May 17, 2006 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS Vol. XLV No. 22


The House met at 2:00 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 Falls-Buchans; the hon. the Member for the District of Conception Bay South; the hon. the Member for the District of Grand Bank; the hon. the Member for the District of Windsor-Springdale; the hon. the Member for the District of Bellevue; and, the hon. the Member for the District of Lake Melville.

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

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate the Advertiser, who recently won five awards at the Atlantic Community Newspaper Association Convention held May 4-6 in St. John, New Brunswick.

The Advertiser came back with five awards - first place going to the paper's advertising staff for Best Graphically Designed ad, "Celebrate 100 Years"; first for Best Special Section, one hundredth anniversary supplement; second place for editor Natasha Carberry for Best Local Editorial; third place for sales associate JoeAnn Sooley for Best Original Ad Design, and third for Best Community Service.

Mr. Speaker, judges commended Ms Carberry for her editorial on the cancer clinic in Grand Falls-Windsor, stating it was clear that it was a topic the writer was passionate about and those feelings were communicated effectively.

Mr. Speaker, editor Natasha Carberry said she is pleased with the newspaper's showing in the competition, adding the staff's success is well-earned recognition for their dedication to publishing a quality newspaper.

Transcontinental Media's Newfoundland papers took home thirty-six awards this year.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this hon. House to join with me in congratulating the Advertiser on receiving five awards from the Community Newspaper Association.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of attending the one hundred and thirty-fourth annual meeting and banquet of the Grand Orange Lodge of Newfoundland and Labrador. This event was hosted jointly by the Prince of Orange Lodge No. 23 of Kelligrews and the Hopewell Lodge of Upper Gullies. Mr. Speaker, I would like now to congratulate those two lodges on a remarkable job in bringing all these people together.

In attendance were several hundred guests from all over our Province, country, and indeed the world. The Loyal Orange Association has made a significant contribution to the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador through their commitment to educational scholarships and various fundraising initiatives, including those in aid of cancer, diabetes, and many, many more.

Also present was the Imperial Orange Council of the World President, Mr. Gerald Budden. Mr. Budden is a resident of Conception Bay South and is finishing out the last year of a three-year term as president.

I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating the Grand Orange Lodge of Newfoundland and Labrador on their one hundred and thirty-fourth anniversary, and recognize Mr. Gerald Budden for his contribution in leading the World Organization for the last three years.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Grand Bank.

MS FOOTE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to thank the staff of the Blue Crest Seniors Home in Grand Bank, and those individuals who comprise the Golden Journey Cyclist Team, for taking a leadership role and helping to raise the entire amount of money needed to purchase a new vehicle for the residents of the Blue Crest Seniors Home. The total cost of the bus was over $107,000.

When it became obvious that repairs were no longer an option for the bus in use, the Burin Peninsula Health Care Foundation assisted the Blue Crest Vehicle Committee with a project by securing grants from Ballard, VOCM and the Coke-A-Cola Foundation. A special fundraising sub-committee of the foundation was put in place with Don Hollett of Grand Bank serving as chairperson.

The foundation and sub-committee worked co-operatively with the staff of the Blue Crest and put in place a fundraising strategy that saw a series of fundraising campaigns launched to raise the necessary funding. Staff organized such events such as bake, ticket and book sales, barbeques and auctions. They also launched a pledge campaign which will become an annual event, known as the Planned Giving Program, for those wishing to assist with funding for projects to benefit the residents of the Blue Crest Seniors Home.

The hard work and dedication of all involved resulted in the completion of a project that will make a significant difference in the lives of the residents of the Blue Crest. It means the residents can, once again, experience the freedom that comes with being able to move outside the confines of the living quarters and enjoy attending social and recreational events on the Burin Peninsula, shopping and visiting with family members and friends. This project is yet another example of what determined, caring individuals working together can accomplish.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in thanking all involved in seeing this project to fruition.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House to congratulate a well-deserving constituent of my district, Mr. Juan Roberts.

Last month, Juan was selected as Aquaculturist of the Year by the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association. He was born and raised in Triton, and lives there today with his family. He has been an aquaculture farmer for eighteen years and has nurtured a small family company called Badger Bay Mussel Farms in Triton into a brand name co-operative with producers all over the Island. In 2004, Juan started Iceberg Select, a brand name connected to high quality of mussels only from the Province of Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, hon. colleagues, please join with me to congratulate Juan Roberts as Aquaculturist of the Year, as well as another success story in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Bellevue.

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to congratulate Brittany Warren of Chapel Arm, a Grade 7 student at Crescent Collegiate, who received one of the two awards in the prose junior division at the fifty-fourth Annual Provincial Arts and Letters Awards.

Since its inception in 1952, the awards program has received tens of thousands of submissions. The competition is open to amateur or professional artists who are residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. Applicants are required to submit creative pieces to either the Senior or Junior (E. J. Pratt) Divisions of the Awards.

The Junior (E. J. Pratt) Division is open to ages twelve to eighteen years and includes the areas of Literary Arts, which has two sections: poetry and prose; Musical Competition, and a Visual Arts Section. The prizes in the Junior Division are valued at $200 each.

Brittany, along with the other recipients, attended a celebration dinner for the fifty-fourth Annual Provincial Arts and Letters Awards at The Rooms on May 13.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all Members of the House of Assembly to join with me in congratulating Brittany Warren and wish her continued success in her writing adventures.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I rise in the House today to recognize the achievement of Judy Kippenhuck of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, who was recently presented with the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs "Entrepreneur of the Year Award" for the Labrador region.

Mr. Speaker, twenty-three years ago, Judy started Midway Garden Limited, Flightline Caf and Gifts Limited, both located in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Through hard work, determination, and sixteen-hour days, Judy - along with her husband Edgar and staff of thirty - have grown a first-class operation.

Part of Judy's philosophy of good business is to reward those who help along the way. She strongly believes in promoting a healthy and happy workplace through respect and dignity. She has earned a reputation as an employer who is willing to give everyone a second chance. On the twentieth anniversary of the business she even recognized the loyalty of one long-term staff member with a new car.

Judy's commitment to her employees, her business and her customers, has earned her the reputation of running a first-class business, and is just part of the reason she was selected as the recipient of the 2006 NLOWE Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Labrador region.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join with me in congratulating Judy on her great accomplishment as NLOWE's Entrepreneur of the Year for the Labrador region.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Before we proceed to Statements by Ministers, I would like to welcome in the public galleries some members of the Bonavista Town Council. I believe we have Councillor Barry Randell, and we have Deputy Mayor Hedley Butler.

Welcome to our House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to pay tribute to a gentleman who has served our Province for over thirty years and will be ending a distinguished career in the public service of Newfoundland and Labrador on August 31, 2006.

Mr. Speaker, John Noel, Q.C., was born in Twillingate, the son of William and Marion Noel. He was educated at Prince of Wales College and Memorial University in St. John's. He continued his studies at Carleton University where he completed a Master of Arts in International Affairs, and in 1973 he graduated from Dalhousie University with an L.L.B. The following year he was admitted to the Bar of Newfoundland.

John, you and I shared some classes, actually, at Dal, if I remember correctly. I was there in 1972.

Mr. Noel's career in the public service began, once he obtained his law degree, when he joined the provincial Department of Justice. He served in many capacities in that department including: Legislative Counsel; Law Clerk of the House of Assembly; and Assistant Deputy Minister. In 1991, he was appointed to his current position as Clerk of the House of Assembly.

John Noel has brought a degree of professionalism to the position of Clerk that is unparalleled. He performs his duties tirelessly and without consideration for politics or party stripe. All members of this hon. House are treated equally by Mr. Noel, and for this he has earned our mutual respect.

Recognition of this professionalism extends beyond the walls of our Chamber. Mr. Noel has served with distinction with the Society of Clerks-at-the-Table in the Commonwealth, as president of the Association of Clerks-at-the-Table in Canada and he is a member of the Association of Parliamentary Counsel in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I have always considered my time in the Legislature as an MHA to be an honour, and I am proud to say that I have served with someone who has the dedication, the intelligence and the integrity that Mr. John Noel has demonstrated throughout his tenure.

I ask all members of this House to join me in recognizing his contribution to the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador and thank him for his unwavering commitment and dedication. We wish him and his wife, Ruth, our very best as they embark upon a new chapter of their life.

Thank you, John.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise on behalf of my colleagues in the Official Opposition to echo the comments and the sentiments made by the Premier regarding Mr. Noel, an individual who spent thirty years in dedicated service to the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I have known John now for, I guess, close on sixteen years in one capacity or another and there was always something that I liked about him, but I could not put my finger on why it was until today. That is the fact that he was born in Twillingate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, on a more serious note: Mr. Noel has carried out his duties in this Legislature for quite some time in a very professional and dedicated manner. As a rookie politician, and I guess as a seasoned one as I am today, his advice and assistance has always been appreciated and always been given in a manner with the utmost respect.

John, I say that we are going to miss you in the House of Assembly.

We, on this side of the floor, would like to thank you for the service that you have provided, not only to us, but the people in this Province. I wish you and your wife all the best in future endeavours.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The fact that we could not wait to hear all of the speeches to break into spontaneous applause and acknowledgment of the Clerk is a measure of the esteem in which he is held by members of this House.

Mr. Speaker, the Office of the Clerk of the House of Assembly is a distinguished parliamentary office going back to the year 1363, I am told. In fact, the note of the high office held by the Clerk is the fact that the book that we use, the House of Commons Procedures and Practice, Marleau and Monpetit, is actually the work of a clerk and deputy clerk of the House of Commons of Canada. Indeed, in addition to their roles in the particular functions of the House, they are also the experts on parliamentary procedure, and advise you, Your Honour, and all members of the House, on what the proper parliamentary procedures are, what you can do and what you cannot do, or as some would say, what you can get away with and what you can't.

I have to say, in my years in this House, the Clerk, or the [KlY:rk] as one former Government House Leader used to refer to this office, the Clerk, John Noel, has been in this office since just shortly after I arrived here in 1990, so my experience in the House of Assembly has been with him as Clerk. I have to say, and echo the words of the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition, he has served this office of Clerk with great distinction, with incredible impartiality, and shall we say, with great discretion. One could approach the Clerk and ask his opinion on parliamentary procedure and, in fact, potentially reveal strategies or things that you thought you would want to do and might like to do, and he has been very wise in offering his advise and sometimes his counsel against something that was unwise. He has been very helpful to, I think, all members of the House, in advising us as to how we ought to conduct ourselves in this great tradition of Parliament.

I want to add my own personal appreciation for John and all his help and assistance over the years. I know he will be extremely difficult to replace as the principal Officer of this House next to you, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank him for his great dedication, commitment, knowledge and service to this Parliament and to the Parliamentary Association.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further Statements by Ministers.

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, with plants closed in Marystown, Fortune and Harbour Breton, plants closing in Port de Grave, St. Joseph's and Anchor Point, because of financial difficulties being experienced by one of our largest seafood processors, and other plants such as those in Little Bay Islands, Englee and New Ferolle not open this year, we are facing a crisis in our fishing industry. This, coupled with the hardship that our harvesters are experiencing as a result of reduced quotas and low prices for crab and shrimp, shows there is a crisis in the fishery the likes of which we have not seen in recent times.

Mr. Speaker, as a result of this, I ask the Premier: Will he forgo his government's private member's motion today to hold an emergency debate on the state of the Province's most important industry, the fishing industry?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. gentleman opposite, there is a very serious situation going on in the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we are doing everything we can to stay on top of it and to assess it.

Our caucus met this morning and had discussions on it, discussions with the provincial Minister of Fisheries this morning. I spoke directly with the federal Minister of Fisheries. We have a lot of actions moving on a lot of fronts.

As hon. members opposite are aware, we are looking at, now, with the Department of Justice, amendments to the FPI Act to deal with the evolving situation there, to try and have some say and some control on what is going on with the board of directors and the direction of that company.

I discussed, this morning, with the federal Minister of Fisheries, and suggested that we have a stakeholder summit at a high level immediately, within the next week, in the Province, whereby the federal government, the federal minister, provincial minister, deputy ministers and officials and myself would participate in an initial summit to assess the situation and get the best advice that we can get from people who are out there on the ground and have a direct involvement.

We are proceeding on the Cooke Aquaculture file, making favourable progress on that, to attempt to alleviate the situation in Fortune and to bolster up the aquaculture industry which we feel has a great future in the Province. I have spoken to a clerk today with regard to environmental issues in Harbour Breton, to move that along so that the community of Harbour Breton can move forward and hold FPI's feet to the fire on the issues with Harbour Breton.

With regard to the charges against FPI, it would be improper for me, as Premier, to interfere with those charges. My understanding is, from my minister, that is moving along, and that will be dealt with as expeditiously as possible. If charges are to be laid, they will be laid; if they are not, they will not, but that matter is proceeding.

We are staying on top of it, and the minister's department has been involved with the labour issues in Marystown, so we are doing a lot of things on a lot of fronts.

At this point, to have a debate, a political debate in the House of Assembly, will not add anything to that process until more evolves.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We have seen this crisis coming for quite some time and we have been accused of fearmongering. Well, I am glad to see that the Premier finally realizes that a crisis is upon us and that he is beginning to talk to people in the industry and to the federal government.

I ask the Premier: Why has it taken so long? Why did you have to assault us for asking questions about it for the past few months?

Mr. Speaker, last week in the House of Assembly, when I asked about an action plan to deal with the possibility of more plant closures in this Province, the Minister of Fisheries stated, and I quote: I can tell you that this government is very, very much aware and on top of what is happening in the fishing industry in all parts of Newfoundland and Labrador and in all sectors.

