April 10, 2008              HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS               Vol. XLVI   No. 9


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

Today, we welcome statements by the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's North; the hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave; the hon. the Member for the District of Bay of Islands; the hon. Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, and the hon. the Member for the District of Topsail.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to extend congratulations to Lisa Davis from Point Amour, Labrador. She was recently awarded the MADD Canada's National Award for Volunteer of the Year and Atlantic Canada's Regional Award for Volunteer of the Year. Mr. Speaker, Ms Davis received this award at MADD Canada's conference in Toronto, Ontario and was among some high profile nominees put forward for this recognition from all across the country.

Ms Davis is a community leader with MADD Canada and strongly supports their mission to stop impaired driving and to support victims of violent crimes. Mr. Speaker, every day, on average, four people are killed and approximately 190 people are injured as a result of alcohol and drug related crashes. MADD Canada depends greatly on volunteers like Ms Davis.

Ms Davis, Mr. Speaker, is also the program coordinator with the Southern Labrador/Strait of Belle Isle Community Youth Network, and because of her commitment to youth, she sought out funding and secured $30,000 from the International Grenfell Association for her project entitled "Help Save Lives by Reaching to Today's Youth." This was the project that got her the national award.

This project, Mr. Speaker, was designed to bring MADD Canada's Multi Media Show to every school in Labrador from Forteau to Nain, and also in communities on the Northern Peninsula. Ms Davis is a believer that the motivational message from MADD Canada is one that every child in this country needs to hear, and she has certainly done her part to ensure that young children in Labrador and on the Northern Peninsula had the opportunity to hear this message as well.

Mr. Speaker, I ask members of this House to join with me in commending Lisa Davis for her dedication to the youth of Labrador and the Northern Peninsula, and to congratulate her on MADD Canada's Volunteer of the Year Award.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of St. John's North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDGLEY: Mr. Speaker, this past February saw the 56th Kiwanis Music Festival in St. John's. The first festival, a two-day event which was held in 1952, featured just 193 entries; by comparison, this year's event consisted of a full twelve-day schedule with well over 6,000 participants. In fact, this is the largest festival in Eastern Canada.

The festival provides a great opportunity for performers of all ages to show off their talents and to learn from their fellow participants as well as from the adjudicators.

Obviously, an event of this magnitude, costing approximately $120,000, could not be done without financial and volunteer support from the community and we therefore commend the advertisers and sponsors, along with some 150 volunteers and, of course, the four St. John's Kiwanis clubs who contributed to this year's festival.

Congratulations to the Rose Bowl winners: Anna Sharpe, Coco Leung; the Group Rose Bowl winners: St. Bon's College and the Holy Heart Chamber Choir.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members to congratulate the Kiwanis Music Festival of St. John's.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge and thank Mr. Clarence Mercer of Bay Roberts, and his Pigeon Inlet Steering Committee, on bringing to life the "Tales From Pigeon Inlet".

The project is based on the late Edward (Ted) Russell's Chronicles of Uncle Mose. The family of Mr. Russell, a native of Coley's Point, have given their blessing to this tremendous project.

Mr. Speaker, the official launch will take place on Friday, June 27, 2008, with additional summer productions being held at the SUF Hall in Bay Roberts.

The committee, Mr. Speaker, has even greater visions for this project. Plans are progressing to construct a complete Pigeon Inlet Village depicting the 1940s and 1950s.

I ask all members to join me in congratulating Mr. Mercer and the committee on this wonderful project.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LODER: Mr. Speaker, I rise here today to recognize the volunteer fire departments in the beautiful District of the Bay of Islands.

I have attended several fire department annual balls during these past months and cannot express how impressed I am over the commitments by the fire chiefs and firefighters. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity today to recognize the fire chiefs.

On the South Shore of the district I would like to recognize: Mount Moriah Fire Chief, Paul Butt; Humber Arm South Fire Chief, Brad Gallant; York Harbour-Lark Harbour Fire Chief, Brian Cooke.

On the North Shore of the Bay of Islands I would like to recognize: HIS Fire Chief, Mark Hann; Meadows Fire Chief, Colin Tucker; Gilliams Fire Chief, Jimmy Park; McIver's Fire Chief, David George; and Cox's Cove Fire Chief, Wayne Payne.

To all the departments, keep up the good work!

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today it gives me great pleasure to stand in the House and recognize one of the many wonderful writers in Newfoundland and Labrador - poet and novelist - Michael Crummey.

Just last week he won the annual Writers' Trust of Canada Timothy Findley Award for a male writer in mid-career. This award is worth $15,000.

I cannot say it better than this description: "Michael Crummey possesses the magical storytelling gene that drives the work of so many writers from Newfoundland and Labrador." And that is evident in his novels River Thieves and The Wreckage.

Michael is currently Writer in Residence at Memorial University and is helping to inspire students to cultivate their writing talents.

I ask the House to congratulate Michael Crummey today on winning this very prestigious award and wish him luck in the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I stand in this House today to congratulate a resident of Conception Bay South who has been recognized as one of the most outstanding Rotarians in the world.

Mr. Speaker, on February 13 of this year, Ms Kathryn Atkin was awarded the highest honour to be bestowed on an individual Rotarian, the "Service Above Self" award. This award recognizes Rotarians who truly embody Rotary's principal motto "Service Above Self" and who have made service to others a way of life.

Mr. Speaker, there are 1.2 million Rotarians worldwide. Only three other people from Atlantic Canada have received this award, and Kathryn is the first person in Newfoundland and Labrador to receive it.

Mr. Speaker, Kathryn has provided service and help to others all her life. She has worked on many issues including the Conception Bay South Community Policing Committee, the Rotary, Paradise Youth and Community Centre, the DARE Program, the Avalon Chapter of United Way, as well as many others too numerous to mention. Kathryn has also served on a number of positions within Rotary, including Rotary Club President, Assistant Governor, and District Secretary.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all Members of the House of Assembly to join me in congratulating Kathryn Atkin on receiving the "Service Above Self" Award, making her "one in a million" to receive this award.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS POTTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to congratulate the Federation of Newfoundland Indians on the ratification of their agreement in principle with the federal government on March 29, 2008 an historic day for thousands of Mi'Kmaq who are members of the federation and for all of Newfoundland and Labrador.

This ratification came after a lengthy negotiation, and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has been a proud supporter and advocate of this process. Some 90 per cent of the participants voted to support the agreement.

Mr. Speaker, the Aboriginal peoples of our Province have a great reason to celebrate with the ratification of this agreement by the members of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians. The challenges faced by the Aboriginal peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador have been of the highest priority for this government. The vote by the members of the FNI to ratify the agreement is another positive step for Aboriginal peoples in our Province.

Under the agreement, it is anticipated that members of the FNI, for the first time ever, will be able to take advantage of funding that will improve their quality of life. They will be able to access federal Aboriginal programs, including non-insured health care benefits and post-secondary education.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is committed to improving the way of life for all people in our Province. As part of that effort, we will continue to advocate for Aboriginal groups to access federal Aboriginal programs and services, while working with them to improve their economic and social circumstances.

Mr. Speaker, I invite hon. members to join me in congratulating the Federation of Newfoundland Indians on this truly historic occasion.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement today.

Mr. Speaker, we are pleased to join with the government in congratulating the Federation of Indians and the Mi'Kmaq people on achieving an historic land claim for their representatives.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that any time Aboriginal groups in our Province are able to settle claims with the federal government it gives them an opportunity to access more benefits and more programs for their people that are sometimes often challenged in very difficult situations, especially those relative to social and education challenges.

Mr. Speaker, it is for those reasons that I do not understand why the minister and the government opposite have not been supporting the Labrador Metis Nation, and giving the Metis Nation a hands-up instead of an escort to the lock-up, I say to the minister, as your government gets ready to prosecute dozens of Metis hunters in Labrador for exercising their right to hunt in their own lands, and to do so on their good solid conservation practices that have been developed by their organizations. In fact, your government supported that for a period of time and then, all of a sudden, decided to prosecute it. Maybe the minister would like to tell me what her views and her opinions are on that particular issue.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for the advance copy of her statement.

This ratification is indeed welcome and, we all know, long overdue. I know that all the members of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians are quite delighted to finally have this agreement ratified.

We have had, in this Province, not a great history with regard to the recognition of Aboriginal peoples, and the process has been slow and difficult for them. I look forward to the day, for example, when we can see an agreement with regard to Innu Nation lands.

We now have a minister dedicated to Aboriginal Affairs and she, herself, is Aboriginal, and I think it is a high point in our Province. So I look forward, though

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS MICHAEL: We have to make sure that the concerns of Aboriginal peoples are not just in one place, they are not just under this minister or just under the Minister Responsible for Labrador Affairs. We have to make sure that their concerns show up in all aspects of (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Further statements by ministers.

The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to acknowledge and congratulate swimmer Katarina Roxon of Kippens, who has been named a member of the 2008 Canadian National Paralympic Team. She will compete on behalf of Canada at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, China, this summer.

Katarina, a fifteen-year-old student at Stephenville High School, was born without a left arm; yet, she holds provincial, national and world swimming records and regularly completes against so-called "able-bodied" athletes - and wins.

This remarkable young athlete has set three world records in short course swimming, three senior national records in short course swimming, and two senior national records in long course swimming.

While there, she battled a sinus infection and flu, and yet still managed to make the national team. Not only that, but she also achieved personal best times in all but one of her swimming events.

Katarina was the only Newfoundlander and Labradorian represented at the Beijing Games Paralympic Trials, held April 1- 6 in Montreal, Quebec.

Her performance alone at the trials allowed her swim club, the Island Wahoos, to be ranked seventh among forty-six of the best teams in the country taking part in the event.

I invite my colleagues in the House to join me in welcoming Katarina home, and congratulating her on her hard work and determination. We know she will do a great job representing Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada in Beijing.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement.

I say congratulations, and hats off to Katarina - simply amazing! We are not talking about an athlete here who just got a regional or a provincial record. We are talking about national and world-class records - simply amazing!

I happened to see the story on the CBC a few nights ago, actually, when her and her proud dad, as he should be, gave an account of how many medals she had, and you actually could not count them; there a cupboard stuffed full of them, she has been so successful. It has been fantastic achievements on her part.

We, as the Opposition, would like to congratulate her as well in being chosen to attend these world-class events again at Beijing. Keep up the hard work, and keep it going.

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

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

Yes, Katarina really is an inspiring individual and an inspiring young woman. I, too, join in congratulating her and her family. I, too, saw the television report and saw the proud look on her father's face as he held up all of the medals that she has won to date.

This is an example of why it is so important for us, as people in this Province, and for the governments of this Province, to make sure that we put money into the needs of people with disabilities; because people with disabilities are full members of our society, full members of our community. So, any money that we can put into our schools, accessibility of our schools, accessibility of housing, and into everything that relates to the needs of people with disabilities will only come back to us fourfold, both in terms of productivity as well as pride for their work.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

 

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, we have heard many revelations over the past few weeks related to the Commission of Inquiry into hormone receptor testing.

I ask the Premier today, if he is aware of all of the women affected and men with breast cancer, have been contacted and given the proper information surrounding their files and how they have been affected by the hormone receptor testing?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

The Minister of Health is engaged in testimony at the Cameron Inquiry today, but I will be certainly happy to take the Leader of the Opposition's question and get the information and report back to her and back to the House.

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, my next question, as well, is for the Premier. I would think that someone within Cabinet would know at this stage if all of these women who have now been affected have been contacted or not?

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

MR. T. MARSHALL: Again, Mr. Speaker, I will ascertain that information from the Department of Health and provide the information to the hon. member.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It was brought to my attention last evening that at least one woman, that I am aware of, was only contacted within the last twenty-four hours and given notification and asked to come in for retesting. Until this date, she had not known that she has been part of this process.

I ask again: Is there anyone who can tell me if there are any other women who have not yet been contacted, and if there has been any follow up done on that aspect of it?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As my colleague, the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board has said, in his capacity as the first alternate for Health, the minister who would obviously have, I think, the answer to that question at his fingertips is otherwise engaged before the Cameron Inquiry, as we speak.

Now, none of the rest of us who are here today is carrying that information around in our head, and I do not think the general public would expect us to. Our colleague, the Minister of Health, I expect would be, and maybe the Premier would if he were here, but both of them are engaged in public business. We do undertake to get that information and provide it to the House at the earliest opportunity.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is a very serious issue and a serious circumstance. It is not my problem that in the absence of the Premier or the minister, no one is able to answer the question. I can only ask that government look for the information and provide it to the public and to the House in as short a time as possible.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

MR. RIDEOUT: Well, Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the situation, of course, and both my colleague the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, and myself, have undertaken to get the information from the Department of Health as soon as possible and provide it to the House, whether that is today or whether it is the next parliamentary day, but certainly as soon as possible. Without any delay, we will provide the information to the House as soon as we have it.

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

MS JONES: That being the case, Mr. Speaker, I will move on to questions in other departments.

My next question is for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, both the Innu Nation and the Metis Nation have supported 21,000 square kilometre land and waterway base park in the Mealy Mountains. The government opposite is now proposing to cut the footprint of that park substantially.

