April 3, 2006 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS Vol. XLV No. 6


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 Grand Bank; the hon. the Member for the District of Trinity-Bay de Verde; the hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave; the hon. the Member for the District of Trinity North; and, the hon. the Member for the District of Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Grand Bank.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Juliette Dupr of St. Lawrence who was crowned the first ever Miss Teen Achievement Newfoundland and Labrador 2006. Juliette was one of seventeen young women who competed for the title.

The Miss Teen Achievement Newfoundland and Labrador Pageant was founded on the principle that the future of our Province is dependent upon the leadership qualities of today's youth and that the involvement in volunteer work and community service should be both encouraged and rewarded.

The young women are judged on their interviews, academics, fitness, on-stage introductions, poise, confidence, personality, public speaking and their responses to impromptu questioning.

As the winner, Juliette will be a role model and voice for young people as she travels throughout the Province attending various events.

Juliette is the daughter of Ghislain and Rosalie Dupr of St. Lawrence.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating Juliette and wishing her well in all future endeavors.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Trinity-Bay de Verde.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate Rebecca Green of Green's Harbour, a Grade 7 French Immersion student at Crescent Collegiate, for winning the provincial gold medal in her division in the 2006 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Provincial Gymnastics Championships. As well, Rebecca will go on to compete in the Atlantic Gymnastic Championships at Mount Pearl this month, and in May will compete in the Eastern Gymnastic Championships in Hamilton, Ontario.

Mr. Speaker, Rebecca is truly an inspiration. For the past six years she has travelled to Mount Pearl three times a week to train with Coach Dana Malone, whom Rebecca credits with much of her success.

Rebecca has many athletic skills. She has won medals in cross-country running, including gold at the Harvest Run in Carbonear, and gold at St. John's in a cross-country meet. She was also chosen for the St. John's girls under twelve Provincial Soccer Team, and will be playing in the Rocky Mountain Cup in Edmonton this summer.

Mr. Speaker, Rebecca is a shining example that, with hard work, determination and perseverance, we all can achieve great things. I would ask that you join with me in extending heartfelt congratulations to Rebecca in recognition of her many accomplishments.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to recognize the achievements of Calvin Butt, a local educator and volunteer who has won the 2005 J.D. Eaton Award for outstanding volunteer service at Memorial University's Alumni Awards.

The Baccalieu Trail Chapter of Memorial University's Alumni Association sponsored a special reception and dinner in honour of Mr. Butt, who received the award at the Bay Roberts Lions Club on March 3.

Mr. Butt has developed the program, Nourishing Foundations for Literacy Development, and has, over the years, promoted the importance of early literacy through his work as chair of the Early Literacy/Early Childhood Committee. He was president of the Port aux Basques branch of the provincial Teachers' Association, chair of the Educational Finance Committee of the Provincial Integrated Education Council. He was also chair of the Avalon West School Board, Secretary-Treasurer of the Provincial School Boards Association, vice-chair of the former Avalon Strategic Social Plan, and served three years as vice-chair of the Board of Regents of Memorial University. He also served nine years as vice-president of the Alumni Association, and in 1998 was president of the Baccalieu Trail Chapter.

Calvin Butt is a Bay Roberts resident and has taught primary, elementary and secondary levels. He has been a school principal, a district school supervisor and the district Superintendent of Education.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of the House to rise with me in acknowledging the achievements and volunteer service of Mr. Calvin Butt.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to rise in this House to congratulate Catherine Hogarth of Port Rexton for her very inspirational Peace Poster.

Mr. Speaker, the Lions organization sponsors an annual Peace Poster contest. The competition is open to students ages eleven, twelve and thirteen, where students are encouraged to visually depict their interpretation of the contest theme for that year. This year, the theme has been: Peace Without Borders.

Mr. Speaker, Catherine is a Grade 9 student at Port Rexton All Grade School and she placed first at the local level, went on to compete in the district, which is all of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, and then became eligible to compete in the multi-district level, which includes all of Atlantic Canada and the State of Maine. There were some 350 entries, Mr. Speaker, and Catherine placed third in that competition.

Catherine's poster has been on display at the Veteran's Centre in Ottawa and recently, together with several others, were selected to begin a tour across Canada.

Mr. Speaker, Catherine's poster depicts the work of a very creative, insightful and imaginary mind, with a keen understanding of the message conveyed in this year's theme of Peace Without Borders.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members of this House to join with me today in congratulating Catherine, on not only her tremendous poster that she developed, insightful poster, but also being able to recognize her contribution and her participation in this national competition and representing this Province very well in that process.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SWEENEY: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to extend congratulations to our hometown boy, Jamie Korab, a Harbour Grace native, and the Brad Gushue Men's Canadian Curling Olympic Gold Medalists.

Jamie, you've done us proud! Together the journey from Halifax to Turin has been an experience that many of us will soon not forget. The pride and rejuvenation that has been bestowed upon us from your hard work and success will be our history. The first Olympic Gold Medal for Canada's Mens Curling and Newfoundland and Labrador's first Olympic Gold Medal will be cherished forever.

Mr. Speaker, at a recent rally held in Harbour Grace, Jamie's former high school, St. Francis, named their auditorium the Jamie Korab Auditorium.

When they were in Harbour Grace for a pre-Olympic rally January 12, Gushue and his team promised to bring home gold. Well, on February 24, they delivered on that promise. For a town already steeped in historic milestones, Harbour Grace now has another reason to wear its historic town mantle. In the annals of sports history this moment is unmatched.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me on congratulating Jamie Korab, and the Brad Gushue Men's Canadian Curling Olympic Gold Medalists.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by ministers.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity today to inform hon. members of recent meetings I have held with two ministers of the federal government concerning the Stephenville flood.

As you know, on March 3 Minister Joan Burke and I announced our government's plan to respond to the September 27 flooding that occurred in Stephenville; a terrible event that devastated the area and put hundreds of residents out of their homes. The cost of reacting to that event is estimated at $21 million. Mr. Speaker, this is a substantial amount of taxpayers money, but this Province has decided to make the investment because it is the right thing to do.

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the assistance of the federal government through its Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement for cost-sharing repair and restoration costs. Discussions between provincial and federal governments continue in an effort to secure an agreement to cost-share the relocating of flood victims whose homes reside in what the Minister of Environment has designated as a flood control area. Our discussions with federal officials flow from a commitment the Right Honourable Stephen Harper made to Premier Williams in a letter dated January 4, 2006.

Mr. Speaker, on March 15 my deputy and I travelled to Ottawa where I had a lengthy meeting with the Province's federal Cabinet Minister, Loyola Hearn. The minister was briefed fully on the situation and this government's firm belief that the DFAA rules should be amended to allow cost-sharing the necessary relocation of those flood victims most seriously impacted by the flooding. Minister Hearn assured me he will pursue the matter further with his cabinet colleagues on our behalf.

Mr. Speaker, on Friday, March 31, I, and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister John Ottenheimer, met with the hon. Michael Chong, federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen's Privy Council. The meeting was productive. Minister Chong assures me he understands well our concerns with cost-sharing the relocation of the flood victims in the Stephenville area. The minister plans to have a follow-up discussion with Minister Hearn in the very near future.

Mr. Speaker, while discussions with the federal government continue my officials continue to work on the ground in Stephenville; getting on with the job of securing the flood area against future events while working to relocate the people with homes in the flood control area and restoring other homes outside the area that have sustained damages.

In closing, I commend the victims of the September 27 flooding in Stephenville and surrounding area for their patience and perseverance under trying circumstances.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the minister for an advanced copy of the statement.

In paragraph 2 of that statement, Mr. Speaker, the minister says that the event is estimated to cost $21 million. The Province has decided to make the investment because it is the right thing to do. All things being equal, Mr. Speaker, the first $500,000 the Province pays 100 per cent of it; from $500,000 up to $1 million it is 50-50; from $1.5 million to $2.5 million it is 75-25, and after the $2.5 million up, it is 90-10. I am not sure here what particular part of that $21 million is not covered under that agreement. It might be, for example, as the minister said in paragraph 3, the cost of securing an arrangement to share the relocation of flood victims. I guess what the extra cost would be, probably for the provincial government, would be a new subdivision which would not probably be covered under it. Of the $21 million, the Province is paying $8 million and the federal government $13 million. So, I guess what the minister is looking at and meeting with his federal colleagues is to change the formula -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The member's allotted time has expired.

MR. LANGDON: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

MR. LANGDON: - so that the federal government can take up an additional amount of the $8 million which the provincial government is on the hook for. So, I guess then that particular amount probably also says why a number of the people in the Stephenville region are probably still somewhat dissatisfied with the process and not being able to achieve what they thought they would. But, I encourage the minister to work to change the formula if it would mean that the people of Stephenville in the end would be better served by changing the formula from what it is in its present condition.

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

MR. R. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for an advanced copy of his statement. I think the key words in this statement is to commend the people of Stephenville for their patience and perseverance during this terrible tragedy and terrible time.

I would also like to say, Mr. Speaker, and say to the minister and government that the process that is used to offer assistance seems to be very flawed because of the time that it takes from something happening until something being resolved. I think it is important that this government look into ways, along with the federal government, to find ways of dealing with things in a more expedient manner so that people's lives are not put on hold for a year or two after but can be dealt with in a fairly timely manner to the (inaudible) parties.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The member's allotted time has expired.

MR. R. COLLINS: Just when I finished, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

Further statements by ministers.

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Premier.

Premier, you have been conducting secret negotiations with Chevron and its partners for the Hebron-Ben Nevis project for over a year now. This morning a press release was sent out by Chevron announcing that the project has been shelved indefinitely. I ask the Premier if he might elaborate in this House on the reasons why this impasse has suddenly taken place, or is it possible this just might be a negotiating tactic?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, first of all if I can clarify: I mean, the negotiations haven't been a secret. We have negotiated in a normal negotiating manner with the other side, but the public have been generally informed as to what has been proceeding and how we have been proceedings, and also we have laid out for them what the basic tenets of our agreement were going to be if we reached it with the partners in Hebron-Ben Nevis. What we were trying to achieve was obviously to improve on previous agreements. That is not to say that there is anything negative about previous agreement, that we are trying to enhance the benefits for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

We wanted to get more work done here. We wanted to make sure that our facilities during this project and concurrent with other projects were at 100 per cent capacity. We also said that we would like to see more secondary processing in the Province with respect to possibly an oil refinery, possible petrochemical; wanted to get a super royalty so that we could, in fact, benefit in and share in the windfall profits that oil companies are now receiving from Hibernia, of course, and from the Terra Nova project.

As well, we felt we should get equity, we felt that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians deserved and wanted a stake in this particular project. The precedent was there because the federal government had 8.5 per cent, of course, in the Hibernia project. This was a precedent that had been accepted by the industry during difficult times, but they still accepted it, and if Ottawa can own 8.5 per cent then Newfoundland and Labrador can certainly own 8 per cent of the project.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, does the House Leader want me to keep going? Do you want me to shorten the answer just so we can explain it. Okay.

We went into the negotiation and it became apparent that these partners did not want to participate in an oil refinery in the Province. Now, the benefit of putting out the oil refinery request was that we now have at least two parties - the Minister of Natural Resources can obviously verify that - that are actually interested in doing an oil refinery. We said: Okay, if the partners don't want to do that, we will pull back on that one, but we want two out of three, two out of these three major premises, assuming we are at full capacity.

We then went to the equity position, and as recently as Thursday night we felt we had an agreement with them on equity. We reduced our equity ask, we established a value for that particular equity, and as well then we also asked for a Tier III super royalty. In fact, as the price of oil got over $50 a barrel we would get an enhanced profit from that particular development.

When they came back to us late Thursday night, about 11:15, when it appeared that we had agreement on equity and royalties - over the last two months the senior officer at Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, Mr. Ed Martin, has been involved in negotiations at another level with officials of Chevron who are the negotiating partner - they had basically moved along on a lot of issues. When they sent us a memorandum on Thursday night, they basically reverted back on the other issues to a January 26th position. Basically, everything that had been negotiated over the last two months, all of the sudden they said, fine, we will agree on equity, we will agree on royalties, but we are going back to the January 26th position. At that point in time we said: No deal!

I want to just point out to you: A very, very important aspect of that was they were asking for investment tax credits and also an exemption on all fuel that was to be provided by the project. The investment tax credits, which is something no government in this Province has ever done before, was tantamount to about an ask of about $400 million to $500 million. That would have completely negated the benefit that we are getting on super royalty and the benefit that we are getting on equity. That was probably the straw that broke the camel's back.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure in the days ahead, Premier, we will get an opportunity to get further explanations and details.

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the Premier's comments, and not to be negative here again, but, Premier, when you and your government have gotten all over some files in this Province recently, such as the Abitibi Stephenville file, the FPI Harbour Breton file, and the FPI Burin file, which we are currently dealing with, the results have not always been pretty.

We have failing economies in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We have empty fabrication yards, and now, if you were to take the Chevron announcement this morning at face value, we may well be close to jeopardizing the future of many skilled and professional people, as well as many businesses in this Province that rely upon the offshore oil industry.

I ask the Premier: How can we be certain that the Province's strong bargaining tactics - which I don't think anyone disagrees with - will not be so strong that we may, indeed, jeopardize the project itself?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues have just said it all. We campaigned on this. We went to the people on this. We have a mandate from the people on this. We have the support of the people on this. This government will not stand for any more giveaways in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: And we will not sign a deal that happens to be a bad deal, just for the sake of doing a deal.

Now, I am not going to go back and start to talk about the possible Lower Churchill deal that you were going to do, or Voisey's Bay, and the implications of that, and where that has gone for the people of Placentia and Argentia, and where that is all at. Let's just leave that. You did forget to mention, of course, that just as recently as last week 300 jobs were saved on the Northern Peninsula because the minister went up and negotiated an agreement that worked for the loggers on the Northern Peninsula, so this government is doing a lot of good things.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: The other thing you failed to mentioned as well, when we were dealing with Stephenville, this government was prepared to put up $10 million a year in order to save those jobs in Stephenville, and we were actually prepared to do that. So, this government is doing everything it can do, but it is not going to be held hostage or it is not going to be held to ransom by big corporations.

I made the point of saying to Exxon Mobil today: Use it or lose it. If they do not want to develop these assets, these resources, in this Province, then go to Russia, where they want to go. Leave those resources. This government will buy their share of that particular project and we will develop it in partnership with people who want to do it for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are not into comparing, either, the 300 jobs that the minister saved on the Northern Peninsula versus the 300 jobs that walked out of Stephenville as a result of the government. I do not want to get negative on that issue either, but I say to the Premier, forgetting about dwelling in the past - and we certainly do not want you to dwell in the past - I do not believe anybody in this Province wants to see the benefits of our resources not be maximized.

The concern I am asking, and I am raising again, is: Have we put the bar so high, maybe, that there might never be a deal? How do we strike that balance? How can the people be assured - it has nothing to do with the fact that they do not trust you to do the negotiations, and they did not elect you to give you the mandate to do that - what assurance can the people have that the balance that we need to meet between the need to develop the resources and the fact that we get the best deal, how do we accomplish that? What assurance do the people have, where we are headed in that direction?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, the assurance that the people have is what we have already accomplished. We were told by a federal Liberal minister, and we were told by hon. gentlemen opposite, that we should take $1.4 billion for the Atlantic Accord. We said, absolutely not! We did not take that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: We finally negotiated a deal on the Atlantic Accord that, as a result, in two years' time, has taken us from a projected deficit on an annual basis of $1 billion a year to a surplus last year, to a surplus again this year, to a Budget that has enabled us to spend money in health care, in education, in tourism, $300 million on infrastructure so we can rebuild our roads, our hospitals and our schools in this Province, and build new long-term care facilities.

We stand on the record of what we have accomplished. We have turned this Province around fiscally on the basis of a good negotiation in two-and-a-half years. That is a significant accomplishment, and I think the people will stand behind us on that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the Premier, when he talks about no more resource giveaways, I think it must only apply to oil because, as we speak, we hear about our fish being processed in China.

Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister of Fisheries stated here that he, the Premier, and a group of Cabinet ministers, met on Thursday to discuss FPI. At that meeting, the minister stated that you were considering amendments to the FPI Act. He mentioned a couple, Premier, in your absence.

As we speak today, there are 1,000 people on the Burin Peninsula who are still without work. I might add, that is the longest period of time that these people have been without work in the last forty years.

I ask the Premier: When will you bring the amendments to the House of Assembly that your minister talked about on Thursday? How much longer are you going to continue to pussyfoot around FPI?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I doubt if anybody in FPI is looking at this government as pussyfooting around with them. We have been firm - we try to be fair, but we have been firm with FPI.

As I said to this Assembly on Thursday and outside the Assembly following that, we will bring legislation to this Legislature if the government deems that it is appropriate and necessary to do so. We are not going to react just for the sake of reacting. We are having our officials draft legislation. We have given them direction as to what we would like to see in that legislation.

Mr. Speaker, the House is open until May or June, we will bring legislation, if necessary, to this House when we are ready.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, the minister talks about being firm with FPI, but yet we continue to have 1,000 people unemployed on the Burin Peninsula. I guess he will continue to be firm while FPI dismantles the company and leaves no one with employment on the Burin Peninsula.