Mr. Speaker, in light of these statements, can the minister advise us when he first heard of the financial difficulties being experienced by the Daley group of companies, and what action plan he is going to be rolling out to deal with the crisis that company is now experiencing - and, more importantly, the people who work for that company in this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In response to the question by the Leader of the Opposition, officially, in terms of hearing from people involved in the company, it was yesterday. In terms of hearing from people who are creditors of the company, I believe it was the day before. Now, you know, there has been talk on the street, I suppose, but one has to weigh how much attention one pays to that.

In terms of where we go, now that a petition is made to have the Sea Treat and Daley Brothers move into bankruptcy, of course, we are assessing the situation in the three communities where they are operating: Port de Grave - they haven't operated in Anchor Point so far this year. They told us last week that they were getting ready to operate there, but they have not, and I do not think they have operated in St. Joseph's. La Scie and Little Bay Islands: La Scie is operating now under another company, and Little Bay Islands may operate further down the season, but we are certainly assessing the situation in the communities where they were operating in the past and even this year.

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister that the rumours have been around now for quite some time, and that is one of the reasons I asked you the questions about the potential plant closures last week.

Mr. Speaker, we understand that the plant in La Scie that was operated by the Daley group of companies is currently opened under the name of Cold North Seafoods.

I ask the minister: When did this new company receive a licence to operate, and what impact do you think the financial difficulties that Daley's are experiencing will have on the operation of that plant in La Scie?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, the hon. Leader of the Opposition, I think, would know that the policy framework within the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture is such that, if you are operating a fish company and you want to - there is no other material change in the company, other than the change of name. In other words, if you want to change it from Daley Brothers Limited to north, whatever it was, limited. There is no other material change. There is no material change in shareholders or anything of that nature then that is considered, under the policy framework, to be an administrative matter, does not have to go to the board and is signed off either by the deputy, maybe even the minister, I am not quite sure. That is my understanding of how that came about.

In terms of whether there is any difficulty in the long-term - or the short-term, I suppose, for that matter - in terms of the operation at La Scie, my understanding is that they are operating. They are operating today with as many employees as they were operating yesterday and last week. The same amount of activity is going through there.

This new company is financed through a different banking situation than the other two companies were and it is our understanding from the company that they have adequate credit lines and credit facilities in place such that this operation does not appear to be in any jeopardy.

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

According to the statement the minister made today, and the statement that the Minister of Human Resources and Employment made to me yesterday, is that Daley Brothers still own the plant in Little Bay Islands, even though Eveleigh's operated the plant there last year, the same company we were discussing yesterday that owed the government approximately $500,000 in Workers' Compensation fees.

Can the minister tell me how many employees were employed there last year and whether or not he anticipates that plant is going to operate this year, and if so, when?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, my understanding of the Little Bay Islands situation is that the plant is, in fact, owned by Daley Brothers, or some company controlled by Daley Brothers, and that a number of years ago - I do not know how long, I could find out - they entered into a lease operation with a company controlled by the Eveleigh's, or the Eveleigh's family. That company, in that situation, have operated for the last number of years on Little Bay Islands. They have not begun operating this year. Whether they will or not, I do not know. I understand that when Mr. Daley was in to visit with the department over the last several hours, that he is looking at a potential operation on Little Bay Islands, but what problems that might ensue and what difficulties might have to be overcome, I really do not know.

In terms of the employment level, we can find out, but I am not sure what it was. Little Bay Islands is not a large community. As a matter of fact, I believe last year they had to bring in employment from off the Island. Certainly, the employment level's there, if it were operating, would not be insignificant.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, shrimp fishermen last year did not harvest the entire quota of shrimp because they found difficulty in finding a processor that would buy it off them late in the season.

I ask the minister: What impact do you think the closure of the shrimp plants in St. Joseph's and Anchor Point will have on the ability of harvesters this year to find someone to buy their catch? Now that there is going to be more shrimp than processors to buy it, do you think that might negatively impact the price offered to shrimp fishermen this year?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, these are difficult questions to answer in any definitive way. I suppose all one can do is give a general answer.

The fact that St. Joseph's and Anchor Point is certainly not going to operate in the near term is obviously going to impact on harvesters who had traditionally landed and sold their fish and was processed in those facilities. On the other hand, those harvesters have arrangements with those very same companies who are operating and have arrangements with other operators in the Province. So whether it will be a real disaster from the harvester perspective, I guess remains to be seen.

In terms of price; price for shrimp is atrocious, worse this year than it was last year, and God knows it was bad enough last year. Has the market bottomed out, and whether there will be any improvement, is there going to be any progress made on the 20 per cent European tariff? All these are questions, Mr. Speaker, impossible to answer. So what affect, leaving fish in the water - I do not think it will have a positive affect, but how negative the effect will be of leaving fish uncaught certainly is speculative and something that I cannot give a definitive answer to.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We have heard a lot about Plan B's from the Premier with regard to Stephenville and Harbour Breton. Can the Premier rise today and tell us about what his Plan B is for Fortune, Marystown, St. Joseph's, Port de Grave, Anchor Point, Little Bay Islands, Englee and who knows what other community that will fall into this same position in the weeks to come?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I could repeat the answer that I gave in the beginning as to what we are doing. We are doing absolutely everything we can. We are extremely worried about it, as a government. We are dealing with FPI. We are dealing with Fortune. We are dealing with Harbour Breton. We are dealing with Marystown. We have made a commitment on early retirement. We basically said that we would put $30 million into early retirement. We are waiting from an answer from the federal government in that perspective. We are putting extra money into aquaculture. We put significant money into research in the department. We are exploring all opportunities.

I think this summit is an extremely important development next week, where we are engaging the federal government. This is a very serious situation, which is comparable to the farming situation in Western Canada. We need to have the federal minister involved. He is very co-operative. He wants to get involved. He is very knowledgeable on the fishery. He is going to bring his officials in here next week. I understand he is going to be in St. John's all next week. So we are hoping that some time during the week, next week, there will be a joint release from both departments and from my office, that the federal government will be engaged and we are going to be talking to people who are in the know, who are on the ground in the fishery. We certainly welcome the Leader of the Opposition to come and make a presentation, and the Leader of the New Democratic Party. We are open to all views. We want to find solutions for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are very concerned and we are going to come up with answers.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, we just heard the Premier say that he has been dealing with this and he has been dealing with that and he has been dealing with something else. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, the Premier and his government have been dealing with Harbour Breton for eighteen months. They have been dealing with the Town of Fortune for twelve months. They have been dealing with the Town of Marystown for six months. They have been dealing with the Town of Stephenville for fourteen months. But, what have we seen? What results have we seen? Absolutely none, Mr. Speaker! Absolutely none! Talk is cheap, we need to see action. That is what we need to see on behalf of the people who have been negatively impacted and driven from this Province.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in this House of Assembly I referenced the approximately $500,000 that Workers' Comp was owed by two companies, Ice Cap and North Atlantic Seafoods, companies owned by the same individuals and who are permitted to continue with processing fish even though they owed that large sum of money to government.

I ask the minister responsible for Workers' Comp, in which one of these plants operated: What did you do, or your government do, to try and collect that money?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, what we do not need here is cheap and dirty politics being played.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: What we need here is a joint call to action, whereby we all come together and we all try and act together.

Now, when we were on that side of the House we participated in an all-party committee; we co-operated with you; we went to Ottawa; we did absolutely everything we could. The line of questioning, the first five or six questions, very good. I even turned to my colleague here and said: You know, there is a different tone over there. At least he is asking good, solid questions - but then the nastiness and the dirtiness and the politics comes out. We are here for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and there was a line of questioning here yesterday on New Ferolle, implying that we were hiding information, that there was going to be no openness and accountability.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: There is a process in place, Mr. Speaker, whereby we followed the process. We followed the thirty day procedure, we went to the sixty day extension. A third party request came in saying they objected to releasing of the information on behalf of Mr. Doyle. We then went to an appeal process. That appeal process is taking place and that is the proper way to go. The same way with the Griffiths Guitar, openness and accountability. We followed the process. You know that we cannot release Cabinet information, Cabinet confidences, so you are playing small, petty politics to try and taint a very, very serious issue in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, anyone who watches this House of Assembly, you can always see it is just under the surface with the Premier. He has to contain himself on a daily basis from lashing out into personal attacks against those opposite when we ask questions.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, we have a Minister of Finance who is trying so hard to collect school tax, those who are in arrears in school tax, that he even sent threatening letters to dead people in the Province. Yet, it seems perfectly acceptable to allow a company to owe $500,000 and remain operating a fish plant in this Province.

I ask the minister responsible for workmen's compensation, or the Minister of Finance: Why are you breaking the rules for this company while no other individual in the Province is getting the same treatment with regard to school tax or student loans?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: The Leader of the Opposition, who sat in Cabinet, should know, and if he follows the Auditor General reports or if he follows any statement of government he should know, that workers' compensation, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission is not an entity of government for reporting purposes on the books. They are arm's-length, independent. They set their fees, they collect them - not interfering with the Province. We are not obligated to collect it.

According to the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, under generally accepted accounting principles, we are including every entity of government in our accounting procedure, something they hid for decades over there - they never did. We are truly accountable. We are not responsible for it. They set their own (inaudible).

For a Leader of the Opposition to say to government - to stand and pretend he knows it, and mix these together, it is misleading the people. It is misrepresenting that, nothing but a political motive. It is wrong, it is incorrect. It is factually incorrect, financially incorrect, and anybody in Canada who knows one thing about finances knows the difference - that they are trying to confuse them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I know now what drives them into personal attacks. When they do not have answers, they result to attacking the person asking the questions.

A simple question for the minister: Regardless of who is responsible for workmen's compensation, what efforts are being made to collect that $500,000?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

He will have to direct the question to an arm's-length agency that does not report to government, that does not file a report to me, that we are not responsible for. It is not under the financial statements. It is not reflected in our financial statements. Their liabilities or surplus are not reflected in our statements, and should not be; it is not done. The Auditor General agrees with that statement, and everybody else, and that person cannot even see the answer to that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It has already been noted here this afternoon, last evening the Province learned that another large fishing company in this Province was in financial trouble and that thousands of workers were to be left out of work. Approximately 350 of those workers, Mr. Speaker, work at the plant in Port de Grave.

I ask the Minister of Fisheries: What has he done to work with the company to possibly avoid the closure of this plant, or has he been in contact with other potential operators of the plant?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I want to correct some information in the preamble of the member's question, first of all.

If there is one person that is affected here it is one too many, but it is not thousands. There are about 300 employees in Port de Grave, 180 in Anchor Point when it was working, and 200 in St. Joseph's. They are all important. One is important, but it is not thousands.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, the other part of the hon. member's question was, what have I done to work with the company? There are two parts of an answer to that, Mr. Speaker.

We found out about this information yesterday and the company is, if the court agrees today, in bankruptcy. There is a receiver that comes in, and the receiver looks out to the interests of the creditor, in this case Scotiabank. When the receiver is appointed, Mr. Speaker, we have already indicated, I have already given instructions, that we want to sit down with the receiver and the bank to see what their plans are for those assets on a go-forward basis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There has been speculation in this Province for quite some time that this company was in financial trouble. In fact, last week in the House, the Leader of the Opposition asked questions pertaining to the closure of other plants.

I ask the minister: What will he do to protect the interests of the employees of this company, and is he prepared to intervene and see that none of the assets or equipment at the plants closed are removed and taken to other facilities operated by the owners of this particular business?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I think I said to the hon. gentleman in the previous answer that when the receiver is appointed then we intend to sit down with the receiver and the creditor to talk about -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. RIDEOUT: The receiver is not appointed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. JOYCE: (Inaudible) on the Fisheries Broadcast Friday.

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair had recognized the Member for Port de Grave to ask the question. The Chair gives the opportunity to the Minister of Fisheries to give his answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member for Bay of Islands said I was on the Fisheries Broadcast on Friday, yes, talking about difficulties facing this company. I meant, Mr. Speaker, the union negotiations they were having. I never said anything about financial difficulties, Mr. Speaker. We became officially aware of this yesterday.

Now, no theatrics or posturing or anything else by the hon. gentlemen and ladies opposite can make a silk purse into a sow's ear.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the people of the District of Port de Grave and the workers of that plant, I am not standing here today posturing, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the workers of these plants are obviously concerned about their future. Many of them find themselves in difficult circumstances, with their EI having run out and not having enough hours to qualify for EI this year. Many of them have no income and need assistance immediately.

I ask the minister: Will he offer some assurance to those workers that the government will act immediately to deal with the situation, and can he provide details on what emergency assistance will be made available to these workers?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, what I can assure the hon. gentleman and his constituents and the people in Newfoundland and Labrador in other communities that are effected by the announcement yesterday, is that the government is continually assessing the situation in communities around the Province where plants are either not operating or where they were operating and then either shut down or slowed down or whatever. Now, as a result of the news that came yesterday, I can assure the hon. gentleman and his constituents that Port de Grave is part of that process.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Grand Bank.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, the upheaval that has taken place in my district because of the closure of the fish plant in Fortune by FPI is taking its toll on the people affected. In the next three months, 196 more people will be without any income. The information requested by the government has been submitted but there has been no word as to when any support will be forthcoming.

I ask the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture: When can they expect to receive the support promised by the government?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that we have been working very diligently as a government with Cooke Aquaculture. We should be in a position to respond to that in a public way very, very soon. We have also engaged the Government of Canada into services that can be provided through Service Canada, and I understand they have been on the ground in Fortune talking to the people whose EI is going to run out in the short term.

