May 15, 2008               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS              Vol. XLVI  No. 28


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order please!

Admit strangers.

Today the Speaker would like to welcome six students from the Keyin College, St. John's, who are accompanied by their instructor, Ms Paulette Samson.

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: The following members' statements will be heard: the hon. the Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, the hon. the Member for the District of The Isles of Notre Dame, the hon. the Member for the District of Kilbride, the hon. the Member for the District of Exploits, and the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East.

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

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

It gives me great pleasure to stand in the House today and recognize a tireless worker for the promotion of multicultural heritage in our Province, Thaddeus Dreher.

Since coming to Canada in 1956, Mr. Dreher has worked tirelessly to promote multiculturalism in St. John's. He is a founding member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Multicultural and Folk Arts Council, now called Newfoundland and Labrador Multicultural Council, established in 1979, and has served as its president since 1987.

Under his guidance, the council has organized many educational and entertaining communal events, fostering diversity, social harmony and cross-cultural understanding. He has facilitated the settlement of many immigrant families and has raised funds to assist minority students. Through his exceptional leadership and commitment, Mr. Dreher has enriched the lives of many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

He and the members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Multicultural Council continue to host cultural events such as the most recent one, African Night on April 19, which showcased Africans from different parts of the African Continent.

They have just finished a winter program of multicultural events at The Rooms. There will be other such activities at The Rooms sponsored by the Council.

Mr. Dreher was awarded the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award on June 12, 2007.

I ask members of the House to recognize Mr. Dreher's tireless work in the promotion of different cultures in our wonderful Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of The Isles of Notre Dame.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the J.M. Olds Collegiate Tigers of Twillingate, for their outstanding success in the 2007-2008 School Sport program.

In September, the JMOC Tigers won their second consecutive Provincial 3A Boys Softball title, played at Bay D'Espoir. In October, the Tigers won the Provincial 3A Boys Volleyball Championship, played at Random Island. In March, the Tigers claimed their third championship of the year going undefeated in the Provincial 3A Boys Hockey tournament, hosted in Twillingate. The Tigers also battled for their fourth provincial banner of the year, but settled for silver in the Provincial Boys Ball Hockey tournament played at Burnt Island.

The Junior Female Tigers, however, were successful in winning the fourth provincial banner for J.M Olds Collegiate, as they claimed the Provincial Basketball Championship in the Central-Western Division played at Lewisporte.

Mr. Speaker, in a recent announcement by School Sport Newfoundland and Labrador, J.M. Olds Collegiate was recognized as a Gold Star School, one of only a few schools in the Province. This gold standard award recognizes the highest level of participation, sportsmanship, and success in school sport programs at the regional and provincial level.

In total, the Tigers were successful in winning five regional banners and four provincial banners in 2007-2008. This success can be attributed to the efforts of dedicated and skilled athletes, committed coaches, and supportive teachers and parents.

Mr. Speaker, the school sports play a significant role in enhancing the quality of school life, and building the spirit and pride of a school and, indeed a community. I ask all members of this hon. House to join with me in recognizing the outstanding success of the J.M. Olds Collegiate Tigers and the positive impact they have had on their school and their community.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DINN: Mr. Speaker, I stand in this hon. House today to recognize some of the good things that are going on at Bishop's College in St. John's, a school not in my district but a school that is providing high school education for a lot of young people in my District of Kilbride.

Bishop's College was recognized in a recent Telegram article by Peter Walsh, titled "Bracing for the Worst" for the training it is providing the whole student body in case of a hostage crisis or if an intruder enters the school with a gun.

Specifically, this program is called Intruder Lockdown Training and has been ongoing at Bishop's College for the past two years, long before the Eastern School District decided to adopt this type of training for all of its 120 schools to start next year. Actually, the Eastern School District is using the Bishop's College Lockdown Protocol as a guide for 2008-2009.

Bishop's College also has a very active Positive Behaviour support system in place for its students. Students are recognized and rewarded for positive behaviour in the areas of attendance, discipline and achievement.

Currently, Bishop's College is mentoring Gonzaga High School to get this program off the ground there too.

Mr. Speaker, we often only hear about the negative things going on in some of our schools. The many, many, many good things that are happening are rarely mentioned.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in recognizing Bishop's College, its staff and students, for all the good work it is doing.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FORSEY: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to stand in this House to recognize the contribution of Sadie Sheppard and her dedication to the Peterview Volunteer Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter. Sadie and her husband, Glen, are both members of the department and they have two boys, Travis and Jimmy-lee.

Mr. Speaker, Sadie joined the volunteer fire department in November 2001 and is the only female member. We are all aware of the commitment of these volunteers being on call twenty-four hours a day. It is certainly a bigger challenge when husband and wife sign on as volunteer firefighters.

Mr. Speaker, in Sadie's capacity as a firefighter she has been called to many emergencies such as firefighting to a rescue in the Bay in which there was a tragedy through drowning. Sadie's passion and dedication as a volunteer firefighter is certainly recognized by her peers.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating Sadie

Sheppard as the Peterview Volunteer Firefighter of the Year for 2007.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUCKINGHAM: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the people's House today to recognize a first for our Province.

A familiar organization, which unveiled its new name on Tuesday, has organized the very first provincial conference on sexual and reproductive health.

