April 17, 2008               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS            Vol. XLVI   No. 13


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order please!

Admit strangers.

Today we welcome twenty-two students from Grades 4 to 9 from Ιcole des Grands Vents in the District of St. John's North. Accompanying the students today are their teachers: Mme. Agathe Robichaud, Mme. Emmanuelle Tessier, and M. Gaston Lιtourneau.

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Also present with us today is the former Speaker of the House of Assembly and a long-time member of this House, Mr. Harvey Hodder.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Today we welcome members' statements from the following: the hon. the Member for the District of Exploits; the hon. the Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; the hon. the Member for the District of Bay of Islands; the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East, and the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

The hon. the Member for the District of Exploits.

MR. FORSEY: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Diana Tatic of Bishop's Falls for being selected as one of the top five finalists in the CBC Sports Skate Home with a Champion.

This is a national contest with submissions from across the country, with the winners being selected by a panel of judges at CBC Sports.

Mr. Speaker, Diana is President of the Fallsview Figure Skating Club in Bishop's Falls, and this year was faced with the challenge of keeping her club together and working tirelessly to arrange skating time with a neighbouring town while their local arena was closed for several months to undergo equipment repairs.

She unselfishly gave of her time for the love of the sport and keeping the program going for these young skaters.

Her story was feature in a 90 second vignette on CBC during the live telecast of the Canada Figure Skating Championships in January of this year.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members to join me in congratulating Diana for her dedication to figure skating and being selected as a champion of the sport.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Today I rise to bring attention to the St. John's Housing and Homelessness Network, which is holding a conference this week in downtown St. John's. This event follows the National Homelessness Network Conference hosted in St. John's in 2006.

The St. John's Housing and Homelessness Network is a group of community-based service providers, government agencies and people at risk of homelessness, who together are providing more housing and services to the homeless in our community.

Network member organizations, such as Stella Burry Community Services and Choices for Youth have in recent years developed shelters, services and affordable housing to youth and adults who want to turn their lives around.

More shelters and affordable housing are in the works, thanks to the efforts of these organizations, and their efforts with government, that help people regain their lives, employment, education and training opportunities.

The St. John's Housing and Homelessness Network has made a great contribution to our community. I hope that they will receive increased support from the public and private sectors in many years to come.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LODER: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to acknowledge the Summerside Rockets 4-H Club. This club is the oldest in the Province, having started approximately forty-five years ago.

I would like to congratulate all members and leaders for their accomplishments and dedication to this worthwhile program.

Today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize two young ladies in the Summerside 4-H Club: Jessica Hunt and LeAnne Young. These 4-Hers proudly represented our Province at the National Citizenship 4-H Seminar held in Ottawa, March 28 to April 3.

Having won the trip myself years ago, they, like me, found this trip very educational.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members of this House to join me in congratulating these two young ladies.

Mr. Speaker, as we say in the 4-H program: Thank you for your time and attention.

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 in the House today to recognize the Canadian Bible Society and congratulate them on celebrating 196 years of faithful service to the mission of the Canadian Bible Society in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I had the honour of bringing greetings at their 196th Annual General Meeting here in St. John's last week and was joined by my hon. colleague, the Member for Kilbride. I was very pleased to personally congratulate them on their newest project, and that is providing a new revision of the Bible in the Inuktitut language.

The project was the inspiring work of Reverend Dr. Bridget Schloss who spent nearly thirty years as a missionary in Northern Labrador. Her work was made possible through the translation skills of individuals on the North Coast and in the Northwest River area who volunteered their time for this project.

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Bible Society was founded to promote and encourage, without doctrinal note or comment, the translation, publication, distribution and use of the scripture throughout Canada and throughout the world.

Mr. Speaker, the Bible is available – and I was amazed to learn this – in 2,400 different languages around the world, of which twenty-three are now Canadian Aboriginal languages.

Mr. Speaker, this organization gives scriptures for free to Canadian Forces recruits, the visually--impaired, seminary students, prison inmates and other communities. Mr. Speaker, they are spreading the word of God and affording people the opportunity to find comfort in His teachings at the lowest points in their lives and to celebrate His glory on happier occasions.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to congratulate the Canadian Bible Society, and in particular the Newfoundland and Labrador District. I ask all members to join me in recognizing the truly valuable work that they do. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, the lives and hearts of the Inuit-speaking people in our Province will most surely be transformed by this great work and their great efforts in producing the Inuktitut Bible.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUCKINGHAM: Mr. Speaker, prior to this new stage of my life's journey, it was my pleasure and privilege to have been a teacher for twenty-two years. In that time I have seen many changes in technology, in curriculum and, God knows, school boards, but the inescapable truth of teaching is that when you take away all of the technology, the books, and any money you might want to direct at education, it comes down to a dedicated teacher standing in front of a classroom full of students.

Mr. Speaker, I should also add that the ability to teach effectively is often derived from the quality of the administration in that particular school, and St. John's East is fortunate to have one of Canada's best.

Mr. Gerald Mercer, of Vanier Elementary School, has been selected as one of Canada's Outstanding Principals by a national organization known as The Learning Partnership. This award and I quote, "honours the extraordinary contributions of dynamic education leaders in publicly funded schools - principals who have made a measurable difference in the lives of their students and their own local communities and who help ensure that Canada's young people continue to receive a quality education."

Mr. Mercer recently returned from Toronto where he received his award and also participated in a five day Executive Leadership Conference at the Rotman School, which was also included as part of the recognition.

In acknowledging the many messages of congratulations he received, Mr. Mercer, in a note posted on the school Web site, stated, "A principal can only be successful when the people with whom he or she works are true partners in education. I have been very fortunate to have very supportive families and colleagues to work with at this school and at previous schools."

Mr. Speaker, with a philosophy such as this, it is no surprise that Gerald Mercer has received this award.

I ask all members of this House to congratulate Mr. Mercer on being selected as one of Canada's Outstanding Principals.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate the Seniors Independence Group in Mount Pearl on recently celebrating its tenth anniversary.

The Seniors Independence Group operates in the District of Mount Pearl North at Park Place Community Centre and provides seniors with services and information that they may not find elsewhere. They offer support and a drop-in centre where seniors in and around Mount Pearl can meet and take part in activities and games such as cards and bingo.

Mr. Speaker, with the ever growing seniors' population in Newfoundland and Labrador, I think it is important to recognize seniors' groups like the Seniors Independence Group, and commend them on assisting seniors in staying active and participating in community activities. Retirement can be quite an adjustment and the Seniors Independence Group assists seniors in making this transition a positive one.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members in this House to join me in congratulating the Seniors Independence Group on this wonderful occasion of its tenth anniversary.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform the House of the results of increased efforts by this government to protect threatened woodland caribou herds in Southern Labrador from illegal hunting.

Our government committed $69,300 in new funding in the Northern Strategic Plan for regular routine air patrols of threatened caribou herds. We felt that increased patrols would help our conservation officers to intercept illegal hunters and prevent animals from being killed.

Mr. Speaker, our increased presence this season began in late January, and I am pleased to report that our conservation officers have found no sign of illegal activity or hunting in the area to date.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: This is very encouraging, given that in each of the past two years nearly forty animals were illegally killed from these protected herds.

The taking of any animals in herds this size is unacceptable and threatens the safeguarding and preservation of these herds. In the case of the Joir River Group, only 100 animals remain while woodland caribou are nearly extinct from the Birch Lakes of the Mealy Mountains.

Mr. Speaker, the additional funding made available through the Northern Strategic Plan allowed our conservation officers to better plan enforcement efforts and patrols of these areas.

The woodland caribou herds of Southern Labrador are protected by endangered species legislation and no hunting is permitted on these herds. It was anticipated that the regular patrols of areas known for illegal hunting would discourage potential violators from engaging in this activity and we believe we have been successful.

Mr. Speaker, this government takes very seriously its responsibility to protect our natural resources and we will take the appropriate action against anyone engaging in illegal hunting activity.

An important part of our enforcement effort is to ensure that hunters are aware that our conservations officers are regularly patrolling these areas and violators will be prosecuted. As a result of our increased presence this winter, hunters did not take the chance of illegally hunting in these areas.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank our conservation officers for their dedicated efforts in protecting these herds.

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 thank the minister for an advanced copy of her statement today.

I think it is always important to have proper conservation measures in place and if the investment in adding that kind of enforcement in the Labrador region is curbing the amount of poaching that has occurred in previous years, well, we are certainly supportive of it.

Mr. Speaker, I know from living in the region that in the last number of years - this year, I guess, excluded - we have had a tremendous amount of trouble with people coming in from Quebec, and especially Innu hunters out of Quebec, and hunting in areas that we had considered being off limited or protected areas. That has been a problem and I am pleased to see that problem has been alleviated, at least for the time being.

Mr. Speaker, we do, however, have concerns about the Mealy Mountain Park herd in particular, and the numbers of caribou that are in that herd. That is why we are concerned about the fact that government is looking at reducing park boundaries within the Mealy Mountain Park area and what impact or significance that will have upon the caribou herds in that region, and if it will affect the kind of protections and conservation measures that are currently in place.

The other issue, Mr. Speaker, which we have concern about, is the protection being afforded to Metis hunters in Labrador. The fact is that many Metis hunters, Mr. Speaker, had hunted consecutively for two years under their cultural inherent right, using good enforcement practices, but last year government felt the need to prosecute these hunters and are now dragging them into the courts for doing something that legitimately was sanctioned originally by (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

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

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


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

I am very glad about the steps that the government has taken to provide protection to the woodland caribou. I am aware that there have been surveys done - a recent one done - of people in Labrador. This one was done by the Protected Areas Association and they have represented to the Premier and to the minister their concern with regard to the proposed Mealy Mountain National Park. They are particularly concerned about the southern part of the calving grounds of the Mealy Mountain woodland caribou herd and wanting that section within the park.

I really encourage the Premier and the minister, in the discussions that are coming up with regard to the national park, to approve that park according to the requests and the recommendations of the people from Labrador, and to not in any way reduce what the park would look like. Certainly, if you are serious about the preservation of the woodland caribou herd, then including their calving grounds in the Mealy Mountain Protected Area under a national park would be a wonderful way to go.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased today to recognize April as National Oral Health Month. Oral health is an important part of our overall health. In recognition of this fact, our government has made significant progress over the past four years to improve access to dental services for residents of our Province through a variety of measures.

In August of 2006, we signed a new agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Association to give dentists in Newfoundland and Labrador fair compensation for eligible services.

As well, this past December we introduced a new Dental Bursary Program to support an increase in the number of dentists practicing throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in our rural areas. We invested $150,000 to implement the program this year, and will invest $275,000 annually for the program. In exchange for each bursary received, recipients commit to one year of service in rural or in-need areas of our Province.

We also now have the benefit of services being provided by a part-time oral surgeon as well as a new full-time oral surgeon. The arrival of the new full-time surgeon is the result of recruitment efforts of this government, in association with the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Association and Eastern Health.

Mr. Speaker, I am also proud to say that we have developed what is arguably the best Children's Dental Health Program in Canada. A new agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Association sets out an increased contribution by the provincial government for dental services received by all children under twelve, and children aged thirteen to seventeen in families of low incomes. This agreement removed a financial burden for parents, benefiting approximately 74,000 children in our Province.

We are also taking innovative approaches to ensuring children get timely access to dental services. In January of this year, a pilot clinic was initiated to aggressively address the wait list for pediatric dental surgery in Labrador. A pediatric dentist, Dr. Geoff Smith, led a surgical team into Happy-Valley Goose Bay to perform thirty-eight oral surgeries over a four-day period. This project resulted in the treatment of about 95 per cent of children in Labrador that were on a wait list. I extend my thanks to Dr. Smith and his team, as well as the Labrador Grenfell Health, for their contributions to this very successful project. This new model of delivery has great potential for use in addressing other areas of our Province with respect to dental services.

Mr. Speaker, these are just a few examples of the progressive actions that we are taking to contribute to the health and well-being of the residents of our Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

Mr. Speaker, first when I looked at it and it said they had given dentists in Newfoundland and Labrador fair compensation for eligible services, my first indication was: Is government going outside of their pattern bargaining when it comes to negotiating benefits for public servants and people who retain the services in our Province?

Mr. Speaker, let me say this with regard to the dental services in the Province. Argumentatively, I will not challenge the minister in terms of whether we have the best system or not for children in our Province but what I will say to the minister is that there are children in this Province who have not been able to access the services of a dentist. In fact, his department is aware that in communities in my district, especially in Black Tickle, they have gone up to four years with no dentist coming into the community. In fact, Mr. Speaker, it has been a long process of trying to negotiate constantly with the health board to have some of these children sent out to actually see a dentist on a regular basis. Even that has not been very successful.

Mr. Speaker, we also have tremendous challenges with orthodontic services in that region of Labrador, and I have raised that with his department as well. In times of the year when the ferry comes off the Strait of Belle Isle service we have four months in which people who use the orthodontic services out of Corner Brook are unable to access that service at an affordable rate, and his department is aware of that. So maybe in his next statement he might want to address those issues.

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

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

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

I do agree that we are certainly moving in a very good direction with regard to the children's dental health program but it is not universal and we have many children who are still in need, not being able to see dentists regularly. Certainly, the bursary program is going to work towards helping that but it has to be increased. As long as we have any children who are on a wait-list and whose teeth are deteriorating, we have a problem.

I note in the statement, 95 per cent of the children in Labrador who were on a wait-list for oral surgeries were seen during the blitz that took place, the four-day blitz. My question is, I wonder how much longer the other 5 per cent will have to wait? I hope this is not something that will happen every now and again but will happen on a regular basis so that these children will be taken care of.

The other thing I would like to mention is the policy under Human Resources, Labour and Employment of only doing extractions for people who are on income assistance. We have to do much more to make sure that people on income assistance are able to have good healthy teeth and have good dental health and to be able to maintain that, not just have extractions when their teeth are ready to fall out of their heads.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, in recent years progress has been made in improving our physical education programming in schools throughout the Province. Today, I would like to update my hon. colleagues on the provincial government's three year, $3.2 million investment which is resulting in a renewed focus and interest in physical education for students of all ages.

This year, the initiative is focused on the primary and elementary grades, with $800,000 allocated for the purchase of items such as dance machines, outdoor equipment, balls and bean bags, and other equipment designed for smaller children.

Students and teachers in the intermediate and high school levels will already be familiar with the new state-of-the-art equipment resulting from this initiative. Every public high school has received at least $4,000 worth of equipment such as aerobic machines, spinner bikes and commercial rowers. There is also outdoor equipment such as snowshoes, cross country skis and GPS units.

Mr. Speaker, this funding supports a shift in programming that now focuses on activities that appeal to more students. It includes a range of activities such as rowing, in addition to the more common sporting activities like basketball or volleyball. This in turn contributes to young people leading more active, healthy lives.

