody in the House, as they know we need to pay employees, we need to do work that is needed to be done, and we need it to be able to carry on business in anticipation of a Budget getting passed later on in the spring or early summer, whatever the case may be.

I just wanted to clarify those particular points, and if others arise that require clarification or comments I will certainly get an opportunity later on today or next week to be able to do that.

Thank you.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I wanted to rise today and have a few words with regard to Interim Supply.

Mr. Chairman, I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the announcements last week when the Cabinet took their jaunt into Labrador for the first time, all of the Cabinet up in the Big Land, up there, flying all the mayors in from all of the communities to discuss the important issues of Labradorians.

Mr. Chairman, I have to say, it is good to see the Cabinet going out and doing that, and we are hoping that discussion was a fruitful one. We are hoping that when the Budget comes down on Monday there will be oodles and oodles and oodles of money announced for Labrador, Mr. Chairman. We are expecting it. The expectation is definitely there. I can tell you that the mayors who sat at that round table - I have talked to a lot of them - they feel confident that Monday the floodgates will open up and there will be lots of new investment for Labrador communities.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Newfoundland and Labrador.

MS JONES: Not like that, that was announced last week, Mr. Chairman, I say. Fifty-six million dollars was announced in Labrador, for Labradorians. Mr. Chairman, out of the $56 million, I would say close to $54 million of it was federal money. Close to $54 million was federal government money.

MR. SULLIVAN: That is our money, too. (Inaudible).

MS JONES: Now, don't get me wrong, because I don't care where it comes from, if it is the federal government or if it is the provincial government, as long as it goes into the pockets and the communities of people in Labrador.

I say this, Mr. Chairman: You give credit where credit is due. It was only about $2 million of all that money that actually came from the general revenue of the Province. I could be corrected. It might have been $100,000 or so either way. I can be corrected.

Let's talk about some of these announcements. The money for the medical travel program for Labrador was a transfer of money under the Health Accord from the federal government to the provincial government, that was signed in November. For almost six months that money has been lying somewhere within the revenue of the provincial government. It has not yet been allocated to Labrador communities. Every single day, somewhere in my district, or somewhere in another district in Labrador, someone is looking to get to hospital in St. John's, or in Corner Brook, or in Grand Falls, and they cannot afford to get there.

Mr. Chairman, it is very, very frustrating for people when they know that the government, in November, signed a health accord, when they know that in November the federal government gave them money for this program so that they could have access to these hospitals and that they would not have to pay out of their own pocket.

Mr. Chairman, I hope that on Monday, finally, the government will see fit to take that money and put it where it belongs, in the hands of Labradorians who have to go out for medical treatment, so that it does not matter if you live in Nain, if you live in L'Anse-au-Loup, if you live in Goose Bay, if you live in Cartwright, if you live in Labrador City - it does not matter - you will be able to have access to the services of the main hospital in St. John's at a rate that people can afford to access them, not like it is now.

Mr. Chairman, we will be expecting that announcement, and I will be expecting an announcement, I want to say to the Minister of Transportation and Works, an announcement that will make some corrections on the highway between Lodge Bay and Red Bay. That section of road is currently closed. We have had very little effort and very little equipment applied to that highway over the winter. The government just announced $750,000 for another depot to go on that road. I am not saying that is a bad thing, but what I am saying is: Where is the priority right now? The priority right now, for us, is to have some money invested to make the corrections that have to be made to some of the rock cuts in that road so that next year we can hope to keep the road open for the entire year.

Mr. Chairman, we want to see some small things done as well, like putting a few snow blowers on the road, dedicated to that section of road, to try and keep it open.

Mr. Chairman, I know that the minister, with the new-found wealth in the government opposite, is going to do everything in his power to try and get this road corrected this summer, and get some work done on it. Mr. Chairman, I certainly hope that all efforts are going to be made to see that happens.

Mr. Chairman, we also heard a few other announcements made with regard to municipal infrastructure money. There are a lot of communities in Labrador that will access that money to improve infrastructure in their communities, but there are a lot that cannot access it. They cannot access it simply because, having to pay a portion of the cost, as small municipalities, they are not able to do so. When you look at a community like Black Tickle, that has no water and sewer, Mr. Chairman, we have to ensure that we work closer with the federal government to try and get 100 per cent funded infrastructure programs for those communities, because they will not be able to participate in cost-shared initiatives. They do not have the revenue in their community and they do not have the investment to make it happen.

Mr. Chairman, what a lot of people expected to hear last week when the Cabinet was in Labrador was, when the new office of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs was going to have a deputy minister. When the Budget came down last year, when the Throne Speech came down last year, it had all kinds of nice little words and nice little commitments that talked about opening a Premier's office in Labrador, Mr. Chairman. Well, last week they said the same thing again. Three times now they have announced that they are going to put a Premier's office in Labrador and yet we still do not have one.

Mr. Chairman, in fourteen months they have not even been able to fill the Deputy Minister of Labrador Affairs vacancy in Labrador. That is the emphasis and the effort that they have put on it.

Mr. Chairman, maybe, just maybe, if they took the Member for Lake Melville, the only government-elected MHA in Labrador, and put him in the Cabinet, let him sit at the inner circle, maybe they could all learn something, I say to the members opposite. Maybe then, Mr. Chairman, we would have a good voice in Labrador representing Labradorians.

Mr. Chairman, that is the key. I will tell you, my experience is this: When you know the issue, when you know the solution, when you are shown a way to get it done, it gets done. No one is going to convince me in this House of Assembly, and no one is going to convince anybody in Labrador, that having someone from the Northern Peninsula, or the Baie Verte Peninsula, or any other peninsula on the Island, is going to do a better job at representing Labradorians than the person who someone in a district in Labrador had the confidence to elect and send to the House of Assembly. Mr. Speaker, do you want to do the right thing? Do you want to show a commitment to Labrador communities? Well, you pay respect to what people have said, and they have said that they are going to send a member to your side of the House and to your government and you give them the kind of respect they deserve, and take the advice. Let him sit at the inner circle, let him represent Labradorians and Labrador communities, and I think you will get a lot more results.

Mr. Chairman, when that is done, maybe they will fill the deputy minister position for Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs, a department that we have seen fourteen, fifteen jobs in. When they took over that, there are five or six positions left in that office. That is the kind of commitment we have seen to Labrador issues. I think there is a lot more that could be done.

As I said, we have listened to them announce the Premier's Office now three times and it is still not set up. Maybe when they came in to make the big announcement last week, or perhaps this will be in the Budget. Perhaps in the Budget on Monday, Labradorians will finally get a full commitment from the members opposite, and the government opposite, to put a full marketing division in Goose Bay for 5 Wing. Maybe that is what they will do. They will make a commitment to put a marketing division there for 5 Wing Goose Bay so that they can send someone, that there is someone who is dedicated just to go to Europe to meet with the allied countries, to try and secure contracts for the base there. That is a good suggestion for a commitment for investment for the government opposite.

Mr. Chairman, I am well aware of the commitment that they made to the hospital in Labrador City and Wabush, the $200,000 to do a study. It is okay to do a study, it is okay to look at if you need to put a new facility there or not, but if the government, even tomorrow, announced they were going to put a new facility there, it would be five or six years down the road before a patient would ever be able to check into it. In the meantime, there is still work that has to be done. I want to encourage the members opposite to take some of the $50 million that you received this year in health transfers, extra money from the federal government, and invest it in this infrastructure.

Mr. Chairman, I can tell you that, at the present time there are a lot of very pressing issues in Labrador. I am not going to go into all of them.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair that her time has expired.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will speak again later in the session.

