April 15, 2008               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS            Vol. XLVI   No. 11


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Today the Chair takes great pleasure in welcoming the hon. Paul Okalik, the Premier of Nunavut.

Welcome to Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to Newfoundland and Labrador, and welcome to our House of Assembly.

The Chair is going to change the proceedings of the House a little bit, right from the get-go here today.

By leave, the Chair is going to recognize the hon. the Premier.

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the hon. members of the House for leave to speak at this time.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House to report on a very important meeting that I had today with the Premier of Nunavut, the hon. Paul Okalik. I am pleased to announce that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Nunavut are joining together and calling on the Government of Canada to ban the use of the hakapik as part of the annual Canadian seal harvest.

We have also written a letter to the Prime Minister on this issue today.

Our two governments recently participated in a sealing industry advocacy mission to Europe that was led by the federal government. Of course, our representative was our Minister of Natural Resources.

I am advised, Mr. Speaker, that within each country the use of the hakapik was a dominant issue and continues to be viewed in an extremely negative manner. These are the very countries that are in the process of deciding whether or not to ban the importation of seal products from Canada. That vote is set to take place in June, so immediate and decisive action is necessary and time if of the essence. Premier Okalik and I are prepared to move quickly and decisively, as are our governments.

Mr. Speaker, the Canada delegation was told repeatedly that a ban of this tool may prove to dispel some of the negative opinions regarding the Canadian seal harvest. Clearly, this is a core issue in Europe and is used as part of the anti-sealing rhetoric that is being put forward to their policy and decision makers. This is an opportunity to disarm them of something that is used negatively against our sealers.

A ban on the importation of seal products is a very serious issue that impacts Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike. It affects people in coastal communities across Canada who depend on the seal harvest for income. Indeed, the 1983 European Economic Community ban on the importation of whitecoats and bluebacks reduced the total Inuit income in Labrador alone by one-third, and it had a tremendous negative impact on Aboriginal communities.

There are approximately 16,000 sealers across this country, many of them living in rural areas with limited employment opportunities during the winter. That is why, Mr. Speaker, we are joining with our colleagues in Nunavut to fight back on this serious issue.

In reality, the hakapik is only used by 5 per cent of the sealers in our Province. Anti-sealing groups have been clear and consistent in using the image of the hakapik as a means to advance their cause. Our governments are saying that we should no longer tolerate this as a country by putting those who oppose our way of life in a position to depict us as inhumane.

The seal harvest is carried out by people who are earning a living in a humane and sustainable manner. Both independent veterinarians and the European Food and Safety Authority have recognized the Canadian seal harvest as one of the most humane harvests of marine mammals in the world.

Our hunt is sustainable and humane, and that should continue to be the focus of our message.

To that end, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have had the opportunity to meet with Premier Okalik and I look forward to our respective governments working together on this very important issue.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly want to thank the Premier for an advance copy of his statement, and to rise today to support the efforts of both him and the Premier of Nunavut in calling upon the Government of Canada to ban the use of the hakapik.

Mr. Speaker, I think it needs to be recognized that the humane practices of our seal hunters in this country has been nothing short of total commitment and total respect in regard for this industry over the last three to four decades. When you look at what they have done over the years, such as the banning of the hunt for whitecoats and bluebacks which goes back to the early 1980s, this was all done in the name of humanity and in sustaining a very humane hunt throughout this country.

Mr. Speaker, right now we know that most of the mammals that are being taken are hunted - I think over 95 per cent of them - with rifles, which is the most humane hunt that you can launch anywhere, I think, in terms of a seal hunt or any other kind of hunt.

Mr. Speaker, I hope this banning is accepted or this petition is accepted by the Government of Canada because I think every and all efforts, not only what has been done in the past but on a go-forward basis, will be accommodated by the people in our Province and I am sure by the Aboriginal peoples around the country. There is no doubt that there has been real effect upon many people. Mr. Speaker, these anti-sealing groups will only be curbed when you see the real cut off of financial resources that accrue to their organizations.

Mr. Speaker, they have used false propaganda for many years to instrument their cause and to raise money, talking about things like the hunt for the whitecoat, which has not occurred in this Province for many, many decades. I think only with the cut off of the flow of money going into these organizations will you curb the extreme and obstructive behaviour that we have seen from anti-sealing groups and their fight towards the poor, hardworking fisherpeople and Aboriginal people that are in our country. It is absolutely sickening, it is deplorable, and all efforts to promote the sustainable hunt that we have in this country and in our Province needs to be done so that the real, true message can be felt in the European Union as they make this decision. Please do not make decisions based on false truths and propaganda.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I, too, thank the Premier for his advanced copy of the statement and for the opportunity to welcome Premier Paul Okalik here with us today. It is a real honour and a real pleasure and I am very proud of what our government is doing with the Government of Nunavut.

I would like to speak directly to the Premier of Nunavut, if I may, to congratulate you and your government on the very attractive and useful Web site that you have on this sealing industry. I was very pleased to see it. It is an excellent educational Web site for all ages and if people who are opposed to sealing, based on anti-sealing propaganda, would only look at this with their eyes open, they would really learn something about the sealing industry. Of course, the secret is, will they have their eyes open, will they have their minds open if they look at it. I think it would impact them if they would because there you talk about the importance of seals and other wildlife as a food source, especially in this time of transition in the Arctic. I do not think these people even think about that.

You talk about the contribution of seal to the clothing traditions and economies of Inuit people, the importance of the commercial hunt in supporting rural communities. Sealing here in Newfoundland and Labrador, though they do not want to believe it, also sustains the same way as in Nunavut, sustains Aboriginal and settler traditional lifestyles here as well. This is the message that we have to keep pounding on and I know that our two governments are going to do that.

I applaud the efforts of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and of Nunavut, to spread the correct information about the sealing industry and I encourage you to continue working with the Canadian government to get them to do the same thing in order to protect our sealers here in this country. They need to know - the sealers I mean - that they have our support and the protection of the Canadian government.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

 

MR. SPEAKER: The House will now revert to the regular proceedings.

Today we have members' statements from the hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & LaPoile; the hon. the Member for the District of Bellevue; the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; the hon. the Member for the District of Lewisporte; the hon. the Member for the District of Port au Port; the hon. the Member for the District of Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans.

The hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & LaPoile.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I rise today to recognize and congratulate The Plot on being chosen the best band in the Province.

The Plot is a Port aux Basques rock and alternative band who won the provincial Battle of the Bands competition at the Gander Arts and Culture Centre in March. Along with the title of best in the Province, they also brought home a $1,000 cash prize for themselves. They plan to invest their winnings in new musical equipment.

The band consists of lead singer Nicholas Billard, bass player Shannon Strickland, lead guitarist Bradley LeRiche and drummer Ryan Taylor. They are all students of St. James' Regional High School at Port aux Basques.

The band members have been playing together for over a year and they have also won the Idol competition for the past two succeeding years in that area. Ryan Taylor writes most of the band's songs and the group performed four of their original songs at the battle competition. Their concentration is now on making a demo.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in extending congratulations to The Plot on receiving this prestigious award.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to extend congratulations to April Drake, the daughter of Donald and Roxanne Drake of Long Cove, for being the winner of the Classic Achiever Scholarship from Wendy's Restaurant of Canada. The scholarship is in the monetary amount of $5,000.

Ms Drake is a seventeen-year-old who contributes a great deal to her community. She plays hockey, basketball, soccer and softball. She is a member of the Allied Youth Chapter at Crescent Collegiate, a volunteer with Canadian Blood Services, and a minor hockey coach and mentor. She is also a member of the Reserves, where she trains and works part time.

Mr. Speaker, to top this all off, Ms Drake is a top student in her academics program at Crescent Collegiate, which includes French Immersion, advanced math, physics and advanced placement psychology as an independent study course - the latter course being a university credited course.

The Classic Achiever Scholarship from Wendy's Restaurant is offered to well-rounded Canadian high school students who intend to attend post-secondary education, who excel in scholastic achievement, extracurricular activity and community involvement.

To attain this scholarship, Ms Drake had to meet with all these criteria and defeated 10,000 other applicants, a challenge she completed very well.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all members of this House join me in extending congratulations to April Drake in winning the Classic Achiever Scholarship from Wendy's Restaurant of Canada, and wish her the very best in continuing her academic career.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Christy Groves, a sixteen-year-old native of Forteau, Labrador, on her recent outstanding accomplishments, the People's Choice Award for her artwork in the 2007 Canada Day Poster Challenge and the 2008 Canada Day Poster Challenge for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, Ms Groves' People's Choice Award was the result of her poster being selected as one of thirty by a panel of judges from more than 1,500 entries. Posters were showcased at the Fairmont Hotel during the Challenges events last April and through the summer at the Department of Canadian Heritage. A ballot box was available to viewers, and the majority of votes cast were in favour of Ms Groves.

Mr. Speaker, her most recent award was for the 2008 Canada Day Poster Challenge for Newfoundland and Labrador. Her winning entry depicted Canada's rich culture and historical roots and was selected from 890 entries from across the Province.

This is the third time Ms Groves has won since 2005, and she will go on to represent the Province at the National Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa on July 1, and will then continue on to Quebec on July 3 to take part in the city's 400 anniversary celebration.

Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in congratulating Christy Groves on receiving both the People's Choice Award and the Canada Day Poster Challenge in 2008 for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the significant accomplishments of a great music teacher in my district, Mr. Lindy Whitt.

Mr. Whitt has been teaching music to students in Central Newfoundland since 1984. This year, a typical year, he instructs: a Grade 6 Beginner Band of forty members; a Grade 7 and 8 Junior Band of fifty members; a Grade 7, 8 and 9 Wind Ensemble of sixty members; a Junior Jazz Band of twenty-four members; a Senior Concert Band of sixty members; a Senior Concert Choir of fifty; and a Senior Jazz Band of twenty-three.

The accomplishments and awards that have taken place under the direction of Mr. Whitt - by him and his students - are too numerous to mention in a one minute member's statement; but, just to give you a flavour, in recent years his awards include: in excess of twenty Gold Standards at Kiwanis Festivals, winner of the Alphonsus Hennessey Award for best performance by jazz and concert bands, many times, and numerous first place awards. That only scratches the surface, Mr. Speaker.

In addition, this teacher, this music teacher, has expended countless hours preparing students for and planning many details related to out-of-Province excursions. Early morning practices, late night fund-raising contacts - he has done it all. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Whitt has done a great service to our students and to this Province.

Members of the House, please join with me and his current principal, Mr. Burt, his students and parents, in recognizing the huge contribution this gentleman has made to hundreds of music students in Central Newfoundland for the past twenty-three years.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CORNECT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today in this hon. House to congratulate Cadet Brandon Skinner, one of two cadets from the Province to complete the Outward Bound Scotland Exchange. Also Cadet Kelsey Collier, again one of two cadets from the Province who participated in the Outward Bound Wales Exchange.

The Outward Bound program is an annual International Cadet Exchange allowing senior cadets from Canada to spend six weeks with cadets from other nations in a cultural and advanced training environment where they learn one another's customs and training standards.

Also, Cadet Blake Benoit participated along with eleven others from across Canada, the only one from Newfoundland and Labrador, in an international expedition which consisted of an eight day, 200 kilometre hike through the Alps in the three countries of France, Italy and Switzerland.

These three young men, Mr. Speaker, are cadets enrolled with the 3012 Lynx Army Cadet Corps from the Port au Port Peninsula.

I ask all hon. members of this hon. House of Assembly to join with me in congratulating these individuals for their participation and to thank them for being great ambassadors of the great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and, indeed, our country Canada.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This afternoon it is my pleasure to offer congratulations to one of Newfoundland and Labrador's finest ambassadors and one of Grand Falls-Windsor's favourite native sons. On March 3, 2008, Gordon Pinsent added to his very impressive list of accomplishments by winning a coveted Genie Award for the Best Performance by a leading actor in Sarah Polly's acclaimed "Away with Her".

For those of us who are fortunate enough to know Gordon, we cannot help but be inspired by his tenacity, his boundless energy and his love for this Province, and in particular, for his hometown of Grand Falls-Windsor. His film, The Rowdyman was the first feature film ever shot in Newfoundland and Labrador and through that film Gordon certainly told the world of his pride for this Province, its people and its heritage. It is therefore not surprising that a couple of years ago on the occasion of Gordon's seventy-fifth birthday, Premier Williams quipped that following in Gordon's footsteps he would be proud to earn the recognition as Newfoundland and Labrador's Rowdyman Junior.

Though he resides in Toronto, Gordon still calls Grand Falls-Windsor home and regularly returns. In 2005, as part of the Centennial Celebrations of Grand Falls-Windsor, this government proudly conferred on Gordon the honour of renaming the Arts and Culture Centre to The Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts - an honour befitting Newfoundland's best known Canadian actor and a privilege that Gordon accepted with the utmost of humility.

I would like to ask the members of this House to join me and my constituents in offering our heartfelt congratulations to Gordon Pinsent on achieving this prestigious Genie Award. At seventy-seven, Gordon inspires us all as he continues to craft a most distinguished career.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to acknowledge April 13-18 as National Victims of Crime Awareness Week. The theme this year is: Finding the Way Together which demonstrates the importance for both the community and government to collaborate on this important topic.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Justice administers the Victim Services Program, which is a dedicated service for victims of crime. There are twenty-two Victim Services Coordinators which operate from eleven regional offices throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The program is based on the principles that victims should be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect, and that victims should suffer a minimum inconvenience from their involvement with the criminal justice system.

Victim Services offers a number of services such as providing general information about the criminal justice system, case updates, pre-court preparation and counselling. These support services have proven invaluable for those who unfortunately have used them.

Mr. Speaker, we can all take some comfort in the fact that the incidence of most violent crimes is declining in Canada. However, we have to be aware that crime still occurs and has a real and immediate impact upon its victims. By providing the necessary resources to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and Royal Canadian Mounted Police to combat crime, and through supporting the Victim Services program, our government has made real steps to mitigate the effect of criminal activities.

Mr. Speaker, we have invested over $6 million for Victim Services over the past four years coupled with a commitment of $9.2 million over six years for the Violence Prevention Initiative, of which I am proud to be a member of the Ministers Committee.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I also wish to advise the House and the general public that further information about the National Victims of Crime Awareness Week can be found at www.victimsweek.gc.ca. This Web site highlights our government's Family Violence Protection Act as a leading piece of legislation in the field. Just as this legislation was a collaborative effort, we will continue to work, Mr. Speaker, with our community partners and ensure those who find themselves before the court as victims of crime have the necessary supports.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

For many years of course, we are all familiar with the rights of the accused and the rights of those who have been charged, and there has been lots of those protections and supports in the system, the Charter of Rights and the legal aid systems and so on. Of course, for many, many years the rights of the victim did not get the treatment and the respect and be dealt with as they ought to be. In fact, many victims of crime felt they were victimized by the system. Of course, it is good to see that over the years we have made some advances now into bringing some balance to that, not only the rights of the accused person but also the rights of the victim.

Everyone, of course, in this Province is familiar with Nellie Nippard from Central Newfoundland who became a national symbol, an advocate for victim's rights, particularly when it came - she herself was a victim of a very violent crime. Of course, she is well known in the area of the parole board, when a person who was convicted and had been incarcerated applied for parole, she put up a valiant fight because she thought, as a victim, she had a right to be at the parole board hearings and to speak out and she should be assisted by the government in getting to those hearings. She has become a national symbol for her perseverance in seeing that victim's rights were in fact improved.

I had personal experience in the legal system myself for a number of years, of course, on the defence side, but probably more so as a prosecutor for eighteen years you get a true appreciation and a closer dealing with victims. You see then how they do need supports and how they need to be assisted, particularly when it comes to pre-trial preparations and so on.

So, it is great to see that we have it. We have not gone far enough but it is good to see that we at least recognize we had to put that balance in the system and we have taken a lot of strides in the past few years to see that we are going on the right track. I would encourage the minister and the department to continue in making improvements for victim services in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

Thanks to the minister for his advanced copy.

I am very pleased that we are recognizing National Victims Awareness Week. I think it is quite important. I am glad the minister ended his statement in talking about the Family Violence Protection Act because in our society we still have people who do not see abuse in the family as a crime. They do not realize that violence inside family is a crime and that women and children who are victims of abuse in family are victims of crime. So, I am very glad he highlighted that.

I would point out to the minister, and I know he knows it but it is an opportunity to say it to all of us, that in order to work with those victims, especially women and children, we have to make sure that they have equal access to the court system and have what they need. Very often they do not have the resources to pay for legal services, so making sure that in our Province we have equal access to Legal Aid. I would like to point out that this is a really big need for people in Labrador West, especially for women in that area.

I know that we do put money into Women's Centers and into shelters, but we have a real increased need for core funding for shelters and safe houses for women and children who are being abused throughout our Province. We are not covering the needs of all women and children in our Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to conclude her response.

MS MICHAEL: I shall, Mr. Speaker.

I will just say I am glad, with this kind of week, Awareness Week, that it gives us the opportunity to raise these issues again in the House.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Premier.

I preface my questions by saying the patients and the families affected by the HR issue, of course, should have minimal stress and anguish as this matter proceeds, but there are some questions of clarification I would like to ask the Premier given his comments of yesterday outside the House.