As we speak, Mr. Speaker, this government is currently involved with assessing the role that we can play in providing further assistance, and when we are ready to do that, Mr. Speaker, we will certainly be making the communities and the people affected aware of it, Mr. Speaker, despite the objections of the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Grand Bank.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, time is not a luxury that these people have. It is about time, I guess, you recognize the seriousness of the situation and move to do something about it.

Is it true that the government is reviewing the guidelines for the Community Enhancement Program, otherwise known as Job Creation Program, and may not be advancing any money to anyone for another three months?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to any program that the government puts out there, we are always reviewing the programs themselves to see how they operated in previous years. To be quite up-front with you, yes, we are looking at the guidelines but there is no talk about delaying it for three months. It is the first I heard of that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Watching this government deal with the fisheries problems is like watching a train wreck, big, strong and powerful but heading for disaster.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier should know that dealing with Harbour Breton, Fortune, Marystown and now Daley Brothers as short-term emergencies - and even an emergency stakeholder meeting will not solve the problem. Will the Premier acknowledge that what is required here is a long-term vision and a long-term strategy to prevent the final death of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, neither of which is apparent to this government to date?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, as the current Minister of Fisheries knows and the previous Minister of Fisheries knows, we made every attempt last year to put in place one long-term strategy, which was the RMS strategy. That was rejected by the various stakeholders in the industry. This government is trying all the time. It is reviewing it. We have presentations going to Cabinet over the next couple of weeks with regard to a long-term strategy. I think the hon. member will agree, though, I mean, this is the tip of the iceberg. This is the evidence of what is actually going on here in this Province, the serious problems with the fishery. But there are a lot of things over which we have no control. We do not have any control over the dollar. We do not have any control over the Chinese labour market. We do not have any control over the dropping of the price of crab. We do not have any control over the shrimp tariff. We do not have any control over foreign over fishing but we are trying to do something about each and everyone of them when we are working with the federal government.

So, we are developing a long-term strategy to the best of our ability but the sands keep shifting here and, you know, what happened to Daley's is evidence of what is going on in this industry. I mean, just listen to the people of the Province. Listen to them on Open Line. They are aware of what is going on out there. They know there is a problem, and we are working with solutions. I can only acknowledge that we are very concerned and we are very worried about it, and we are going to work with the people of this Province to find the best solutions that we possibly can.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased with the response of the Premier in that he is regarding -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I am asking the co-operation of members on both sides. The Chair has recognized the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi. I ask members to permit him to put his question.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I say, I am pleased to hear the Premier respond in that manner and recognize that we have a major structural problem in our fishing industry.

Mr. Speaker, why then would the Premier want to just make some modest amendments to the FPI Act rather than recognize that in 1984 when we had a similar, major, structural crisis in the fishing industry, FPI was recognized as a vehicle for long-term solutions and could, still today, be a potential vehicle for a restructured Newfoundland and Labrador fishery and solve many of the problems that are coming on us? As we say, we may not have control over very many things but we do have, in this Legislature, control over FPI. Why doesn't he see that as a potential vehicle to solve some of our structural problems, some of our marketing problems, and some of the management problems in our fishery?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, we do acknowledge that is a vehicle. We are proposing amendments. The amendments have not yet been tabled and have not been proposed. So, I do not know how the hon. gentleman can say that they are modest amendments. They have not even been tabled yet. They are not even finalized. We are getting advice from the Department of Justice.

That is one vehicle, and if we present amendments to the House of Assembly, or when we present amendments to the House of Assembly on Tuesday, we will proceed with those amendments with the will of the House and the majority of the House. If there are subsequent amendments that have to be done, then we will proceed with that. We are prepared to call the Legislature back at a moment's notice to deal with emerging issues.

The stakeholder summit next week fully engages the federal government. They have to be part of the solution on this. They are a big, big part of the solution. I am willing to hear what you would have to say at a presentation there and would listen intently; would even listen to the Leader of the Opposition, as hard as that might be. We are prepared to do whatever we can. We are prepared (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the Member for Grand Bank for a very short question.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, in October of last year the union at Grand Bank Seafoods, which is owned by Clearwater, requested a meeting with the former Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to discuss Clearwater's decision to move one of their product lines to China. They did not get that meeting. In December, the union, and my office, made the same request of the present Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and to date, five months later, the minister has not agreed to meet with them.

I ask the minister: Given the bad news that we are hearing of yet more plant closings, will you agree to meet with the union sooner and hear their concerns about the future of the Clearwater plant in Grand Bank before it is too late?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, about four or five Friday's ago the Industrial/Retail Council of the FFAW had their council meeting in St. John's. I went over and sat down with every single local. That included Grand Bank, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Question Period has expired.

MS FOOTE: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: A point of order has been called by the Member for Grand Bank.

MS FOOTE: The minister knows that there was a particular request and what he has done is not answer the request. You have not met with them. We spoke with them this morning. You have not even acknowledged their request.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Members know that points of order -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Colleagues and parliamentarians, the Chair is reluctant to start naming people but I will if I have to.

The Chair and members know that you should not engage in points of order to continue debate or to continue Question Period. Therefore, there is no point of order.

Before we proceed to other routine proceedings, I have been advised that the Mayor of Bonavista, Ms Betty Fitzgerald, is also in the gallery today. We welcome Ms Fitzgerald to our House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Tabling of Documents

MR. SPEAKER: As Speaker of the House, I am pleased today to table the Report of the Commission of Internal Economy for the fiscal year April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2005.

Further tabling of documents?

Notices of Motions.

Notices of Motion

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

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Government House Leader.

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

Mr. Speaker, we had a great debate on Bill 6 the other night, the Tobacco Tax Act. I anticipate that we are going to have another one sometime tomorrow when we call it, but in the event that -

MR. REID: Do you have a spontaneous one planned?

MR. E. BYRNE: No. I say to the Leader of the Opposition, he just asked a question: Do you have a spontaneous debate planned? No. I say to the Leader of the Opposition though, given that it is a finance bill, and given the fact that you can have latitude in talking about any subject matter, we look forward to the same sort of latitude that you had the other night.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, it is important for government to gets its agenda through. In the event that the Opposition want to continue to filibuster, I have to provide some insurance for government's agenda, Mr. Speaker. So I do move that, pursuant to Standing Order 47, further consideration on the resolution in Bill 6, respecting a measure to impose taxes on tobacco, shall not be further adjourned and that further consideration of any resolution or resolutions, clause or clauses, section or sections, schedule or schedules, preamble or preambles, title or titles, or whatever else might be related to Bill 6, shall be the first business of Committee of the Whole on Ways and Means and shall not be further postponed.

Mr. Speaker, I only put that down, not that I wish to use it, probably I hope that I don't, but in the event I have to we certainly will.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Notices of Motion.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Petitions

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Grand Bank.

MS FOOTE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Grand Bank who is presenting a petition.

MS FOOTE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the people in the District of Grand Bank, but more importantly on behalf of all of the people who worked at the fish plant in Fortune and on behalf of all of the people who are affected by the callous and cruel actions by FPI to close down the plant in Fortune.

This petition, Mr. Speaker, is calling on the government to acknowledge that there is a serious issue here and to ensure that whatever happens, the quota that has been traditionally processed at the fish plant in Fortune will continue to be processed there.

The prayer of the petition is signed. It says here, "...to recognize and respect the importance of the fishing industry to the area, and to take whatever action necessary to ensure that the quotas traditionally processed by Fishery Products International (FPI) for this area remain within the region for the benefit of the people and their communities."

Mr. Speaker, this petition has been signed by people from Fortune and Grand Bank. It is in keeping with the petitions I have been presenting in this House for the past couple of weeks, signed by people from all of the communities impacted by the decision of FPI to close down the plant in Fortune.

Mr. Speaker, I hear daily from people who are having to leave and leave their families behind, many of whom will, when school closes, move their entire families with them. What we will see is what we have been seeing since FPI took these callous actions in other area of our Province, we will see out-migration like we have never seen before. Communities like Fortune, like Grand Bank, like Lamaline, like Point May, Point au Gaul, Grand Beach and Garnish, all of these communities, what we will see happening there is what we have seen happen in Harbour Breton on the Connaigre Peninsula. People will continue to leave and, unfortunately, we will not see them returning.

It is very costly for someone to uproot from their homes, uproot their families and move to another part of the country. Mr. Speaker, there is no support for them. They are having to do this, a lot of them, as I mentioned earlier, whose EI has run out or will run out by the end of August. We are talking about another 196 people who really do not know where to turn. They will not have income once their EI runs out.

It is so important for the government to do whatever it can, whatever it can, to ensure that the fish quota that has been traditionally processed in Fortune continue to be processed there, and they can do that under the present FPI Act. I am calling on the government again to do this so that people will not have to continue to leave, that they will be able to look ahead and say, well, something is going to happen here. If FPI does not want to be here then maybe someone else will be here, but they need that quota to attract another party. Even if it is Cooke Aquaculture, I know that Cooke Aquaculture is into aquaculture, but they have indicated that if they had a quota of groundfish then they could continue to do more than just aquaculture at that site. I understand, as well, they just do not want it for the interim until Cooke Aquaculture can get established, but they would like to have it for the long term.

So, I am hoping that the government -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has expired.

MS FOOTE: Time to clue up, Mr. Speaker?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Time has been granted to the hon. member.

MS FOOTE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am hoping that if the government would make that happen, ensure that quota remains in Fortune, that Cook Aquaculture, who I understand are looking at a number of sites in the Province, would, in fact, see that as an enticement and make a commitment to Fortune so that people can continue to work and live in those rural communities that are so important to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you.

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

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I guess we have witnessed today, in our House of Assembly, the entire Question Period was about rural Newfoundland and Labrador. It is frightening, what is happening around us; however, there is one bright spot in Central Newfoundland and it is connected to our natural resources. It is all about mining and also processing barite, a material that is used for our offshore oil industry.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being one of the Members in the House of Assembly listen to the Minister of Natural Resources talking about permits that were granted for prospecting in areas around Newfoundland and Labrador, and most of that activity is happening in Central Newfoundland. It is unfortunate that today I must stand on my feet and say to this House of Assembly that we do not have a good road to bring out that ore next fall. We do not have a good road to bring out the barite. We have three new drill rigs that are in there for Messina Minerals, and they are transporting all that equipment on flatbeds. There is logging going on there, there are paper trucks hauling logs over there, over the Buchans Highway, and the edges are broken off the pavement. There are ruts in the road.

These are the same industries that are providing millions of dollars to this Province so the government can, in turn, help areas like we heard about today, help areas like Harbour Breton, like Fortune, like Stephenville and the three areas that are going to be affected by the closure of the Daley plants.

We do not know what is coming down the tube when it comes to the fishing industry in our Province. There are some serious things happening, but when you look at the fact that in Central Newfoundland right now we have three industries that are contributing to the public Treasury, I want to ask the Minister of Transportation and Works to think hard about this. Think hard about this. We are not asking for something out of the ordinary. We are asking for a commitment to put a good road there.

I have not even mentioned the fact of public safety, which is uppermost on my mind as well as all the people who travel over 100 kilometres, where there is not even a service station in case they break down. There are no lines on the pavement, and there are lots of moose.

Apart from all of that, we have an area that is contributing to our provincial economy. I know that this government will need the revenue, the money that is going to come out of those industries in Central Newfoundland, to help the fishing communities around our Province, but I do not hear any of them say - even though I heard the Minister of Finance casually talk yesterday about $300,000 was a minuscule amount to give to Griffiths Guitar, how the Premier had overridden the recommendations of two Cabinet ministers. Yet, I do not see any money coming forward for a highway that leads to an industry-based economy that will help the Province in general.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to leave government with this thought: Are they making the right and responsible decision here? You decide.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: It being 3:00 o'clock, under our Standing Orders, the Chair is obliged to call the private member's resolution.

MR. E. BYRNE: (Inaudible). Go ahead, I don't mind.

MR. SPEAKER: I do believe there is agreement that we will have a further petition.

The Chair recognizes the Government House Leader.

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

If the Opposition have another petition that they feel obligated, or wish to get in today, I do not mind providing the opportunity to do so, or giving leave on this side of the House to do so, if that is what they desire.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Government House Leader for giving me leave to present the petition on behalf of residents of the Northern Peninsula who are experiencing a crisis in their fishing industry, as we all know, in communities like New Ferolle, Anchor Point, Englee and Black Duck Cove. I understand today that Black Duck Cove may be open, thanks to Pat Quinlan and his group of companies.

Mr. Speaker, the petition reads: The petition of the undersigned residents:

WHEREAS the Great Northern Peninsula has suffered extreme amounts of high unemployment over the last five years; and

WHEREAS the fish plant operations have been the primary employment generator along the Northern Peninsula; and

WHEREAS many fish plants have been closed as a direct result of government action, such as in New Ferolle, Englee, Black Duck Cove, Anchor Point, as well as others; and

WHEREAS this has put fish plant workers out of work; and

WHEREAS the current operating fish plants are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy - I might add, since this petition came in, Mr. Speaker, one of them has gone bankrupt - and this is attributable to government action or inaction;

WHEREUPON the undersigned petitioners humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to strike an All-Party Committee of the House of Assembly to come and meet with the Great Northern Peninsula Concerned Citizens Committee.

That is duly sworn and bound by the attached signatures, Mr. Speaker.

I am calling on the government today, on behalf of these residents - this is my second day in a row - to strike an All-Party Committee of the House of Assembly and do as the residents of the Northern Peninsula wish, and that is to go up there and meet with the Concerned Citizens groups on the Northern Peninsula to discuss the severe problems, economic problems that they are experiencing.

Mr. Speaker, I have been asked to present the petition, because obviously the two members who represent the Northern Peninsula - or three, I might say, because there is one who is in Humber Valley East, is it? who represents the Rocky Harbour area - there are three MHAs who represent the Northern Peninsula, and the residents up there -

MR. JOYCE: Humber Valley.