The provincial government, Mr. Speaker, is committed to a comprehensive health and physical education program in our schools. In addition to a new physical education program, we have introduced healthy food guidelines, and this year $800,000 has been allocated for the improvement of school cafeterias.

Mr. Speaker, funding to improve the health of our young people will provide long-term benefits for our students' overall health and physical fitness. We will continue to support steps that encourage our youth to become more physically active and to lead active, healthy, productive lives.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the minister for an advanced copy of her statement, and to say, I guess any funding, regardless of how much it is, going into physical education for the children of this Province is welcome news. There is no better place to begin, Mr. Speaker, than in the primary and elementary grades so that a different pattern of lifestyle can be made available to them, not only in the physical education but the healthy food and living. It is good to see that our young people are getting so active in so many different sports throughout this Province.


I am very pleased to see that the minister mentioned $800,000 to be allocated for the improvement of school cafeterias. I hope that some of this funding - or maybe there is other funding coming in the Budget for some of the schools. I know there are some in my district that are unfortunate enough not to have a cafeteria. The children exercise in the auditorium and they have to go there to eat their meals after, or to go back to their classroom. I have to say, it is a good statement, Mr. Speaker, and anything that advances the physical education for our children in this Province is greatly encouraged.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I thank the minister for her advance copy.

I am glad to see what the government is doing to ensure good health and physical fitness for our young people. This was outlined in the Budget, a commitment of their Budget, and it is part of a three-year plan. What the minister has outlined are steps that are very much needed to ensure that our children are healthy in their youth and will grow up, then, to be adults who are healthy.

One of the things I would be looking for in the Budget that we are awaiting with bated breath, I would add for the Minister of Finance, is looking not just at what the minister has in his statement. We need the equipment, we need the cafeterias improved, but we also need children who are able to have good lunches.

I would really encourage the government to make sure that in this upcoming Budget we will have a School Lunch Program for all children in this Province.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers.

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, this is not a Ministerial Statement, obviously – it is not on the Order Paper - but I rise on a point of order, if I may, and I want to do so before Question Period.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, over the course of the last two weeks, in response to questions by hon. members opposite, I have indicated that the laboratory at the Health Sciences was closed for a five-week period. That was actually deducted from a memo, an Eastern Health memo, in June 2005 which indicated that Dr. Williams had asked that an investigation be conducted into a five-week stoppage at the lab.

In fact, there was a stoppage of the ER testing in the lab, but the entire lab was not shut down for five weeks.

I just simply wanted to clarify that for the record, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order, just a point of information.

Oral Questions.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Another point of order, I say to the hon. member?

MS DUNDERDALE: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise on a very serious matter today, Mr. Speaker, and one that is very personal to me.

Two years ago, on May 26, my husband lost his battle with prostate cancer. That had a devastating effect on me and my children. The five-year journey was one that was very painful and had a profound effect on our lives.

We were very greatful for the care that we received from the cancer-care clinic, and we were very greatful also for the care and concern and support that we received as a result of community campaigns to provide care to patients and to their families.

Yesterday, on a local radio station, there was a radio-thon for the Garden of Hope associated with the cancer clinic here in St. John's, and this, indeed, is a very worthy cause.

I rise to speak today, Mr. Speaker, not about the cause but a flagrant breach, in my view, of the rules that have been laid down for us as Members of the House of Assembly by Chief Justice Green.

Yesterday, on an Open Line show, a member of the staff of the Liberal Opposition Office, Elvis Loveless, who is a member with the Research and Policy Division of the Liberal Opposition Office, and a candidate in our last election - somebody certainly who would be very familiar with the rules as they have been laid down by Chief Justice Green, particularly with regard to donations by Members of the House of Assembly – on Open Line yesterday morning with Randy Simms, Mr. Loveless announced donations by the Liberal caucus, naming all three members of the caucus: Yvonne Jones, Roland Butler and Kelvin Parsons. Those are the people he named, and their donation to this radio-thon as members of the Liberal caucus. He further went on in the show to assure the host that he will be doing lobby work in the political realm to make sure that members of other caucuses would donate to this worthy cause.

Sure enough, at 10:29 yesterday morning, all members of our Cabinet received a letter from Mr. Loveless, using the infrastructure that we have available to us as politicians, on his official letterhead, asking us to donate to the radio-thon.

Mr. Speaker, this is not about the cause. This is about a flagrant abuse of rules as laid down by Chief Justice Green. Chief Justice Green has been very clear to us, as MHAs and politicians, about how we can make donations. We cannot make them as MHAs. We can make them as private individuals; but, in doing that we have to be very, very discreet. In no way are we to allow our public donations to curry favour with the public in any way.

While these announcements were not made or these e-mails were not sent directly by a Member of the House of Assembly, they were sent by a staff person using the infrastructure that is made available to them for their work as MHAs.

Having staff make announcements about our political donations, Mr. Speaker, is allowing somebody, an MHA, to do through the back door what we cannot do through the front door, and is a clear, clear breach of the rules.

I ask for your consideration of my point of order, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, to that point of order.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do want to speak to the point of order that has been raised by the hon. member.

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I say to the hon. member that we certainly all sympathize and share in a level of understanding of the hurt that she feels in her loss. There is absolutely no doubt that I think probably almost every one of us in this House has lost somebody close to us because of this disease.

No doubt our work in raising money, as I am sure we all do in our respective communities and in our lives, for charities like this, is done purely out of the inspiration that we have gained from those people we have loved as they have suffered through this illness.

I would like to say that to the minister, Mr. Speaker, and now I would like to speak to the point that she raises, because the point that she raises, in my opinion, is not in violation of the legislation that was passed in this House of Assembly. Let me explain, because it was done very innocently - very innocently, I say to the minister.

The individual in question is a cancer survivor and, yes, he does work in our office. He is also a volunteer with the Cancer Society on a number of committees, and participates in many charitable events of that organization. As he was leaving the office yesterday morning to go and give his service to this particular fundraiser, he went around the office and basically said to us: Would you like to throw in a few dollars as a donation? And we each reached into our pockets and did so. It did not come out of our constituency allowances, it did not come out of any government funds within the Legislature, Mr. Speaker, it came directly out of our personal funds. Just like many members in the House of Assembly, who I am sure give very freely of their own personal funds to many worthwhile causes.

Mr. Speaker, when the individual - because I had spoken to them after. The Speaker raised this with me. I did speak to the individual after and I did get a transcript of what had transpired, because apparently it was publicly broadcast by VOCM, with host Randy Simms. I guess a way of promoting the cause and endorsing more donations. There was some comment made to the fact that we had donated, and we were referred to as a Liberal caucus - and I certainly grant that to the member.

Mr. Speaker, what I would say, is that we did give this money freely of our own pocket, just like we give to many other charitable organizations. Mr. Speaker, how do we control - I have asked many charities that I have donated to, please do not use my name, or please do not say that I have given you this money. It was an absolute oversight on this individual's part. It was not intended to be in breach of any legislation, and I feel that it is not in breach.

I want to refer members to section 35 and section 36 of the act that governs this House, which we have passed. Provisions under that act allows for due process to be done. First of all, Mr. Speaker, it allows for the establishment of a code of ethics. We all know that a committee has only recently been struck - I think it was last week - in this House of Assembly to look at the standards, to establish a code of conduct and a code of ethics. Mr. Speaker, the process in which this would be dealt with is that the member who has concerns would take it in due process to the Code of Ethics and they would make a decision as to whether this is valid and if this is a breach, or if it is not.

Mr. Speaker, I feel that under the act we have, the sections that govern this, that this was not a violation, it was a miscommunication of information, it was a misunderstanding. I have spoken to the cancer survivor in question here, and, Mr. Speaker, they have certainly apologized for that. We feel there is certainly no breach and was nothing done on our part, in any way, to breach any aspect of this legislation or this code.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

The Chair will take the point of order as raised by the hon. Natural Resources Minister under consideration and report back to the House at a later time.

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, George Tilley, the former CEO of Eastern Health, stated yesterday that he had not seen a 2003 memo, or that he didn't see that 2003 memo from Dr. Ejeckam until the Premier tabled it last May in the House of Assembly.

I ask the Premier: How did this memo come to government and when was it received?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am not sure of the exact date, but it was faxed to the Department of Health and Community Services, and more directly to the deputy minister of the day, by the Vice-President of Medical Services, Dr. Oscar Howell with Eastern Health, some time mid-May, around that time - I am not sure of the exact date - but it came by way of a fax and it grew out of a conversation that Dr. Howell had had with the deputy minister of the day.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe the minister can clarify for me what year he is referring to?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It was 2007.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the minister, if there is any indication that this memo ever existed within the Department of Health and Community Services or within government any time prior to that time?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: I have not undertaken a search of that. I understand from the conversation, I recall last year with the deputy, it was the first time the deputy minister of that day was aware of the issue. I have not undertaken any kind of a search to determine whether or not during the time of, because it was a date - we received it last year in 2007, but the date that was referenced was in 2003, a time before we formed government. I am not sure whether the members opposite may recall themselves whether or not it was within government on their watch before we got elected in October of that year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, indications have been made in comments by the Premier that this particular information would have been in the hands of previous governments and therefore would have been in the Department of Health and Community Services in 2003. At that time, Robert Thompson, who is now the chief liaison officer for the government in this inquiry, was the Deputy Minister of Health.

Have you asked Mr. Thompson if he was aware of this issue at any time during 2003?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I have not asked Mr. Thompson that question directly. Any comment I may have made about the fact that this memo was in the department during their term of government, or that they might have had knowledge of that, comes from my assumption that if they can understand and believe, as a current day minister, that I would have full knowledge of every single aspect of day-to-day operations in our four health authorities, I am assuming that comes from their own personal experiences of having full knowledge of the day-to-day operations when they were in government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not want the assumptions of the minister, I want the facts.

I ask him: Will he discuss with Mr. Robert Thompson, who was the Deputy Minister of Health in 2003, if he had any knowledge in 2003, under this government or under a previous government, with regard to this laboratory and what was happening?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thought I answered the question accurately because I thought she had asked me: Had you done it? I said: No, I had not.

Now, in response to the question: Will you do it? Yes, I do not have any difficulty at all. I will undertake to ask Mr. Thompson if he had knowledge of that letter while he was a deputy minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, consistently over the last number of weeks the Premier has been indicating in the public that this laboratory was closed for five weeks in 2003. We know, Premier, from discussions with Eastern Health today that this lab was not closed for five weeks. In fact, there was only eight, I think, testing for antibodies that were not taking place out of about 100 and two of those were related to ER-PR.

I ask the Premier, where he got the information, why he did not clarify it until today when we inquired at Eastern Health, but yet, consistently left that message in the public?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I indicated today, and I got up on a point of order to clarify the record before any question was asked. It came specifically from a reference in a memo from Eastern Health in June or July of 2005, which said that the vice president of quality and diagnostic has asked that an investigation be conducted into a five-week stoppage. That is exactly where it came from. If, in fact, the stoppage was less, well that will come out during the inquiry. But, more importantly, ER-PR testing was stopped for a period of time in 2003 when that government was in office.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has clarity on the information as of today - we know that - and maybe in the future he could keep his comments factual on that issue.

Mr. Speaker, my question for the minister: Last year the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association compiled a database of equipment for the Province. At that time there were over fifty pieces of diagnostic imagining equipment that needed to be replaced immediately, such as X-rays, ultrasounds and bone density equipment. They made a presentation to government in 2007, in the summer.

I ask the minister: What has the government done to address this issue, and can he outline what equipment will be replaced this year, in what facilities throughout the Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: If I were to accurately answer that question I would have to ask leave for the rest of the afternoon to read through the list, the mountains of documentation that we have about the equipment that we bought.

Since we formed government, Mr. Speaker, since we formed government, we have spent $123 million on new equipment - $123 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: In fact, in the last twelve months we have spent over $40 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: In fact, in the last two months we have spent $14 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: My colleague, the Minister of Finance, will stand in this House in a short time from now and he will deliver a Budget; and, without giving away too much, Mr. Speaker, I think I can very boastfully say that he will again announce a significant investment in new equipment in this coming year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Because I believe the minister would take all day, if he was given the leave, I would ask that he would –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: I ask that he would just table the information in the House of Assembly, the breakdown of the monies that he states government has spent, and what equipment was purchased with that money, please.

Mr. Speaker, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association also pointed out that there are twenty-five piece of equipment that require a replacement strategy to be implemented.

I ask the minister: Is government now addressing this, and will an implementation strategy for this equipment be put in place?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: The investment decisions that we made last year, and more particularly the last couple of months when we have spent a little over $14 million, that was informed by information we got from the Medical Association, information we got from our four authorities. As we built this year's budget we also looked to that information and that advice to help guide us as to what might be the priorities for this coming year.

The four authorities have also been very much aware of that list presented by the Medical Association, together with other things within their area of responsibility. From that prioritized list we will announce, in a very short period of time, some significant investments next year for capital equipment that will help again to improve the delivery of health services in this Province.

I think, Mr. Speaker, when the people of Newfoundland and Labrador look at the commitments that we will make to health in this coming Budget, and reflect on the over $500 million that we have increased the health budgets in the last four years, and the kind of investment we have made in equipment, I think the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will acknowledge the significant improvements in health care in this Province since we formed government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I still have no idea if they are putting a strategy in place to deal with the other aging equipment.

Mr. Speaker, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association also recommended the expansion to support the Province's telemedicine system. I ask the minister if he can tell me what that expansion would entail, and if it is geared towards improving services in specific areas of the Province.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who read the Telegram about three or four weeks ago would have seen, on the front page, an oncologist here in St. John's doing a consult with a cancer patient and their family member in the Burin Peninsula. That is the result of our investment. That is the result of our investment in telemedicine.

Very soon I will be joining my colleagues in Labrador to open a new dialysis unit there. That, too, is connected via telemedicine. I will be joining my colleague from St. Anthony in a very short period of time to open a dialysis unit there. They, too, will be connected via telemedicine.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear

MR. WISEMAN: As I say, Mr. Speaker, we have included in that long list of investments I just referred to earlier, telemedicine, enhancement of telemedicine strategy, as being a big part of that. We will continue to grow that and continue to expand it; because, with the kind of money we have invested in the fibre-optic network around this Province, it allows us to (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am quite familiar with telemedicine, I say to the minister; it has been ongoing in the Province for the last decade or longer, not just in the last few weeks.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I will switch my gears now. I want to ask some questions to the Minister of Finance.

Mr. Speaker, the Province is flush with cash as a result of increases in revenues from offshore oil. It is somewhat ironic, I guess, that as government coffers are full, consumers in the Province are continuing to pay some of the highest fuel prices that we have ever seen in our history. Mr. Speaker, on top of that, they are still paying very high levels of taxes – I think some of the highest in the country right now, in the Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the member to pose her question.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Finance. Is government considering using some of these windfall oil royalties to give consumers a break on gas and heating taxes in the coming Budget?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Oil prices certainly are high, and it is something, of course, that our government has no control over, but the Williams government certainly is aware and recognizes the adverse affect that high energy prices have on the people of this Province, especially our seniors and those on fixed incomes. That is something, I can assure you, that the Williams government takes very seriously.