Mr. Speaker, it has been difficult to follow the Premier's statements on this issue concerning the Cameron inquiry and the HR issue. Last week, both the Premier and the Minister of Justice did not want to answer any questions in this House because it might prejudge the process before all the testimony was given; however, yesterday the Premier stated that Eastern Health was liable and should settle out of court.

I ask the Premier: What has happened to make you change your mind in terms of speaking out on this issue?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the hon. member opposite can well understand, my concerns last week were based on acting within the protocols of the inquiry, acting properly within the terms of reference of the inquiry, making sure we did nothing to interfere with the inquiry, and making sure that we allowed the inquiry to proceed in a proper manner.

I wanted to make sure that, when I spoke in this House, I was not infringing upon their right to conduct the inquiry. I wanted to make sure it was not having any undue influence on the outcomes in the inquiry from the perspective of what was transpiring at that time; and, on that basis, I asked the Minister of Justice, through his officials, to make inquiries of legal counsel at the inquiry to make sure that we were quite legitimately answering questions in the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

After reviewing the statement of defence that has been filed in the class-action lawsuit on this HR issue, it appears that Eastern Health is the only named defendant. I understand there is an application before the courts by Eastern Health to have permission granted that they might, if they wish, join third parties at a later time.

I am just wondering if the Premier could confirm that as of now the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is indeed not a third party and not been named as a defendant in this lawsuit by the persons involved in this issue.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As of this point I am not aware of the Government of Newfoundland being named as a party; however, Mr. Speaker, in relation to the Opposition House Leader's comments, I would like to point out that the Commission of Inquiry, the terms of reference do not allow for the commissioner to express any conclusion or recommendation in relation to civil liability.

What was expressed yesterday - the Premier made it clear - he expressed his personal opinion and essentially, I would suggest, stated the obvious.

I would say to the Opposition House Leader, the concern we had was dealing with the evidence that was before the inquiry. So, to say that we would not answer any questions yesterday, I would suggest, is incorrect.

Essentially, I would point out again that the Premier's opinion is his opinion - one that I happen to share in, but one that is not binding on the inquiry.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

I appreciate the minister's answer. I guess I can take from that answer that, no, we have not, as a Province, been joined as a defendant or a third party in this particular action.

Now I will get to the piece about the Premier's opinion, which he spoke yesterday outside. Given that, on many occasions, this Premier and this government have said that we do not get involved in the operational issues of Eastern Health, given the fact that government is not named in this lawsuit, and it is a class-action suit against Eastern Health only, does the Premier feel that it is appropriate, as the Premier - I realize you also wear a hat as a lawyer, but you also wear the hat as the leader of this Province - is it appropriate, given that we are not a party to that action, for you, in your influential position, to be making these comments? Are they appropriate?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: If the hon. member opposite is suggesting that I should not do anything to alleviate the pain and the hardship and the misery and the suffering and the trauma of having these problems revisited again during an inquiry, and also having the danger and the possibility of having them revisited again during a class-action trial, or several trials or discoveries or legal proceedings that may go on, then I make no apologies whatsoever for trying to alleviate some of that hardship, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly why I am asking these questions; because, rather than just making statements, everyone is concerned and wants to mitigate and alleviate any amount of stress that the victims or their families are suffering in this case. Anyone is. If you are not, you are not human in the first place. That goes without saying.

My question is: In light of the comments that he made yesterday, that you would like to see it settled, given the fact that government does ultimately control the Eastern Health Authority, have you had, or do you intend to have, any discussions with Eastern Health to pursue this issue of your wish that it would settle?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member opposite had looked at the newscast or the reporting of that particular matter very carefully and closely last night, he would have seen that I indicated that I expressed my opinion as a lawyer. It was a question that came out of left field. I felt it was a very good question. I felt it was a very fair question and, based on the fact that I probably initiated thousands of lawsuits against insurance companies on behalf of victims and people who have been harmed and aggrieved, I think I would be in a good position to express an opinion as a lawyer, which is exactly what I did, and which is exactly what I said. I did express that opinion as a lawyer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With all due respect, I say to the Premier, we have only heard from three people in the Cameron inquiry. Government has not been made a party to this action, so I do not know why the Premier would feel he is in control or has knowledge of certain information to make a determination of liability. Regardless, if you are a lawyer, we still need to hear the facts. I say to the Premier that you did not have, and you do not have, all of the facts in order to make that decision, but the decision is done.

The comment was made now about settling, so I ask the Premier - albeit Eastern Health is the only defendant in this lawsuit, government has control of Eastern Health through the legislative process, including budgetary funding decisions.

I ask the Premier: When you say you want the class-action lawsuit settled out of court, is this based on your hope that the parties would settle it, the insurance companies themselves, or are you prepared to bring the government resources to the table to see that this is, in fact, done?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I am amazed, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. member opposite would not want me to express an opinion that helps the victims of these problems. I am at a loss to understand why you would say: How could I form an opinion after three witnesses have testified, or how can I form an opinion?

Well, I formed an opinion based on what I have seen. I formed my opinion on the basis of thirty years practicing as a lawyer. I formed my opinion on the basis that I have tried and participated and seen thousands of these cases. I have not tried thousands of them because a lot of them were settled out of court. I happen to know the way insurance companies operate. I happen to know how settlements get precipitated and that is exactly why I tabled the document, the letter from Dr. Ejeckam whereby he said that patient care was being jeopardized while you were a member of Cabinet.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

Again, I say to the Premier, everybody I do believe in this Province, unless you are not humane, wants to see this thing settled and resolved for the benefit of the victims and their families.

My question to the Premier is, now that you have expressed your opinion that it should be settled, you also wear the hat as Premier of this Province, are you prepared to put on your Premier's hat, because we know what your opinion is as a lawyer, and bring the resources of government to bear, talk to Eastern Health so that we can get to a settlement phase? Rather than just leaving expectations out there for these victims and their families, what are you prepared to do now that you have expressed your opinion to see that that expectation can be made a reality?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I have told Eastern Health and I have told the insurance companies and I have told the 500,000 plus people in this Province through every possible media that was available to me yesterday that this matter should be settled. I cannot do much more than that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yesterday I raised in the House of Assembly an issue regarding a breast cancer patient who had to consent to being released from hospital the same day after her surgery or to have her surgical procedure rescheduled. I contacted Eastern Health yesterday and shortly before I came to the House of Assembly today I did receive confirmation from them that this is indeed an unwritten policy that is followed in the Health Care Corporation in situations where beds are not available to those patients to be admitted after this particular surgery.

So, I ask the government now: Will you ensure that there is an end to this unwritten policy and that women who are being scheduled for breast cancer surgery in our hospitals are given the opportunity to be admitted, and are admitted, and not asked to consent to be sent home if they are unwilling?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, in fairness to the minister who just came back from the inquiry and may not have had an opportunity to see the question or even be briefed on what the outcome of the information is. I have available here a letter which came from Eastern Health which indicates exactly what the policy is. I am prepared to table that, Mr. Speaker, and make it available to the Opposition. It only came to my attention within the last hour and ten minutes, so we will have a chance to go through it. I understand it is a national policy, it is a national procedure.

I also understand from a quick read of it, that some of these mastectomies are performed through outpatients, which amazes me, quite frankly, but if that is the procedure which is being done across the country I will have to find out whether that is the norm. Of course, we will obviously leave that to the Minister of Health.

What I am prepared to do is provide this for you because this is exactly as it has been received by government from Eastern Health, and then we will take that under advisement and the minister will certainly respond.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure it is the same information that I have received. The fact that it may be a policy in other parts of the country still does not make it acceptable. I will await government's response on that issue.

In September of 2004, government announced a decision to amalgamate all the health and community service boards across the Province into four mega boards. Seven boards actually were combined to make up the Eastern Health Authority.

I ask the Premier, if he will release any and all strategic plans, studies and reports that were used by government related to this decision to amalgamate the boards that now comprise Eastern Health or were there any strategic plans in place at the time to do so?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I will check with my officials to determine if there was any actual assessment done prior to and what kind of evaluation may have been completed prior to 2005. Part of a formal evaluation would have been done, and if that took place, then I will table it in the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, our research has shown us that an essential part of the process to regionalizing governance structures in health corporations and other boards have been a transition team. This team oversees the process of merging administrative structures and generally plan and assist the transition process for health boards.

I ask the Premier, or the minister: Was there a transition team in place? Who was on the team for Eastern Health and what resources were provided to them during that time?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

And I assume if they did the research on it, it must be accurate. Just to put the whole issue of consolidation into some context. In 2005, consolidation of fourteen boards into four in this Province was probably the fourth rendition of board consolidation. In fact, in the country we are probably the experts on board consolidation.

When I worked in the health system back in 1985, when I began, there were some fifty-odd health authorities in this Province, I say, Mr. Speaker, at that time. We have gone from fifty-odd back in the mid-80s down to I think it was thirty-odd and down to fourteen and now down to four. The 2005 exercise was a repeat of an exercise that occurred in the early- to mid-90s. The authorities and the individuals involved in the process in 2005 had already been a part of in some cases what was two and in some cases three renditions of that before –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think, as a Province, as a Department of Health and Community Services and the authorities themselves, there was a fair bit of institutional knowledge around consolidation, I say, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister shouldn't concern himself with my research. At least I read the notes I was given.

Mr. Speaker, let me say this: There is no answer as to whether there was a transition team or whether there wasn't.

Mr. Speaker, maybe he can answer this question: What were the budgetary goals of this amalgamation process and was there a government expectation of financial savings and were they achieved?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, had I been in power in 2003 and read the notes from Eastern Health I probably would have known what was going on in ER/PR at that time as well.

I say, Mr. Speaker, the question the member poses –

MS JONES: (Inaudible). That is a very good point.

MR. TAYLOR: The Premier gave you one yesterday, a letter from a doctor.

MS JONES: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that protection.

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite asked a question around the financial targets that were provided to the four authorities back in 2005. If I am not mistaken, it was somewhere in the range of about $7 million. As a result of that consolidation and what were believed to be some opportunities for some administrative cost savings, the targets were in the magnitude of about $7 million, if I recall.

SOME HON MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister raises a very important point, and I would like to ask him: In the transition of government in 2003, can you tell me what documentation regarding the ER/PR testing and the laboratory at Eastern Health was in the Department of Health and Community Services when you took over, in 2003?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wasn't the minister in 2003, I say, Mr. Speaker, but I could ask –

MR. TAYLOR: You were in Cabinet in 2003 (inaudible). Were you in Cabinet in 2003, Yvonne?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WISEMAN: - the officials in the Department of Health and Community Services if the members opposite, when they were in government, if they, in fact, knew of the letter that we question here that was written in 2003. I will pose that question, I say, Mr. Speaker, and report back to the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, we are all well aware of the memo that circulated between the laboratory and Eastern Health as a corporation. My question is: What information was in the Department of Health and Community Services? I have no knowledge that there was any. There are accusations being made in the House of Assembly by Cabinet ministers opposite that there was - I ask government to search the files, provide all and any information, correspondence related to this issue that was in the Department of Health and Community Services in 2003 when your government took office.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I find it very ironic, now that we are in government and I am the minister, I am expected to know what is not only written but what is unwritten, how many patients were admitted to what hospitals, how many patients were in emergency departments last night. Whereas the member opposite wants to pose a (inaudible) standard when they were in government, unless it was in writing, I did not know anything about it. Now that is a double standard, I say, Mr. Speaker.

I may not be able to produce the document that was in the department during 2003 that the members opposite might have knowledge of, but if there was a section of the laboratory in Eastern Health that was closing today for five weeks, I suspect someone in Eastern Health would have at least verbally told me. I suspect that back in 2003 when her former colleague was the Minister of Health and Community Services, if the lab was closing for five weeks on his watch, he definitely would have known. I say, Mr. Speaker, he definitely would have known.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have my doubts if the minister opposite would have known; I have to be frank with you.

Anyway, getting back to the line of questioning that I started today because, obviously, the members opposite are only propagating information that they know nothing about and have no information to substantiate.

Let me get to my question, Mr. Speaker. We now know that there was no transition team in place for the merger of the new Eastern Health Corporation under that government's mandate. I have to ask: What was government thinking at the time that they took on this massive merger by not providing no transition team and no support services?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, what government did in 2005 was created four entities in this Province, four health authorities, and we appointed four boards. Those four boards appointed their senior executive team. They hired CEOs and a team of management expertise around them. That CEO, together with the management team led by the four boards of trustees, guided a transition process, many of whom had been through that same process in the early 1990s and in the mid-1990s. Some of them, in fact, had been through that same process back in the 1980s.

Mr. Speaker, many of those people who sat around the executive teams of those four health authorities had gone through this process before. They had their checking list of things that needed to be done during transition. These were experienced administrators who had gone through the process before. They had the complement of senior management people, together with middle management people that they needed to be able to guide an organization through a transition into a normal operational mode, I say, Mr. Speaker. So, that is the team we put in place.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. WISEMAN: That is the team, I say, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are now three years into this process of amalgamating the boards that now comprise Eastern Health.

I ask the minister: Has the transition now been completed or are there certain aspects of this amalgamation that is still ongoing?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the member opposite has no experience in this field of bringing together organizations, I say, Mr. Speaker.

MS JONES: (Inaudible).

MR. WISEMAN: As I have said many times before in this House, bringing together organizations as large and complex as health care - those boards are - to try to have that all accomplished within a three-year period is an impossible task. There are some issues that are outstanding with respect to transition. Let me name you one. The whole issue of the bargaining unit structure within the authorities is a significant piece of work. Back in the mid-1990s when the consolidation occurred, it took about four years for that one, single task to be concluded.

If you were to examine consolidation of health authorities across this country, I say, Mr. Speaker, you will find exactly what I am saying to be accurate. You will find that these transitions, bringing together organizations, whether it is in health care or in the corporate world, you do not bring together organizations of different cultures, different structures -

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

MR. WISEMAN: - and bring it together overnight as one, single organization.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We know that three years has already past. I asked a simple question: What aspects have not still been amalgamated? The minister alluded to one aspect, maybe he could tell us what the other pieces are that have yet to be amalgated within the health care corporation and maybe he could table for us the full timelines that government has in place to see those things completed.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Just to illustrate a point, Mr. Speaker - the member opposite asked for very specific timelines - I will just use the example I used a moment ago, the bringing together of bargaining units. It is a process of negotiations. It is a process of discussions. We have the Nurses' Union involved, we have AAHP involved, we have NAPE involved, we have CUPE involved, we have multiple bargaining unit structures across the four authorities, and we are bringing them together in a process, Mr. Speaker. There is a discussion; there is a negotiation that takes place. Sometimes you are able to conclude negotiations quickly. Sometimes it takes a little longer. So, there is a bit -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WISEMAN: Some of those things take some time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The members opposite are kind of anxious today but I will try to get to my answer.

The point being, Mr. Speaker, some of these exercises take some time. I cannot give the member opposite a definitive answer when NAPE, CUPE and the Nurses' Union will agree to a particular process, I say, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With all due respect, that minister finds it very difficult to give a definitive answer on anything, we have learned here. Anyway, my question is for the Minister of Justice.

Mr. Speaker, the minister is in the media commentary about the possibility of having a federal prison built here in the Province, and the minister stated that as part of that process there was a report done which resulted from a tour, I believe, to Nova Scotia, B.C. and Saskatchewan, which was conducted by a delegation of prison management and union officials in that regard. This report apparently was prepared and forwarded to the minister in late January of this year. I am wondering: When can we expect to see that report released?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have to tell the Opposition House Leader, I do not know what report he is referring to. My comments in relation to discussions with the federal government have been based on internal documents that have been provided to me and which I have discussed with Minister Day two weeks ago in Ottawa.

I am aware that there was a delegation that went away, but I have seen no report. I do not know if the Opposition House Leader is confusing the issue of the consultant's report which is in the process of being prepared but which, at this point, I have not been provided with. The most I have seen is a draft that contains a list of some proposed sites and a proposed prison facility.

I must emphasize, Mr. Speaker, at this time there is no commitment from the federal government; and, until such time as there is a commitment from the federal government, there is not much that we can do.

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 question is for the Minister of Health and Community Services.

On April 11, the minister reported to the Commission of Inquiry that Eastern Health told him in May 2006 they had an ethics subcommittee looking at disclosure issues, but the subcommittee was only dealing with how to inform families of deceased patients; it did not address whether to release information to the public.

My question is: Will the minister ensure that Eastern Health puts in place a permanent ethics subcommittee that, from here on in, will handle disclosure of information in the public interest whenever needed?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: There are two parts to your question, Mr. Speaker, I believe.

On the issue of the subcommittee, I think there is an ethics committee within Eastern Health, a standing committee, and upon need they pull together a group of them to deal with the question at hand.

The question, I think, as I understood it, you are asking whether or not it is appropriate to have Eastern Health deal with the issue of disclosure - and it is a very good question, and I will put that to Eastern Health – whether the ethics committee should look at it, or some other group, the ethical issues in and around disclosure do need to be examined.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Another question for the minister, then, first of all pointing out that the Canadian patient safety guidelines that are now in place, and that Eastern Health says it is now following, and this was tabled with the inquiry, do not deal with systemic issues such as when information should be disclosed to the general public in the interest of public health and patient safety.

Is the minister willing, then, to tell Eastern Health that he would like them to get into the game of developing guidelines, even though they do not exist nationally?

I would like you to do that, so I am asking you: Are you willing to do that?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Government has already given some consideration to that broader question you are raising.