Mr. Speaker, the minister talks about adding amendments or changing the act, I ask the Premier: When he brings forth these amendments - and I hope that they are sooner rather than later - will he include in that act a provision that states that all quotas held by FPI must be processed in this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, everybody out there in the whole Province sees that for the silly, ludicrous statement that it is. Mr. Speaker, we cannot dictate. We do not have the constitutional authority to dictate to any company who holds offshore quotas that they must be landed in this Province. What we do have the constitutional authority to do is that once they are landed here, then we put conditions on the processing licence. That is what we control.

The hon. member knows that because he was a minister. To ask those ludicrous, foolish questions is just a waste of time of Question Period and a waste of time of the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister, the question was not ludicrous. I understand that the federal government gives the quota to FPI, but we control FPI and its board of directors in this House of Assembly. Once those quotas are given to FPI, I say to the minister, we can control where they are going to be processed under the act that sits on that table.

Mr. Speaker, as we speak the Newfoundland Lynx, a vessel that is owned and operated by FPI is about to return to port with between 1.4 million and 1.8 million pounds of fish on board. With no plants belonging to FPI open in this Province, can the minister tell me where this fish will be landed and, more importantly, whether it will be processed in this Province or sent to China for processing?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, if the Newfoundland Lynx returns and lands fish in this Province then the Province's processing licence capacity under the Fish Inspection Act kicks in. Now, if it does not land in the Province and lands in St. Pierre or lands in Massachusetts or it lands in Nova Scotia, there is nothing I can do about it. But, if it lands in this Province then we are in control of what happens to the fish and how it gets processed. And, no, Mr. Speaker, they do not have authority to send one fish to China today and they will not have authority tomorrow.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It still begs the question: Where will it be processed if FPI does not have a plant open in this Province today? He still did not answer the question.

Mr. Speaker, the redfish fishery in 3NO is open and some plants in this Province, including FPI, will ask for amendments to send that fish out of the Province for processing. Last week I heard Mr. Fred Woodman Jr., who owns a plant in Trinity Bay, state that he would be willing to purchase that fish and process it in his facility in Trinity Bay.

I ask the minister: Will there be any exemptions given to any company for redfish this year to take redfish out of the Province for processing while there is an operator in this Province who is not only willing to purchase it but also process it in this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware that FPI have made any request for an exemption to ship 3O redfish out of the Province. They may, but I am not aware that they have at this point in time.

There are requests before me to ship 3O redfish in certain processed states, some round and some degree of processing to it out of the Province. Mr. Speaker, Gaultois would probably die if we did not give that exemption. Yes, we are considering exemptions but we are considering it on an even playing field. We are considering it such that everybody would be treated equally and, for the record, exemptions were granted by that hon. gentleman for certain species, including redfish, when he was minister. Also, Mr. Speaker, we are going to consider doing the same thing under very stringent and enforceable conditions.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister, when I gave exemptions there was no plant in this Province who was prepared to buy it and process it. There is a plant in the Province, and I guess he has been in touch with you as well. Mr. Fred Woodman's plant in Trinity Bay is prepared to purchase that redfish and process it in this Province. So, again, you are going to allow them to break the rules and ship that fish out while there is a processor who is willing to do it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, on another topic. Mr. Speaker, as of late there has been a lot of discussion about Mr. Bill Barry moving into Harbour Breton -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: - and operating the plant that was owned by FPI in that community.

Mr. Speaker, can I have some protection from the cracky down there?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has recognized the Leader of the Opposition. I ask members for their co-operation.

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say that the Minister of Transportation does a lot of yapping but he does not say very much.

Mr. Speaker, recently Bill Barry stated that he could not move into the plant in Harbour Breton because of environmental concerns that were not addressed by FPI.

I ask the Minister of Environment today: - and I have to scream to be heard over his colleague - Can he give us an explanation of the environmental issue that is stopping Bill Barry from moving into Harbour Breton?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, the only screaming that I heard in the House was the political rhetoric coming from the hon. gentleman. I suppose there was a question in it.

The fact of the matter, Mr. Speaker, is that this government, through IT and RD I believe, and my department, made it well known to FPI that under certain conditions we would agree to relaxing some of the environmental concerns that we had regarding Harbour Breton if they were prepared to immediately do certain things, including transferring the plant without any further delay to the Barry Group. So, Mr. Speaker, we have been dealing with that matter. FPI has not yet concluded the matter with Barrys but my understanding is that the legal agreements are getting pretty close to being concluded, and environment is not part of an issue that is hanging up anything.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, under the cloak of darkness, I think it was last Wednesday night, your federal Fisheries Minister, Mr. Loyola Hearn, announced this year's crab plant which sees reduced quotas and a shortened season for many who are going to participate in that fishery. So that plan, Mr. Speaker, will mean devastation for a number of harvesters and plant workers in this Province, especially those in 3K, where the minister's district is, as well as those in 3PS on the south coast.

I ask the minister: Have you had any discussions with the federal minister about this plan, especially the early closing date in 3K?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, let me make it abundantly clear, if it is not already clear, that this government will support a position that is based on conservation and based on science. We will not support a position that is based on political expediency for today and the hell with tomorrow. We are not going to do that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: I have harvesters and crab fishermen in my district and I talked to them over the weekend. We are concerned about the plan in 3K. We are concerned, obviously we are, but I am not going to take a position to call on the federal government or the federal minister to implement a decision that is not based on sound conservation practices and is not based on science.

In terms of the closing date, Mr. Speaker: Historically, for the last two or three or four years, it has been around the 15th or the 17th of June that the season has closed because of the emergence of soft shell. We will talk to, and we have in fact talked to the federal department about that. If things are good come the 31st of May, if there is no sign of soft shell, quota left to be caught, why in God's name couldn't we catch it. We appreciate that and we support it, but we will never, Mr. Speaker, fly in the face of science and conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My final question is for the Premier.

On Saturday those people in the Province who use the provincial ferries saw their rates again increase by 5 per cent, just like they have seen in the past two years. Now they are faced with a total increase, in the past three years, of 26.5 per cent.

I ask the Premier: When are you going to live up to the commitment that you made, prior to and during the election, when you were out there trying to get yourself elected? When are you going to honour that commitment and reduce the ferry rates that you are responsible for in this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the commitment that this government made, and this party made, when we were campaigning in the last election was that we would bring ferry rates in line with road equivalency travel. We have done an assessment of the road equivalency compared to the ferry rates in Newfoundland and Labrador on passenger rates, on vehicle rates and on freight rates. We had that completed, I guess, about a week or so ago, Mr. Speaker, and I can tell the House the same thing today as I told them last week, there are huge discrepancies in the rates that were implemented by the previous administration. There are leftovers in some cases from when Marine Atlantic ran these services. We have committed to dealing with this and we are in the process of dealing with fees across government.

I will say this, Mr. Speaker, to the hon. member: If he wants us to live up to the letter, the commitment that we made in the provincial election of two and a half years ago, then we, as a government, will collect $8.5 million more in revenues from vehicle, passenger and freight rates in this Province this year.

Those, Mr. Speaker, are the facts. The fact of the matter is, the vast majority of passengers, vehicles and freight moved in this Province is less than the road equivalency rates, based on private interests like DRL and so on. Mr. Speaker, if we applied those rates across the board at road equivalency, we would collect $8.5 million (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Minister of Health.

For the past two years, ourselves, as the Opposition, along with the Alzheimer Society, has been calling on the government to add Alzheimer drugs to the formula. In the last Budget the government decided to do that, but I have to ask, Mr. Speaker, why the minister, after having these patients and their families wait for over two years while you made a decision, now you are asking them to wait another six months before they can access this drug through special authorization?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

We are asking that people wait until September 1, and there is a reason for that. Physicians throughout the Province have to undergo some training. There are some logistical measures that have to be taken before we can allow the drugs to be available, including the training for physicians. September 1, these drugs will be available to anybody in the Province who qualify under the drug program.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, the drugs are available now, if you pay for them, so I do not know why the physicians have to be trained, but I will take the minister's response.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the wait for proper drug coverage for patients of multiple sclerosis and arthritis will be even longer. In fact, there is no end in sight at this point. I have to ask the minister: How is it that you can justify covering one category of expensive medication but not other categories for other patients, like those of multiple sclerosis and arthritis? I would like to have a response to that.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. OSBORNE: First of all, to answer your preamble on the last question, physicians need training because these drugs are for - not everybody with Alzheimer's will quality for these drugs. These drugs are not of benefit to everybody with Alzheimer's, so physicians require some training prior to these drugs becoming available under the Prescription Drug Program.

Under multiple sclerosis, those drugs were approved eight years ago. You put out a news release on Friday saying that these drugs, as well as drugs for arthritis, should be approved. The arthritis drugs were approved under last year's Budget.

One of the things that I learned when I was in Opposition was, to learn my facts before I asked the question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I will let the minister know that there are some forms of the drug that are not available. I can tell him and I can give him names of people who are calling my office who are not able to afford the drugs and have to go through an extensive process just to get them, and then only get them on a week-by-week basis. I can give the minister the names and the situations if he wishes to have them.

Mr. Speaker, as we know, 60,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians live in poverty, and this does not even include the working poor. Government says that they are concerned about this issue, and actually committed to expand the eligibility of the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program to assist low-income families.

I have to ask the minister - because I am a little bit bewildered by this, but I have to ask the minister - if he is serious about alleviating the hardship of low-income families, why is this program not going to be available to these individuals until 2007, even though your government has a surplus Budget this year and can well afford this program for these low-income families?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. OSBORNE: Again, Mr. Speaker, in answer to the member's preamble, Enbrel, which the member for the Burin Peninsula had asked on Thursday of last week, was announced in last year's Budget, in 2005.

To answer your question as to why the people of the Province will gain access in January of 2001 under the Prescription Drug Program, we have increased eligibility under the Prescription Drug Program for the first time in decades. Twenty per cent of the people in the Province are now eligible for prescription drugs under the Prescription Drug Program. January 1, we are increasing that; we are doubling it. So, another 20 per cent of the people in this Province will have access (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Before I recognize the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, I want to note that we are at 2:12 p.m. and we will extend Question Period to permit him to have his full four minutes for Question Period today.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Finance.

Last Thursday's Budget announced the Prescription Drug Program to start next January, which will pay part of the cost of drugs to people with family incomes under $30,000. Yet, Mr. Speaker, this does nothing for my constituent whose family income is $36,000 and has a need for very expensive cancer drugs, or multiple sclerosis patients or diabetes patients or those with other diseases facing catastrophic drug costs. Why doesn't the minister's plan do something for these people?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Province's plan will increase by 99,000 people. We looked at trying to assist people with low income. We would like to be able to provide everybody, regardless of income, but a $62 million commitment dealing with poverty, $32.8 million new dollars annualized. The reason it is starting in September is because it will take a period, a number of months, to bring it on line with our computer system and IT. To be able to administer this appropriately, you need time to get it up, get the data, the qualifying criteria, and all those aspects. You cannot do it overnight. You cannot snap your fingers now and have a system up and running. You have to understand that.

The next thing you will be asking, if you give it for $36,000, he will be up asking for $60,000 and $100,000 and $150,000. We would love to have a plan that covers everybody, but we have to deal with the 200,000 people in our Province who are dependent most on this particular one. It is an incredible start, I might add, in extending it (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Medicare, I guess, would be an incredible statement, too, if someone were asking for that twenty-five or thirty or forty years ago.

Mr. Speaker, doctors tell me that the first question they ask newly diagnosed diabetics is whether you have an insurance plan or a drug card, because this determines the type of treatment that the patient can afford.

Mr. Speaker, why doesn't the minister agree to redesign his program to make some changes that would include people who do not have access to any kind of a plan? People have workplace plans, or drug cards, and there are still many, many people who have no access to any kind of drug and prescription drug insurance. Will the minister not work with his plan, redesign it - he has six months to do it - and make it better?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi is living in the dark if he thinks 100 per cent of Medicare in this country - even the province that formed Medicare. Almost one-third of health in this Province, and costs, are borne by private insurance and private individuals. Only two-thirds is medically covered, and there are ten different plans in every province in this country, so we have to stay realizing - we put $62 million into poverty and he is still not satisfied. You cannot satisfy that individual, no matter what you do, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allocated for Question Period has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

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

We are moving to Motion 1 - just one second, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: Could we revert back to Tabling Documents?

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, one of my colleagues just asked, through the debate across the House, if I could ask leave just to revert back to Tabling of Document for a moment, and then we will get to introducing the motion which will begin the Budget debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance is recognized to table a document.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Pursuant to Section 26 (5)(a) of the Financial Administration Act, I am tabling one Order-in-Council relating to funding pre-commitments for the 2006-2007 to the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

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

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

I want to move Motion 1. This was moved by my colleague, the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, on last Wednesday, to move that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair recognizes the Opposition House Leader.

MR. PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I had this discussion this morning with the Government House Leader and we were well aware that this motion was going to be called this afternoon. In fact, the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans is prepared, as the Finance Critic for the Opposition, to address the matter. In fact, she is entering the Chamber now. I believe she gets to speak, under the rules, for about three hours and thirty-eight minutes. I guess she was just getting prepared.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes that under the Standing Orders - I do believe the Minister of Finance spoke for one hour and thirty-eight minutes, so they would have twice that time.

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: Well thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am now embarking on a speaking journey that will break the euphoria bubble that was created on Thursday past. I hope today, Mr. Speaker, will be a little bit different from other times in the past when I have responded to the Budget. I do hope the Minister of Natural Resources will take his leave and have a coffee of two because he was always in the habit of rising on unnecessary points of order and trying to disrupt me when I was speaking. I hope that alone will be different today.

MR. SULLIVAN: Anna, how much time do you have left?

MS THISTLE: To the Minister of Finance, I think I have three hours and twenty-six minutes. How is that?

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Well, you know, the first time I critiqued or responded to the Budget of this new government I managed to have almost fourteen hours, but that grew to be too much for this government. In the past two Budgets they have cut me back to three hours.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to, I guess, bring forward a side that has not been spoken of since Thursday. That is important in my role as being critic of Finance and I think it is important to set the stage before I talk about this year's Budget so people will have an idea of where we have come from since 2003.

I think 2003 is a year that will go down in history as a most unusual year. The reason why that is is because that was the year that this government, not this government but the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador changed from simple accounting to accrual accounting. It was in a year that was most beneficial to the new government taking over, because what they did would frighten everybody in 2003. They left the impression that this Province was bankrupt. We were embarking on debt so much that we were going to sink. Even though bond rating agencies had given us our best rating since we joined Confederation, they left the impression - and they got a chartered accountant firm by the name of PricewaterhouseCoopers to endorse what they were saying. Most people are not in tune with accounting measures. The new government left an impression that the previous government left a mess of $1 billion in debt. That was entirely incorrect, because just two-and-a-half years later into the mandate they now have a surplus. So that was totally incorrect.

What accrual accounting does, it lays everything on the books for everyone to see. In other words, if there were school boards or hospital boards, or any government agency owing money - even Newfoundland Hydro, which government will never be called upon to pay off their debt. In fact, we have been able to use their dividends to put in our general account over the years. Government had everybody frightened out of their shoes and listed out all the debts that the government was responsible for throughout the Province. So it left an impression that we were $1 billion in the red, which was totally incorrect. As a result, union people themselves were frightened into submission.

When the Premier came on provincial TV - I remember it well because I was being interviewed by CBC myself. I think the date was January 5, 2004, when the Premier gave that speech that he will always remember and probably always regret. On public television he told the staff who worked for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador they were getting no raise. That is something you do at the negotiating table, not at the interview table on public TV. Anyway, he frightened the union people into submission. He frightened the town councils and he frightened everybody who would normally come to government for money. So, as a result, people's expectations were very low at that point and they did not expect anything from government.

In fact, Leo Puddister was one of the casualties at that time. He thought he had a friend in Danny Williams - or the Premier, I should say. I am not supposed to mention anybody's name when I am up here speaking. He thought he had a friend in the Premier, but he soon found out that the arrangements that were made previous to the election were not the ones that came to pass after the election. So, as a result, Mr. Puddister looked pretty weak in the eyes of his membership because everybody went out on the street for no reason. They got nothing and they were legislated back to work. That was something that this Premier, this government, was never going to do, was legislate people back to work. So, as a result, union had a very low morale.

Now, we are into two-and-a-half years later. Things have changed around. Now, have they changed around by the actions of this Premier and this government? I do not think so. There were a couple of breaks, particularly one was the Atlantic Accord, which I did publicly give the Premier credit for, and I think the Province did as well; most people around the Province, I think all, 100 per cent. But the biggest single factor that accounted for a surplus this year was high oil prices and the adjustment to the Atlantic Accord. It was not something that this Premier or this government generated in the way of economic activity.

I will show you what really happened here. I think it is important, for most people who are interested in the Budget, to pick up the government's own literature called The ECONOMY06 because that will show you how things are going in this Province on a financial basis and what might happen in the following year. There are some stats here that I found a bit alarming, I have to say. What is happening now is that there has been - you can generally tell the condition of the economy by two factors, and they are new housing starts and car sales. Now, what we have noticed over the past two years is that housing starts are going to decline, and this year, 2006, will be no different. There were bumper years in this Province where we had enormous housing starts right throughout the Province but housing starts in this Province are going to decline by 8.5 per cent and that is roughly 2,300 units. So that is a lot of less units this year. What that means is there will be a lot less building materials bought, a lot less carpenters and tradespeople working when you are talking about 2,300 units less being built in this Province.