I ask the minister of Aboriginal Affairs: Has she been involved in these discussions and is she supporting this proposed cut in park boundaries?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First, let it be understood that as a Province we are very much committed to the Mealy Mountain Park. The discussions have been ongoing for a series of time now around that particular study area. Those discussions are continuing and we, as a government, are acting responsibly in that regard. Rest assured that we, as a Province, are very much committed to a park in Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question was directed to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, who is in her seat.

I ask the minister again: Have you been involved in these discussions and are you supporting a reduced boundary size for the Mealy Mountain Park?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, the lead department on this is Minister Johnson from Environment and Conservation. Unfortunately, she is not able to be here today. I am the first alternate and I will answer questions in that capacity.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I will respond as I have already said, that we, as a government, are very much committed to the Mealy Mountain Park and discussions are ongoing and will continue.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs if she has any intervention on any government files within government as it relates to Aboriginal people and has she had intervention on this file?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS POTTLE: As a new minister of this government, I am pleased to say that I am pleased to be here. I have had great support and I have been involved in all issues involving Aboriginal peoples in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, maybe the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs can tell me how much of this park that her government is reducing and what size she is now supporting as the new boundaries?

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

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When discussions are ongoing it would lead you to believe that nothing has been finalized. Discussions are continuing. We have not given direction or specific direction as to what will be the final determination of the size of this park. Discussions are ongoing, and until something is finalized we have really nothing other than that to report.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, it seems the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation wants to provide the answers here. Maybe he can tell me why his government boycotted the steering committee for the past two years, did not participate in the meetings and, as a result, have delayed the process of an important national park initiative in Labrador?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Speaker, we certainly have not boycotted any discussion. Discussions have been ongoing, the steering committee is in place, very much representative of all the stakeholders that are involved here and discussions are continuing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Obviously, the minister has been out of the department so long he has forgotten what has happened. You did not show up at the table for two years. It was only less than three months ago I was contacted by federal representatives of Parks Canada and asked if I could find out why the Province was refusing to participate in the steering committee. So, maybe the minister has forgotten that.

Maybe he can tell me this, Mr. Speaker: Will there be certain sensitive parts of the ecosystem that were initially included in this footprint, now be removed based on the new figures that the government is promoting for land mass?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, the department has certainly been involved in discussions in this regard and as I have already said, nothing has been finalized. Discussions are ongoing, continuing. As we allow those to transpire, then at the end of this process we will see what happens; but we, as a government, are actively involved, as I have already said, very much committed to a park in the Mealy Mountains.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Maybe I can get some specific details from the minister here, Mr. Speaker.

Have the Eagle River waterways been exempt from the Mealy Mountain National Park concept at this stage, in the new lands being proposed by the provincial government?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think the Leader of the Opposition needs to understand what the word finalized means.

I said, to the best of my knowledge, there has been nothing finalized. Discussions are ongoing. Until something is finalized, I cannot report whether the Eagle River or any other area has been exempted or included. Discussions are ongoing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I have picked berries and it has been easier than this. Let me just say, I have been on marshes where there have been hard berries to pick and it has been easier than this.

Mr. Speaker, let me ask the minister this. Can he tell me, in the new lands being proposed by the Province to the steering committee, that the Eagle River waterways will be excluded from the national park boundaries?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: She might have been picking berries, Mr. Speaker, but the flies are awfully thick around, too.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious matter in terms of Labrador. We know the importance of establishing a national park in Labrador, and the discussions are ongoing with the entire study area. There is a study area here that has been developed, and discussions are ongoing about that.

As I have said before, she does not understand the word finalized. Nothing has been finalized. Things are under discussion.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Maybe, Mr. Speaker, the minister would like to tell me, in the proposed boundaries they have put forward, if the Kenamu River Valley has been exempt, especially the area around Area 19 where the timber stands are?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: I guess, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition can dance around every river, valley, whatever there is within the study area, but I cannot repeat any more than - all I can say to her is that discussions are ongoing. Nothing has been finalized.

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the minister, I might be dancing around a river but I know what I am dancing about. I don't know if he does over there, but let me ask him this: Mr. Speaker, can he at least commit that these new proposed boundaries by the provincial government will at least go to public consultation in Labrador? Because, as he knows, a vote taken by Labradorians, administered by the Protective Parks Association, showed unanimous support for the 21,000 square kilometre park that was originally there. With the reduced lands, is this going to go to public consultation so people can have input?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I cannot really commit to what the Leader of the Opposition is asking for, but one thing that is important here, there is a steering committee that is set up of Aboriginal groups, the Metis, Parks Canada, the provincial government and others, and the steering committee is exactly that. They sit around, they discuss, and they come forward with recommendations.

The discussions are ongoing, so we really cannot commit until the discussions are concluded and then they come forward with the recommendation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The people certainly watching this today see just how forthcoming this government is when they answer questions.

My question is for the Minister of Finance. He is always very up front and straightforward, whenever he has been asked a question.

Mr. Speaker, VLTs are widely recognized by health care professionals as a scourge to those people who are prone to gambling addictions. While government reaps the revenue, the lives of some of those who play, and their families, are being destroyed.

A new book was recently put out by a political science professor from the University of Prince Edward Island, Dr. McKenna, and he contends that, in his interviews with provincial officials, particularly of the Department of Finance, he found there was fear. He used the words: people were terrified to speak with him.

I ask the minister: Have you or anyone in your department given specific instructions to your staff not to discuss this VLT issue with anyone outside the department?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the hon. member's question is no.

I have seen media interviews with Dr. McKenna, I think his name is, and I am looking forward to reading his book, because this government obviously has spent a lot of time dealing with the issue of VLTs.

The VLTs were in place before our government took office. We brought in policies to freeze the number of machines, and to reduce the number of machines by 15 per cent over five years. We have further agreed to reduce the machines by another 5 per cent.

We know that there are people who do enjoy gambling, and do not have a problem with it, but we know there are people who have problems with gambling. One of the things that amazes us is the fact of how little research there is available out there, so we are doing research ourselves and we will continue to monitor it very carefully.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, besides what the minister says the department is doing with regards to VLTs, or has done concerning the reduction in the numbers in the system, for example, the comments by Dr. McKenna go well beyond that. Anyone who read the articles, and listened to him, I mean, he uses some very serious allegations and makes some very serious statements. He talked about the four Atlantic provincial governments being complicit in how they were dealing with the VLT issue. In fact, he says, when he spoke to certain staff in your department, Minister, the staff said that they have been threatened with being fired if they spoke with him, and they were quoted in his book. Now, that is a pretty serious allegation. That goes beyond what the VLT issue itself is even all about.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the member to pose his question.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is: Minister, have you done anything, since becoming aware of this issue, to check out these allegations? These are very, very serious.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, again, as I previously indicated, I saw an interview with Dr. McKenna talking about VLT revenue, and the effect it had on certain people. I was not aware of this allegation, that people in the Department of Finance of the Government of Newfoundland were scared. I can certainly advise you that there has been no direction given to any employee of the Department of Finance, or the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and there will not be any direction to any employee in the Department of Finance not to speak to members of the media. Certainly, no one has to be scared about talking about an issue that is part of the public discourse and debate in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

As an aside, but still on the issue of the VLTs, Mr. Speaker, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, which administers this, is the agency responsible for the VLTs in this Province and Atlantic Canada. While their books receive regular financial audits, they are not subject to public sector style value-for-money audits - it is my understanding the same way that other government departments and agencies would be.

I ask the minister: Are you prepared, and is government prepared, to commit to requesting that our provincial Auditor General would examine the books of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, there were a number of incidents involving the Atlantic Lottery Corporation and tickets and winners, and as a result of that, the Board of Directors of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation engaged, I think it was KPMG, to do a thorough analysis of the affairs of the Atlantic Corporation.

Newfoundland and Labrador is represented on the board. We have two representatives on the board. One is a Mr. Greene and the other is Mr. Terry Paddon, the Deputy Minister of Finance. If I recall, obviously the financial statements of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation are audited by a firm of chartered accountants, and I certainly would be prepared to pass on to the members of the board the suggestion that possibly the Auditor Generals of the Atlantic Provinces or representatives of the four be allowed to go in and conduct such an examination.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

My next question is for the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development.

This morning The Telegram reported that the ICT group who had a call centre in Carbonear is slated for closure on June 3. I direct my question to that particular department because they did - I believe ICT received funding from this government by way of a wage subsidy program. This decision to close this call centre will leave 150 people in that particular town out of work, and any place in this Province needs the jobs. Maybe not so much and so urgently on the Northeast Avalon but certainly anywhere in rural Newfoundland outside the Northeast Avalon, every job counts.

My question to the minister is: Were you aware of this impending closure and what discussions have transpired between yourself and the company in this regard?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ORAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

No, the fact is that we were informed yesterday of this particular closure. We had no idea about this closure until yesterday.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

Minister, in that regard, then you have not been contacted. Now that you are aware of it, what has your department done? Have you initiated anything to find out what happens here in terms of the programming? Has the program come to an end? Did they just make use of the provincial money and now they have closed up shop? What have you done within the department to find out what is going on here, and when might we expect something back from you in that regard?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ORAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, in fact we have been in contact with the company. They are actually getting a briefing note ready for us now to give us the information as to what their plans are. From what we understand, they are going to give eight weeks notice to their employees at this point, and from there the department will look at our options and see where we go from there. I want to say though and stress, the fact of the matter is this funding has been used. It expired in 2006 for this particular operation. So, the agreement that they had with the provincial government is over. Their funding expired, as I said, in 2006.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

For clarification maybe, can the minister explain to the public as well, under the agreements, were there any timelines or carry-overs? I know the program was of a certain duration that you would receive the subsidisation or the wage subsidy.

Is there any carry-over beyond the time that they received those subsidies, that they were required or expected to continue to carry on business in the Province, or did any obligations on their part, in terms of jobs and staying in business, did that cease the minute that the wage subsidy ceased?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ORAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in all honesty, I cannot give you that answer for sure. It is my understanding that there are no obligations to the company after their funding is used.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

Again, to the minister; call centres, of course, have become a major employer in this Province; in Central, as it was in Carbonear, in the Corner Brook area, and certainly here in the City of St. John's, one of the major employers. It is our understanding, and we even had some indication of it before the situation in Carbonear hit us, that some of these other call centres might be in jeopardy.

Could the minister tell us of what information he might have in that regard? Is it, in fact, true that there are some concerns in the call centre industry and what is government doing in that regard?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ORAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

No. In fact, Mr. Speaker, we have looked into this and from our understanding, there are no plans, either by this particular company or any other company on reducing their jobs and reducing the number of people who work in this sector.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Despite denials from the Minister of Education that the School for the Deaf will close, students and parents still have concerns. Students are raising concerns with us that they are being forced into mainstreaming, while the proper resources are not available to provide the kind of education they deserve.

I ask the Minister of Education: How do you respond to the concerns that are being raised by those students?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that this government has no plans to close the School for the Deaf. We do have the opportunity to offer high school students the option, if they wish, to do some courses at Gonzaga, basically to assist with integration. Mr. Speaker, we will continue to offer those choices to students.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, serious concerns are being raised about the deterioration of services being offered to deaf students in this Province. Students are telling us that even though technology has advanced in this area, deaf students still need special assistance which they are not receiving outside the School for the Deaf.

I ask the minister: Is she aware of these deficiencies and what is she going to do to see that these students get the resources they require?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, technology is changing certainly, and because of advances in technology, students who are deaf or hard of hearing have the ability to learn or be able to hear from these devices. One thing we have done is we have replaced the FM systems so that all students have the most modern systems that are available.

The other thing we did is, in one particular case, one student who needs to use American sign language because there is no cochlear implants or no technology that is going to enable this student to hear - up until this year, Mr. Speaker, the only place where that student could go to school and learn in American sign language would be at the School for the Deaf. One thing we have done this year is we have a teacher who teaches in American sign language, who is teaching at a school outside the School for the Deaf so this one particular student can live at home rather than come to the School for the Deaf. So we are putting services out in schools.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

My first question is for the Minister of Finance.

I recently had a report from a constituent that an establishment in her neighbourhood has just increased its number of VLTs.

My question is: How can businesses be increasing the number of VLTs on their premises if government really does have a policy with regard to the reduction and eventual freeze of machines?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Government does have a policy, initially, to freeze and then to reduce the number of VLTs in the Province by 15 per cent. We have now brought in another policy to reduce them by a further 5 per cent. At the same time, we have funded our own research in an attempt to find out what we can do to ensure that people who do have gambling problems are protected.

I do not know the answer to the question. I am surprised, as you are, that an establishment would be able to increase the number of VLTs. It does not seem to make any sense. I certainly would be happy, if you would give me the name, to have my officials check into it.

SOME HON MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: I would be very happy, Mr. Speaker, to give the information to the minister, and I will do that. I also will be able to give him information about some practices there where they advertise that if you cannot use machines on our premises here, you can do it at an establishment next door, which they also own. Are there regulations that would say that that kind of advertising is not appropriate?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I am unaware of any rules relating to advertising in these facilities, which are usually liquor licence facilities. I do know we certainly introduced a number of measures, such as eliminating the stop button in order to slow down the pace of play and to have the machines have an automatic turnoff at a certain period of time.