If you look at the terms of reference of the task force that was appointed by the Premier back last year – the Task Force of Adverse Events – one of the things that we would want Mr. Thompson to bring forward for government's consideration is a whole series of policies in and around adverse events, issues around disclosure, how we might do it, how communication would occur. When he brings that forward, that will be then rolled out for the four authorities; all four of them will have that as a part of their policy piece as well. So it is a piece of work that is already being developed, and one that the task force is being seized with.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: A follow-up question to that, Mr. Speaker, for either the Minister of Health and Community Services or the Minister of Justice, because it follows on a question that I asked yesterday.

Section 31 of the Access to Information and Privacy Protection Act states, that the head of a public body should, without delay, disclose to the public or an affected group information about a risk of significant harm. Eastern Health did not appear to know that that existed and does not appear to be complying with section 31 since it did not inform all patients or the public in a timely manner regarding the problems with ER/PR testing.

Mr. Speaker, my question for one of the two ministers is: Will this government put in place a protocol for all health authorities and other public bodies for releasing information to the public in the interest of public health?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi for her question.

As I indicated yesterday, the purpose of the ATIPP Act is to regulate access to the public and to allow people access to information and correct it. The hon. member was right yesterday, that in section 31 there is a public interest override, as she has read into the record. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this is an issue that appears to me to come clearly within the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry. I am willing to direct my officials to write Commission counsel and to ask Commission counsel whether or not they also think it comes within the Terms of Reference and to examine it at the Inquiry, because I think it is an important issue and one that could be addressed by the Inquiry.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Tabling of Documents

MR. SPEAKER: In accordance with paragraph 19(5)(a) of the House of Assembly Accountability Integrity and Administration Act, I hereby table the Minutes of Commission meetings for January 23 and February 6, 2008.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

Answers to questions for which notice has been given.

Petitions.

Petitions

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to present a petition today with reference to the maintenance depots we have seen closing over the last few years this time of the year. They are open in the winter months but they close down for the summer. I understand from some of the people in the system that the same thing is about to happen. I know some of those people have received layoff notices that will come into effect, I think, within the next few weeks; the reason being that they are on in all of those depots in the winter months as operators and when they close down for the summer months they convert back to labourers and they take, I think, somewhere in the vicinity of a $3 decrease in their pay. Some of them do stay on with the decrease in pay, but others move on outside the Province and so on.

The problem is, Mr. Speaker, and I know the minister has announced tremendous sums of money throughout the Province for roadwork this year, and my area is no different, but this is not in reference to that; it is in reference to some of the maintenance work that has to be done. We know – and we are not blaming the government for it - the condition of our roads. It is not major work that has to be done, but a lot of maintenance has to be done, ditching and so on.

I was just calling upon government that hopefully they will reconsider keeping those employees in the various depots that will close down shortly so that the work can be done this summer. We know that maintenance work will go ahead, but not to the extent – by closing those depots down and having more people employed throughout the summer.

I was just calling upon government, if they would reconsider keeping them open, knowing that there is a tremendous amount of work that has to be done in different areas throughout the Province. We hear about it every day, Mr. Speaker, in the news, and we see it on television, and I was just calling upon government if they would reconsider keeping them open, at least for this year, to see that this work is carried out.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by calling Order 8, second reading of Bill14, An Act To Amend The Lobbyist Registration Act.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 14, An Act To Amend The Lobbyist Registration Act, be now read a second time.

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

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased this afternoon to introduce Bill 14, An Act To Amend The Lobbyist Registration Act.

The proposed amendment to the Lobbyist Registration Act, Mr. Speaker, will extend the provisions of the Lobbyist Registration Act to the City of St. John's and its controlled entities, the St. John's Transportation Commission and St. John's Sports and Entertainment Limited.

The Lobbyist Registration Act, Mr. Speaker, came into force on October 11, 2005. It was enacted to recognize that free and open access to government is an important right of citizenship and must not be impeded, and that the public, as well as government decision makers, should have knowledge of who was attempting to influence public policy decisions.

This is the cornerstone of our government, Mr. Speaker. Openness, transparency and accountability are what the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have come to expect from the government. The Lobbyist Registration Act is a crucial part of this philosophy, and the amendments of today certainly illustrate our approach.

Lessons learned in the past, Mr. Speaker, both at the federal and the provincial level, have acknowledged the need for this approach. The Lobbyist Registration Act defines, Mr. Speaker, appropriate lobbying practices, establishes a public registry of paid lobbyists, and sets a code of conduct for lobbyists. The act requires paid lobbyists who lobby public office holders to register with the Registry of Lobbyists and provide specific information about their activities.

Public office holders are persons occupying elected, appointed or other employment positions in the House of Assembly, government departments and agencies, and other public bodies. Lobbyist information filed with the Registry of Lobbyists is made available to decision makers and the public through searches available either on-line or in person at the registry. Complaints about lobbyists can be made to the Commissioner of Lobbyists who may investigate and impose sanctions as appropriate.

Following proclamation of the act, Mr. Speaker, government undertook to study whether municipal elected and administrative officials should be included as public office holders. Having consulted, Mr. Speaker, with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, the Department of Municipal Affairs decided that consideration be limited to including the Province's four largest municipalities: the City of St. John's, Corner Brook, Mount Pearl, and the Town of Conception Bay South. This was based on the level and frequency of lobbying experience and the size and composition of municipal governments. Seventy-six per cent of municipalities, Mr. Speaker, in Newfoundland and Labrador have a population of 1,000 or less.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Municipal Affairs proceeded to consult the cities of St. John's, Corner Brook and Mount Pearl, and the Town of Conception Bay South, and concluded that lobbyist registration is only an issue for the City of St. John's. As well, Mr. Speaker, the City of St. John's advised the Minister of Municipal Affairs that it wished to have the act applied to the city and its entities. As a result, Mr. Speaker, the proposed amendment will apply only to the City of St. John's. Councillors and officials of the Province's other cities and municipalities are not included under this amendment. The City of St. John's, through the Office of the Chief Commissioner, has been involved with the preparation of this bill and supports its content.

As members review the bill, you will see that proposed amendments to the act are designed to include the City of St. John's, which is defined in the bill as including its controlled entities, as circumstances require, to take into account the city's structure and activities.

In particular, Mr. Speaker, you will note that the definition of lobby is amended to include city activities equivalent to those included for the Crown. Information requirement for lobbyist returns are amended to include city activities similar or equivalent to those included for the Crown.

The former public-office holder restriction in section 20.1 of the act, clause 5 of the bill, prohibits certain former city public-office holders from lobbying city public-officer holders for one year after leaving office. The positions prohibited from such lobbying are equivalent to those applicable to other bodies under the act and include councillors, the deputy mayor, mayor, chief commissioner and chief executive officers of the city's controlled entities. Former public-office holder confidential information restrictions, similar to those in place for government officials, will apply to former city public-office holders.

With regard to the section 20.1 restriction, I note that its scope, namely a one year prohibition from lobbying city public-office holders, recognizes that the city is not a government/public sector body, per se, and that the prohibition warranted relates to the lobbying of city public-office holders.

It is important to note that any former city public-office holder not prohibited from acting as a lobbyist for one year after leaving office, who becomes a lobbyist, will be subject to section 21 restrictions. Section 21 imposes prohibitions regarding the use or disclosure of any confidential information obtained through the previous city public office position. As a result, all city former public-office holders that are permitted to become lobbyists face restrictions to avoid conflict of interest.

The proposed amendments will come into force January 1, 2009. This date was chosen to facilitate implementation and, more specifically, to ensure that required changes at the Registry of Lobbyists are in place. Notice of the amendment can be provided to current registered lobbyists as part of routine registry correspondence regarding six month renewals, and government and city officials can provide appropriate notice in education to city council and appropriate city staff, as well as the public, regarding new requirements of the act.

This bill, Mr. Speaker, also makes a housekeeping amendment to the act. In March 2007, the Lobbyist Registration Exemption Regulation was enacted to correct an oversight to the exemption provision, section 4 of the act. Taking this opportunity to incorporate the regulation in the act will result in eliminating unnecessary regulation and, most importantly, Mr. Speaker, will make the act more user friendly by ensuring that all exemptions are found in the act.

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the application of lobbyist registration - legislation from municipalities in other provinces, only Quebec includes municipalities of public office holders. The City of Toronto is the only Canadian city to have lobbyist legislation and I understand its lobbyist registry system became operational in February, 2008. As you can ascertain, this legislation puts us at the forefront of the field across the country.

Mr. Speaker, as previously stated and as stated on numerous occasions in this House and in the media, our government is committed to openness, transparency and accountability. We believe this to be a critical operating function of government and I believe it is a good day for democracy within our Province when our largest municipality, the City of St. John's, joins with us to ensure that its decision makers and residents will have access to up-to-date information about persons who are paid to lobby city counsellors and officials.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the proposed amendment is a positive one. The general public, and specifically residents of St. John's, will benefit from this amendment and the greater transparency in public decision making that it will ensure.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to discuss the amendment to the Lobbyist Registration Act. I ask for the support of all hon. members in passing this bill and I look forward to participation from members of both sides of the House in this debate.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate an opportunity to speak at second reading concerning this particular bill, Bill 14, amendments to the Lobbyist Registration Act.

I find it really helpful, and I am sure the general public does as well, when the minister speaks in second reading and gives an explanation of what the bill is all about, what the purpose of it is. So people have a better understanding of why these amendments are being made. I am sure there are some people who do not know what the Lobbyist Registration Act was about in the first instance.

Basically, there is a registry, there is a system, there is a law which exists that says if you are in the business of lobbying a government, looking for contracts or looking for a minister or Cabinet or whatever government to make a decision one way or the other, you would lobby the government to make a decision in your favour. That got out of hand in some jurisdictions. So people said we need some controls on that. We have to know, first of all, who is allowed to lobby. Secondly, whom you can lobby? Where is it inappropriate to lobby? Somebody should know where to look to find out who the lobbyists are. Not just anybody off the street can walk in and be a lobbyist. Let's find out who they are and let's require that they be registered. That was the purpose and intent.

A lot of people, governments, municipalities, deal with millions and millions of dollars, taxpayers' money, and that, of course, leads to decisions being made that people want to know: How are you handling my money? How did a certain decision get made? Did anybody try to influence you to make a decision one way versus another? If so, who was it, so that you are aware of that? That is where the Lobbyist Registration Act came about. It is a pretty standard piece of legislation now in most jurisdictions across the country. What we are doing here, of course, is the minister is telling us that we are going to make some amendments because the Lobbyist Registration Act did not apply to the City of St. John's formerly, and based on this amendment going through it would apply.

Second reading, of course, is also an opportunity where the Opposition get to ask the minister some further questions about the bill. That gives the minister an opportunity - if he has the answers readily available, of course, he usually stands up and responds back and gives the answer to them. If he doesn't, he usually says: Fine, I will take it under advisement and get the information for you, and when we move on to the next stage of the bill, which is committee stage, I will have the information for you and get it for you.

So, in that vein, I do have a couple of questions for the minister that I would like to put forward now that I understand fully. I had read what it was you wanted to do, but of course the question that comes to bear is: Why the limitation here? First of all, I would like to know who initiated this change. Did government look out and say: Well, we have certain entities in our Province, town, cities, whatever, that we need to consider whether that Lobbyist Act should apply to them or was there something that happened in the City of St. John's in particular, or was there some person in the City of St. John's in particular who said: We need to have the Lobbyist Act apply to us? What was the motivation? Why did this come about all of a sudden?

Normally, these amendments come about because something happens in real live that causes a person to say: Oh, something has happened here. We had a circumstance. My God, we thought that was covered by a law and we find out that it was not. I think it would be helpful here to understand where this came from and originated from and the motivations for it. If it came from the City Solicitor for St. John's, Mr. Penney, did something happen? He is a very astute character, I know him personally. I would assume he was the person who would have brought it forward to government and said, amend your legislation. So, it would be nice to know where it came from.

In that regard, that leads to the next question, and the minister has already explained that they looked at the possibility of having this legislation, this amendment apply to some other cities, Mount Pearl, Corner Brook and CBS. These entities, these cities and communities have come back and said no, we do not want this amendment to apply to us. So government has decided to proceed and only do it vis-ΰ-vis St. John's. Which begs the question of: Who gets to decide whether a law applies to you or not? Should that be a decision that the individual's municipality should make? Or, given that we are talking about a provincial piece of legislation, is that a decision that the government needs to make? Rather than singling out certain entities, or doing it because a certain, specific entity asked you to do it, like the City of St. John's, what about these other places? In fairness, and in true openness and true accountability, how do you draw the line as to who you make it apply to? For example, what if the City of Corner Brook comes back in six months time and says: Whoa, we changed our minds now. We would like that to apply to us. What if Mount Pearl changes their mind because they have a particular incident next year and they want to get it changed?

My question to the minister is, not that it is not right to do this amendment, but why are we only doing it piecemeal for the City of St. John's if you already anticipated and thought that we should have it apply to some other places? In fact, I am wondering why it should not apply to anybody under the Municipalities Act. In fact, I mistakenly thought, in first incidence, that what had happened here was that municipalities were already in. I thought we had overlooked the City of St. John's, because the City of St. John's is normally governed by its own separate act rather than the Municipalities Act. I was under the mistaken belief that we are playing catch up here, that it was for all municipalities but not St. John's, so that is what we are doing. Now I find out that no, it never did apply to municipalities. We are only now doing this because the City of St. John's has asked us.

The minister made a comment. I find it very telling and I am wondering if that was the rationale for doing it. The minister made a comment that, we checked with these other places and most populations of towns in the Province are around 1,000 people. We sort of left it to the more populated areas, St. John's, Mount Pearl, Corner Brook, CBS, and we did not think it was necessary to apply it to most places. They only have a population of 1,000. Again, I question the logic of that. To me, this is not about what the population of your community is. The purpose of the lobbyist piece controls who was trying to exert influence, whom they were trying to exert it upon, and making sure that you registered if you were going to do such a thing so everybody knew you existed.

To me, whether you have a population of 500 or 250,000, it is a basic generic law. Unless there is some reason not to, it should be a basic generic law that applies to anybody. I am just wondering why the government did not see that it should be generic in nature.

For example, I would think an issue - when it comes to the lobbyist, it is always about contracting, and who is doing it, and who gets the benefit of influence being exerted. That comes down to money; and, whether you are the mayor or a councillor in the City of St. John's where you have a multi-million dollar budget, or whether you happen to be the Mayor of Stephenville with a budget of $7 million, $8 million or $10 million, I would think there are still massive amounts of money being spent. There is still the need for the controls, the openness and the transparency, of who is trying to exert influence upon that entity. So, I do not understand the rationale and the logic of why we would just accept that the City of St. John's wants to do it and not make it apply to anybody else. I am questioning whether the fact that the City of Mount Pearl says: Well, we don't want it. Is that justifiable reason for not doing it?

Maybe there is a very valid reason, and I look forward to the minister explaining that to me. For example, is this going to be an administrative nightmare if municipalities are required to have it? If there is an administrative nightmare and communities do not have the resources to be able to administer this, I can understand that, but what exactly is involved in the implementation of it, in the administration of it? If I could be educated a bit in that regard it would be helpful, because that may well be the reason.

The other thing is, I would ask: Is there any financial burden to municipalities if you ask them to comply and be covered by the Lobbyist Act? We know there are lots of upsides - for example, everybody in the Province gets treated the same; the same law applies to everybody equally – but what are the downsides of asking municipalities, or making the Municipalities Act and everybody under it be covered by this Lobbyist Act?

As the minister says, too, the reason for having this, of course, is influence-peddling. I believe that is a criminal consequence of certain acts, but what we are doing here, basically, is saying to people who practice the heart of lobbying that there are going to be certain controls and you are not going to do it under the cover of darkness. You are going to do it with you name on a public registry.

So, again, the consequences of administratively imposing this upon municipalities, the consequences financially to imposing this upon municipalities, has that been factored in, or did we just willy-nilly make the decision that we are not going to make it apply? Because, I say to the minister, we had a case here recently in the last three or four years where we imposed something on municipalities which was pretty monumental, and we decided as a Province and as a government of the day that we were going to go ahead with it and do it. That was the privacy legislation.

We came from a position of no legislation on the books for privacy. We brought in the new ATIPP Act in 2002. We said the privacy provisions would be a piece of it, and we knew at the time, of course, that you could not just impose it upon them and not give them some time to implement the privacy provisions, but we certainly did not deal with the possibility of health boards and municipalities not being included. I mean, they are included, and were included from day one. I agree it was an oversight that we did not do it in this case, maybe, but now that we have spotted that there is an oversight, should we not make it applicable to everybody in the Province?

If lobbying a body is justifiable to have a piece of legislation for, I think everybody who could potentially be lobbied in the Province, who has the wherewithal to do it, such as councils – unless it is a burden too big to bear, in terms of administration and financial – that we should make it apply to everybody. Otherwise, we could find ourselves setting a precedent. We have a situation here now that a municipality has come forward and said: We do not want that law to apply to us. Another one has said: We want it to apply to us.

I think that is a dangerous precedent that we are setting here, possibly, when we single out certain entities to have laws apply to and others that it will not apply to – and we are leaving that decision not in the hands of government but in the hands of the municipality.