So, the big factor in all of this, of course, is high oil prices. The Finance Minister budgeted for $38 a barrel U.S. when he was making up the Budget and the average price on crude oil came to roughly $58 U.S. a barrel. So, as you can see, that is simple mathematics that you would end up with a surplus. You know, this government tried hard to make sure that there was no surplus at the end of this year. They forecasted a deficit last year and that is a cash deficit. In other words, your general day-to-day expenses. They forecast a cash deficit of about $495 million but, when everything was done and tallied up, they had $600 million extra to play around with. Now, $600 million is a lot of money when you compare to - when we were the former Administration, we never, ever, had a surplus. We had a couple of balanced budgets, but they were temporary in nature. It was a matter of former premiers finding one-time cash in Ottawa and balancing the Budget, but we never did have the luxury of having our oil industry on stream as it is today and such a high demand in the marketplace for oil, which demands a high return.

When I was looking at the Economy book, and I am going to get down through other things as we go along, there is a statement. There are writers for this book employed by government, and it is interesting how officials - that is what they are called, bureaucrats who work for government - how they write to report on the situation of a particular department or government.

As we all know, there has been a lot of job loss in this Province that government does not like to talk about. Most recently it has been Harbour Breton and Stephenville, and now there is a huge concern in Burin and probably Bonavista before FPI matters are concluded. When I looked at the statement that was in this Economy book for 2006, and I am sure it was written by a bureaucrat but it must have been approved by the Minister of Finance, it says,"Losses in major project construction and newsprint jobs are expected to be offset by increased service sector employment." I have to read that again. It says,"Losses in major project construction and newsprint jobs are expected to be offset by increased service sector employment."

Now, everybody knows that if you are working for a pulp and paper mill, you are a tradesperson. Everybody knows that if you are working on project construction like White Rose or Hibernia, Voisey's Bay, all these are tradespeople who are working, and they are not service sector wages that they are being paid, so that statement is entirely incorrect.

If the Premier and government expect service industries, which could be tourism, could be call centres, or something along that line, if the Premier and government expect these two areas to take the place of major projects such as White Rose, the Stephenville mill, the FPI plants on the Burin Peninsula, the plant in Harbour Breton, that is entirely incorrect information.

They go on the say in the same paragraph, "Population decline is expected to continue (-0.5%) as strong labour markets in Western Canada continue to result in net out-migration."

This is all a play on words. It depends on how you say things, what kind a reaction you would get. Really, the truth of the matter is, when the Province forecast a decline in employment, the simple reason is that there are no jobs in this Province. If there were, people who not be going to Alberta, Fort McMurray and Yellowknife.

Instead of that, the bureaucrats will sit in their office and they will say: Population decline is expected because there is a strong labour demand in Western Canada. Now, can you imagine anyone saying that? They are not going to own up to the fact that there are no jobs for these tradespeople and skilled workers in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are going out to Western Canada for that very reason.

Can you tell me - unless it is a young person looking for adventure - what married person or person who has been in a job situation down here for twenty years, has a home and is established in their community, would actually leave all of that and go out to Western Canada, or any place, whether it be Yellowknife or Fort McMurray? Who would want to do that, and leave their community? Not too many. This is the tripe that government puts in their glossy folders so people will think that everything is rosy.

Employment growth, "Between 1997 and 2005, employment increased by 13.7% or 25,800." Now, 25,000, that was from 1997, almost ten years that employment increased by 25,000. That was simply because of -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair asks members for their co-operation. We have a lot of conversations going on in the Chamber, and the Chair is having difficulty hearing the hon. member. I ask members for their co-operation so we can hear the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans giving her response to the Budget Speech.

The Chair recognizes the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans.

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That peak in employment was centred around the big projects like Hibernia, like White Rose, like Voisey's Bay, the fishing industry in this Province, and the newsprint.

There has been a change now in stats. Full-time employment now is considered to be thirty hours or more per week. That is pretty interesting, isn't it? When I started work, I think it might have been forty-four hours a week was full-time employment, and then it branched down to thirty-seven-and-a-half hours per week, and now thirty hours or more per week is considered to be full-time employment. What they are saying here is that part-time employment has remained virtually flat since 1997. That is not a good thing. The government is also saying, "Public administration was the only industry that recorded a notable employment decline."

What government is actually confirming, I think, for the first time, is that public administration was the only industry that recorded a notable employment decline, and that is easy to tell. All you have to do is open the Estimates book, a recording of all the money spent by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. It was frightening to see how much money was paid out in early retirement and severance pay.

At one time, there was an average of about $7 million paid out in severance pay. Since this government has come into power, there has been an average of $13 million to $17 million a year paid out in severance pay. That says a lot of things, that they are sending career civil servants out the door and bringing their political hacks in, and there are a lot of people being fired for no reason and they are having to pay out extra money because they are being sued.

Another interesting statistic is that, on the Avalon Peninsula - a lot of the population of our Province has gravitated to the Avalon Peninsula. It is interesting to note that the employment in the Avalon Peninsula accounts for 42 per cent of all the employment in our Province. Forty-two per cent of all the people who work in our Province live here on this Avalon Peninsula. Now, that does not leave too many other people working, does it?

When you take out the big industries like the Iron Ore Company of Canada, you take out the paper mills both in Grand Falls-Windsor and in Corner Brook, the fishing, and then the hospitals and so on, there are not too many people working in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. That is a frightening prospect, but when you actually look at this economy book it certainly puts things in perspective.

Another disappointment is when this government says that they are committed to rural Newfoundland and Labrador. I remember John Efford being here in this House as the Minister of Fisheries and at one time in his career, as the Minister of Fisheries, this Province boasted that they had over $1 billion - that is billion with a B - in sales from fish landed in this Province. Do you know what the fish landings in this Province came to last year? Four hundred and sixty-one million dollars. That is what that industry was worth to this Province. Less than half of what it was when John Efford was the Minister of Fisheries.

So, you have $500 million taken out of the economy of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. That is a frightening prospect when you look at that. Now we know one of the reasons for the decrease in fish landings last year was the raw material sharing and how that fiasco had gone on for months and fisherpeople were late starting. That was one of the reasons, and of course it is not all connected to that. A huge factor was also the price.

When you think about rural Newfoundland and Labrador and you think about the backbone of our industry for our Province and you think what it was worth probably five or six years ago and what it is worth today, and you look at what government this year in their Budget of 2006 has committed to the fishery in this Province, well, it is mere pittance. The only bright spot is money that has gone to aquaculture. Now, we have had a struggling aquaculture industry for over twenty years in this Province. Sometimes it has been up and more times it has been down. Government's only answer right now to the fishery woes in this Province is an investment in aquaculture. That does not leave much hope for the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Another matter that has been a bright spot in the past couple of years is Voisey's Bay. I have not heard any negativity. I do remember when this government were in the Opposition they were going to drive a Mack truck through the Voisey's Bay deal, but I have not seen any Mack trucks coming in through that deal since they have taken over the government. In fact, I am sure they are very pleased to have the revenue from that project in the Province's coffers.

I do have one troubling aspect of mining in this Province. In my district, the District of Grand Falls-Buchans, we have a mine just about ready to go into production in the fall of this year. The mine is Ore Resources, and it is located next to Millertown. When it is in full production it will have close to 200 full-time jobs. Right now, they are in the construction stage. They are going to spend $60 million this year. The whole project is $100 million.

I wrote the Minister of Transportation and Works. He is new in the job but that does not make any excuse for that minister. I wrote him when he was getting ready to prepare his new budget. I said: Minister, you have to realize what is going on in Millertown. For 200 permanent jobs paying income tax to this Province and all the service products that are sold - trucks coming and going, heavy equipment, materials that are brought to and from the site and the indirect jobs. The 200 full-time jobs they are creating - every full-time job creates about two-and-a-half indirect jobs, and businesses and communities survive because of it.

All of this was laid out in a letter to the Minister of Transportation and Works. Do you know that two days before the Budget came down he sat in his office and he drafted a letter to me, the member. Even though there was going to be a $60 million roads program for provincial roads, he said no to upgrading the Buchans highway where there are millions of dollars coming out of that area in the way of taxes on services provided to the mine, personal income tax and the business other businesses are doing. There is heavy equipment going over that road everyday of the week bringing things to and from the mine. People are driving on that road to get to their jobs and there is heavy equipment going there.

There is also a barite mine in Buchans that has twenty-five people employed and it looks like they may escalate to about forty-five people this year. Now, forty-five jobs in a community like Buchans that has been shut down since 1984 make a big difference, and 200 jobs in Millertown make a big difference, because they are permanent jobs.

I sent over pictures of the Buchans highway. I am not allowed to use props when I am up here speaking, but there were cracks in the road, in the edges of the pavement, which is a real danger to heavy equipment and ambulances. I have heard from the hospital in Buchans and they are afraid to send their ambulances over the road. The edges are torn off the sides of the pavement and there are potholes galore.

I have heard from the Community of Millertown, I have heard from individual citizens, and this is the one bright light in Cental Newfoundland where government are filling their coffers with money from income taxes and other things. The Minister of Transportation and Works has no idea what is going to government from this project, or else he has no clout around the Cabinet Table. I wonder do the other ministers who are sitting around the Cabinet Table say: Well, you are not going to put that money up there in Anna Thistle's District. You know, she is a Liberal. I hope that is not what he is saying. I wonder does he have any clout around the Table at all. With $60 million going into a provincial roads program and so much money going back to the government coffers - and the Premier, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Rural Development, ane the Minister of Natural Resources, all of them are in unison in saying that they want to put money into rural Newfoundland where people can go and live and work and contribute to the provincial finances.

Now, here is a wonderful opportunity, that they should be out blowing their horns saying they did something for rural Newfoundland. You have an industry up there that wasn't up there a year ago. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Rural Development didn't have to go out and develop it, somebody else did. A private company developed this industry. They are going to be there for at least ten years. They have a mill on site that other mines in the general area, that might be too small to have their own mill, can go to ore resources and have their refining done there.

This government has been shortsighted. This is not the kind of thing that people will give you any brownie points for; none whatsoever. If you are expecting to have brownie points and to be congratulated for your work, you have to recognize that this is a money-maker in rural Newfoundland - and you are going to turn a blind eye to it? You do not care what the road is like leading to that mine in Millertown. You do not care what the road is like leading to Buchans, where there are going to be roughly 250 permanent jobs paying the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador income tax, and businesses are going to get money every day of the week from that.

This is short-sighted or - actually, it is incompetent. It is incompetent on the government's part to not include Buchans, the Buchans Highway. I do not even know how they can sit in their seats. I do not know how they can sit in their seats. I know that the Minister of Natural Resources has brought in a silviculture program. He has been busy with agriculture, trying to foster a new interest in agriculture. If he was managing that Department of Transportation and Works, I expect that he would come along and he would have the money to upgrade the Buchans Highway, but we know what kind of mess the Minister of Transportation and Works left in Fisheries, so I am not surprised at what he is trying to do with Transportation and Works; but, I tell you, you have not heard the last of me on this matter, and you will not until you do what is right and upgrade that Buchans Highway.

Last year it got so bad that I sent over pictures to the former minister and he tossed $300,000 at it. Well, that was like a fly spit on the wall. That is all that was like because, go up there now and the edges are broken off the pavement. There are potholes everywhere. I think it is disgusting when the Minister of Finance, after all was said and done, running around with special warrants the last minute, still ended up with $76 million in surplus and he will not tend to the day-to-day needs of economic development and safety. Anyway, very good for today but I am not finished with you yet, and I won't be until you get that Buchans Highway done.

The next thing I want to talk about is tourism. Now, for those who might be viewing this program, tourism in Newfoundland and Labrador is made up of generally our own selves. Sixty percent of the traffic that goes from A to B in this Province is Newfoundlanders and Labradorians like you and I. What did the Province discover last year? What did they discover after the year was over? That automobile travel to and from our Province, and within our Province, the results were virtually flat. Virtually flat. Now, if I was the Minister of Tourism and I had to report to the Premier and say, well, you know, the problem with tourism in our Province is that nobody used their car to go from Rocky Harbour, or Bonavista, or, in Labrador, never went up to the lighthouse in Isle aux Morts, they never did any of that. They did not even go to the bakeapple festival this year because there was one problem with all of that, and that was the high price of gas.

Now, this Finance Minister had an opportunity in this Budget. He had an opportunity, just like Bernard Lord did in New Brunswick. He had an opportunity to give an equivalent of the 8 per cent HST. He could have taken that off. He decided not to do that and, you know, that is penny-wise and pound foolish, because everybody knows that if a consumer has extra money in their pocket they are going to spend it.

Sixty per cent of the visitors to our Province are our own people. I think the government should realize that, 60 per cent. Some of the urban communities did very well, and one of them would have been this particular area, St. John's, because most people fly into St. John's. Convention traffic was good last year, and also cruise business was good last year. The cruise business was good in Corner Brook and it was good in St. John's. Also, convention traffic was good in St. John's, but what happened to all of these little B & B's scattered around rural Newfoundland and Labrador? People could not afford to put gas in their car. You take a family of four, say, a mother and a father and two children. Normally, what they would probably do is get in their car and spend a week or so travelling around Newfoundland and Labrador. Now, when gas is over $1 a litre and you haven't had a raise for three years, and your furnace oil has gone up, you electricity has gone up, taxes have gone up, you do not have much of an appetite. Even if you wanted to renew your driver's licence, it went from $140 to $180. With all of those fees, you would not have much of an appetite to get in your car and drive to the Northern Peninsula and spend a week and spend a bit of money. So, government are penny-wise and pound foolish, because if they were to reduce the tax on gasoline, reduce the tax on home heating fuels, people would have more discretionary money to spend and they would spend it. It is a proven fact.

What is going to happen to tourism in our Province if prices remain high for fuel? I expect you are going to get a repeat. It does not matter how much money government decides to put into advertising for tourism because, unless people can actually afford to put gas in their car, they are not going to go and drive. It is as simple as that.

You look at the capital projects that are taking place this year. Most of the commercial projects that are taking place this year are all on the Avalon. They are not huge projects. We do not have any one particular project on the go this summer that is a big project that is going to take a lot of skilled workers and is going to amount to a lot of money for the coffers of government. There is no project at all.

We heard today that the possible project of Ben Nevis is shelved temporarily until government is satisfied that there is a deal that they can live with. Anyone who was hoping for that project to take off, that is not going to happen this year.

Let's get into the Budget. The buzz word last year of the Budget was government was going to unleash the fiscal tiger. Government was going to unleash the fiscal tiger. Now, I have been looking for that tiger. I have been looking for that fiscal tiger. I think he has escaped somewhere, but I have not seen him in this year's Budget. That fiscal tiger from last year is gone. The buzz word for this year, for this Budget, is, they are going to unleash innovation strategies. This is the buzz word for this year; they are going to unleash innovation strategies.

You know, bureaucrats get paid big bucks for coming up with a theme for this Budget. It is all words. It is all meant to sugar-coat every issue and make it sound like it is the best thing since sliced bread. The buzz word for this Budget is, they are going to unleash the innovation strategy. My goodness, I am waiting to see that one. They have a strategy for everything. They have a strategy for economic development, they have a strategy for immigration, there is a strategy for sports and recreation, there is a strategy for education, and there is a strategy, I think, for transportation. There is one for infrastructure, there is one for poverty reduction, and there is one for innovation, but I can tell you, you cannot eat strategies. Whoever can cook up a meal of strategies and be satisfied after, let me know where they are. There are a good many today around rural Newfoundland and Labrador saying: Gee, I think I will have a bowl of strategies now for supper. All I want is that recipe from government because they have eight new strategies now. If you can put that in a recipe I will try and boil that up tonight for supper. According to the members across the way, they want to know if you are going to use sea salt or regular salt on those strategies. You cannot eat strategies, my friend. As much as you might try to gloss over those wonderful words, you cannot eat strategies. It is not much good in the month of March to be hauling out a can of strategies and hope to heat them up on the stove and make everyone happy.

I laughed when I sat here the other day on a Thursday. The Finance Minister was reading his speech and he started off by saying: Our change of circumstances is not the product of fate or chance. Well, Blessed Redeemer! Our change of circumstance is not the product of fate or chance. Now, whoever thought that oil would go up to $58 a barrel? I say, thank God we are surrounded by oil. Thank God we are surrounded by oil because that was your only salvation, is that oil went up and you ended up having more money than you thought you would ever have. If we were lucky enough three years ago to have that money coming in when the Opposition over here were crying out day after day for more money for cardiac surgeries, more money for cancer treatment, more money for drugs.

The Member for Bonavista South, I remember him standing in his place with a petition, day after day after day. I almost knew his petition off by heart. He wanted money for roads in his district. That was only the least of the requests, because most of the requests came from the now current Finance Minister. He wanted money for emergency surgeries, for the long lineups, for the health care needs, take the people off the gurneys and we had no money and we went into debt. We built those operating rooms in the Health Sciences complex for cardiac surgeries - I remember it well. There were so many cardiac surgeries needed so badly that the Opposition were after us to send people out to other provinces to get surgeries and, by golly, we did that because we did not want anyone to die on our watch. Even though we did not have the money, we did not want anyone to die on our watch. So we went in the hole trying to provide health care. Health care is the biggest consumer of our budget; health care and social services, anything that falls under the umbrella of social welfare.