MR. REID: Humber Valley, I should say.

We have to wonder why they have not been presenting the petitions themselves. I have been told by residents of the Northern Peninsula that it is no good to ask them. They either will not do it or are afraid to present a petition on their behalf because they are afraid that which happened to Fabian Manning will also happen to their members if they question -

MR. JOYCE: What happened to Fabian Manning?

MR. REID: Fabian Manning got the flick simply because he asked the Premier if he would reconsider a raw material sharing system or at least have discussions with the FFAW. As a result of that, he received a silver bullet sent from Houston, Texas. He is no longer with us, but thankfully, I guess for Fabian Manning, he has gone on to greater and better things.

So I say to the members from the Northern Peninsula, maybe they should do the same thing because I can't image that they appreciate having to sit idly by while a member of the Opposition presents a petition on behalf of their constituents. The people in that area are finding it very, very difficult because they feel abandoned.

Right in the petition they say, because of actions -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has expired.

MR. REID: Leave to clue up?

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been requested.

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been denied.

Orders of the Day

Private Members' Day

MR. SPEAKER: It being Private Members' Day today, I do believe notice was given that the Member for the District of Gander will be presenting a petition. I call upon the hon. member now to begin his discussion.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: It gives me great pleasure to rise in this House today in regards to the private member's resolution I presented and tabled a couple of days ago.

Before I start, I just want to make a small correction in regards to the Orders of the Day. I will not read it completely, but in the third whereas there is just a small typo error. It says here, "... the maximum benefit of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is an initiative led by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Labrador Hydro." It should be: Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. So I just wanted to make that one correction in regards to the Orders of the Day.

Mr. Speaker, I was at that announcement on last Monday. I went over to the announcement, along with the Premier, and a couple of other members from here - the minister was in Labrador. I took great pride being a part of that and being there, a monumental day, as I would see it, in regards to the announcement for Newfoundland and Labrador to go forward in regards to developing their project of the Lower Churchill and it being a Newfoundland and Labrador led project in conjunction with Newfoundland Hydro. I thought it was a great day. It gave me great pride.

Also, I might point out, that the minister responsible was in Labrador at the time, along with the Member for Lake Melville, which I have been in consultation with and talking to because I have a great interest in this project, not only as an MHA, but as a Newfoundlander and Labradorian because I would like to understand the project. I am not an engineer. I am not an electrician, but I certainly would, very much, like to know lots about the project, being in consultation with the member.

I might also point out, Mr. Speaker, that we currently have Bill 1 in front of the House which really enables Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro to expand its mandate and to take advantage of the emerging energy opportunities, including the Lower Churchill Development, and the Lower Churchill will be one of its main priorities.

I must say, right up-front, that I certainly take great pride and support the direction that government is taking in developing this significant resource for the benefit of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is, and will be, a Newfoundland and Labrador led project. It ensures that we take control of that development and that resource and it will result in great benefits for the Province in the future. The decision pursued, a Newfoundland and Labrador led project, does not mean that a final decision has been made. That announcement was purely made to map out the path that the Province will be taking, along with Newfoundland Hydro, in developing that resource. It does not mean that the project will certainly go ahead but it means that we will take control of that project, as we should, and as a result, will take the benefits that should be ours in regards to that resource, it being a natural resource.

There is a significant amount of work that has to happen before a final decision is made and I think as we move along in regards to the developing of that project, that decision we expect to be made by 2009, with first power in 2015. So, it is a long process yet. I mean, it is only 2006 and we have three years to develop the project to the point of construction and then on to 2015 with the first power. We have to look at the feasibility of the development. We will continue to study it on various fronts, the financial, the technical, the environmental and also the configuration and various market options in regard to where the power will go.

There was a process that we followed in determining the final outcome and the path that we were going to take. We did that through the Expressions of Interest, and we short-listed that. We had those analyzed by the people over in Newfoundland Hydro and various people in the industry, and it became obvious that this will be a better project if we led the development of that project ourselves, and then we would maximize the benefits for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in regards to that resource. But that is not saying that we will not seek out partnerships in regards to developing that project. There will be partnership opportunities and various components of the project. They will probably be in financing, construction, market access and market options. One of those, Mr. Speaker, an example of that will be on the financial side. A financial institution may very well and the financier may very well offer preferred financing in regards to that project and take an equity share in it, in lieu of providing the financing at a lower cost than the traditional financing.

I also want to say at this point, that the total equity of the project will stay here. It will not go elsewhere. This will be a Newfoundland and Labrador owned and Newfoundland and Labrador controlled project. We certainly want to maximize the benefits of both the development and the operational phases of the project. We certainly want to make sure that the Province and Labrador has the access of the power to meet the provincial requirements in the future. As we go into and grow economically, we have to make sure that we have the power there that will meet the needs of the people and the manufacturers or whoever we might be servicing in regards to growing that economy.

The decision to have Hydro lead the potential development is a good one. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is the fourth largest utility in Canada, and which Churchill Falls operates the eighth largest generation station in the world. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is certainly led by a great team of executive and staff. They have the expertise. They have been in the business a long time. They certainly have the whereabouts and the knowhow and also the tools to develop this resource. So, it will be led by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, along with and in conjunction with the Newfoundland government, the Cabinet, the minister and the Premier.

I agree with the Premier, the minister and the Cabinet in regards to the path that we have taken. It is a path to be the masters of our own destiny in regards to that potential project. Hopefully, as we move it along, we will see - and it will develop. I think it will. I firmly believe that it will under the direction of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and the government. I see it as probably more beneficial to Newfoundland and Labrador than even the Atlantic Accord. I know that the oil and gas industry is very, very important to our economy but certainly, this one here is probably one of the biggest and probably one of the last of the biggest projects for North America in regards to hydro-electrical power.

So, at this point in time, I am not going to belabour the comments that I am going to make. I will have time to come back a little bit later and make further comments. I will sit at this particular time, Mr. Speaker. I am interested in hearing each and every one of the Members of the House of Assembly view. I would hope that they will support this resolution, because I think not only myself but most of Newfoundland and Labrador does. As I said before, I think this is something that we mapped out in our Blue Book. We are going to be masters of our own destiny. We are going to not be led; we are going to lead.

Mr. Speaker, I will leave it at that and I welcome any other speakers on the resolution.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further speakers to the motion?

The hon. the Member for Lake Melville.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this hon. House of Assembly today and speak on this private member's resolution. I want to say, I was pleased to sit with my colleague, the Member for Gander, as we looked at this resolution and moving it forward.

Mr. Speaker, in our election Blue Book, and since we have formed the government, we have been very clear and very consistent on our objective in developing our natural resources. The exploitation of our natural resources has to achieve maximum benefits for the people and the communities of our Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker.

It is a position that has the support of the people of our Province, which was very clear in the energy plan consultations held around the Province by the Minister of Natural Resources earlier this year and is ongoing and a work in progress, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier and the Minister of Natural Resources announced on May 8 that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will take the lead on the potential development of the Lower Churchill, with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro as the lead proponent, Mr. Speaker,

Mr. Speaker, the Premier said that day, and I agree with him wholeheartedly, that we have the experience, the knowledge and the capacity to take on a project of this magnitude. We are recognized as world leaders in hydroelectric operations and in hydroelectric development. Newfoundland and Labrador is the fourth largest utility in the country, Mr. Speaker, running the eighth largest generating station in the world. I can tell you that, having spent my time with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro for some-twenty-five years, that company has the expertise and the personnel, some 1,100 employees with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro that have the experience and the knowledge to move this project forward, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: Mr. Speaker, the Premier put the importance of the development into perspective just last week in this hon. House when he reminded people of the Province that the power from the existing Churchill Falls station is sold to Hydro-Quebec for a quarter of a cent per kilowatt hour. Residents of the Province are astonished when they hear that Hydro-Quebec then turns around and resells that power for some twelve point five cents. This means they are making fifty times the profit.

With the development of the Lower Churchill, Mr. Speaker, we want that profit to remain in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; a very, very important point, a very, very important lesson that we must learn from our history.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: Mr. Speaker, the Province embarked on a process a year ago to identify the best approach of developing the Lower Churchill Hydro resource that would ensure the maximum benefits and return to the people of the Province and indeed to the people of Labrador.

After a thorough assessment of the proposals that were presented through the Expression of Interest process, it became clear to the government that a Newfoundland and Labrador-led development is best suited to meet the provincial government's objective; that is to develop the Lower Churchill in a way that maximizes the benefits and the returns for our Province and indeed our people.

Mr. Speaker, I wholeheartedly support the decision that the potential development of the Lower Churchill be led by Hydro. Hydro is the best route to take in realizing real and tangible benefits. I believe this is a good public policy and a good business decision. It is important that the Province control and lead this development, and that is exactly what our government and our Premier will do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that government's decision to lead the Lower Churchill development does not mean that a final decision has been made to proceed with that development. A significant amount of work and assessment remains before any final decisions are made, but I am confident in the decision for the Province to lead this development and I am equally confident that any decisions will be made in the best interest of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and its people. There will be no more giveaways, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: Mr. Speaker, within the new broader mandate of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, the Lower Churchill project is one of the main priorities. I am very excited about the opportunities before us in the development of the Lower Churchill resource, and it must be developed, Mr. Speaker, on our terms.

I am particularly pleased, Mr. Speaker, with the ongoing discussions with the Innu Nation and President Ben Michel. I am particularly pleased to note that those discussions are ongoing, and they have certainly been a work in progress for the last number of months.

I am also pleased to add, Mr. Speaker, that as we consult with the people of Labrador we are not following the road of past governments and past leaders. The Premier has been in Labrador, the Minister of Natural Resources has been in Labrador, the energy plan consultations are ongoing, and we will continue to support the process of consulting with our stakeholders as we move forward with the plans of this project into the future.

Mr. Speaker, this is indeed a great project for our Province. It will again instill the pride that we have in the abilities of our citizens, of our employees with Newfoundland Hydro and that particular company, to move this project forward. I want to say, I am very pleased today, as the Member for Lake Melville and the only member on this side of the House from Labrador, to support this particular initiative, Mr. Speaker.

You know, when I look at the history, Mr. Speaker, of the hydro development in Labrador - and as I have said in this House a number of times, I was particularly blessed to have the opportunity to move to Labrador in 1962 when my dad moved his family there. My first job, as a teenager, was with Twin Falls Power, working in the summertime on the transmission lines between Twin Falls and Labrador West. I had the unique opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to also live up in that part of the big land called Labrador when the Churchill Falls development came on stream. I can tell you, I watched that particular project to its completion, and now I am very happy to be able to stand in my place today to represent the people of my district to say that indeed this is another great project.

The difference between this project and the Upper Churchill is, we plan on doing this ourselves, having control of this project ourselves for the benefit of our Province and for its people, Mr. Speaker. I think it shows great leadership on behalf of our Premier and great leadership and foresight on behalf our government, and I want to congratulate the Member for Gander for bringing this particular private member's statement and resolution forward.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to rise and have a few words on this motion. I am a little bit surprised that it is coming from the Member for Gander and not necessarily the Member for Lake Melville who, as we all know, is the only Labrador member on the government side of the House of Assembly. That was a little bit surprising to me, Mr. Speaker, but no doubt I have some comments that I would like to add to the motion, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, if the Government House Leader would like to get up, I can sit down and wait my turn; that is not a problem.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A point of order has been called by the Government House Leader.

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

I certainly made no attempt - I was not speaking to the member opposite. I was speaking to my colleague to the left of me, the Member for Lake Melville. If my discussion with him interrupted her, I certainly do apologize but there was no attempt to interrupt the hon. member.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do want to have a few words on this motion, because I think the motion is intended to fall in line with the announcement that the Premier made a few days ago or a week ago, I think it was on May 8, that basically government would take the lead in a potential development of energy resources on the Lower Churchill. I heard my hon. colleague just speaking and saying that we are doing this ourselves. It is do it ourselves. That is certainly not what the motion says. The motion says that the government would take the lead on this particular project, and one would hope that any developments in the Province, when it comes to natural resources of this calibre, that government is always the entity that takes the lead, Mr. Speaker. I do not think that comes as any surprise to any of us.

You know what comes as an absolute surprise to me though, Mr. Speaker, is that, I think it was on December 7, I debated a private member's motion in the House of Assembly that I brought forward myself with regard to the Lower Churchill. Basically, it talked about the fact that Labrador should be the primary beneficiaries of this resource, and that if the project was to go ahead that there were certain conditions that Labradorians themselves had laid upon the table, that they felt needed to be dealt with and needed to be met as part of any development initiative. None of the things in my resolution of December 7 came as any surprise to the government or the members opposite, because they had all been raised with each of the appropriate ministers, the Premier, and had been discussed and full commitment had been given. Yet, my motion was defeated by the government members.

Let me just read to you what the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture said at the time. He said: We are committed, Madam Speaker, to the principles that are in this resolution. We have put them in front of the people, we have heard them from the people, we have said that is exactly the approach we are going to take, and we are going to continue to develop them....

He went on the say that he supported the resolution. Yet, every government member voted against it. The reason they voted against it is, he said: We do not need any political camouflage in the form of a resolution to make us do the right thing for the people of Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the minister of the government of the Crown thought it was absolute foolishness - absolute foolishness - to be bringing in a resolution like that. Yet, today we have the members opposite in that very Cabinet minister's own government bringing forward the same type of a resolution that has already been committed to by the government, that has already been responded to. It is quite obvious that they have no problem doing it when it is appropriate for them.