If that is the case, I am sure I have communities in my district that are going to say to the Minister of Municipal Affairs: Well, I hope you do the same courtesy to me when it comes to your waste disposal, because you are going to impose some pretty rigorous conditions on me in waste disposal; I think I would like to opt out of that.

I am sure that has administrative and financial consequences to municipalities and local service districts; yet, we don't get any opt-out rights there. Yet something as simple, I would think, as a Lobbyist Registration Act, we have the communities being offered the opportunity to opt out. I am a little bit confused as to what criteria government looks at to determine whether one can or cannot or should be covered by certain legislation. We have decided that privacy is a big enough issue to warrant a blanket policy and approach in legislation. In fact, we gave the municipalities and the school boards and the hospital boards in the Province three or four years to get up to snuff, so that they could implement the law properly and move ahead. God knows, it was financially burdensome and yet we had it because it was the right thing to do.

We have the same thing coming at us now, pretty quickly actually, in the case of waste disposal, and yet we cannot add opt out provisions for certain municipalities. We have a case where the Minister of Environment sent out a notice to everybody in this Province who uses a teepee that said, get rid of it by December 31. That is a pretty burdensome financial obligation.

I am a bit lost as to what government does or does not consider to decide the range that a piece of legislation has. Maybe the minister has some statistics and facts there that he could show me about the financial burden, the administrative burden, in requiring people to do that. I just don't think population alone is the be all and end all in terms of whether the lobbyist legislation applies. I would think it comes down to the principle of the thing, who is lobbying whom and who is likely to be lobbied. I don't care if you are the Mayor of Port aux Basques or Stephenville or the Mayor of St. John's, you are likely to be lobbied. In fact, in my experience it is often in small towns that a lot of this controversy happens.

I would appreciate it, if the minister would take an opportunity to provide us with some of those answers. As I say, I have no problem and I will be voting in favour of the amendments as proposed. That is not an issue. I agree they should apply to the City of St. John's. I am just thinking, why do it piecemeal, why not have it apply, unless there are some very good reasons which I have not heard yet, why it should not apply to everyone. I don't think it should be based upon your population size.

Those are my comments. I will be voting in favour of it. I have some concerns in terms of explanation and my knowledge level at this point, as to why it only applies to the City of St. John's. I am at a loss here, by the way, because this is not a case where the City of St. John's approached the government and asked them to do it and that is where it ended, and the government has decided to go along and amend it. That is not what I understand the process was. I understand that the City of St. John's initiated it and, as I say, I would like to know the reasons why this came about and what has happened. Then the government started on this other process and went a bit further and said to other places, like – how did Corner Brook get involved? How did Mount Pearl get involved? How did CBS get involved? What was the process there? We know the answer. They all came back and said no, we do not want it. I think there begs to be some further information provided here.

I am sure the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi is going to have a few words on this as well. Albeit her district falls within the City of St. John's, she, of course, has a provincial responsibility and I am sure she will address that issue as well, as to how it applies to other municipalities in the Province.

In conclusion, I have a serious concern about government suggesting, on the one hand, policies that apply to everybody and then, on the other hand, making amendments to laws and saying it is only going to apply to the party who requested it. Maybe it is justifiable, but I just have not seen it there right yet.

Thank you.

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

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

I am glad to have an opportunity to speak to this bill and to the amendment that is being suggested for the Lobbyist Registration Act.

I have some of the questions that my colleague, the Opposition House Leader, has posed, but I may be posing them in a different way, and some I may repeat.

When I first saw this bill, I smiled to myself because I remember back in 2004 when the act was brought in. I was not in the government at that time. I was working with the not-for-profit sector. There was quite a buzz about the Lobbyist Registration Act because many groups in the not-for-profit sector, especially many of the women's organizations in the not-for-profit sector, but not only, were quite scared of this act. They were concerned about its being restrictive and oppressive, and I understood where that fear was coming from. There were many questions that had to be answered, and I do remember our organizing a meeting with people from the Department of Justice. We had quite an in-depth session for a few hours discussing how the act affected groups who did regular advocacy work and groups who, as well, did not have people being paid for that work.

I am happy to say that I think the efforts that we put into getting educated at that time helped people in the not-for-profit sector understand the benefits of the Lobbyist Registration Act and also understand that it was not something that was being put in place to impose a heavy burden on the not-for-profit sector; because, in actual fact, the not-for-profit sector in no way - there may be some exceptions, but in no way - would meet the definition of lobbyist that one finds in the act.

For example, an in-house lobbyist is defined as an employee who is paid to do the lobbying work. An in-house lobbyist is somebody who is employed by an organization and who spends 20 per cent of that person's time - 20 per cent is spent on doing nothing else but lobbying. It also means a company who might have two or three workers together putting 20 per cent of their time into lobbying.

When the not-for-profit sector sat down and looked at it, in actual fact, even though it felt like they may be talking to an MHA every day, and they may have the occasional meeting and write the occasional letter, when they came down and really put it together there was hardly a not-for-profit sector that was spending their time, 20 per cent of their time, in actual lobbying. So, it was a very helpful exercise. It was an exercise that removed the fear that was in the not-for-profit sector and helped people understand that, no, they did not have to get the forms and they did not have to fill them out; that, in actual fact, they just did not qualify under the definition of lobbyist. So that was good. That was helpful.

I am just wondering, with regard to the amendment to bring the City of St. John's and the St. John's council in under the act, I am wondering, along with the Opposition House Leader, why there are not other municipalities involved. I know that I have heard the minister's explanation, but when I took the bill and read it that was my very first question. Two questions have already been asked, but I will say them again. Where is this coming from? Who initiated it? Number two: Why only the City of St. John's?

I have heard the minister's explanation, but I do have some problems with it. I am wondering if part of the reason - and I do not know - if part of the reason why, if municipalities were approached, they said, no, we do not need to be involved here; this is not something that really is an issue for us - I wonder, is it because they maybe did not fully understand the act, just as the not-for-profit sector initially did not? Did they feel it as something being laid on them, a burden? Which I do not think is what it is at all.

As a matter of fact, in the spirit of openness and transparency and accountability, which this House has embraced because of the Green Report, I think we should be promoting that the Lobbyist Registration Act covers all public bodies, because all public bodies in one form or another are being lobbied. Now, they may not all have organizations lobbying them to the extent that the company or organization has people working full-time lobbyists. If they do not, then they do not have to register, but having the recognition of registration where necessary really does open us up in a good way to the whole spirit of openness, transparency and accountability.

I have the same concern that was expressed by the Opposition House Leader. I am concerned about the fact that, what if, in six months' time, Corner Brook says: Oh, my goodness, we should have gotten into that. Or, in a year's time, Grand Falls-Windsor thinks they should have gotten into it. Every time that happens, there has to be an amendment.

I am with the Opposition House Leader on this one, and we both came to it separately, that it seems logical to me that the amendment should be that all government levels, all municipalities and all public entities in the Province should actually come under the Lobbyist Registration Act, because advocacy and lobbying is happening on all levels. In most cases it very well may be that the groups and businesses doing lobbying do not have lobbyists who meet the definition that is in the act - that is quite possible - but as long as there is even one group who would meet it, then let's get them registered. Whether they are registered because they lobby in Corner Brook or whether they are registered because they lobby in Port aux Basques or in St. John's, it does not matter. Let's be open about it. If it is open, the general public knows: Oh, that company has a lobbyist and that lobbyist does go and talk to our town council or to our city council, but it is open and it is above board.

I do have a problem with the fact that other municipalities are not involved. So, though I will be voting for the bill, I am not voting against it, but I will be asking the minister to do - because he is new in this portfolio and probably was not part of the initial discussions around putting this bill in place. I would ask the minister to immediately start looking at broadening and including all of municipalities and public bodies under the Lobbyist Registration Act so that maybe in a years time we will do an amendment again, but the next time it will be the last time we have to do it in terms of who is covered. So, I really would ask the minister to look at that, to give us an answer with regard to that. I do not think - while I think there should be consultation and I think the minister should meet again with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, I think the proposal should be presented that all municipalities and public bodies should come under the act and with a rationale for them to have a discussion on that. Like I said, it could be a year's time before that comes back to us but bring it back so that we do not have to piecemeal, bring in different municipalities into the act. If we believe that this is so good to have a Lobbyist Registration Act, then it should be the government's goal to have all municipalities and public bodies included.

Now, those were more general comments. I do have a particular thing that I would like the minister to look at with me and think about. There is just one amendment that I really want to question. It is just an insertion that I think needs to go in. In the act itself, in section 20 of the act - there is an amendment for section 20. Section 20 says: a person who is a former public-office holder shall not lobby as a consultant lobbyist or an in-house lobbyist for a period of twelve months after that person has ceased to be a public office-holder.

The next subsection says: "Subsection (1) shall apply only where a person has held the following positions..." The positions that are named are a member of the executive staff, other than the support staff of the person holding the position referred to. Now, I want to point out that other than the support staff, because I think - now this is in the act itself. I think other than the support staff is really important because I really do not think that somebody who is in a clerical position - and obviously the government did not either when the act was put together in 2004 - which is basically support staff, should be considered. I think they should be exempted, and they are exempted in the act.

When I go to the amendment - and I am going somewhere with this, Mr. Speaker - when I go to the amendment, the number five amendment which is for section 20.1, so it is relating to section 20 in the act. It says, "Notwithstanding section 20(1), a person who is a former public-office holder under subparagraphs…" - and it names the subparagraphs, and those subparagraphs are on page 3 of the bill. So here the definition is going to be related to the definition on page 5, from paragraph 2(1)(f). There they talk about who is going to be affected "a member of the board of a city-controlled entity and the chief executive officer, officers, directors and employees of that entity" - but it does not exempt support staff. So, we have a support staff being exempted -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: It will just take one more minute, I think, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I apologize to the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, but the Speaker is having some difficulty hearing the member. I ask all members of the House to respect the member who is standing in her place and speaking.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am looking at, on page 5 of the bill, section 3, paragraph 2(1)(f). In the definition under (i.3), it names employees of that entity but does not exempt support staff. Support staff is exempted for those who work within the provincial government context, in the act, but by not saying support staff here, we are going to have two contradictions going on. I would like the minister to look at this. I would be happy to work further with him on it, but I really think this should be corrected before we approve this bill, because if not, we are going to have two different definitions. The definition for employees who work for the city is not going to include an exemption for support staff, whereas the exemption for support staff will be there for employees who work under the regulations covering the provincial section. So, I think we are going to need to fix that. I saw the minister taking notes and I think he probably got them all. I think we have to be consistent with regard to this thing of the exemption of support staff.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I think I probably have used my time, but I am glad to have been able to do this. My two main points: yes, I am going to support the bill - I guess there are three points. I would like the minister to immediately look at extending coverage of all municipalities and public bodies. Number three, I think there is a wording change that needs to happen.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: If the Minister of Justice and Attorney General speaks now he will close debate.

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to thank the Opposition House Leader and the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi for their comments. I will need some time to find answers to their questions. So I would move to close debate at this point in time and report back to committee when I obtain the answers.

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'.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Lobbyist Registration Act. (Bill 14)

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

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Presently, by leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Presently, by leave.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Lobbyist Registration Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 14)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like now to call Order 7, Bill 18, standing in the name of the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, An Act To Amend The Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy. (Bill 18)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 18 entitled, An Act To Amend The Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy, be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy." (Bill 18)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, I am pleased to introduce for second reading today Bill 18, An Act To Amend The Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is fair to say that in some respects this piece of legislation is, in fact, unique, but it is certainly not a piece of legislation of a type that a Parliament, a Legislature, a House of Assembly, has not dealt with before. We are not inventing the wheel in the sense that this legislation is a first-time piece of legislation in principle. It is a unique piece of legislation, yes, I acknowledge that, but it is a type of legislation that legislators have had to deal with over the course of time going back, I suppose, centuries.

Mr. Speaker, this amendment to the Liquor Control Act has been designated as the Liquor Licensee Levy - it is commonly referred to - and is a direct tax on purchasers of liquor at the time it was collected, and licensees were acting as agents on behalf of the Province in its collection. Mr. Speaker, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador collected liquor licensee levies – get this, Mr. Speaker – from 1969 to 2006.

Mr. Speaker, let me give the House a small lesson in history. As I understand it, in the provincial Budget of 1969, the government of the day - I was around but I was not here - in their Budget of 1969, announced in this Legislature that they were going to close two cottage hospitals: one in Botwood and one in Markland. As a result of that budgetary initiative and that budgetary announcement in this House in 1969, the government expected that they would save $300,000.

Mr. Speaker, needless to say, there was, to put it mildly, a war in Botwood and Markland and the government of the day, the Liberal government of the day, backed off from their announcement that they made in their Budget in 1969. It is not usual, perhaps, for Liberal governments to back off, but they did, in fact. In 1969 they recanted. Out of all of the great waves of opposition emanating from Botwood, I am sure our good friend and late colleague in this Legislature, Dr. Hugh Twomey, would have been part of that. Who would have led the fight out of Markland, I don't know, but suffice it to say, for purposes of the debate, Mr. Speaker, in 1969 the government of the day recanted. They backed off from their announcement on closing the hospital in Markland and Botwood, but they still had a $300,000 problem, because they announced in the Budget in 1969 that this measure would save the government $300,000, so here is what they did.

On April 18, 1969, Premier Smallwood announced in this Legislature, in this House of Assembly, that the decision to close the two hospitals had been reversed and that a 10 per cent increase would be imposed on the cost of liquor to licensed establishments to pick up the $300,000. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is as plain as I can put it. In 1969, the government of the day had decided to –

MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: Pardon?

MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: Yes.

The government of the day had decided that they were not going to proceed to close down those two hospitals but they still had a $300,000 problem; and, to solve the $300,000 problem, the government, in an announcement made by the Premier, Premier Smallwood himself as leader of the government, announced that they had instructed the then Newfoundland Liquor Commission, as it was called, the NLC was instructed by the government to put a 10 per cent increase on the cost of liquor to licensees, okay, not the cost of liquor to you or I, if we went into the liquor store to buy it. I guess none of us were old enough in 1969, but the cost of liquor –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. RIDEOUT: Some of you were not even a gleam in the e'e in 1969, but the cost of liquor to liquor establishments had a 10 per cent premium placed on it by the government in 1969. That revenue, therefore, would be used to help the government keep those two hospitals open.

So, that is what happened. That is where this tax came from, Mr. Speaker, in 1969, and I think it is important that all members and the general public – because, you know, there is a public policy issue here in terms of retroactivity. This piece of legislation, what makes it unique, Mr. Speaker, is that not often is this House called upon to pass a piece of legislation that has a retroactivity clause in it. If it is, it is not often that piece of legislation is retroactive back a number of decades. That is not something that we do often in this House. In fact, in my thirty years here, I can remember it being done once before. Once before, in the Peckford days, we had to pass a piece of labour legislation that was retroactive because of a situation in Labrador West. Perhaps my colleague from Labrador West might remember it, and I remember there was a great hullabaloo at that time, but it was a piece of work, unfortunately, that the Legislature had to do in order to make that piece of legislation stand constitutional and court challenges. That is what is happening here with this particular piece of legislation.

Premier Smallwood imposed the 10 per cent tax in 1969. The tax was on licensees; it was not on individuals. So, what did the licensees do, Mr. Speaker, from 1969 up until – where I will get to shortly – from the time the tax was imposed, in 1969, the licensees, of course, passed that 10 per cent on to the person who came in and ordered a drink over the bar, all right?

So, if I went in for a drink, I paid the 10 per cent, or my friend from White Bay & The Straits paid the 10 per cent. It wasn't a licensed establishment. I want members to understand, it was not a licensed establishment that paid the 10 per cent. They paid the 10 per cent in the initial stage, yes, when they went and bought the liquor, but they then passed that 10 per cent on to their patrons who came in to visit their establishment.

That went on, Mr. Speaker, from 1969 right through until – and it got increased at some point along the way. I do not have the date here but it got increased, at some point, from the initial 10 per cent that Premier Smallwood introduced to 12 per cent. Then, Mr. Speaker, as part of our Budget in 2005, we announced that the 12 per cent levy – as I said, it got increased at some point from 10 per cent to 12 per cent – we announced in 2005 that the 12 per cent levy would be phased out over 4 years.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the next year we started to see that we were a little bit better off fiscally. The bar industry had taken a number of hits as the result of decisions by this government to cut back on VLTs and to introduce a smoking ban, and things of that nature, so we were open – the government was open - to trying to do something for the bar owners in the Provinces. So, instead of taking four years to phase out the levy, as we announced in the 2005 Budget, in 2006 we announced that the remaining 9 per cent – because we had begun the reduction from 12 per cent and there was 9 per cent left to do – in the Budget of 2006 we announced that the remaining 9 per cent fee would be eliminated effective April 1, 2006. So we did away, as a government, with the levy all together in two budgets – in Budget 2005 and Budget 2006.

That was fine and dandy, Mr. Speaker; that is what we did. Of course, in New Brunswick there was a similar tax. As a result of a court action in New Brunswick, the New Brunswick case eventually ended up before the Supreme Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada in the New Brunswick case held that, even though the levy had been imposed and even though it was passed on to patrons, that was not a defence in its totality. The New Brunswick people were suing and saying: We collected the tax. We passed the tax on, as it happened in Newfoundland, but, government, you should pay the tax back to us.