Then there was money for oncologists. There was not enough treatment around the Province. We were paying people - the ones studying to be oncologists, and trying to get them here after by committing to hire them. We never, ever had enough and there were lineups for everything. I remember that the current Minister of Finance was famous for more money everyday. It was because of him that we ended up in debt in our health care budget because he made so many demands. I have not heard - that is the strangest part about this - of a lineup for cardiac surgery, especially since this government got elected. I have not heard tell of it.

The most recent thing I have heard of is the wait for cancer treatment and the fact that this government are now, this year only, going to look at building two bunkers to house the radiation cancer treatment units. Now, I do not know why there was a delay in that. That should not be, because when you think about it, the government knew well in advance that there was an increase in cancer. I read in the government's own literature last week during the Budget time that there are going to be 2,200 new cases of cancer diagnosed this year in our Province; 2,200. Now we only have a population of 513,000 in our Province.

Even though the government talks about in-migration, the truth of the matter is, there were 3,000 people who left this Province last year to seek employment. They are not listed as being residents of this Province today. So this is not a good record for this government to be able to stand up and say they are flush with cash when 3,000 people left this Province last year.

Now, 2,200 people in this Province are going to be diagnosed with cancer this year. That is a frightening prospect. This government signed a health accord with the Government of Canada, the then Liberal Government of Canada, eighteen months ago. That health accord grows every year. It started out to be $38 million, and every year it is going to grow. I think the past year it was around $46 million. If they have any kind of close consultation with the physicians in this Province, they well knew two years ago, and they knew they had the money, that there was going to be an upsurge in the needs for cancer treatment. Those bunkers should have been built two years ago and ordered, and the equipment ordered, too. That was the reason the health care accord was signed, so that there would be no waiting lists; they would be decreased significantly and it would be an opportunity for new equipment to be purchased and replaced - all old existing equipment.

I do not know why it is going to take two to three years to have two new pieces of equipment. I know it is a big job to install that equipment and build the bunkers but there is no reason why this government were not onto this before. They settled their issues with doctors. Doctors had an issue regarding their contract with government. That issue was settled several months ago. If they are meeting on a regular basis, the Minister of Health with his people, he should have been well aware that new equipment was needed and it should have been ordered at least two years ago.

Last week there was a bit of a scurry in this House of Assembly. The Minister of Finance wanted to settle up pay equity with the women of this Province who had their cases before the Supreme Court. They lost, only due to the fact that the Province was not in a financial position to pay them. Now, I agree with pay equity. I am glad to have been part of a government that tried to correct that wrong. It was corrected for a lot of people in the former Administration, but that particular case was before the Supreme Court during my term. I agree with pay equity but I would like to know, in the scurrying around - because the Minister of Finance actually had a surplus of over $100 million when - he could not find anywhere else to stuff the money at the end of it. March 31 was coming and he was frightened to death he was going to have to report the big surplus. He tried, he ran out - the Premier was out every morning, noon and night making announcements before the Budget came down, trying to spend the money before the end of March so they would not have to record a big surplus. What they did at the last minute - the Minister of Finance, who was totally dead set against special warrants when I was the President of Treasury Board, brought in a special warrant for pay equity so that could be taken care of before the end of March, although the unions had no plan in place as to how they were going to divvy up that money or who would be included. They had all those details to work out. They didn't know what they were going to do, they were going to have to cut a cheque before the end of March because they couldn't show over a $100 million surplus on their Budget at the end of the year. That would have been just too much for people to comprehend when they told everybody that the Province was bankrupt two years ago. So, there is no way.

The Minister of Finance decided, well okay then, I will bring in a special warrant now and I will try to get that money spent before the end of March. He scurried around, he went to the Lieutenant-Governor and got the Lieutenant-Governor to sign the special warrant and he brought it here to the House so he could get it approved, so he could take that out of the extra $100 million, so he could stand up in the House and say that everything was taken care of, the cash deficit was erased, the supposedly $1 billion debt that the Province was in, in 2003, that was all eliminated. Guess what? We had $76.5 million to the good after all was said and done. Now, that is amazing, isn't it? After everything was said and done, there was still $76 million that could have been paid out. It could have been paid out to those patients suffering from MS, Multiple Sclerosis, and the people who are suffering with arthritis and they cannot afford these new drugs that are out on the market. That could have been given to those individuals.

We have pensioners out there now talking to government. They have been forgotten about. There is no indexing for retired pensioners. I am sure that prior to the election, this Finance Minister and others were shoulder to shoulder talking to pensioners and saying: You vote for us now and when we get elected we will look after you. You can put that in your pipe and smoke it. What happened? They got elected and they forgot the pensioners. That is simply the matter, they got elected and they forgot the pensioners. They forgot the pensioners! Those are not all the people they forgot.

MR. DENINE: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: I can hear the Member for Mount Pearl over there. I am glad that there is money in education. Probably the Member for Mount Pearl can enroll in a geography course, because last week he was there standing up in the House and he thought the Member for Trinity-Bay de Verde was on this side of the House, not his side of the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: This is really prevalent (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

MS THISTLE: That is what he thought.

AN HON. MEMBER: And pertinent (inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Yes, and very pertinent.

If you don't know where Trinity-Bay de Verde is, or any of those places in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, sure we can give you a map, I suppose. When you are not speaking or anything, you can take your time and go over the map.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, we were talking about the people who were left out of this Budget, and there are lots of people left out of this Budget. We know that the extended drug plan, that was announced this year, but, I can tell you, don't anybody knock on government's door tomorrow morning expecting to get drug card. Anyone watching this program now, don't knock on the government's door tomorrow morning to get a drug card, because it is not going to happen. It is not going to happen until this time next year, or later. It was just like the income tax they announced in 2004. They were going to eliminate income tax for low income earners. That was 2004 they announced that; and, by the way, it was going to happen in 2006. That is getting pretty good milage out of an announcement. That is what you might call recycling.

Now, talking about recycling, I remember the Minister of - well, he is the Minister of Health now, I think. When he was the Minister of Environment, and the critic over on this side, he had an answer for the rubber tires. He had an answer for the rubber tires and the cardboard boxes, that critic, when he was over here. Now, this is three years later and there is still no answer for the rubber tires. Not an answer yet for rubber tires. This was the guy with all the answers, and the government combined still do not have an answer for rubber tires. They are still stockpiled. They are a threat, a safety hazard. The money is growing. Everybody has to pay, when they change their tires, for the recycling fee for handling those recycled tires. They are stockpiled so high now, I don't know, it is a real threat to public safety. They still do not have an answer, after three years on the job.

Mr. Speaker, there is lots to talk about in this Budget, I will tell you. It says in 2006 and 2007 the Province is expecting to generate royalties from oil production of $703 million, and corporate income tax from companies operating in the offshore of $224 million. That is direct revenue of $927 million. When you talk about, what are we getting for corporate income tax?, this year in the Budget there is $288 million budgeted for corporate income tax. Guess how much is coming out of other sources like VLTs and lotteries? Ninety-seven million. Liquor sales, $101 million. Tobacco sales, that just went up one cent the other night when the Budget was brought down, $125 million. Guess what? Those three areas of addictions - which are: the lottery, $97 million; liquor sales, $101 million; tobacco sales, $125 million - that comes to $323 million the government is going to reap in from addictions, but in corporate income tax they only take in $288 million. So, you can see why the Finance Minister is not too eager to get rid of the VLT machines, not too eager.

Their slogan this year is, Making The Right Choices. The government is proclaiming that they have left in 151 teaching units. They are not mentioning how they took out 500. They are going to leave in 151. If you have done that, I would say to the government, stabilize the schools. Stabilize the schools. Do not have people like we saw last week, the residents of Swift Current, coming in here to government and wanting to see the Minister of Education - after some time, I might add. Apparently, it was very difficult to get a meeting with the Minister of Education.

There is a proposal on the books by the school boards for those children to travel from Swift Current to Arnold's Cove, and pick up passengers, on the way along, from Garden Cove and other small communities, and a child would spend an hour and three-quarters on a bus.

If I had a child in here in St. John's and I had to put that child on a bus and go that distance, an hour and three-quarters, that would be beyond Harbour Grace, beyond Bay Roberts, beyond Carbonear, beyond Victoria, right down to Western Bay, do you think that I, as a parent, here in St. John's, would go along with that? So, how can we expect people in rural Newfoundland to put a child on a bus for an hour and three-quarters in the morning and an hour and three-quarters in the evening and expect that child to be fully rested and fully able to participate in whatever activities go on in the school that day?

I think it is unreasonable. It is safety issue. It is a health issue. Imagine being gone that long from your home, for the whole day, not even being able to go and sit down for a moment in a comfortable chair, having to spend that much time on a bus, being shook up over bad roads and icy weather and foggy weather - because everybody knows that Swift Current is in the centre of fog out by Come By Chance.

If I am driving from Grand Falls-Windsor, once I get to Clarenville I figure that the fog is finished. You can mark it in your book, it is not too many times that you pass through Come By Chance and it will not be foggy. You can mark it down. Can you imagine the children getting on a school bus like that in the centre of the fog where the two peninsulas cross over, and have to be on the bus for an hour and three-quarters in the morning and an hour and three-quarters in the evening?

If you are prepared, as a government, to look at keeping teaching positions in the school where they should be - because it is all based on geography. Even though the numbers might be disappearing in our classrooms, with students leaving, having to follow their families looking for work, we still have an obligation. There is still an obligation on behalf of this government to make sure that every child in this Province has a good education, and sometimes it might mean putting more resources into a place that is isolated or remote. It could be Swift Current today; it might be Buchans tomorrow.

You take Buchans, in my district, actually an hour and ten minutes off the highway, there is nothing. There is not even a service station. I was able to stand up in the House last week and say that the rating group AIMS, that rate schools in Atlantic Canada, they were able to give a first-class rating to Buchans Lakeside Academy because of the innovative and the quality of education that they are giving to their students in Buchans; and this was not the first time that Lakeside Academy in Buchans won this award. This is the second time. So, you know, that says a lot for the teachers who live in these remote communities. They are not nine to three. Those teachers are not nine to three. Whenever I go up to an event in Buchans there is always teacher activity in every program that is going on. It involves after hours work with students and it definitely pays off because they might be lacking in some of the extracurricular programs that you would find in a bigger centre when it comes to choices but when you look at these remote schools and they can come up with that kind of a quality education, it proves that government must - they have an obligation to invest in those rural communities and make sure that every child has a good education.

Now, there is an issue that is surfacing with this government. It is the problem that this government is having - I am sure that they would really like to operate as a Department of Education from St. John's in the Confederation Building. The people around the Province want a school board system, they want a school council system, and they want the right to run for school council and serve on a school board.

Government has taken a lot of flack recently about the changes that they are going to make to schools, and also to school boards and communities in this Province. In fact, I would say thank you to the two whistle blowers who stood up in a conference going on here in St. John's that Dr. Younghusband gave. The conference talked about stress in the schools; what teachers are expected to do and the stress levels they encounter. There were two whistle blowers who decided to give an honest account of some of the stresses that teachers are experiencing. They were almost ostracized without even an explanation.

Dr. Darin King was going to severely punish those two whistle blowers, and also Milton Peach, the president of the school board, or the chairman, whatever title they gave him, until finally, I think the Premier realized that in order to shut down that negativity we are going to have to make this an education budget. That was the area that this government chose, an education budget. I say to thank you to those whistle blowers. In fact, they should be congratulated. Their peers ought to congratulate them. They should be, by no means, punished. They should be congratulated for coming out and letting parents, and the school population and the public, in general, know what is going on in their schools. I think this was one of the main reasons why this government decided not to make any teacher cuts this year. It was all because of those two whistle blowers. I think they are to be congratulated more so than condemned.

Now, what did government do for post-secondary education students this year? What did they do for post-secondary education students this year? They did not lower tuition. It is a funny thing about it, when we were the government we lowered tuition by 25 per cent at Memorial University and froze it at the College of the North Atlantic. So, this year, this government has frozen tuition but they never made any advancement in lowering student debt. I had several e-mails from students. They were waiting anxiously for this Budget to come down, and students were surprised that there were no new measures in this Budget to look after student debt load. The students are not interested in having the ability to borrow more money. They do not want to be able to borrow more money. That is not the answer. The answer is grants; grants as a way to go. That is what students are looking for. They do not want to be saddled with unnecessary debt. Most students today are coming out with a debt load of, probably, between $40,000 and $50,000. It is almost like having a mortgage to pay for and trying to start off your career, buy a car and probably a home, and you are saddled with a debt of $50,000. Make no wonder students are exiting our Province and going to look for a job out west where the pay is higher. Because their debt burden is so high, they have to go somewhere where they can make big money and try to pay for it.

The first order of business of this government when they became the government was to cancel an income tax feature that we brought in, that students remaining in our Province and working in our Province had an opportunity to get credit for paying on their student loan, but this government did not like that. They did not want to encourage students to stay and that was their first piece of business, to cancel that particular bill.

It is interesting, on page 15 of the Budget when they are talking about the public servants. They are saying they are going to provide new training for their public servants and so on. There is going to be a "...completion of another round of government-wide human resource planning to build upon the successes achieved since the current human resource plan..." Those are flowery words. It gives the impression that this government is going to do something for their public service, but what they are saying is that they are going to go through another government-wide human resource planning. Do you know what that really means? You have to sift through those flowery words, because that really means that there are going to be more job cuts. That is why, when you look in the Estimates book, there is about between $13 million and $17 million set aside to pay people's severance. That is an alarming figure, because a normal annual figure for severance and early retirement is somewhere in the area of $7 million. So, for government to put between $13 million and $17 million in their Estimates book only means one thing: they are actually going to be doing more cuts.

I see that all of the time. People call me and say: I have lost my job - people who have been working in the system for years; the College of the North Atlantic; medicare; works, services and transportation - no notice, your services are no longer required. Government is doing that, cutting to their public servants. They are not doing it en masse. They are doing a couple here and a couple there. They are trying not to create any stir about it, but people e-mail me and call me. I know it is going on. That is the reason why they have a large amount put aside in the Budget to take care of severance for these workers who are going to lose their jobs. So, if there are any public servants today watching me here report this, I am only reporting what is in the Budget. Government is saying that there are going to be more job losses, so look out.

I was shocked to learn that this government are talking about setting the foundation for the identification and development of future leaders. In other words - the average age of any public servant right now in this Province is between forty-seven and forty-nine years old, so government must think about succession. They must think about what young, bright people are graduating from our universities, and who would be interested in a career in public service? But, you know something? It is all lip service because they do not have any intention of letting young people into the public service.

We had a plan, it was called the graduate recruitment program. Every year, fifteen students from our university, and those outside who had graduated and had applied for a job within our public service, some years there were as high as 500 and 600 applications from our young people looking for a job. We had about fifty people in various training through all departments of government, and those young people would have an opportunity to get familiar with three or four government departments to see if they liked to work in the public service and they would consider it as their career.

Well, the first thing this new government did, the Williams government, they scrapped that program, so there is no entry level program now for young people wanting to make a career in the public service of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Government goes on to say this will be the first year of operations for our new Department of Business, their new Department of Business. Well, when I looked at the salary details for the new Department of Business, I have to say that I was kind of shocked for the new Department of Business. There was roughly $1.2 million. There are considered to be five permanent employees in the new Department of Business. The salary there was about $500,000 and then there was another section, related salary costs. Related salary cost was $1.2 million.

There was no explanation on how many people were going to be hired on a contract basis, what they were going to be doing. All we knew from looking at the Estimates book was that five people were the only full-time employees in the Department of Business and it was going to cost the government $1.7 million. So, I cannot wait for Estimates Committee meetings so we can actually - I have to move away from the television camera for a moment because I do want to get this material. That will be interesting, to see how that actually works out.

Another interesting part, too, was the Ottawa office. Do you know that there is an Ottawa office still in Ottawa with nobody in it? Bill Rowe was the last fellow and the first fellow in that Ottawa office. There have only been a couple of people there, clerical people, answering the telephone. It is costing the government of this Province almost $500,000 a year to keep it open, and there is nobody in it. It might be a dandy place to run in, if you are the Premier, and change your suit or put on a new shirt or straighten up your necktie, but it is pretty expensive to have that up there with nothing going on, not a thing. As long as you have a phone number for Ottawa, that is all that is important. It must have been an awfully important office, that it hasn't been filled since Bill Rowe left it! Nobody there, only take a phone call and relay it back here to the Province. That is the kind of waste that is happening to your money, the hard earned money of the taxpayers of this Province. That is the Department of Business: three years in the making; never answered a question in Estimates last year or the year before. Now there is a CEO in that department, or a Deputy Minister, so it will be interesting this year to see if we will get any answers on what has been done for that kind of money being spent.