Planned Parenthood – the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Health Centre, has gathered together over 100 stakeholders to attend a two-day conference entitled "Sexual Health: More Than Just Sex".

Included amongst these stakeholders are educators, health professionals, social workers, and leaders of various community groups.

Mr. Speaker, sexual health encompasses a broad range of topics. More importantly, it must be seen as more than just relating to sexual activity. People must consider Pap tests, cervical cancer, testicular exams, fertility issues, sexually transmitted infections, education, violence, and much, much more.

The lineup of speakers and the variety of issues being covered at this conference is truly amazing. As a teacher, I taught the sexual education course for many years and I can say, without hesitation, I would have greatly appreciated a resource such as this one.

Mr. Speaker, the excellent organization and vision for this conference is shown by its delegate registration. This event was completely sold out and has exceeded all projections for attendance.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would ask all members of this hon. House to join me in congratulating Planned Parenthood – the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Health Centre, for organizing this conference, the first of its type in our Province.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to provide an update on our government's history-making 2008-2009 Provincial Roads Improvement Program.

In January, this government unveiled our Province's largest roads improvement program ever, investing $73 million to revitalize roads, bridges and related infrastructure.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS WHALEN: This program will create an estimated 1,400 person years of employment. We officially launched the Provincial Roads Improvement Program on February 20 by providing almost $2.5 million in the District of The Isles of Notre Dame, and have since completed our allotments by announcing the funding in thirty-nine other parts of the Province.

We have currently issued or awarded tenders for close to 60 per cent of the program, totalling $42 million, and plan to have most projects tendered or awarded by the end of May, significantly earlier than before. Of course, getting this early start allows construction work to begin months ahead of previous programs. This bold approach has been embraced by industry leaders such as the Newfoundland and Labrador Road Builders/Heavy Civil Association.

Among the projects slated for the $73 million, 2008-2009 Provincial Roads Improvement Program is $14 million for bridge construction and rehabilitation and $6 million to repair wheel rutting on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Mr. Speaker, it gets even better. When cost-shared work such as the Trans-Labrador Highway is factored in, the total investment in provincial road infrastructure in 2008-2009 jumps to $182 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS WHALEN: In regards to the Trans-Labrador Highway, this government will invest $17 million for construction of Phase III of the highway and cost-share $45 million with the federal government for widening and hard-surfacing of Phase I.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, after going it alone last summer, the provincial government continued to lobby the federal government to cost-share widening and hard-surfacing of the Trans-Labrador Highway, and our aggressive approach paid off when the federal government finally came on board this past December.

Mr. Speaker, the unprecedented Provincial Roads Improvement Program is a key element of this government's six-year infrastructure strategy, worth over $3 billion. We are in the third year of this plan that is expected to generate an average of 6,500 person years of employment each year; and, as outlined in the provincial government's original Blueprint, strategic, long-term infrastructure investment, will foster regional development, employment and a vibrant economy. Our investment in infrastructure is supporting the business, trade and tourism industries and continues to lead the way to a better standard of living for everyone in the Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

I know she said things are getting better. I say to the minister, it can't get much better than what she just announced.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, I have to say to the minister, I am looking forward to the millions that is coming to my district.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUTLER: The only comment I want to make, I want to join, and we on this side of the House want to join the Newfoundland and Labrador Road Builders/Heavy Civil Association in embracing such an announcement. The only thing, I want to revert to a comment the Premier made some time ago, that we do not rehash our announcements, but I suppose, Mr. Speaker, I would do the same thing if I was in the minister's seat. I would stand up day after day and blow my horn about this as well. Seriously, it is a good announcement. I want to congratulate the minister on a fine job and I say to her, we are looking forward to the construction crews to roll into our districts.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the minister for the advanced copy.

You know, we all can celebrate this because the money belongs to the people.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS MICHAEL: No, seriously now, Mr. Minister, you are moaning over there. You and I know that it is great. No matter which party is in government right now this is a wonderful thing that we have money, as a Province, to spend, and that is wonderful.

It feels good to spend money. I have to say that during the Estimates meetings I said: My God, how much money have we got to play with here? This feels good. It feels good, but it is the money of the people and it does not matter who is sitting over there, it would be the money of the people and that is great.

PREMIER WILLIAMS: (Inaudible).

MS MICHAEL: I am celebrating. I am celebrating, Mr. Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

MS MICHAEL: The one thing that I would say to the minister, during the Estimates Committee when I was with the Minister of Government Services at that Estimates meeting, we talked about looking at the need for a public transit system and it would be really good for your department and his department to do more thinking together about a public transportation system to broaden what we have in the Province.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

The hon. the Minister of Business.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ORAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate twenty-six students from Memorial University's business faculty who, last night, took top place as the most enterprising campus in Canada at the 2008 National Exposition of ACE, Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship. This is the third consecutive year that ACE Memorial was named national champion.

As national winners, they now get to go up against the best student teams in the world at the Students in Free Enterprise or SIFE World Cup in Singapore this October.

The ACE Memorial SIFE team of Heather Comerford, Sarah Fisher, Michael Harris, Haroon Iqbal, Lisa Smart and Michael Wadden won the final round against Mount Royal College, Ryerson University, the University of Calgary and Wilfred Laurier University. Memorial students also earned first place in the financial education challenge and performed well in the entrepreneurship category.