Let's think about that for a second. The levy was placed on the booze that went into the bar, and the bar owners added it on to the product and passed it on to you and me and the rest of the population. In the case of Newfoundland, it is about $13 million, I believe. If we are going to give that $13 million back, to whom should we give it back? Not the licensed establishment, because the licensed establishment passed it on to us. Now, just think for a second. How do we give back $13 million to the population of Newfoundland and Labrador? We can give out a chit and say everybody go down to George Street and have a drink on us, or have a drink on yourself because really it is your money. To give it back to the bar owner would be an unjust enrichment of the establishment because they never absorbed the tax. The tax got passed on to the people who bought the product.

What happened to the tax, Mr. Speaker? Well, the tax was put on by the government back in 1969 to save two hospitals, and every year from 1969 up through until we finally took it off in 2006, every year that tax came into the consolidated revenue of the Province and it was used to keep hospitals open, to pay nurses, to pay teachers, to pave roads, to build hospitals and to build public buildings. That was what the tax was used for.

The levy was used to offset, initially, the cost of keeping the hospitals in Botwood and Markland open, but then it got - obviously, like any levy, like any tax, it gets rolled into general revenue and it gets spent across the board doing all the things that government does every day on behalf of providing services to the people of the Province. So, to take that levy and rebate it to bar owners, I think, certainly would be an unjust enrichment of bar owners. They did not absorb this particular levy. They passed that levy on to those who bought the product, therefore, in other words, they passed it on to the people - generally, I suppose, the people of the Province, but people from outside the Province, anybody who went into their establishment and bought a drink. That is what this is all about.

Therefore, the Supreme Court of Canada, in its decision on New Brunswick said: Government, it is not a defence to say that the charges have been passed on to the consumers, so therefore you have to find a way - and they left it open - to find a way to make this tax constitutionally valid. The way that you make the levy constitutionally valid would be to introduce retroactive legislation saying that yes, this is a tax, we use this tax to provide goods and services to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and we are going to make this tax retroactive to the date that it was introduced. Retroactive, in this case, is back to 1969 when the Budget of 1969 was brought down. Now that is it in a nutshell.

There have been arguments, as I said, from establishments that they should have the money. There is an argument that could be made that we should find a way to rebate the fee to ordinary individuals. Well, many of them who paid it are long dead, Mr. Speaker. Some of us who paid it are still living. How many times did we buy a drink and pay the extra cost on it? It is impossible, is what I am trying to say in a simple way of saying it, I suppose, to figure that out. What do you do to ensure that the least amount of pain is inflicted on the least amount of people? The only fair way to do it is that this money was taken in by the government of the day, all governments of all days, from 1969 up to 2006. It was spent on providing public services for all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Supreme Court of Canada has said in order to make this constitutionally valid you have to make it retroactive and that will satisfy the situation.

I believe there were some people who were heading down to court today, tomorrow, or some day with an application seeking an injunction saying that the Legislature should not move on this matter until the court rules on it. Can you imagine going to a court and asking for an injunction that the Legislature not take a decision on something? The way that that works, Mr. Speaker, is fairly simple. If we pass a law in this Legislature that ultra vires our authority, in other words that is outside our constitutional authority, that does not -

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

I remind the Government House Leader that his time for speaking has expired.

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, I am a minister introducing a bill and I have an hour, I believe. We are not in committee, we are in second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: My apologies.

MR. RIDEOUT: I will not take an hour, Your Honour. Don't worry about it, I will not take an hour but I believe I do.


I was trying to explain the business about the court injunction. The fact of the matter is that if this Legislature, any Legislature, any Parliament in the British Parliamentary system were to pass a law that is outside of our jurisdiction. In other words, the Province gets its right to pass laws by the headings that are included in section 91 of the British North America Act. If it is outside of that, or not caught up in some way that the Province has jurisdiction, then it would be ultra vires our right to pass the law. If a court decided that then the law would be struck down. The law would have no validity. It would not have any effect, but a court is not going to say we do not have the right to pass it. We passed the law; we believe we have every right to pass it.

As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court of Canada, in this case, said to New Brunswick, here is what you can do to fix it. Well, if it applies to New Brunswick - a ruling by the highest court in the land applies to a situation in New Brunswick, surely it applies to a similar fact situation in this Province. We do have the right, in our view, the constitutional right, to pass this piece of legislation. We believe there is no chance whatsoever that it would be ruled unconstitutional by a higher court, but if it were to be ruled unconstitutional by some court, that does not impact on our right to pass it. This House is supreme within its constitutional authority. We can pass laws on anything that falls under our constitutional mandate to pass. If we step outside of that mandate, of course, that constitutional mandate, then the courts have every right and they would reel us in accordingly and say that the law is not valid and therefore has no effect.

We believe, Mr. Speaker, in this case, the fair way to deal with this piece of legislation is to pass the legislation and to pass it retroactive to when Premier Smallwood brought in the levee in the first place in 1969. There is no other fair way to do it. The money was spent improving goods and services or spent on goods and services to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is impossible to take that back and to take that amount of money, whatever it is, whether it is $13, thirteen cents or $13 million, and give it to somebody who passed the levy on to the general populous would be unfair; would be, what we call in law, an unjust enrichment and we do not believe that should be allowed to happen. So, we believe the fair way, the principle way to do this is to do what we do not do very often, thankfully, because we would not want to be doing it very often, and that is pass legislation that will be effective on the date that the original legislation and the original levy was imposed, which was back to 1969.

So, Mr. Speaker, based on that simple explanation, I would move second reading of the bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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 18, The Liquor Control Act.

I say to the Government House Leader, thank God government does not do this very often. It is a rarity, in any Legislature in the country, to have a piece of retroactive legislation. I think we understand the reason government is doing this is because somebody told them along the way that this levy that you had was unconstitutional, illegal, improper, should not have it. The Supreme Court of Canada overruled it in New Brunswick and said such. So, the government realized that, my God, we were taking money out of somebody's pocket, bar owners or the public or consumers or whomever, that we never had a right to do it because I guess it was called a levy. Now, if you had a tax that is a different story. So, they sent the Government of New Brunswick packing and said: no, you are not going to be allowed to do it.

I personally have not read the New Brunswick case, the Supreme Court of Canada decision. So I do not know the context in which the minister says that the Supreme Court of Canada told New Brunswick how to get around it, by passing a piece of retroactive legislation. Now, I have not seen that for myself. That is very unusual if they did, by the way. Courts are usually into the habit of dealing with the issue and saying yea or nay, it is or is not constitutional and giving the reasons for it but if they did, that was a very explicit direction from the Supreme Court of Canada that we normally do not get when they say it is unconstitutional but here is how to fix it. They usually leave that to the law makers again and the drafters to say why. If they did, I mean that would be a very unusual case where the court was very explicit, because the court is into the whole issue again then of when is it appropriate to have retroactive legislation.

I think the Telegram in an editorial put the words on it. Some of the journalists, of course, can sometimes capture very readily and succinctly phrases to describe an issue. They call this the legislative time machine; the legislative time machine. I thought that was pretty good. What they are saying is the government is rewinding the clock here.

The reason, of course, why courts normally don't let you rewind the clock is because it is a massive intrusion and negative consequential impact upon the parties in question. For example, if the government of this Province were to pass a law today saying that as of twelve o'clock midnight tonight all motor vehicle registrations will cost $200 per vehicle effective tonight, midnight, 1990. Now, that would be quite the unheard of Draconian type of approach and you would say: just a minute now, you are telling me you are going to rewind the clock and instead of what I had to pay today for motor registration, you are telling me that I have to pay $200 going back to 1990. You are off your head! That is what retroactivity does and that is why retroactivity is not looked upon by anybody, including the courts, as being proper because you are changing the fact situation, you are changing the terrain, you are going back in time. Unless you have a very good reason the courts look and frown upon retroactive legislation.

I listened intently to the minister's comments about unjust enrichment. Quite frankly, I haven't made up my mind yet as to where I am going to come down in terms of a vote on this bill. Now, there is no question the bill will go through, the government has a majority of members and at the end of the day they can make it go through. It could be as illogical, as ill thought out as you might want, but when the government has a majority they make that decision and they have made the decision here to bring that piece of legislation forth.

They talk about unjust enrichment. We are going to do this because we don't want the bar owners to have the $13 million back. Well, I hope that is not the only reason that the government is passing this bill, because they are being sued in a class action by the bar owners who are looking for the $13 million that the government illegally took. That is the bottom line: the government illegally took $13 million out of somebody's pocket, because they were not allowed to do it.

One issue is: What happens to the $13 million? That is a legitimate question, what happens to it? According to what the minister is saying, the government have decided, in their wisdom, well, we know one thing that is not going to happen to it. It is not going to go back to the bar owners, because that puts $13 million in their pockets and they would be unjustly enriched. In other words, we are going to give them money that is not justified and they should not have.

That does not take away from the propriety, the appropriateness, of making a bill retroactive. Surely, if the issue was that you should not have taken it in the first place, the issue is: What do we do with it now that we took it illegally? Maybe the government wants to find something else to do with it, other than just saying we are not going to give it back to the bar owners.

I do not think that is a proper piece of justification for making a retroactive bill. The bottom line is, once this bill goes through – sure, you kept it from going to the bar owners, but how does that justify that you still have money in your hands you should not have had in the first place? We are still left with the question of: What is government going to do with the $13 million?

Don't confuse what happens to the $13 million; and, because you do not want to give it to one group, you use that as a justification for saying: Whoa, we are going to make a new law. Now, as of today, we are going to make a new law that goes back years, 2001 - but it still begs the question: Who gets the $13 million?

I just posed the question. It is fine for the government to say the bar owners should not get it because it came out of their pockets. Why should the government have it? What makes the government the better party to have it, rather than the bar owners? I would like to have some answers to that question. It is fine to say that they are unjustly enriched if it succeeds. Isn't government unjustly enriched if they pass this law?

MR. DINN: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: The Member for Kilbride says that is okay because the government represents people. Well, I do not think that is good enough either, just because you can say that the government represents people, that we are allowed to do whatever we want whenever we want under the guise of we represent people. I would like to think we bring a bit more thought to the process than that.

We are going to deny you of something over there because we represent the people. It still has to be based on logic. It still has to be based on rational thought. It still has to be based on fairness. It still has to be based on some principles. That is all I ask the minister, that, other than saying you should not have it because you are unjustly enriched, I would like to hear some reasons of why the government have it. One does not necessarily mean the other is true.

By the way, I am waiting - I have already indicated to the Government House Leader that I would not be in a position today to conclude my comments on this because I have requested some further information on this particular legislation from the perspective of the bar owners.

It is one thing for me to get up and rant as to why I think it might be questionable or suspect or ask the government some questions about this. I would like to get a better handle on why the bar owners took it upon themselves to launch a class-action lawsuit too. I believe in trying to hopefully be informed on both sides so that would help me make my decision as to why the government is taking this course of action. Should I support what the government is doing in this bill or should I say no, I think you are wrong, government, and that the bar owners are right.

I am awaiting that information. I do not have that today, so I am not in a position to comment from that perspective. My questions today are geared to the minister's comments as to the government's justification for doing this.

If you follow the sequence of events here, they took the levy. The court said New Brunswick, who also took a levy, was unconstitutional. New Brunswick went back and redrafted the bill. We know now that the New Brunswick bill, the retroactive bill that passed in New Brunswick, is also being contested in the courts and that is being challenged. That is going to go through a process. This is not ending with the passage of this bill. This is only another step in the process.

Government is following the lead of New Brunswick here. The bar owners want the money back. The government changes it retroactively in New Brunswick. Now they are challenged again and say that retroactive legislation, their Bill 18, is also unconstitutional because it was retroactive. That has to work its way through the courts and be resolved, probably again in the Supreme Court of Canada.

There is a whole process. This isn't just a step by the government. I guess it will depend, at the end of the day, where the bar owners want to go. If the bar owners say well, fine, thank you very much but we are not going to spend the money to fight this, and let the $13 million go, well, that will be the end of it and it will be done.

Again, in addition to the issue of unjust enrichment of the bar owners, this is not the first time we have had an incidence where we have had a very complicated issue about government money, and who should get it and how it should be distributed, and we have found ways to do it.

I am just wondering if this whole hobnailed boots approach that we have here about making this draconian piece of retroactive legislation, other than to say it is unjust enrichment, I am wondering, were there any other options looked at? Were there any discussions between the plaintiff here, the class-action people or the government, to try to resolve this in some way that was fair to everybody? Or did government deem that us keeping it in the government coffers was the only legitimate, fair, equitable thing to do?

MR. RIDEOUT: It is spent.

MR. PARSONS: The Government House Leader says it is spent. The fact that it is spent, I say again, does not justify and does not change the fact that it is deemed improper funds in the government hands in the first place. It was deemed that you had no right to collect them. The fact that you have gone and spent it does not change the fact that you spent money you never should have had.

The reason I ask about the formulas for distribution, or who should get it in fairness - for example, we had the pay equity case in this Province and the government, I do believe, two years ago now, made a decision. There was a Ministerial Statement in this House where the Premier stood up and announced there were so many million - I forget the exact figure now - $18 million, $20 million or $24 million that was going to be paid out by government to settle the pay equity case.

Now, anybody who has been following that knows that we still do not have the pay equity thing resolved as to who gets it. I believe that is still ongoing. There have been committees set up in different unions to try to work it out and we are two or three years down the road of even trying to find out who gets the money. I think that is another example where there is no difference.

What is the difference in government trying to find out who should legitimately have the $18 million versus taking a chunk of money and putting it over there for pay equity and saying: Go figure out who owns it. At least in the pay equity they put the money there and said: Let somebody figure it out.

I am just wondering: Did the government make any attempt in that regard here to try to find some equitable process to do this, or was the only solution to pass this retroactive piece of legislation?

I agree, and I am wondering if maybe the minister can educate us as well, because I guess he has probably seen the statement of claim that has been filed in this matter, which I have not had the benefit of yet. I am just wondering: Has there been any response from the plaintiffs here regarding the unjust enrichment piece? Because, off the top, that seems like a pretty reasonable argument, that we are going to contest this because we do not agree that you should be handed $18 million either. You were only the flow-through agent for the money. Jack walked in and had a beer and you charged a percentage of levy and it went to the government, so why should we give the levy back to you, bar owners?

I agree with that, that you do not necessarily just say, willy-nilly, that you get it back. I am wondering if there has been any to-and-fro between the plaintiff and the defendant, the government, in that regard, and how they might have responded on that argument in any documentation to date. Have they given any reason why they feel they should be entitled to it? Because on the surface it certainly appears, as the minister says, they did not own it, or should not have owned it, in the first place. It did not come out of their pocket. It came out of the drinker. It came out of the club, the person who visited the club and had the beer or the liquor. If the minister had information in that regard it would certainly be helpful. I notice, by the way, the Minister of Finance who is carrying the bill, actually made the same comment in the media that it would be unjust enrichment, but there was not much elaboration other than saying it is unjust enrichment. I just wondered if there has been any response from the club owners in that regard.

I guess you can look at it too and say the government pretty well has its hands tied. They got $18 million which they collected under the wrong heading, they called it a levy instead of a tax. The money is now spent. They do not know who to give it to so how are we going to fix the problem? They have sized it all up and said, well, we know one thing we are not going to do, we are not going to give it back to the club owners because it is unjust enrichment. What we are going to do is we are going say we are going to keep it. We are going to keep it by making this retroactive legislation.

I just query, if you follow through that scenario, what happens I wonder at the end of the day if the club owners contest this Bill 18 when it becomes law, because they say it is unconstitutional, the same as New Brunswick is doing? What happens then, if the court comes back and says that is unconstitutional? Then we are five or six more years out and the government is ordered to pay the money. Because if it is, somebody has to make a decision as to who to give the money to then. I am just wondering: Did the people in Justice or Finance put any thought into this as to what the process might be or is it a case of lets fix it for now, knowing full well it is going to go to court, and lets see where it all comes out at the end of the day?

In conclusion, I guess, I can say there is still some information I do not have, I am not a party to at this point. I would like to be better informed before I make a decision one way or the other and I certainly would like to know how the plaintiffs in this case would have reacted. I am assuming the government already told them about the unjust enrichment piece because that seems to be a carte blanche defence by government if you just take it on the surface. There must be some reasons - and I am not totally familiar right now with when that principle applies and does not apply and so on. I am wondering what kind of thought went into that process and was there any thought given to what our other options might have been?

That is all I have to say at this point. I cannot say whether I will or will not be supportive of the bill until I get that information. I have indicated to the Government House Leader that I would certainly like an opportunity, which he has agreed, when it comes to committee stage to have a few more comments when I get that further information for clarification.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. Government House Leader speaks now, he will close the debate.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will just have a couple of remarks now. I thank my friend across the way for his remarks and his contribution to the debate.

On the issue of the possibility of retroactive legislation, I just want to address that point, Mr. Speaker.

In dealing with the New Brunswick legislation, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the fact that the charges had been passed on to consumers was not a defence in the context of an unconstitutional tax, however the court did allow for the possibility that constitutionally valid retroactive ameliorating legislation could be enacted to limit or deny recover of ultra vires taxes. The Supreme Court of Canada held that out as a possibility to New Brunswick. In the same case, Mr. Speaker, in 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that restitution should be made for the period prior to commencement of legal proceedings, but the time period in that case was restricted to six years, because that was the period allowed under a New Brunswick limitation act.