There is another troubling thing that I am noticing too under Municipal Affairs. For the viewers out there, they might recall that the federal government announced a federal gas tax rebate program. That was several months ago and that money, that federal gas tax rebate program, was intended to go to municipalities all across our country that were suffering high taxes on gas. It was supposed to be rebated and go back to these communities so they could use it in their day-to-day operation of running their communities. What I have noticed in this Budget since Thursday is that this government now has a different plan for this money. Twenty million dollars, they say, will flow to municipalities for environmentally sustainable projects. Now that was not the intention when that money was announced by the federal government. Can you tell me how many communities in rural Newfoundland and Labrador could actually put their share of money in for an environmental project?

I saw in the paper the other day that - I can't remember the name of the community now, but the mayor was saying that he was going to have to turn off the street lights and the water to a lot of homes because people are not paying their taxes, and they can't keep going. Well, a lot of communities around our Province were planning to use that federal gas tax rebate, and now it looks like government has changed the policy on that particular program and they are now going to put that into environmentally sustainable projects. Now, who can get in on an environmentally sustainable project? Probably the big communities like Grand Falls-Windsor, Corner Brook, Gander, Clarenville, the big communities that border along the Trans-Canada Highway. Do you think the people in Harbour Breton can get involved in this project? I doubt it. What is happening to rural Newfoundland and Labrador? It is absolutely frightening because one community depends so much on the other one.

When Abitibi closed in Stephenville, there were loggers and truck drivers who brought wood to Abitibi in Stephenville. Two-hundred and eighty of these individuals lost their jobs. Now, this is on top of the 300 who actually worked in the mill. So, you talk about a big project, a big employer like Abitibi in Stephenville closing down, shutting down. Three hundred people right in the mill lost their jobs. How about the loggers and the truck drivers who delivered the wood to and from everyday? They are gone. They are not even included in the 3,000 people who left our Province last year.

How disheartening was it to watch CBC about ten days ago when I saw them do a show on My Burgeo Home. To see the people - they are not in the Stats Canada stats that came out the other day. Those individuals do not even register on the Stats Canada stats, the people who left our Province, 3,000 people, because these are individuals who will go away and work three or four months to qualify for EI. It was backbreaking labour that those individuals were doing out in Alberta. Putting in a power line and carrying coils of wire around their necks, going to work when it was dark in the morning and coming back when it was dark in the night, and settled into a meal when they got home, and do that day-in and day-out for small wages; for small wages. Most of those men in the woods were making between $10 and $12 an hour. The only thing that boosted their salary was the fact they were working twelve hours a day, and sometimes longer. So this is what they did day-in and day-out, grueling work for small pay. I got a big surprise when I saw that they were only making $10 or $12 an hour, because when you think about people going out west, you look at probably at least $20 to $30 an hour, but that was not the case in Alberta for those people.

I was also surprised, too, when I saw in government's Budget document that government is intending to fund the Inland Fisheries Enforcement Program. They are going to do that and they are going to draft a Sustainable Development Act. I think someone had to step up to the plate and provide the enforcement that DFO were not doing. I agree with that, but I looked in the Budget and do you know what it is costing this Province? It is costing $800,000 a year for this Province to provide enforcement on our inland rivers. I do not know if the Minister of Natural Resources wrote the Minister of Fisheries federally and insisted that the federal government actually pay for this or if they hand it over to our Province to look after, that they hand over the cheque book with it. But, $800,000 a year from our own Budget to enforce inland waters when it is the duty and the responsibility of the federal government, you are letting them off the hook. I have not even seen a copy of any correspondence that this government has written to the federal minister -

MR. E. BYRNE: Do you want me to answer that for you?

MS THISTLE: No, I do not want you to answer it because if you had an answer for it you would not be putting it in your Budget as a cost for this year and putting it in the Estimates -

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

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. Government House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: I appreciate and value the role that the member opposite plays in the House. She has talked about an issue related to the Department of Inland Fish, just for clarification. I just want to be sure, for anybody who is watching, that I asked the question if she would like me to answer it for her I will, but she did say no.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans.

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: I am not reading from Dodd's almanac. I am not reading from the navigator. I am not reading from Readers Digest. I am reading from Budget 2006, and this is what it says: "We will continue to fund the Inland Fisheries Enforcement Program...".

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: Now, there are two factors at play here, Madam Speaker. If this government had any clout with their Conservative cousins and the Fisheries Minister, Loyola Hearn, one of two things would happen. He would either convince Loyola Hearn to fund this - he would convince Loyola Hearn to either take it over and do the job with the federal government to fund it, or he would say to Loyola Hearn: Now, Mr. Fisheries Minister, I am your cousin down here. If you going to give us this job to do, because you have been doing a - I was almost going to say what kind of a job they have been doing. I have to watch my words. Anyway, they have been doing a rotten job of enforcement. The federal government has been doing a rotten job. They have not been putting the money in it they should have been putting into it.

Now, Loyola Hearn, this is a chance for you to stand up and be counted. If he wants to give this job to the provincial government to do, he should be sending along the cheque book with it. Instead of that, this government is saying in their budget book they are going to continue to fund it. And, guess what? It cost $800,000 a year. Now, it is time for someone to smarten up and either get the federal government to do their obligation, look after their own responsibilities, or get us to do it and pay us for doing it. This is going to be the third year of the Province taking over the enforcement and still not a cheque from Ottawa to look after it. The first year it was $300,000 and now we are up to $800,000 that is coming out of the taxpayers of this Province. The federal government should be doing their job, they can well afford it. It is time for Loyola Hearn to address that.

Now, Madam Speaker, there is a section on reducing poverty and increasing self-reliance. There is nobody who is going to say that is not a good thing to do, because the more people we can get off the social services role in this Province and the more working poor that we can get to be self-sufficient, that is a good thing.

The only thing I see about all of this, when it comes to the extended drug program, why announce it today if you are not going to look after those people until next year? Why announce the new drug for Alzheimer's if you are not going to bring it in until September? There are a lot of patients out there suffering with Alzheimer's today. What kind of a state will they be in between now and September, whereas you might have been able to avert the fact of somebody going into a long-term care facility with the fact that you have been able to come up Aricept, the drug that everybody wants who is fighting Alzheimer's. I don't see the sense of putting out this good information, how you are going to fund the drug program, when, in fact, you are not even going to fund it until September. Families are out there today in anguish.

All of us here in this House of Assembly had an e-mail from Gillian Saunders from Goose-Bay, Labrador. Now, does anybody know who Doris Saunders is? I am sure that the people represented in this House of Assembly from Labrador know who Doris Saunders is.

Doris Saunders was the editor and the all-around person, I guess, for many years - the only person - who wrote the book called Them Days. She was able to archive and retrieve and put aside all the important documents, photographs, stories, legends, and all the artifacts that would be featured in this magazine, Them Days. What a provincial treasure, to have all of those recorded in Them Days.

In fact, I looked through one of the booklets and I saw a picture of my own mother when she was a young woman going to Labrador with my grandparents. My mother was actually in one of those booklets, the magazine, Them Days. I never saw that picture before, until I opened that magazine and someone told me that Ina Pike from Carbonear was in that magazine. I have that magazine today, and I treasure the fact that I could actually open the magazine and see my mother when she was a very young girl.

Doris Saunders is a young woman too. She is in her early sixties, and she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and it is so sad. We all had an e-mail from Gillian, her daughter, and there is no facility in Goose Bay, Labrador, to look after Alzheimer's patients. Doris Saunders, I have never met the woman personally, but I feel as if I know her because it was so heart wrenching the way her two daughters described her situation. Right now, she still has the advantage of being able to recognize her family, her grandchildren, and even the family pets and the neighbours and friends who come to see her all the time.

Most recently, she has been interviewed on CBC, her and her daughter, and the closest facility is the Hoyles-Escasoni house here in St. John's. So, she is going to be set adrift. Anyone who has Alzheimer's, the very little that I know about it, is the more routine your life can become, and the people who have been a part of your life for many years is the part that keeps you in contact with the day-to-day living.

She now is going to a strange environment where clinically she will be well cared for. That is not a question. She will be well cared for, by the wonderful people who work in that home, but she will be away from the things that mean so much to Doris Saunders. It was so heartbreaking for a woman in her early sixties to have to be taken out of Labrador and come to St. John's and be placed in a long-term care facility, dealing with Alzheimer's, where she will know nobody at all. There will be no one there to cheer her on and say: Hi, Mom, how are you doing today? - and love her and give her the support that she is now experiencing in Goose Bay with her family there. These are the kinds of things that tug at the heartstrings.

It is all right to have a surplus, and we are glad that the Province has a surplus, but they have a surplus because of the oil business and the adjustment to the Atlantic Accord. It wasn't anything this government did to create economic employment in this Province. I cannot look and find one job that this government has directly created. They came by it very luckily and we are all going to benefit because there is a surplus today, but when you say you have a surplus and you see a situation like this happening in Goose Bay it makes you wonder. You know, there is lots we can do to alleviate that situation.

I also have people in Grand Falls-Windsor who are now in the hospital in Grand Falls-Windsor, and their families are calling me on a daily basis trying to get into our Carmelite House, a beautiful new Carmelite House that was built about six years ago, but there is not room in the Carmelite House for the demand that is out in Grand Falls-Windsor and surrounding area. You know very well that if you have grown up in a community, no matter where your community is - I will speak about Grand Falls-Windsor; that is where I live - if someone has spent most of their life in Grand Falls-Windsor and they are about to go to a long-term care facility, they naturally want to go to one in Grand Falls-Windsor, where their spouse will be and their immediate family and their friends, and what they look and know as being familiar.

It is sad when there is a need for a loved one to go into a long-term care facility and that loved one has to go to maybe Placentia. I have had people from Grand Falls-Windsor who have actually gone to Placentia. They have gone to St. John's. They have gone to Springdale. They have gone to Buchans. They have gone everywhere with the intention that, once a bed becomes available, they will get priority and they will be moved back to Grand Falls-Windsor. Sometimes that does not happen. Sometimes that does not happen. Maybe the person who is ill will take a turn for the worse and that particular person, then, will not have the opportunity to come back to Grand Falls-Windsor. They may pass away wherever they are.

I know there are people now in the Grand Falls-Windsor hospital; they are paying $2,800 a month to stay in the hospital in Grand Falls-Windsor because they have a pension and they are able to pay but they cannot get into the Carmelite home. Even though they are treated well, they still do not have the comfort of their own room and their own washroom that they would have in the Carmelite House, and be able to sit back in an easy chair and let your family come in and read to you or watch television. So, even though you are paying $2,800 a month, if you are able to pay it, you still do not have the comfort and convenience of being in a long-term care home where they want to be, into Carmelite.

This government must realize that our population is aging faster than there are long-term care homes available for seniors, and faster than we have adequate facilities to look after them. That is a huge issue and I face that every day, being the MHA, and I am sure all of us here do, but I want to talk about some other things that came up in the Budget that might be of interest.

Government talked about reducing fees this year. Well, it is interesting that, when government brought down their Budget in 2004, they increased 155 fees for consumers in this Province and they brought in $26 million of new money. This year they decided they were going to eliminate or reduce some fees, and they set about to do this, and the fees that they decided to decrease this year, or eliminate, comes to $1.5 million. That is a small speck, isn't it, on the $26 million they are collecting in new fees?

I remember getting a call from a senior care home on Grenfell Heights about two years ago. There was a man there, a senior citizen, and he got a bill to renew his driver's license. It wasn't for twelve months, it was for fifteen months, and I think it was over $200. He said: Anna, my dear, I got a bill and I have to pay this fee. It is over $200. You know, he said, a man of my age, I don't know if I will see that fifteen months out. Fifteen months, he said, to me is a long time when you are my age. The man was heading for eighty years old. He had to pay that high fee fifteen months in advance to get his car license renewed. Now, I thought that was kind of cruel to do that to that man.

This government is flushed with cash, and they left $76 million right on the table this year, decided to plow it back into general revenue. They had so much money they didn't know what to do with it. Why wouldn't this government give seniors a break in their drivers' license fees, if they wanted to do something for seniors. They could single out just seniors if they wanted to and give seniors a break on their drivers' licenses. They brought it up from $140 to $180. Now, if they wanted to do something for seniors they could have cut that in half if they wanted to.

If they wanted something else to do for seniors they could have reduced the ambulance rates. They drove it from $85 to $115 one way. If you are going to get an ambulance now and you are a senior, you are going to have to pay a fee of $115 to go one way to the hospital. Now, if you are living in Millertown or Buchans Junction or Buchans or Badger, or even Grand Falls-Windsor, and you call an ambulance you have to be prepared to pay $115 each way. Now, this government left $76 million on the table. They had too much money, they didn't know how to spend it. Wouldn't it be right for this government to take that money, some of it, and let seniors get a break on that ambulance fee?

I got up here in this House last week and I talked about Emergency Alert. An Emergency Alert Program is where a company run by Aliant Pioneers - that is the telephone company, the people who are retired. This is not for profit. They will provide a necklace to wear around your neck, or an arm bracelet, and there is a button on it. If you are in an emergency situation, you can press that button and that call will go out to as many as five different phone numbers and let your family or the hospital or somebody know you are in trouble. Because there are 1,000 people in this Province using that program - they collect about $250,000 in fees from people wanting this service. Now, because of this, they are now going to have to charge HST to seniors lying in a bed. It would be $30 a month for that service, now they are going to have to charge $4.50 more to seniors who are lying in a bed. This is their only communication to the outside world.

Lots of seniors that I know cannot afford home support. Their families are not able to stay with them and they go to bed every night with that necklace on their necks, or arm bracelet on their arms. If they get into any kind of trouble, if they are short of breath or get into any kind of trouble at all they can press that button and within seconds their family will be alerted. Also, a fire department or the hospital.

I had a situation two weeks ago in Grand Falls-Windsor, where an elderly lady in her eighties, in the middle of the night, it was 2:00 o'clock in the morning, she had a severe pain in her chest and shortness of breath. She pressed the button and within minutes calls went out to everybody. Her son and her grandson got the call at the same time. Both of them got up out of their beds, got in their cars and raced to the house. When they got there the woman was in anguish. An ambulance was called and that lady had to have emergency surgery at 6:00 o'clock in the morning to install a pacemaker in her chest. Now, if she never had that emergency alert it is quite possible she would have died there in her sleep, but because she had that emergency alert bracelet, she was able to get help. That woman - she is only getting her Old Age Pension. That is the only money that she has and she is in her own home. God Bless her heart. She now has to - in addition to paying the $30, she has to pay $4.50 to look after the service that the Emergency Alert Foundation provides to her every month.

The Emergency Alert Foundation do not make any money from this. There is no profit. They are just doing it - in fact, it is the volunteers, the Aliant Pioneers, retired people who worked for the phone company are handling this service. Surely goodness - I asked the question last week to the Minister of Health - the Minister of Health could meet with the Aliant Pioneers and drop the price by giving them a grant. Drop the price of this wonderful service. I have written the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, and I asked him to make this service tax exempt so there will not be any requirement for those seniors and disabled persons to pay tax on this lifeline service. There is no reason why people who are there with no other support, and they want to be able to access emergency services, why they should have to pay tax on a cry for help; the last cry in some cases. So, there is no reason. I hope the Minister of Health will take this seriously and also see about - the government here is flush with cash. They left $66 million on the table. They plowed it back into general revenue and here are seniors lying in their beds every night, cannot even afford to pay on their emergency alert bracelets, and here they are with a $76 million surplus and they are not doing anything to help seniors.

You know, there is another (inaudible) came out of the seniors' convention -

MR. SULLIVAN: What about the drug plans?

MS THISTLE: There is no change to the seniors' drug plan, I say to the Minister of Finance.

There is another thing now that has changed with this government. When seniors go in for surgery, most of it is day surgery and seniors do feel that they are being put out too soon, because being a senior, surgery in and out in one day with no one to look after you when you get home, is a big consideration.

I will tell you something else that this government is not doing. Seniors in the past were always given medication while they were in the hospital and they were able to take it home for seven to ten days, however many days they needed to recover. Now, as soon as a senior is put out of the hospital, they have to buy their own medication. Some of this mediation is expensive and a lot of seniors cannot afford to buy it. This is one of the things that came up when they had their seniors' convention last year in Grand Falls. With a government that is now flush with cash - they left $76 million on the table when they finished off their Budget - why can't seniors who are in for day surgery or any kind of surgery, get their medications to take home with them until they are fully recovered? Certainly goodness, this government can afford to give seniors whatever medications that are needed for the recovery period after surgery once they leave the hospital.

Certainly goodness, this Minister of Health should look into this.

I was surprised, as well, to learn from our senior population that dressings for surgery are not done in homes any more. At one time the public health nurse, after you had surgery, came to your home and administered the dressings while you were recuperating at home, and convalescing. I heard most recently of a person in Grand Falls-Windsor who had surgery in St. John's, and when he returned to Grand Falls-Windsor he was told to go to the provincial building to get the dressings on his surgery, although he was stiff and tender, and he had to get into his car and go to the provincial building. I do not know what happened to that in-home service that was always provided by a public health nurse. I guess that is gone by the wayside.

Another thing is, seniors are still having to pay for their eye examinations; it is not covered by MCP. For seniors with failing eyesight, naturally, it is a concern; they would like to make sure that their glasses and everything need to be changed as often as possible, but that is still a fee that is not covered by MCP for seniors. That is another issue.