Mr. Speaker, at the ACE National Exposition universities from across the country showcase their entrepreneurial ventures and community outreach and leadership projects.

This year alone, ACE Memorial's more than eighty members dedicated over 26,000 volunteer hours to seventeen different projects that made a difference to an estimated 2,400 people. These projects include: an initiative to help foster greater entrepreneurial skills and financial literacy among high school students; Launch Pad, and incubation center for student entrepreneurial ventures; and the "Think Green" program which teachers young students how to run their own profitable recycling venture.

Mr. Speaker, we have become accustomed to hearing about the outstanding accomplishments of ACE Memorial's teams as they consistently place at or near the top of regional, national and international competitions. Last year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join the Premier to see ACE Memorial's 2007 SIFE presentation first-hand. As we know, they finished second worldwide. I will say that again, Mr. Speaker: They finished second worldwide. These truly are our future business and community leaders in the making.

Mr. Speaker, ACE Memorial encourages young entrepreneurs in this Province to build bright and rewarding futures for themselves and their communities by practicing and teaching others the principles and values of entrepreneurship.

I know that all hon. members will join me in acknowledging these enterprising students for all their hard work and dedication in preparing for these competitions and in carrying out their valuable community work.

They represented their faculty, their university and their Province, Newfoundland and Labrador, extremely well at this prestigious national event, and they will make for a formidable Team Canada at the World SIFE Cup.

Again, I congratulate them and wish them success in Singapore.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

We, in the Official Opposition, would also like to congratulate these enterprising young entrepreneurs. I understand that actually they have a pottery program here in the Province, up in the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair. It is called the Molder of Dreams in Port Hope Simpson. That, in itself, has proven to be a fantastic project.

It is great to see that not only do we have young students in this Province who are the best in the Province, but they are also the best in the country. With a touch of luck, I am sure, because they have the skill, they will certainly prove to be the best in the world.

So, hats off to them.

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 his advanced copy.

I, too, congratulate the team from Memorial University. It is wonderful to see what they are doing there in the School of Business. I was particularly struck by the Think Green Program which teaches young students how to run their own profitable recycling venture. It is great to see that not only do they have entrepreneurial skills but they are putting them into the area of green business. I encourage the minister to look at other ways in which we can encourage young people both as entrepreneurs and as entrepreneurs in the green business and I am thinking back to when we had the Conservation Corp. which trained young people - as Energy, New Brunswick does - to do retrofits. It was a wonderful program. It was environmentally good. It would help people retrofit homes, and at the same time it was training young people both in business and in green business. So, I encourage the minister to look at that as a possible program that we could reinstate in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral questions.

Oral Questions

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Premier.

Premier, under section 14 of the Conflict of Interest Act, which was most recently amended in 2007, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council is supposed to appoint a Conflict of Interest Advisory Committee. I am wondering if you could confirm the existence of this committee and the names of the persons who currently sit on it?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I will take that under advisement, and advise. I do not know the answer to that question.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

Premier, under section 14 of the Conflict of Interest Act, the Conflict of Interest Advisory Committee once struck, it says is required to "advise deputy ministers and chief operating officers on their duties under this Act."

I am wondering if you could also determine, when you make your inquires, whether Mr. Andy Wells was in fact - who is currently the Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Public Utilities Board, whether he was in fact ever advised by the Advisory Committee of his ethical duties under the Conflict of Interest Act?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The question that is being put before the House in this Question Period by the member opposite is, I assume, as a result of certain activities that are taking place in the city at this time.

I understand that Kevin Breen and a group of his friends are organizing an appreciation dinner for Andy Wells in recognition of thirty years of public service. I have spoken to Mr. Breen with regard to that this morning. As well, I have also spoken to Andy Wells. I want to assure this House, Mr. Speaker, that if there is any violation of conflict of interest requirements or any hint of impropriety, this government will deal with it. Both of those gentlemen have offered to me and to the Premier a list of participants that will attend this dinner and we will scrutinize for any conflict whatsoever, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the comments of the minister but, again, we would still like the information from the advisory committee, whether Mr. Wells was in fact advised of his responsibilities under the act.

Under section 15 of the Conflict of Interest Act, a public office holder is obligated to disclose in advance, in writing, full particulars of any activity that may contravene the act to his or her deputy minister or chief operating officer.

Was the Premier's office or any other department or deputy minister of government contacted by Mr. Wells in advance, in writing, regarding his plans for this, apparently, solicitation of funds?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, the minister has been assured that there is no conflict of interest; based on the information that has been provided to me, through the minister, I am assured at this point that there is no conflict of interest, whatsoever.

This issue did not come to my office. This issue came to our attention through David Cochrane, a reporter with CBC, who indicated that this was a possible story and asked for our comment on it. We indicated at that time we had absolutely no knowledge of any dinner or any fundraiser or anything that was going on. Since then we have taken it upon us, because it has arisen as a story for whatever merit, to check into this and we are quite satisfied that there is absolutely no conflict of interest, whatsoever.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

With all due respect, Premier, there is a process. The process says there is an advisory committee, which was supposed to have been struck and had a membership. The law requires that Mr. Wells, I would submit, was required in advance to get the opinion of the advisory committee. It is not a case of Mr. Wells or anyone else saying, we are doing this now after the fact and we are doing it properly and there is no conflict. That has to be determined by the committee, and I suggest that it is not proper for a government to accept that person's word on it.