That is why, in our Budget last year, we took a number of initiatives that were meant to put money in people's pockets to help them cope with the high cost of living. We removed 4,000 people from the provincial tax rolls. We gave 7,800 seniors a $763 benefit. We gave the biggest tax cut in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. MARSHALL: We expanded the Home Heating Rebate for 95,000 people. We indexed the tax system.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the member to conclude his answer.

MR. T. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I will be happy to.

After having that Budget, which was called the most generous Budget in the history Newfoundland and Labrador, I can assure you that our government looks forward to presenting our new Budget, in which we will consider new initiatives (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Minister of Finance says they do not control the prices at the pumps; but, Mr. Speaker, they do control the amount of taxes that the Province adds on to oil and gas in this Province, to the consumer, and they do set those rates, so that is where your control is, Minister.

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro have made application to increase electricity costs to consumers by 6 per cent, starting July 1.

I ask the minister: Will government undertake any initiatives to protect consumers, especially those on fixed incomes, from such a huge increase in the cost of electricity that could foreseeably happen in the next year?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As everyone in this House should be aware, the rate increase that is being applied for is as a result of the Rate Stabilization Plan, which is a plan that protects customers from great fluctuations in electricity over the length of a year.

We are now at a point where new filing is required. Everyone knows what is happening with the price of fuel and the price of fuel has driven the cost of producing electricity up. Unfortunately, we are still in a position in this Province where we have to rely on thermal generation for 15 per cent to 25 per cent of our electricity. That is why it is so important for us to get on with the Lower Churchill and get clean hydro power and develop our wind resources so we are not reliable on thermal generation and we have clean, renewable, cheaper sources of electricity for this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Minister of Justice.

Minister, you met recently with the federal minister, I do believe, Mr. Day to discuss the possibility of cost sharing the new federal penitentiary here in the Province. We currently do not have any such facility.

I ask the minister, if he might be able to provide us with an update on the department's progress in drafting a formal proposal for the new facility and when might we expect to see that actually presented to your counterparts in Ottawa?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can inform the Opposition House Leader, when I met with Minister Day in Ottawa I reviewed the history of corrections in this Province, the agreements that we have in place with Ottawa, outlined the potential cost and possible sites for a penitentiary and indicated to the federal government that we would like to have a 70 per cent federal contribution to the construction of a facility.

At that point, I said I will get this to you in writing. I came back to Newfoundland and Labrador and within a week that letter was sent to Minister Day. So, essentially, it is in the federal government's bailiwick right now. I am hoping to receive a reply shortly. I will say that although Minister Day did not rule out the possibility of a contribution, he certainly did not indicate that they would do the same. I am hoping that the federal government will, for once, step up and do the right thing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was under the impression from the media reports that I had heard and read that rather than just a letter, which the minister says he wrote back, I was under the impression, mistakenly obviously, that there was going to be some formal proposal as to the penitentiary, what it might encompass and so on. That was the reason I specifically asked: Is there any kind of proposal that is going to be made in order to arrive at the percentages of funding? That is one issue.

I am just wondering, if there has been any level of activity as to what we would actually like to see in the facility yet, or will that come later, once we get a commitment that we will do it together?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would say to the Opposition House Leader, that the meeting with Minister Day was very fruitful in terms of we laid out our position clearly and concisely. I had in my possession at that time some draft consulting reports in terms of the construction of a facility. There is a lot of work to do. I would say to the people of this Province and to the Opposition House Leader, that at this point we are in preliminary negotiations and until such time as the federal government steps up to the plate, we do not know where this is going.

The proposal I put forward, as I just said, is that we were asking for a 70-30 cost share ratio, with the federal government contributing 70 per cent. We outlined our reasons in writing and as the former Minister of Justice knows, is this position is between us and the minister and, hopefully, as I have indicated, the federal government will step up to the plate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This new facility, of course, when it becomes a reality would replace the current HMP, or Her Majesty's Penitentiary here in St. John's. The current facility is chronically overcrowded, lacks sufficient programming space and staff, and does not provide adequate services to offenders with mental illness. In fact, that situation has continued for quite some time, going back even to the former Administration, I say.

I ask the minister: How does, or has any thought been given at this point, that any new penitentiary would include or deal with the problem, particularly of prisoners who have mental illness? Has that been contemplated?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


In my short tenure as Minister of Justice I have visited the Labrador Correctional Centre, I have been at the West Coast Correctional Centre in Stephenville, and as late as last week I toured Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's.

We are aware of the issues that exist in Her Majesty's Penitentiary. We are looking at ways of addressing these. Obviously, as the Opposition House Leader would know, individuals who are in jail, there are oftentimes a combination of difficulties with mental health and addiction. What I would say to the Opposition House Leader, and by no means am I being snarky, I am just saying stay tuned and you will have your answer in the next few days.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

According to the information that we have, Mr. Speaker, approximately 70 per cent of the inmate population at the penitentiary at this time have a pre-diagnoized mental illness and drug addictions. I understand it is the current policy that if offenders admit they are experiencing withdrawal, they are often sent to solitary confinement and not to medical professionals.

I ask the minister: Are you currently aware of this current policy at HMP to deny inmates access to their medications, and how does this mix with the policy that we support an offenders right to be rehabilitated?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It seems to me, I say to the Opposition House Leader, that your statistics - I do not know where you are coming up with them, but from twenty years experience in the criminal justice system, I know what is going on. I know that there are problems with addiction and with mental health issues. However, to put statistics on it seems to be a favourite tactic of the Liberals to throw out things as facts. Well, that is not a fact, sir. Show me the documents. As for your proposition that people are thrown in segregation because they have a withdrawal, I do not know where you come up with that. So, what I would suggest to you, if you have certain statistics, if you have proven facts, put them in writing. They will be investigated, and I say to you, sir, in the next couple of days stay tuned.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not understand why the minister is getting so defensive. We are asking some questions and albeit, he does not have enough research staff to provide him with the information. We will certainly undertake, with our limited resources, to provide him with our information. I did not know he did not have the staff to know this already.

Mr. Speaker, health care for offenders is a major consideration. It is now mandatory for modern correctional facilities to provide ambulatory care as well as certain programming designed to increase health awareness amongst offenders. Given the fact that two suicides have been carried out at the HMP in the last year, we wonder whether the current policies and protocols are adequate.

What interim measures are being taken to ensure that all members of the offender population have access to medical care and therapeutic programming before they are returned to the civilian population? Is it adequate, given what has happened in the last year in these two deaths?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the Opposition House Leader is aware, or should be aware, this government has been very proactive in dealing with all aspects of the criminal justice system under Minister Marshall, Minister Osborne, and now myself.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KENNEDY: Sorry. Under the present Minister of Finance, the Member for St. John's South, and myself.

I would say to you, I have not seen anything that the Liberals did in the previous - ever how long you were in power, sir. The only positive point that comes out of the Liberal Administration in Justice was the ordering of the Lamier Inquiry, and that was only done for political gain. So, it is like everything else the Liberals did in the dying days, it was trying to curry favour with the public, and you were going to sell the Lower Churchill and do everything else.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I really did not think this minister was so thin skinned that he would have that kind of comment. My questions have been fairly straightforward. I do not think they are earth shattering. For a political discourse that you just gave - you are the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, I think you ought to be able give a straightforward answer. There are no dramatics required for it. You are not F. Lee Bailey in an American courtroom. Straight up -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

And I ask the hon. member to pose his question now.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Corrections Centre for Women has also come under scrutiny in recent years, as evidenced by a report on facilities and supports for female offenders from Labrador, which was published by the Office of the Citizens' Representative, made several recommendations that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

If the member has a question, I ask him to pose it.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Where is your department in implementing the recommendations of that particular report, and if you do not intend to build a new facility for women in Labrador -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can indicate that myself, Minister Hickey and Minister Pottle visited the -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KENNEDY: Sorry, sorry. Sorry, Mr. Speaker.

Myself and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, and the Minister of Labrador Affairs, we visited the facilities in Happy-Valley Goose Bay. We went to the RCMP lockup, and I can indicate that we will be addressing these matters in the near future and that we are looking at what is needed in Labrador, but I can indicate that the facility is needed to deal with youth offenders, individuals who have mental health issues, and also female offenders.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier.

This Province is currently missing one-third of the complement of pathologists and now we are losing even the one doctor whose subspecialty is breast cancer pathology. The doctors are indicating that they are concerned about their workload and about the fact that that will be increased if they have to be called to testify at the inquiry.

Mr. Speaker, what is this government going to do to ensure that the quality of testing will be maintained over the upcoming months, especially while the Inquiry is in place?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Last year, in response to questions around ER/PR in this House and more recently in giving evidence before the Inquiry, I talked about the quality assurance initiatives, the quality controls that are currently in place within Eastern Health for ER/PR testing. Those kinds of mechanisms, Mr. Speaker, whether in the coming months or the last four or five months or during this period of some anxiety by pathologists who may be a part of the Inquiry itself and may be called to give evidence, these quality control mechanisms have been in place for over a year now or close to a year now and they are working well as I understand it.

You asked me the other day for some information that I am endeavoring to get for you which will show clearly that the validation of the test results coming out of the lab –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the member to conclude his answer.

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There has been a validation by outside labs that have validated the test results coming out of that area of the lab. I think when you see that you will recognize –

SOME HON MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: A further question to the minister, Mr. Speaker.

What I would like to know is: Is there going to be extra help if doctors have extra workload during the Inquiry when they have to appear in front of the Inquiry? Is there going to be extra help to assure the quality of testing in that instance?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, workload management is the responsibility of Eastern Health. They operate the lab and they have a very capable and competent management group there. In fact, this morning I met with the pathologist who is responsible for that area of the lab and he is very much aware of the workload that they have and very much aware of the kinds of supports they need to put in place to make sure the work gets done.

Any of the pathologists or any of the staff at the lab who are participating in the Inquiry and may need some time off for that, in that process the quality of the service being provided and the quality of the test results will not be compromised.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just note before my next question, I am glad the minister is remembering the request I made for information and I look forward to his bringing that to the House.

On Tuesday, the minister said that, and I quote, in the "….Department of Health and Community Services and the authorities themselves, there was a fair bit of institutional knowledge around consolidation." That was talking about when the four authorities were formed.

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to people who resigned because they believe there was no dedicated team put in place to deal with reorganization, and because the frustration of trying to be heard was too great.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member, if she is reading, to refrain.

MS MICHAEL: This morning, the former CEO testified at the inquiry saying it was like (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to paraphrase the item that she is reading from, and not to go reading from a document as a preamble to a question. The Speaker has already made this ruling many times in the past.

The hon. member, to conclude her question.

MS MICHAEL: I thought a quote from Hansard was allowed, Mr. Speaker.

I am very sorry.

MR. SPEAKER: I say to the hon. member, that was stated as well. Quoting from Hansard is not permitted as a preamble as well.

I ask the member to pose her question.

MS MICHAEL: My question, Mr. Speaker, I ask this government: Why will you not recognize the difficulties with the reorganization of our health care system that occurred, and put an external review in place so that this health care system can be fully assessed as we move forward?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, the issue of evaluation, if you are going to evaluate anything, you need to have a process conclude before you can evaluate whether that was worthwhile.

I have said before in this House, and I will repeat it again today, there is a transition taking place. We only put these boards together in 2005. I have said many times that anywhere between three to five years would be considered a normal transition period for consolidation of this magnitude, whether it is in our health sector or consolidation of a corporate sector in the private world. It does not really matter. Until that exercise is concluded, it is premature to do an evaluation of the exercise itself. You will not get the kind of insight that you need to inform your decisions on a go-forward basis, I say, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Tabling of Documents

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

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my pleasure to present the 2006-2007 Annual Report of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Copies have been, or will be, provided to the hon. members, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further tabling of documents.

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I have some documents to table in response to a request from the member opposite for yesterday, but I suggest that, in the future, if he is going to ask, he may want to just check the reports that are already released.

He asked yesterday for the tabling of a report that I released last year, on April 30, 2007. I guess he probably got it, because I also announced a $9 million investment at that same time, so I guess he overlooked it.

I will table them again today, just in case he did not get them. They are: the organizational review that was done by Deloitte and Touche of our Child, Youth and Family Services system. The other report that was referenced, Mr. Speaker, was a review of the pathology workload in Newfoundland and Labrador. That report is dated January 22, 2007.

I table those today as well, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further tabling of documents.

Notices of motion.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. SKINNER: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Labour Relations Act. (Bill 23)

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Law Society Act, 1999. (Bill 22).

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

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Mental Health Care And Treatment Act. (Bill 24)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I 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 a 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, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.

 

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (T. Osborne): Order please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like for Bill 18, An Act To Amend The Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy, to be considered by the Committee at this time.

CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 18, An Act To Amend The Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy." (Bill 18)

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: Clause 2.

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 2 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 Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy.

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 Bill 18, An Act To Amend The Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy, 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: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for St. John's South and Deputy Speaker.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bill 18 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 18 carried without amendment.

When shall this report be received?

MR. RIDEOUT: Now.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

When shall the bill be read a third time?

MR. RIDEOUT: Now, by leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Now, by leave.

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

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I move third reading of Bill 18, An Act To Amend The Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy, now be read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 18 be now read a third time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 18 be read a third 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 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 Liquor Control Act Respecting A Licensee Levy," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 18)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, Order 2, Address in Reply.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It gives me a great privilege and honour to stand in this hon. House of Assembly to represent the constituents of the District of Bellevue.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the people of the District of Bellevue for their overwhelming support on October 9, 2007 provincial election.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this occasion to congratulate all my colleagues of this House on their election and re-election success and wish them well during their term of office. I look forward to working together with them for the greater good of the people of this wonderful Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to go on record stating that I am the first Progressive Conservative Member of the House of Assembly for the Bellevue District. The district as it is known today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Such an achievement could not have been accomplished without the great organizational effort put forth from my dedicated volunteer campaign staff. I would like to say thank you to those people who made up that incredible team. Everyone from my campaign manager, chief financial officer, campaign headquarters manager, signature people, poll captains, scrutineers, and all the people who worked hard throughout the district and took their time to go door to door with me, day and night throughout the district.

Their help and dedication is without a doubt, one of the reasons I stand here before you in this great hon. House today. To say thank you just does not seem to be enough as these same people have told me time and time again that they would campaign all over because they believe in this government, they believe in our leader, our Premier and most of all they believe in me.

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the Premier, the former Minister of Municipal Affairs , the former Minister of Business, the former Minister of Transportation and Works for taking time out of their busy campaign schedule to go door to door with me in my district. This gesture meant very, very much to me and the constituents of the District of Bellevue and I thank you very, very much.

It is a great privilege to be part of a government that leads you on a road to success and guides you in a future of optimistic prosperity and who has good management of the public dollar.