Also, the fact that government has now increased the subsidy to personal care homes but they haven't increased the allowance that is given to a senior who is in a long-term care home. That is still $125 a month. There is not much you can do with $125 a month today, when it comes to looking after your own personal hygiene, and sometimes people have to buy medications out of that as well.

You know, seniors are concerned about their rights when they go into a long-term care home. Seniors, through their conference they held in Grand Falls-Windsor last summer, drafted a bill of rights for seniors requiring long-term care. Now, this is a bill that they want government to look at and make sure that seniors who are entering into long-term care have their own rights enshrined in legislation, particularly if they become incapacitated. They want to make their wishes known in a lot of areas, and they want to make sure they are treated fairly. That is the reason why the seniors, in a conference, and the association of seniors in this Province, have drafted a bill of rights for person requiring long-term care. I do not think that is too much to ask, because it is a life-changing decision when somebody moves into a long-term care home. Everybody who moves in there wants to know that their rights are protected and that they will be treated fairly. I think it is high time for this government to look at enshrining that particular legislation into law and giving seniors a degree of comfort for those making that life-changing difference.

I want to talk about economic development in this Province, or the lack of it. We have heard a lot about economic development from the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. I was surprised to learn that there is a hefty budget for that particular department and, so far, the only thing that I have seen come out of that department is strategies.

You can gloss over a lot of words and a lot of issues if you use the right kind of words, but when you look at the fact that this department has a lot of money to work with, I have not seen any economic development come out of this department. That is a troubling prospect, for sure. All I have seen so far - and it is in the minister's own words. It is in the book that they printed last year, Economic Development. It is in the minister's own manual that she printed out, the Rural Secretariat Executive Council, and it is dated March 2005. I am sure there will be another one. There has to be another one. They do one every year. The minister said, herself, the Rural Secretariat is still in a development stage.

AN HON. MEMBER: That was this year.

MS THISTLE: That was last year.

AN HON. MEMBER: And again this year.

MS THISTLE: All I have seen come out of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development - that is cold comfort. That is cold comfort for the people of Harbour Breton. That is cold comfort for the people in Stephenville. It is surely cold comfort for the people on the Burin Peninsula, and soon to be cold comfort if something is not done for the people in Bonavista.

We heard the Mayor, Betty Fitzgerald, on the radio a couple of mornings ago and she had some big concerns. She is worried, and the people in her plant are worried, because they are not hearing anything happening from FPI. So far, there are millions and millions and millions of dollars that have gone into that department. There are about ten different funds that you can access, so they say, when you are looking for business development in the Department of Industry, Trade and Rural Development. It must be agonizing to the people who are looking for some help starting up a new business.

How many jobs were created? That is what I would like to know. Can anyone stand up on the other side of the House for this minister, or the minister can stand up herself, and tell us, myself and this House and anyone who might be watching, how many jobs were created by the Department of Industry, Trade and Rural Development? I would say it is more like the gospel song now: No, Not One! The people who are smiling, they know that song: No, Not One!

There is only so long that you can sham what is really going on in the Province. It is all right to have a surplus, and that happened from oil. We are all glad of that and it is going to do a lot of good work, that surplus. But what is going to happen to the people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador? I think Kevin Tobin's cartoon in the Telegram on Saturday said it all, "The Mourning After The New Budget. Rural Newfoundland In The Black." That is a woman there with her hat on and a handkerchief to her eyes, and what she is saying is, out of all the money, the surplus, $600 million and $75 million left on the table, there is not a thing there for rural Newfoundland.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are roads going out there?

MS THISTLE: You can't eat roads, I say to the Member for - are you St. John's South. What would you know about rural Newfoundland? Not a thing. You wouldn't know the first thing about rural Newfoundland. If it is not up to the mall, you don't know anything about it.

The euphoria of the Budget is gone. This is Monday morning and reality has set in. You ask the people in Harbour Breton are they any better off today than they were Thursday. Would you do that? Would you ask the people in Fortune or Parker's Cove or Fogo Island? They are paying the higher rates this morning out in Fogo? Are they paying them on Bell Island? There you go.

I heard Gary Gosine on the radio, I think it might have been this morning, and he was saying how governments are coming now and saying they are going to design a new vessel for the Tickle. That is grand. There is already the design there, but they are not going to do anything about it. They are going to take another couple of years designing the vessel and then they are going to decide if they are going to build it. They are trying to spread that over two elections, I guess.

You ask the people of rural Newfoundland today are they any better off than they were Thursday. Yes, we might see a bit of pavement. We are not going to see any on the Buchans Highway according to the Minister of Transportation, even though they get millions of dollars from those mine businesses up there, two mines, barite and zinc and copper. He is not going to put anything back. You ask the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador are they any better off today. Ask the student who e-mailed me over the weekend, who didn't know how to pay for her student loan. Is she any better off after that Budget? I do not think so. This is what you have to look at.

This is an e-mail I received.

MS FOOTE: What about the MOGs? Don't forget those.

MS THISTLE: Oh, yes. The MOGs are decreased again this year.

This is an e-mail I received: I saw a portion of the House on television today and I am very upset. How can anybody look up and say that out-migration is not happening now as much as it was ten years ago?

AN HON. MEMBER: Who said that? Who said it wasn't?

MS THISTLE: Have you been to the Northeast Coast lately, I say to the Member for St. John's South? Our community has a population of approximately 300 people and most of those are seniors. One of the few younger families here - there are at least six men gone to Alberta looking for work and sad that they have to leave their wives and children. I know because my husband is one of them. He has been gone two months.

This is from a lady who her and her husband were fisherpeople, and the boat stopped fishing last year and it is up for sale. There is no choice. How can anybody look up and say that people go away because they want to. I might say that probably young people go away because they want to because there is an adventure in everyone's soul when they are young. They want to look at different places.

This is a family - she said: My husband and I are both in our forties. What a time to be starting over! We are leaving a new four bedroom two-story home and we are going to a one-bedroom apartment in Fort McMurray. Now, that is something! Just what we always dreamed of doing! We are taking two suitcases each and leaving behind all of our possessions. In fact, our daughter is leaving her friends. She has never had to do this before. She even has a beloved pet dog and she has to go to the SPCA and turn her dog in because she cannot take her dog to Fort McMurray to live in a one-bedroom apartment. Now, isn't that something?

Is this what you call economic development? Millions and millions and millions of dollars - another $20 million this year pumped into Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. The only thing I could account for when I saw the money that was spent is there are 152 people working for Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. That is the only thing I can see. Those are the only jobs they are creating, the ones who are there working for the department. I ask the minister to stand on here feet and tell me where the economic development is in Newfoundland and Labrador that has been sponsored by this government.

AN HON. MEMBER: Doug House is supposed to be doing all that, isn't he?

MS THISTLE: Oh, Doug House, yes. He wrote the plan of economic development and so far it is not working.

The lady goes on to say: Another dream of ours! Mr. Premier, tell me, does this sound like something we want to do? Because I can assure you that as each day gets marked off the calendar my heart breaks a little more. I went to Ontario when I left school. I moved back home seventeen years ago and I said: Never again! Well, that lady is going to have to say, never means never.

Here is a family that moved back. They are both fisherpersons. They fished in the same boat together. They built a nice home in a small community, had a lovely family, and things were going well. When I looked at the fish landings in your Economy for 2006 and I saw that the fish landings this year were worth $450 million - a far cry from six years ago when the fish landings in this Province were worth about $1 billion and over. This is a frightening prospect.

I say to the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development: How long can you go on listing every fund in your department, making flowery words, spending a lot of money on all of the people that are there so-called wracking their brains? You were supposed to have the ideal plan when you came to power on how to address the problems of rural Newfoundland.

MS FOOTE: (Inaudible) Plan B.

MS THISTLE: Plan B? There is no Plan B. Unfortunately, there is nothing that you have come up with that is going to serve the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. If anyone is depending on this government to come up with an idea to save rural Newfoundland and Labrador, they are trusting to a rotten stump. That is the truth of the matter, because it is not there. You are three years on the job and I have not seen one job you have created. There has been lots of money spent, lots of money in administration.

MS FOOTE: (Inaudible) people hired.

MS THISTLE: There have been lots of people hired.

I also noticed today, you are still paying the rent on an Ottawa office, costing the taxpayers of this Province almost $500,000 a year. There are two people up there sitting down, taking a phone call and sending it down here to Newfoundland. That office was so important, you had to have somebody in it. Bill Rowe was the first and last fellow, or person, in that office and you have not put anybody in it since. How important was it? Like I said earlier, it might be a dandy place for the Premier to change his shirt or straighten his necktie or get a shower, but that is about it. With regards to creating a job or having any effect on Ottawa, forget it.

Being the critic for Finance I get lots of e-mails. They are coming in right, left and center, people who are not happy about the Budget. You think that because there was a surplus and money went into social programs, that everybody out there in Newfoundland are your cheerleaders.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: The Member for Mount Pearl - or is it the Member for Terra Nova, or is it the Member for Trinity North? I cannot tell, they are all sounding alike.

MS FOOTE: They all have the same last name.

MS THISTLE: They all have the same name, yes.

MS FOOTE: Passover.

MS THISTLE: Passover, yes. These are the ones who graduated from the back bench to the middle bench now and hoping to get in Cabinet, but they are frightened to death because there was a by-election a while ago and even the Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier, who was on the next stepping stone to Cabinet, got glossed over.

MS FOOTE: Passed over.

MS THISTLE: He got passed over. That is what it was.

Even the Member for Gander, I have his newspaper article here. He was going to be the next one in Cabinet because that was the stepping stone, being the Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier. Since then, there has been another shuffle and the people in the backbenches are still there. Some of the people in the backbenches have moved down to the second bench. That is making the ministers kind of edgy because they do not know who has the knife out waiting for someone to foul up so they might get their jobs.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see. I guess the next shuffle will probably be once the House closes now because the next problem area is a couple of departments really. ITRD is a real problem area, because you have three years into your mandate now and there is no new economic development. Despite the fact that Doug House wrote the Blue Book for the Tories and they got elected on their Blue Book, and they have been pumping out propaganda ever since regarding their plan for economic renewal in this Province, I cannot see one thing that has been done to shore up economic development in this Province by this government.

Any area that is hard hit, like the people in Stephenville - and I have the greatest amount of sympathy for them because when you lose the big industry, where it is your only industry, there are a lot of high paying jobs that are gone and people have left the area. I saw in government's own book that they expected service jobs to take the place of the people who lost their jobs in Stephenville. Well, now, that was laughable. That was absolutely laughable, because how can people in service industries make the same salaries as trades people in that mill? It is not there. No matter how much propaganda you put in your own literature - I guess if you write it, you believe it. You are convinced that it is right.

Now, it is interesting here, some of the things that came down in the Budget. Sometimes you cannot really go by what is in the Budget book. You really have to look at how the spin comes on all this stuff that is entered, that is announced in the Budget. It is interesting that this government are saying that there is $171 million going to be spent on construction and rehabilitation of provincial roads. I do not understand the minister. He has no clout around the Cabinet Table, because I know he made a mess of Fisheries and that is why they moved him out and now he is going to make a mess of Transportation and Works. He will not be in that long, so you guys and gals who are in the backbenches, now you watch out for the next minister because I think there is going to be a move pretty soon.

The Minister of Transportation and Works, the one who is going to spend $171 million over the next six years, never had the sense - I have to say it that way - never had the sense to say that I am going to do up the Buchans Highway because that is turning in millions of dollars to the provincial coffers of this Province. He could not see that far. I do not know if he was ever up over the Buchans Highway. I do not know if he was ever up over the Buchans Highway.

Well, I think he should take a road trip, along with a few others, because the Member for Mount Pearl definitely needs a road trip. He needs a road trip. He does not know where the District of Trinity-Bay de Verde is. He does not know where Port de Grave is, and he said my district was Grand Falls-Bustons, so he definitely needs a road trip. I hope the Premier can find some money to get him out on a road trip. He is spending too much time around the malls in St. John's.

I am glad to see that the Minister of Government Services has come to her senses and decided to open up the weigh scales in Port aux Basques and Foxtrap. They are not going to be open all the time, mind you. I guess she has been looking at the trenches herself. Remember when there used to be a painting here in this fair building called the Red Trench and it received so much bad publicity? Anyway, anyone who travels over the Trans-Canada can see plenty of trenches, and a lot of it is the cause of overweight tractor trailers going over our highways. They have shut down the weigh scales, and now she has finally come to the realization that was not a good move. Now, since they are flush with cash, she is going to open up two of those weigh scales on a part-time basis. I do not think the details - it is like Ank Murphy, now: Details are scanty but stayed tuned.

MS FOOTE: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Ank Murphy. When he was in politics: Details are scanty.

Anyway, that is a start. She took it away and now she is going to bring it back.

With this reducing poverty and increasing self-reliance, unfortunately government adds this little tidbit down in the bottom: they are going to be able to extend this drug coverage to a lot of low income earners - which is a good thing; I am not knocking that - but they say there will be no changes to the program for senior citizens. Now, no changes to the program for senior citizens.

There are senior citizens out there today who do not have drug coverage, who are living in their own homes and trying to make do. Sometimes it is pretty hard to maintain your own home when you have taxes to pay, and heat, light and telephone. You have to live besides, and you are probably into a situation where your health generally fails once you hit those senior years. It is pretty difficult, when you are a senior, trying to maintain your household. Then you have to decide whether or not you can afford to buy the real drug or the generic one. Most times, the real drug does the job much quicker and better than the generic one. They would like to be able to access drugs, and they are not going to be looked after in this Budget. They are not going to be able to be looked after in this Budget, even though government left $76 million on the table. This government had a surplus of $76 million after all the special warrants were done, after the Premier announced announcements morning, noon and night, and they still did not know how to spend $76 million. The clock was ticking and they still had $76 million. Can you imagine everybody sitting around in government: My God, we have $76 million; how can we spend it? This is March 31. What are we going to do? My God! Can you believe this? We are going to have to plow that back into general revenue. Can you imagine?

AN HON. MEMBER: I know. It's hard to believe, isn't it?

MS THISTLE: Hard to believe, and we have people out there crying for help with their heat bills and gas. Look at what gas is, over $1 a litre. Tourism is down. They will not drop the price on gas to bring in more tourists.

On top of all of this, even with the surplus, they said, don't knock on my door tomorrow morning for that drug card. Don't call your MHA, our phones are disconnected. We are not taking any calls on drug cards. Guess what? Don't call the government for a drug card. There is nothing going to happen until this time next year. We only want to announce it this year because it sounds good. That is the only reason we did it. The government said, we are going to extend the drug coverage.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS THISTLE: They are getting a bit antsy now, Mr. Speaker. They do not want to hear the truth. They are getting a bit antsy over there. You had better settle them down.

Anyway, they said, don't call me for a drug card tomorrow morning; you are not getting it. We only announced it this year because it sounds good. We had such a great, positive Budget, we thought we would throw this in because it sounds good.

Now, they said they were going to cover school fees so kids will not have to go out in the rain and sell chocolate bars to buy a workbook. You know, I do not think children should go out in the rain and sell chocolate bars, but there is one problem: they forgot to cover the books. They forgot to cover the books. They forgot to cover high school books. If you have kids going to high school, there is no trouble to chew up $500 or $600 in school books. It is almost as expensive as going to university. Textbooks should have been looked after, especially with $76 million left on the table.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: Now, there is money put into security in this Province, hiring new RCMP and RNC officers. That is a good thing, but guess what? They have one officer for Grand Falls-Windsor, one for Trinity-Conception, one for Deer Lake, and one for Nain. Do you know that ten years ago, in Grand Falls-Windsor, we had thirty-eight RCMP officers for our central dispatch?

MR. DENINE: (Inaudible).

MR. REID: Listen to him down there heckling you. That is the fella who could not even pronounce Buchans last week.

MS THISTLE: I know. The Member for Mount Pearl, he is a bit antsy over there now. He should take a road trip and find out where Buchans in, find out where Trinity-Bay de Verde is, find out where Fogo is, and Burin, all those places, because you haven't got an idea about rural Newfoundland, not one.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) buy a GPS.

MS THISTLE: Anyway, they are going to put one RCMP - yes, he wants to buy a GPS. See if you will get that approved, now.

Anyway, they are hiring new RCMP officers. That is a good thing. We currently have nineteen who work for the central region. We had thirty-eight, so putting back one is going to be a help but we need more. There have been a lot of vacant positions with our RCMP detachment across the Province that have not been filled. For those people out there who may not know how RCMP security is funded, it is a federal security program. The bill is sent to the Province, and the Province decides if they can afford to add more members and so on.

This government left $76 million on the table when they had everything announced. It is a good start, to hire more RCMP officers. It looks like we will get one in Grand Falls-Windsor and you will get one in Trinity-Conception.

By the way, Member for Mount Pearl, that would be the District for Trinity-Bay de Verde. That will be part of that district. The one from Deer Lake, well that would be -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Yes, and the one for Nain. Anyway, it is clear that he does not know his geography.

Mr. Speaker, education is my next topic that I would like to talk about. There has been a lot of talk about this being an education budget. I think it should have been a fishery budget. How much went into the fishery, I say to the Member for Mount Pearl? There were only two lines in the Throne Speech for the fishery. The only thing that is in the fishery budget is money for aquaculture. That is all that is there. Now, how are you going to rebuild rural Newfoundland and Labrador if you don't look at the fishery? Because that was the backbone of our economy.