I understand that initially there were so many VLTs allowed per establishment and that the establishments were encouraged to open a second establishment, sometimes in the same building, sometimes next door. We are in the process of eliminating that and reducing the number of machines per establishment down to five.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will continue this discussion with the minister outside of Question Period.

I do have a question for the Minister of Justice. I am sorry that I could not get some information to you ahead of asking this. I am hoping we can, at least, start a discussion but because of the way things have gone today, I was not sure I was going to ask this question.

In the recent Regional Health Authorities regulations that are now filed, in a section in those regulations, section 6(5) actually, there are restrictions on clients who access their files from a Regional Health Authority. They are restricted from publicizing information that may be in their files that could damage, actually, be detrimental to the personal interest, reputation or privacy of physicians, members of staff of regional -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to pose her question.

MS MICHAEL: I will, Mr. Speaker.

My question is, we have a restriction on people using information from their files: What was Cabinet's intent in adding this regulation to the regulations that formerly existed?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am not aware of that amendment or the regulations you are talking about. I certainly will have a look at them and come back. It does strike me as somewhat strange in terms of restricting people's ability to use their information, but there would have to be an overriding of public interest. So, I certainly will check into that and we can continue this discussion further.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

 

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

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

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act, the Provincial Court Judges' Pension Plan Act, the Public Service Pensions Act, 1991, the Teachers' Pension Act, and the Uniformed Services Pension Act, 1991, Bill 20.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Notices of Motion.

The hon. the Minister of Government Services.

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Pension Benefits Act, 1997, Bill 21.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Notices of Motion.

The hon. the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice I will ask leave to move the following resolution:

Resolution: Be it resolved by the House of Assembly as follows:

WHEREAS the Lieutenant-Governor in Council appointed a Tribunal under section 28 of the Provincial Court Act, 1991 to make recommendations on the salaries and benefits of judges and the chief judge; and

WHEREAS the Tribunal submitted its recommendations to the Minister of Justice on May 26, 2006 except for its recommendations respecting an indemnity for Provincial Court judges; and

WHEREAS the recommendations of the Tribunal respecting an indemnity for Provincial Court judges were submitted to the Minister of Justice on April 30, 2007; and

WHEREAS the report of the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Court Judges Salaries and Benefits Tribunal respecting an indemnity for Provincial Court judges was tabled in this hon. House today I have that here, Mr. Speaker; and

WHEREAS the House of Assembly is required under section 28.2 of the Act to approve, vary or reject the report within thirty days of its being tabled; and

WHEREAS government has decided to ask this House a lot of Whereases to accept the recommendations of the Tribunal as contained in the report of April 30, 2007

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this hon. House accept the recommendations of the report of the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Court Judges Salaries and Benefits Tribunal respecting an indemnity for Provincial Court judges.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Notices of Motion.

The hon. the Deputy Premier.

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I do believe those are all the Notices of Motion, but concurrent with the Notice of Motion just given by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, under Tabling of Documents the minister was to have tabled the report on the judges salaries, and we moved along so quickly, I guess we didn't get an opportunity to do that. With leave, I would like to have an opportunity for the minister to table the report.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

Tabling of Documents

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table the report of the tribunal appointed under section 28 of the Provincial Court Act 1991 to report on salaries and benefits for Provincial Court judges. This report contains the tribunal's recommendations respecting indemnity for Provincial Court judges.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answer to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, before we call Orders of the Day, yesterday it was agreed by the House that two additional members would be added to the Privileges and Elections Committee. Mr. Speaker, for the record, I should point out that these appointments yesterday were made with leave of the House.

The Standing Orders of the House, Standing Order 65 (e), I believe, is the appropriate Standing Order - this is one of those committees that has a finite number of members attached to it in terms of the Standing Orders. The Standing Order provides for five, and we decided yesterday to add an additional two and make that committee consist of seven.

Of course, that is quite within the privileges of the House to do, to vary the number of people on committees; however, that being the case, this committee would stay in place for the life of this Parliament unless otherwise changed.

I want it to be understood, Mr. Speaker, so that there is no question later, that this committee is appropriately constituted. It is constituted at seven members, and it is constituted at seven members for the life of this Parliament unless otherwise changed by the Legislature.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

Does the hon. the Deputy Premier have leave to make the number of members on the Privileges and Elections Committee a total of seven rather than five?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Leave has been granted, and the motion has been carried.

Motion carried.

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I believe we are under Orders of the Day at this point in time so I would like now to call Motion 2, standing in my name as Government House Leader, to move:

"WHEREAS section 42.1 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act provides that the Information and Privacy Commissioner is to be appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council on a resolution of the House of Assembly;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Mr. Edward Ring be appointed as the Information and Privacy Commissioner."

MR. SPEAKER: The House is now ready to hear debate on Motion 2 as put forward by the hon. the Government House Leader.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise in this House on behalf of, I hope, all hon. members, but certainly members on the government side of the House, to speak to, and to speak in support of, the resolution to confirm the appointment of Mr. Edward Ring as the Province's Information and Privacy Commissioner. Of course, we are doing that pursuant to section 42.1 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Mr. Speaker, this resolution will enable the House to formally fill the vacancy that was created when the former Information and Privacy Commissioner, Mr. Wall, retired from the position. Under section 42.4, Mr. Speaker, of the ATTIP Act, a commissioner may be appointed in an acting capacity when the House of Assembly is not in session; and, Mr. Speaker, that is what the government did in this particular case when, on December 18 past, we announced the appointment of Mr. Ring in an acting capacity under the legislation. Of course, we are now moving, under the legislation, to ratify and confirm Mr. Ring's appointment.

The ATTIP Act, as it has come to be known, was passed in this House, Mr. Speaker, in March of 2002, and the access provisions were proclaimed in force on January 7, 2005. This legislation governs access to records in the custody or under the control of public bodies, and it sets out requirements for the collection, the use, the storage and the disclosure of personal information contained in the records that they maintain. One of the purposes of the legislation, Mr. Speaker, is to ensure that public bodies are more open and more accountable, and to protect the privacy of individuals.

As commissioner, Mr. Ring has a broad range of responsibilities and powers under the legislation, including making recommendations to ensure compliance with the legislation itself.

The act provides an opportunity for independent review by an officer of the House of Assembly of a decision, of an act, or a failure to act, on the part of a public body. One of the cornerstones of this legislation, Mr. Speaker, is the establishment of the office of an independent review mechanism. As such, the Information and Privacy Commissioner has been given specific powers to investigate requests and complaints from individuals and groups who feel that their access to information rights or their privacy rights have been violated as provided in the legislation.

The commissioner also has the power to require a public body to produce any document that he feels is relevant to an investigation. The commissioner, Mr. Speaker, may also enter an office of a public body to examine and, if deemed necessary, to make copies of a record that is in the custody of that particular public body.

The commissioner acts as the independent review mechanism under this particular legislation. The commissioner's duties, Mr. Speaker, include: investigating complaints about an extension of time, or responding to a request for a fee as required under the act, making recommendations to ensure compliance with the act and its regulations, informing the public about the act, receiving comments from the public body about the administration of the act, commenting on the information and the privacy implications of proposed legislation and programs, commenting on the implications of record linkages and information technology on the protection of privacy, informing the head of a public body about a failure to adequately assist an applicant who has applied for information under the act, making recommendations to public bodies or the minister responsible for this act about the administration of the act.

Clearly, Mr. Speaker, this is an important role to play within the existing framework of that legislation. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, it is with a great deal of pleasure today that we bring forward this resolution confirming Mr. Edward Ring as Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Mr. Ring, Mr. Speaker, has a long and distinguished career in the Canadian Armed Forces spanning thirty-four years, serving with both the Regular and Reserve Components. He began his service in 1969 and was commissioned in 1973 under the Regular Officer Training Plan. Mr. Ring graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1973 and was posted to his first unit in the Canadian Forces Base, Gagetown, New Brunswick. He went on to serve in a number of provinces in Canada as well as in England, South Wales and West Germany. In 2001 he was appointed as Deputy Commander, Land Forces Atlantic Area, and then promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General. Mr. Ring retired from the military in December of 2003. He transferred to the Reserve Component of the military concurrently with the beginning of his employment with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Ring has been an employee of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador since 1992. He served as Director of Policing Services with the Department of Justice for four years. Subsequently, he moved to the Public Service Commission in 1997 and initially worked as a staffing officer from 2002 to 2007 as Director of the Appeal and Investigation Division.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Ring is a graduate of Memorial University, having graduated with a Bachelor of Physical Education. During his military career he received training in investigation, judicial and quasi-judicial functions.

Clearly, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Ring has had a long and distinguished career. He is very well suited, we believe, for this appointment. Our government has every reason to believe, based on Mr. Ring's experience, that he will be fair and impartial in carrying out his responsibilities in the position of Commissioner of Information and Privacy. In short, Mr. Speaker, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, we believe, will be very well served by this person in this position.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Premier and all of my colleagues in the government, and I hope on behalf of all members of the House, I am delighted to bring forward this resolution today for the appointment of such a critical position for the people of this Province. I am sure that we can all agree that Mr. Ring is an excellent choice, and behalf of all hon. members, I note that Mr. Ring has joined us in the gallery for this debate today.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to move the resolution appointing Mr. Ring as Privacy Commissioner.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate an opportunity to speak to the resolution.

First of all, it is very important, of course, that we have these types of resolutions. The fact that we are here in the House of Assembly at all making the appointment to a very senior position in this Province, shows exactly why this is an important position, and the fact that it is going to be done in broad daylight, in front of the cameras, so that everybody knows about it. For years and years in the Province, we had lots of situations were people filled very important positions, had lots of authority, affected and impacted people's lives by the thousands, and yet nobody knew who they were, where they came from or how they got to where they were, and if they were entitled or ought to be in those positions.

The fact that there are forty-eight members in this House, and every single person here has a right to get up and question whether this individual who has been put forward ought to be put in that position, that, in itself, speaks to true openness, accountability, and that is democracy. If you have a problem with this gentleman who has been put forward here, this is your opportunity to stand up and say yea or nay. So that resolution process, first and foremost, is very, very important; just not done by way of a letter and nobody knows anything about it.

Secondly, to comment on the process and the importance of the ATIPP legislation itself. We had it, of course, going back for a number of years in this Province, but we found out as legislators, the public found out as people who had information in government vaults and departments and everything else, and the media certainly found out that they did not always get access to the information when they wanted it. Like most pieces of legislation, the government of the day, I do believe it was back in the early 1980s and the Peckford government, when the first freedom of information, they called it, act came about. So that is quite some years ago, and like any piece of legislation, as time goes on customs change, needs change and legislation should change accordingly to reflect the public changes and social changes. A lot of these things were brought to bear and the deficiencies in that whole freedom of information thing were brought to bear because of the news media. Again, that is state, of course, and part of our society is very vital again to make sure that they have a job to do and that it is done.

As a result of growth and progress, the old FOI was overhauled, a lot of input into it. There were a lot of stakeholders called to bear and said: give us your suggestions, what should we do to improve it? Sure enough, in 2002, in the former Administration, I believe it was on the watch of Premier Grimes - and I was the Minister of Justice actually who introduced and carried forward the ATIPP legislation that we are dealing with today in terms of the resolution and the appointment of Mr. Ring. That part about doing it in public was put in there then, for a very good reason. People need to see what you are doing so they can understand what you are doing, first of all, and have their own opinions as to whether or not it was the right move.

The act was overhauled in 2002, and I am sure we did not get it all right at that time. I brought up an issue here, a minor issue a couple of days ago when I talked about the privacy piece of it when it comes to MHAs, for example, getting access to student names for certificate purposes. It may be a minor thing, but again, it shows that the act needs to be tweaked again in some respects, I would suggest.

Again, under that 2002 legislation, it all could not come about the one time. It was a pretty dramatic change, actually, particularly when we came to the privacy pieces because it would not only just apply to the departments of government, under it all of the municipalities information became subject to the access provisions as well, which was unheard of. I do not think under the old Freedom of Information Act that municipalities or health care corporations, or anybody else, was subject to having their information gotten at by the public, or by an individual, or by the media, but it was, of course, under the new act. When you start talking about the privacy provisions, it took, actually, a couple of years. I do believe it was only last fall, 2007, that the actual privacy provisions were actually proclaimed and said: Okay, everybody is up to speed now, implement it and let's go with those provisions.

I have seen some examples in terms of what the Privacy Commissioner did. One of the big problems under the old system was you applied, you requested something and someone came back in the department and said: You were not getting it. It was sort of like you were stonewalled at that point. You were not getting it. Where do I go from here? Under the old act the only other recourse, as I understand it, was one spot, and that was into the court. That was pretty draconian when you are asking for a simple piece of information, the department head said: You are not getting it. There was nobody there to say whether that was a good or a wise or a bad decision. Your only option was to appeal it and go off to a trail division of the Supreme Court; a pretty costly type of process. So that was, of course, overhauled so that you needed someone there who could vet the application and say: Was this fair? Shouldn't there be some middle ground here? Shouldn't somebody else outside of government and outside of the applicant look at this and see, is there an option here rather than going off to the courtroom which, among other things of being costly, could take you four or five years to get it done? So timeliness was an issue here. It is not much good to get information if, by the time you get it, it is of no value to you. So that was an issue. Of course, that is why the provisions of the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner were put into the new legislation, to allow that middle ground.