Mr. Speaker, family is most important. I would like to thank my wife Dallas, our children, my brothers, sisters, sister-in-laws, brother-in-laws, aunts and uncles who supported me in all my endeavours without a question.

Before getting into provincial government politics, I would like to give you some idea of my background. Some of my work was with the fishery, working with the fishermen's union for fourteen years, the Federation of Labour, inshore fishermen, and others. I was also involved in the rural development, being a member of the Isthmus Development Association for six years and a board member and vice chair of the Discovery Zonal Board for five years.

In the political field, I held the mayor' position in the community of Norman's Cove- Long Cove for eleven years, and was Chair of the Joint Town Councils of the Isthmus area for five years. I held the position of Harbour Master and Administrator at Long Cove for twelve years while being a member of the Newfoundland advisory committee for Harbour Authorities throughout the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador for four years.

Mr. Speaker, in the District of Bellevue there are thirty-two communities, eighteen of which are local service districts and fourteen town councils. These towns and LSD's do not hold large financial pockets but hold a wealth of dignity and pride as rural Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

This district is a prime example of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, made up of fishing communities dependent on the health of the fishing industry. A community with a population from thirty to a community of 1,100, the District of Bellevue has a lot to offer. This district is full of history, heritage and opportunities. It holds in its hand a renewable resource, the fishery.

Mr. Speaker, since being elected almost seven months ago to the House of Assembly as a representative for the District of Bellevue, I have had the opportunity to respond to many inquires for my constituents and I have met with fourteen town councils and seventeen local service district out of eighteen, but due to weather conditions, only one is left.

I have travelled the district a number of times, met with church groups, sports and recreation groups, fire departments, boater's associations, fishermen's committees, harbour authorities and I have attended community celebrations and other functions.

I have also been given the opportunity on occasions to engage in public annual general meetings with about seven communities of the district. This has allowed me to better understand and address the concerns of the residents of these communities, and I might say that their concerns are common and legitimate throughout the whole district.

Being an elected representative of this party for the District of Bellevue for the first time, Mr. Speaker, expectations are very, very high from my constituents. I understand their concerns, and this is why it is important to mention some of these concerns in this great hon. House today. Concerns such as; depleted roads, closure of highway depots during the summer months, high fuel costs of heating, diesel, and gasoline. These cause deficiencies for both young and old, because they are very essential in their day to day life. The concerns for lack of funding for non-profit organizations; the concern for infrastructure, water and sewer, especially clean drinking water; poor cell phone service; the concerns of subsidy funding for wait lists for seniors' private all care homes. All of these and many more are hot topics of discussion throughout the District of Bellevue.

With these concerns in mind, we have to ask ourselves where we have improved in recent years. An example would be under the last Administration. Mr. Speaker, there was a $25 million budget for road repair for the whole Province. Mr. Speaker, under this government we had a $64 million in budget 2007 -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: - and a $73 million budget for the upcoming 2008. This government has taken a great approach with such an increase. We have not seen this type of financial commitment in regards to roads in years, by any past Administration, but under our present leadership a focus has been placed upon the repair and maintenance of roads throughout the whole Province.

Mr. Speaker, the roads in the District of Bellevue are in critical condition. I have visited the constituents, the town councils, the local service districts and the industrial areas, and the situation remains the same throughout, this being the condition of their roads; but I must point out, Mr. Speaker, that the bad roads are an accumulation of years of neglect to the roads throughout these communities. I would like to recognize that these conditions have existed previous to my election to office.

Mr. Speaker, our Minister of Transportation and Works has a tremendous job to do. She has to try and administer a budget of $73 million for local roads throughout the Province where there are needs everywhere. Our minister has done a fantastic job in trying to adhere to and respond to the needs and condition of roads, not just through my district but throughout the whole Province of Newfoundland.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: The minister has indicated a willingness to visit the district with me to view and discuss the condition of the roads.

I want to thank the minister for this kind of dedication to her department, and I want to thank the minister and this government for recognizing the bad situation of the roads in our communities. I anticipate that a formal announcement outlining significant improvement to road infrastructure in my district will be made in the very near future.

Our actions from this government that address the concerns are: fuel rebates in 2007 and 2008, which have helped to offset the cost of high heating. An announcement of new schools and school renovations also recognizes the need for better facilities for our children's education.

Mr. Speaker, on education week, I visited the Swift Current Academy in the Local Service District of Swift Current. There, I met with teachers and students and staff for a couple of hours and I want to express, Mr. Speaker, some of the concerns from the teaching staff were addressed in the announcements from the Minister of Education on March 12, 2008, the New Teacher Allocation Model, and, on March 19, 2008, in the Excellence in Mathematics Strategy. These announcements will make a great difference to the future of this school and others within my district.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: If I may, I would like to thank the minister for these programs.

Health care has met concerns by providing insulin pumps for children eighteen years and under, and introducing a new provincial Prescription Drug Program. This is certainly a show of great understanding of the need, not only in my district for such programs but throughout the whole Province.

On behalf of the constituents of the District of Bellevue, I want to thank the government and the Minister of Health and Community Services for such beneficial programs. They certainly benefit a number of constituents within my district, and help to eliminate the stress of parents with diabetic children.

Tourism in my district is small in scale but is growing into a very important industry. Tourism potential in Trinity Bay, Placentia Bay and Fortune Bay, is very great and has not been developed to its fullest potential. Placentia Bay has 365 islands, the same number of days in a year, and holds a lot of tourism attraction. Fortune Bay areas in the Terrenceville and Harbour Mille area, with its rugged shoreline, rivers and coves, have potential as well for ecotourism.

This district is riddled with bed and breakfasts, private parks, tour boats, walking trails, historic landmarks, cabins, sandy beaches, archaeological sites, and many scenic sites. Also in my district there is a lot of heritage, some of which has not yet been registered but is under exploration.

To highlight some of the great attractions we have, there is the community of Bellevue that attracts tourists to view the osprey and bald eagle. These sightings have been filmed and aired on National Geographic.

We have archaeological sites, such as Anderson's Cove, for its Maritime Archaic Indian discoveries, Russell's Point for the Beothuk Indian discoveries, and Dildo Island for its Dorset Eskimo discoveries.

Dildo Island Adventure Tours, the Whale Museum in South Dildo, the Interpretation Centre in Dildo, Woody Island Resort, and Kilmory Resort in Swift Current, to name a few throughout the district, are all examples of the quality of tourism we have to offer in this district.

Do you know that one of the great attractions in Swift Current today is the antique cars that are presently owned and displayed by Mr. Vernon Smith, the owner of Green's Construction in Goobies? He has twenty-nine cars, from 1908 to 1969 models. You can view them at his new display building in Swift Current, and I and the previous Minister of Business had the opportunity last fall to get a tour of this well-kept secret of vehicles, which are winning awards all over the world.

The fishery in my district provides employment, stability and sustainable development in twenty-two of thirty-two communities, and in the district we have three bays: Placentia Bay, which holds a great deal of ground fishery, pelagic, lobster and a crab fishery. There is also mussel farming on a small scale out of Arnold's Cove.

Fortune Bay has lobster, herring, mackerel, crab and a ground fishery. They also have aquaculture in the Little Bay and Little Harbour East areas.

In Trinity Bay we have a large concentration of pelagic species, such as herring, mackerel, capelin, squid, lump roe, and ground fishery on a lesser scale, but there is also a crab fishery and a lobster fishery in the Trinity Bay area as well.

Throughout the district we have twelve fish processing plants, one secondary plant, and our largest plant employers are Ice Water Sea Foods, Dorset Fisheries and Woodman's Sea Products. We have a plant in South Dildo, and I am told that this plant will operate on a status quo as that of 2004 and 2005. I am expected to meet with the CEO of this company to discuss the future of this plant over the next couple of weeks.

We also have Carino, a seal tanning plant in South Dildo. As you can see, the District of Bellevue has great history and still today holds a great future in our renewable resource, the fishery.

If I may, Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that in our blueprint our government has committed funding for the fishery; $750,000 for occupational, health and safety initiatives; $6 million for fishing industry research and development work; maximum loan guarantee programs from $1.3 million up to $2 million; strong investments in agriculture and agrifoods development fund; $2 million to $5 million for the fishing industry workforce adjustment. These are some of the thirty-three highlights of the blueprint commitments.

On June 9, 2004, this government invested $3.5 million into Ice Water Seafoods, a plant at Arnold's Cove. This state-of-the-art facility now maintains and has stabilized a highly skilled workforce in the Arnold's Cove area.

In the District of Bellevue, Mr. Speaker, we have communities who depend on the future of the industrial industry as well. Namely all the communities in the district depend somewhat on the industrial workplace growth, but none as much as Arnold's Cove, Chapel Arm, Sunnyside, Chance Cove, Come By Chance, Southern Harbour, Norman's Cove, Blaketown, Old Shop, South Dildo, Terrenceville, Goobies, and Swift Current. The existing oil refinery, businesses, and contractors play great roles that contribute to the economic profile of the District of Bellevue.

If it were not for the existing oil refinery in the District of Bellevue, this district would not so prosperous. I want to recognize the North Atlantic oil refinery for having a record-breaking accident free workplace in 2007. What an achievement for such an industrial company.

I might point out, Mr. Speaker, that the Town of Goobies has employment of 200 personnel, and 120 of these are employed by Green Contracting.

Mr. Speaker, the future looks optimistic with the developments such as the Voisey's Bay development, the new oil refinery, the LNG project, the Bull Arm site development, and an optimistic outlook for contracts of two supply ships and two provincial ferries at the Marystown Shipyard in our neighbouring district. The potential of Gisborne Lake Development near Grand Le Pierre and the growth in the tourism industry will provide new opportunities for growth in infrastructure, new roads, business development, skilled labour force development, maintaining schools, providing a sustainable future, thus allowing my district's skilled workers who had to find employment in Western Canada, the opportunity to come home and provide a decent living for their families. Then the grandparents like me, can watch our grandchildren grow.

Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize our zonal boards. In my district they have been outstanding. They have been there at all times for entrepreneurs, youth, local business, large corporations, the aquaculture, the agriculture, development, and all types of project growth for our economy and making our economy successful and sustainable.

Throughout the district we see a lot of focus on development, and a lot of this development comes from our zonal board's direction. I would like to recognize the zonal board M-RON for their work in the District of Bellevue from New Harbour to Blaketown. I also want to recognize the Discovery Zonal Board for their important role from Swift Current through to Chapel Arm in my district. I also want to recognize the Schooner Board on the Burin Peninsula for their role as well in the communities of St. Bernard's through to English Harbour in Fortune Bay.

Mr. Speaker, these boards are certainly great contributors to the organization and to the people in the district. For instance, an example of one of the projects currently on their agenda is the Gisbourne Lake water bottling project. The Schooner Board is working hand in hand with the Fortune Bay East Development Association to try and develop this project.

Having said this, Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize the development associations for their incredible work and the outstanding part that they have played over the years in rural Newfoundland. Whether you realize it or not, over the years millions of dollars have passed though the management of rural development associations. This has created employment throughout many parts of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. That is a fact. Every year there are dozens of projects funded that are made available through different government departments, both federal and provincial and even money that is raised through fundraising is filtered through the development association.

The zonal boards and the Rural Secretariat, along with the development associations, all play an important role in the district. But we have to look back at where the rural Newfoundland came from and acknowledge the active role that rural developments have played in rural Newfoundland and are still playing today.

I also want to thank and recognize the volunteer groups, the local service districts, the town councils, community sports and recreation committees, fire departments, seniors clubs, fifty plus clubs, Lions Clubs, wellness groups, church groups, boys and girls clubs, the Legion, and the SUF clubs. Time will not permit me to name them all but you can see there are quite a few that I have named and there are many more not possible to name here today.

In summary, Mr. Speaker, I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to my colleagues for their support and direction given to me since becoming the Member for the District of Bellevue on October 9, 2007. It is team effort that cultivates a true working relationship that benefits not just my district but also the Province as a whole.

Mr. Speaker, I am energized about the opportunity to be able to contribute to the management and growth of the future opportunities for Newfoundland and Labrador. I believe that this proactive approach, under the direction of our great leader, the Premier, will result in long-term sustainable future for the people of this Province. He is an inspirational leader, our Premier, Danny Williams.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: I am also excited about the challenges that lie ahead, and I firmly believe that this government will meet and exceed all expectations of the people of this Province.

I am proud to be part of this team, and I will continue to work tirelessly over the term of office to accomplish effective representation and to address any area that will collectively or individually give an advantage to the people of the District of Bellevue.

Mr. Speaker, it has been a great privilege to speak to this great House and to be able to voice my opinions of my constituents, through me to you.

Mr. Speaker, out in the District of Bellevue, and all parts of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, there are a lot of reasons why one would want to stay. If you live in a small community and you wake up in the morning, and look out across the ocean and see the sun as it breaks above the high rigid shoreline, and you breathe the fresh air and you smell the sea breeze, Mr. Speaker, is the life that the people of the District of Bellevue cherish.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: In closing, I would like to quote a phrase that was repetitively said to me by constituents of the district in saying "outside the pearly gates of St. John's and Mount Pearl, there is a life beyond the overpass."

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

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

It is a pleasure today to get up and say a few words on the Address in Reply to the Throne Speech.

I want to begin by saying congratulations to my hon. colleague from the District of Bellevue on his maiden speech, and to say it is a pleasure to have known him for some time, and members of his family, because both of us came from the same neck of the woods, if you want to call it that, on the Burin Peninsula. I want to congratulate him on a job well done.

Mr. Speaker, I guess when we look at the Throne Speech we know that it is an overview of what we look forward to and anticipate on seeing or hearing about in the Budget later on in this session.

Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to just touch on some of the issues in relation to my district, and I have been elected now since 2001. I know the hon. member touched on the tremendous amount of road work being done this year, and I have already commended the Minister of Transportation on the funding that is being forward in my district this year. Even though I got elected in 2001, up until this year I think I received $140,000 for a road that was washed out and had to be repaired. I didn't stand and complain about that, Mr. Speaker, over the past six years because I know all too well the financial situation, I guess, that this government started out in. Now, we are in a financial position and I am very grateful that the minister recognized the problems not only in my district but in other districts and has come forward with the finances this year to help get some of that work done.

The other thing I want to mention, Mr. Speaker, is that in my district we are very fortunate to live in close proximity to St. John's and are in the right position on the Avalon Peninsula, because we know there is a tremendous spinoff from what is happening in the oil industry and so on. Not only in my district but in the neighboring districts of Harbour Main and Carbonear-Harbour Grace we are very fortunate to have so many issues that bring people forward from time to time, not only residents of this Province but outside of our Province. They come to the area and when they travel to our area we know what happens; there is more money being spent and it helps our local businesses.

I want to congratulate the group in Bay Roberts who are coming up with a new venture this year. They are hoping to have in place, in a period of time, the village relating to the 1940s and 1950s where a presentation will be made with regard to the late Ted Russell's chronicle of Uncle Mose. We are looking forward to that.