My question is, Premier, again: Will you ask the members of the advisory committee, can you verify or Mr. Wells verify that in advance of this solicitation, that he approached the committee and had clearance to do this?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Yes, we will, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, section 7.(1) of the Conflict of Interest Act says, "A public office holder shall not, directly or indirectly, accept a fee, gift or personal benefit, except compensation authorized by law, that is connected, directly or indirectly, with the performance of his or her duties."

Given that the Conflict of Interest Act -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member knows quite well that he is to refer to documents and not to read from them. I ask the member to either paraphrase or quote the document as he knows it.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Given that the act requires and makes that statement, I would ask the Premier: Will you undertake, Premier, to have the Conflict of Interest Advisory Committee investigate this matter?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In my conversations this morning the one thing that Mr. Breen was very careful to point out, that when he discussed this matter with Mr. Wells the one caveat that he was strictly given was not to engage anybody in any aspect of this appreciation dinner that could appear before Mr. Wells in his duties as Commissioner.

There is no conflict of interest here, Mr. Speaker. Both Mr. Breen and Mr. Wells have offered to the Premier, and to myself, the list of people who will attend this dinner to ensure that we can see quite clearly that there is no conflict of interest and there is no impropriety.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, I say again to the minister, it is not a case for the minister or the Premier to decide if what Mr. Wells or Mr. Breen says is okay. There is an advisory committee established by law which is supposed to determine those things.

I ask the Premier: Will you ask the advisory committee to investigate the matter? That is pretty straightforward.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I have already answered that question, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, in 2004, in October actually, this government had no problem strictly following the conflict of interest guidelines in the case of top officials at the College of the North Atlantic. The then Minister of Justice, the Member for Humber East, in fact, initiated through the Department of Justice an investigation and referred it to the authorities. That was in the case of where some top officials were allegedly receiving money from the Quatar government, and in that case, they were dismissed.

I ask the Premier: Will you ask Mr. Wells to step aside from the Public Utilities Board until the investigation is completed?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. I am not going to discuss the CONA matter because I understand that is now before the courts and that will be dealt with accordingly.

There is nothing being done wrong here. We have assurance from the people who organized a dinner to thank someone for thirty years of public service as a public official - done with good intentions. We have checked into it. We have asked all the right questions as to what was involved, who was involved, if there is any possible conflict with Mr. Wells' role as Chairman of the Public Utilities Board, and we are quite satisfied that in fact that is not the case. Now that requires, as requested, a check by the Conflict of Interest Committee – no problem – but as for asking someone to resign because someone wants to go out and have a dinner in his honour to pay tribute for thirty years of public service, not likely.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Minister of Health and Community Services.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest prevalence rate of diabetes in Canada, and we understand that the lead physician for adult diabetes care in this Province has tendered their resignation and is leaving this summer. No replacement has yet been identified.

I ask: What will be the impact of losing this physician, and the effect on the delivery of service to adult diabetes patients in the Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Any time we get a resignation of a very capable, competent health professional in this Province, obviously we are disappointed by that, and hopefully they would have made a different decision, but I understand she has made some decisions about her future career and where she would want to pursue that, and I wish her well.

With respect to her role, obviously she was making a major contribution, as were a number of other people, I say, Mr. Speaker. That particular physician was residing here in St. John's, but there are many other physicians in the Province who are very actively engaged in providing care and treatment to their respective patients – many of whom have diabetes – and they will continue to provide that care.

We have, over the last two years in particular, been working very diligently as a department, working with our four authorities, in developing a strategy around chronic disease management. Diabetes happens to be one of those chronic diseases.

The activities that this doctor was involved with will continue, with the people who are around that particular team.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A significant piece of foundation work has been done, and the work will continue with the other people who were a part of that process with her.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In addition to this physician tendering her notice, we also are aware that one of the nurses who has the expertise in insulin pump therapy in the Province – and there are two that run two separate clinics in the city – that one of these particular nurses will also retire in June, and that patients have already been given notification that no new adults will be able to receive insulin pumps in this Province over the course of the summer months, and it will be reviewed again in September.

This is a tremendous gap in service for these patients, Minister, and I ask if there is any plan to deal with this, or if the service will just be eroded for several months?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The question is very specific around one of the functions of this particular nurse, with respect to insulin pumps, and I have not been made aware that adults will no longer be able to access insulin pumps because of it, but I obviously will endeavour to undertake and to find out if that is, in fact, the case; because, obviously, the fact that one person would leave should not result in our not being able to provide supports for individuals who are getting insulin pumps to be able to be orientated to the use of that and understand how it will change the management of their diabetes. That should not happen, I say, Mr. Speaker, so I will endeavour to get an answer for the member.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, patients have informed us that they have been told that this service will be suspended over the course of the next three to four months, and that it will be reviewed in September.

I ask if you will take it upon yourself to see what is happening here, and if there is a way that the service can be reinstated over the summer months.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite does not mind repeating questions, I do not mind repeating the answer.