The process is vital and the position is vital. The person who occupies that position, in the public eye he may be appointed based upon a resolution of government and it will be voted on here in the House of Assembly by every MHA, but the Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner is not there as the government employee, the government lackey, or anything else. He has an independent mind that he or she can exercise as they see proper, and that is the way it should be. You cannot be an arbitrator, you cannot be a mediator, you cannot make fair, equitable decisions if the person who is giving you the pay cheque or appoints you can flip you out of here tomorrow, or cut off your pay cheque and say: Oh, you made a decision that was not in our favour, so we are going to give you the flick. So that has to be prevented against, and that is why this position is so vital. It is important that the person who goes there has the assurance of knowing, I can make a decision without fear or retribution by the government and they are going to put me out to pasture tomorrow because I said something they did not like.

Quite frankly, I have not seen too many decisions of Mr. Ring in his acting capacity, but I have seen and read several of the decisions that were made by the former Commissioner, Mr. Phil Wall, who was a former Deputy Minister of Finance, who retired but agreed to come back and fill that position for a year or more. I read some of his decisions and it is amazing - and again, the decisions all get made public. It is not a case of you apply, the government says yea or nay, and the commissioner intervenes and a decision is made and nobody knows about it. The commissioner makes his decisions and his reasons public. It goes on the Web.

I must say, I was impressed with the level of reason that the commissioner brings to bear, and that is the true test of where you see fairness. I saw some cases where the applicant was denied access to the information. The government, for example, had said no in the first instance, the person appealed it to the commissioner, and the commissioner came out and said: No, government is right, for certain reasons - and he gave the reasons - you shall not have that information. I also saw numerous cases issued by Mr. Wall decisions - whereby he said: Government said no. I disagree; they should put it out.

I believe, in fact, there is probably a whole ream of decisions involving certain CONA - College of the North Atlantic - information that happened in Corner Brook, for example. There were certain instances I am aware of, and read those decisions.

So, it all gets made public. That is why the position itself is so vital, and we need to have someone there whose personal integrity and ethics are above reproach.

Now, I am not going to digress into that discussion, because we had that here last year, but it did not happen with all officers of the House. Maybe that is a sad thing to say. It did not happen with the resolution concerning all of these so-called independent, important positions of public trust and responsibility. It did not happen in the case of the Chief Electoral Officer. I suspect this resolution here, at the end of the day, is going to be approved unanimously.

The appointment of the Chief Electoral Officer, which is supposed to be one of those House-appointed positions, again, did not happen that way; and that was fine, too, because that shows the system works. The government proposed the individual. We came here in this House and I believe we were three or four days debating the appointment of the Chief Electoral Officer. Some said yes, some said no; but, whoever said what, they got up on their feet and had the courage of their convictions and said why they agreed or disagreed. At the end of the day, he was confirmed. That is a fair and open process. Again, that is why the process is important.

I do not know Mr. Ring personally. I think I might have some involvement with him back in Justice, briefly, a few years ago when I was the minister, but it certainly was not in any personal capacity. It would have been in my ministerial capacity at that time, and I cannot recall the details of how we met. I don't know if that is to say he didn't leave a lasting impression on me. I don't think that is a reflection on him at all. I think that is probably a reflection upon the issue that was being discussed at the time. You see so many people and discuss certain issues that you do not recall the details of every particular issue, of course, at all times; but I believe I do recall him because I was made aware at that time of his distinguished military career. I believe he had retired and he was back here then going into the Reservist arm and that is why I did remember him.

Certainly, as the Government House Leader says, he is a gentleman beyond reproach, a person who does not only have the intellectual capacity to do this job but also has the ethical, the moral capacity to do it, to be absolutely independent, and I certainly have had no suggestion, intimation whatsoever, that this individual being put forth by government is not the right person. In fact, anything I have heard is that he is the right person.

Unless you have some very good grounds to disagree, my approach to life is, you should agree; you should not just disagree for the sake of disagreeing. Anything I know of, or have heard of, this gentleman has been nothing but top shelf, as they say. Based on that, Mr. Speaker, I certainly, and the Opposition certainly, will be supporting the government resolution for the appointment of Mr. Ed Ring as the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Topsail.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I did want to speak to the appointment of Mr. Ring as the Province's Information and Privacy Commissioner and indicate that I will be supporting the resolution.

I will not repeat what was said by the Government House Leader or the Opposition House Leader, but I did want to speak to the resolution because I have worked with Mr. Ring over the years, in a professional capacity, so I do know of his working experience.

I do want to say that this is a very important position. It is an officer of the House and, of course, it has to be an independent position, and the person who occupies the position has to be impartial and independent.

I first met Mr. Ring, I believe it was, in 1992; it was when he first joined the Newfoundland public service. At that time he had left the military on a full-time basis and he was appointed as Director of Policing Services with the Department of Justice. I can remember - I can actually remember, Mr. Speaker - the first time I heard his name; because, in the public service, as people are appointed to various senior positions, usually it is people within the service who are appointed, so when people are appointed into these senior positions generally you know them or you have heard their name before. Of course, Mr. Ring was a new employee of the public service so, of course, we were all curious as to exactly who this Mr. Edward Ring was.

While I had met him around 1992, or early in the 1990s, I did not really get to work with him until around 1997. At that time he had moved to the Public Service Commission, and at the time I was the Auditor General of the Province. Mr. Ring was with, I believe, the staffing division of the Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission at the time had delegated recruitment responsibility to the government departments, and Mr. Ring had to go around and make sure that a lot of the departments were complying with the Public Service Commission policies and procedures. So he was doing his audit and actually, as the Auditor General, I was auditing Mr. Ring.

Of course, we had some very interesting discussions. We didn't always agree, but I can speak to his capabilities and his independence and his impartiality. I can say that he stood his ground on more than one instance, and did a fine job while he was there with that agency of the government.

Mr. Speaker, as the Government House Leader said, Mr. Ring has a long and distinguished career with the Canadian Military. He was with them for thirty-four years, and provided a combination of full-time service and Reserve service. He served both within Canada and also outside of Canada. He retired from the Armed Forces in 2003. As the Government House Leader indicated, he did rise through the ranks and he achieved the rank of Brigadier-General with his appointment as Deputy Commander of Land Forces, Atlantic Area.

So, of course, Mr. Speaker, I am quite pleased to stand here and support the resolution and to indicate that I will be voting for the resolution.

I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to Mr. Ring, and I do look forward to working with him.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. RIDEOUT: (Inaudible).

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

No, I assure the House Leader, in case he is trying to plan over there, I am not going to be very long.

MR. RIDEOUT: (Inaudible).

MS MICHAEL: No, I won't be too long,

I do want to take the opportunity to speak to the motion. I think it is very important that we do now have Mr. Ring in place. We know that he has been in the position for some months, so today is sort of ratifying that appointment, and I am very happy to be part of ratifying that appointment - not because I know Mr. Ring; I don't. Like my colleague from the Official Opposition, even more so, I am fairly certain I have never met Mr. Ring, and I do trust my government colleagues in making the decision to appoint Mr. Ring.

I am very happy to hear my colleague, the Member for Topsail, making her comments based on her personal knowledge of Mr. Ring. That does help.

I want to speak very shortly to the process of appointments. This has nothing to do with Mr. Ring - I assure him it does not - and I promise him I will walk down the hall from my office to his office and meet him after today so that he knows what I am going to say next has nothing to do with him.

I think it would be good, and I have said this before to government, I think it would be really good, when doing appointments of this nature, because it is such an important appointment - an appointment for an extremely important position in our governmental system, a position that protects the rights of individuals and protects their right to information and to privacy protection, a position of great trust, a position of great responsibility - I think in the case of such appointments it would be really good if the government could reach out to the other two parties who sit in the House right now and if there were more of us, to all of us - to put all of our heads together when it comes to appointments.

I am sure government has made a really good appointment, and I am really happy to support it, but I just want to use this opportunity to talk about the process of making appointments and to let government know that I would be delighted at any time, as leader of the party that I represent, to be part of putting forward names for appointments, and I am sure my colleagues in the Official Opposition are in the same position.

While I say that, and I think it is important that I say it, at the same time, Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to ratify the appointment of Mr. Edward Ring.

Thank you.

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

If the hon. the Government House Leader speaks now it is a motion I guess he will be closing the debate on this particular motion.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is quite obvious, from the comments that we have heard from all sides of the House, Mr. Ring is certainly held in very high esteem by all of us in this House and, I think it is fair to say, by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I think it is clear that Mr. Ring's appointment is greeted by, if not unanimity I suspect it might be unanimity, but - it would certainly be a fairly large consensus among the members of this Legislature. That, I think, speaks volumes to the way members feel about him, how we feel about his impartiality and certainly his qualifications for the job and his ability to do the job, and our confidence in his ability to do the job.

So, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Premier, as the leader of the government, on behalf of all members in the House, I thank members who spoke for their contribution, for their positive contribution, and on behalf of the government I am very pleased to move the adoption of this resolution appointing Mr. Ring as Privacy Commissioner.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion put forward by the hon. the Government House Leader reads, "WHEREAS section 42.1 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act provides that the Information and Privacy Commissioner is to be appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council on a resolution of the House of Assembly;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Mr. Ed Ring be appointed as the Information and Privacy Commissioner."

All those in favour of the motion, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against the motion, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would now like to move to consideration of legislation for the balance of the afternoon, and I would like to call Order 6, Bill 8, standing in the name of the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, second reading of An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 8, entitled, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act, be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act." (Bill 8)

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

MR. T. MARSHALL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

This is a very short bill; it is Bill 8. It is only one page long, and the Explanatory Notes that are on the inside cover say, "This Bill would amend the Members of the House of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act to repeal and replace the definition of MHA salary." This amendment is consistent with the recommendations of Chief Justice Green and the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act.

So I am pleased, obviously, to introduce the amendment. This amendment will limit the amount of salary that MHAs receive that would be considered pensionable under the legislation, under the pension legislation, for members who were elected prior to the most recent election.

Members will recall that, prior to the Green Report, members were paid a sessional pay and a tax-free allowance. I believe this was in the amount of $73,000, so a part of the pay was tax free and the rest was called sessional pay.

Chief Judge Green recommended that was too out of date, too old-fashioned, and he felt that it should be changed into a taxable income the same as everyone else receives. The taxable income was changed to I will just check my notes here - $92,580. Of course, if the pension under the pensions' legislation was based on a pensionable salary of $92,580 then the pension of MHAs would rise, and that certainly was not the intent of Justice Green.

The conversion of the salary, while not increasing, from an after-tax point of view, the net income of members, it does result in a higher gross salary than under the former system and it is usually this pre-tax salary, as I indicated, Mr. Speaker, that is considered pensionable, and that is the basis. It is that salary, that pre-tax salary, that is the basis for determining the amount of members' contribution to the pension plan, and pension entitlements from the pension plan.

The conversion to the new system resulted in a higher pre-tax salary and, as I indicated previously, Judge Green recognized that by incorporating this new salary into the MHA pension benefit formula it would result in a higher pension benefit for members than existed under the former system.

In order to prevent that, in order to mitigate the impact of the change in salary on the members' pension, Justice Green further recommended, with effect from July 1, 2007, that only 81.2 per cent of the new salary would be considered pensionable; so, not 100 per cent of the salary, 81.2 per cent of the salary would be considered pensionable for members who were elected prior to the Forty-Sixth General Assembly.

This amendment, Mr. Speaker, is consistent with the recommendations of the Green Report and it confirms government's commitment to implement Chief Justice Green's key recommendations.

Mr. Speaker, I urge passage of this amendment to change the definition.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just a few brief words. Maybe we should not be so brief, I guess. One of the criticisms that was out in the public domain from the media when it came to MHA pensions and so on is that we do not talk enough about pieces of legislation that come before this House with respect to MHAs.

Of course, that is one of the great benefits of the Green Report: that it is required now, under the openness and accountability act that we brought in last year, that if you are going to do anything there is a prescribed regime that you have to go through when you make laws or make policies or make decisions concerning the benefits that MHAs get. A lot of this stuff was done before. It was done by the old IEC, it was done behind closed doors and a lot of it never, ever saw the light of day. Now that does not mean it was done wrong. That does not mean it was all improper.

We just went through a process of appointing the Information and Privacy Commissioner on the floor of the House so that everybody watching and everybody in the media or everybody at home could see what it is you are talking about, and if you are going to give yourself a pay raise, or if you are going to give yourself pension benefits, what they might be. That, of course, was one of the main topics that Chief Justice Green referred to.

In fact, as you can see, even from the size of his report, and this is only one of the volumes of his report, it was a pretty big thing. He titled it, and I think quite telling as well, Rebuilding Confidence, because he, no doubt, felt, and his committee, that there was definitely a need to rebuild confidence in the system. The people who we are here to represent must have confidence that the system works, that it works fairly and it works for them, not just for the forty-eight people who sit here. Because that was the perception in the eyes of a lot of people, is that when it comes to looking after yourselves, as MHAs, do it in the back room, nobody knows about it and keep it that way. So that is one big achievement, one big plus, one big advancement that came from the Green inquiry, I would submit, is that whatever is done now is done in the light of day, in front of the cameras, and this is another example of that; similar, for example, to the board of management.