Thank you.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Trinity North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am very pleased today to be able to stand and make a few comments about Bill 2, a bill that is asking this Assembly to approve some $1.4 billion to allow government to continue on and function between now and the time we actually approve our final budget. I think it is critical, Mr. Chairman, as we ask this Legislature to approve this money, to look at some of the things that we want to spend that money on. To help us do that, I think one of the first documents we look to is the map that we saw laid out for us the day before yesterday in the Speech from the Throne.

My two colleagues, in responding to the Speech from the Throne, did an admirable job in commenting about the significance of this particular speech and the direction this government is taking with respect to the people in their districts and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I want to add my own comments, Mr. Chairman, if I could, because I think this document, this Speech from the Throne delivered on March 15, clearly outlines a clear, distinct vision for the next twelve months. I think our government has outlined a number of strong initiatives on a variety of areas. It is a well-balanced perspective on what Newfoundland and Labrador needs to do during the next twelve-month period. As we sit in this House on Monday I am certain that the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board will deliver a Budget that reflects the balance that is outlined in this Speech from the Throne, and that Budget will reflect the financial commitment to ensure that we, as a government, are able to follow through and deliver on some of the commitments and understandings outlined in the Speech from the Throne.

Looking at some of it, I just want to take, Mr. Chairman, if I could, a couple of the areas, because one of the most significant dollar amounts in this request is to the Department of Health and Community Services. Some $610 million of this fund will go directly to the Department of Health and Community Services, and understandably, because the Department of Health and Community Services, through its boards and operations throughout the Province, in fact spend the biggest portion of government's funding on an annual basis. That is to be said for years in the past and I am certain it will reflect the reality of the future as well.

In this Speech from the Throne, there are a couple of points, I think, Mr. Chairman, I would like to comment on directly related to health care. The first one deals with a commitment to expand dialysis services. I am extremely pleased, and this government has been extremely pleased, to be able to finally announce the dialysis services for Gander. We received the first patient on dialysis services on February 28; a unit that once it has it full twelve patients will have met - in fact, one of the promising things about this is that once we have accepted up to the twelfth patient we will have addressed the entire wait list for that entire region, I say to the Member for Gander, a tremendous accomplishment, a commitment made by this government last year, and a commitment delivered.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: It is the kind of money we are asking for here, Mr. Speaker, that allows us to continue to provide that service.

In my own district, dialysis service introduced several years ago outstretched its demand. It, in fact, had reached the point where it was bursting at the seems. I was very pleased to be able to announce that in recent months we have been able to expand that service to take us from six patients up to twelve, adding three more units to that service.

Dialysis services in this Province, as we have heard in this House - members opposite have raised the issue many times. My colleagues on this side of the House have raised the issue many times with respect to their regions. We have a crying and increasing need for dialysis services in this Province. It is a growing need. It reflects the reality of some of the health problems experienced by many of the residents of this Province.

This government is committed to continuing to respond to the need for dialysis services, just like they have done in Clarenville where there was an increased need to expand the service that was there already established and established well. Gander, a brand new service and now up and running. Those are the kinds of services and the kinds of programs we are providing with the money that we are now asking this House to approve, so we can continue, without interruption, between now and the time we have our Budget approved.

One of the other significant thrusts to this Speech from the Throne that I think is really important, important, Mr. Speaker, because I think it reflects a new reality, a new direction for health services in this Province, and indeed should reflect the reality across this country - for far too long health services in this country, and in this Province as well, have thought very much about putting in place large amounts of infrastructure to treat illness, to cure people who have gotten sick. Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we have probably not done as good a job at is, in fact, health promotion, the prevention of illness, providing a healthy population. What we are talking about here, a major shift in thinking and a thrust that is outlined in the Speech from the Throne, is a refocusing, a refocusing of our attention, a refocusing of some of our resources on prevention, and looking at a healthy population.

How do we, in fact, improve the health status of a population to avoid the very expensive medical interventions that are required down the road? Dialysis services, that I alluded to a moment ago, come about as a result of - one of the major contributing factors is the significant incidents of diabetes in this Province. Some of the things we are running into with respect to child health in this Province reflect the lack of physical activity by many of our children.

I just want to read, Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the House, a couple of very startling statistics that came out in a report that was released sometime in the late fall. There are a couple of startling things here because here is what it tell us. It tells us, Mr. Speaker, that within Newfoundland and Labrador physical activity rates lower than anywhere else in this country. Newfoundland and Labrador reported lower rates of physical activity than in other provinces in this country. In Newfoundland and Labrador we have a higher percentage of our population categorized as being obese, more than any other jurisdiction in the country.

Mr. Speaker, any province, whether it is Newfoundland and Labrador or any province across this country, cannot continue to ignore the deteriorating health status of a population and at the same time expect to reduce the costs of health services in their particular jurisdictions. These are some of the things, Mr. Speaker, that we need to start addressing today. The investments that we are going to start making today, as announced in this Speech from the Throne and announced in the Budget, these are the kinds of investments that we need to make to ensure that when we reach ten, fifteen, twenty years from now we will not continue to have the high instance of diabetes that exists today in the Province or the high instance of kidney failure that we are experiencing in this Province this year, during the last five to ten years particularly.

Mr. Speaker, these are the kinds of initiatives in health care that reflect a different vision than the past, and focus on the future. They focus on a healthier population, creating an environment, fostering an environment, investing in initiatives, whether it is increased physical activity for our school aged children or whether it is in improved dietary habits.

This past Monday I had an opportunity to spend some time with a number of health coalitions from around the Province. In fact, the entire Province was represented. There were people there from Labrador, the Northern Peninsula, Western Newfoundland, Central Newfoundland, the Avalon Peninsula area, the Eastern part of the Province, all of them sitting around a table talking about the great things that are happening in their regions with respect to health promotion. These are a large number of people. This coalition - this is what is important, I think - is a collection of groups and organizations throughout the Province who have come together with a common vision. They all have one purpose in mind, it is to improve the status of health to the people in their respective regions. A large number of volunteers, community-based organizations, are coming together collectively, focusing on improving the health status of the people. We are committed, as a government, as outlined in this Speech from the Throne, to improving the health status of the population.

I just want to quote, as we focus on our children, "If we can support our young people eating well and exercising regularly, we as a society will be healthier, hardier, and happier."

Mr. Chairman, that is the kind of population that we want to be in fifteen or twenty years time. It is not going to change overnight, I say. It is going to be a gradual process but it requires a commitment today, it requires a government with a vision and a strong understanding of what the future should look like. That is what is this Speech from the Throne reflects, Mr. Chairman, it reflects a government that has a vision and an understanding of what the future of health services should look like.

A couple of other things I think are important to recognize in here, Mr. Chairman. We have made - as I just said a moment ago, as we talked about the coalitions that existed. Our government is committed to - last year we put in some $1 million into community-based grants to mobilize volunteers in this Province to become supporters of our health system, providers of health services. We have a large network of community-based organizations volunteering their time and effort to improving the health status of our people.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. Member for Trinity North that his time has expired.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Chairman, I want to commend government for having introduced that, or at least read into the record, the Speech from the Throne on Monday that reflects a clear vision that at least all members on this side of the House have wholeheartedly supported, because it reflects a strong vision for a strong population (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Grand Bank.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I stand today to speak to the request for a special warrant by government, but I have to comment on some of the remarks that were just made by the Member for Trinity North.

As I listened to him, he talked about vision and talked about commitments and promises by this government. I thought, in what world is he living? The people of Newfoundland and Labrador know only too well about promises made by this government. They know only too well that promises have been made and not kept. They know only too well that commitments have been made and not kept, and that has happened throughout rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

So, when the Member for Trinity North gets up and goes on about vision and talks about commitment and promises, I cannot believe for a minute that he really believes himself what he is saying, if he really looked at the track record of this government that has been in office for a year-and-a-half. Mr. Chair, I have to say to him that the people in the District of Grand Bank certainly do not believe that promises that were made by this government, or any promises that will be made in the future, will be kept.