Mr. Speaker, I heard the announcement made by the Premier the other day, but what I did not hear was a reiteration of the commitments that were made by the Conservative government back in the election of 1999, and in 2002 and 2003 leading into an election. I am going to tell you what these are, now, because one of the members opposite who just spoke talked about the Blue Book commitments. Well, let me tell you, in 1999 the Blue Book commitment on the Lower Churchill was quite specific, and that was that it said that there must be redress on the Upper Churchill before there is ever a deal on the Lower Churchill. That is what it said. It said the only meaningful way to amend for the wrongs was through compensation of that deal.

In 2002, the Premier, who is the Premier today, was the Leader of the Opposition, and this was his take on the Lower Churchill deal. He said there had to be redress. If a deal was to be negotiated with Quebec, it must address the inequities of the Upper Churchill that is believed to be the most lopsided agreement ever negotiated in the history of North America.

Mr. Speaker, on five different occasions he said the same thing. This is what he said: I say those who do not learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Nobody wants to see this Province walk away from the only lever we ever had to seek redress for the Upper Churchill, and I will accept no other position.

The Premier said this five times, five times, leading into an election in 2003, that, unless there was redress on the Upper Churchill, there would be no deal on the Lower Churchill. Have we heard anything about it since, Mr. Speaker? Not a word. Not a word. As the government goes along and talks about the Lower Churchill development project today, that we are going to take the lead - and, of course, you should take the lead; you are the government of the Province. Who else should take the lead but the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador? How silly that is. How silly that is.

Do we hear any talk today that there will not be a Lower Churchill deal if there is no redress on the Upper Churchill, like the Premier said five times in 2002 going into an election? Don't hear a word about it now, Mr. Speaker, not a word, so things have changed.

Let's talk about the loan guarantees that are going to come with this deal. In the House of Assembly last week, the Premier was asked about the loan guarantees from the federal government. This is what he said: This particular Prime Minister came back and said that he would seriously consider a guarantee. I am quite prepared to do that. Now, that is a definitive commitment and we will hold the government to that commitment.

That is what the Premier said in the House of Assembly last week. Do you want to hear what the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons? He did not even respond to it. When he was questioned by the Member of Parliament for Labrador, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons, did not even stand to respond but rather the Minister of Natural Resources stood and said: The government is committed to working with them - meaning the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador - on regulatory reform to ensure there is full co-operation.

Not one word about a loan guarantee or any financial guarantees whatsoever, although the Premier indicated to us in the House of Assembly that the commitment was there. So, I had a look at the letter from the Primer Minister to the Premier right before the federal election. Was there any commitment in that letter? Indeed not. In fact, this is what the Prime Minister said. He said: We support the proposal in principle - but we all know that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture supported my resolution on December 7, in principle, but voted against it.

The Prime Minister said: We support this proposal in principle and believe it is important to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to have greater control over its energy mix. He said a Conservative government will welcome discussions on this initiative and would hope that the potential exists for it to proceed in the spirit of past successes, such as the Hibernia project. Was there any commitment there, Mr. Speaker, for a loan guarantee or financial guarantees? Absolutely none! None!

Then, Mr. Speaker, on April 12, 2006, the Prime Minister was asked in a press conference in Newfoundland and Labrador: Are you prepared to give the Province a loan guarantee if they choose a development option that exports the power out of Canada and does not use it for domestic consumption? Do you know what the Prime Minister said? He said: I think that is a bit premature. That is what he said. Not one word about a loan guarantee or a commitment from the federal government to the Province when it comes to the Lower Churchill, but if you read the Hansard of what the Premier said in the House of Assembly you get an entirely different outcome. An entirely different perspective when he says that the Prime Minister came back and said that he would seriously consider it. When he was in St. John's at an interview at CBC - the same interview, I guess, that I just read to you - he said: I am quite prepared to do that now. Now that is a definitive commitment and we will hold the government to that commitment. Well, you know what I just read, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister said it was a bit premature. Absolutely no commitment!

We are here today with a motion, Mr. Speaker, that speaks the principle that says government should take the lead on the Lower Churchill. I do not know who else would take the lead if government did not take the lead and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. Mr. Speaker, we do not hear any talk anymore about the redress on the Upper Churchill as a condition of this deal like it was touted time and time again going into an election in 2003. We do not hear a lot being outlined in terms of what the benefits are going to be, or what the mandatory benefits are going to be. It is all right to go out and say that Newfoundland and Labrador is going to take the lead but in taking the lead, does that mean we end up with 5 per cent of the equity or 100 per cent of the equity of a project? Those are questions that we have no answers to, Mr. Speaker, none whatsoever.

Do we know who the partners are going to be? Do we know if there is going to be buy in into this agreement? Do we know any of the details? We know absolutely nothing at this point, Mr. Speaker. Maybe there is not even a negotiation that is going on. What we do know is that it is going to be registered for an environmental assessment. We do know that there are going to be ongoing talks with the Innu people of Labrador, fully excluding the Metis Nation, who have land claims in that area and have been fighting for rights, who are traditional users of the land in that region. So far they have been excluded from this process, and that is not acceptable. That is not acceptable because the commitment in the gymnasium at the college in Goose Bay was that there would be inclusion of all people in Labrador and that is not occurring. When you have one singular negotiation going on with one group of Aboriginal people and no negotiations with any other groups, that is not full inclusion, Mr. Speaker, and I indeed have a problem with that.

Mr. Speaker, I am more interested in knowing from Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro today, who is going to be taking the lead with the Province on this project, what their intentions are for the people of Labrador. We are a region of this Province that is running out of available energy. Not only in places are we running out of available energy, but you have districts like mine and my hon. colleague for Torngat Mountains, who have energy that is unaffordable to people at this particular time. And what do we have? Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro going out again looking for another rate increase on the backs of people who already pay the highest electrical prices of anywhere else in Atlantic Canada, that is what you have.

Even if you read Hydro's own glossy document that they just sent out with all the adjectives that describes how wonderful their new management team is, well their new management team may be just fine, but there was a management team in Hydro for many years that kept utilities going in this Province and kept the entire Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro corporation alive and surviving and thriving. So when I look at the new glossy document with all of the adjectives and the staged pictures of the board of directors, it does not give me any more confidence that the people in my district are going to enjoy cheaper electrical rates over the next little while. Certainly, from what I hear, a bill to the House of Assembly that gives them all a big wage boost over in Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro corporate offices, does not give me a whole lot of confidence either that the people in my district are going to have cheaper electrical rates out of all of this. The fact that the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is taking the lead, of which I would expect no one else to do on this particular development, does not mean that the people in my district are going to enjoy a transmission line that is going to give them cheap electrical power. It does not mean that they are going to have their issues around electricity dealt with in the next short term. These are the issues that I have, Mr. Speaker.

I would say to the members opposite, if you want to bring in - I say to the Member for Gander, if you want to bring in a resolution in the House of Assembly to debate on the Lower Churchill, let's bring it in and talk about where the real benefits of this project should be going, like to the people of Labrador who live adjacent to this particular resource, I say to the hon. member.

There is nothing wrong with the principle of the resolution, I say to him, nothing at all. It is pretty much motherhood. It is pretty acceptable. It is pretty well understood. No one in the Province expects anything less than what is in that motion. Not one person that I know of expects anything less, but you know what I expect, Mr. Speaker? I expect to have a real debate. Let's have a real debate around where the royalties should be going of excess power that is being sold on the Upper Churchill today, with $50 million a year going into the general revenues of the Province, Mr. Speaker, because the people in my district are not getting a break on electricity right now, not at all. In fact, we are going to be out there pretty soon fighting the Public Utilities Board and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro to try and keep the rates where they are instead of having them increase further.

Mr. Speaker, in Hydro's own document they say the availability and the reliability of power at a reasonable cost can attract businesses to the Province, impact how we earn our living, and ultimately how prosperous we can be as a society.

I agree wholeheartedly, Mr. Speaker, but when is the opportunity going to be allowed and afforded to other people in the Province who right now do not have that luxury? There are twenty-seven different utilities in this Province that are on an isolated system. Fifteen of them, Mr. Speaker, are in Labrador, adjacent to where this mega development initiative is being proposed to take place, being led by the government, Mr. Speaker. Fifteen of them are there.

The business that is attracted to that region, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has expired.

MS JONES: May I have a couple of minutes to clue up, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: By leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

MS JONES: As I was saying, Mr. Speaker - with the interruption, of course, I have lost my train of thought.

What I was saying is, with regard to the cost of electricity there, it is very hard to attract business, to attract business when you are paying almost twenty cents a kilowatt hour for power, which is three times greater than a business on the Island would have to pay. So, while I agree with the principles outlined by Hydro in their new glossy document, Mr. Speaker, it is really hard to fulfill when you have a region like I have.

Mr. Speaker, the only other thing I am going to say on this Lower Churchill piece is that I guess we are just going to have - to use a phrase from the Minister of Justice - we are just going to have to stay tuned. Because there are no details, there is nothing here that tells us, even though the Province may take the lead and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro may take the lead, there is nothing here that tells us who will have the equity shares in this new development. There is nothing to that. Nobody says that this is going to be owned 100 per cent by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Taking the lead on a development and owning it, Mr. Speaker, are two very different things. We do not know if there are any loan guarantees from the federal government. The Prime Minister certainly has not committed to any of them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of questions that still need to be addressed, a lot of answers that are not forthcoming, but I would have to say that this is a motherhood resolution. It really does not have a lot of teeth, Mr. Speaker. It is just speaking to the principle in terms of the government taking a lead, and there is very little there to debate in terms of the context of any agreement - if there ever is an agreement - and what percentage of it the government will own.

MR. SPEAKER: Further debate?

The hon. the Member for Trinity-Bay de Verde.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It certainly gives me pleasure to rise in the House of Assembly today to speak to this private member's resolution.

Just before I go into some of my comments, I want to say to the Member from Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, she said that she was quite surprised that it was not the Member for Lake Melville bringing this forward. I want to assure her that there is not a day goes by that the Member for Lake Melville doesn't bring up issues for Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: In fact, Mr. Speaker, I think it is quite admirable that the Member for Gander brought this forward, because it just goes to show that every single member on this side of the House realizes the benefits and the value of this to Labrador. It is certainly a team effort over here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, this government has been very clear from day one - since being elected, and even going back into the Blue Book - about our objective when it comes to the development of our natural resources. We want to achieve the maximum benefits for the people of this Province. Certainly, to use the words of the Premier: No more giveaways, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, it is very welcome news that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will take the lead on the potential development of the Lower Churchill Hydro resource, with Newfoundland and Labrador as the lead proponent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair would ask members for their co-operation.

I am having difficulty hearing the hon. Member for Trinity-Bay de Verde. I ask members for their co-operation.

The hon. the Member for Trinity-Bay de Verde.

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your protection.

Mr. Speaker, as the Premier and the Minister of Natural Resources indicated during the recent press conference on the potential development of the Lower Churchill, as part of its new mandate, Hydro is making the Lower Churchill one of its priorities. Certainly during the expression of interest process this government embarked upon a year ago to identify the possible options in the development of the Lower Churchill, it became very clear at that time that a Newfoundland and Labrador led development is the best option for the people of this Province and certainly the best option in achieving out objective of maximizing the benefits for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in the development of this resource.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to note that this is the very first time the Province has given this kind of consideration to leading the development of this resource, and I think that is very significant. The possibility of the Province leading this development is certainly an exciting time in our history, and really it is about taking control of our own future. Certainly as the Premier has said, it is about being masters of our own destiny.

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly clear, it is overwhelmingly clear, in fact, that the people of the Province also believe that this is the right approach in this Province for developing the Lower Churchill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, this is something that is important to each and every single Newfoundlander and Labradorian. Being at different functions in the district recently, since this announcement, it is quite clear that there is a renewed sense of pride and hope in this Province. This announcement certainly falls in line with our new attitude. In fact, the national media has also made reference to the new kind of attitude here in Newfoundland and Labrador. It also goes to show that we are continuing down the road of self reliance in this Province, Mr. Speaker, and, as I said, it is a very exciting time in our history here.

Mr. Speaker, we are definitely headed in the right direction with this public policy decision, and it is certainly a good business decision that we have made. No doubt, government and hydro will continue to assess and to scrutinize every single aspect of this project to ensure that the decisions that are made are informed decisions and they are responsible decisions on behalf of the people of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, Hydro, as you know, will complete due diligence on the feasibility of the project. Certainly, a timeline has been developed that will see a project start date of first power certainly by 2015. I know 2015 may seem like a long time in the future for some members to grasp, but really it is only nine years away.

I am very proud to be part of a government that is starting this process, and I look forward to the day when the first power comes, in 2015, and certainly look forward to being around when we reap the benefits of that power. That is, of course, if the people in my district see fit to keep me here.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, there is a timeline and there are some initial first steps that have to be done. This includes negotiations with the Innu Nation of Labrador on an Impact and Benefits Agreement there. Another thing that needs to be done is laying the groundwork and the framework for the environmental review process that is to take place for the environmental impact study that will be started by the fall of 2007.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, government is continuing to consult and work very closely with the Innu Nation in Labrador. This government recognizes the Innu Nation should most definitely benefit from the development of this resource.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to engaging and consulting the people of our Province and, particularly, Labradorians on this resource. Our commitment to the people of Labrador, that they should benefit from the development of the Lower Churchill remains, and this government believes the best way to achieve that objective is to pursue a Newfoundland and Labrador led development.

Mr. Speaker, it was mentioned earlier that Newfoundland and Labrador will have significant ownership in this project. However, we did say also that government and Hydro are open to partnerships, partnership opportunities for various components of the project. While having said that, that government is open to considering partnerships - whether it be in equity, financing or construction or what have you - it is very important to note that this will be a Newfoundland and Labrador owned and controlled project, and it is very important to note that total equity will not go anywhere else. It is Newfoundland owned. It is Newfoundland controlled and we are in the driver's seat on this one.