The answer is yes; I just told her I would.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Minister.

My next questions are for the Minister of Education.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue with some of the questions related to a potential criminal matter involving the International Student Exchange Program through the Department of Education. I have asked some questions in the House in the last few days on this.

Maybe I should direct this question to the Premier.

The student recruiter who eventually took her concerns to the police actually made contact with the Premier's office on February 5, 2007, through the Premier's Principal Assistant. In an e-mail response on February 6 from that assistant, he said that this alleged fraud and misappropriation of funds would be brought to the attention of the Premier at the earliest opportunity.

I ask the Premier: When were you advised of this potential criminal wrongdoing?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, this information came to government and it came to me, as Minister of Education, through the agent, Ms Lisa O'Neill, in August 2007. Prior to that, the information had been shared with the school board who sought legal opinion, who dealt with the issue.

We are talking about: When did it go to the police and who reported it to the police? Well, Mr. Speaker, through the government processes, it landed on my desk in August 2007 and I reviewed it. I took it very seriously and I made sure it was turned over to the police.

What is really important to remember here is, when this agent felt there was criminal activity going on, at any point in time, rather than go to the school board or the government, this person - and she basically did, at some point, go to the police - she had the option, at any point in time, feeling if there was criminal activity that affected her or her business, to take it to the police.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. minister to conclude her answer.

MS BURKE: I just want to conclude by saying, when it came to me through the government processes and I had a time to meet with Lisa O'Neill, I certainly took the issue seriously and we made sure it was reported to the police.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have no idea why the Premier would duck this question. It is pretty straightforward. I have copies of e-mails that were sent to his office, e-mails that were returned from your office to the individual.

A simple question, Premier: When were you made aware of this situation?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: In March 2007, as the Minister of Education, I was made aware of the fact that there was an issue, or a potential issue, with an employee at Eastern School District. I was also advised at that time that the school board had sought legal counsel and had been working with legal counsel and working in compliance with the collective agreement that was in place to deal with that issue. I also understand that issue was also referred to the Board of Trustees at that time so they could make a decision on this case.

Mr. Speaker, as government, if we knew that there was an issue with an employee at the school board, we would expect that the school board, through the Schools Act and through their responsibility of what they need to do, would take action on that matter. We understood the school board was doing that.

Mr. Speaker, subsequently, when I met with Ms Lisa O'Neill, I felt that we should take the matter a bit further.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to ask the Premier: What action was taken by him, or his office, when they received notice of this misappropriation of funds back in February 2007?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Education, I am certainly responsible to deal with matters that come to me regarding the educational system or boards in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This matter came to my attention in March. I asked what was going on. I was told it was being dealt with appropriately. It came back to my attention through another means in August 2007. Again, rather than saying, oh, I have already been briefed, I know what is going on - I got the documents, I reviewed them, and I called Ms Lisa O'Neill. I set up a meeting. I met with her, along with officials, and we continued to follow up.

Mr. Speaker, when we followed up, we referred the matter to the police. We also have a formal program evaluation going on to that program. I wanted a financial analysis as to what was going on. I wanted a legal opinion as to whether or not the board should be provided in this type of business.

Mr. Speaker, we did follow up and there has been a lot on work done in this area.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: I have no idea why the Premier is ducking these questions, but it is quite obvious that -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: It is quite obvious that the minister is unable to answer for him, because the minister continues to claim that she knew about it in March. I am talking about notification in February.

Mr. Speaker, the minister said in the House yesterday that the student recruiter had presented her with a package of information related to this potential criminal wrongdoing in August 2007.

I ask minister: What was contained in this package? Was it just print material? Was it video or visual material, and was there any kind of audio clips as well?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I would first like to address, many times we hear the Opposition criticize this government and refer to our Premier as a one-man show; but, Mr. Speaker, this is an example of where the Premier understands that issues are dealt with in the departments by the ministers and we have the authority to deal with these matters.

There are many times matters enter government through various doors, through various departments or the Premier's office, and they are routed to the particular department that deals with it. This is a particular case.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, when I met with Ms Lisa O'Neill, she provided me with an envelope of documents. There was no audio tape; there was no video. I saw the video on the news.

I was asked to produce some letters that we had, to follow up that, and I can table it once we are finished Question Period, when I find it here - I do have a letter to table here in the House that will say that, while it is under active police investigation, the police have requested that there is certain information that I should not table as public documents that could interfere with that criminal investigation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister, this is obviously one issue that his office did not pass on to you, because we know that their office knew in February; you claim that you did not know until March 2007.

Mr. Speaker, my question again for the minister is that, when she had this information in her possession - notwithstanding the fact that she was notified back in March and did not act in her capacity as a minister to report this to the police, notwithstanding that - when she was provided with information and evidence in August, why did you, Minister, not turn this over to the police immediately so that there could be an investigation?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Let me explain again.

On August 30, 2007, I received a package of documents. I reviewed those documents and I phoned Ms Lisa O'Neill and scheduled a meeting for September 6. On August 31, the following day, I asked if there was any further information within the department.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS BURKE: I also advised, that day, for the officials to contact the police.