I also want to note that in my area there is quite a bit of farming related, maybe a lot of people do not know that, but we do have some very successful and fairly large farmers in that area and they add a tremendous amount to the economy of the immediate area in my district.

I guess, like the hon. Member for Bellevue said, rural Newfoundland has depended for years upon the fishery and it is no different in my district. We know the tremendous impact of the fishery of today. Even though we lost out, I guess, with the moratorium and the cod fishery, today we are very fortunate. In Port de Grave and Upper Island Cove and the Bay Roberts area there is a tremendous amount of high activity taking place at this time getting ready for the crab fishery and the shrimp as well.

It was only about a week-and-a-half ago, I guess, or two weeks ago, I had the great opportunity to attend the fishermen's breakfast and the fishermen's church service that is held at the Pentecostal Church in Port de Grave, where hundreds of people gather to give thanks for what has happened in the past and look forward to a more successful year this year than in the previous years.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, we know that from time to time there are still other issues that have to be brought forward. I do not bring them forward in a manner of complaining, but out of concern for people who bring them forward to us.

I guess one of the big issues that we encounter today, and I hear it mostly from our seniors but other residents as well -

MR. SPEAKER (T. Osborne): Order, please!

It has come to the Speaker's attention that the Member for Port de Grave has already spoken on this particular debate.

The rules under this particular debate are that members can only speak once to the debate, so we will have to ask the member to take his seat.

The hon. the Member for Exploits.

MR. FORSEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to touch on the Throne Speech today.

First of all, I would also like to congratulate the Member for Bellevue, certainly an optimistic member. I am sure he is going to do well in his district. It seems like he has all of his priorities straight, and with the support of the members of the government and the Premier I am sure that he will follow through on most of the issues that he wants to complete.

In the Throne Speech, Mr. Speaker, the first thing that is addressed, the first issue that is addressed, concerns education and the government initiatives, the initiatives in education. Just yesterday, our minister spoke on some of the initiatives. This is why the private member's bill was brought forward yesterday, putting the challenge out there to the federal government. Then it is an onus upon them to see what we are doing as a Province, and the investments we are making, and the benefits that we are deriving from that.

There are a number of things that come to mind, especially in post-secondary. We have been very fortunate to have our 2.5 per cent interest on student loans eliminated, and a freeze on tuition. You know, just recently I heard in the news that New Brunswick is planning on bringing in a tuition freeze. Well, you know, that is great for New Brunswick and it is an idea that they are just talking about, and talking about bringing in. We have been fortunate enough now to have had a tuition freeze for the past number of years, and under this Administration we see the need to keep the costs down. Therefore, we are going to continue with the tuition freeze.

Coming from a rural area of the Province there is, of course, a cost incurred when travelling to the city or bigger centers to attend post-secondary, University, College of the North Atlantic, and the cost can get a little bit expensive, especially for accommodations and everything. This past year, this government, of course, saw that need and then fulfilled it with the needs grant – well, actually, the grant on a needs basis. I believe the minister explained it in good detail yesterday when she talked about the reduction bringing down what it would cost a rural student and an urban student, what it would cost, and the reductions that would be incurred, and the benefits for these students. So, we have taken great strides in education, especially in post-secondary.

More to a district level, I do believe the investment in the K-12 has been really what has impacted the rural areas, especially in the District of Exploits, Mr. Speaker. I know this part year when we eliminated the cost of textbooks I had a parent say to me: That is great. This year, in September, we are going to save about $400 in the cost of textbooks.

Well, that is $400 in the pockets of that parent, or those parents, and they can probably put it into some other need, whether it is clothing or whatever else they need. That was a great investment there, the free textbooks.

Also, our minister spoke on the commitment to the School for the Deaf. When she explained it yesterday - we have had some concerns with the School for the Deaf, but over the years, and especially this past year, I know that the Department of Education is committed to the School for the Deaf and they have done great work with these students. Even though the numbers are down, we are not going to give up on these students. They are valuable, and they make a valuable contribution to society.

I know first-hand because I do have a very close relative who attended the School for the Deaf. Of course, coming from a rural area, and a very rural area at that, we did not know sign language. We did not know how to – we had no one to teach us, and the only place was at the School for the Deaf. I wish I had the opportunity to actually learn sign language, because then I would have been able to communicate with my relative a lot easier, but he got his education and he went on to further his career into the labour market and is doing quite fine.

That, in education, was the first thing that was mentioned in the Throne Speech. I think it is of importance and I think it needs to be repeated because there are people out there who are finding the benefits from it.

Also, in the Throne Speech it talks about a strong people and basically what we are doing for social justice. I know under our Minister of Human Resources, last year, to bring in a $28.9 million Poverty Reduction Strategy - actually, it is taking the lead in Canada. This was very surprising, because I did not realize the impact that this particular program had in the rest of the country.

It was just recently that myself, as an MHA in a rural area - because I knew this particular person in Alberta, they sent me an e-mail. These people are involved in one of the colleges up there. They are very impressed with the Poverty Reduction Strategy and they put in a request, actually, where we could possibly go to their province and explain in some detail the type of work that we are doing.

Even though it is making inroads in the Province, we are making inroads across the country. Sometimes we feel like the federal part of this country is not really recognizing what we actually should be getting, our just reward, as we would say, from the feds, but we are willing, as a Province, to invest ourselves and take the steps that are needed, and then of course making a difference right across the country. I think that is just great stuff.

Also under the - my colleague, the Minister of Human Resources and Labour of course knows what I am talking about, the Member for St. John's Centre, and he is also the minister for affordable housing, and the home repair program. I know that this past year there has been great strides made in the investment in affordable housing. I saw the effects in my district. Just this past year, we have had profit companies that have applied, and were successful, for affordable housing projects, and also the non-profit. I know, just down in a small community right now, we have two non-profit organizations putting up affordable housing in that community.

I recall, actually just in October during the election, when I was knocking on the doors throughout Bishop's Falls I came to an affordable housing project. The people had moved in, and a gentleman came out and answered the door. He was really appreciative of the type of investment. He could stay in a beautiful accommodation; very low rent, subsidized heating, or at least it was certainly lesser than what he was paying when he was out in a private apartment or a private rental. So, they are really appreciative of that. Of course, it does improve on the life of the seniors. They can afford this, which means they will save more money and then they will have money for other things that they need. Of course, a lot of this could not be done without the negotiations that we were afforded by our leader, the Premier. He has been able to go out there and negotiate what we need in the Atlantic Accord and bringing back some money that was basically ours anyway, and probably more besides. I am sure he is going to continue on that road to ensure that we get our just reward with regards to the returns from our natural resources, especially our non-renewable.

In saying that, as well, some of the things that came out of the Throne Speech. There was another one with regards to investments and initiatives regarding municipal affairs. Over the past year there has been over $50 million committed to Municipal Capital Works. Any minister who takes on this portfolio, or any MHA who takes on the Minister of Municipal Affairs - I think it is a big department. They got a lot of work on their hands because we do have a lot of communities and, of course, the majority of them are rural and they need such things as municipal infrastructure, water and sewer, and so on. I have been very fortunate with the previous minister and, no doubt, with the current minister, because I am sure he is going to have a lot of the same amount of money in his budget this year as was last year, or maybe even a little bit more.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FORSEY: So, the Minister of Municipal Affairs has a challenge on his hands. However, I know if I want to bring the provincial investment into a single rural district - we have seen many improvements, especially in the water and sewer infrastructure in the District of Exploits.

I believe when I came in, in 2005, we had six communities that were in need of infrastructure and upgrades, especially in their water; more so their water services than their sewer. Because we are working towards regional services, we have had now three communities in the district that have come on to the regional services; which of course gives them a better service I guess, more supply of the water needs with fewer breakdowns and less maintenance, which is what we are looking forward to.

We had one community, in Cottrell's Cove, working on their water project for years. It was just recently, a little better than a year ago, we were fortunate enough to have the investment to upgrade their chlorinator and their pump house, which was badly needed, Mr. Speaker. I recall the local service chairperson saying this was the first time since the school in that community was built - the first time since that school was built that they had approved water from the public water supply. So, can you imagine how long they have been down there without the services of approved water in a school, in a school of all places, where they need the water? They are there teaching and these students - actually it is a K to 12, so we are talking students from probably five years old to seventeen or eighteen years old, and this past year was the first year that they were able to avail of approved public water. So I think that was -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FORSEY: What happens when you make good investment and you do it in the right places - no doubt, we are always going to have needs and we are always looking for something else but we have been, I guess, fortunate in some of the initiatives that we have been able to implement, especially in health care. I know right now we have a situation that hopefully, with what is going on right now, everything will be straightened out and we will be back on track and everybody will be looking forward to, I guess, safe and secure health services. However, there have been some good initiatives there.

I recall being in my district last weekend. I spoke to a constituent who was paying a lot of money for drugs and when we brought in the new program in October - I came out of the gas station, I saw him in the gas station and he spoke to me. When I went out, which was about five or ten minutes later, the gentleman was still there. The reason he was still there in the parking lot, he wanted to say thanks. He said I really appreciate what you guys did in October when you brought in that program. It meant so much to him because of the cost of his drugs. So, that is the kind of stuff and the kind of stories that probably you do not hear all the time but they are very important. They are important to the people where I live, they are important to the people in the Province. When you can walk on the street in your own district in your own town, and these people can make these kinds of comments, then I believe, and I not only believe I know, that we are doing the right things and we are making the right investments.

Dental coverage: Again, along with the programs that we brought in regarding the drug program we brought in the dental for the youth. I know our Minister of Health mentioned it this morning. I know he was questioned by the Opposition on certain things he should be doing or was not doing, but there are a lot of things. As the minister said, he would want more than a half a day to explain in detail what he has done and what that department has done that has been of benefit, Mr. Speaker, to the people of the Province in health care. It goes right from diagnostic equipment and the investment in diagnostic equipment right down to dental coverage.

Then, of course, when we brought in the one for the thirteen to seventeen where all of these youth now were covered – on low income – it made a big difference to them. It is money again, Mr. Speaker, that they can take, put in their pocket and spend on something else. If they are not spending their money in textbooks and they are not spending their money in school fees and they are not spending their money in drug costs, then it is money in their pocket. If they are not paying more in income tax, it is money in their pocket.

These are all good initiatives that have made a difference for people on low incomes, fixed incomes, whichever you might say. It has just been, I would say, rewarding to them, monies that they can use for something else. I have seen it in the district, in my District of Exploits.

I did not want to touch on Transportation and Works but I think I will, Mr. Speaker, because my colleague from the Bay of Islands, of course, who is newly elected, who came in in October - when I got up and spoke last year the former member for the Bay of Islands, who was in the Opposition then, always had a problem. It seems like he was interested in the District of Exploits. I do not know why, because I always appreciated anybody wanting to help me. I thought that the former member for the Bay of Islands probably had an interest in the district, but apparently while he was trying to figure out what I was doing there was nothing that he was doing in his own district. I guess that is why the Bay of Islands decided, well, we need a change and we need to bring someone in who is going to make a difference. They elected a new member, a member on the government side, a member who got up the other day and started already talking about what he –

MR. PARSONS: (Inaudible).

MR. FORSEY: In all due respect, Mr. Speaker, to the Opposition House Leader, when he was here he did not defend himself very well, so I don't imagine he would be able to improve on that today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FORSEY: In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say the reason we can do all of this - there is a saying and the saying goes like this, and I think it applies to this government and more so it applies to our leader: the reason we have gotten what we got in our negotiations is that you can compromise strategy but you cannot compromise principle.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I am very pleased today to be able to speak in response to the Throne Speech.

One of the things that this government prides itself on is its concern for health care. It keeps telling us that it is concerned and it keeps telling us that it wants a topnotch health care system, and keeps telling us that they are doing everything in their power to do that, but we are surrounded, right now, with all kinds of proof that such is not the case.

I cannot understand why this government is having such a hard time thinking about the possibility of having an external review. Today, in the question that I put to the Minister of Health and to the Premier, once again I recommended an external review to access where we are in the reconstruction process, the whole reconfiguration of our health care system. The minister indicated that it really was too early, that a transition goes on from three to five years so you cannot even possibly look at evaluation before that time is up.

I have to say I have to differ and I beg to differ with the minister in the response that he gave me. If there are indicators that something is really going wrong, if there are indicators that we have major problems with the restructuring of our health care system, and I believe we do, then why can't we put the brakes on and say, now is the time to evaluate before we go any further off the rails? I do not know how much proof we need that we have problems.

One of the major areas that an evaluation would look at, an external evaluation would look at, is the line of communications. How does the whole system of communications work within our health care system? Now, we have been getting information that indicates to us that the communications is not going on very well and has not been going on very well. We have a history of it even before the restructuring took place. So, we have a culture of poor communication that came into the restructuring. We just do not look at where things started when the four authorities were set up, we look at what culture came in with those four authorities.

I cannot help but note that when you look at what happened with the memo with from Dr. Ejeckam, the June 19, 2003 memo, the one that the Premier was able to raise here in the House last year, when we look at that memo it is really startling to know that according to the CEO of the day, Mr. Tilley, who is currently appearing before the Inquiry, he did not see this memo. This memo was directed to a Terry Gulliver. It does not even say on the memo what his position was. It means that within the health care system that became the restructured health care system, there was a lack of clear communication with regard to when something was needed to be seen by higher management or by the CEO. I think there is a major lack of a protocol that said this type of thing. Looking at this memo which had to do with Dr. Ejeckam's concerns about what was going on in the laboratories in the Province, this type of memo is something that there should have been something somewhere that said, this puts off, you know, a siren. This is something that has to go to the CEO.

The two Opposition parties received this briefing from Mr. Robert Thompson a few days ago. When we hear from him that there is no doubt that there was a breakdown in communication between Eastern Health and the other three authorities when they were informing the patients who had to be retested, that there was a breakdown in communications, and that the reason for that was because there was nobody in charge, that there was nobody who overall had a job of co-ordinating what was going on, and it was that breakdown in communications that caused many women in particular to have not received word that they had to be retested, or that retesting was done, or that their tests had come back - at all kinds of different levels there was that breakdown in communication - that bothers me, and it bothers me to think that the government does not want to look at that and have it fixed. I cannot understand it.

Any of us who have been involved in institutions, whatever those institutions are, whether they are business, whether it is education, whether it is health, you are used to ongoing evaluation. You do not wait years before you evaluate something. You have what is called ongoing evaluation. You have a system whereby, at various moments, you look at what is going on inside of your organization. That is certainly how I have always operated, as a person involved in the not-for-profit sector. I am used to evaluative moments. I am used to evaluative moments for staff, for the organization, for how our board of directors is working with the organization. Ongoing evaluation is a normal part of looking at where an organization is moving.