Now, having said that, I can tell you that we are looking at $3.5 million worth of steel down in Grand Bank, which should have been, by now, well on the way to being completed to be a health care facility. When I talked about promises, it was a commitment of the previous government to complete this badly needed facility, a facility that was supposed to house, not only the Blue Crest, but also the cottage hospital because we have the oldest - in fact, the only cottage hospital now left in the Province, and it is in such a dilapidated condition that to go in there for any kind of health service would be putting your health in jeopardy. I say that in all sincerity, and I would like to think that the government would recognize that in this Budget and do something about it and come on board and acknowledge that this is a badly needed facility, and, in fact, all of the analysis has been done. It has been fifteen years in the making. Every health official involved in that, the board at the time, everybody who was consulted, the analysis was done and it was determined that, yes, this was needed and it is long overdue.

So, rather than take the steel down, which I understand they attempted to do, I would like to think they have had a change of heart and that, in fact, they will go ahead with this facility because it is badly needed. It is a facility that serves not only the people of Grand Bank and Fortune, but also the people of Garnish, Grand Beach, and Frenchman's Cove. Also, you get people from Point May, Lamaline, utilizing the facilities that are there now. Of course, the Blue Crest, the seniors' home that is there, serves people even off the Burin Peninsula. So, it is facility that is badly needed and it is one that needs to be replaced in the sense of the one that exists now. The cottage hospital, again, is in such a deplorable condition that you would have second thoughts about going there to get any kind of health care.

When anyone on the opposite side, a member of government, speaks about promises that have been made and promises being made and what we can look forward to, as we heard in the Speech from the Throne, I have to say that people kind of look at it with a little jaundiced eye and say: We will believe it when we see it.

Madam Chair, in addition to the health care facility that is supposed to be in Grand Bank - and we had hoped, of course, that it would be opened next April. We know now that is not possible but, you know, we like to think that the government will have a change of heart and recognize that, while they will not complete it on time, that even if they allocate some funding toward it, and even if it takes another four or five years, at least the people will know that they are going to go ahead with it, as the Premier promised. This is why I talk about promises and commitments. The Premier, himself, on three occasions in the election, promised, promised, promised that this facility would be completed. In fact, his words were: The health centre was started in Grand Bank, it will be finished in Grand Bank. Well, we all know where it is today and I am, again, calling on the Premier and the government to acknowledge that this is badly needed and to, in fact, keep that promise.

The other thing that I want to talk about, when you talk about money for special warrants, I listened to the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board justifying special warrants. The irony in all of this, of course, is that he can stand there and justify the need for a special warrant; no matter how many they need, he can stand there and justify it but when he was on this side of the House, and no matter what we needed special warrants for, there was no way we could justify it. It just was not necessary.

Of course, we listened to the Minister of Fisheries yesterday, as well, explain why he is the only one who can make the proper decision with respect to the fishery; that, in fact, stakeholders, the majority of them who make up those interested in the fishery, do not know what is right for the fishery. Only the minister knows and the processors, or some of the processors. So, I am not surprised today to hear the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board stand up and talk about what he knows and how he has it right and everybody else has it wrong, because we have the Minister of Fisheries doing the same thing on the fishery front. So, it does not matter what the issue, it would appear that nobody else has any answers, no one else has any ideas that matter, only the minister in government, no matter what portfolio that is. Yesterday we had an example of the Minister of Fisheries doing it, and today, of course, the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

Well, I am standing here today because there are several issues on the Burin Peninsula that really need to be addressed. I am hoping, given the representation that has been made by a lot of people, that in fact government will find the money for the CAT scan. That is something that really, really is needed on the Burin Peninsula. I applaud the government's decision to go and put the MRI in Corner Brook - in fact, to keep what was a Liberal commitment. That was the right thing to do, and I applaud them for that, but there was another commitment by the previous government, and that was to put a CAT scan in Burin. Today we are still waiting to have that happen, because when this government took office they put that decision on hold, and I am hoping that in the time they have had to look at this - and I hope the Member for Burin-Placentia West has had the input that he has needed to have on this, and I am sure he has made the representation - hopefully, with his representation, and what we have seen from everybody else on the Burin Peninsula, that in fact the Budget will announce on Monday that there will be a CAT scan for the Burin Peninsula.

I think anybody would have to acknowledge what an important piece of medical diagnostic equipment that is, and that for an area like the Burin Peninsula not to have access to such a piece of equipment is something that should not be happening today. I would like to think that when they have done their Budget, when they have looked at their numbers and crunched the figures, that they would acknowledge that, no matter what else they do, they will put a CAT scan on the Burin Peninsula. Because, those of you who are familiar with travelling on the Burin Peninsula know how difficult it is sometimes to get back and forth; know in fact that there have been times when the road has been closed; know in fact there have been times when, of course, you cannot get out of the airport in Winterland because it is fogged in, and you have a patient waiting to have that service. You have a patient waiting to be diagnosed. You have a patient waiting to be transported to St. John's, and there have been occasions in the past when it has not been possible. So it is really necessary, it is a real necessity, to have the CAT scan on the Burin Peninsula.

Of course, the other piece of equipment we need down there is a dialysis machine. There is no doubt about it, that the numbers now on the Burin Peninsula - the numbers were not there when we were looking at this several years ago. In fact, when the analysis was done it was determined that we did not have sufficient numbers to put the required equipment down there, because it takes a certain number of individuals to have it there and to bring in the number of medical personnel to in fact administer the service, but I think anyone would have to look at it today and say that situation has changed. There is a concerted effort by everyone on the Burin Peninsula. I know that all of the mayors have gotten involved, and I know that service organizations have gotten involved, and medical personnel themselves are speaking to the need for this equipment on the Burin Peninsula.

Again, if you look at the Burin Peninsula and notice where we are in relationship to Clarenville, or where we are in relationship to St. John's, the need is there for this equipment. It is not fair to expect people to have to travel those distances, to leave their homes, to leave their families, to move, in fact, to St. John's, and in some cases spouses have to quit their jobs in order to do that.

MADAM CHAIR (S. Osborne): Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that her time has expired.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MS FOOTE: In cluing up, Madam Chair, thank you; I acknowledge that.

I want to say again that I am hoping the government will realize the necessity of a CAT scan and dialysis for the Burin Peninsula in Monday's Budget, and I would like to think that they will keep the promise that the Premier made, and that is to continue with the health care facility in Grand Bank.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Madam Chair, I am delighted to speak on this, as many times I am delighted to speak. This bill, as explained by the Minister of Finance, is to make sure that all our bills are paid, we are able to pay the bills up to the end of the year. That was done, so we are not going to worry about why we need it, what it is. We need it to basically pay the bills, pay for the services, salaries, et cetera. They are all listed on the back page there, from each and every department.

Madam Chair, I have heard all of these about broken promises, all the broken promises that we supposedly never followed through on. Madam Chair, we followed through on one of the biggest promises that a Government of Newfoundland and Labrador can commit to, and that is 100 per cent of our offshore revenue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: We did that, Madam Chair.

We did not settle for 20 per cent less, Madam Chair, we did not settle for 15 per cent less than 100 per cent, and we are certainly not settling for 12 per cent less, because twelve rings a bell with me. Somewhere along the line, I heard a poll on 12 per cent.