It is my understanding that the officials consulted with the Department of Justice and basically asked the question of whether or not it had been dealt with, and did the board have the legal authority to deal with it or should we do anything here?

The information, the decision we got back, or the opinion from Justice, was yes, this was a board matter and they had dealt with it and it was in their authority.

I was not satisfied that we asked the right question and I said, no, I want to know, should we turn this over to the police? That was what my gut was telling me: let's turn this over to the police.

I had a subsequent meeting –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude her answer.

MS BURKE: I had a subsequent meeting with an official from the Department of Justice, and following that meeting there was a letter gone to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary that indicated that we had this information and we felt it should be investigated.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: At any time did you receive advice, legal or otherwise, telling you that you should not go to the police and report this matter? Very simple.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Before I recognize the minister, I say to the hon. Leader of the Opposition, this is a line of questioning that concerned me yesterday. The hon. member ought not to ask and seek information on legal advice. That is clearly unparliamentary, and your question is out of order.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I will try and rephrase my question differently, and if it is out of order I do apologize.

My question, Mr. Speaker, is to the minister, and I am asking her: In her capacity as a minister, did anyone advise her not to report this incident to the police?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, as the person who had this information, and who had concerns, I wanted to make sure that I asked the question, that it was understood that my request was to turn it over to the police.

I am absolutely assured, and I can assure the hon. members here today, that when I said I felt it should go to the police, when I met with an official of Justice and I was very clear with that request and my question, that is actually when it happened.

Mr. Speaker, I made sure that direct question was asked so that I knew that the opinion coming back was a result of that particular question. When I asked it, it was probably within twenty-four hours that it was turned over to the police.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Again, Mr. Speaker, the minister knows she went to the police only after she had this information in her possession for months and months and months, and the police had already been notified.

I ask you, Minister: Who advised you not to table any documents or provide information to us in the House because of an investigation that is ongoing?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, because this is a matter under police investigation, I am certainly seeking a legal opinion as to what documents I can table here in the House. When I have an opinion to indicate – when they go through the documents and indicate what can be tabled, I will do that.

In the meantime, I do have a letter from the RNC which I will table – it is here in my possession today – that indicates that they feel that this information, if I release it now, will interfere with a criminal investigation, and I really do not feel that I should do that.

Once the criminal investigation is over, certainly the documents can be tabled.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, what I do not understand is that, when there were allegations –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: – when there were allegations that some college officials in this Province accepted thousands of dollars from members of a Qatar family, I think, or a royal family, that this government moved very quickly to report it to the police and to the authorities at that time, and to ask for an investigation.

What I do not understand, Minister, is why the same kind of efforts were not made when you knew, when the Minister of Business at the time knew, when the Premier's office was informed, why was this issue not reported to the RNC? Why did you, as a minister, take it upon yourself to not report a criminal activity?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I think it would only be fair to outline some of the timelines that happened from August 30 until November 22.

One thing I do want to say is that I also had concerns of potential child abuse, and I spoke to the Director of Child Protection on August 30, as soon as I had the information.

Mr. Speaker, I met with Ms Lisa O'Neill on September 6. That was shortly before the provincial election. Unfortunately, I had a death in the family and I was off work for a few days leading into the election. Then the election happened and, Mr. Speaker, in all fairness, after the election I took some time off waiting for the new Cabinet to be named, wondering if I was going back into the portfolio, but certainly to have a rest at that time as well.

As of November 1, I was back in the Department of Education. It was one of my priorities; I followed up on it immediately. We got the Request for Proposals for the formal program evaluation.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. minister to conclude her answer.

MS BURKE: I also followed up on the legal aspect of it. I wanted to assure that the question that went to the Department of Justice clearly reflected the question that I wanted asked was: Should we turn this over to the police? I followed up on that, and it was turned over before the end of November.

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.

My question today is for the Minister of Health and Community Services.

As the minister knows, children eighteen and under are currently able to access insulin pumps through the Janeway. However, once they are over eighteen, unless they or their families have a medical plan, they are no longer going to be able to afford to keep the pump. This is an enforced change to their lifestyle and one that we heard about at the dinner that the Diabetes Association held for MHAs, and that will have a huge impact on the maintenance of their disease.

I ask the minister: Will this government commit to funding the cost of diabetes supplies devices, including the pumps, to individuals over eighteen - especially those who had the pump up to that time - who cannot afford it, so that the cost is not a barrier or a burden to managing the disease?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have said in this House many times, and yesterday I think was the most recent time, that of all the things this government has done in the last four years - and there have been many, many significant investments, the day is not long enough to list them. One of the things that we have gotten the most comments about has been the policy decision we made last year and the investment of money to provide insulin pumps to children.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, when you hear the testimony of these young children and how it has impacted their lives and how it has changed their lives and over the long haul, we all understand and acknowledge what a tremendous impact it will have on their quality of life. It will actually impact their well-being well into their adult years.

Mr. Speaker, that was an initiative we did last year. It is a program that is into its first year and already we are getting rave reviews. Programs like this are always reviewed and evaluated, and as always, anytime we see an opportunity to improve the quality of lives of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians we will continue to make investments in many of those areas.

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.