To have an ongoing evaluation is not a negative thing. It is not something you do because an Opposition party is asking you to do it. It is not something that, you know, oh, my gosh, why are we being asked to do this? It is part of normal organizational structure to have ongoing evaluation, and I cannot understand why this government is balking against it. It can only benefit us.

When you do an evaluation, you base your evaluation on what your goals have been, and how you are meeting those goals, and are there changes that you need to make? Are there any changes that you need to make as you move towards those goals? That begs a question: What was the goal of the restructuring of our health care system? What was the goal of our creation of the new authorities? What was that all about?

Today, I was looking at the notice that came out from government in September 2004 that announced that we were going to have a restructuring; that announced that we were going to have fewer authorities and that we were going to have four authorities; the announcement that talked about who those four authorities were. I have looked for, especially in the backgrounder, the goals, why the government was doing this, why the government thought we should do it. What I find are things that sort of confuse me.

I find, for example, the minister of the day saying: Creating fewer, more accountable health authorities is a necessary step in renewing our health and community services system and meeting client needs. Fewer regions mean less administration and more opportunity for collaboration.

I also read: The new governance model implements the government's Blue Book and provincial government commitment to avoid unnecessary costs and create more efficient, smaller administrative structures.

I also read that: Restructuring the way in which we govern the delivery of health services will help keep our investment where it is needed most - in the delivery of appropriate care.

When I look at this release that came out from government, everything seems to be based on money. Avoiding unnecessary cost, making sure our investment is being spent where it is needed the most, that seems to be the main goal. I really do not see anything about: We are doing this so that we can have more locally based programming to meet the needs of health care in our Province. We are doing this so that we can get more people trained from local communities, get them closer to the health care needs and how they can play a role in those health care needs.

I am really astonished, I have to say, when I realize that our government did not have a big plan when it formed the four health authorities. Its big plan was to save money. That is what this document says.

In the backgrounder there is a section on the transition phase. There is nothing in that transition phase that talks about having a transition team in place, a transition team that would put new plans together that would set goals for the authorities, how the authorities would work together. There is nothing like that here. If those documents exist, I would love to have them, but we cannot find them. We cannot find anything that really gives us what the goals of the restructuring were.

Now, if we were to do an evaluation, if government were to realize that this is not a bad thing, this is good thing, to at this moment see how we are doing and how we are getting where we are going. We might learn some things like Manitoba learned when they did theirs.

I know they did it after ten years, but Manitoba was not falling apart after three years. We have major problems in our health care system - not with the people who work in the system, but with the health care system we have major systemic problems.

I have been reading the report of the external review that was done on the Manitoba Regional Health Authority that came out in the fall of 2007. I find a very interesting point that is in this report, and I think we should all listen to it. It says that the reduction in the number of front line management positions - that means supervisors, unit or team managers - and senior management positions within the regional health authorities has created gaps in leadership and in many instances has increased the span of control of many managers beyond a reasonable level. Critical human resource development functions are not being performed because of lack of time.

Do you know what, fellow colleagues? That is what I am hearing from people inside of our system here in Newfoundland and Labrador. I have had people from the senior management positions, people who were in them and who resigned because they could not take any more what was going on. I have had senior management people who resigned tell me: I could not have my – I can't get the word that I want - how people perceive me, and my reputation. I cannot have that connected any more with Eastern Health because things are being done so badly. Number one, my expertise is not being used; and, number two, I know that we are on a road where things are falling apart and I have to resign.

That is one of these people being talked about in this report from Manitoba. They have told me, the people who have been in these positions - and some are still in them. I have had middle management come to me as well and talk to me. They are saying exactly what this point in this report on the Manitoba system is saying, that the restructuring has created gaps in leadership, and that is when you get a breakdown in communication. That is when you get communication gaps, when you get the gap in leadership, and there are points at which the communication line sort of ends. Nobody knows where things are supposed to go, and things fall between the cracks, even things as simple as requisitions for supplies. I have been told that by people in that division who have come and met with me and talked about how frustrating it is, the way in which things are falling between the cracks. So, why do we have to wait? Why do we have to wait until it gets any worse? Why don't we stop right now, bring in third party external consultants to work with the system and to discover why things have gotten as bad as they have gotten? Because I am telling you, they are in a mess. To work on that and then come up with recommendations on how to start turning things around before things get any worse. I mean, this is logic. It is logic. It is not: Oh, we can't do it because the Opposition is asking for it. It should be: You know, some people may really have an understanding of evaluation so let's listen to what they are saying. Let's listen to the fact that we need to have interim evaluation.

Mr. Speaker, I will get a chance as we go on in this session to speak more to this issue. At the moment I think I am needed outside of the House. So I will not use all of my twenty minutes, although I think I am almost used up at this point.

What I will say before I go is that I am really frustrated, and people out there are frustrated. People are meeting me on the street. People are coming up to me in stores. People are frustrated. What frustrates me, me, when they come to me, is the fact that my colleagues in government do not seem to care about that frustration. They tell somebody like me that I do not know what I am talking about, I am only trying to be negative. But what I am bringing is the frustration of the people in this Province. If we really want to restore some kind of faith in our system so that people feel safe and so that the workers inside of the system feel safe - it is not just the users of the system, it is also the professionals inside our system, our pathologists who maybe we will have more resignations from, our radiologists, other doctors, nurses. They are all becoming quite frustrated. We have to do something to restore confidence. I think one of the best ways to do that is to put an external review in place and call in people with expertise to work with the system because people are not going to be satisfied to think that the system can mend itself. Because things are so bad systemically, it will require having an external voice come in to help us do that and to help restore confidence in our system.

So, I really plead with the government to listen to that, not to pooh-pooh it, and not to say: Oh yeah, right; not to give me the kinds of answers I have gotten, both from the minister and from the Premier, with regard to external review. Mistakes have been made; we want to undo the mistakes. We do not have to wait until the Cameron Inquiry is over. That is dealing with one piece. It is symptomatic of other things that are wrong in the system. An external review would set us on the right path. We could start setting goals, something that was not done when the four authorities were put together. Put goals down, get planning done and let us move into a future where people will believe in the health care system that we have here. As I said, both people in the system, working in the system, as well as those who use the system.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am certainly pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the Speech from the Throne. I am going to talk about a number of points but I want to say, first of all, how pleased I am, as I sit here and listen to members opposite talk about, everything is about the money. I think that if you ask the people in the Province, one of the things that has given us the little support we have is that this government, for the first time in many years, has focused on fiscal responsibility and investing wisely into this Province and not squandering money and spending money that we do not have. So, I certainly feel really good about that. I heard a member opposite use the term, restore faith. I certainly think the decisions and direction this government has taken over the last number of years, and intend to take into the future, has restored people's faith in government and in the direction we are taking. I want to start out with those couple of comments, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: I am going to focus for a moment, Mr. Speaker, on one part of the Speech from the Throne, which was the focus on the volunteer and non-profit sector, and attaching that to a specific ministry with this government. I have to say that, certainly, I am very pleased to be a part of that direction.

I had the good fortune to have the minister responsible in my district, Mr. Speaker, about a week and a half or so ago. We did a couple of volunteer sessions, one in St. Lawrence and one in Grand Bank, and the minister took the time, with us, to invite volunteers in from all parts of society in my district; from the church groups to the minor hockey and minor soccer, and the figure skating, and all of the many people who volunteer and make the communities work, in my district, as they do in many parts of the Province. I want to say as part of my comments, Mr. Speaker, that I recognize the value of the volunteers, and I know this government does. Certainly, we rely heavily on people to donate their time and their efforts to make our communities work.

I want to thank the minister for the visit. We certainly had very good discussions, in both parts of my district. I know, as well, the minister had a session in Burin-Placentia West, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation's district. I think the message we were hearing, amongst other things, Mr. Speaker, very loud and clear, was that people appreciated and supported the direction that our government is taking in putting a focus on the volunteer and non-profit sector for the first time perhaps in the history of a government in this Province.

We talked a lot about the challenges that face volunteers in many parts of the Province, perhaps rural Newfoundland in particular. Because we have a case of a dwindling population we tend to draw upon the same group of people over and over and over, whether it is for the church supper or to coach minor hockey, or to volunteer to read to children in kindergarten at school. We are drawing upon the same group of people. That is a challenge that has been identified by those groups of people to us, to the minister, to look at how we can recruit more volunteers into the groups that we have set up in the communities and look at what kinds of things, through professional development, for example, Mr. Speaker, we can be doing as a government to help people be better equipped for volunteering and help them feel that they are more appreciated and that they are more valued in their particular communities. Certainly, I think in the sessions I attended, the minister responsible was very well received and the comments the minister made were certainly very appreciated by the people who attended those sessions.

I am going to touch on a couple of groups in my district, Mr. Speaker, and a couple of, what I think are significant initiatives with respect to the volunteer sector. As some of you may be aware, last week we had the launch of the Grand Bank Theatre Festival, which is a regional theatre festival for the Burin Peninsula. We had the launch here in St. John's. It was very, very professionally done. I highlight that, Mr. Speaker, for two reasons. One is to promote the significance. It is a huge attraction for the Burin Peninsula. It is a huge attraction for the community of Grand Bank and surrounding areas. We are employing, I am told, Mr. Speaker, this year upwards of fifty people on a seasonal basis. I can say to you, I am sure many of my colleagues in the House would appreciate this that fifty jobs created in a community like Grand Bank is a significant number of jobs, Mr. Speaker. That particular group, the Grand Bank Theatre Festival is organized and driven by a group of volunteers, not only from the community of Grand Bank but from the Burin Peninsula as a whole.

I say, Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of talking about our focus on volunteering, that I thank those people for the tremendous effort that they have continued to put into the Grand Bank Theatre Festival. The festival, Mr. Speaker, I might add, we have had significant investment over the last two years in the current facility. It used to be, at one point in time, an old fish plant. Then it turned into a youth centre. Over the last number of years, with significant help from this government, I might add, we have done some significant renovations with the sound system and seating and kitchen facilities to the point where we are certainly doing a tremendous job in dinner theatres in particular.

Mr. Speaker, the other theatre piece I want to mention for a moment, my colleague, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, and I had the good fortune last week to attend the Burin Peninsula Regional Drama Festival in my colleague's district, in the community of Rushoon. The community of Grand Bank, John Burke High School, was the winner of the festival. I highlight that because, again, it is about the volunteers from the school who take the time to put into supporting this drama troupe. I know my wife is involved with it as well, and I know that there are many long days, long after-school hours, evenings, and weekends of time committed to helping the students prepare for the festival. So, I want to say thank you to all of the volunteers who were part of that and certainly, Mr. Speaker, I want to highlight again that John Burke High School was the winner, the winning team, the winning group. They are in my district and I congratulate them.

Also, in the spirit of that, for the first time, Mr. Speaker, there was an award given out to an individual who has made a significant contribution, in large part through a voluntary basis, to the theatre arts at the school level on the Burin Peninsula. Mr. Levi Curtis who teaches at St. Joseph's Academy in Lameline, was the recipient of that award, so I certainly want to recognize Mr. Curtis here in the House today.

As I did this morning in writing, I want to thank him publicly here for all that he has done to promote theatre, to promote student success, and the commitment that he has given to students on the Burin Peninsula, because it has been a tremendous one and certainly this award recognizes that commitment.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to shift gears for a second now, although still with volunteering. I represented the Minister of Education a couple of days ago this week at a gathering on literacy in New Brunswick. I want to say how pleased I was to be there, and how pleased I was to represent this government and to represent the minister's commitment and our government's commitment to improving literacy rates, broadly speaking in the country but more specifically in our Province.

It was a conference, Mr. Speaker, that brought together not only educators but it brought together - community groups and volunteers were apart of that - it brought people together from across Atlantic Canada and it connected us up with the rest of the country through satellite so that the conference, at different parts of the day, was held simultaneously. For example, speakers were held in different venues. The former Premier of New Brunswick, Mr. Frank McKenna, spoke to us; and, while he was speaking to us, he was being aired across the country through satellite.

It was certainly a tremendous opportunity for me to be there. I had the opportunity to attend a press conference and to speak a number of times and to offer our government's commitment to literacy and to improving literacy rates in this Province.

As I said in my comments yesterday, and it has been said by many speakers before me, it is only through improving the education rates of our population and improving the literacy rates that we are going to improve our success, both at the individual and family level and for our Province as a whole.

In that spirit, I want to acknowledge and recognize the many volunteers who work so hard in our communities in this Province to focus on literacy, and improving literacy rates, because it is not only at the K-12 level and it is not only through post-secondary, but there are many, many people in this Province and in this country who do not attend school and have difficulty reading, and need assistance to improve their literacy rates. It is through the actions of volunteers in many parts of the Province that we are able to do that, and to do it with success. So I want to say thank you to those volunteers today as well.

Mr. Speaker, I want to touch on a couple of pieces in education, if I can, for a moment. I want to reiterate an announcement made by the minister today, which talked about our government's focus on physical education, and investment in physical education in a broader sense, and our focus on active and healthy lifestyles. The minister talked today about an announcement of an $800,000 investment in physical education at the primary-elementary level.

Mr. Speaker, just in case it might have been lost on some people, that follows on announcements made over the last number of years where this government has invested $4,000 in every single high school in this Province. That is a significant investment on behalf of this government to allow schools and school boards to put equipment into schools, and probably more importantly it is a significant investment that signals our government's commitment to promoting healthy and active lifestyles amongst our students.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: As many are aware, I spent many years in the education system. For any of us who are here who are educators, the research is very clear that if you improve the activity and the health of individuals you improve their ability to learn in school and their ability to achieve a greater level.

Mr. Speaker, I think this is just a tremendous announcement today by the minister and it is again in support of announcements that have been made in the past. As I have said many times from my previous role, most of the initiatives that were identified by school boards during my previous life thus far have been acknowledged by this government. This is yet another one of those, Mr. Speaker.

The last point I want to speak on, before I conclude, follows as well in that spirit, and that is capital investment in education. I spent many years working at a school district level, Mr. Speaker, and attended many meeting with department officials and politicians over the last fifteen, sixteen and seventeen years. Many days I left this building and other buildings and other meetings, Mr. Speaker, trying to find a way to make do with fifty-five cents a square foot to clean school facilities and to hire the appropriate people with the appropriate skills to get the job done. Mr. Speaker, this government announced an increase from fifty-five cents a square foot to ninety-two cents a square foot in the last Budget.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: That announcement, Mr. Speaker, brings us back to a level that we have not seen since, I believe, a previous Progressive Conservative Government in this Province. It was in the interim period when members opposite governed the Province that the decision to practically cut in half the amount of money we had to maintain our facilities was made.

We are able today, Mr. Speaker, through that investment to give school districts a greater opportunity to make the investments they need on small capital expenditures, maintenance at the school level, windows and roofs and things like that.

The other piece, Mr. Speaker, that is important for me both on a personal level and in my capacity as a former Director of Education is that during my tenure we were able to announce, in the Eastern School District, a new school for Placentia and a new school for Torbay.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Badly needed facilities, I might add, Mr. Speaker.