Madam Chair, the 100 per cent that we signed, that deal we signed on February 14, the February 14 deal, the Atlantic Accord, will go down in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador as probably the most important document that was ever signed by a government. I am only too pleased to be part of a government that delivered that 100 per cent to Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Our Premier has stated, the future is bright for us in Newfoundland and Labrador. With the infusion of money through the Atlantic Accord, it is certainly going to make us pave the way for economic growth and social stability in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I would be remiss if I did not speak to the leadership of our Premier and our Minister of Finance. Each and every one of them -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. DENINE: They can say what they want over on the other side, but they have seen real leadership on this side of the House. That is why they are so dumbfounded, because they do not recognize real leadership when they see it.

I said in my maiden speech that in tough times it takes real leadership, and that is what this government has shown, real leadership. So, to be part of such a humongous and momentous occasion, the signing of the Atlantic Accord - because I know even Members of the House of Assembly, all of them, were down there; they were there to witness that. I am sure they felt the pride and the inner feeling, that good feeling that we had when that was signed. We did that, and we fulfilled our duty on 100 per cent and there will be on more giveaways with this government - none.

Madam Chair, just before we were elected, the previous government were that close to signing away a poor deal, a bad deal, a deal that would not benefit Newfoundland and Labrador, on the Lower Churchill. It was the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who spoke up, and spoke up loudly. This government - we were in Opposition at the time - we were the forerunners and in the forefront of making it happen. We changed their mind, and thank God we did because the future is brighter because we did that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Madam Chair, I want to go on to something else, because they are getting a little bit antsy over there. They are getting a little bit antsy because I might have hit a little nerve.

Over there, just recently, one of the hon. members mentioned the tuition freeze for Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic students, post-secondary. The commitment of this government said there will be a tuition freeze in 2005-2006, and the Premier has also stated that, barring unforeseen financial burdens on us, it will remain in effect through the rest of our mandate. I think that is a major step forward.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Madam Chair, I do not hear them saying that is a promise kept. I did not hear that today.

Madam Chair, I was visited by the Student Federation of Memorial University, and I sat down with them and said to them: Why do you want the tuition freeze? - because there are a lot of other expenditures that incur debt for university and post-secondary students. There are a lot of factors that become involved to create debt. Why only tuition? The lady said to me: The reason why it is tuition is because it affects every single person, and it treats all post-secondary students equally. That is what this government did; we treated everyone equally.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Madam Chair, that is the commitment that this government has put into force. We are going to be fiscally responsible, and everyone will cheer. That is one of the reasons why the Premier and the Minister of Education announced the tuition freeze, and I applaud them.

Now, the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans said, whoop-de-do, basically; but, she did not realize that under the previous regime the cost of tuition would escalate almost beyond control because of those people over there.

I should not say those people, the hon. members on the other side. I should not refer to them as those people, the hon. members on the other side, when they were in government.

Madam Chair, there is a new direction, there is new vision, there is new hope and new prosperity that will come to Newfoundland and Labrador because of this government and because of the vision that we have, and because -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. DENINE: Madam Chair, I cannot hear.

MADAM CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. DENINE: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

This is a very, very significant point for us. There are a couple of other points I want to pick on, and one was the money given to infrastructure for schools - schools in Newfoundland and Labrador - $16 million.

AN HON. MEMBER: Four million.

MR. DENINE: They will say $4 million. Whatever they want to argue about the numbers, because they are good at that, they are good at twisting exactly what it is, but the previous government were the ones who neglected it for years. I would have rather taken that money and put it into programs and teachers, rather than putting it into the envelope of the schools; but, because of the lack of vision, and because of the lack of response to the infrastructure, we had to fix their problems because they let them go for years and they ignored them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: No vision.

MR. DENINE: No vision whatsoever.

The other one, Madam Chair, I wish to address, is municipal infrastructure. I know the former Minister of Municipal Affairs across the way, his ears perked up when I said municipal infrastructure, because he will do that every now and then, but I am pleased that this government is announcing early programs. There have been a number of early programs that are done this year that will give a better start to municipalities to start their new capital works programs as early as possible.

I was Mayor of Mount Pearl for a number of years and there were a few times - I should not say many, because I will give credit to the former Minister of Municipal Affairs, but - there were times that we were paving streets in the middle of November and early December, which is unacceptable in Newfoundland and Labrador because everyone knows our climate and how it differs from region to region and from day to day, and from hour to hour, really. I am pleased that we are gone out to announce early capital works.

AN HON. MEMBER: In numerous districts.

MR. DENINE: Yes, there is a list of twenty or thirty that I can remember now, and I am sure there are more to come once everything is settled away.

There are a couple of things that are going to happen there because of early announcements. One, it gives municipalities the opportunity to plan. It lets them set their plan for the next three years. I know in Mount Pearl they have $6.84 million over the next three years. They were very pleased with that and that allows them, Madam Chair, to set their priorities and do it over the next three years.

Also, Madam Chair, one very important component of this -

MADAM CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that his time has expired.

MR. DENINE: Could I have one minute, just to clue up?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. DENINE: This will happen, Madam Chair, because that money that goes into municipal infrastructure goes directly into the pockets of our workers and they will, in turn, spend that money, so to get early employment in the right season...

Madam Chair, I say once again, this government has vision because we needed vision, because they put us so far in the hole in our debt that we needed vision, and we have shown real leadership in sixteen months, more than they have shown in thirteen years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Madam Chair.

There are a couple of things I want to address that the Member for Mount Pearl spoke about. It was interesting in the Throne Speech to see the comments regarding what the Department of Municipal Affairs would do for the municipalities in this Province over the next number of years.

I didn't have a long time to be Minister of Municipal Affairs. The couple of years that I was there, one of the things that I took pride in doing was to do some good things for infrastructure for many of the small rural municipalities in the Province. In fact, when it came to the Canada-Newfoundland Infrastructure Program, the provincial government picked up all but 5 per cent for many of the small communities out there that could not afford to pay it on their own.

The minister would know also that - and we still do. Not all the problems are corrected for water quality in Newfoundland and Labrador. We devised a program, when I was minister, where we gave up to, I think it was, $100,000 tax free with no repayment from the municipalities so that they could do those things. We recognized that need.

I will be looking forward to the Budget, because it says in the Throne Speech that there are going to be some new initiatives for the municipalities. Anytime that you do things for our people - when you talk about municipalities you are talking mostly about rural Newfoundland, and communities do have a hard time and that is why we recognize that. In addition to that, we paid off millions of dollars in debt for many of those small municipalities, and I think that was a good investment even though it probably cost more dollars for the provincial government. It was dollars that the small municipalities couldn't pay on their own. Therefore, we recognized that and did something about it.

A couple of other things here that the member talked about - I guess it is a matter of philosophy too, the way that you see things, the way that you want to govern. I think it is very important for us, when we were part of government not doing everything right - I guess, hindsight is twenty-twenty for everything that you want to do. The wonderful thing we did, I think, as a principle, was to bring services to people. If you are going to bring services to people it is going to cost you money. There is no two ways about that. On the other hand, if you take the other philosophy and you are going to bring people to services, then you are not going to deliver the services that are needed, especially in the rural parts of the Province. That is where we are seeing some of these things happening.

We talked about economic development and things that happen. It is the present government that is benefitting, directly and tremendously, from two projects that were done by the previous administration. I remember when we introduced the Voisey's Bay thing. The Premier, who was Leader of the Opposition at the time, said, you could drive a Mack truck through the loopholes in the Voisey's Bay thing. I haven't seen it, I haven't heard of it. What I have seen, though, is a lot of jobs for the people in Labrador. There are going to be a lot of jobs for the people in Argentia, and it will be a long, long time. I am hoping that, once the new facility is done in Argentia, long after the Voisey's Bay mine is no more, it will be producing ore that will be shipped in from elsewhere in the world just as is happening in Wales.