We used to have an old IEC that used to govern the affairs of MHAs and so on, salaries and so on. A scattered time you would go out and get someone independent to give you some opinions on it. Like Mr. Morgan, at one time, gave a report called the Morgan report, which impacted on members' salaries and pension benefits and so on. Now, when the IEC meets, or the new board of management meets, it is done right here in this very Chamber under the same cameras and the same lights as we are meeting here today. Every issue, what you can claim for, what you are allowed to buy, what you are allowed to spend your money on, how you are going to be accountable for that money, it is all discussed, passed openly, right here in the public. Not only is it done here in the public, any decisions that are made you can go on-line and read them. You do not even have to go under the Freedom of Information Act to see what was said in case you missed it. You can go on-line and say show me the tape of it, it is taped. So that is an advancement. This is another example of something that is coming out of Justice Green's inquiry that needed to be done.

As the Minister of Finance said, back in former days, it does not impact anyone who got elected for the time as of October 9, 2007, because they came in under the new rules, but anybody who was a member here before in previous governments needs to know the rules. What used to happen was that your pay was broken out in two parts. One was called sessional pay, because whenever the House of Assembly sits, they say you are in session. So they say part of your pay was based upon your sessional pay, or your sitting time. In addition to that, wherever it came from, and it was so long ago, I do not know if anybody knows about it. It was implemented so long ago that in addition to the money you got for your sessional pay, you were also given a chunk of money, tax free.

So you had a situation over in the Department of Finance, when they were doing up your pay cheques, that this much was sessional, this much was tax free, totally together it means this, and this is what the member takes home in his pay cheque. You take out your pension cut, you take out your CPP and so on, take out your income tax - you did not have to pay tax on the tax free part. The judge looked at that and said, that is pretty old fashioned, that is pretty anachronistic. We need to bring the pay scale and the pay schemes and the pay ways, the pay days and the accountability of how MHAs are paid, inline with how everybody else in society gets paid. Not too many people that I know of get a tax free bonus. So he changed it, and that is what we are doing here today.

One of the changes that he did impacted upon your pensions, because we have gone from that old system of a combined sessional and tax free piece, to a system whereby he upgraded it all. What he did was, he said: Yeah, whatever your sessional pay was, if you took the tax free piece and you grossed it up, what would I have to pay a person to get the same amount of money roughly, but if they had to pay taxes on it? For example, if $40,000 - just to use an example - was the tax free portion, what would that person have to get as a gross amount in order for them to be able to get $40,000 net? So he took the figures, he plugged them in, he grossed them up and he said, this is what you are going to get. So, instead of getting, before, a sessional piece that was taxable and a non-taxable portion, which added up to, I believe the Minister of Finance said roughly $72,000, the judge came up and said: If you do the conversions on that, that works out to be somewhere around $92,000. I believe with the public sector increases that happened since, it is up around $93,000-something now that an MHA would get, somewhere in that vicinity. So, that is what is happening here. Because of this change that Chief Justice Green wanted and this House agreed to last May when we passed the new act here, we needed to go back and change certain pieces of legislation to bring it up-to-date as well, and that is what this piece of legislation is doing here. It does not give MHAs any more, it does not take away from anything that they had accumulated in terms of benefits before, it just puts the new system in place as to how it is going to be mathematically calculated into that pension recovery when that member retires.

So, I do not know if my explanations have been any what helpful. Maybe the Minister of Finance might be better at describing or explaining what is happening here but I thought it was an opportunity, and a needed opportunity to, if nothing else, let the people know that Chief Justice Green's recommendation about being open and about this House being open, this is where we are going to do it; not that it was not done right in the past, but there will be no question in the future. Anything like this that the taxpayers' dollar is being spent on, and just so that the public has the assurance that it was not done under the cloak of darkness and behind closed doors, it will be done openly.

I would encourage any other member here in the House, I would encourage you, rather than have it said that nobody got up and spoke to it - because that was one of the other things that was reported. There were incidents here in this House in the past where somebody said the Government House Leader got up and proposed it, it took twenty-two seconds. The Leader of the Opposition got up and seconded it, it took eight seconds. The Leader of the NDP got up and it took two seconds, and it was done. That was all there was to it. So, I would encourage anybody here to get up and explain again and say what this is about and why you are supportive of it, if for no other reason than to show the public that on a go-forward basis, in order to rebuild the confidence that Chief Justice Green feels was necessary, and we certainly feel is necessary, we have to start to do that, and there is no better place to start it then right here and in pieces of legislation like that.

I will be supportive of the bill, Mr. Speaker, not because it puts benefits in my pocket. It does not put benefits in my pocket. I am supporting the bill because it is simply putting into law one of the necessary pieces that is required in order for this House to give effect to what Chief Justice Green has said in his report.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER (Collins): If the hon. member speaks now he will close the debate.

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

MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the remarks made by the Opposition House Leader who very clearly explained what was happening here with this legislation. He made some very good points about the fact that, as a result of the Green report, any changes to benefits and compensation and pensions for MHAs has to take place in this House, it has to be debated, it takes place in front of the camera so the people can now see exactly what we are doing. It is important for people to realize that the MHAs under this change will not - I just want to make it completely clear - have their pensions increased. This was just to reflect modernization of the legislation in terms of a definition of an MHA's salary.

With that, I thank hon. members for their discussion today and would urge that this legislation now proceed and be passed by this hon. House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that the said bill be now read a second time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act. (Bill 8)

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

When shall this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House?

AN HON. MEMBER: Presently, by leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Presently, by leave.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowance Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 8)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to call on the Order Paper, Order 7, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006. (Bill 9)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded to call second reading of Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006." (Bill 9)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased this afternoon to introduce Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006.

The proposed amendment, Mr. Speaker, to the Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006 will clarify that solicitor-client privilege is exempt from section 11. Section 11 deals with the rights of the Director of Support Enforcement for the purpose of enforcing a support order to seek information from a "person, corporation or public body". Subsection 11 (5) states: This section applies despite another act or regulation and despite a common law rule of confidentiality or privilege.

In October, 2007, Mr. Speaker, a member of the law society received a demand under section 11 for information about a client. The law society member expressed concern about subsection 11.5 conflicting with solicitor-client privilege.

As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, and as the Opposition House Leader and some other members in this House are aware, the Minister of Finance and the Government House Leader, the solicitor-client privilege is one of the most important aspects of our legal system. The solicitor-client privilege protects the confidential communications made between the client and the lawyer. It encourages frank discussion and gives the client the confidence that what he is telling his or her lawyer is kept that way, in confidence. It allows for the developing of a trust. As you aware, Mr. Speaker, without that trusting relationship the solicitor-client relationship is very difficult to form. Without the client having confidence in the lawyer to keep his or her secrets, then it does, I would suggest, or can do, irreparable damage to the legal system.

The solicitor-client privilege is one of the oldest privileges known to law and in that respect is one that has been zealously guarded by the courts of this land, including the Supreme Court of Canada. As stated, Mr. Speaker, when a client communicates with legal counsel he or she expects and relies upon the confidential nature of those communications. A client's ability to speak frankly and honestly with his or her legal counsel without fear of self incrimination for the purpose of obtaining profession legal advice forms the very foundation of this privilege and is a critical factor in assuring access to justice.

Also, Mr. Speaker, as you are aware the privilege is that of the client and not of the lawyer. I know, Mr. Speaker, there are times when the lay person will question the necessity or utility of this type of privilege and look upon it as some kind of archaic principle, but as you are aware, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure the Opposition House Leader and the Government will agree, this principle is necessary and is one of the basic foundations of our legal system.

These communications from client to solicitor are protected under the rubric of solicitor-client privilege. However, as we are also well aware, solicitor-client privilege is not applicable in certain circumstances. What we are dealing with here, to give an example, is the Support Enforcement Act, where the director, for example, would phone the lawyer and say, where does your client live? Now section 11 (5) of that Act would compel the lawyer to answer that question, because it says it applies despite another act or regulation, and despite a common-law rule of confidentiality or privilege. So what may seem to be a very minor point to the average person, to us as lawyers, I would suggest is a very critical issue. The court protects the communications from disclosure, under the rubric of solicitor-client privilege, if they meet these criteria: it was between a client and his or her legal counsel, who must be acting in a professional capacity as a lawyer; it was given in the context of obtaining legal advice; and it was intended to be confidential.

There are, as I stated, Mr. Speaker, several strictly delineated exceptions to the protection of fortified solicitor-client privilege. Communications made in furtherance of unlawful conduct, for example, are not protected, and must therefore be disclosed by legal counsel, and that includes crimes or acts of fraud, generally.

There are currently six other Provinces and Territories, Mr. Speaker, in Canada which specifically exclude the solicitor-client privilege in their support enforcement related legislation. These jurisdictions are Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, theYukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to this hon. House that the proposed amendment is a positive one. I suggest that the public benefits from the existence of solicitor-client privilege, although not every member of the public may necessarily realize that and could see it as a technical argument as opposed to one of the most basic principles of our system. A client has to be able to communicate with the lawyer.

The purpose behind this principle is to protect an individual's ability to access the justice system by encouraging complete disclosure to legal advisors without the fear that any disclosure of those communications may prejudice the client in the future.

Essentially what we are asking, Mr. Speaker - and it is my understanding that from a practical perspective, the Director of Support Enforcement, after this issue was brought to his attention, decided not to engage in this type of information seeking process again, but I would suggest that the legislating of the basic principle will ensure that there is no advertent or inadvertent breach of this more basic principle.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to discuss the amendment to the Support Orders Enforcement Act. I ask for the support of all hon. members in passing this bill. I look forward to participation from members on both sides of this House in the debate.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few comments on Bill 9. We will be supportive and voting in favour of this amendment. It is an example again where a government brings in a piece of legislation, and, of course, sometimes you dot all the I's and cross all the T's, as you know, at the time, but it is only through experience and running into circumstances you realize that, oops, we missed something, or else we put something in there that we did not anticipate, and now we have the circumstance that has arise whereby we see that this has caused some difficulty.

In this case, I guess you cannot blame the Director of Enforcement. He had it pretty black on white, that he could go ask the lawyer this information, and of course he could look at it and say: Well, you are obligated to tell me. Now, in fairness to him or her - I think it is a him right now, the Director of Support Enforcement - once this information came to light that there was a problem with solicitor-client privilege in that regard, I understand from the minister's comments that he backed off and he has not been doing that. I agree wholeheartedly that he should not have the right to do that and we definitely need this amendment so that there will be no question in future whether he does or does not. It should not be a discretionary thing, we should make the law quite clear to the Director of Support Enforcement, that you cannot go and require a lawyer, someone's legal counsel to provide you with information that was privileged information between that lawyer and that client.

In fact, the Chair, yourself being a lawyer, you probably run into those circumstances many times where you might be asked something and even though you might consider it the simplest of information - someone asking me where John Doe lived, it might seem like a very simple piece of information, and under normal circumstances if someone asked me where the Speaker lived I could say it, but if someone asked me where John Doe lived, if I happened to have seen John Doe in a solicitor-client relationship, I am not supposed to divulge that information, even though it might seem totally innocent. I do not know why the person wants it, so I should not be giving out that information.

It is not only lawyers, by the way, who have certain privileges at certain times. There is a solicitor- client privilege, yes. When you go in, you have a problem and you speak with your solicitor, anything you tell him or her should be protected. Otherwise, why are you ever going to spill the beans or express your full problems that you have openly and candidly and get an answer back if you do not feel comfortable that, once I leave this office I do not know what that person is going to do with that information. In fact, it works two ways because not only is it a privilege where lawyers cannot be forced to divulge the information, but if a lawyer does divulge the information you are subject to actions and penalties from the client. You just cannot go out and start spouting off what you might know about a client. Then you have problems on the other end, and probably not only with your law society. So, it works two ways. It is there for the protection of the client, number one, in the sense that they know they can talk candidly and not have the information revealed. It is there for the protection of the lawyer who knows that I can accept and receive this information within certain bounds and limitations and not be forced to tell anybody. So, it works both ways.

There are also other people. For example, there is the priest situation. I mean, a parishioner goes into his or her priest and makes a confession. Again there are dicey rules around whether you can or cannot get at the information and under what circumstances. You have a doctor-patient relationship which has certain implications as to whether or not you can get the information and under what circumstances you can get it. There are all kinds of different privileges and they have different limitations on them and they have different exceptions on them from time to time. It may depend on who is asking. For example, the Director of Support Enforcement might want a piece of information and the answer might be one way or the other, whereas the Supreme Court of Newfoundland might want it and it might be a different answer. The police might want it and it might be a different answer depending on the nature of the information and the nature of the confidence.

I guess, to say it is an old tradition, solicitor-client privilege, goes without saying. I think it probably came right behind the Magna Carta, if it was not attached to the Magna Carta as a piece of it. It is right behind the Magna Carta as one of our most selfishly guarded privileges that we have in our democratic institutions. Now some people might confuse it with the American system. We watch a lot of American TV and some people might say, well, you know, it is like taking the Fifth I guess is it? You take the Fifth; I do not have to say anything. Well I guess the lawyer in that case would be taking the Fifth. The lawyer is not going to be forced any more to say anything that might be incriminating to him or incriminating to his client. It is a bit different terminology, but basically it means a client can talk to the lawyer knowing full well that his or her exchanges are protected, within reason. There are certain things you cannot do. If you tell a lawyer, for example, under certain circumstances, that you have committed a crime, or you are committing a crime, then certain other things come into play and that privilege disappears.