Our limitation period is similar in that case, but in this case, Mr. Speaker, the bill before us is retroactive for monies collected between January 31, 2001 and when the payment ended on March 31, 2006, because by March 31 we had taken the levy off so we no longer had to deal with it. We are dealing with it keeping in mind the Supreme Court of Canada ruling and the indication from the court that a limitation period that was imposed in the case of New Brunswick would be acceptable in terms of retroactive legislation.

Now, there is the matter regarding unjust enrichment and whether or not that was put to the plaintiffs. I do not have that information in front of me, but hopefully when we deal with this in committee the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board will be available. If he is not, then, Mr. Speaker, I will certainly undertake to have an answer at that point in time.

With those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill 18.

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 Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy, Bill 18.

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

When shall the said bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House. Now? Tomorrow?

On motion, a bill, "An At To Amend The Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow.

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to call Order 2, which for the benefit of hon. members is the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne which was delivered by His Honour to open this formal session of the House back whenever it was in March. It is on the Order Paper as Order 2, Address in Reply.

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: It is a great pleasure to rise in this hon. House today to lend support to the Speech from the Throne.

In my previous life as a major of a community in this Province, I had the opportunity to often visit this House to witness the Speech from the Throne, but your perspective certainly changes when you get to actually sit in this House and hear the speech and be part of the team that is going to implement the many activities and initiatives that are outlined in the speech.

I was elected just over six months ago along with the other members of this House, and there has certainly been a considerable learning curve over the last six months as I have settled into my new role. There have also been many opportunities to contribute to the work of this government.

I guess the most common question I get, from people in my district and even from people outside by district, is: How is it going? Are you enjoying it? I can certainly say, Mr. Speaker, that it has been a pleasure to work with members of Cabinet, members of my Caucus, over the last six months. I have learned more about the work of government and have also had opportunities to get involved in the workings of government and to make a contribution on behalf of the people who I represent in the District of Mount Pearl North.

The second question I get is: What are the big differences? Do you find it much different than being at city hall in Mount Pearl? Certainly, there are some differences. As the mayor or as a member of council sometimes there were issues that I could resolve simply with a phone call or with a quick e-mail to a member of staff. What I have found thus far as a member of this Legislature is that the issues are often more complex. There is more research necessary, there is more consultation required with various government departments and various officials. There have been a whole host of new issues that I have had the opportunity to deal with as a new MHA.

Those issues, on behalf of constituents, have involved things like EI appeals, people who are applying for EI, dealing with clients of Child Youth and Family Services, seniors who are applying for drug cards, people who have been injured on the job and are going through Workers' Comp appeals processes, individuals who are residents in Newfoundland and Labrador Housing units and there are 184 of those units in my district alone. I have dealt with constituents of mine receiving Income Support, small business owners who are trying to advance their cause and get support from government in doing so. I have dealt with many individuals who are seeking employment, and the list goes on and on. So the responsibilities for an MHA, anywhere in the Province, are quite significant and there has been a lot of learning involved over the last six months.

I want to congratulate my fellow colleagues who have had the opportunity to rise in this House and give their maiden speeches over the last month or so. In particular, my colleague from the Bay of Islands, I believe, was the most recent to get up and give his maiden speech, so I offer him my congratulations as well.

Mr. Speaker, it is a very exciting time to govern. I think it is an incredible time to be a member of this Legislature and to be a part of government that is moving this Province forward. As outlined in the Throne Speech, this government has a powerful mandate to build on the work that was done in the first four years of this government's term. I think this new term is full of new energy, new objectives, new plans, and sure, there are challenges. In any time in our history there will always be challenges, but I think having the right attitude and bringing a level of positive energy to the table is absolutely key. I think if we are going to change the way people outside the Province see us, then we first need to look at our own attitudes and how we approach things within the Province. I think there is a level of energy, a level of hope, a level of optimism that never before has existed in this Province, and that is quite exciting.

Speaking of those opportunities, I was pleased with many of the commitments that were outlined in the Throne Speech that was read just prior to Easter. I think the overarching goal of this next term is to continue to move Newfoundland and Labrador boldly forward towards self-reliance. That is really indicative of the kind of commitments that are made in the Throne Speech. We need solid plans. We need real commitment, and this government has certainly demonstrated its ability to do so. It has what it takes to make the tough decisions in moving this Province forward.

What we have seen over the last four years and what we see evidence of, even in the Throne Speech, are strategic investments in resource sectors, such as oil and gas, electricity, mining, agrifoods, the fishery, and the list goes on. We have also seen very important investments made in tourism and culture, which I think will continue to be a major growth industry for Newfoundland and Labrador.

This government has also made very important investments in leading edge sectors, such as ocean technology and engineering, and in many other sectors of our economy. There are many good things happening. We have many reasons, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, to be optimistic about what is to come.

Mr. Speaker, we are already on the right track. Labour market conditions in this Province have improved significantly in recent years, and the momentum and energy in Newfoundland and Labrador is also quite evident in the district I represent, in Mount Pearl North.

I am very proud to represent two communities that I have been a resident of, the Town of Paradise and the City of Mount Pearl. Both are vibrant, modern, progressive, growing communities. Year after year we have seen new businesses open their doors in Paradise and Mount Pearl. We have seen hundreds and hundreds of new jobs created each and every year, and that kind of success is contributing greatly to the economy of the region and the economy of the Province as well.

In Mount Pearl and Paradise in particular, I believe that the energy sector has been a big part of that success. In September, our government released Newfoundland and Labrador's first comprehensive long-term energy plan. In that plan it is quite evident that we will realize our potential as an energy warehouse in Eastern North America.

As I mentioned just a moment ago, Mr. Speaker, I think our government's investment in tourism is paying off as well. I think, in a lot of ways, these efforts are helping to put Newfoundland and Labrador on the map.

In November, 2007, the Province won the Tourism Industry Association of Canada's Marketing Campaign of the Year Award. We have been recognized as well by Lonely Planet, which is one of the world's leading travel publications. In fact, for 2008 we have been named one of the top thirty travel destinations, which is quite exciting news for this Province and just indicative of the kind of way that the rest of the world is now seeing Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: Certainly, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation is to be congratulated, and I believe this government is to be congratulated on moving the Province forward in this regard. In fact, there have been many success stories in the tourism industry in even some of the smallest communities in our Province. So I really believe that tourism will be a very important sector of our economy as we move forward.

When it comes to moving Newfoundland and Labrador forward, it is not just about economic growth, it is also about people. Success is about people. I really believe that this government, during its first term and now as we move into the second term, has really done a great deal to strengthen the social fabric of this Province. We have seen many socially progressive initiatives, many of which were touched on in the Throne Speech. We have seen the largest personal income tax cuts in our Province's history. We have seen a Poverty Reduction Strategy that has received recognition right across the country. We have seen increased funding for new diagnostic and other medical equipment. This government has provided insulin pumps for our children. Over 135 families have benefited from this news in recent years. New prescription drugs have been provided for those people who need them. As well, there has been record spending on education, free textbooks for students K to 12, and we have the best post-secondary student aided package in the country.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: It is certainly great news for young people in this Province. I, myself, had student loans and know how much interest I paid on those loans. The kind of debt reduction strategies that this government has supported for students is tremendous, and many young people are already benefiting from the work of this government over the last number of years.

The Throne Speech also touches on many new initiatives that will advance the well-being of our people, and I hope that during the course of this debate other members of government will have the opportunity to highlight some of those initiatives.

I was very pleased when Cabinet was appointed, that there is now a new Minister Responsible for the Volunteer and Non-profit Sector. I think this is great news for the thousands of volunteers who contribute a great deal to the quality of life in our communities, right across Newfoundland and Labrador. I have been involved in the voluntary sector for quite some time, study voluntary sector leadership at university and spent much of my early career working with organizations such as United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I remain an active volunteer with a number of organizations as well. I want to encourage people in this Province to remain active in community life, to get involved in community organizations, in volunteer organizations because I believe it is absolutely critical to the future of many communities in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased that the Throne Speech also touched a great deal on crime prevention and community safety. In the jurisdiction that I represent in this House, we are served by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. I have been very pleased to see an increase in the number of officers in recent years. I know many people within the force who are quite enthusiastic about the investments that this government has made in policing and I think this is a sign of good things to come.

I am very pleased, as well, that government has done a lot to promote the health and well-being of our people and our communities. This year, as outlined in the Throne Speech, government is going to implement Phase 2 of the Provincial Wellness Plan and it is going to focus on mental health, on child and youth development, environmental health and health protection. This really builds on the Phase 1 objectives that were outlined in the wellness plan and I think will mean good things for every individual and for every community, every family in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, our government broke ground last year in releasing the Province's healthy aging plan. I think it is very exciting that, as outlined in the Throne Speech, we are moving into year two of this plan, which is going to introduce many new initiatives to promote the well-being of seniors. The demographics in this Province are changing. There are more seniors in each of our communities, and particularly in the district that I now represent, I have noticed the growth in the seniors' community. Local communities are doing what they can to respond to this shift in demographics and I am very pleased to see that the Province is out in front in promoting initiatives for seniors and really investing and assuring that this segment of our population, that their concerns are adequately addressed.

I am very pleased that it was noted in the Throne Speech that government will advance a long-term care and community support strategy. This will positively impact our long-term care homes in the Province, it will improve home care services, and these are issues that affect many, many families in my district and also throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the investments in new school construction that were outlined in the Throne Speech. Since 2004, government has allocated $111 million for new school construction, maintenance and repair projects. There was a significant announcement in my district already, in the first six months that we have been in office, that is going to result in two new schools in the Town of Paradise – one of the fastest growing communities in Eastern Canada – and also an expansion to the existing Holy Family School. This is good news for the families that I represent in Elizabeth Park, and it shows the kind of growth and excitement that exists in the district that I represent, and certainly it is evidence of what is happening in this region.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, at the post-secondary level the improvements to the student aid program are significant. The Throne Speech certainly outlines further commitments that will benefit those who are pursuing post-secondary education in this Province, and I think that is great news as well.

We are really at a critical point in our history as we prepare to make that transition from a have-not to a have Province, I think the Throne Speech really sets the tone for the year ahead. I am excited about many of the announcements that are contained within the speech, and I think it is going to be an exciting year, as I said, to be a member of this House, and to contribute to moving the plans forward.

So I certainly congratulate the Premier, I congratulate Cabinet and this government, and I look forward to being part of this team as we move Newfoundland and Labrador forward and build on the great work that has been done, and at the same time I will continue to be working hard on behalf of the people I represent in the District of Mount Pearl North.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to make few comments under the Orders of the Day, Address in Reply to the Throne Speech.

I am pleased to hear the Member for Mount Pearl South, I think it is –

MR. KENT: North.

MR. BUTLER: North, I am sorry - Mount Pearl North - speak about how, since he became involved and working co-operatively with everybody in the House, the ministers, the various departments and the backbenchers, I have to say I think that over the years – I was elected back in 2001, but even prior to that - sitting in the gallery I saw members, on whatever side of the House they were, work co-operatively together.

I guess I bring this up for a reason, because the hon. Minister of Justice, just last week, made the comment about co-operation and so on. I think we all co-operate from time to time. I did the honourable thing yesterday and let him get to his feet, by permission, to congratulate the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars.

Mr. Speaker, to start with, that is what I want to do as well today. Senior hockey is alive and well in this Province, and the CeeBee Stars have been fortunate over the past three years to bring home three Herder championships. I would say it goes beyond luck, Mr. Speaker. It goes well beyond luck, even though luck goes with the game.

First of all, I want to say to the fans, the individuals around the Deer Lake Red Wings team, I want to congratulate them on a fine series and to say to their fans – I mean, they travel from one end of the coast to the other to follow their team, and made the series very interesting.

I want to recognize some of the individuals who played a major part in this series. We think about Chris Crosbie from Bay Roberts, Keith Delaney from North River, and the other gentlemen, quite a few of them from here in St. John's and area. I just want to extend congratulations to each and every one of them on a job well done and to say at least the Herder is back home for another year.

Mr. Speaker, we talk about the Throne Speech, and we know it is a document of good news. Even though it is not defined, I guess, what will come out, hopefully when the Budget comes down we will see, from time to time, the good things that are mentioned in the Throne Speech.

I guess some of the things I want to touch on today in relation to my district are: I am looking forward to announcements when the Budget comes down on the possibility of an extension to Amalgamated Academy in Bay Roberts, and hopefully government will look at the possibility again down the road – no, it cannot happen overnight - of a new school for Coley's Point Primary.

I also bring up, from time to time, the long-term care facility that was a top priority for the Conception Bay North area some time ago. I think it was about a year-and-a-half ago the minister of the day, at that time, told me that there was somewhere in the vicinity of $500,000 put aside to do a study or an assessment into that facility once again. Hopefully government, in their wisdom, during this Budget, will make such an announcement.

Mr. Speaker, a long-term care facility, I can tell you, is greatly needed in the Conception Bay North area. As it relates to many of the beds at the hospital being full, the two facilities that are there are getting up in years and I think government, in its wisdom, should have an assessment done to see if that can be brought about once again.

The other item that hopefully we will see in the Budget - and it has been brought up and mentioned by the minister from time to time - is the retention and recruitment of doctors and nurses for our Province. We all know the difficult position we find ourselves in. We hear it mentioned every day about the tremendous number of nurse shortages that we have in this Province, and the same can be said for our general practitioners and possibly some specialists.

I know for a fact in our area, the general practitioners, there is a shortage. Many people do not have a general practitioner to go to and visit. They do not have one where their reports can be sent when they have a test done at the hospital, whether it is in Carbonear or here in St. John's. Many other people have to travel to St. John's to see a general practitioner. Hopefully, Mr. Speaker, some of those issues can be resolved.

The other issue I hope that government will look at in their Budget when it comes down is in regard to many of our seniors with the supply of oxygen. Some of them are confined to their homes and they cannot move out around very much because of the cost. That was covered, up to a certain period of time. Now, once they – it seems like when they get their Old Age Security and the supplement they are at a level where they are unable to get any assistance. I know in my district there are three or four individuals who find it very difficult. They just cannot get out around their community or even go to the supermarket to even pick up their groceries and so on, because of the tremendous cost.

The other issue that we brought up some time ago was the shortage of audiologists at the Janeway, and probably other areas of the Province but I am familiar with the Janeway, because I spoke with the individual in charge there and he said at this present time there were three shortages but hopefully, through government's retention and recruitment this year, those positions can be filled, Mr. Speaker.

I guess it is crucial. We know there are audiologists who are doing and carrying out some of the work that they have to do, but my understanding is that there is a tremendous backlog of young individuals who are attending our schools who have to have testing done to see where they go, through concerns with the Department of Education. The proposals have been sent in, but due to the shortages they are unable to continue on.

Mr. Speaker, hopefully the Department of Human Resource, Labour and Employment - I know I have mentioned this several times in the past, and we know technology is a great thing those days, but when the offices closed around this Province it took the personal touch away from the individuals because they now have to do everything on-line. Anyway, they have to deal with the issues on-line and many of them have problems. They cannot go into a local office now to see a worker and they find it very difficult.

Mr. Speaker, with those few comments - hopefully, time will be available once again - I just want to thank you for the opportunity to say those few words. Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments, on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, to make a few comments on that document.

I enjoyed the comments from the hon. Member for Port de Grave. I would certainly like to congratulate the CeeBees as well. He made one comment with regard to the Herder being at home. Actually, the home of the Herder is on the Southern Shore and I am sure it will return in future years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne basically outlines government's direction over the coming year, what the blueprint is going to be, what the priorities are, what is important to a government and how it reaches out to those that it has governed in this great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the Speech from the Thorne, which was the blueprint, we saw a number of references that are relevant that I would certainly like to speak to. One we have heard of for some time and continue to hear, and obviously we are moving forward towards that, and that is when we speak of self-reliance, this great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador being self-reliant.

If we look at our resources, our natural resources, our people, specifically our natural resources in oil and gas and where we have come from in our developments and how we are moving forward with that - the Speech from the Throne speaks to electricity, mining, agrifoods and fisheries, all important for this government and important as we move forward over the next year. As well, it speaks to tourism and culture, which we know in this Province is so rich and diverse. This government has invested, and no doubt will continue to invest, in our tourism and cultured sectors.

Where I come from, on the Southern Shore, we are very heavily, historically, involved in tourism and rich in culture. Certainly, we promote that and look forward to working with groups in my district, continued folk culture and certainly tourism as it continues to grow.

The Speech also talks about leading edge sectors, ocean technology and engineering, areas where, as well, this government is investing and moving forward.

Our economy now is moving forward, it is picking up steam and no doubt we are looking at improved labour market conditions. Employment continues to decline as we continue to move forward. How are we dealing with that challenge? Our young people; how do we reach out to ensure that they can grasp the opportunities that lie ahead? We are looking at the College of the North Atlantic and Memorial University leading the way in preparing our young people, post-secondary education, new opportunities. We have to have the vision to move forward to identify what opportunities will be there so we can prepare our young people, obviously, to meet the need.

As well, the Student Loans Program: this government continues to work on the Student Loans Program. It is one of the best in the country. As well, to assist our young people to get that post-secondary education and to move into the profession of their choice, which is so important.