Mr. Speaker, the bottom line, if the Province moves forward with this development option, will be to maximize benefits during both the development and the operation phases of the project. The development of our resources must achieve maximum benefits. If that is not to happen, then there just will not be any development. I take comfort in the assurances of the Premier that government will not do a deal for the sake of doing a deal, and I think that is very important.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that this is the right approach. It is the responsible approach and this is the approach that, I believe, has full support of the people of this Province and that is why I am pleased to support this private member's resolution.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on this resolution before the House today. Madam Speaker, leaving out all the whereas', some of which are basically pumping up the government, we have in a statement: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Honourable House of Assembly support the Province's decision, as announced on May 8, 2006, that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will take the lead on the potential development of the energy resources of the Lower Churchill.

Obviously, Madam Speaker, there is support throughout the House for this resolution. But, that is not what I thought we were announcing on May 8. In fact, I got a call from the Premier on May 8 before he had his press conference. What he said to me was that we have made a decision that we are going to do it ourselves. We are going to go it alone. That is what I understood the Premier to say on May 8. I did not hear, take the lead.

Madam Speaker, if you look at our offshore oil and gas industry, we see the Terra Nova project out there. We see Petro-Canada taking the lead on the Terra Nova project. They are what is called in the oil and gas industry the operator. They do not own the whole project. They own a percentage of the project. I forget exactly what it is now. It may be 25 per cent, it may be 27 per cent. Other partners have a share. They have varying percentages. ExxonMobil has a significant share. Norsk Hydro, I believe, is in on that one. Various other partners have a share, all adding up to 100 per cent. Petro-Canada is known as the operator. They take the lead and the other partners take their share of the product. Petro-Canada is the lead or the operator on the FPSO for Terra Nova. ExxonMobil is the operator or the lead on Hibernia. Husky Oil is the operator or the lead on the White Rose Project. Each of them only have a share, and the other partners take their percentage share as a percentage of the oil that is produced. Well, I hope, Madam Speaker, that is not what the government means when they say take the lead.

I just listened carefully to the previous speaker and I heard her use what have become cliches of this government: maximum benefits, no more giveaways, take the lead, as if all of these three things guaranteed that Newfoundland and Labrador was going to have a positive experience in the Lower Churchill as opposed to the Upper Churchill. Making a decision to develop the Lower Churchill by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is a positive step, but when I hear the words "take the lead" it sounds like a code for something else. What is that something else? I do not know. It does not seem to me to be much of a vision to say that we are going to be the guys who let the contracts. It does not seem much to be a lead role if we say we are going to invite in partners to have an equity participation and we will be sharing the equity, the profits and the benefits, to a whole series of private partners.

That is not how Hydro-Quebec was built, Madam Speaker. When Hydro-Quebec formed a Quebec energy corporation, they took over a whole series of small power corporations in Quebec and created Hydro-Quebec. When we had a debate in this House ten years ago and a number of members opposite were prominent in that debate, including the current Minister of Mines and Energy - prominent in that debate - we, on this side of the House, and certainly I, articulated a vision of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro that was similar to the vision that Hydro-Quebec and the role that Hydro-Quebec has played in Quebec.

We, in the New Democratic Party, said that the opposite to the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro should be happening; we should, in fact, be nationalizing Newfoundland Power, creating a single energy corporation that could have control over distribution and generation of electricity so that we could have an engine of economic growth and development for our Province the way Hydro-Quebec has been for Quebec.

That was the vision that was enunciated then, that we were going to be, or we should be - have a body like Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro in the new form that would have expertise, would build expertise within this Province, as was done in Quebec, a group of engineers, a stable of engineers, planners, financial experts, and all of those people who had the ability to undertake and execute major projects.

The Lower Churchill is a very important next step in hydroelectric and energy development in Newfoundland and Labrador. The first step, the Upper Churchill, one of the first steps, the Newfoundland government took the lead in that. Unfortunately, they made a contract with BRINCO, and BRINCO had its own agenda. Its agenda was fairly simple: We want to build a project, and the financiers, Rothschilds, the banks, they wanted to get a return on their investment. As long as that was accomplished - I think it was fifty-year or sixty-five-year bonds, in some cases - as long as they were getting their return on their investment they were satisfied. The Newfoundland government, it could be said, was the lead operator in that. Premier Smallwood, of that day, persuaded BRINCO to be created. In fact, he assisted in the creation of BRINCO. The agreements were made. The Newfoundland Government was party to the agreements. Negotiations were done with Quebec by Premier Smallwood.

A lot of these things happened with the government of the day taking the lead, so I say, Madam Speaker, that taking the lead as a phrase does not mean that we are in control of the ship any more than Petro-Canada is in control of the FPSO. They may be doing the administration, they may be in charge of the day-to-day decision-making, but the power and the ownership is shared amongst the partners.

I am not sure, Madam Speaker, that we can accept that taking the lead means any more than saying we are going to do exactly what Joey Smallwood did, in a structural way. I would hope that they would be more careful; but, you know, back in 1967 and 1968 and 1969 when that Upper Churchill deal was signed and the contract was approved, it was a unanimous decision of the House of Assembly to approve that contract. The Conservatives of the day unanimously supported the bill and the decisions that were made in the House of Assembly to approve that deal. Nobody saw it coming, Madam Speaker. You cannot necessarily blame it on Joey Smallwood. Nobody saw that coming. In fact, it has been suggested that Hydro-Quebec was worried about the price that they were paying at the time for energy in that kind of a world. A world that changed very quickly, Madam Speaker, in four or five years when we had a world oil crisis and the price of energy went up.

So, it is important that we know what we are saying. Yes, of course, the Newfoundland Government should take the lead, but I would be more concerned, Mr. Speaker, that not only do we take the lead but we, in fact, do the development, like we did the Bay d'Espoir development, like the other developments that have been done by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro since then. It is obviously a bigger project.

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that the support of the Government of Canada doesn't come with conditions that require us to share the project with others if we don't want to. There is an awful lot of work to be done, both in preparation and execution of this particular great project. It is a big project, an expensive project. A lot of engineering has to be done, a lot of work has to be done, to make sure this project works. There are dangers, there is no question about that. There can be cost overruns. I think everybody is aware that in the building of Churchill Falls one of the remarkable things about that project - it was the biggest, largest underground power station every built at that time - it was a project that came in on time, on budget, a very successful project. We certainly hope to emulate the Upper Churchill in that regard, Madam Speaker, that we are going to have a project that is able to be managed and controlled in such a way that there aren't cost overruns. There are dangers and we must face them.

As far as redressing the Upper Churchill goes, Madam Speaker, I don't have the same difficulty. I know it has been a political statement by the Premier, that the Lower Churchill deal would require a redress of the Upper Churchill deal, and I don't frankly see that in the cards. Doing a deal with Hydro Quebec or the Province of Quebec that actually, literally redresses the Upper Churchill it not likely in the cards. When you go back to the time of Rne Lvesque as Premier of Ontario - Rne Lvesque was a Social Democrat, a believer.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Ontario.

MR. HARRIS: The Premier of Quebec. My colleague tells me I said Ontario. As Premier of Quebec, Rne Lvesque was a man of principle. What did he say about the Upper Churchill? He said it in French, but I am sure he said it in English too: A contract is a contract. If you are going to renegotiate that contract, what are you going to give up to do it? I will guarantee you, you are going to have to give up something to do it. You might save face by making it look good. The Government of Quebec might save face by giving up and making it look like they are getting something, but they will get something back in the other hand. I don't really think you can renegotiate the Upper Churchill without giving up something of equal value to the Upper Churchill. We have to find other solutions for that problem, and I think they are there. I won't get into that now.

I don't think, Madam Speaker, that these two need to be tied together, and if the Premier tied them together in the past so be it. This is a go-it-alone project, as far as I am concerned, and it should stand or fall on its own merits, and we have to recognize that. But, and there is a big but here, the stars are lined up in our favour and this is a very opportune time for the Province of Newfoundland to be able to achieve this type of project on its own.

The stars, as follows - I see I only have a couple of minutes, Madam Speaker, but I will just outlined some of the stars that I think are lined up: The great need for power in Canada and the political will, I believe, in a number of provinces in the Government of Canada to have a national power grid - our party, the NDP, nationally, is very much in favour of that, and on record as supporting a national power grid; the issue of wielding rights which our neighbours to the south in the United States have solved for us, the problem that existed in 1969 of getting through Quebec because the Province of Quebec, Hydro Quebec, will not be allowed to sell any power into the United States grid unless they abide by the rules which allow anyone else to sell power through them, and that is a rigid rule not affected by Canadian politics; three, the world oil prices situation which is going to stay, by anybody who analyzes these things, and, I guess, you do not need to look much further than a guy like Wynn Dyer who will tell you that the world oil price is going to stay up in the range of $70-plus for a fairly long time to come, and it may go even higher, that is in our favour; and, of course, the whole issue of climate change, something to which many people have not yet woken up. It is real, it is upon us, it is a big train, like a freight train, moving slowly but very determined. It is going and it is going and it is going and we are seeing the effects now.

Some people have their heads in the sand like the President of the United States. Others have their heads in the sand and are pretending that it does not exist. Even Mr. Harper in Ottawa has just cancelled $1 billion worth of programs that have been designed to assist people respond to climate change. That is very real. Fortunately, outside of certain governments, there are very many people in civil society, a lot of municipal leaders, a lot of political leaders, a lot of business leaders believe it or not, who are way ahead of certain political leaders on the issue of climate change. It is real and it is a star that is lined up in our favour.

The other star is the ability of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and their government, and there is some mention of confidence there -

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: If I may have one minute, please?

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: May I have leave for a minute to just clue up?

AN HON. MEMBER: Leave.

MADAM SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you.

The last star - I do not know how many I had here now, but the last star that is lined up is the ability of Newfoundland and Labrador buoyed up by world oil prices and by the changes in the Atlantic Accord to have the confidence, as a people and as a government, to be able to undertake such a project. That is an extremely important part of this deal, a very important part of the stars being lined up to favour Newfoundland and Labrador going in alone.

Every time I hear, take the lead, from now on I will wonder what is behind that. If I hear, go it alone, I will understand that, but if I hear, take the lead, I will have to ask the kinds of questions that I am asking here today. What does that really mean? Does it mean we are not going to be going it alone, and what kind of a deal are we talking about? If we are going it alone, I am all for it. I am not going to vote against the motion because it is a positive motion, but I hope that we will have more than rhetoric, I say to the Minister of Finance, before very long.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words on this private member's motion that has been put forward by the Member for Gander today. It is certainly a very current topic in our Province, given the Premier's announcement of May 8 about the Lower Churchill and where we would like to take ourselves as a Province.

I would like to preface my remarks again, because I am always saying that my friends Joe and Martha, who watch this on tv, often wonder what we are debating about again. This is a private member's motion that the Member for Gander put forward. It is very clear wording. We are going to vote on something at the end of the day. It says: "...BE IT RESOLVED that the Honourable House of Assembly support the Province's decision, as announced on May 8, 2006, that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will take the lead on the potential development of the energy resources of the Lower Churchill."

Now, at the end of the day, on these Wednesday private members' days, you often see people call for division. What that means, when people call for division, is you have to stand up and be actually counted so that you are recorded as to whether you supported or did not support a proposal here.

I just want to make it clear that, division or no division I am going to vote for this particular resolution. Whether there is a division or not, it does not bother me one bit. That is not to say don't take somebody's support for something because that is what often happens. I am very pleased to know that Hansard is recorded here, because forever and a day one can go back now to Hansard - and we even record it on tv - and show the members opposite that there are some qualifications or some questions that one can ask. Don't take everything to be black or white, there are some grey areas.

I think that is where the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, the Leader of the NDP, is coming from. It is a positive motion, a very nationalistic type of motion. You would not be a good Newfoundlander and Labradorian if you did not vote for such a positive motion, but there are questions that need to be asked. That is what this member has done in several question periods in this House in the last two or three weeks. I pose some of these questions again, because it is one thing to question just for the sake of asking a question or to be critical, but it is something else to ask a question if you genuinely are looking for an answer. Sometimes, when you pose a question to someone they themselves realize that they do not have the answer. That may be helpful, because if they realized, my God, I never thought of that, maybe there is something we are missing here, maybe there is something we overlooked, that might spark the person - in this case the government - to go say, my God, we never thought of that. We will go and check that out further. That is a little detail we never thought about.

That is the reason for my asking questions. I have no difficulty with the positive nature of the motion. Anything this Province is going to do to maximize the benefit of resources, fine and dandy. I am also concerned, like the Leader of the NDP when he says, we have taken a little step off from where we were on May 8, because on May 8 it was go it alone, very nationalistic, very we are in it by ourselves, we do not need anyone else and we are going to do this. That is great stuff but that is not what this motion says. This motion talks about taking the lead. It is still positive, we still should take the lead, but it is not what the Premier announced on May 8. A different tact, a totally different tact. I do believe that we have to be careful there. I hope we have not moved off the position to go it alone.

That leads to some of the questions of the grey area that I am talking about. I do believe that we are going to need some decision on some of these - we might not have the answers now, maybe the Premier does not have the answers right now, because it is an unfolding process. We are talking about first power if this thing happens and all things go the right way, or all the stars do lineup. We are talking about a decade out before we get any power out of this source. No doubt, there are a lot of complex issues that have to be resolved between now and then.