Also, probably one of the biggest challenges that I had in my previous life, Mr. Speaker, was trying to recuperate from years and years and years of neglect, because of fifty-five cents a square foot in maintenance money that led to the decreasing status and decreasing conditions of our facilities, and ultimately led, as many of you will remember, to the situation in Paradise where we had to close the school. I can say to you, Mr. Speaker, when I made that decision on behalf of the school board I did not take it lightly, but the decision had to be made in the interests of the students.

I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that the response by this government was the announcement of two new schools for Paradise; two new schools.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Not one but two new schools in recognition, Mr. Speaker, not only of the need to replace Paradise Elementary because of its condition but in recognition of the population growth that we have seen in that part of the Province.

I say, Mr. Speaker, in this House today it that took a huge leap of faith for this government to invest that kind of money. I am proud to be part of it and I say thanks to the government for making that decision.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to conclude by simply saying that I have touched on a number of points in the Speech from the Throne and many of my other colleagues will touch on other pieces, but I am very pleased with the initiatives this government has taken and I look forward to seeing our good Minister of Finance stand in the House sometime in the near future as we bring on some more good news for the Province as we move forward.

Thank you very much.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to stand and respond to some of the issues that were raised in the Throne Speech.

I was listening to the previous speaker and I would like to speak about some issues he did not raise, but also to come back to issues that he raised and those were issues related to education.

First of all, I would like to speak to the matter that was in the Throne Speech regarding the establishment of the division of disabilities and, of course, the government's commitment to establish a commission to study barriers that people with disabilities encounter.

I know, Mr. Speaker, in my district I have had a lot of calls from people with disabilities who have encountered problems in a number of areas and, of course, I would think that it is not just confined to my district. If the government has made a decision to establish a division of disabilities and, of course, commission a study, obviously these issues exist in all parts of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I can even say that in my district, Topsail District, one of the biggest issues and probably one of the most time-consuming issues that I spend time on would be discussing with people issues relating to disabilities and how they can overcome them. Of course, Mr. Speaker, I am very interested in the government's commitment.

A number of issues that people raise – first of all many adults raise the issue of access to transportation. If you are disabled and, of course, people do not want to stay in their own homes any more all day long, they do want to get out and they want to go to the mall, they have doctors' appointments, they want to visit family and friends, and if there is not transportation available for these people, effectively they are confined really to their homes. That has really been a big problem in my district.

One of the other issues that comes up is that people who are living in their own homes, or they may be living with other families and alternate care, they are looking for support. Most people do want to live independently. Most people would like to have their own apartment, or to live in alternate care, but they would like to have support so that they can live more independently. Of course, Mr. Speaker, that has been an issue.

Another issue in my district is supports for people who have disabilities. They are interested in having employment or continuing employment. I have had a number of calls from people who are looking for support, so they could have jobs or continue on with their jobs. I know, Mr. Speaker, in this day and age many people with disabilities and with supports are out their working, they are employed. Of course, there is a social aspect to this also. People just feel better about themselves if they can get out and find employment, be employed, make a contribution to society, and also get out there and be part of a group and socialize.

The other thing that I am hoping that this study will do, Mr. Speaker, is that – probably one of the challenges when you are looking for services for people with disabilities is, it would be very advantageous if all these services were available through one source as opposed to going through a variety of sources. I am hoping, Mr. Speaker, that the study that has been commissioned is going to address that issue.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak now a little about the issue of education. I know the previous speaker, my colleague from Grand Bank, did touch on this. I do want to talk about capital infrastructure in the education system, because it is a very important issue, especially in Topsail District, because, Mr. Speaker, I have a district with young families. I would say Topsail district is the district in the Province that probably has the youngest population, and we are experiencing a big growth in the number of students in primary and elementary school. Of course, there have to be schools to accommodate that.

Over the past number of years, Mr. Speaker, this government has put a lot of money into either constructing new schools or renovating existing schools, and we do know that in previous years, under the previous administration, that the schools did become run-down. Of course, with any type of infrastructure, Mr. Speaker, if you are going to have buildings and you are going to have infrastructure, whether it is buildings or roads or whatever, you do have to get in and you have to maintain them. Also, Mr. Speaker, when you do have infrastructure you can maintain them and extend their useful life, but at some point in time, Mr. Speaker, you do have to replace that infrastructure.

This government, over the last number of years, Mr. Speaker, has invested a significant amount of money in capital infrastructure. As my colleague from Grand Bank was saying, the two new schools for Paradise, which, of course, I am very, very pleased with, because Paradise is in my district - we have had two new schools announced for that district and it was related to the issue of mould in the former school, in Paradise Elementary school. One school was for the replacement of Paradise Elementary and the second school is to accommodate the new growth in the district.

The other capital project that is occurring in Topsail district, Mr. Speaker, is the extension to the Holy Family school. As I was saying, because the growth has been so rapid in my district the children, the students, have to be placed somewhere. In addition to building schools, we have to renovate existing schools and also expand schools. This government has responded very positively to the issues in Topsail district, and as a result there is a very significant investment being made in capital infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, these announcements are not just for my district, this is happening all over the Province. We hear about roofing projects quite often, siding projects, windows, exterior maintenance and fire protection projects. I would anticipate that when the Budget does come down there will be additional announcements in the Budget regarding educational infrastructure.

One of the other points I would like to mention, Mr. Speaker, and this relates to the replacement of capital infrastructure and it is something that my colleague from Grand Bank did mention, that is the maintenance subsidy for the school boards and for the schools was increased by this government last year from fifty-five cents a square foot to ninety-two cents a square foot. I think that some of the problems we are now encountering in infrastructure in the education system stems from the lack of maintenance and the neglect that happened in previous years, so of course we are playing catch up.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other issues I would like to raise with regard to education is regarding the extension of physical education and also the funding that was provided for phys.ed. equipment. I do know that, really, in comparison to the total budget the amount that was provided seemed to be insignificant, but even smaller amounts of money do make a very, very big difference.

After the Budget comes down and new expenditures are being made, very rarely do MHAs get notes of acknowledgement or thank-you notes or things of that nature, but I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that I was quite pleased that I did receive a letter from a local school after the funding was provided for some phys. ed. equipment. I got a very nice letter from a school, from I believe it was a teacher and either the principal or the vice-principal. It was not just a superficial letter, Mr. Speaker. It put, in great detail, the benefits that school had derived from the equipment. There were also quotes there from students who indicated how pleased they were to have the equipment.

Of course, it is very, very important, Mr. Speaker, because one of the issues that we are struggling with here in the Province - of course, all across Canada and probably throughout the world in industrialized countries - is the issue of obesity. We can even see that, that many of our students now are struggling with obesity and, of course, it is incumbent upon government to provide the means whereby the community can address these issues. Of course, one of the places is through the schools. This is done through the provision of equipment, but it is also provided through programs such as Healthy School/Healthy Living, School Lunch Programs, things of this nature, and also to encourage students to be physically active.

Mr. Speaker, after talking about the primary and elementary schools, I would like to talk a little bit about post-secondary. I would like to talk a little bit about infrastructure there also, but I would like to acknowledge that this government has made a big commitment and put a lot of additional financial resources into post-secondary education in this Province. I know this first-hand because I do have three children who are attending a post-secondary institution. Some of these include enhancing student aid and, of course, the tuition freeze has really been a big benefit to our students.

Mr. Speaker, along with that, you have to put money into operational programs, but one of the things you also have to do - I am going back to infrastructure again - is that, if you have buildings at Memorial University, or at the College of the North Atlantic, that you do not just put up the buildings and leave them. You do have to maintain them. Of course, because these campuses are so vast, it does require a significant amount of money.

Mr. Speaker, I was quite pleased when the government, in previous budgets, did announce significant amounts of money for new buildings in Corner Brook, new residence in Corner Brook, new residence for St. John's. I believe for the residence it was a total cost, an estimated cost, of $62 million. Of course, we are talking what we would refer to as big money, Mr. Speaker. This is a very, very significant sign from this government that we are supportive of the education program in this Province and that our students have to be supported.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Now the infrastructure funding was not just approved from Memorial University. There was also significant infrastructure funding approved for the College of the North Atlantic; and, seeing that the Confederation Building is sitting almost next door to the St. John's campus, we can see for ourselves every day as we drive by that, of course, there is quite a significant amount of funding being put into the campus here in St. John's, but there has also been funding put into Happy Valley-Goose Bay, also Labrador West, to improve not only the buildings, Mr. Speaker, but also things like equipment and furnishings.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to move on to another topic now, and this is a topic I do not think any of the previous speakers have addressed. There is a very small section there in the Throne Speech, but I would like to have a few words on it, and that is under the heading of Strong Governance.

We are all very, very familiar with the report that was brought down by Chief Justice Derek Green. Now, Mr. Speaker, the House of Assembly is getting used to new rules, new travel rules, things of that nature. Of course, along with that, there is a new Management Commission which replaces the old Internal Economy Commission. Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege of being on that new Management Commission and I am enjoying that role. Of course, there are growing pains, and people would expect that. It is a transition, it is a new commission, and we are all starting to get our feet wet.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to a new Management Commission, there is also something new for the House of Assembly and that is a new Audit Committee. Of course, I must say that people do not usually embrace the auditors but I am very, very pleased to be a member of the Audit Committee. Actually, I chair it, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: It is a four member committee. I am on the committee and, of course, the Opposition House Leader is on the Audit Committee with me. Something very unusual for the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker, and that is that we have what we call two outside members on the Audit Committee. These are two professional accountants; who come from the private sector, and they are on the committee with myself and the Opposition House Leader, so I feel there is quite a good combination on the Audit Committee.

I am an accountant, by training. Now, the Opposition House Leader has confessed that he is not an accountant, he is a lawyer, but we find that it is a good combination, because while sometimes people would like to think, well, it should be all accountants on the audit committee, I do not always agree with that. I like to have people with different backgrounds on committees. The committee has met a couple of times and is moving along, and I am sure as time progresses our work will intensify.

One of the things that I find, being on the audit committee – now, in order to be on the audit committee you need to have auditors who are going out and doing audit work for you. Of course, Mr. Speaker, we do have the benefit of having an Auditor General and we have met with the Auditor General and he will be doing some audit work related to the House of Assembly.

In addition to that, we really do need to have an internal audit function. Mr. Speaker, in order to have an internal audit function we are depending on the office of the Comptroller General of Finance. We have also met with the Comptroller General and he has indicated that he is going to give high priority to the work of the audit committee and of the House of Assembly. Of course, Mr. Speaker, we are six months in and, as I say, we are still getting out feet wet.

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General is going to be doing some audit work within the House of Assembly, and also the Comptroller General. One of the issues that I would like to raise here today - and it was an issue in the Auditor General's office, I think it still might be, I am not quite sure, but I do know it is an issue with regard to the Comptroller General's office - and that is the ability to recruit professional accountants in order to carry out their work. I think, Mr. Speaker, we all have to be very aware that as elected officials we have a role to do, but we do not do it by ourselves, we have to depend on our officials. It is very important that, as elected officials, we have a professional public service to rely on to do the work that we need to be done. Auditing is no different from anything else. We need professional engineers, we need professional accountants and we need professional lawyers. We need all the professionals to do the work, in order to keep the wheels of government moving.

Mr. Speaker, this leads me into the Comptroller General's office and probably the Auditor General's office, that there is some difficulty in recruiting professionals to work in these offices. This is a quite a challenge. One of the announcements that was made yesterday – I would just like to touch briefly on something that happened yesterday in the House. The Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board did make an announcement and he spoke about how the Comptroller General's Office is now able to recruit student CAs, people who are interested in becoming chartered accountants. In fact, Mr. Speaker, this is the first Comptroller General's Office on a provincial level in Canada that now has the ability to train CA students.

I know that when the minister read the statement and the Opposition House Leader responded he was not very impressed with the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board. The only point I would like to make to that, Mr. Speaker, is that the Opposition House Leader is on the audit committee, so I realize that we haven't got him there quite yet but I think with a little bit more training on the audit committee that he will come to see the significance of that.

I must say, Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board raised this, I was not aware prior to his rising in the House and making this announcement that the Comptroller General's Office was now certified to do this. When the minister rose and said it I was very, very, very pleased with it and I have since congratulated the Comptroller General's Office because these offices do not just automatically become training offices. You have to go through a very, very rigorous process and obviously the people in the Comptroller General's Office carried out quite a bit of work in order to convince the Institute of Chartered Accountants to allow them to become a training office. You know, we are the first provincial Comptroller General's Office to have this right. I am very, very pleased. I did call the provincial Institute of Chartered Accountants this morning to congratulate them and to indicate to them how pleased I was.

I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, that along with the right to train CA students we can train CGA students and also train CMA students. I think that that speaks very highly for this government and I am hoping that it will make a significant contribution to the shortage that we are presently encountering with regard to hiring professional accountants.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak briefly to one last issue before I sit down and give somebody else a chance to speak, and that is our Poverty Reduction Strategy. I have spoken about this in the House before and I have spoken about it on a number of occasions to the Minister of Human Resources. First of all, the fact that we have a Poverty Reduction Strategy speaks very well for the Province, and I understood that we are one of two provinces that have it. One of the features of the strategy that I particularly like is that there is a requirement to report back to the House as to how well we are doing with reducing poverty. I think that is probably one of the most important features of the strategy. This government has made a significant commitment, not only in terms of putting money into programs to reduce poverty, but also the fact that we do have a Poverty Reduction Strategy indicates the commitment that this government has towards reducing poverty.

Some of the things that I would like to cover, because some of these programs and program -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS E. MARSHALL: Thank you.


Mr. Speaker, could I have leave just to finish?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the minister have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MS E. MARSHALL: Just a couple of points, Mr. Speaker, and then I will sit down and give somebody else an opportunity.

The expansion of the drug program: This government has expanded the Provincial Drug Program on a number of occasions since we came to office in 2003. Prior to that, I do not think that program has been expanded even since its inception. We have made a number of improvements to that program. While a lot of people would like to see a universal drug program which has very significant financial implications, the fact that we are moving so aggressively in this area speaks very well for this government, Mr. Speaker, and I am very proud of that.

The other point, my final point, is that the dental program for children has been expanded during our term in office. I would like to speak to that because I was an elementary school teacher and I can remember children coming to school with poor dental health, in pain because they had toothaches and things like that, but their parents simply could not afford dental care. I think the expansion of the dental program for children is a very significant achievement.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I will sit down and give someone else an opportunity.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It am going to enjoy standing up and having a few words this evening on the Throne Speech, but before I do I cannot help but refer to some of the items that the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi was talking about earlier. Mr. Speaker, if you listened to the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi you would think that there was nothing any good happening in this Province, that we should all pack our bags and move on, especially as it relates to health care. To listen to the member, you would think the sky is falling. She is calling for all kinds of studies, everything is in turmoil and everything is bottom up, as we like to say in Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, let me just say that there are a number of good things happening in health care and in the Department of Health and Community Services, that is being run, I might add, by a very, very capable minister, a minister who I have had quite a bit of time to work with of late. Even though sometimes we hear calls from the Opposition that other things should happen, I can say in great sincerely to the people of the Province, and those out there in TV land, that I have spent quite a lot of time with the minister and I can assure them that there is nobody in this Province who works any longer hours in the run of a week than this man. There is no one any more dedicated to the health system in this Province, and nobody knows it any better than the current Minister of Health.