Mr. Speaker, another issue I want to speak to is in regards to equalization and the work of this government and this Premier over the past number of years in terms of securing the $2 billion upfront payment out of the equalization program. When we look at where we are today in terms of $11.6 billion in debt, this government has taken a balanced approach. It is looking at increasing its revenues, investing in the Province, but as well it is looking at our deficit, which is huge. It works out to about $22,000 for every man, women and child. That is something we need to keep front and centre and no doubt we will as a government as we move forward.

To be self-reliant we have to have our fiscal house in order, and no doubt we will do that as we move forward. We will never be self-sufficient truly until our debt has been reduced, and we are in a position where indeed we are a have-province. We have contributed in the past no doubt to this great country whether it is through our natural resources, whether it is through our people, but we will be there to contribute to this federation, no doubt, when we become a have-Province. To get there we need to have the commitments kept in terms of the equalization and what was promised to us and certainly that the offset payments do not discontinue. With an $11.6 billion debt, there was an approximation done regards to what that promise meant to us, somewhere around $10 million, so that would virtually wipe out our current debt and then move us forward.

Mr. Speaker, we will fulfill our potential within the Federation of Canada no doubt. We will continue to do it. We will do it through our natural resources, to become self-sufficient. It is important that we get what is promised to us from the federal government to help us do that.

The Speech from the Throne, Mr. Speaker, also spoke to the success of our people, the social and economic security. The direction that this government has taken and continues to take contributes to the social and economic security of its people. We need to provide the services to people in their communities no matter where those communities are, so they have a choice to live there, raise their families and have access to the services that they deserve.

Economic security: That we provide an environment where industry, entrepreneurialism and business can operate, can employ people. We need to ensure, and no doubt we will, that that environment exists. We will continue to do that.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne spoke to being socially progressive and the initiatives with regard to being socially progressive. It has already been mentioned earlier, in terms of: This government has brought in the largest reduction in personal income tax in history; we have seen an overall poverty reduction strategy; we have seen increased funding in health care, such things as insulin pumps, new prescription drug programs and new long-term care homes; and record spending in education. We have seen free textbooks and, as I mentioned, one of the best post-secondary loan packages in the country. These are all initiatives that, while they will help many in our communities, many of these programs and initiatives help those that need it the most: Lower income families, to allow them to have more disposable income and allow them to meet their daily needs, which is extremely important as we move forward. That is why I say this government is a progressive government and is moving forward on these initiatives.

As well, the Throne Speech speaks to a strong economy. A strong economy doesn't just happen, government has to take initiatives. In some cases it needs to get out of the way and in other cases it needs to intervene and make sure the environment exists for a strong economy.

We looked at things like a long-term energy plan which extends out to 2041 in terms of the expiry date of the Upper Churchill agreement. As we move forward over the next few years we are ready. We continue to build on that which is so important to us being self reliant and masters of our own destiny.

Mr. Speaker, as well there was also mention of the historic equity stakes that this government and this Premier were able to negotiate in the offshore development projects of Hebron and White Rose, and as well a super royalty and industrial benefit package, the first of its kind, which now allows this Province, in terms of developing its oil and gas industry, its overall energy plan, to be at the table in terms of oil and gas development and to tell of that expertise in House. We drive the initiative, we drive the energy, we drive the industry through our own people.

Mr. Speaker, there was a comment, too, and we have seen it over the past number of months, in terms of great promise in the mining sector. We have seen increased exploration and expansion and construction of new mines as well. We have seen investment in agriculture and the forestry sector as well. So, we are a resource-based economy. We need to promote it and do the things we need to do to ensure its success.

Mr. Speaker, as well, with a growing economy and revenues there come serious decisions in terms of: Where do we direct those revenues as a government?

As I mentioned earlier, we looked at our deficit – over $11 billion – there is a balanced approach we need to take. We need to upgrade much of our infrastructure, which over the past number of years has been depleted. There is a wide variety of infrastructure programs, whether it is schools, hospitals, highways or ferries – tremendous investments. An example of that is $182 million in road improvements to build up that infrastructure to make sure we have the infrastructure required for industry, for communities to grow and to prosper.

Interesting, too, in the Speech from the Throne, there was mention of volunteers, and the direction this government is taking in terms of recognizing what volunteers bring to Newfoundland and Labrador society, and what role they play in terms of us maximizing their energy and their expertise in terms of the communities.

I just know, Mr. Speaker, from my own personal situation, in terms of my district, I look at the volunteers. The first one that comes to mind, obviously, is the volunteer fire departments and the role they play in terms of giving up their time for training, for responding to one of the most dangerous events you can – a fire – and the role they play in the community, and the different functions they do are certainly commendable.

I spoke yesterday, on a member's statement, of the Leo Club in the Goulds as well as the Lions Club, those types of organizations, the role they play in our communities in terms of providing services for everybody in the community. Whether it is fundraising to build something, or just door-to-door and helping people in the community, it is a tremendous part of our society, and this government has recognized that by designating a minister in Cabinet to look at this role and to make sure we are maximizing our potential and to work with those volunteer groups.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier, and I just want to conclude with this, I think it is so important in terms of fiscally how we manage as we go forward. We have seen this government over the past four years, and no doubt if you look to the future we will look to manage our fiscal situation, get our house in order, as we continue to look at some of the benefits we are getting from our economy, and how we build that infrastructure I spoke of, but on the other side how we relieve some of that debt that is outstanding to ensure that our children of today and their children will not be weighed down with that debt in future years. That goes to us being self-reliant. Certainly, while we added much to this federation, this great country of Canada, we will add more, no doubt, as we move forward in this government's direction in terms of meeting those priorities that are certainly on target.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity for those few words.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly want to contribute to the debate today on the Throne Speech. I just listened to my colleague, the Member for Ferryland, and some of the points that he was raising. Obviously, Mr. Speaker, he has made some good points on behalf of government but there are always other sides to issues that are not commonly looked at, I suppose, until they surface and become issues of everyday concern for people.

I understand that in the Throne Speech government likes to exercise control in using phrases like masters of our own destiny and masters of our own house, and those kinds of phrases which indicate a level of control and a level of overseeing and understanding of what is actually happening with regard to a number of issues.

Mr. Speaker, I guess that is all true and very fine except in cases where government is often challenged on what their positions are and then all of a sudden they are not necessarily the same masters but are very good at passing the buck and pointing the finger in other directions.

We have seen that, especially in the last few days, as we have seen the Premier point at the liabilities of Eastern Health as it pertains to this public inquiry that is ongoing. Even before the inquiry process is completed, and even before there has been testimony entered by officials from Eastern Health, there has already been some pointing in terms of saying they are the ones that are liable and, in essence, accosting blame in some way. So, not all times - although when they even claim to take responsibility and be the people who take the responsibility, when they claim to be the masters of their own house, it is not always the case and it very much depends upon the issue of the day.

Mr. Speaker, today in the House of Assembly I was asking questions regarding a number of cases, and one of those particular issues I will speak to. In fact, I will speak to two of those issues. One was a case of a phone call that I had received from a cancer patient over the last few days, and a patient who had been diagnosed back about four years ago with breast cancer and actually underwent surgery to have some lumps removed, I think it was, and also underwent some treatments, and then, of course, was contacted a little over a year ago by the laboratory at Eastern Health and informed that their tissue samples would be sent out for retesting.

This particular individual, six months later, received another call from the laboratory saying, again, that their tissue samples would be sent out for retesting. Of course, she questioned that: Six months ago I got a call saying this was going to be done and now, six months later, I am getting a call again telling me that this is going to be done. Why wasn't it done six months ago?

No one could provide that answer to this individual but, in fact, after that her tissue was sent out for retesting and, unfortunately, she did have breast cancer again. This was just one incident where we had seen contact by the lab and yet delays in what was actually happening with regard to retesting for some of these individuals.

I have heard a number of stories from patients since all of this has started, and many of them have been absolutely horrific, there is absolutely no doubt about that, but in this particular case it seemed like every aspect of this woman's health care, and her dealings with the corporation, was flawed in one way or the other.

I will continue my story this way. About six months later, when she had received the news that she was again diagnosed with breast cancer and they wanted her to come in for further tests, one of those tests that she had to take was an MRI, and at the time that the testing was done she waited several hours to get the results and then was told that there was no radiologist to read the MRI results. In fact, they told her to go home and we will contact you when we are able to have someone read those results. At that particular time, she was informed that there was only one radiologist on staff at the Health Sciences who was able to read this particular screening for breast cancer patients. I do not know if there is only one person there who can do it or if there was one person there at that particular time that could actually be able to read the results and make a prognosis.

So, it needs to be clarified, because if there is a shortage, that should be known. If there is not a shortage or if it is just a case of where other radiologists were out at that particular time, either on sick leave or vacation leave, or whatever the case may be, that should be pointed out, but it is a tremendous concern for me. If it is a problem, then it needs to be dealt with.

The other piece to this was when the patient actually went in to have the surgery done. It was during the pre-op when they were informed that they would not be able to be admitted after the surgery procedure was completed on that particular day. The rationale for that was because there was not an availability of beds. Now I have found out since that - I only speak of one particular case here, but there have been other cases as well where other people were impacted in the same way and were also told the very same thing and given the same options. In this particular case, the individual was told that because they could not be admitted and if they insisted on being admitted into the hospital then they would have to delay their surgical procedure and they could consent to having it done at another time when there was a bed available. I do not think that is appropriate.

I have learned from the Health Care Corporation, as late as today - because I did make contact with them yesterday when I was aware of the issue, and I provided them the information. Today, they did contact me to say that there was no written policy within the Health Care Corporation, but oftentimes, through discussions between surgeons and patients, it is determined that patients need to be admitted for some surgeries whereas some may have the option to go home. In fact, I have had friends who have had this surgery who did opt to go home. In one particular case they had a friend who was a nurse that went into their home for a few days to care for them while they were recovering. In another case, there were others who were able to provide that care for them and therefore they were able to choose that option.

In cases where women or men do not have that option, and they are being scheduled for surgery and are being admitted to have that done, then beds should be available to them. They should not be showing up for pre-op and then told before they are wheeled into an OR room, we cannot admit you after the surgery today and you will have to go home. I do not think that is an appropriate level of care to be inserting upon people at that particular stage. I would like to see that changed. That is what I was raising, not just on behalf of this individual but on behalf of many others who are faced with the same decision right before they are wheeled into an OR room, as to whether they will consent to being released from the hospital because there are no beds.

What I am asking government to do is to have some discussions with Eastern Health around the fact that once people are scheduled for the procedure and are to be admitted, then there should be beds available for them. Now, if there is a bed problem - and I am led to believe that there is a huge problem with accessing beds in our hospitals in the St. John's region. I am led to believe that by a number of accounts, not just one. If that is a problem, even if it is an intermittent problem that exists only for four months out of a year, it is still a problem and one that needs to be dealt with.


I have had several examples phoned into my office in the last number of days which leads me to believe that the problem with beds within the St. John's hospital, the shortage of beds is a bigger problem than most people are actually admitting to, and I will tell you why. I have had this discussion with senior management at Eastern Health. I listened to their comments in the media and I have had discussions with them myself. I have heard their responses but, notwithstanding the fact that they claim it is an intermittent problem, it is still a problem.

For example, I talked about awhile ago where I had gotten calls from patients - and maybe it is still going on this week. I have not gotten a call this week, but last week I had calls two days in a row from individuals who had loved ones who were admitted into the Health Sciences Centre but had spent the night on a stretcher in the ER because there were no beds to admit them. That went on - for two days in particular, I was aware of fourteen individuals or patients who were affected in that way. Therefore, that should not be the case. On any given occasion I guess there can be a time when there are one or two patients that are admitted who may have to overnight in the ER while beds are cleared the next day to be able to admit them but, Mr. Speaker, it should not be rising to the numbers that we have seen, such as fourteen and apparently even higher than that on occasion. So, that is one of the things that leads me to believe there is a problem with beds.

Now, I have also been told - and I have been told this by nurses who actually work in those facilities - that there are times when beds in units are closed. Actually, Eastern Health management did commit to me or confirm with me that that was the case. It is not the case on the evening in question last week but it is the case on a number of nights throughout the year, whereby because of shortages with nursing staff, there may be a bed or two beds in a unit that may not be open at that particular time to be able to admit people. This has happened on a number of occasions as well. So, there are a couple of issues here that needs to be dealt with.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, I have been receiving calls from patients, some who are hospitalized and some who are at home awaiting surgical procedures. Two of the cases that I was contacted about were from individuals who were suffering from cancer and were being scheduled into OR for different procedures and were getting bumped or their surgeries were getting cancelled because there was a shortage of beds in ICU. When I talked to the Health Care Corporation, again, they confirmed that there was a problem with the beds in ICU and the availability of these beds but, again, they claimed it was an intermittent problem; that it was something they dealt with for periods throughout the year and this was one of those periods. Apparently this has been ongoing since, I think, early winter. So we are probably into maybe three months or more that this problem has existed.

I am aware of cases in the last couple of weeks where people have been admitted into hospitals. One case at St. Clare's, in particular, not just at the Health Sciences, where people were admitted and were scheduled for surgical procedures, a week had gone by and nothing was done. These were cancer patients as well and nothing was done. The reason for that is because they could not find beds available in ICU to be able to do the surgeries on the days that the OR time was being scheduled for. So, every time that surgeon had scheduled time to be able to bring their patient in to do the surgery, there was not an availability of ICU beds, and therefore that particular patient would have gotten bumped.

These are all very critical issues, in my opinion, but you have to look at the broader piece here, and the broader piece is this, that we are experiencing problems with bed shortages in the St. John's hospitals, and nobody can ignore that. Whether that problem exists for a period of five months out of a year or seven months out of a year, is irrelevant to me. It is a problem, it does exist, and as a result of it there are people who are having surgeries cancelled, who are being bumped off the list or being sent home as outpatients at times when they should be admitted. I think that in itself is reason enough for government to act on this particular issue.

The other issue that I raised, Mr. Speaker, in the House of Assembly, is one that today stems out of what was happening with regard to the Inquiry. It goes back to the restructuring of the health care boards in the Province. Mr. Speaker, it was in 2004, in September of that year, that government announced their decision to amalgamate all the health and community service boards across the Province into four mega boards. That particular amalgamation would start in 2005. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, we were to see, in the Eastern Health region, seven boards, from the Burin Peninsula to the Bonavista Peninsula to the Carbonear Health Centre to the long term facilities to the St. John's Healthcare Corporation to the Eastern Health Corporation; all amalgamated into one mega board structure. That was the announcement that government made in 2004, that that would be implemented in 2005.

Mr. Speaker, all we were asking today of government - and I can only assume that no documents exist whatsoever because of the minister's reluctance to commit to any of them or to present any of them. What we asked was that when these decisions were taken by government and by the department, to have a mega health board in the St. John's region – and I may be wrong but I think Eastern Health Corporation may be the largest health corporation anywhere in Atlantic Canada right now. It is important to note that. The Eastern Health Corporation is serving over half the population of this Province, I think 60 per cent of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and that is on a direct basis. If you want to look at what sectors of the population they are serving on an indirect basis I would say you are looking at 80 to 90 per cent of the population of the Province. I know in many areas of the Province they are all being referred here for specialized treatments and specialized procedures.

Mr. Speaker, we asked today if government could release to us their strategic plans, the studies and reports upon which they made the decision, one, to amalgamate these boards into this mega Eastern Health Authority structure, and two, the strategy they used to implement the change; how they would see this happen, how they would bring all of these seven boards together under one board. Do you know what the answer was from the minister? There wasn't an answer. Basically, he talked about the history of amalgamating boards going back to 1970 in the Province, how we started out with over fifty boards and now we are down to four. May I remind him that the issue that we are dealing with is within the structure of Eastern Health not within the structure of what was happening with health boards in the Province in 1975, but what is happening today, in 2007-2008, Mr. Speaker, with the amalgamation of these particular boards.

The other question we asked was about a transition team, because we do know, in checking with other provinces and jurisdictions across the country, in areas where there were major amalgamations of health boards there were transition teams put in place. In fact, in some provinces transition teams were put in place for two years, three years and maybe even longer if that was what was required. They were given the financial resources to be able to amalgamate and bring together the different auspices of these health corporations under one authority.

 

That was the reason we asked today, was there a transition team. We can assume right now that there wasn't one because the minister was not aware of one and did not indicate that there was one. Therefore, we have to question who was actually in charge of this amalgamation. Who was in charge of amalgamating all of these boards under one structure and ensuring that they integrated from an operational perspective?

Mr. Speaker, this only has to do with the fact that if you have a current administration that is tasked with the amalgamation and integration of all of these different boards under one board how can they actually be administering the day to day operations of a health care facility. That is the reason we question it, because it is only humanly possible for any one person to do so much. I guess we were asking: Was there a transition team? Is there a transition team? Did they have anything to do with this? Is their work finished or did they ever exist? We are understanding now that they never existed, there was no such thing as a transition team. There was no such thing as having someone coordinating and overseeing the integration of these boards under one mega health authority known as the Eastern Health Corporation. I was very disappointed in that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS JONES: May I, by leave, Mr. Speaker, just to clue up?

MR. RIDEOUT: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Government House Leader on a point of order.

MR. RIDEOUT: With respect again, Your Honour, I believe the Leader of Opposition, under Standing Order, I think it is 46 (2) or (3), is entitled to an hour any time she rises to speak. She is speaking to the Address in Reply and I believe she is entitled to an hour or so. I would not expect Your Honour to know that off the top of your head but I am sure the Table will check and I believe that will be confirmed.