I think, also, of the project that is benefitting my good friend's District of Burin-Placentia West, the White Rose thing. That was done by us, and that community is now benefitting from it. We are hoping, and I am sure he is as well, that after FPSO flows out in the mid-summer that we can find another project that would be put into Marystown to take the number of jobs that are there now. If it doesn't, that will be a big loss for the community.

Also in the Throne Speech, Madam Chair, on page - and it really is good to have a Throne Speech because what it does, it aligns the government agenda, what it wants to do, where it is going to go, and how the people are going to benefit from it. That is a course that we all have to follow. On page twenty, the last paragraph - and I will read it into the record - it says, "My Government is especially committed to secure and advance the quality of care that our seniors receive. We must not and will not forget the men and women who contributed so much to our province over the years and asked for so little in return. With the best interests of our seniors guiding its actions, My Government will move ahead this year to design and implement a long-term care strategy in order to both increase the number of long-term care beds around our province and to identify other necessary supports to allow our seniors to remain in their communities." There is nothing wrong with that. That is great. That is a laudable goal and that is a laudable thing for any government to do and this one included. However, Madam Chair, that is to be more than words.

Let me just give you an example that was brought to my attention today. I haven't had an opportunity to speak to the Minister of Health and he will probably do something about it. Talking about seniors: It was brought to me where some people who are living in a personal care home, that the personal care attendant has increased the amount that the person has to pay and, at the end of the day, that person has approximately $65 left by the end of the month. They are guaranteed, I think, by government, to have at least $125 where they can buy their drugs and they can buy their toiletries and things of that nature. Therefore, this person has said: We have $65 left to buy my drugs, to buy my toiletries and all these matters.

Here is a letter that one of these people received, and I will read it into the record. It says: After completing a financial assessment, we have determined that you are eligible for a subsidy. However, there is presently no funding available. Your name has been placed on the wait list and you will be notified when subsidy funding is available.

That is a situation that, to me, is grave, where we have seniors living in homes who are entitled to $125 a month and they are down to $65. This person says: My drugs and prescriptions will cost me anywhere from $30 to $35 a month. What do they have left then for all of the toiletries? Thirty dollars a month, a dollar a day. I do not think that is the proper thing to do. I will ask the minister to check into that, because I do not think that is what any government, regardless of stripe - because, when we come in here we are all responsible people who represent our people who sent us here, and our seniors in particular. They should be looked after. If there is some anomaly or something there that is not what it should be, then we should look into it and should be able to correct it.

These are the type of things that keep us on our toes as legislators. It is great to have a financial vision, and all of us recognize that, because we all have children and grandchildren that are going to come after us. In the meantime, we have to have a social conscience, we have to be able to do the things that are needed in any region.

I think about it, and I already talked to the Minister of Health a couple of days ago, about a project that was cancelled last year in the Bay d'Espoir region. It was not one community pitted against the other. Every community in Bay d'Espoir supported it. It was for an expansion of the clinic there and it would have cost about $200,000 to do. I said in the House before, and I think I can quote verbatim, the engineer and the architect who was looking after that particular project had an aneurism and he died. Unfortunately, that is what happened to him. By the time we got another engineer in place and another architect a month and a half had elapsed. The tender was called but it was not awarded because it was within the last month before the election. I think that anybody who has gone to St. Alban's in Bay d'Espoir and seen the clinic, obviously it does not meet standards. We are not looking for a pie in the sky. It is for a whole region. When you live in that part of the Province, a rural part of it, obviously it is very important that you be able to get those services.

Other things people talked about - and I guess it is wide-ranging in debate, when you talk about what is happening in your region. I am concerned, not only about the problems that are in Harbour Breton, about the problems in Gaultois and other areas, but I am also concerned about aquaculture. What is happening in the Bay d'Espoir region is not very good for the industry that is there. In fact, only last fall the minister announced a plan for feed for the aquaculture companies in Bay d'Espoir, but as of now none of them have been able to take advantage of it. They are really, in a sense, pressed to the limit to be able to carry on. That concerns me.

Also, I am concerned about the people who were looking after a farm that did go into bankruptcy. The receivers - it is brought to people's attention where they might even be selling the juvenile fish and fish that is in the hatchery. If that happens, then obviously that is going to set us back a number of years, because it will be three or four years before any more processing can take place. Even though there has been some interest by some people outside who want to go in and take this particular company and make it grow and so on, they have not been able to do so. As more and more of the fish is sold off, then obviously the less and less attractive that particular company would be for anybody who would want to invest. These are some of the areas and these are some of the conditions that exist, and obviously have to be addressed.

The Member for Mount Pearl, when he talked about having a vision, he talked about, as I said, the municipalities receiving early tendering.

MADAM CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that his time has expired.

MR. LANGDON: Just to clue it up?

MADAM CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MADAM CHAIR: By leave.

MR. LANGDON: Any person who would be in a position of government, any department that would have to oversee that, then obviously you do what is best to get the best possible situation for the municipalities so that they can get a lot of things done.

I remember back in 1971, when I was back on the South Coast when there was a change of government, and talking about paving roads. It has been done by all administrations, I guess, down through, regardless of that the stripe would be. They were paving municipalities and paving roads in November when the show was falling just as the election was occurring. That is not a good thing. We want to be able to spend our dollars wisely, and the people who are out there sent us to do that and want this to happen.

With that, Madam Chair, I will conclude and hopefully come back another day to continue.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

Just a few notes on Interim Supply. Of course, this piece of legislation is a very important piece of legislation, actually. I do not know if a lot of people understand the importance of this. We, as government, and the previous Administration also - at this time of year, of course, the Budget will be coming down in the not too distant future. The House of Assembly will be breaking, and possibly before the Budget is approved we need to get some money through the House of Assembly for Interim Supply. With Interim Supply we are talking about monies to operate the different departments within the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are looking for money to do roads in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; snow clearing, what have you, maintenance, to run hospitals, to run schools, to pay teachers, pay nurses, doctors and what have you. This is what we are up to today, when we are discussing this bill, Madam Chair.

Now, within the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, of course, we are looking for Interim Supply of approximately sixty-six million dollars, $66.5 million. The previous speaker, the former Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs made a few points, and I would agree with him on most of the points that he made, Madam Chair, when he talked about municipal affairs. Of course, being the former minister he would have had a very good handle on that department. He talked about infrastructure for the small municipalities in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. He talked about the funding of upwards of 95 per cent for some of the smaller towns. On the program he is talking about, I think, would be the Canada-Newfoundland Infrastructure Program, whereby the federal government would have paid, for example, 33 per cent for any given project, for a water and sewer project within a municipality. Most of the money under that program - it was $50 million, I think, over five years. Most of the money went to the smaller municipalities so they could take advantage of the thirty-three cent dollars that the feds were paying and then the Province would pay 60 per cent, 70 per cent, 80 per cent, 90 per cent of the other 66 per cent, thereby leaving the municipalities with upwards of maybe 10 per cent, 15 per cent, 20 per cent, 5 per cent, what have you.

Madam Chair, that was a very good program. When we became government, just last year, we brought in a budget last year that most people thought was a difficult budget. We, in trying to deal with rural Newfoundland and in keeping with our promises to rural Newfoundland in the election - before we became government, Madam Chair, we said that we would concentrate on rural Newfoundland. The Premier made statements, when he was all over this Province, about rural Newfoundland.