Now, it has come to the attention of this government that they do not want to deal with school boards and they do not want to deal with school councils and they particularly do not want to deal with whistle blowers. Government got a black eye there a couple of months ago because two dedicated teachers told the truth. Dr. Darin King decided that he would shut them up, but there was too much of a public outcry. So the Premier said: Look, we have to change this around. So he decided to make this an education budget. It was well needed and it should have been.

Apart from all of this, government never wants to get into a situation again where Darin King or Milton Peach is going to get a black eye. So for that reason they are going to put forward a new position and it is called a liaison position to strengthen partnerships between school boards and school councils. In other words, what it really is: Look, you take the flack. Don't let government get a black eye. This is your job, whatever it takes, shut it down; no negative talks. We do not want to hear it. So, there is going to be a political appointment made. Anybody who is watching this program now, get your resume ready and fine tune it because this government is going to hire a political supporter. Make sure that the government or the school boards will never get a black eye again.

Milton Peach and Darin King never want to have to go out to the Premier's office and report to the Premier that they have a black eye for this government because they shut down a whistle blower. So anybody who is out there now and has a Tory membership card, get your resume fine tuned, because listen, this job is not going to be in the paper. This is going to be in the Tory news, so watch out. If you are networking anywhere in and around St. John's or in the bigger centres, make sure that you ask your Cabinet minister friends: When will that job be announced and what are your chances of getting it? There you go, there is a job. That is one piece of employment that is going to be created by this government, a political appointment. Forget rural Newfoundland.

Look at this now. This is the government, this is not propaganda. Well, you could call it propaganda, I guess. This is the governments own information. It is interesting. This is serious, actually. Twenty-two hundred new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year - 2,200 cases - and here is this government sitting on a surplus and they are sitting on the Atlantic Accord money - they have been for two Budgets. They sat on their hands and they did not get that radiation equipment built and installed over at the Health Sciences complex. They just settled a wage contract with the doctors. So if the Minister of Health was doing his job he would be well aware that this was needed for the Health Sciences complex and should have been ordered -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Yes. In fact, hopefully by this September we will have a cancer clinic in Grand Falls-Windsor. I tell you, that was a gut-wrenching experience for myself and a lot of people, but thank God, government finally came to their senses.

MR. HUNTER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Yes, and the Member for Windsor-Springdale supported me on this and I was glad he did. Finally, the people in Central Newfoundland will have some comfort in fighting their cancer. Many of the people that we saw on television at that time have since passed away, unfortunately. They will not have the comfort of sitting in a new treatment chair, but others who will follow will certainly do that.

The Health Accord that the Premier ran away from in Ottawa two years ago, when all provincial premiers met and John Chrtien was the Prime Minister - they met and the Health Accord was signed with all provinces. The idea of signing the Health Accord was that there was going to be a block of money designated for a certain purpose, and that certain purpose was to eliminate and decrease. It was to decrease waiting lines and people would not have to lie on gurneys in a hospital corridor. They would not have to do that. Those who needed treatment of a specialized nature would get it and there was money set aside to buy new equipment. It started out at $38 million and it was on an escalating scale for eight years. That particular money for this year's Budget is in the area of $46 million. For government to say now, that they are going to commit to putting in two new bunkers to house that radiation equipment is something really that government should have said two years ago. It should have been started to be reconstructed and the equipment should have been ordered. For all of that, I guess we are at least two to three years out before we can actually use that equipment. It is not because government does not have the money; they have the money.

These are the kinds of things that were left out of the Budget that people have a right to know about, and I, as critic, am informing people of that today.

I would be the first to say that anything that improves the social well-bring of the citizens of our Province is good, so any initiative that was made on a social level, I will not object to that. In fact, I will give the government credit for that, and credit will be given where credit is due.

All weekend long, from Friday onwards, we were consumed in our Province about the idea that Costco had decided to pull the seal oil capsules from the shelves of their store here on Stavanger Drive. In addition to that, it was stated that Paul Watson was behind all of this. Now, the Premier has an obligation to make Costco aware that they have misinformation, and in order for them to conduct business in our Province they must be aware of the truth of this matter.

I saw a late announcement on the government website on Friday evening, ten minutes to five. The government came out at the last minute and said they were going to talk to Costco, and that the Minister of Fisheries was going to inform them of the situation on the seal oil capsules. If there is anybody in this Province hoping to do business with us, as citizens of this Province, they have an obligation before they make any alliance with any environmentalist group and get wrong information. Taking seal oil capsules from the shelves of Costco was more than taking a product off the shelf. It was taking away a heritage and a culture that we are proud of. We are struggling every year, as citizens of this Province, to get our story across, that we are one of the most humane people in the world in handling our wildlife.

The Premier and the Minister of Fisheries have a job to do, to sit down with Costco and iron this matter out, because there are none of us in this Province who would be the least bit interested in keeping a membership with Costco if they are not going to support us in the most humane hunt that is anywhere in the world today. This matter has to be cleared up. If Costco wants our business, they have an obligation to get the truth and put our seal oil capsules back on the shelf, whether they sell or whether they do not. It is something we are proud of. The benefits are enormous from seal oil capsules. Other people have used them. Whether they sell or not, it is a slap in the face to us as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that they would make a move and take them off their shelves. It is more than just removing a product. I say to the Premier and the Minister of Fisheries, get out there and meet with Costco and get this matter settled.

I looked at all the programs that the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development got. She got an Innovation Strategy, she got a Commercialization Program, she got an Innovation Enhancement Program, and the innovation program complements the government's Small and Medium Enterprise Fund for business, and she got a Regional/Sectoral Diversification Fund. Where are the results?

Budget 2006 has put $14 million into this fund, into this department, and they got $20 million put into the Innovation Strategy, Newfoundland and Labrador. This is laughable. The new Innovation Strategy, Innovation Newfoundland and Labrador, a blueprint for prosperity, $20 million over the next four years. Now, a blueprint for prosperity!

MR. REID: Five million dollars a year.

MS THISTLE: Yes, $5 million a year.

MR. REID: We just lost 2,000 jobs on the Burin Peninsula.

MS THISTLE: Yes. Add up the jobs that are gone now. How many came out of Harbour Breton.

MR. REID: Three hundred and fifty. That is direct, by the way.

MS THISTLE: Three hundred and fifty out of Harbour Breton. Those are direct jobs now. For every job that is permanent there are two and a half more than support that job.

MR. REID: Three hundred in Stephenville, direct and indirect.

MS THISTLE: Three hundred jobs in Stephenville, besides all the indirect ones.

I heard today, from the Northern Peninsula, there were 250 loggers and truck drivers who were bringing wood to and from Stephenville, they lost their jobs. That is 250 of those, and also 300 right in the mill, and 350 down in Harbour Breton. How many are on the Burin Peninsula?

MR. REID: Three hundred and fifty in Fortune.

MS THISTLE: Three hundred and fifty in Fortune.

MR. REID: Plus another 300 going out of Marystown, if they ever open.

MS THISTLE: Three hundred out of Marystown. You know, we are up past a couple of thousand jobs here.

This government, in their Economy book for 2006, said: Service sector jobs at call centres will replace the jobs that were lost in the Stephenville Mill. Now, that is the most foolish thing I ever heard. What kind of money do you make in a call centre?

MR. REID: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: There you go, just a little over minimum wage.

How much were those workers in the mill at Stephenville making? I know what they are making in Grand Falls-Windsor. Most of them were in the range of between $70,000 and $100,000 a year. Now, you would want a lot of call centre jobs to make that kind of money, wouldn't you?

The bureaucrats who write this stuff for government - I guess it is something like Lynn Verge said: All fluff and no stuff. That is a name now that a few people on that front bench over there don't want me to mention. They don't want me to mention about Lynn Verge, because the architects of her demise are right on the front benches. I am looking at them now, the architects of her demise. Lynn Verge, who was the pioneer for women's politics, she made her mark. I can tell you, the architects of her demise are on the front benches of this new government, as much as they can hide away in their books and everything -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) women, though.

MS THISTLE: Pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Definitely, I certainly do.

Have they learned a lesson from that? They have not learned a lesson from that. I saw in the Estimates book today that the money that was there for severance pay has ballooned. Now, I know that there are a lot of impending cases of wrongful dismissal with this government that they are working on today. They are going to have to pay out a lot of money for wrongful dismissal, and the majority of them are women. I know five right off the bat.

I think about the Member for Topsail, now, when she looks at the surplus this government has racked up. Loyola - oh, I am not supposed to say the name of the member. The Minister of Finance, when the Member for Topsail - I was thinking about it this weekend, when I was driving from St. John's to Grand Falls-Windsor. When I think about the fact that the Member for Topsail used to be the Health Minister and, on a matter of principle - and I respect the woman for it, and I admire her for it - on the matter of principle, she lost her Cabinet position, or she gave it up for $50,000. The Premier went over to a golf tournament in Corner Brook and he did not want to have any racket going on because he wanted smooth sailing, and he said: I will squash this VON strike for once and for all. He said: I am not phoning the minister because if I phone her she will say don't do it. That is what he said. So, he said to his right-hand man, Ross Reid: Ross, you go out there now and cut a cheque for that crowd for $50,000 and get them off my back.. We have a game here, and I have a fundraiser to do. This is what he did.

Three years later, here is the government here now with a surplus of $600 million, had to hide it away. The clock was ticking at the end of March and they did not know what to do with all of the money they had. They tried their best to announce it as quick as they could. They had announcements. Poor old Scott Chafe was running around like a - I was going to say like a blue arse fly. I can't help it; I had to say it. Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, I am sorry I said that word.

Anyway, poor Scott Chafe from VOCM was running around as hard as he could go, trying to cover all of those announcements, and he could hardly do it. The media had a session there for about ten days, trying to cover all the good announcements. The clock was ticking for March 31 and they still could not spend the money. The Finance Minister said: I know, we can do it this way. Let's run into the House of Assembly now with a special warrant.

For anybody who can remember, the Minister of Finance, when he was the critic, he hated special warrants.

MR. REID: Said he would never do them.

MS THISTLE: He would not do a special warrant if he was ever the government.

There was no way around it. The government had too much money and they could not spend it in time. The only way they could spend it, to work out with the Financial Administration Act, was to say: We have to do up a couple of special warrants. We will slip them in now. The Finance Minister said: There is no way that I am going to have a Budget with $100 million in surplus. There is no way that I am going to have it. He said: Run out everywhere you can now and see what we can spend that money on.

Then, they crafted a deal with the unions, five unions. They said: Okay, we will give you a deal on pay equity now. They said: I don't care how you spend it; suit yourself. I do not want to have any racket with unions. You take it over, you divvy it up, this is the last call. It is over and done with. Here is $24 million. Don't say another word.

Here was the Finance Minister running around. He said: My God, how are we going to get that money out before the end of March? This is a problem. We have $24 million. We do not want to show this surplus on our Budget. He said: How are we going to get this money out? He said: We are going to have to cut a cheque. Who are we going to make the cheque out to? We are going to have to cut a cheque, but who are we going to make the cheque out to? He said: NAPE is the biggest union, but there are the four other unions. He said: Sure, they don't even know how many people are going to be included in this money. The Premier said to the Finance Minister: Look, I don't care how many people are included, and I don't care what you have to do, but get this $24 million out of my sight so I can report a Budget of only $76 million instead of $100 million. This is what they wanted to do. Surplus coming out of your ears!

The Finance Minister can hardly contain his glee over there right now. He is smiling like a Cheshire cat, and that looks good on the Finance Minister. He is smiling like a Cheshire cat.

MR. SULLIVAN: How does a Cheshire cat smile?

MS THISTLE: Like you are smiling right now.

Anyway, he reported back to the eighth floor. He said: Premier, I found a way to do it. Guess what? He said: All we have to do is put that in a special warrant and cut the cheque. Give it to the union. I do not care how they spend it, as long as we get clear of it, because we cannot report $100 million surplus.

Here are people out there today who cannot pay for their light bill. There are people out there today -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: I agree with pay equity, I agree with it, but there are people out there - the Finance Minister left $76 million on the table. He turned it back to general revenues, when there are people out there today who cannot get their drugs. They cannot put gas in their cars. They cannot pay their light bill. There is nothing for them. There is no tax breaks for them, and there are people without a job, without a job in Harbour Breton and all those places that I just listed. They have no jobs and here is the government with a surplus. They are the working poor, or they do not have a job. They are packing their suitcase. They are going out in the dead of night with a U-Haul van, putting their luggage in it, and heading out for Alberta somewhere. This is the crowd who do not show up as people being gone from the Province. They are gone out working four months and they are coming back.

Even with all of that, and your Plan A and Plan B and Plan C, there were still 3,000 people decided last year to leave this Province because there was no work. So, you have failed when it comes to economic development and I would think that is the next Cabinet shuffle that is coming up. That is the next.

This is something that the government put out in their own literature. This is the news release that they put out on the fishery. They are saying that government is going to put $3 million into a three-year, $10 million aquaculture - see, they like to say what they are going to put out over the next three or four years because it sounds better. If you say you are going to do something over five years, it sounds like you are putting more money in it, so it is always a spin on words. Anyway, they said the program is designed to boost industry production and create new employment and will add approximately 150 full-time equivalent jobs to the industry within two years. My, that is going to do something. That is going to do something, now, that is. They are going to be expensive jobs, too. Government is going to put $3.5 million in aquaculture for the next three years, and at the end of putting $10 million in, they are going to have 150 jobs. Now, that is an expensive job, isn't it? If it is going to take you $3.5 million every year for the next three years to put into an aquaculture investment program, and it is going to take you two years and you are going to create 150 jobs - 150 jobs for $10 million, that is going to be like a drop in the bucket. Now, I would like to ask the former Auditor General if she agrees with that investment? Could money be put in some direction that would have a bigger payback to more people?

MS FOOTE: She agrees with everything now she wants to get back in Cabinet.

MS THISTLE: I think she wants to get back in Cabinet. I wonder: Is the Minister of Finance going to step aside and let the former Auditor General get in Cabinet? I would say. When Loyola - oh, I said it again. I am sorry about that.

The Minister of Finance had his hands full last week. The Premier was out there on the fly, and everywhere the Premier went to make an announcement he made an extra one.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Because he said so himself. He said on television that every time he made an announcement he added something to it. So even with all of those announcements, when he went back to the Minister of Finance's office, he said: Guess what? This is what I announced. So the Minister of Finance says: Don't worry about it. We are trying to hide this surplus anyway. I have it skived down now to $76 million. Even with all of those extra announcements that the Premier made, he still had to show a surplus. Out of all the money that is there, the surplus and all, $76 million - you know, it was funny in a way, that the Minister of Finance forecasted a surplus next year of $6 million. I mean, that was laughable.

This is interesting, too. Budget 2006 will invest $15 million to support the vision of a more prosperous, creative, healthy Newfoundland and Labrador. There is nothing wrong with a cultural announcement. I think that is good stuff. We all are proud of our culture, but what happened to the gas tax? Now, Bernard Lord was able to give an equivalent of 8 per cent back to his people. I don't think he left any surplus on the table. I would like to check with the Finance Minister here. They did not touch the HST. They did not need any premiers to agree to a reduction of the HST. What Bernard Lord did, whatever the equivalent of 8 per cent of the HST would be, he gave it back as a rebate on home-heating fuels and he did not look at just oil, like this Finance Minister did. He gave it to people who were burning all sources of heat, whether it be propane, electricity, wood or oil.

When I picked up the paper in Grand Falls-Windsor yesterday before I drove out, I looked in The Telegram and the Petroleum Pricing Commission have now alerted everybody that the price of furnace oil is going up. I think it is going to be around 4 cents a litre more. If the petroleum pricing office made that announcement yesterday, I am sure that the Minister of Finance and the Premier were well award of it when the Budget was brought down on Thursday. So, there is no reason why the Minister of Finance could not have given a break to ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. There is a funny thing about it, you know. All of us can identify with what goes out of our pocket. We all know that we have to pay heat and light, and oil and telephone. It depends on what kind of home heat we have. These are the basics of shelter in order to live. You must pay those.

Why didn't the Minister of Finance decide to make something real that all of us Newfoundlanders and Labradorians could relate to? It could have been a tax cut. It could have been a rebate on our home heating fuel. It could have been a drop in provincial tax on gasoline. These are the things that ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians relate to. There was nothing there for the middle class whatsoever. The person who gets stung with all the high increases has no way to get a rebate on anything, the middle income earner.

I think since the Budget has come down the Minister of Finance has his marching orders, that they are going to have a group who are going to be totally against your government next year if you do not look at income tax reductions. The minister missed a good opportunity to do something worthwhile for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and he did not do that.

Now, the announcements that were made in Labrador were good announcements, and they were all announced during the Winter Games. Most people who heard those announcements were pleased, but when you look at the fact that ordinary rural people, people from rural Newfoundland and Labrador, were overlooked once more. I think about it today, this is Monday. We have had the weekend to think about whether or not the Budget is going to do anything for ordinary people.