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

MS JONES: Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: You have sixty minutes.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

You do not have sixty minutes from here, you have another forty minutes. My apologies!

MS JONES: I am certainly sure I will not need all of that time and I certainly could not recall if I had already spoken with regard to the Address in Reply to the Throne Speech or not, so I was really unsure of the time limit.

I was talking about the boards that were set up and how Eastern Health was comprised and the fact that there was no transition team in place at that time. There were some budgetary goals for the government in place and that was - and I do not remember the exact figures but at the time government talked about amalgamating health authorities throughout the Province as a cost-saving measure. It was being done in 2005 before we saw the balloon surpluses in government's budgets due to the high price of oil and gas, so it was at a time when government was practising more conservative measures in terms of their budgetary process.

One of the key points that they pointed out when they were looking at this amalgamation was in terms of what the cost savings would be. In fact, if you look at the estimates over the years, from the last two budgets, you will notice that there has not been cost savings because of this amalgamation. In fact, it has probably cost the government more money in terms of being able to operate these boards. It did not prove out, I do not think, to be the process that government had wanted and had hoped that it would be.

Mr. Speaker, that was the reason I was raising these particular questions today. Also, maybe at some point we can get the final amounts of money it is costing to run Eastern Health today as opposed to then under the administrative structure. I have reason to believe that the amalgamation under the four health authorities is indeed costing more to the government from an administrative perspective than it did originally. I wish I could recall the exact numbers now, but I do not, so I will not run the risk of trying to make a prediction on what they were, but I think it was a substantial amount of money and it probably even goes as high as $50 million more. I am sure that the minister can confirm those figures at some point when he rises in the debate.

It is important to realize that in lots of cases when government makes decisions like this, for major changes like they did with the particular health boards, they need to have a co-ordinated and strategic effort to ensure that things work properly and operate properly. I think this is where they fell down on the job with this. Although they went out and made an announcement to do it, and they expressed their rationale for doing it, they failed to monitor it and co-ordinate it in a way so that it became a seamless process so that it was without default.

Mr. Speaker, what we have seen in the past, in my belief, is you have seen an administration at Eastern Health that not only had to deal with the day-to-day administrative piece and to deal with the day-to-day activities of running a massive, mega Health Care Corporation, and the people who are users of that system, but they have also had to deal with the transitional piece, which is the integration of services from seven different boards.

That would include integration from the administrative level, it would include integration from the processing level in terms of how patients are processed within the system, it would include the amalgamation of record keeping and data keeping, it would include the amalgamation of all kinds of recruitment and retention issues, and the amalgamation of payroll aspects and collective bargaining issues.

It was a whole massive amount of issues that had to be looked at, and if this was being looked at and dealt with by the same people who were tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the corporation ran smoothly on a day-to-day basis and that health care delivery services were being provided effectively, efficiently, and meeting the needs of patients, I can only assume that it was a very difficult task for those who were at the helm, there is not doubt about that.

Anyway, that is what the questions were focused around, but we certainly did not see a lot of response from the minister on it today. Maybe we will see more response as time goes on.

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of other issues I want to talk about as well. Again, they centre around the health care piece. One was the issue that I raised last week with regard to mammography equipment in the Province; because, at the very least, with everything that has been ongoing in the Province right now around people who are impacted and affected by breast cancer, it is going to be very noticeable if the commitment to improving the laboratories and improving the equipment that is used when it comes to breast screening of breast cancer patients in the Province is not upgraded.

I had an opportunity to meet with members of the Canadian Cancer Society who were heading up the project for new mammography equipment throughout the Province and they outlined to me that there were a number of pieces of equipment in health care centres all over the Province that were older systems and had not been converted to digital systems. They felt it was important that this be done because the older type equipment, which is an analog system, basically only has a lifespan of somewhere about ten years, and most of the ones that are in many of the hospitals around the Province are now reaching their lifespan. In addition to that, the newer equipment, the digital mammography equipment this is being used, I think it can have earlier detection when doing breast screening and I think it is much more accurate in the kind of results and readings that you are able to get.

In fact, it was only back a few months ago that I happened to be at Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony. I went in, in particular, to the laboratory and the X-ray department, to look at the equipment that was there, and I did get an opportunity to look at the mammography equipment that they were using. In fact, at that time there were a few patients from my district who happened to be there for screening on that particular day so I was able to go in and look at the equipment and they explained to me how it works - and it is an older type equipment that exists in that particular hospital.

I know from the Premier's comments last week that Cabinet is looking at purchasing new mammography equipment, and he said that maybe there would be something announced, I think, in the Budget. I think it is important to realize that right now there are only a number of facilities throughout the Province that actually have the new equipment. I think there is something like twelve facilities that need the equipment replaced. If government were to look at implementing new mammography equipment for all the health care centres in the Province over the course of the next three years, I think it would be at a cost of something like $2.5 million annually to replace all of the equipment over the next three years. It is not even a high price tag in being able to do it, but a very important investment in health care equipment in the Province, there is absolutely no doubt about that.

Mr. Speaker, that is one of the things that we would certainly endorse and support, and would like to see government invest in, in the Budget that is coming up. We can certainly hope that they will look seriously at being able to replace all of the equipment that needs to be replaced. I am sure that all of the hospitals out there can certainly provide a very good case for the replacement of this equipment because most of it is very similar, around the same timeframes, and has had the kind of extended use over a period of time.

Mr. Speaker, there are lots of other things that I could raise today but I am not going to. I have had an opportunity to raise some of the major pieces that I did want to discuss around the health care piece today in the Throne Speech. I would certainly conclude my comments now. I am sure there are other people who would like to have a few words on this.

 

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): The hon. the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would now like to move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to Consider Certain Bills.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House resolve itself into Committee of the Whole and that I do now leave the chair.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Collins): The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Chair, I would like to move Committee consideration of Bill 14, An Act To Amend The Lobbyist Registration Act.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am now in a position to provide certain information to the Opposition House Leader and the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi in relation to some questions they had.

Mr. Chair, the Lobbyist Registration Act came into force on October 11, 2006, and it ensures that the general public and public office holders know who is paid to influence government decisions.

When we look at the purpose of the Act, as the Opposition House Leader is well aware, in interpreting any piece of legislation you look to the intent of the Act . The intent of this Act is to regulate paid lobbyists, those who are paid to lobby on someone else's behalf. When you look at the definition of lobby - and you can either look in the Act itself or when you look at the amendment in Bill 14 the Act is amended by repealing paragraph 2(1)(c) and substituting the following: lobby, means to communicate with a public-office holder for remuneration or other gain, reward or benefit, or in an attempt to influence.

It must be kept squarely in mind that what we are dealing with here are individuals. It is the regulation of those who are paid to lobby on behalf of others. The Act then requires paid lobbyists to register with the Registry of Lobbyists which, for the information of the Opposition House Leader, is looked after by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador in terms of the Registry of Lobbyists. There is an electronic registration. It outlines the nature of their lobbying activities and it allows lobbyists to register easily at minimal or no cost. There is direct on-line searching, which ensures up-to-date information and it is publicly available without charge. The Act creates a balance between a principle of free and open access and the legitimate activity of lobbying when conducted properly.

As stated by the Opposition House Leader, what we are attempting to do is learn from the lessons in other jurisdictions to ensure that there is a public process so that for those who are lobbying or paid to lobby government there is a registration site and we are aware of what they are doing.

In terms of how this procedure was initiated, Mr. Chair, the government did initiate discussions through municipal affairs and consulted Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador to decide further what municipalities it was necessary to consult.

As I stated in my comments earlier today, it is only the City of Toronto which is preparing to implement a lobbyist registry, and in Quebec municipalities are included under the lobbyist registration. We have an existing government Registry of Lobbyists, and therefore it is cost-effective and practical to have the lobbyists of the City of St. John's register in the Province-wide registry.

In answer to the Opposition House Leader about the cost to the municipalities, there is no cost to the municipalities in terms of ensuring registration. They would not have to put a procedure in place for the individual towns. In consultation with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and Municipal Affairs, there were three cities and the largest town which were identified. What then took place, Mr. Chair, is government looked at the amount of paid lobbying being conducted in each place and it was determined, after initial consultations, that there would only be consultation with those four, the three cities and the largest town. This town and these cities provided us with the information, and it was not an issue for them. In other words, although there could be lobbying within the town in terms of individuals who are lobbying on their behalf, there were no or very few paid lobbyists, so it was not an issue. It was only the City of St. John's which saw the need to have access to the government registry.

I think, when we look at it, Mr Chair, in relation to the Opposition House Leader's question, is that the very nature of the size of the communities dedicated against the necessity to register because there is no paid lobbying going on. What happened is, when we then approached the City of St John's or were in discussions with the City of St. John's it was determined that they would participate. With regard to St. John's, it was determined that the level and frequency of paid lobbying activity was significant enough to warrant regulation as opposed to Corner Brook , Mount Pearl and the Town of Conception Bay South.

That is why we have reached the stage where we are, Mr. Chair. It was not an arbitrary decision, it was not government simply imposing our well or choosing which city was going to be regulated. We looked at the purpose and intent of the Act, we looked at what we already had set up in terms of the registry of lobbyists and we looked at the nature and extent of lobbying in the various locations. That is the reason for the amendment in relation to the City of St. John's.

In relation to the Opposition House Leader's question, if it was necessary to register, there is no financial administrative burden on the municipalities because the Registry of Lobbyists, the government Registry, operates the registry.

In relation to the question then by the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, I understand that Justice officials met the member and went through her question, but if I can just state it for the record just to ensure that I am correct. When you look at Section 20 of the Act itself, Section 20(1) says that a person who is a former public office holder shall not lobby as a consultant lobbyist or in-house lobbyist for a period of twelve months after that person has ceased to be a public office holder. Subsection (1) shall apply only when the person has had the following positions: a Cabinet minister, a Member of the House of Assembly, a member of the Executive staff - I think this was the question that the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi raised - other than support staff. So, the member of the executive staff will be political staff of the person holding the position in (a) or (b), being a Cabinet minister or a Member of the House of Assembly, a deputy minister or chief executive officer or other positions designated.

Then when we go to the proposed amendment under 5.20.1, it refers back to 2(1)(f)(1). Again, a member of council, an officer, director or employee of the city, or a member of the board of a city controlled entity. So, for these individuals the prohibition would relate to a person, who is a member of council, a chief executive officer, or other positions designated by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.

So, section 20 of the act, the original act, deals with political staff of a Cabinet minister, the deputy minister or Member of the House of Assembly being prohibited from lobbying for a period of one year. It is not meant to apply, for example, as the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi outlined, to clerical staff in relation to the city because they do not have political staff, it is my understanding. It would simply be the member of council, the chief executive officer and other positions designated by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, of which I am not aware of there being any because the lobbyist registration exemption regulations are repealed.

I hope that answers the questions raised. I am not saying it satisfies the questions raised, but at least I hope it answers it.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I appreciate the minister's information that he provided. As you say, I appreciate your information but I do not necessarily agree with the logic behind it, and I think my question still stands.

We are in a situation here where an amendment is being made to the Lobbyist Registration Act, which is being driven by one particular municipality, in this case the City of St. John's. I just think that is reverse of how legislation normally comes about. If you have a piece of legislation it should be done such that it impacts everybody equally who is in that similar situation and not be driven just because one municipality said they wanted it. Corner Brook said they did not want it and CBS said they did not want it. It has been acknowledged now that there is no financial burden to having it. There is no administrative burden to having it and it was just left to the discretion of the community whether we wanted it or not.

It gets back to my ultimate point of openness and transparency, that if the purpose was to determine and have a registry so that anybody could look at the government registry and determine who the lobbyists are and who they are lobbying, you could do that. Simply to say to a community that we are not going to do it for the City of Corner Brook or the City of Mount Pearl because in their experience to date they have never been lobbied, that is contrary to what the whole intent was. The intent was we want a piece of legislation so that if anybody does get lobbied, we know that they are doing it. So, it is converse to what the ultimate (inaudible) intent was originally of the Lobbyist Registration Act. We are just saying: yes, it is going to apply to government. Yes, it is going to apply to the City of St. John's but because somebody else did not want it, we are not going to apply it to them. There is no financial burden, no administrative burden. What about the openness and transparency?

I think citizens, for example, in the town of Stephenville or the town of Port aux Basques - it might not have happened, but if somebody is going to lobby the town of Port aux Basques to exert influence on that community council to act in one way or another, to lobby them, I think the people and the citizens ought to know. I think there ought to be a responsibility of the community to be a part of this openness and transparency; not to say in our judgement we do not want to be. If that is the case, we probably would not - there are a lot of laws we might not pass. For example, if you use that logic, tethering a dog in Grey River might not be an issue but it might be an issue in the City of St. John's. So do we let everybody have their own say? No, we don't do that. We take a generalist approach that is fair and equitable to everybody, and we pass a law saying you must tether your dog. But that is not what we have done here.

I disagree, respectfully, with the minister. That might be why you did it. You may have allowed the City of St. John's to do it, but it flies in the face of why we had the Lobbyist Registration Act in the first place. Not because somebody tells you we do not have somebody there, it is put there so that if anybody comes to that town and does try to lobby, we have an access and a way to see that it is being done. I think this is half-hearted. I think we are going to find ourselves back here repeatedly again. The minute the first time something happens again, we are coming back here to amend the legislation on a piecemeal basis. There is absolutely no reason for it, why it should not apply to municipalities. I do not think it should have been left in their discretion to decide whether we do or do not want a law of general application applying to us.

We made municipalities. We made health are authorities subject to some pretty stringent laws in this Province. I name, for example, the privacy provisions of the ATIPP Act. That was pretty strenuous. That had financial consequences that led to people having to be hired. That leads to administrative nightmares in terms of, how do we control the privacy flow that we never had to worry about before? Yet, the government felt, in the interest of privacy, it had to be imposed upon all municipalities and health authorities, and they did it. I think that was a good move. I think it was right. If you did it for government, you did it for all governments. Here we see a case now where it is not the case. Government uses another mentality and another logic, and says: no, no, they do not want it, so we will not do it. I do not think that is a proper approach to policy. I do not think that is in the best interests of other communities here. If there had been some viable justification for not doing it - like financial, for example, or administrative - I can appreciate that but the minister has acknowledged that does not exist. I think - again, I disagree. I agree with what you have done here for the City of St. John's. I just think it does not go far enough and you ought to have made it apply to all municipalities in this Province. It should not have been their call. This is a government law, made by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and it should be applied fairly and equitably to everyone and not just for those who feel we want it and the others who want to opt out.

Thank you.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will not be long. First of all, just to thank the minister for getting the information on the wording. The explanation is quite satisfactory. There was a point that I missed in the explanation, so I was really glad to have that.

I guess I do want to go on record as saying, as I did in second reading, that I do think that the act - the amendment that is coming into the act rather, should be covering all municipalities and public bodies in the Province.

My colleague, the Opposition House Leader, has taken that position. At this time I do agree with him. I will not repeat everything that he has said because it is the argument that I would give as well, that we are going to be back here. We are going to have to be back here because I think as other towns and cities - well, the other cities that were part of the initial evaluation - as they continue doing their work they are going to come against it. I cannot imagine that they have not already. I cannot imagine that the City of Corner Brook has not had to deal with a paid lobbyist. Even if they have to do it only once, it happens. I believe - you know, even when I look out around to other parts of the Province where there is a lot of development going on, especially when I think of a lot of the development in the Placentia Bay area and municipalities dealing with major international corporations setting up new developments, et cetera, that the possibility of coming in contact with paid lobbyists is increasing. So, I really do think it is a bit short sighted. Respectively, I put that out. I think it is a bit short sighted to not have included all municipalities and public bodies in doing this amendment.

I think government is going to have to be ready to do a reassessment in a couple of years' time of the situation. If that happens, and I think it should - all legislation should be reviewed, anyway, periodically and regularly - I would encourage government, at that time, to say that yes, indeed, we are going to extend this.

I put that to the minister respectfully and ask you to be open to that as time goes on, and to evaluate what happens with the City of St. John's and how many lobbyists become registered, et cetera.

Having said that, I will be voting for the bill. I am not going to hold up this bill, because I think the City of St. John's should be a part of this, but I think all of the other municipalities should be as well.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Are we now ready for a vote on Bill 14?

A bill, "An Act To amend The Lobbyist Registration Act." (Bill 14)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clauses 2 to 8 inclusive.

CHAIR: Clauses 2 to 8 inclusive.

Shall clauses 2 to 8 inclusive carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clauses 2 through 8 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Lobbyist Registration Act.

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill carried, without amendment?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Chair, I move that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

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

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

MR. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bill 14 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 him to report Bill 14 carried without amendment.

When shall this report be received?

MR. RIDEOUT: Now, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

When shall the said bill be read a third time?

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

MR. SPEAKER: Now, by leave.

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

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader, by leave.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move third reading of Bill 14, An Act To Amend The Lobbyist Registration Act, that it now be read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 14 be now read a third time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 14, An Act To Amend The Lobbyist Registration Act, be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The bill is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Lobbyist Registration Act. (Bill 14)

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been 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 Lobbyist Registration Act," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 14)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move that the House on its rising do adjourn until tomorrow, Wednesday, at 2:00 o'clock, and that this House now adjourn.

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'.

The motion is carried.

This House now stands adjourned until 2:00 o'clock tomorrow, being Wednesday.

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