There is a little bit of confusion too, I think, between the Newfoundland and Labrador Government and Hydro. We had a report of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, put out here, tabled in this House yesterday. In this report, which came after May 8, at least it was entered here yesterday, I do believe, which was May 16, they are still back at that time talking about having their bids now down to three people. The Premier is saying, on May 8 we are going it alone. The Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro are saying in their annual report that we are still evaluating proposals. So somewhere there is a time lag here, I guess, between what the report is saying -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: I realize, I say to the Minister of Finance, that it was a December report. It is just that we did not get it until now. All I am saying is that there has obviously been a change from the time the report was done, to the time that it got tabled, to the Premier did what he did on May 8. So, it is a moving target, is what I am saying, and because it is a moving target that is why we do need some of these answers to the questions.

Now, I am sure some people in the Province have probably read the article of this Konrad Yakabuski in the Globe and Mail some time ago - May 10 actually. This was two days after the Premier made his announcement about the Lower Churchill. It is called the Quebec view. We have a Newfoundland and Labrador view and that is called the Quebec view. So, no doubt, he lives in Quebec. He writes for the Globe and Mail but he gets his - his articles are pretty well lined up for what is good for Quebec, I would think. In fact, I find some of his comments rather patronizing, I say right up top. I have no problem in saying that. He talks about Newfoundland, for example, and he talks about the Upper Churchill that we did in 1971, as if to say that we should accept that as a good deal. He says: At least they're not losing money on it. Their government, unlike that of Quebeckers, assumed none of the risk involved in building it. Well, that might be his opinion but, again, I think that is rather patronizing. We here happen to believe that the Upper Churchill was not a good deal and there should be redress for the inequities that exist in that deal.

Some of the questions that he has raised in his article bear consideration and thought. That is where - in fact, I had asked several questions in this House of Assembly about, for example, the transmission piece. The Premier says that if we were going to transmit the power - if the Lower Churchill's development through Quebec. We have made application. There are FERC rules, which is the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission, which says that if there is extra capacity in Quebec on their lines they have to let us ship our Lower Churchill power across those lines in return for a fee.

So, I asked a pretty simple question, because no doubt in anybody's mind that Quebec also about three weeks ago, four weeks ago, launched a $25 billion energy renewal program. My question was: Well, what if Quebec gets ahead of us with their $25 billion project? Does that mean they have used the capacity that might exist on their existing lines? If that happens, what is the purpose of FERC anymore? We cannot use the FERC because the FERC ruling about allowing us to use the capacity for a fee would not apply if Quebec themselves have already used up that capacity. So, that was an issue I asked and I think it bears an answer. There should be some thought put into it.

My question to the Premier was: If that happened and you had to go out and build extra lines in Quebec because they had already used this capacity, have we factored into our $69 billion price tag for the Lower Churchill what it would cost to build the extra capacity? That is a pretty straightforward question, because we are not using the existing Quebec lines anymore. We are saying we have to build new lines. Where does that leave us? I think it is a fairly sensible question that my friends, Joe and Martha, would like to know. That does not take away from our support for the overall positive nature of the project, but it is a legitimate question to ask. So, that is one question that was posed.

Environmental impact studies; my understanding, again, is that if we get this project financed, there is what you call a capital cost construction. That is when you actually start to build a project on the Lower Churchill, but before we ever get there we are going to do a series of environmental studies. In fact, we are not expecting to be in a position to give a green light on this project until 2009, I do believe. So, we are looking at 2006, 2007, 2008 with environmental studies being done. Now, according to this gentleman again - and I am just assuming that his figures are correct in that case, and I am sure it is different from province to province, depending on project to project. But, in his case in Quebec, he is saying that the Quebec Government is going to be on hook for, like, $700 million in environmental study costs. I am just wondering again, my question was: Well, what are we looking at in terms of environmental study costs? I asked the question, no answer. Is that included in the $69 billion price tag that we put on this thing? A pretty simple question. Obviously, if we run into those kinds of figures for the Lower Churchill that is $600 million or $700 million, that keeps tacking on to your price tag before we ever get to the capital cost stage. So, it is nice to know whether we are on hook for $9 billion or we are going to be on the hook for $10 billion? That is a fairly reasonable question to ask, no answer.

I asked a question about the guarantee. Now, words are very important and we found that out and the Premier found that out when it came to the Atlantic Accord. I mean, you had to hold the feet to fire, yank down flags, make all kinds of statements and whatever, to get the person who gave the commitment, to ultimately deliver on a commitment. Here we are now, we are almost in the same situation except there is a PC minority federal government now rather than a Liberal minority government. We are hearing some wishy-washy stuff. I would be very concerned.

For example, the Premier says that the Prime Minister has agreed to the guarantee. If we get the guarantee, by the way, that is great, because if the capital costs are determined to be, ultimately, $8 billion and the federal government says not to worry as a Province, we are going to sign on and give you a guarantee for your capital cost construction. That is great stuff, but I just hope Prime Minister Harper does not think he has any wiggle room. I just hope he does not think he has some wiggle room. I get leery when people try to wiggle out.

I read the response that he wrote, in fact, to the Premier when the Premier asked him in his letter before the election: Were you going to support the guarantee? I mean, it was pretty wishy-washy. I would like to look at it; like to think about it. He came here after the election actually, when he was Prime Minister, attended a function here. He was asked the same question by the media: Is the guarantee intact? Well, we would like to do whatever we can to advance the interest of the Province. We are open to discussions and further detailed considerations of the Province's position. A simple question: Are you going to give us a guarantee or aren't you? That is all we need to know, Prime Minister Harper. Yes, or no?

Mr. Russell, who is the MP for Labrador, gets up last Thursday in the House of Commons and says - the Prime Minister was sitting in the House of Commons, our federal member was sitting in the House of Commons, Mr. Hearn. He says: Prime Minister, are you going to give the guarantee that Premier Williams says you are going to give for the Lower Churchill? Prime Minister Harper did not get to his feet. He did not get to his feet. Our regional minister did not get to his feet. Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn got up and said: We are going to do all within our power to ensure that the regulatory changes that are necessary to do the Lower Churchill will indeed be done. Now, I never heard the word guarantee in that.

In fact, the MP for Labrador gets up - not to be perturbed, of course, and not to be put off - and says: That's not what I asked you. A pretty simple question. We want to do this down in Newfoundland, and the Premier of Newfoundland is saying he wants to go it alone. It is going to cost us somewhere between $6 billion and $9 billion. Are you or are you not going to give us the guarantee? That is a pretty straightforward question, and appreciated, actually. If you were the Prime Minister you could get up and answer it for yourself, don't leave it to the Natural Resources Minister. No sir, he never rose to his feet again, nor did our regional minister. He got up again and gave a wishy-washy answer.

I say here on this guarantee issue, we have to be very careful. Maybe we have to get to taking the flags down again. Maybe it comes to the flags again, I do not know. I think it is a very important question that we need answered. God forbid, that politics would have anything to do with this. I remember when I was part of a government, and the current government were in Opposition, and everyday you would hear: How come you aren't keeping your federal cousins' feet to the fire on different issues? Of course, once they became the government, it was good and easy to keep the feet of Prime Minister Martin to the fire. They weren't their cousins politically. Now, of course, we have the cousin effect. We have the Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative Party, which forms the government, and we have the Conservative Party of Canada which forms the Government of Canada. I am anxious to see now just how close to the fire the feet get put.

MR. HICKEY: Stay tuned.

MR. PARSONS: I say to the Member for Lake Melville, I am staying tuned, because I am telling you right now I think we are going to get to the flags again. I think we are definitely getting to the flags.

The other issue is the negotiations; very complicated. I have been there, actually, involved in some of these types of negotiations with Aboriginal groups. The Premier has acknowledged, in the course of this announcement about the Lower Churchill, that there will be, and it no doubt necessitates, negotiations with the Innu. We have another group called the Mtis who have made their piece known, want to be included, want a piece of this action, and: You ain't going anywhere without us. Now, the Premier was asked at that May 8th conference, and we asked him here: What are your plans for the Mtis? We never heard any response to that. I think that is a legitimate question to ask. Because you ask it doesn't mean you are opposed to it. It is a legitimate question. Are you or are you not going to include the Mtis in the puzzle here? I think that is a legitimate question.

The financing piece: We had the Member for Gander today - and this is where again I get into partnerships. I guess you can have partners at different stages of a project for different things, but first we have this go-it-alone piece, which I take to be, we are going to be looking at the financing, we are 100 per cent owners of it, we might even use Hydro with its new expanded mandate to do the engineering piece -

MR. SPEAKER (Hodder): Order, please!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

If I might have thirty seconds to clue up?

MR. SPEAKER: By leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just to clue up: In summary, I think the resolution we are dealing with today is positive in nature. For that reason, I will be voting in favour of it, but I am glad I am being recorded here in Hansard so that forever and a day there is prove, that albeit it I voted for the motion my concerns about the unanswered questions over the Lower Churchill were made known. Don't take a yes vote to be an unequivocal, no questions, dyed-in-the-wool support for this project without any concerns.

I think there are a lot of people in this Province who have the same tenor, very supportive of the positive nature of wanting to go with this project, but concerns, and legitimate concerns, being asked about some of these details. We do not want a repeat, and I am sure the government does not want a repeat, of what happened in the Upper Churchill. Maybe this time around, if everybody is at least given an opportunity to voice their concerns and to ask the questions, we will know if we have the right answers or not. That is the whole purpose of my asking the questions, not to be opposed to the project but that hopefully we make sure that all the I's are dotted this time and the T's are crossed, so that what ultimately results out of this will indeed be a maximization of a piece of our resources for our Province and not for the benefits of someone else.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I appreciate the support, albeit qualified support, of the motion put forward today.

It is important, and I respect the position by the Official Opposition in terms of questions that are unanswered, and having to ask questions on behalf of the people of the Province. It is a role that must be played out in this Province for the sake of a healthy operating democracy in dealing with issues of importance, and obviously the development of the Lower Churchill is significant and important, I would think, to the people of the Province. We certainly believe it is.

I want to respond to a few issues, first of all, with respect to the federal government and the guarantee, and the notion that is put out, would we hold the federal government's feet to the fire now that it is a federal Conservative Party and our cousins, so to speak, and to leave an impression that we would somehow deal with - if a commitment which has been made, if that commitment is not lived up to, the premise and the assumption put forward by the Opposition House Leader, it would be interesting to see how we respond to "our political cousins".

I want to be unequivocal, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the government. Certainly, I can speak with absolute knowledge on where the Premier's view of this is. Relationships aside, our only objective, whether that be an NDP minority Prime Minister, a Liberal minority Prime Minister, or a Conservative minority Prime Minister - irrelevant, from our perspective. What is relevant and what is important is that the Prime Minister of the country, during an election, not only did he write the Premier and talk about support, but what he said on a CBC Here and Now interview on December 6, and I can almost quote it verbatim, is that we owe it to Newfoundland and Labrador. We owe it to assist with Newfoundland and Labrador and, with respect to a guarantee, that is something we are prepared to do.

Now, that is the commitment, irrespective of what side of the House or what party the Prime Minister represents. Our only interest is to ensure for the people of the Province that a commitment made by the federal government to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will be a commitment kept to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, what is significant with respect to this development, there have been lots of questions with respect to the development since we made our announcement and there will be many questions yet to come. Some of the questions that are being asked we are in a position to answer, and I want to explain why.

Every past approach, if you look back, historically, to the Upper Churchill contract, in the early 1970s there was a federal-provincial corporation formed called the Lower Churchill Development Corporation, LCDC, federally owned and provincially owned. That corporation was set up for one specific purpose, and history is important on this particular development, or the lack of this development. That was set up specifically by the federal and provincial governments of the day in recognition of the lopsided contract that existed on the Upper Churchill with a legitimate and bona fide attempt, historically at that time, to set up a corporation that enshrined federal involvement - and Stephen Harper talked about it himself, in is interviews - set up to develop the Lower Churchill for the benefit of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now, from that perspective we catapult, the development did not occur. The next attempt, I guess, to get some form of redress, was initiated by the Peckford Administration in what was an historic sort of moment, watershed moment, in the Province's historical development - not necessarily the Lower Churchill but some form of redress with respect to the Upper - what was known as the Water Rights Reversion Case, or the legislation that was brought into the Legislature, subsequently challenged both in the judiciary provincially, the Court of Appeal, and subsequently to the Supreme Court of Canada, found to be unconstitutional.

The next attempt that occurred was by Premier Wells. Now, here was his attempt - and the Member for Grand Bank at the time was the senior communications director for government. On a public-wide address over the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, Premier Wells put forward a notion that he felt that a privatized entity could accomplish redress on the Upper Churchill where a publicly owned entity could not. That was another blotched attempt, because the people of the Province did not, do not, and I believe will not, see any attempt by any government to privatize Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. Another failed attempt with respect to redress on the Upper.

Along comes - I once coined him as Hollywood Brian. He did not like that at the time, with respect to Brian Tobin. There was a $1.5 million press conference that was held in Labrador. I was asked about it. I remember getting a call. It was the same weekend that I became leader of the party at our party's convention. On Sunday he phoned me and said: Would you like to come up to the Upper Churchill announcement? I would like to see you there. He could not provide me any information on what it was about. He would not give me any details. He wanted me there, I guess, in some sort of cheerleader role for a potential project. I said: No, I cannot go there in my capacity as Leader of the Opposition. But, the announcement that followed I saw some potential in it. I remember, as Leader of the Opposition, standing in this House, and I said to him: As the Official Opposition and Leader of the Official Opposition, what you yesterday was essentially a framework agreement. I was not prepared to either endorse that concept or to tear it apart because there was a lot more work that had to be done.