I will tell you where I am coming from with respect to the Municipal Operating Grants. I was at a meeting last night with the Avalon Joint Councils; in Mount Pearl, as a matter of fact. We met with the Joint Councils and it was brought up again about they are fearful that we will be cutting the Municipal Operating Grants. What we announced last year was a cut of $5 million over three years, but what needs to be said - the municipalities need to understand this, and I think the former minister does - is that there was $21 million for the Municipal Operating Grants in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and out of that $21 million, there were fourteen municipalities that took half that, $10.5 million. That left $10.5 million for some 273 municipalities in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We are practicing what we preach, Madam Chair, when you look at the national scene and we have the equalization formula in the country - every province contributes to the equalization, just that some provinces might take out a bit more than others. Over the years various provinces have benefitted from that. Over the years, in Newfoundland and Labrador, rural Newfoundland was the economic engine that drove this Province. We had the fishery, the forestry, the mining, the agriculture. What we said, and the approach we took, we had to practice what we preached. We felt that the larger growing areas would now contribute back to rural Newfoundland. That is where we were last year and that is where we are today, that we want to be fair to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and that everybody contribute to the best of their ability.

The previous speaker also talked about the various programs with respect to the municipals in Newfoundland and Labrador. That is why the previous Administration - now granted, they brought in a good program under the multi-year program and we continued on with that because the larger municipalities in the Province can take advantage of it. What it basically is, it is fifty cent dollars to the municipalities that can take advantage of this, and they can then know how much money they are going to have to spend over the next three years.

In this program, the municipalities that take advantage of it - I think it is somewhere around fourteen that are taking advantage of it, at this point in time. I will have to check my figures on that, but they can plan better. They can take it all in one year. They can take it over two years or they can take it over three years, or they can take it all in the second or third year, depending on their financial situation. We work with the municipalities, as a government, to set their priorities, to help them with their priorities, and they will then try and fund their priorities.

We have areas in this Province, Madam Chair, particularly on the Northeast Avalon, whereby the population is growing very rapidly, the businesses are growing rapidly. Take CBS, or Paradise, or Portugal Cove, or Torbay, or St. John's itself. We just had an agreement with St. John's for a three-year program. They have been very supportive of it, I would have to say that, Madam Chair. Even last year, when we looked at the Municipal Operating Grants in the municipalities that would be impacted, of course, negatively - St. John's was impacted the most, but the mayor and councillors there were very supportive and they understood the overall picture.

What we are trying to do, as a government, is have the municipalities not be dependent on the Municipal Operating Grants for operations, whereby we are working with the municipalities to say: Okay, let's look at infrastructure. Madam Chair, we will say: Let's try and fund infrastructure and then you will have more development in the area. You will have more water and sewer, more roads, thereby having more houses being built, more businesses being started, your tax base is growing and will offset any negative impact that we had last year with respect to the Municipal Operating Grants. I think, from my conversations with most people from across this Province, it has been accepted very well.

We are planning to continue to work with the municipalities in this Province. As a matter of fact, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities had their convention last October, I believe it was, and they had some 1,300 people in the room. I spoke to that convention, and it was a very positive convention. I had a lot of conversations with a lot of municipalities, Madam Chair. I have had many, many meetings with the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities. It was only last week that I met with them in their offices on Torbay Road. As a matter of fact, in the Throne Speech, I think on page fifteen, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities is actually mentioned on how we want to work with the federation in future years for the benefit of the towns in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have a very good working relationship with the President, Mr. Brett, and the executive of the Federation of Municipalities.

We work with other organizations, also. The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Chiefs and Firefighters, for example, that we work with very often. As a matter of fact, I have an upcoming meeting with them in the very near future. I have had a number of meetings with those individuals because in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador we have many, many volunteer firefighters and firefighting departments. Some of them, granted, do some fundraising but we try to finance them to the best of our ability to assist them because, actually, we all know in the Province, where would we be without our volunteers and, in particular, the volunteer firefighters and fire chiefs of Newfoundland and Labrador who, oftentimes, put their lives on the line to protect the people in this Province. Now, lots of times we just hear the negatives about the equipment that some of these fire departments have but, Madam Chair, the fire departments in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador take great pride in their departments, in their equipment and they maintain them very well. As a matter of fact, last year we financed, I think somewhere of $2 million for fire trucks, breathing apparatus and other equipment that the volunteer fire departments need. So, we will be continuing on with that in the upcoming year and years to come, there is no doubt about that. We look forward to working with those groups.

The Throne Speech itself was, to my mind, a very positive document. The Member for Mount Pearl spoke a few minutes ago and talked about how many things are positive in this document. Of course -

MADAM CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that his time has expired.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

Just to clue up, I just want to say that, of course, the Opposition have a job to do. When they look at the Throne Speech, or look at any bill in the House of Assembly, that is coming through the House of Assembly, they have to look at it and pick out the flaws, what they feel to be the flaws, and oftentimes they do get into a little bit too much politics.

I was on that side of the House also. They have a job to do. We understand that. When they are looking at the Throne Speech, and I am sure next week when we bring down the Budget, they will find a lot of negatives in it. Certainly, they should be looking at the positives in the Throne Speech and the Budget that will be forthcoming in the not-too-distant future.

Madam Chair, with that, I would just like to say that I will take my seat. I am sure there are members on the other side who are biting at the bit to get up and say a few words on the Throne Speech.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SWEENEY: Thank you, Madam Chair.

I would like to thank the House for the wonderful opportunity to get up. After listening to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs expound on the mechanics of how municipal government works, and the financing and that, I am sure there are a lot of towns out around the Province today who are enlightened on his fresh approach to how funding is going to be given out. I guess heavy equipment is starting to roll now in many of the communities in rural Newfoundland. Unfortunately, I suspect some of that heavy equipment might be U-Haul trucks, U-Haul trailers, because there are a number of problems that we are facing right now in this Province and there is a real crisis going on. I refer to the crisis in Harbour Breton, Fortune, and possibly Grand Bank. We are not sure what is going to unfold there yet.

Look at some of the other things, the uncertainty of things happening in health care, the health care workers. I am wondering what is going to happen to the centre in Old Perlican, the health care centre.

AN HON. MEMBER: Fearmongering.

MR. SWEENEY: It is great for the Member for Mount Pearl to say I am fearmongering. It is great for him to say that, because he just sat down and talked about all the promises that were honoured over the past year.

It is quite interesting to note that in last year's Throne Speech, I might add, if I went down through it, many, many, many of the commitments that were made would not be honoured. That is this year's.

MR. E. BYRNE: The one you have in your hands is this year's.

MR. SWEENEY: This year's, I know, I will get to that. I say to the Minister of Natural Resources, I am coming to that, because I suspect that this will have the same future as last year's.

I noticed on Monday, or on Throne Speech day - Tuesday, it was - on Tuesday, I noticed that the invited guests were significantly different from last year. The people who were invited into the gallery to hear the great things that were going to be done for them over the next twelve months, in the Throne Speech, they were not there this year. I noticed a new group. I noticed a whole new group. I did not see the president of NAPE and the executive of NAPE there this year, who were looking forward to an open and new fresh approach to collective bargaining, because they had a taste of that, I can guarantee you.

MR. DENINE: You wouldn't recognize them.

MR. SWEENEY: I would recognize them, I say to the Member for Mount Pearl. I recognize every one of them.

MS FOOTE: How come the Member for Mount Pearl has so much to say?

MR. SWEENEY: The Member for Mount Pearl, I think he is taking these pills that are handed out, that all is rosy, everything is wonderful.

AN HON. MEMBER: The rosy pills.

MR. SWEENEY: The rosy pills.

I was almost expecting the Member for Mount Pearl today to say: Premier, I am great, I am good, and I even lived in Labrador. I even lived in Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SWEENEY: I said, when I saw the paper, when the Minister of Tourism was appointed - and I congratulate you, Minister, on that appointment. I hope you do a great job, because the people of Labrador deserve good representation, I will tell you that.

MR. SHELLEY: Absolutely.

MR. SWEENEY: They deserve that, and I hope you do, but when I saw part of the criteria for your appointment was that you lived in Labrador for seven years, I said: My God Almighty, how many more people over there lived in Labrador, and how many ran to the Premier and said: I lived there for seven years and one day; I should have been there.