We are talking here in a situation where the Director of Support Enforcement and, by the way, the role of the Director of Support Enforcement, in case a lot of people do not know who is that fellow, and why would he have that privilege anyway - we have a system here, established for quite a few years now - I believe the head office for it is in Corner Brook and that is where the director sits - what happens is, if you have a parent or a spouse who does not pay support, for example, it goes to the courts, and if a court makes an order for support there has to be some enforcement of that support, and that Director of Support Enforcement, of course - if John owes Mary $2,000 in support, that director has to try to find out: How do I get it out of John?

I say John owes Mary, because I think the statistics show that the overwhelming majority of support orders are imposed by the courts as men who do not pay their spouses. Deadbeat dads they are commonly referred to. We have a lot of them, and we needed to have a system whereby we could catch the deadbeat dads and make sure they paid. That is the job of the support enforcement director. How do I go get the deadbeat dads or deadbeat moms, if that is the case, and make sure that they get the order paid? That is why he might, under certain circumstances, want to go to that lawyer and say: Oh, you represented that deadbeat dad. I am trying to track him down and find out where he is.

That is where this type of issue would have arisen. Did the lawyer in that case have to say where his client was gone, where he lived, what you talked about, or where he was employed? That is what this is changing. Albeit, you might feel it is right to be able to tell the director that because you would help get the money to give to the person who was entitled to it under the court order, this solicitor-client privilege takes priority, and we are saying the director will not have the right to go get that information.

There are certain times when, albeit, morally and ethically you feel that you might want that information revealed, you just cannot do it. That is why you have to give this solicitor-client privilege a special status in that regard, because you are protecting your client.

We would be fully in favour of this. I would not say it is a housekeeping matter, because this goes beyond a housekeeping matter. We see a lot of amendments come before here that are removing a comma, or putting in a period, or whatever else - just grammatical changes that we make I would call housecleaning - but this goes beyond a housecleaning amendment. This is, in and of itself, a fairly significant amendment, certainly how it impacts the authority of the director and how it impacts the rights of the solicitor and the rights of the client, so we will certainly be supportive of it, Mr. Speaker.

With that, those are the comments from the Opposition with regard to second reading.

Thank you.

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

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

I do want to take just a moment to speak to Bill 9, and to show my support for Bill 9.

I actually was surprised when I looked at this, in preparation for this afternoon, to see that this language was not already in the bill. It could have been that it was just overlooked, but when I see a number of jurisdictions with the language not there, maybe it was more than just being overlooked. Having said that, I think it is important that it goes in; because, no matter what the circumstance of the privacy that we are looking for, or the confidentiality that we are looking for, when it comes to solicitor-client privilege - and I say this as a lay person; I am not a lawyer - I believe it is one of the relationships that really should be sacrosanct, that really should be sacred, and that anybody who is speaking to his or her lawyer, and who has a lawyer that they have an ongoing legal relationship with, have to know that they are safe in that relationship and that nothing that lawyer knows about him or her can be revealed.

I think that is important even in the context of the Support Orders Enforcement Act. There could be people who would think that when you are trying to enforce payment, for example, from an errant father who is not taking care of children, that anything goes in trying to get that money. I certainly would like to say yes, we really have to make sure that the errant parent, whether it is a father or mother, has to show that they are there taking care of their responsibilities, but we also have to make sure that something as sacred as the solicitor-client privilege is also protected, even in the light of how important it is to enforce the payments that errant parents need to make.

I am sure there are some people who think that should not be in there, and maybe some people even lobbied for it not to be in there, I do not know, but I am glad to see that it is going in. I think it also points out something important, and that is that all legislation does need to be reviewed over and over and over; that changing times, sometimes, even in two years - it was only in 2006 that this act was put in place, and already, just two years later, we are seeing something that needs to be changed in the act or added to the act.

I think it is a sign that all legislation in all departments needs to be reviewed continuously so that we continue to either pick up on something that is inadvertently omitted, or to make a change to go along with changing times, or for whatever reason the amendment needs to be made.

Without further ado I just say yes, that I, too, support Bill 9.

MR. SPEAKER: If the minister speaks now, he closes the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Opposition House Leader and the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi for their very constructive comments and their support of this bill.

I do not think it is a stretch for me to say that the House procedures is a steep learning curve. Earlier this week we go from basically arguing over what we should be doing with bills to an agreement here now that this is an amendment that is necessary.

As the Opposition House Leader has pointed out, what we have seen is that this bill has caused a problem; practice has indicated that a difficulty has arisen. As the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi has pointed out, it is something we have to work on, and work co-operatively, and we are doing that so I am very pleased by that.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I really want to emphasize, as pointed out by the Opposition House Leader and the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, that this is not an attempt to protect individuals from paying their support payments. In fact, to the contrary, we are doing everything we can as a government, and I am sure the Opposition will agree, to ensure support payments are collected and paid to mostly women and children who need them. That is one of the realities of the support enforcement, that unfortunately there are women and children who are stuck in this situation.

This amendment is recognition of a basic principle; it is not an attempt to protect anyone from paying the money that is rightfully ordered by the court. What it is, as so often with legislation, Mr. Speaker, there has to be a balancing, and that is what we are doing here today, as the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi has stated, a sacrosanct principle and the very real and necessary Support Enforcement Act.

On that basis, Mr. Speaker, I would move second reading of the bill.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that the bill be now read a second time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006. (Bill 9)

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

When shall this bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House?

MR. RIDEOUT: Presently, by leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Presently, by leave.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 9)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, at this point I would like to call Order 9, standing on the Order Paper in the name of the Minister of Education, where the minister is seeking leave to have second reading of Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act.

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved and seconded, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act, Bill 12.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act." (Bill 12)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, in this Province we have certainly tried to make some inroads in recent years to address the most serious issue of student debt. It was last year we had the opportunity to meet with various members of student unions, and also people who have graduated recently who were struggling with paying off their student loans. We wanted to be able to create a province and an environment where we understood this issue and we made some real concrete moves in order to help alleviate some of the debt that students were experiencing.

Mr. Speaker, some of the enhancements that we made last year to assist students included an interest rate reduction of 2.5 per cent. Prior to this, student loans, the rate of interest was prime plus 2.5 per cent. So we reduced to that to prime. For many students that has meant a savings of approximately $1,500.

The other thing we introduced - or I should say we brought back, because this was something that had certainly been previously established but dropped, probably, I would think, ten or fifteen years ago - were the upfront needs based grants. What that entails, is basically a student who receives a student loan has a portion which is the Canada Student Loan and a portion from Newfoundland and Labrador. The portion from the Province, the provincial part of the loan, a student can borrow up to $140 a week. What we decided is that students would borrow up to $70 a week and what they were entitled to beyond $70 would be a grant, as opposed to a loan. These were certainly two recommendations that came directly from the student representatives. Last year, when we announced them in the Budget, we certainly had a very positive response from students.

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to say that government is continuing with a tuition freeze at our public post-secondary institutions. Over the next four years, from this year up until the year 2011-2012, this tuition freeze will cost the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador approximately $56 million. That is certainly, I think, a fabulous investment in the students of this Province. We need very accessible institutions in this Province.

The undergraduate tuition for Memorial University of Newfoundland students has been frozen at $2,550 since 2003, and this is the lowest in the country, with the exception of Quebec. Quebec provides a lower tuition but only for Quebec residents. Mr. Speaker, even at that rate, the gap between Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec is basically closing. One time it was a very wide gap in tuition, but Quebec right now, their tuition which is quoted as the lowest, is still over $2,000.

When we compare Newfoundland and Labrador with our Atlantic provinces, I think it is significant when we note the tuition that other provinces in Atlantic Canada are paying. In PEI, the average tuition is $4,440; in New Brunswick it is $5,733, and in Nova Scotia it is $5,878. This compares to the just over $2,500 here in Newfoundland and Labrador. So I think with our tuition freeze from 2003, and with that extension and our commitment to maintain that until 2011-2012 - and certainly, that is as far as we can make commitments in a four-year mandate. I think that as we move through the next four years we will see that the students here in Newfoundland and Labrador, who go to our public post-secondary institutions, will have the advantage of probably having the most accessible post-secondary institutions in Canada.

In addition, we also have been providing other relief, such as relief to parents who support their children's education; increasing student loan limits for students who need more support, including the co-op students in our Debt Reduction Grant Program. I think when the Debt Reduction Grant Program was initially set up it did not include co-op students, which I think was probably an oversight at that time; although I was not part of that decision at that time.

The significant changes that we have made in our student loans in Newfoundland and Labrador are certainly having an impact on students, their families and their communities. The amount of money we are receiving in loan repayments is also at an all-time high, Mr. Speaker. It is estimated to be 115 per cent higher in 2007-2008 at $30 million then when the Province entered directly into lending loans to students in 2004-2005, when at that time we were collecting approximately $14 million.

I guess there are many reasons why there are more repayments coming in. We have streamlined the process that it is one loan, one payment. So, it does make it easier. I also think that there is something significant there to say that the students are also finding work, and work that is financially putting them in a position where they can pay their student loans. I think there is a significant increase when we look at 115 per cent.

What we are introducing in legislation here today is the Department of Education would like to amend the Student Financial Assistance Act to allow Cabinet to make changes to the Board of Directors of the Student Loan Corporation. This is the essence of the change we want to make in this amendment. This board provides the financial oversight over the loans portfolio, including activity such as debt management, cash flow management, and banking arrangements. These activities ensure the resources of the student loans program are protected and reinvested in students. The board provides transparency and accountability for the public.

Today, this board is composed of some of government's most senior officials, including the Deputy Minister of Finance and the Deputy Minister of Education. The amendment to the act will enable better efficiency in the management of the board by allowing Cabinet to expand the board to include the Comptroller General and two Assistant Deputy Minister's of Education.

Mr. Speaker, we would like to change the act so we can make the changes through Cabinet in the regulations because at this time the way the act reads there is a third member of the board, but the position is no longer in government under that title. So, because the third member is no longer in government, the board was reduced to two members. By being able to put it in the regulations that are changed by Cabinet, we can expand the membership to include the three new positions onto the two. The membership, which should be three, is actually two, but will expand to five. This will also allow that if we do it through the regulations in Cabinet, that if positions change or titles change at some point in time, it is not in legislation so we can make the appropriate changes at that time. That is the essence of the amendment that we are dealing with here today.

We also feel that this amendment will enhance the improvements to the Student Loans Program by increasing the stewardship over the resources to this very important social program we have in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to make a few comments with regards to Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act.

I listened with great interest to the minister that they are listening to our young people throughout the Province. Some of the recommendations that they are bringing forward have been implemented and we hope that that co-operation will continue.

As the minister stated, Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this Act was to, I guess, make changes to the board, the numbers of people who serve on the committee, and we don't have any problem with that.

There are a couple of issues I would just like to mention. I listened to the minister, the good information she brought forward, the things that have been done, and we can commend the government department on that. But a couple of issues that probably can be considered in the future - some of them have been brought forward and I guess they are in relation to some degree to the Student Financial Assistance Act are the issues that are brought forward by the Auditor General from time to time.

One was the debt reduction grant program, and the minister did mention how they are progressing and trying to deal with that. Apparently, what has been happening is a lack of compliance with the student financial assistance regulations, debt reduction through the Student Financial Services Division. Apparently some students who were eligible didn't understand the process and they weren't advised that they could apply for some debt reduction. I guess if they did qualify they were eligible to have a reduction of the provincial portion which was 40 per cent of their student loan.

The Auditor General made comments on it, that there was non-compliance with the student financial assistant regulations. In one particular case he mentioned how about $2 million in loan remissions were paid out to 307 students. According to the information I had, they didn't apply. There were many others who didn't receive it because some of them didn't apply for a student loan in their last year in college or university and they weren't aware of it.

The other item I would like to touch on, Mr. Speaker, is the designation of educational institutions. The Auditor General mentioned that as well. I know how the minister spoke about the debt reduction and so on and I guess one of the things that was brought up at that time was because of whether they were designated or not there was some concern as to why some students were unable to pay back the loans they had. There was some concern about that.

As we noticed in the changes that are to be made, and the minister stated very clearly, the people who are involved at this present time - I thought she said two additional individuals would be placed there. Hopefully some of those issues will be brought forward and dealt with in the future, Mr. Chair. First I had thought that maybe the board was going to be totally changed, it would go out to be more of a public board, and I was wondering if there was going to be representation from the Federation of Students and so on, probably someone involved with the public or private colleges and various individuals or maybe someone from the public.

Mr. Speaker, just to conclude, we have no problems I assure you in supporting Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act, and we just hope that down the road things will continue, and by making those changes it will be better for the people who are involved here, the students of this great Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I, too, am happy to speak to Bill 12 and to support the change that is being asked for in the Act, the Student Financial Assistance Act. I am also glad to have an opportunity to speak a little bit to what is going on in our educational system right now. One of the concerns I know that government has, and it is concern that everybody in the Province has, is out-migration. We are finding that out-migration is even affecting graduates who go elsewhere for their post-graduate education. While we have a pretty good percentage when it comes to University participation rate from eighteen to twenty-one year olds in Newfoundland and Labrador, our participation rate when it comes to post-graduate people is much less than the national average. More than one quarter, 26 per cent, of the Newfoundland and Labrador adult population had not finished high school in 2006 and the national average is 15 per cent. They have not finished high school and very few of them then go on as adult mature students in University. Some do but not very many.