The premise on which that agreement was based was that there was a 60-40 per cent ownership; 60 per cent Newfoundland and Labrador, 40 per cent Hydro-Quebec. The Government of Quebec had agreed, for the first time in their history, on that framework agreement to look at the diversion of the Saint-Jean and Romaine Rivers into the Smallwood Reservoir by thus increasing the capacity for generation of electricity in the Smallwood Reservoir that would logically, in terms of run of the river, run to the Lower Churchill, which would increase the capacity from megawatts output. That unto itself was a fairly significant development, but that did not occur. Again, it was a concept where it was Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec only.

Along came the deal with respect to the Grimes administration where another arrangement was reached. It was 100 per cent owned, but exclusive power sold directly at the border to Quebec. In terms of the financing of the project, Hydro-Quebec were going to finance it. The laws of the Province of Quebec, with respect to the financing, would take precedence over the laws of the Province. There were conditions in that. I do not want to get into those details, but I certainly can if pressed. There were conditions in that by where Hydro-Quebec had to agree to the contractor. If work was not done on time and on budget that would give them the option to get shares in a 100 per cent owned Newfoundland and Labrador project, so to speak. Once again, a failed attempt at marketing, yet again, a failed and botched attempt.

What is different about right here - and it goes back to the premise that I talked about first in terms of, yes, there are many questions that will follow and we invite them, we encourage them - is we have not, under the leadership of Premier Williams, shied away from those questions. I recall when the Premier made a decision when we went up to Labrador for the initial consultation in Goose Bay and the government flew the leadership of Labrador, municipalities, every region, into the gymnasium in the College of the North Atlantic in Goose Bay. I was there as his minister. Minister Rideout, responsible for Aboriginal Affairs was there as his minister. The Minister of Education and the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women was there, Minister Shelley, the Minister Responsible for Labrador Affairs, the President of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and the Vice-President responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro project. We walked in -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, obviously. The member is always there. The member was there with us.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is a given.

MR. E. BYRNE: That is a given. I mean, that is an assumption that everyone makes, I think one I certainly make.

The fact of the matter is this, we walked into the gymnasium that night and the leadership in Labrador felt that Premier Williams and his crew who were with him, were coming there to make an announcement that we had signed a deal on the Lower Churchill, because that is what they had been used to. That is what the people had been used to. When the Premier spoke, he said: I want to make it abundantly clear, that we have no deal signed. We are far away from it. This is the beginning of a process. We are here to tell you that this is the start of a process and this is a consultation, and we are here to listen to what you have to say in terms of what you aspire to and what you would like to see out of this development. The people were shocked, I say to my colleagues. People were: Is that right? Is that right? The Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair was somewhat shocked, too, no question about it. That night, presentation after presentation was made.

We committed to a process is my point, Mr. Speaker, and as part and parcel of that process, of the energy consultations that occurred in the Province, where were we first? In Lab City. Where were we second? In Goose Bay. We got snowed out from going to Cartwright and on the North Coast but we are going back there when the House closes. Our commitment was to begin a process of consultation on that issue. Behind us, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro have gone in. We are going back again as to the process of development. What is important is that for the first time in our Province's history, in the development of this resource, people have been included up-front.

What we announced on May 8, and what the Premier on behalf of the people of the Province and the government announced on May 8, was a significant policy shift than has ever occurred before. Backroom discussions, backrooms deals, when they were done come out and tell people how good they are, put a marketing strategy together to shove it down people's throats: not this time. We announced that after a significant process identified and put together under the leadership of Premier Williams with respect to the expression of interest, we made a decision on two grounds, what was in the public interest and best business case. Through that entire assessment in trying to answer those two questions all roads led back to us. All roads led back to a project developed by Newfoundland and Labrador for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Mr. Speaker. That is the decision that we took with confidence in our ability and with confidence in the future.

The Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi talked about all the stars lining up. We appreciate the comments that he has made. We are more than aware of the market conditions that exist. We are more than aware of the challenges that are in front of us. The Premier, on May 8 in his release, talked about a Newfoundland and Labrador led option, an option owned by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We have not closed the door to the arrangements and how that will be made. All options are open. Market access, whether it be with Quebec, whether it be some with Quebec or in Ontario, whether it be in the Northeastern United States, we know there is an insatiable demand. We also are aware, Mr. Speaker, that for the future this demand will only increase and we have a project that could play a role, not only in the development of the sale of power but also a project that fundamentally could change the economy and social structures upon which we depend by reserving power for ourselves for industrial development. Mr. Speaker, that is the process.

We appreciate members asking questions and we encourage that. At each stage in the process the commitment has been made to update people when we make fundamental shifts. The Premier has acknowledged as well, on behalf of the government, supported by his Cabinet colleagues in caucus and recognizing that with respect to the Innu Nation, that unless there is an agreement with the Innu Nation, a recognized group, Aboriginal group, from a land claim purpose, there will be on project. We understand that, we have acknowledged that upfront. We are involved in those discussions right now.

Mr. Speaker, I think that is the difference in this process, and that is the difference in this development. There is a little higher risk involved, no question. I can say to you absolutely, honestly, that the level of risk and how we feel we can mitigate those risks, we have confidence in our ability to do exactly that. With the level of that risk, and mitigated, we believe the reward and the potential benefits will be much, much higher.

I know that my time is getting short, Mr. Speaker, but I just want to say this: This was a significant development for Newfoundland and Labrador with respect to the history of the development to the Lower Churchill. There are people in this Province and people in Labrador who do not support the development of this river system at all. The Premier has met with those individuals, I have met with them, and, as a sign, I guess, as an example of the commitment to encouraging discussion, we have said to the Friends of the Grand River, for example - Premier, if you recall - that we will ensure that an appropriate level of funding is in place so that, once we go through the environmental assessment process, that they have the wherewithal to present their point of view. That has never, ever, ever been committed to anyone before.

We encourage the questions. Where we can answer them, we will. We will entertain any and all questions, but the process that we have committed to, we believe, will ultimately stand people generally in the Province in good stead and lead to a development that could have a significant influence on the economy and the social structures in Labrador and also for the Province generally.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: By leave, just to clue up?

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been requested.

The hon. member's time has expired.

MR. E. BYRNE: By leave, just to clue up?

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been requested.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

MR. E. BYRNE: I appreciate the qualified support of the Opposition House Leader, and I appreciate the qualified support of the Leader of the New Democratic Party, but let me say this, Mr. Speaker: It is an absolute pleasure to sit around a Cabinet table and a caucus table where people have confidence in our own ability, where we recognize the opportunities in front of us where, through the leadership of the Premier of the Province, we have put people like Ed Martin as President and CEO of Hydro, a Newfoundlander and Labradorian -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: - who has managed large projects like the Hibernia project, who has an understanding of what it takes to get from where it is to where it should be, people within the public service who understand intimately what it will take to get from where we are to where we want to be.

Mr. Speaker, this is about more than the development of the Lower Churchill. This is about the ability of ourselves doing this project for ourselves. This is about pride in a people and pride in ourselves, and ultimately it is about, at least on this development, to take a different course of action that will lead ultimately to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador having exclusive benefit over where their futures will lie.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I realize the time is running out, but I would like to be on the record as saying a few words, and I definitely will be supporting the motion that is before the House today.

Mr. Speaker, I support it because principally I believe that government should play a major role in what I consider to be the three key areas that people depend upon to live a life that can be led to the best degree without causing a majority of interruptions to it.

The three key areas that I believe government needs to play a role in are: communications, transportation, and, of course, energy, because these are the three fundamental things that people depend upon to live any type of a life, and three things that are critical to being able to live your life with any type of structure to it whatsoever.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say, first of all, that the development of the Lower Churchill is one that people in Labrador are looking forward to happening, but I want to say also that people in Labrador want it to happen right this time. They want it to happen in the way that they can benefit most from this project going ahead.

I think one thing that was clear to the Premier, to the ministers who visited Labrador, is that the people in Labrador, for the most part, are fully on board of this development taking place, but they fully expect that they will reap the benefits from that development, and those benefits come in various ways. They come in terms of employment for people in Labrador. They come in anticipated training opportunities so that they will be ready and qualified to assume the positions that will be created with a development of this magnitude. They also expect the more availability of electricity in their areas for industrial development, commercial use, and for private use in their homes.

We do not expect to be surrounded by megaprojects in hydroelectricity and be paying rates that go through the roof. These are the things, basically, that the people of Labrador expect from the development of the Lower Churchill.

Mr. Speaker, the water that is flowing over the Lower Churchill today has been flowing since time began, and it will continue to do so. It is an environmentally friendly project and one that, unlike the offshore, does not have a finite life. It can go on forever. I also want to talk about - and we are talking energy here today.

I know the resolution or the motion is specific to the Lower Churchill, but I also want to spend a couple of minutes and say to people of the Province and people of the House about the offshore oil, and the Province's position of maintaining an equity position in the development of that.

I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, that I do not know how many people - I know a lot of people in the Province, the vast majority, do not get this paper, the Current. It is available here in St. John's. I want to use a couple of quotes in this, Mr. Speaker, to justify why I support that position of maintaining an equity position.

If we look at what happened in Norway, and the success that Norway has had in the oil industry, it is all to do with an equity position in the development and the harvesting of their offshore oil. Venezuela, we talked about, and I know the Premier was compared by the Globe and Mail, I think, to the leader of Venezuela. Let me just read for people who may not have heard of this.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. R. COLLINS: Exactly.

The question to the Ambassador from Venezuela to Canada was: Is there any oil development in Venezuela today where the government does not have any equity position? The answer is: No, in all oil developments in Venezuela there is a majority stake held by the country.

Another question that was asked, Mr. Speaker - and we are talking bout Hebron-Ben Nevis here, and we are talking about ExxonMobil. The question that was asked, Mr. Speaker, was: Is it correct that ExxonMobil sold its interests in one of the thirty-two fields they had rather than agree to being part of a mixed company? The answer from the Ambassador was: Yes, ExxonMobil sold their interests to another company rather than be part of that.

The companies that invest, Mr. Speaker, in the oil industry, like ExxonMobil, get healthy returns. It is all energy, Mr. Speaker, and it is all related, because it goes straight to the heart of why we should have a controlling interest in any of the major developments in energy that take place in this Province.

If there is money to be made by large multinationals and large corporations, then there is money to be made by the government of any province in this country as well. It is important, Mr. Speaker, that money that can be made by the Province be structured in such a way that enables them to funnel that money back into things like health care, back into things like education, back into things like the other social programs that we have all come to depend on in our society today.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Under Standing Order 63. (6), it indicates, "The Member introducing a Private Member's motion has the right to close the debate and if at 4:45 o'clock on the day of debate on the motion the debate has not been concluded, the Speaker shall recognize that Member who shall then close the debate."

MR. R. COLLINS: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: The member is asking for leave.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

MR. R. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the members.

Mr. Speaker, I will keep it short and let the Member for Gander clue up on his motion before the House today, but I think it is important that we all support initiatives that are taken in our Province that stand to give significant benefits in the long term to the provincial coffers, because eventually that is what we all need.

We have all heard about the need for more roadwork. We have all heard about the need for improved medical facilities. We talk about the high cost of education. Well, the only way that these things can be lowered is if there are revenues coming into the Province that will enable the Province, regardless of which political party may be in power, they need the revenues generated in order to provide these services. That is why I support initiatives of our public being in control, by way of their elected government, of natural resources in this Province such as our hydro, such as our offshore oil, because that will give us the ability to provide for the citizens of the Province the things that we need to have a better society in which to live.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I just want to reiterate again that we fully support the motion today, but I want to also say that, as we go down the road and as we get further along in the different stages that this development will require, the people of Labrador will be looking very carefully and they will be scrutinizing each and every step of the way to make sure that the benefits that flow from this huge development will, first and foremost, benefit the people who live adjacent to the project being constructed.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

With the, I guess, acknowledgment of my colleague and the leave of my colleague before he gets up to close debate, I did want to, according to Standing Orders, give notice of Standing Order 11, that the House not close at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow and give further notice that the House not close at 10:00 o'clock tomorrow.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I sat this afternoon and I listened intently to all members on both sides of the House. At one point in time, I think, somebody said to me, you take your job a little bit too seriously, but I always took my job very, very seriously, regardless of what capacity I was in in my life so far.

I listened intently to the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair talk about the benefits in regards to Labradorians. I have never seen a government - I have been around for a long time. I would not want to tell you my age but, anyways, I am getting close to that age that I am becoming mellow. In the meantime, I have been around. Considering - well, maybe not. Anyway, I have been around for about thirty-odd years following politics and I have never seen a government that gave its attention to Labrador as much as this government here today. Everything from health care, transportation, agriculture, natural resources, mining, and certainly we have.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: I know in this project that the Labradorians will be front and centre in regards to this project and the benefits there in regards to the development and the operational side. That is there and it is on the record, and we will be very, very cognizant of that.

This is all about being masters of our own destiny. This is all about taking control of our future. I am glad to be here and I am glad to be a part of it. I think and I hope and pray, that in 2015 I am still here to witness that project coming on and coming on stream.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank all members in the House for their comments.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The motion is: "THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Honourable House of Assembly support the Province's decision, as announced on May 8, 2006, that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will take the lead on the potential development of the energy resources of the Lower Churchill."

All those in favour of the resolution, aye?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

The motion is carried and I read it as carried unanimously.

On motion, resolution carried.

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

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

I am glad you noted that the motion was carried unanimously. I was going to ask you to do exactly that.

MR. SPEAKER: This being Wednesday, under our Standing Orders the Speaker adjourns the House at the conclusion of the vote taken. Therefore, this House is adjourned until tomorrow, Thursday, May 18, at 1:30 of the clock in the afternoon.