MR. SHELLEY: Nobody.

MR. SWEENEY: Nobody, not a soul?

The poor Member for Lake Melville, I would suggest to him that he has to come back to the Island portion of the Province, which he left when he was five years old, and live here for a little while and then he might be eligible for a Cabinet post. He just might.

Anyway, I digress, I have to say, Madam Chair. I digress. The Member for Mount Pearl, I must say, he left an impression on me. He sang the praises of the government so high and so loud, he talked about the Atlantic Accord.

I guess I was as happy as anyone else in the Province, probably more so, because, having been part of a government that dealt with Ottawa for a number of years trying to get what was rightfully this Province's, I have to say that when it came -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SWEENEY: No, we never got it, but do you know what? Neither did you, really, because here is what happened.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SWEENEY: When Prime Minister Martin shook hands with the Premier of Nova Scotia on June 6 and said, sorry, I am not touching the Atlantic Accord, he got on his plane, came to Newfoundland, got somewhere here in the city - I think he probably stayed at the Fairmont - and somewhere during that evening, between 7 o'clock that night and 7 o'clock the next morning, somebody passed him a poll, and the poll showed that he was in a little bit of trouble, the chance of not forming the government, or a minority government. So, guess what? He picked up the phone and said: I have to change my mind on this Atlantic Accord. I am going to need the seats in the Atlantic Provinces.

Do you know what he did? He phoned the two Premiers and said: I am ready to make a deal with the Atlantic Accord. That is exactly what happened with it. The Premier, on June 10 or June 11 - I am not sure; it is in Hansard here - on June 9, came here in the House and got up and said: I am so happy, we are going to get $700 million over four years. The Prime Minister made an offer and I agreed to it - right there in black and white, in Hansard.

I said, $700 million, that is better than what we have ever had, but I hope there is more. Sure enough, there was more; but, you know, there will come a time when minority governments, the benefit of them wear out, because it is a very short period of time now and there will be another federal election. I am not going to predict what is going to happen, whether the Liberals form the government or the Conservative Party forms the government - I am not going to predict that - but the minority government edge will be gone, and I will tell you what is going to happen. We got the first taste of it the other day when the Premier said: No, I am not going to go back to Ottawa and ask them for any money to help us with the tunnel. Because I will tell you what: the people in Ottawa right now do not want to see the Premier or anyone else over there. That is why he so quickly dumped out and unloaded the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, because he said I am not going to get in through a door in Ottawa any more. So, he let the Minister of Justice carry that bag of rocks around with him. That is what he did. He said: I don't want any part of that.

Now, let's face reality. That is the reality of it all. Here is a fellow who went down to the Northern Peninsula and said that tunnel should be completed at all costs. There is no money. There is not enough money. At all costs, we should do that tunnel. All of a sudden, when the study comes back telling us what we all knew, what Frank Moores knew and the PC government of that day knew, because, God Almighty, I think they blew up two tractor trailer loads of flour over there in a tunnel, trying to make a great impression. The big white -

AN HON. MEMBER: Robin Hood.

MR. SWEENEY: Robin Hood, I think it was. Yes, it was probably Robin Hood flour. I would say there are doughboys still going up and down The Straits over there, from when the flour was blown up. So, there was not great big demand for the people at Memorial, or whoever did the study, to come back and say, yes, you can do the tunnel but it is going to cost you money. Sure, we all knew that. We spent a barrel. We spent enough money on flour to keep Mammy's Bakery in bread for 100 years - enough flour out there - so what is the big deal?

Now, all of a sudden, he had to go back to Ottawa, and guess what? The Premier says: I am not going back to Ottawa because I know what is going to happen to me. They are going to say: You get home. I told you. I am going to tell you -

MR. DENINE: Who is that?

MR. SWEENEY: Anybody in Ottawa, I say to the Member for Mount Pearl, including you, if you go up there.

MS FOOTE: Including Bill Rowe.

MR. SWEENEY: Interesting enough, one of the first people who came home on the heels of the Accord is the great consulate of Ottawa. The ambassador for Ottawa is home. I think he is home; we are not sure. I expect to turn on the radio any day at all and say: Is that you, Bill? He is home. Either that, or - I would say there might be a little bit of a better job for him now that he is home from Ottawa, because the Minister of Justice might want his own person in Ottawa now. He might have somebody himself to put in Ottawa. Who knows? Bill Rowe may be the next ombudsman. Who knows? After all, he has all of the qualifications. He was in Ottawa. He had breakfast with Loyola Hearn in September, one morning, and no one saw him after, so he had all of the qualifications, didn't he? He had all of the qualifications. He had lunch with Loyola Hearn one morning, and Loyola or anyone else never saw him after. He is home. I would like to know who the Minister of Justice if going to send up now to take Loyola for breakfast some time in the near future.

MS FOOTE: At $350,000.

MR. SWEENEY: Yes, at $350,000 -

MADAM CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that his time has expired.

MR. SWEENEY: Madam Chair, can I have another ten or fifteen minutes or so just to -

MADAM CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MADAM CHAIR: Leave has been granted.

MR. SWEENEY: I thank you.

I see the Premier is absent today, so I thought it might be a good day to ask for leave, because somewhere along the line I always irritate him and he always denies me leave.

MADAM CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that he should not refer to members who are not present in the House.

MR. SWEENEY: I am sorry, Madam Chair.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Madam Chair, I am enjoying the member's stories so well, and his flights of fancy, I will let him entertain us some more, but I do want to say - seeing that the member has raised the fact that the Premier is not here - I do want to acknowledge that there was a family death and a burial today. That is why the Premier is not here.

MR. SWEENEY: Thank you, Madam Chair.

I say to the Government House Leader, I fully understand where the Premier is today. It was a slip on my part, and I can assure you that it will not happen again.

Let me move on to some more. This great government, and the governance that this great government is carrying on with, the Member for Mount Pearl got up and talked about the vision. I want to know about the vision for rural Newfoundland. I want to know why we have lost 2,000 people this year. I want to know that. I want to know why we are building -

MR. J. BYRNE: I want to know (inaudible) back.

MR. SWEENEY: Actually, it wasn't 2077; it was 2076, because Bill came home. That is right.

I want to know what we can tell the children of our Province as their parents are down there in Harbour Breton right now packing up their belongings and starting to move out. I want to know what we are going to tell them, what vision we are going to give them. I want to know about the $4 million, I guess, that went into new schools, or school repairs this year. I want to know that.

The Member for Mount Pearl got up and said numbers are numbers - but important numbers, too - and accused us of doing nothing when we were in government. We put over $250 million into the schools of this Province, in the education system of this Province. There is a major problem if we do not keep up with what is going on around us. It is great to sit back and come in here and vote en masse and vote down some of the things that the Opposition comes forward with. It is great to do that, but there are the little things that take place in the day of an MHA. It is the little things.

One of the things I want to talk about is the lady in Harbour Grace who is a senior citizen, who applied for her oil rebate this year and she was told no, she cannot have it. A very simple little thing, but guess what? She applied for it because her son made a mistake, because she filed hers and her husband's income tax jointly; the problem being that the husband has been in an institution at the Interfaith Home in Carbonear for the past year and a half. She was still denied because technically he is still living with her because of a joint income tax return. She cannot get that couple of hundred dollars back to help her throughout the winter, to help her with her oil bill. Never mind the hardship of getting back and forth to visit her poor old husband in the hospital.

I cannot even get a response. I have made five attempts now to get a response from the Department of Finance for that. Those are the little things. That is what makes good governance. It is not about getting up and saying what we have done, or what we are going to do, and everything else. Throne Speech's are a wonderful thing, but only if you honour what is said in them.