It is an improvement. We do have an improvement over the former census but we still have a long ways to go and this is something that the government has to continue to be concerned about. We have been calling for and will continue to call for a complete elimination of student loans. More and more we see the need to have a grant program for everybody. I know that government has brought interest rates down somewhat and we would like to see that continued, but the total elimination of student loans is what we need. This is what has happened in other jurisdictions. It has happened, for example, in Ireland. The government really does like to talk about its partnership with Ireland, and things we do in partnership with Ireland. Well then, let's learn from Ireland, too, about things that have worked over there. Elimination of student loans was one of the things that we did.

It is fine to make changes to the constitution of the board of directors, for example, as we are doing in this Act, it is fine to assure that everything is in place when it comes to the bureaucracy of the system that deals with the student financial assistance, but we have to do more than that. We have to make sure that the students of Newfoundland and Labrador, not just the undergraduate students but also the post-graduate students, are getting as much assistance as possible, not just to help them go on in education but to help them go on in education here in our own Province. It is bad enough that we are losing young people to places like Alberta in order to get jobs, but we are also losing our younger people from the Province, even when it comes to post-graduate education and post-graduate studies.

I would encourage the minister to continue looking at this issue of retention of our younger people as they go on into their higher levels of education once they have their first degrees. Let us find ways to put in place what they need, and make sure that the board of directors for the corporation that takes care of the financial assistance of students, that they are working closely with the Canadian Federation of Students and its representatives here in this Province, so that they really are listening to those that are most affected in the decision making that needs to be done.

We do support Bill 12, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the hon. Minister if she speaks now she will close debate.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will close debate on this particular act, the amendments to the Student Financial Assistance Act.

This is basically a change, as we had indicated, where we were looking at the composition of the board. It should have been three, and based on some changes in a position it went to two, and we will expand it to five. I think that certainly with the expanded board and the expertise that will be on it, they will certainly be able to perform the roles of that board.

There were some other issues certainly brought forward. The debt reduction grants were addressed here today. Certainly, as a department and as minister we welcome the Auditor General's reports. We have been diligently working on that issue to make sure that the 389 students that were affected will be addressed.

The other issue is the comment to the Auditor General regarding the designation framework for private colleges, and I would certainly be more than willing, at any point, to debate that in the House as well. I certainly think that, as the Department of Education, we have been working with the framework that has been set out and have made what I think are some really well informed decisions as to what we need to do as a Province to work within our own economy, our own environment and with our own students. At any point in time, if that designation and framework comes to the floor of the House for a debate, either in Question Period or any time we are having a debate, I certainly would welcome that.

Mr. Speaker, I think that we have some support here for the amendments. I want to thank the hon. members opposite for their support and their comments here today. I know there is always lots of debate we can have on this whole student loan issue, but for the purposes of today and the amendments to this act, I certainly want to move now to close debate on second reading of this particular act.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that this bill be now read a second time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: aye.

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

Carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act. (Bill 12)

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

When shall this bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House?

MR. RIDEOUT: Presently, by leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Presently, by leave.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 12)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like now to call, on the Order Paper, Order 8, second reading of Bill 10 standing in the name of the Minister of Government Services, An Act To Repeal The Bulk Sales Act.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded now that we proceed with second reading of a bill, An Act To Repeal The Bulk Sales Act, Bill 10.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Bulk Sales Act." (Bill 10)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to get up and speak to An Act To Repeal The Bulk Sales Act, Bill 10.

This Act has been in existence since about the 1950s. It has certainly been a law in this Province since 1956. Essentially what it did back then, in the days of business back in the 1950s, is that it prevented a person or a business from a bulk sale of, say, trade, stock or goods and merchandise without the consent of its creditors, without having complete payment of all creditors' claims prior to any or all of those pre-sales from the sale in bulk.

In today's business world that we find ourselves in we find the Bulk Sales Act to be archaic. It is certainly outdated in regard to how creditors determine a person's credibility, credit history and rating prior to issuing any credit.

We have various ways of doing that now, in today's business world, much faster and much easier than they did in the past. Furthermore, the credit today is actually secured in regard to assets of the debtor in real property.

As I said before, this act only covered off such things as stock in trade, goods and merchandise. Now, mostly your credit rating is established by real property and it is usually, most often, used as an indicator of financial stability.

This act is certainly antiquated and, as I said before, other methods of checking credit history and ratings have emerged over the years. For example, the lending of credit used to be so much more personal and informal, but now it is personal and formal.

Businesses will view this as positive, as it will streamline their transactions and lessen compliance cost to small businesses. Repealing this act is also in line with most jurisdictions which have repealed similar legislation across other provinces and other jurisdictions.

We consulted heavily with the Law Society on the repeal of this act and, in their opinion, they said as well that the act is antiquated and no longer serves any useful purpose in today's business transactions.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will welcome any remarks by my hon. colleagues in the House. Certainly, it has been a pleasure to speak to the Bulk Sales Act repeal law.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words on Bill 10.

You get tossing around words in here sometimes, the Bulk Sales Act. Some of my colleagues, I only have a few, but both of them said to me: What are you talking about, the Bulk Sales Act? What is it all about? Of course, it is a legitimate question. People wonder: What exactly is a Bulk Sales Act?

Of course, it started back in the United States. That is where it originated. It was back in the U.S. at the turn of the century, actually. What was happening was - some people might get a flavour as to what we are doing here today, because we are repealing a piece of legislation, basically, scrapping it and saying we are not going to have it any more. We have had it on the books for a number of years, so people might be saying: Well, why would you have a law and all of a sudden you are not going to have it any more?

Anyway, what happened with bulk sales was, you had two companies, for example, Company A that might be dealing with a whole pile of creditors, and in the course of their dealings, of course, they owed people money. They might owe fifty or sixty people, creditors, money. Then, all of a sudden, the owners of Company A decided, well, we are getting out of business, for some reason; we are going to sell all of the assets that we get. In other words, we are taking the bulk of everything that we own and we are going to sell it.

So, along came the purchaser, Company B, who bought all the goods of Company A, in bulk, walked off with them, and all of a sudden the creditors of Company A said: Just a minute; B gave you a whole pile of money, A, and you did not pay me the money that you owed me, so what do I do?

There was no protection for the creditors of the company that was selling. So, of course, in the U.S. they said we have to do something to protect the creditors, and that is how this came about. They said: Let's make a law, from here on in, if one company is going to dispose of all of their assets, or virtually, substantially, all of their assets in bulk, there is going to be a law which says that the buyer must do certain things to ensure that the creditors of the seller get their money. So B could not just come in any more, slip $100,000 to A, and A walks off and forgets about his debts. The law came about called the Bulk Sales Act, so that the purchasers had to take certain precautions to see that the creditors were paid.

Now, there are a number of ways they could have done that. For example, when the deal was closing between A and B, they could have said: Give us a list of all your creditors and we will go and pay them now out of the proceeds, so that if I am giving you $100,000 but you owe $50,000 to your creditors, let's pay them right here on the spot as part of mine and your deal so I know your creditors were paid. That was one way of protecting it. Sometimes the seller might give a certificate saying yes, I undertake to pay all of my creditors and if I do not then you can sue me for not paying them and therefore you are not on the hook; I am on the hook. So, there were certain ways to do it.

The law came about because governments wanted some way to protect creditors, to ensure that they were paid. I mean, it is one thing for Joe Blow to go off and sell his company; it is something else for him to sell his company and run off with all the money and leave people in the lurch. So, that is how it came about.

Now, over the years we have had different pieces of creditor protection legislation come along which made the Bulk Sales Act not as necessary. I am sure anyone who has been a lawyer - there are a few of them here in the Chamber - the Minister of Finance, for example, when he was in practice, did a lot of real estate work, did a lot of commercial transactions that, no doubt, you had to get involved sometimes in: Have I protected my client and have I protected myself under the Bulk Sales Act? It is a worrisome thing because, if you did not do it - if I am acting for the company that is buying and we did not see that the creditors were protected, we did not comply with the Bulks Sales Act, my client could end up having to pay all those creditors again.

Just to give an example of a flavour, rather than using A and B - and there are only two places in our country, I believe, right now, who have it and do not have it repealed: Ontario and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are the only two. Everybody had it. The States used to have it. We used to have it in all of our provinces but there are only two left, Ontario and ourselves.

In Ontario there was a big case that came out there - a couple of years ago it started and it involved a company called National Trust and H&R Block. Now, everybody has heard of H&R Block. What happened was, H&R Block went out and bought a company called Tax Time. So, H&R Block bought Tax Time. Tax Time, in other words, sold H&R Block all of their assets - offices, desks, furniture, equipment, accounts receivable, the whole shooting match - and sold it for $800,000. So, Tax Time walks off with their money, $800,000 in their back pocket, but meanwhile Tax Time had a bunch of creditors. Some of them were secured and some of them were unsecured. Of course, National Trust was one of those unsecured creditors. They said: Whoa, just a minute, we have a law on the books here. H&R Block, you were supposed to make sure, when you bought Tax Time, that the creditors of Tax Time were looked after with the $800,000, and you did not do that. H&R Block, of course, said: Go away with you, the Bulk Sales Act, even though it is there, nobody has used it for years. You can't expect me to comply with that now. That is antiquated law - and so on.

The Trial Division in Ontario said: Just a moment. The law is on the books called the Bulk Sales Act. It says that you were supposed to make sure, when you bought Tax Time and they being tax people, too, you would think they would have read the details and the fine print you should have paid for those creditors; and they did not.

Anyway, H&R Block lost the case. They were not satisfied, so they went to the Court of Appeal in Ontario. They said, no, we are going to take another whack at it. The Court of Appeal said: No, not good enough. You are on the hook, H&R Block. You did not comply with the Bulk Sales Act, tough; and the court ordered that H&R Block had to pay National Trust because they had not complied with the Bulk Sales Act.

So, for the record, the Bulk Sales Act - albeit, we might think it is antiquated, it still exists, it is still functioning, and that was only last year that that court of appeal decision came down, which made H&R Block pay the unsecured creditor of Tax Time. It made them pay to the tune - it was hundreds of thousands of dollars that they had to pay. So, some of our provinces have already gotten rid of it. The minister says it is antiquated and we have other consumer protection things here, but there is still a bit of trepidation amongst some people, still a little bit of concern, and quite frankly, this member has concern. If we have laws that protect creditors, not saying we disagree about the repeal of the Bulk Sales Act, but it causes concern in the sense of, is it going to be a negative impact on creditors? Because that is what it was intended for, to protect those creditors. Now if we take it out, we are not protecting them. Quite frankly, I do not know if the other consumer protection legislation we have protects them sufficiently. Now, the government feels that it will, and I do not know, maybe the minister, when he gets an opportunity to respond - I mean, we do not find ourselves here today repealing an act, the Bulk Sales Act, without somebody asking to have it repealed. I appreciate the comments the minister has made to date, but I would certainly appreciate some enlightenment as we move on, maybe to committee stage, which would allow him an opportunity to check it out. Has the Law Society, for an example, been consulted as part of the process? Have they recommended that it be repealed? Has there been any creditor protection agencies consulted, and if so, whom? Have they agreed that this should be repealed? What does people like the Better Business Bureau think of this thing?

I think, just for the assurance and the confidence of the public, that we just did not decide we were going to pluck this old statute off the act and throw it in the garbage can and repeal it. We want to make sure we are doing the right thing, and I have just outlined what the intentions are and why we got it. That seems like a good intention, protecting creditors. Particularly when the creditors do not have any inkling, sometimes, what the companies are doing. I am sure that National Trust did not know that H&R Block was going to buy Tax Time. It is too late to tell them after it is done, the horse is out of the barn, and then you say uh-oh, the company that owed us money, they are no longer a company, they are owned by somebody else. So, we need to have the assurance of, where did this initiative come from to repeal this act? Yes, it may be problematic for lawyers. Yes, it may cause a little bit of aggravation for purchasers who have to make sure that they are in compliance with it, but does that justify the repeal of it?

Maybe to help decide definitively where we stand on this piece of legislation, I would appreciate some further guidance from the minister as to where it is coming from because, albeit, it is here in this House as Bill 10 and it is under the direction and guidance of the Minister of Government Services. As one can appreciate, it has severe, potential, legal consequences for creditors. This is not like you got to have a licence plate on your car or you have to put a licence plate on your trike. This is not that sometimes elementary type of government legislation, or if you want a piece of Crown land you have to do up an application on a certain form and that kind of stuff. This is pretty serious stuff. I am wondering, what role did the Department of Justice play in this? Was Justice consulted by Government Services? What kind of input did Justice have into this to come to the conclusion that it justified repeal?