It always amazes me, when you speak about a topic and you talk to the minister, his knowledge, not only - his peripheral knowledge of the whole subject. He is very deep in all the issues and, like I said, I can say with great confidence that I have every faith in the Minister of Health.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: I know our Premier went down that road the other day, when he acknowledged the fact that there is nobody else he would have any more faith in than the current Minister of Health. I know, from speaking to Cabinet ministers, the Premier and to our caucus, I say with great enthusiasm and great surety that the current Minister of Health is doing a fabulous job and I give him my support 110 per cent on that.

Mr. Speaker, when I hear people like the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi going on like there is nothing any good happening in the health care system, the bottom is gone out of her, I fear that she doesn't really understand the magnitude of the health portfolio and the health system, and the job that the current Health Minister is doing. I have to say that, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to outline just a couple of things happening in the health system. We have monies that we have put into the health system in the last Budget and, no doubt, as was referenced here today, I am sure we will see a lot more money put into the health system again in this current Budget. I think the health budget is somewhere around $2 billion, so you can imagine the size and the magnitude of a health system at $2 billion. I heard reference somewhere the other day that we are probably in the top twenty health systems in Canada, so it is a significant amount of money. It takes considerable leadership, and I am currently happy that we have the leadership that we currently do.

Mr. Speaker, just to go into a little bit of some of the things that we have done in health care over the last year, we talked about the money being spent on equipment, for example, today in Question Period. Some of the other things that have happened: investments, especially in personal health - and I will talk about some of the things in a few minutes that we have done with seniors, the seniors and aging piece in Health and Community Services.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things we have done is the Provincial Drug Program. Many people - I think it was 100,000 new people - could qualify for this program, this new initiative, at a cost of $17.5 million to the people of this Province.

As well, of course, the insulin pumps, which we have talked about here in the last couple of days when people got up to speak on the budget, everybody mentions the insulin pumps. It was certainly very significant.

I remember last year the Canadian Diabetes Society, for example, wondering about insulin pumps before the Budget came down. I am glad to say that it was approved. As a government we listened, we realized the importance of it. I remember myself getting a call from a woman in my district who had two children, two young children, who were diabetics, severe diabetics, and, of course, insulin pumps were recommended to her. I believe the cost of this was certainly significant. She was a working woman, in the meantime, and worked hard, but, of course, with the exorbitant cost of the insulin pumps she could not afford to buy them herself; however, Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say that our government did come through with that.

As well, Mr. Speaker, dental services, there was an extra $2.3 million put into dental services to allow kids between the ages of thirteen and seventeen to acquire dental services free of cost.

Other things we have done, Mr. Speaker - I mentioned earlier, we talked about equipment - there was $22.3 million invested in diagnostic and capital equipment. As we know, we had questions here today in the House about equipment in hospitals. Mr. Speaker, as you know, equipment, especially medical and technical equipment, is constantly advancing. I think about a few years back, when my father was here, for example, and he had a phone in his vehicle that was strapped to the floor, a big black phone about that length, and you had to snap it off the floor to put it to your ear. Mr. Speaker, shortly after I got elected I was issued a cell phone and that was a wonderful thing. That was five years ago. Today, Mr. Speaker, we have BlackBerrys, so we can not only talk on the phone; we can receive our e-mails. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, there is someone in the world today making fun at the likes of us for using a BlackBerry. I am sure there is technology even today beyond that. Technology is constantly advancing.

Recently, I heard someone describe a piece of equipment that it was like a – I think a 1997 Honda today, but today it is a 2008 Mercedes. Mr. Speaker, technology is constantly advancing. Of course, we as a government realize that and we are constantly investing in new equipment to try to keep up to the health care needs of the people of this Province.

As well, Mr. Speaker, we increased the amount of money to foster families. I think it was 5 per cent to foster families, the equivalent of almost $1 million, to encourage people to become foster families. It is certainly a very rewarding thing that someone takes on, a very demanding role, I might add, Mr. Speaker, but certainly significant and certainly a noble gesture when people take that role on and become foster families.

As well, Mr. Speaker, we heard talk here today about telehealth. Now telehealth, as most people know, and for those out there in TV land, is when we can take an X-ray, for example, of somebody, somewhere in the Province, and we can send it somewhere else, Mr. Speaker, so somebody who is a specialist can read it.

Mr. Speaker, we have invested $2.65 million in last year's Budget to improve telehealth in this Province to allow a specialist - because of the demand on specialists now, they are so hard to get. We have a recruitment plan, Mr. Speaker, a very active recruiting system in place. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, and you hear these statistics, when I hear the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi telling me that everything is in crisis and everything is bottom up, last year in Western Health we recruited thirty-three doctors to Western Health. I think that is a remarkable figure.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Today in this Province we have more doctors practicing in Newfoundland and Labrador today than ever in the history of this Province. So, to say that recruitment and retention is forgotten about by this government, and that everything is in crisis, is not accurate.

We talked about nurses here the other day. Now, Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt there is an issue with nurses, yes. There is a nursing shortage throughout the Province, throughout the country, throughout the world. Everybody is looking for nurses. We are working hard now, and we are hoping that negotiations will start, Mr. Speaker, and the nurses and government will come to an agreement to address all of these areas.

I am off topic a little bit now, but the other day we stood in this House and we debated an issue, a bill on nursing and negotiations in this Province. The Opposition and the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi were not too happy with the government. They did not like the fact that we were saying that - I remember saying it intently – that, you know, I don't know if this is something we should be doing. We should be sitting back, letting negotiations go on and letting it take place. We had CUPE, we had NAPE, we had a number of groups involved in negotiations, but the Leader of the Opposition in particular was very perturbed because we made an amendment to the motion, very perturbed, and the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi was not happy with us at all.

Mr. Speaker, there is something ironic about it. The next day in the Telegram we saw all kinds of comments by the Leader of the Official Opposition; she really was not too happy. She was very upset about it, saying that our amendment was wrong, and she had it all figured out when it came to negotiations.

Mr. Speaker, a funny thing happened the next day. A strange thing happened in that NAPE, the largest bargaining unit in the Province, I would think, certainly the largest bargaining unit with government, figured that the House of Assembly should stay out of the bargaining process. They should stay out of it, stay away from it all together, that there is no need of us debating that, they said. We should let collective bargaining take its course.

Mr. Speaker, Carol Furlong, the President of NAPE, was very clear in what she had to say. She asked the Liberal Opposition to stop trying to fight the battles they know nothing about, was her line. Try to stop battles they knew nothing about, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: She was very, very specific.


Mr. Speaker, Wayne Lucas, President of the local branch of CUPE, he said he is not commenting on the bargaining of the private member's bill, but he did refer that there was a media blackout, that this was not the time for this House of Assembly to be in here debating the contract. All members of this House have people who live in their district, who will be affected by this bargaining process. We all hope the best, and we certainly all hope for speedy resolution to bargaining, but bargaining is a to and fro.

The members here took great delight in reading from statements, apparently from a nurse in my district. I have to remind them that I have a lot of nurses in my district. I speak to quite a few of them on regular basis. I speak to an awful lot of NAPE members, an awful lot of CUPE members. They are telling me that the House of Assembly right now is not the spot to be debating raises that they deserve, and certainly will be offered.

As well, the Federation of Labour in this Province decided: What is going on? What is Opposition getting involved in this for? There is absolutely no place for it; we are in the middle of a negotiation process. Yet, the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, the Official Opposition decided: No, no, today is the day we have to debate this; we are going to solve this problem here in the House.

Mr. Speaker, to quote some of the things Mr. Anstey said. Mr. Anstey is no stranger to the labour movement in this Province. He has been in the labour movement as long as I can remember. In particular, the Member for Signal Hill-Quid Vidi comes with a social background. She is supposed to be the voice of the unions. They are known to collaborate together and be tight when it comes to politics. Yet, we see CUPE, we see NAPE, we see the Federation of Labour out against the NDP in this Province and the Official Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, when you hear the sky is falling from the members opposite you better take it with a grain of salt because a lot of the things they say is not necessarily gaining the support of everybody they are claiming to represent.

MS MICHAEL: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: There we go, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi talking about her convention. Now, I hope they all go, but I tell you what I hope they all do. I hope they help her form a policy a lot better than the one she has today because the members from NAPE and the Federation of Labour, they are not too happy with the NDP and the Liberal Party in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Anstey said that there are 35,000 employees now negotiating and that this is an extremely complex issue. Basically, he advised the Opposition to find something else to discuss in the House of Assembly and to avoid what they are currently doing.

So, Mr. Speaker, here we have it. We have all the major unions telling the Opposition, the Leader for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, to stay out of their business. So, Mr. Speaker, I say, when the sky is falling - it might not always be falling - we should always look up when we here some of the comments from the NDP and the Leader of the Official Opposition.

Mr. Speaker, I have to refer again - we talk about the things that are said here in this House and we talk about questions that are asked. We wonder, I mean, right off the bat last week we had the Leader of the Opposition saying she had been advised that beds available in the hospital have been closed because of staffing shortages. I remind the member, this is what she said. However, Eastern Health officials had a different story. The Eastern Health officials had a different story, Mr. Speaker. To quote an Eastern Health official, was that the allegation that beds have been closed due to staffing shortages is inaccurate. Now, inaccurate, Mr. Speaker!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: But it was accurate earlier this week in this House, I might add. It was accurate -

MS JONES: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition on a point of order.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly resent the fact that the member is making light of a very serious issue in the House of Assembly. Mr. Speaker, I have had an opportunity to be briefed by Eastern Health and to discuss this issue with senior management, and I have been told that at times when there is a shortage of nurses within the hospital that they do have to close beds on occasion and that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is certainly no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Let me quote the Eastern Health official. There is one interview here: We don't have any units closed due to staffing shortage.

Now, Mr. Speaker, let me be clear. I do not make light of Eastern Health or the situation in health care in our Province, but we have to be very clear. There are times, there is no doubt about it, through seasonal fluctuations, unfortunately, that hospital beds are not available. That is the reality of life, and that is unfortunate. I certainly do not make light of that situation but it is something that we have to deal with, unfortunately, on occasion. This is not new. Recently I saw an article, I believe I read an article, or I seen it on a late night news show, where they had tents out in Western Canada. They had tents erected to deal with the influx of patients. Mr. Speaker, I am glad to say that we have not come to that. We do not have tents stuck up in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, let me just remind people, when they hear that the sky is falling, take it with a grain of salt. We have a lot of tough issues in health that we deal with on a day to day basis. It is very difficult. It is certainly not easy. Let me be clear, we all, unfortunately, have people who have to deal with hospitals on a regular basis, who are in hospital on a regular basis. There is no member in this House that is not touched by the health care system. Unfortunately, some of us spend more time there than others. We all speak very highly of the professionals who are there, but the reality is there are seasonal fluctuations. If you listen to the Opposition, you would think that there were wings closed down; that wings of the hospital were shut down because there was no one there to operate it and it was just shut down. Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I will just go to another topic now. We got talking about the health care system recently and there were several letters to the editor recently -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

I ask members for their co-operation.

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad to see we have stimulated debate here on Thursday evening. It is good to know that we have brought it up a little notch, Mr. Speaker. It is good for everybody to get up and have their say here in this House of Assembly, and I certainly appreciate the time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: I certainly appreciate the time, Mr. Speaker, and I will have my say. The Leader of the Official Opposition will have her say and, no doubt, when she does, Mr. Speaker, she will implode, everything will be bottom up. The Minister of Health, he should give it up and go home. The hospitals are shut down, Mr. Speaker, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I can assure you and the people of this Province, let them know that not only the minister, the Premier, the Cabinet and this government, health care in this Province is our number one priority.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, if I could go a little further. One of the things in health care, in the Department of Health and Community Services, one of the things that I have had the pleasure of dealing a little bit with on behalf of the minister lately is the seniors and aging division. The seniors and aging division, I guess, came about in our 2003 Blueprint. It was brought to light in 2003 that we should have a policy and a plan for aging in this Province. I am proud to say that - I guess three things happened, initially, to start the process. The first thing, of course, was the Ministerial Council on Aging and Seniors, and the Ministerial Council on Aging and Seniors is group of Cabinet ministers. I believe there are seven, if I am not mistaken. I know the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment is on it; the Minister of Health and Community Services; the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation; the Minister of Education, and several others - the Minister of Justice. What this does, it is a group of ministers who look after seniors and aging initiatives not only within one department but across government. There are a number of initiatives across government, and this group of ministers meet on and discuss those specific issues and bring those issues to Cabinet and bring their issues to the budget process. That was one of the first things we did.

The second thing we did was establish a Provincial Advisory Council on Aging and Seniors, and I just recently attended a meeting, actually, with this Advisory Council. It is made up of a group of individuals from throughout the Province - with regional representation, I might add. We have people from Labrador, the Northern Peninsula, the West Coast, Central, the Avalon, so the Province is well represented on this seniors and aging committee. There are people there - I know the president, for example, of the Fifty Plus Club in the Province is a member of it, plus other professionals, Mr. Speaker, people with varying backgrounds who can sit down and bring to the table a genuine interest in seniors' issues and know what they are talking about. We have former educators, we have a number of things, Mr. Speaker, and that is good to see.

Just to clue up, Mr. Speaker, we established, as a government, the Division of Aging and Seniors which is now a division with the Department of Health. In reference of time, I will clue up here. So, Mr. Speaker, these are three particular items that we did for seniors and aging shortly after we got elected in 2003.

Mr. Speaker, in future debates I will expand on this and get into the details of some of the initiatives that we taking on as a government for seniors and aging in this Province. Mr. Speaker, as a government we realize that we have one of the fastest aging populations in the country, and we are going to be ready and willing to deal with that and we are going to continue to look after the issues of seniors throughout this Province. Like I said, in future debates I will certainly expand on exactly what we have done throughout government and across different departments, some of the things that we have done to make life better for seniors in this Province.

On that, Mr. Speaker, I will have my seat and pass the debate on to some others.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is getting close to adjournment time and this is the last parliamentary day of the week.

I would like to remind members not to do what I did one time, run off to the district and not realize that Monday was a holiday, and left home Monday morning about daylight to get in here - to realize there was no House.

I would just like to remind members that Monday is a provincial government holiday. It is not a provincial holiday, but the House will not be sitting on Monday.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I move that the House on its rising do adjourn until Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., and that this House do 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'.

This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow, being Tuesday.

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