I had an e-mail from a constituent of mine in Buchans on the weekend. It was a senior who had surgery last fall and needed some drug coverage but was not eligible. It was a woman who was living in her own home and having the expense of paying for drugs on her own. When she heard about the extended drug coverage plan she thought immediately that she would be one of the people who would be able to luck into that program. I had to give her the sharp reality that, number one, it would not be affecting seniors. Number two, it would not have any impact on anybody for at least a year from now. So that was disheartening.

Then I had another e-mail on Sunday from a couple in Grand Falls-Windsor. They are just over the mark where they do not qualify for a drug card. They are trying to maintain their own home and they have all the expenses connected with it. It is pretty difficult to do that, especially if you have failing health or not even serious health, but everyone as they head towards their senior years, generally speaking, drug coverage becomes very important to them. So, these are the types of individuals who fall through the cracks. They will not be able to have any drug coverage either. These are the kinds of situations that come to light once the euphoria of the glossy publications that government puts out, once people really look at their situation then they wonder: What is the Budget going to do for me?

I think if you asked anybody today, say in Eastport or Happy Adventure or Sandy Cove, do you feel better today than you did Thursday about the Budget? Do you think the Budget is going to do anything for you today? I wonder what their response would be. It would be interesting for government to do their own poll, phone people in rural areas of our Province at random and ask: Do you think that the Budget is going to be better for you today? Do you think that you are going to have more money in your pocket to go up to the Co-op there in Eastport and buy your groceries? No, you are not. You are not going to have one cent more.

You ask a senior out on Pilley's Island or out in Roberts Arm or out on Long Island: Do you feel better now since you - hey, you never even got promised a ferry. They never even got promised a ferry this time out on Long Island.

MR. REID: They wanted a causeway.

MS THISTLE: The causeway. When we were the government we promised a causeway. In fact, we almost had the feds talked into doing it as well.

MR. REID: We had our money.

MS THISTLE: We put our money in the Budget for it.

I know the Member for Windsor-Springdale would like to see a causeway there. I know he would, because every year that he stands up for re-election he says: This is the time you are going to get the causeway. They do not have it yet. No causeway! The local people mount their campaign, put all their projects together, and do their homework, but still no causeway.

I wonder what the new Minister of Environment and Conservation is going to do. I wonder: What are you going to do about the coyotes up in Buchans, Mr. Minister? I wonder what you are going to do about the coyotes. Those coyotes are running loose, they are as big as a wolf. It is not unusual to drive up over the Buchans Highway and see plenty of caribou. In fact, I have a picture of a white caribou which is a rare thing. I have a picture of a white caribou that I saw on the Buchans Highway two summers ago. Actually it was in the fall. I saw a white caribou and that is an unusual thing to see.

The people up in Buchans are afraid to go out. A lot of people walk the Buchans Highway for exercise. You can go when you like up the Buchans Highway, or the Badger Highway - it is called the Buchans Highway even though it is from Badger - and people are walking that highway in the morning and in the afternoon for exercise, because this is where they go to exercise. I can tell you, I would not want to face a coyote on the Buchans Highway if I was walking. Mr. Minister, do you have a bounty out for coyotes? You dropped the license fee, did you, for coyotes? Do you know that? I know you are still in training, but do you have a bounty provided for coyotes yet? Do you? You do not know. I think you should have one if you have not got one.

MS JONES: (Inaudible) for waste management.

MS THISTLE: Yes, and the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair is wondering if you have the money yet to do her waste management site?

Well, as far as I can see this is what the government has (inaudible) up now. There was a federal program announced for the gas tax rebate. It is supposed to go back to all the municipalities across the country. This government has taken that money and they decided to write their own policy. If you are looking for waste management, my colleague for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, unless your council has money to put in with it, you can kiss that good bye.

MS JONES: Is that right?

MS THISTLE: Yes, because this is going to require input from the local communities. There are going to be only environmental projects. This was originally intended to go back to every community that paid GST for gas purchases. This government now has their own policy rigged up and they are only going to put that out into environmental projects. Now I do now know if the details are made up yet. I do not know if the minister really knows for sure whether or not this a go, but they have got it written in their Budget book, so who knows?

Regarding coyotes, Mr. Minister, that is a problem. Buchans, Millertown and Badger are in the heart of wildlife country. It is not unusual to drive up to Buchans and see caribou and moose skittering across the bog morning, noon and night, and the same with rabbits. Now if you have coyotes up there lurking around the town site it is going to be a worry. I talked to the mayor, Derm Corbett, and that is a worry if you have young children. The new school is almost at the entrance to the town, and if you have coyotes lurking around there all of the time that is a worry. People are frightened to death to let their children out. It is also a worry for people who are in the woods berry picking or hiking.

In fact, I was listening to Open Line, I think it was early last fall, and there was this guy on the radio saying how he had been surrounded on his snowmobile by a pack of coyotes. Can you imagine that? Even though there would be nothing wrong with your machine and you would be full of gas and ready to go, if you had a pack of coyotes circling your snowmobile, you would not get far. Mr. Minister, coyotes in this Province are predators. They will eat whatever they see. I think it is more serious than you are alluding to. I would like to see your officials really look into the fact and see how many coyotes are in this Province, and look at a bounty. I know you have a licence now that runs from July to September. I saw that in your regulations. You have a licence that runs from July to September, but I think you have to look at a bounty. We have to round up those coyotes because they are going to be destroying our moose and caribou population. It is high time that you get a handle on this before we are being overrun with coyotes here in this Province.

If you want to take on a project now, you being a new minister, this is a worthwhile project, seeing that the Minister of Finance did not do anything about the moose licences. He was quick enough to jack them up. The Minister of Finance was quick enough to jack up the moose licences, and he was running around like a hen with its head cut off on March 31 trying to spend the money. He could have done something that all Newfoundland and Labrador would have appreciated.

MR. SULLIVAN: What is that?

MS THISTLE: To drop the moose licences back to where they were. Instead of that, he was quick enough to jack up the moose licences. The only thing that he did this time was to drop the rabbit licence, so you can go now and -

AN HON. MEMBER: The polar bear licence.

MS THISTLE: Oh, the polar bear licence too. The polar bear licence, where is this? The polar bear licence that affects very few people, that was the licence he decided he would drop. He is raking in $26 million from new fees, and this year -

MR. SULLIVAN: That wasn't what it was.

MS THISTLE: Oh, yes, it was. Figures do not lie. Twenty-six point five million dollars.

MR. SULLIVAN: Took in this year?

MS THISTLE: Every year. Every year he is raking in $26.5 million for fees. They printed out their propaganda and -

MR. REID: You dropped the polar bear license. How much did you lose on that one, Loyola. How much money did you lose on the polar bear license? You will have a deficit next year, buddy.

MR. SULLIVAN: One point nine five on the (inaudible).

MR. REID: We will have a deficit next year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: They printed out their propaganda this year and they are going to take $1.5 million from fees. Isn't that grand? The polar bear licence was $137 a year and they dropped it to zero. Now, how much money did you get from the polar bear licence? They wanted to play this up like they were doing a wonderful thing; drop the polar bear licence

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: Can you tell me now how many in this House have a polar bear licence? I want to know that. I wouldn't say there are too many in this House who have a moose licence, especially the Member for Mount Pearl. I wouldn't say he shot a moose in his life.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Members on both sides are engaging in conversation that is preventing the Speaker from hearing the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans. I ask members for their co-operation. If you have conversations that you need to engage in, the Chair is asking if you would take them outside.

The Chair recognizes the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans, who was completing her speech.

MS THISTLE: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker, for offering me protection from these people across the side of the House.

It is interesting here. They took off the fees from the camping. You were paying $1 daily or $2 nightly in the parks.

MR. SULLIVAN: That is where the groups come in, or the students come in. (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: The groups, yes.

Guess what, Mr. Speaker? There was $2,000 collected last year from that, and the minister, by making a goodwill gesture, decided he would drop that fee because he had a surplus of $76.5 million on the table. He wanted to be good-natured and he decided he would drop that fee.

Hold on, now, there is more. There was a remote camping fee for Barachois Pond Park. It was $5 a night. You know what? The government dropped the fee because last year they collected $100 for that. So you, in your good-natured spiel, decided to drop that fee. A revival fee for non-profit corporations was $300, and guess what? It brought in $1,850 last year. The minister decided to drop it as a goodwill gesture. Still, this was the same minister that had $75.5 million -

MR. SULLIVAN: No, $76.5 million.

MS THISTLE: Seventy-six-and-a-half million dollars right here in his pocket. Did you see that ad on television, hands in my pocket? That one is for you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: That ad was made for you. You are taking every cent from everybody, out of their pocket, and you will not give them a break.

I have to say this, Mr. Speaker. I had a call from a man seventy-six years old, from my district, and he only owed $60 on school tax, mind you. Sixty dollars. When he got his income tax the other day, his refund, $739 went to this government out of that man's pocket. I thought that was the saddest case I ever heard. The man was seventy-six years old. He did his best to get his message to the Department of Finance. They would not take off the interest on his school tax. They let it go right to the point where the federal government took his refund.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: They took his refund of $739. I phoned over to the Director of Finance and they would not budge. No, Mr. Speaker, the Director of Finance would not budge and give the man back his money. They said: No, that is it. He has to pay it and that is it.

That bill was only $60 when it started out, that he never paid - and interest and interest and interest. The man got his income tax, expecting to get the money and do a few renovations on his house, and the federal income tax department took $739 and handed it over to this Finance Minister, and this Finance Minister has it in the bank as part of his surplus and he will not give it back to that man who is seventy-six years old. Now, is that a crime? I think so.

I had another call this morning from a man who owed $1,200. The bill was only $110 in the beginning, and no way would this Finance Department budge on interest. That man is going to lose his refund on income tax. Most people around the Province, when they get their income tax, they are hoping to get an income tax refund. They are not going to get it. This government has an agreement with the federal government that they are going to turn over all of the school tax owing and they are going to get the money. Make no wonder he had a surplus.

This Finance Minister had a surplus of $76 million. This poor man, the senior citizen, expected to get his refund of $739 to do up his house this spring. It is going back to this government that has the surplus. Is that right or is it wrong? Is that right or is it wrong, to do that to a senior?

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, it is right or wrong.

MS THISTLE: No, it is not right.

MR. SULLIVAN: It has to be right or wrong.

MS THISTLE: It is not right. There has to be some compassion, some discretion, some good will. Even if you were to say I will take half of it, that would have been something, but -

MS FOOTE: They wanted to pay the principal.

MS THISTLE: The man wanted to pay the principal and a reasonable amount of interest; but, for anyone to start off owing $60 and end up having to pay income tax, they are taking his cheque of $739. The man cannot afford it. He only has his Old Age Pension and his wife's too. I think that is criminal. I think that is too much. It is just going too far. You are not in dire straits.

MR. SULLIVAN: If you only have an Old Age Pension, you will get all your interest written off, everybody, based on income levels. (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: It was not written off. I checked with the Director of Finance and there was nothing to be done with it. Come on! That is what I did; I took it to the limit and you would not do anything with it.

The same with senior citizens. You had a chance, Mr. Finance Minister, to reduce the ambulance fees that you drove up the first year you became the government. You moved it from $85 to $115. Anyone now, even here, who lives in St. John's, and they have to pick up the phone and call the ambulance if they are going to the Health Sciences, they have to fork out $115. They have to do the same thing when they go back home. Are you satisfied that was the right thing to do? This is a government with $76 million in a surplus left on the table and they are charging the poor seniors $115 in ambulance fees.

MS FOOTE: Sure you have to pay for a death certificate now.

MS THISTLE: If somebody dies and they want a death certificate - lots of times you have to settle up an estate, you have to settle up an insurance plan, and you have to have a death certificate. This government said: I am going to get them coming in and I am going to get them going out.

MR. REID: The first time in history you had to pay for it.

MS THISTLE: The very first time in history. They are going to charge $25 for every death certificate they are going to issue. This is the same government that will not give a senior enough medication to get him through the week after they have an operation in a hospital. This is the same government that will not give seniors enough pills to last them seven days when they get out of hospital to recover. They will say: You are out of hospital. You are on your own. Go buy your own pills. This extended drug coverage they announced there a couple of days ago, that is not going to look after seniors. Seniors are not getting anything out of that. So, these are the kinds of things.

Ask a senior out in Port de Grave today, this is Monday: Are they any better off Monday than they were Thursday? If I asked a senior up in Buchans Junction, are they any better off today? Are they going to get a rebate on their home heating fuel? No. Are they going to get a decrease on their gas tax? No. Are they going to get a decrease on their income tax? No. Are they going to get a decrease on their licence renewal? No. Anybody who likes to go up in the woods and get a moose, are they going to have their moose licence reduced? No. What did they get?

AN HON. MEMBER: Polar bear.

MS THISTLE: They got a free polar bear licence. That is pretty good now for someone in Buchans Junction who wants a free polar bear licence.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Oh, yes. You can get a rabbit licence.

Now, I say to one of my constituents out in Buchans today who is going up to the hospital: What did they get out of this Budget?

The Minister of Transportation and Works needs to have a chat. He needs to have a chat with the Premier because if he does not do his own chat, I am going to make the chat for him.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Yes, I certainly am. I tell you, if he does not do up that Buchans Highway, with millions and millions of dollars coming into the government coffers, the Premier is going to hear from me, and I hope he is listening to me now. I hope he is listening to me now, because to have that minister down there -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: He ruined the fishery. He ruined the Fisheries Department. He ruined the Fisheries Department and now he is here in Transportation and Works and he hasn't got a clue. He hasn't got a clue.

Here is a mine up in Millertown, a barite plant in Buchans, turning in millions of dollars to this provincial government and he hasn't got sense enough to say he is going to upgrade the road so that people can go to work, heavy equipment can travel over it, and service products are being sold right, left and center all around central Newfoundland.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: I would like to ask the Minister of Natural Resources, was he around the Cabinet Table when that question came up? I know that the Minister of Natural Resources sees the potential of the mine in Millertown. I know the Minister of Finance is adding up the money that is going to come out of the mine in Millertown and the barite plant in Buchans, but this guy over here has no head for where the money is coming from or where it is going. I do not think he has any clout in Cabinet. He lost it when he got out of his fisheries job. He was shoved back into Transportation and Works and he said: Don't you open those depots. He is trying to appease the Premier now, because the Premier said: Don't open the depots. So he said: Okay, I won't open the depots. What odds about what happens to the roads. Those depots are going to stay closed. The Premier said to him: I am putting you on a mission, Mr. Minister. You have to run that department but don't open those depots because we cannot go back on our word. We are going to look pretty foolish, because the Minister of Government Services already had to institute the weigh scales again. She made a false move. The Minister of Government Services made a false move.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Oh, my goodness, I am hearing that my time is almost up and I have not even begun to touch the surface of this nasty document I have here.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, all jokes aside, the Minister of Transportation and Works is not doing a good job and the sooner -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS THISTLE: I almost called him the minister. The Member for Gander might have a chance to step up over those stepping stones he talked about.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Yes, I would say there are a good many over there who have their suits ready for Cabinet, but I can tell you, you might have to hold on to your suits. They might be outdated by the time you get a chance to wear them.

Anyway, Mr. Minister of Transportation and Works, I am not finished with you. Until you see the potential that is up on that highway - I do not know how you overlooked it.

Have you ever been up to Buchans, by the way? I would like to ask you that question. Mr. Minister, have you ever been up to Buchans? He cannot tell a lie. He has never been to Buchans. He has not been to Buchans. He has not been to Millertown. He has not been to Badger or Buchans Junction. He thought it was -

Minister of Natural Resources, inform your colleague what development is going on, up there in Central Newfoundland. He does not know. They are almost on a countdown now because they are frightened to death. They do not want to hear the truth.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: They are even starting the second countdown. They were chastised, by the way. The Premier said to everybody over there today: Don't say anything to her when she is up speaking. The Premier said: Don't get into a racket with that Member for Grand Falls-Buchans.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: Do you know something? I only had one point of order today. I generally have ten or a dozen. The Premier chastised his members this morning and said: Don't you interrupt that Member for Grand Falls-Buchans, and don't say anything to her, because if you get her rattled she will be saying all of the stuff that she should not say.

What we are trying to say, in conclusion, Mr. Speaker -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: What we are trying to say, in conclusion, is that the Budget is a glossy document. It was cleverly orchestrated. I have to tell you, in all honesty and all fairness, there are some good things in social programs -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: - but, I have to tell you, in all sincerity and honesty, it does very little for the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. That is the truth. With all of the money you have had at your fingertips -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: I was not supposed to do it, but everybody can see that, in The Telegram, Kevin Tobin, the artist, the cartoonist, captured the moment after the Budget. He captured the moment, that rural Newfoundland and Labrador are in mourning.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Under Standing Order 46.(4), the member's allotted time has expired.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been requested.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

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

It has been an entertaining afternoon, I say to my colleagues. I will have the opportunity to speak to the Budget myself, when I take the opportunity to do so, but I do want to have one clarification for the member. She talked about the Minister of Transportation and Works having no clout. He has taken, last year, from $2.5 billion over six years. I say to the member, Mr. Speaker, it is not the minister who does not have any clout.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will put the adjournment motion. We will back here tomorrow.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that this House adjourn until tomorrow at 1:30 of the clock in the afternoon.

All those in favour, aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, nay'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion carried.

This House now stands adjourned.

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