I would appreciate being enlightened and educated a bit more in that regard because, albeit, I see it is repealed in Saskatchewan, repealed in BC and repealed in Alberta. I am not one who, because they repealed it, necessarily agrees that we should. So, I would appreciate some more facts and information, if we could get it in that regard, where the initiative came from and who is saying we should scrap it? Was this all one-sided? Was it the people who had to comply with it who said get rid of it? Did we check with the people who are protected by it to see what they thought of this? Obviously, government should not be taking initiatives just based upon one group who wants something done. We have to make sure that changes we make that could impact people unfairly and improperly, we need to consider.

Ontario, to my knowledge, has been one of the foremost jurisdictions in the country in terms of where they go with their law. I know here in Newfoundland, I would say if I hazard to guess, that probably 80 per cent of our legislation in this Province is patterned and drafted after Ontario statutes. I recall from my being in law school anyway, when we did legislation courses, and since experiencing it, if you go for comparisons in preparing for a trail you often go to Ontario because that is usually the one that we drafted it off. They had the template, so we did not reinvent the wheel. In a lot of cases it might have been New Brunswick, for example, that we followed off. There is usually somebody. Unless we are the inventor of the wheel, we followed someone else. I would like to know, why hasn't - I have not been able to find this out myself and I am sure the minister, with his resources, would be able to find out. Why has not the Province of Ontario made a move to repeal it? It is fine to say they have not repealed it, but I would like to know why they have not repealed it. If they are so usually avant garde in what they do and they lead the country in their legislative agendas, their legislation, why haven't they made a move to it? I would like to see some justification, shall we say, of why we have come down on this side of the issue of repeal versus non repeal.

If I could, too - and if the minister could indulge me when he gets to the committee stage I will raise these issues again. It is fine to say the Bulk Sales Act is antiquated and we have other, better consumer protection legislation. I would like to know what those other, better consumer creditor protection legislation is. I think that is a fair question. I am not being technical, but we often get accused here if we got a bill, and bang. It is in and out and somebody says, what was that all about? I think this is an opportunity and I think that is the purpose of the House - not that we are debating in any adversarial way here, because I am not. I am debating here in the sense of trying to find out information to justify why you should vote one way or the other.

The government has put this forward. The minister has given his second reading. I think we have posed a number of relevant considerations and queries here that we should have answers to before anyone, whether it is the Member for Ferryland, or the Member for Topsail, or anyone else, that the purpose of this House is you should have some understanding of what we are voting on. You do not have to be a lawyer. Maybe if you are a lawyer it might help unravel some of the technicalities or legalese pieces of it but it is pretty straightforward and commonsensical once you get down to the crux of it. I think we, as all members, are entitled to say good move or bad move after we have gotten all of the information. Right now, I do not think we have sufficient information to make that decision, particularly when the most populous province in the country, Ontario, has not yet done it. Maybe they are just slow. Maybe they have not gotten around to it yet. Maybe that is the simple answer to the question. If that is the case, that, oh yeah we are considering doing it or it is in the works to do it but we have not gotten around to it, that is fine. But I think we need a definitive answer from the minister as to why they have not done it. Maybe they do not have the consumer protection legislation that we are talking about. Therefore, unless they get that arm put in place maybe they feel we cannot take it out. Maybe they are behind us in that regard. Maybe they have not caught up to the rest of the country when it comes to the consumer protection legislation.

I hope I have a proper understanding of what I think bulk sales is. I have been involved personally in lots of situations where we have had to go to get that certificate and did not always get them. Sometimes a deal that you thought was going to close did not close and it caused a lot of aggravation for everybody. Again, the aggravation had to be taken in stride because the intent was to protect the creditor. As much as you might want to close the deal, if you could not protect the creditor you had to make a decision. Either your neck was in the noose if something went wrong and you proceeded without compliance with the Act or else you tried to comply and sometimes the deal did not close.

I think I have an understanding of what the Bulk Sales Act was. I think I am understanding correctly here that the minister wants to scrap it, the government wants to scrap it. I am hearing that it is antiquated but there are still a lot of reasons here, a lot of information, that I do not have to come to a definitive, informed position to be able to decide one way or the other.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If the minister speaks now he will close debate.

The hon. the Minister of Government Services.

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

Certainly I appreciate the comments of my hon. colleague. I cannot answer the question right at this moment with regards to Ontario but I certainly will in Committee. I also suggest that we have given, you know Government Services and government, have given careful consideration in regard to the repeal of this Act, due to being the second last in the country to do it.

We have watched other jurisdictions. We did not try to reinvent or vent the wheel onto it and go down this path ourselves previous to other jurisdictions and provinces that have gone before us. As you have referenced in regard to your talks on the actual subject, you mentioned B.C, et cetera which are high volume economy type provinces such as Alberta. They have repealed such legislation.

Also, we did consult heavily with the Law Society and two particular members with that society with extensive commercial law experience advised us that, number one, the Act was archaic and certainly imposes on today's business community certain burdens without any real protection or utilities. I take that, you know, as a (inaudible) in regard to the Law Society and I spoke to a number of lawyers who mentioned to me that they will certainly be glad to see this particular act repealed.

In that case we did consult, but in the meantime in regards to and I might say that the Law Society also noted that other acts do, in a modern world, give the appropriate protections. A couple of those particular acts are the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Judgment Enforcement Act and the Personal Property Security Act. These give protection as well.

Anyway, I will stop debate at this moment in time and wait for committee. Hopefully by that time I will have the answer in regard to Ontario and where they stand on their similar piece of legislation. Then we will come back at that time and I will have that information, hopefully.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that this bill be now read a second time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Repeal The Bulk Sales Act. (Bill 10)

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a second time. When shall this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House?

AN HON. MEMBER: Presently, by leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Presently, by leave.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Bulk Sales Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 10)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to call Order 11, second reading of Bill 17 standing in the name of the Minister of Justice, An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that we call Order 11, second reading of An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act. (Bill 17)

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak about Bill 17, An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act. The Fatal Accidents Act currently allows the families of people who die as a result of the negligence of others to commence an action to recover damages incurred.

This legislation, Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, is very important as it ensures damages may be recovered to assist those persons who are impacted by the premature death of a loved one or family member. However, it is now time, Mr. Speaker, to amend the Fatal Accidents Act as it does not permit a common law spouse or partner to commence an action under the legislation.

A common law spouse or partner could potentially be impacted by the death of a spouse or partner and in our opinion should be given the same opportunity to commence an action as a married husband or wife.

Review has indicated that the current legislation may not survive the scrutiny of a Charter challenge. In other words, Mr. Speaker, equality rights and protections as enunciated in the Charter may be violated if common law spouses or partners are not given the benefit of an opportunity to use this legislation to commence an action. This is not acceptable to me, as the Minister of Justice, or to our government which is charged with protecting the rights of our residents.

The equality rights under section 15 of the Charter, Mr. Speaker, are aimed at preventing the violation of essential human dignity and freedom to the imposition of disadvantage, stereotyping or political and social prejudices and to promote a society in which all persons enjoy equal recognition at law, as human beings or as members of Canadian society, equally capable and equally deserving of concern and respect and consideration.

Section 15 in the Charter states, if I remember correctly, Mr. Speaker, that everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law and not to be discriminated against as a result of race, political opinion, sexuality, issues such as this which amount to our basic human rights.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Department of Justice are committed to protecting the equality rights of the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador. To this end, Bill 17 addresses this issue with the Fatal Accidents Act. This bill will permit partners to commence an action under the Act. The definition of partner used in the Act, Mr. Speaker, is the same as the one found in our Family Law Act which defines partner for support purposes as: Either of two persons, which include same sex partners, who have cohabited in a conjugal relationship for two years or for one year if they are, together, the parents of a child.

If I could just say that again - we are suggesting the same definition of partner as used in the Family Law Act: Either of two persons, which include same sex partners, who have cohabited in a conjugal relationship for two years or for one year if they are, together, the parents of a child.

In order to bring the Fatal Accidents Act in line with the Charter, I propose the adoption of Bill 17. It has been determined, Mr. Speaker, that partners should be given the same opportunities as married persons under the Act.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this bill, Mr. Speaker. I ask the support of all hon. members in passing this legislation. Again, I know that all individuals in this House, but especially those with a legal background, will understand the significance of changing a word in a piece of legislation so that it applies to all members of our society and thereby gives legislative approval to the requirements of section 15 of the Charter.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate an opportunity just to make a few very brief comments.

There will be no question, the Opposition will be supportive of this Bill 17 which will amend the Fatal Accidents Act, as opposed to the other bill, the Bulk Sales Act, which I said I had some concerns with and would require some further information, which I think was certainly a legitimate request. We did need it and do need it.

This is pretty straightforward on the Fatal Accidents Act. The living arrangements and the cohabitation relationships and arrangements that exist in our society today are far different, number one, than they were decades or centuries ago. I believe our Fatal Accidents Act was drafted back in the 1950s.

Obviously, relationships have changed. We need to bring our law into the modern day to reflect the current social circumstances that we have. Again, this is where it a case - and the law always does this, I think. The law is always playing catch-up, or the legislation is always playing catch-up, to society, because you might create a law today that is great for the circumstances of today but ten years out it may be totally ineffectual or unnecessary. You have to change your law to keep up with the times.

Not only have the times changed and different living arrangements changed; we have to remember that we have had a substantial piece of legislation in this country called the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in it, as the minister referred to, are the equality provisions. Our current Fatal Accidents Act, I would submit, will not stand the test of a constitutional challenge, in its current form anyway, so we applaud the government in this case. It is recognition of situations that do exist and are real and need to be recognized, so we will, Mr. Speaker, certainly be speaking and voting in favour of this amendment.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. minister speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the Opposition House Leader for his comments, and I appreciate that we are moving these bills forward today and that there is a spirit of co-operation and recognition of the importance of some of these issues.

On that basis, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 17 be now read a second time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

CLERK: A bill, "An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act." (Bill 17)

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

When shall this bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House?

MR. RIDEOUT: Presently, by leave, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Presently, by leave.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 17)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bills 8, 9, 12, 10 and 17.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that I do now leave the Chair for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the said bills.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt this motion?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

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

Committee of the Whole

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

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

Committee consideration of Bill 8, which is, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act.

MADAM CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 8, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act." (Bill 8)

CLERK: Clause 1.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clause 2.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

On motion, clause 2 carried.

CLERK: Be it enacted by the Lieutenant-Governor and House of Assembly in Legislative Session convened, as follows.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act. (Bill 8)

MADAM CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

The title is carried.

On motion, title carried.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall I report Bill 8 passed without amendment?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

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

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

Committee consideration of Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006.

MADAM CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006." (Bill 9)

CLERK: Clause 1.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Clause 1 is carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Be it enacted by the Lieutenant-Governor and House of Assembly in Legislative Session convened, as follows:

MADAM CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

The enacting clause is carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006. (Bill 9)

MADAM CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

The title is carried.

On motion, title carried.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall I report the bill passed without amendment?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

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

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

Committee consideration of Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act.

MADAM CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act." (Bill 12)

CLERK: Clause 1.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Clause 1 is carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clauses 2 and 3.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 and 3 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Clauses 2 and 3 are carried.

On motion, clauses 2 and 3 carried.

CLERK: Be it enacted by the Lieutenant-Governor and House of Assembly in Legislative Session convened, as follows.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

The enacting clause is carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

The title is carried.

On motion, title carried.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall I report the bill passed without amendment?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

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

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

Committee consideration of Bill 17, An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act.

MADAM CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 17, An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act." (Bill 17)

CLERK: Clause 1.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Clause 1 is carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clause 2.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Clause 2 is carried.

On motion, clause 2 carried.

CLERK: Be it enacted by the Lieutenant-Governor and House of Assembly in Legislative Session convened, as follows.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

The enacting clause is carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

The title is carried.

On motion, title carried.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall I report the bill passed without amendment?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

The bill is carried.

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

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

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

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

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MADAM CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bills 8, 9, 12 and 17 carried without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of the Whole reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed her to report Bills 8, 9, 12 and 17 carried without amendment.

When shall this report be received?

MR. RIDEOUT: Now, Mr Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

When shall the said bills be read a third time? Now? Tomorrow?

MR. RIDEOUT: Now, by leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Now, by leave. The hon. member has leave.

On motion, report received and adopted bills read a third time presently, by leave.

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move that Order 6, Bill 8, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act, now be read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the said bill be now read a third time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 8, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act, be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act. (Bill 8)

MR. SPEAKER: This bill is now read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 8)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, now be read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 9 be now read a third time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006, be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, "An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006." (Bill 9)

MR. SPEAKER: This bill is now read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 9)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move that Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act, now be read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the said bill be now read a third time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act, be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, "An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act." (Bill 12)

MR. SPEAKER: This bill is now read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 12)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move that Bill 17, An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act, now be read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the said bill be now read a third time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 17, An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act. (Bill 17)

MR. SPEAKER: This bill is now read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Fatal Accidents Act," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order paper. (Bill 17)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Well that concludes the government's legislative agenda for today. I thank members for their co-operation. It is Thursday afternoon, so I would imagine most members who represent out of town constituencies, except those of us who are on the Management Committee and have work again tomorrow, would be perhaps heading home. So I would like to wish members an enjoyable weekend and we will see you back here again on Monday.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I move that the House on its rising do adjourn until tomorrow, Monday at 1:30.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that this House do now adjourn.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: aye.

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

This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. of the clock on Monday. This House is now adjourned.

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