Now that the fun has gone out of my speech and I am getting into the serious things, I am being reminded by some of the members opposite that my time is up, but I will be back. I will, and I will speak again, because I have other personal little things that are big things to the people of my district, the little things.

We got up the other morning and leave to come to St. John's, and the first plow that we meet is in by Paddy's Pond. From Carbonear to St. John's we had nothing but about five to six inches of snow and slush on the highway, people trying to get to work. Those are the little things. They expect their roads to be plowed. They expect that. That is something that everybody believes is a fundamental right of theirs: to get to work, to feed their family, to provide for their family safely, and to return home safely with their paycheque. That is the fundamental thing that everybody wants. It is the fundamental thing that the people of Harbour Breton want. They do not want fourteen weeks work this year so that when their EI runs out next year they have nothing. They do not want that, and that is the end of it. Those fishermen out there now who are concerned about the quotas, they are concerned about their families and their livelihood. Nobody has mentioned yet the fish plant workers of this Province who will not get as much work this year if this system goes in place. Nobody has mentioned those, when their hours are going to be reduced. I do not want to see any of them join the long haul of U-Hauls.

MR. SHELLEY: (Inaudible). You can come back again.

MR. SWEENEY: I would like to thank everybody. I should have kept my speech a little bit more humourous and worked in these things, but when I got serious and started talking about the real things and the real issues, my leave was taken away.

Thank you very much.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, and Labrador Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I can assure the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace that we will have lots of time for you to come back to either your stories or the little things, as you so call them. I have done that many times myself, Madam Chair. I am delighted to be able to have a few minutes here today to stand and make a few comments, not a lot, and then the member can get back up again and go on for as long as he wants.

Madam Chair, I would like to make a couple of comments, because it was mentioned a number of times here today about Labrador and my new portfolio in addition to how long I spent in Labrador and everything. At least I should respond to the comments made today.

I will start by saying this, Madam Chair: I am very proud that the Premier of the Province has given me the opportunity and the honour of representing the Labrador Affairs portfolio. I guess I should start by telling where this story started, with how long I lived in Labrador and my connections with Labrador and so on. Simply put, Madam Chair, it was because a member of the media asked me if I had any connections to Labrador, and how much time I have spent there. I answered the question. The simple question was: How much time did you spend in Labrador? The answer was: I lived there for seven years.

Madam Chair, to get a little more into detail, I went to Labrador directly out of high school at eighteen years old, just turned eighteen, and headed into Labrador City for a short visit, as matter of fact because I had three brothers and a sister living there at the time. A good part of my family was already there. It was 1977. I went there for a two-week vacation really, just to have look at Labrador City. Madam Chair, the long and short story, I guess is this, that after a two week visit, I stayed for seven years. The only regret I have is that I was not there for a longer time, because I dearly loved it, I enjoyed it very much. As a matter of fact, it was a very important part of my life, I guess, because, simply put, from eighteen years old in Labrador City to working there and then returning to University in 1981, I continue to come back to Labrador City. Labrador City, and Labrador West I should say, because I lived in Labrador City but certainly Wabush enabled me to work my way through University, through Labrador West. I am very proud of that, Madam Chair. It is a very important part of anybody's life when they leave high school and take up residence in Labrador City. I made a lot of friends there and still have a lot of friends there.

I believe, Madam Chair, that I guess there are no real experts on any part of our Province. Many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians move all around the world and they certainly move within our Province. I know many people, even from the Baie Verte Peninsula where I grew up, who lived in Labrador City for a long time. I still have a sister who is living there now twenty-nine years, and I believe me I get all the views of Labrador West and in Goose Bay, of friends there, and in Northern and Southern Labrador.

Madam Chair, you do get ties to particular parts of the Province and I am delighted that the Premier has given me the chance, the opportunity. Certainly, he knows my views on Labrador, because although a Tourism Minister, it certainly overlaps and overrides a lot of the issues coming out of Labrador. It is one that I was hoping some of the members opposite would repeat, because during our time in Goose Bay, just the other day, one of the initiatives that was announced, which sort of got overshadowed - and I am sure it is going to come up again more and more because I have gotten calls about it since through the tourism aspect - and that is Destination Labrador, which is very, very important for moving tourism ahead in Newfoundland and Labrador.

You will hear about it again in more detail, of course, in the Budget on Monday. Although that may seem like a little thing, as the member has pointed out, I think it is a big thing, Madam Chair. It is very important that tourism and the growth that we are going to see in tourism in years to come - I have said this publicly very often, that I believe Labrador is going to be a centerpiece of the tourism industry in our Province. I will give stories from this past summer when cruise ships went in through Goose Bay and the response we got back. As a matter of fact, I spoke to people who went on that cruise line who - picture this - going in through Goose Bay, Lake Melville, on a cruise ship, icebergs and so on and whales, and people who were on that cruise ship believed that it was, as we hear of so often, snow all year long, never a beautiful day. Here it was late June, icebergs, whales, and twenty-five degrees in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Who in the world would believe that unless that came to see it for themself? That is just the tip of the iceberg, as we said in Labrador just a little while ago, of what people and tourists see when they come to the great big land of Labrador. I am very excited about Destination Labrador, what it is going to mean for our entire tourism industry.

I can say this, too, Madam Chair - as a matter of fact, I was sworn in at two o'clock on Friday of last week, so I am almost a week into the new portfolio, and eight o'clock that evening I was in Goose Bay and delighted to be back there, the second time that week. I will say to the members opposite, especially the members from Labrador, that I had a very good response, I can say that, from people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and I am delighted that they think that. I can tell you this, the Member for Lake Melville, I have known him a long time, long before politics, and I can tell you that he brings forward the issues of Labrador very well. We have had a good working relationship, and we have had some very good discussions in the last few days, since me taking on this additional portfolio. I am delighted I am going to be working with the member because he knows the issues of Labrador and knows them well. We know them.

We saw the list from the community leaders when we were in Labrador, as we sat shoulder to shoulder with the community leaders from all across Labrador, and had some very good discussions. We know what the challenges are. We know that we cannot take them on all at one time, and I think most people around that table agreed that day. There is a long list, there is a lot of work to be done, there are a lot of challenges for Labrador, but, Madam Chair, this Premier and this government is committed to taking those challenges and turning them into opportunities. We know that we can work, and, of course, success at the end of the day is that Labrador is better off. That is what we are looking to do. That is my job. I am going to take that on, work with all the ministers involved, through transportation, education, health and so on, and work together with the members and all parties, by the way. As the Premier mentioned when he was in Labrador, we are willing to work with federal members, local members and work to make sure that we resolve some of these issues, and then we can move ahead for Labrador.

I believe it is a great portfolio. I am looking forward to all of these challenges. I am sure with all my colleagues in the House of Assembly - colleagues opposite who want to work to achieve some of those goals, I am ready to work with those too. I look forward to this portfolio.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

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

I move that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

MADAM CHAIR: It has been moved that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

All those in favour?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: Against.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Hodder): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for St. John's West.

MS S. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of Supply has considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairperson of the Committee of Supply reports the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed her to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

When shall the Committee have leave to sit again?

AN HON. MEMBER: On tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: On tomorrow.

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

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

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

It being the end of this parliamentary week, I do now move the House adjourn and back on Monday for the Budget Speech. We look forward to what the Minister of Finance has to say on behalf of the government and the news that he will deliver.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: We look forward then to his hon. critic, immediately following Monday, to her response on Tuesday.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that this House do now adjourn until Monday, March 21, at two o'clock in the afternoon for the Budget Speech.

All those in favour, Aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Those that disagree.

Motion carried. This House is now adjourned until Monday at two o'clock in the afternoon.

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