Yesterday in debate the minister talked about the young man who spoke to us at the dinner sponsored by the Diabetes Association. He talked about how pleased this young man was and how awesome it was that he had the pump, but what the minister did not tell the House was at the end of that this young man made a plea to the government to make sure that the funding for the pump would not end by the time he became eighteen because if that happened he did not know how he would be able to make the adjustments in this life.

I am asking you, in the name of that young man who asked us that night at the dinner, will you look at making sure that this money continues for these children once they reach the age where right now is a cut-off point?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, obviously this is the day for repeat questions, the second question from two different people we have had repeated. Let me repeat the answer again, Mr. Speaker.

Once again, I said many times in this House and I will say it again today, all programs that we deliver through our four regional health authorities are programs that are under continuous evaluation. On an annual basis, we make investments in many programs to improve upon them, to enhance them, to expand a larger number of people who may have access to the benefits. We did it under the Prescription Drug Program, we did it under our oxygen program this year, we have done it under our medial transportation program, and the list goes on.


I say, Mr. Speaker, the insulin pump program that we introduced last year, that too, will go through an evaluation over time and we will look at opportunities to build on it, to improve it, and if possible, make continued investments to ensure that the children of this Province, and the adults of this Province -

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

- get the kind of supports and services they need to manage diabetes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

The time for Oral Questions has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motions.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Petitions

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you for the opportunity to stand and rise on a petition with regards to the doctor shortages in the Conception Bay North area. Namely, I guess, more so for the general practitioner, that the people have difficulty obtaining a general practitioner at this time. It is very difficult for them to know that they cannot get a doctor in their own area and some of them have to travel to other areas to get the services of a general practitioner. Even then, Mr. Speaker, there are many of them who are unable to obtain a general practitioner.

I know government this year have a recruitment and retention program in place. Hopefully, that will take care of the situation and we are looking forward to that, but at the present time, Mr. Speaker, many people are concerned. By not being able to get to a general practitioner, many of them are ending up at the emergency units from time to time when there is really no need of it.

When I started presenting those petitions, I guess it was just on behalf of some of the residents who signed them, but now from time to time we get more people coming on side. I know the Joint Councils, during one of their recent meetings brought it to the attention of the public that they are in support of this. They know the major concern is there. Only recently, an article which appeared in our local paper, The Compass, the Mayor of Carbonear has brought it to his council chambers saying that something has to be done before it becomes a critical situation. They are looking into it to see what they can do to assist as well. I know they have written Eastern Health asking them for some support to proceed with that.

We even hear the doctors themselves speaking out. I know the clinic where I go, there is only one gentleman there now and they usually have two there. The workload that he has, he has a tremendous number of clients and they are unable to take others. So, there is a tremendous emergency there, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to join, not only with the petitioners but all others who have come onside over the recent days and months, that hopefully something can be done and we ask government to get involved to see that this issue is resolved on a quicker basis.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Petitions?

The hon. the Member for the District of Placentia & St. Mary's.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to present a petition from several communities in St. Mary's Bay, in my district, with respect to the provision of high-speed Internet services.

Mr. Speaker, when I campaigned in the general election a couple of months ago and in the by-election two years ago, the two main issues that came to my attention in those areas were the issues of transportation and communications.

Transportation, Mr. Speaker, we have control over, and we are making visible improvements in the transportation system in my district and people can see that as they evolve year after year.

Communications is a different matter and regulated by the federal government under CRTC and Industry Canada and not really within our jurisdiction.

Mr. Speaker, ten years ago this would not be an issue, high-speed Internet services, but today it is a vital issue, one that is vitally needed in our communities and one that most of us take for granted.

The dial-up service, as most communities use today, is a bit archaic. Something that we, in this part of the Province, everyday takes for granted is that we have high-speed Internet services.

Mr. Speaker, there has been recent developments in the St. Mary's Bay area. Persona has installed a fibre optic line out the Salmonier Line to Placentia under the Distance Education program contract to hook up schools. Persona has already established a couple of other lines. Now that lines are appearing, this has sparked renewed interest and renewed hope for these communities.

Mr. Speaker, government is currently evaluating proposals and expressions of interests to provide high-speed Internet services to government service agencies in some of these areas. The problem with that, of course, is that not all communities have government service agencies, but I understand in the evaluation of their proposals, they are looking at possibilities that will enhance the opportunities for these private sector companies to expand those services.

So, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the communities today, especially St. Joseph's, O'Donnells and Admiral's Beach, and there will be others in the next couple of days that I will present as well, I hope the government in their decisions will find ways to enhance the opportunities for the private companies to expand these services to these communities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I seek leave of my colleagues to revert to Notices of Motion. I missed it, I admit, on the way through.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. Government House Leader have leave to revert to Notices of Motion?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

 

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Child and Youth Advocate Act. (Bill 33)

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Judicature Act. (Bill 34)

MR. SPEAKER: Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to call debate on Bill 28, An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act And The Tax Agreement Act, which was moved by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

I believe the next speaker would be the critic for the Opposition.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair is ready to hear debate on Bill 28, An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act And The Tax Agreement Act.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly want to rise and have a few minutes to debate this particular bill and I understand the minister had an opportunity to introduce this bill in the last day of the House of Assembly. Now we will have an opportunity to certainly participate in the debate on it.

As people know, whenever there are bills before the House that deal with the money issues and the issues of finances regarding the government, that there are always opportunities to talk on issues that are very far reaching and issues that pertain directly or indirectly to the funding of governments and how that funding is distributed.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk on a couple of issues today, a couple of issues that have been raised in the public and are certainly of public concern in the Province. One of those issues has to do with the ongoing Cameron Inquiry that is happening in the Province today. This inquiry was struck because of faulty testing of ER-PR testing in our labs in Newfoundland and Labrador and because of discoveries made with how some of those tests were evaluated and some treatments that were prescribed. It was over a period of time, of a number of years, and this issue became of such grave concern to the people in this Province and to the public that they raised it with the government asking that there be a full inquiry, an open inquiry, one that would allow for the views and opinions of people to be heard, would allow for the testimony of those who were involved and would allow for the questioning of that testimony, Mr. Speaker.

Government, reluctantly at the time, decided that they would establish this inquiry. Mr. Speaker, it was the right and proper thing to do, because not only was there a result of faulty testing involved here but there were also lives lost as a result of prescribed treatments and the wrong diagnosis, and opinions drawn with regard to those tests. Mr. Speaker, that was one issue, and one issue that has contributed, that alone, to this being probably the largest disaster in health history in this entire Province.

Mr. Speaker, as a result of that, and those people whose lives were lost, as a result of those other families who today are out there still dealing with the consequences of those diagnoses and those treatments, and for many of those who are hanging on today knowing that the end is near simply because they did not get the treatments that they were intended to have received, that is the real story of what we are dealing with in this Province. That is the real reason this inquiry was called. It was called to find the answers for those individuals whose lives have been impacted in a most severe way in this Province.

The other reason, Mr. Speaker, was to ensure that things like this do not happen

again, ever again, in our future.

The other issue here was how information was communicated to these individuals, to those individuals who were suffering from serious life-threatening illnesses but yet remained in the dark for months and months without being told that their tests were faulty, without being told that their treatments were ill-prescribed and without being given any information, Mr. Speaker. They were left in the dark for not just months, but in some cases for years. However, the officials and professionals and management within Eastern Health Corporation were aware of this. Ministers, deputy ministers and staff in the Premier's office were aware of this. No one chose to communicate to those people at that time in any public fashion what was happening with regard to this particular testing, of ER-PR tests in the Province.

These are the reasons that this inquiry has been called, Mr. Speaker. It has been called so that we can find out what went wrong in our system, from our laboratories to our political structures. It was called, Mr. Speaker, so that in the future we can ensure that if ever again - and I certainly hope it will never happen again, but if ever it does - there will be appropriate process and mechanisms for not only dealing with the adverse effects on the medical side but also dealing with how these things are handled and communicated within governments.

Mr. Speaker, accountability is one of the hallmarks of this government. The day they came into office they talked about accountability, they talked about openness, they talked about transparency; but, Mr. Speaker, when you get very close to hitting a nerve with that government, the ideas of openness and transparency seem to take leave. It seems to take leave with this government. They seem to want to, all of a sudden, not open the doors for accountability but look at how we can shut the doors and keep as much in as possible.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, this is the stage that we have reached in this public inquiry, a public inquiry in which the Premier and the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General for the Province, have gone out and undermined a process, the very process that they themselves put in place and wanted no input from anyone else in doing so. No, they would not have input in the terms of reference for this. They were going to go out and do this their way, and they did that. Now, they are out undermining the process, undermining the individuals who are involved, and I think that is wrong. I have no problem saying that is wrong.

Mr. Speaker, in the last few days, I still cannot believe what I have seen and heard in the media in terms of the extreme efforts of the Minister of Justice in this Province to go out - not just the Minister of Justice but the Attorney General in this Province - and to scour through the storage closets of Confederation Building and the storage rooms of government looking for information. To what end, Mr. Speaker, was this information going to suffice? So what, Mr. Speaker? So he could prove that two decades ago in this Province there may have been some interference in another inquiry that might have been ongoing? What relevance does it have in light of what is happening in this Province today? Remember the real reason that we called this public inquiry. Remember the real reason we called it. We called it to find out why there are over 100 people in this Province who have died as a result of faulty testing. We called it, Mr. Speaker, to look at how better efforts can be put in place for accountability, both within our government structure and within our health care structure. We called it, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that proper communications, protocols and accreditations were put in place from our laboratories to the board rooms of government. That was the real reason for all of this. It was never about the Minister of Justice or the Attorney General. It was never about the Premier. Why they have called all of this into disrepute, Mr. Speaker, I will never understand.

Mr. Speaker, once they were challenged on their comments, once they were challenged on the inflammatory language that they had used, once they were challenged on the process that they had used to deal with a high judicial inquiry in this Province, what did they do? They went looking and scrambling for someone to come to their defence, to back them up. Mr. Speaker, they weren't out there to do that. Most people realize that this is not about them, that it is not about them and it is not about politics. Most people realize that it is about real issues that affect real people and their families in this Province. That is what it is about. But they will not let it go.

Not only have they called into question the integrity of this commission, the integrity of the individuals who are involved, but they have called into question the integrity and professional ability of any person who will dare to speak. Even those who have not spoken, Mr. Speaker, people like Justice Gomery who was the head of the Gomery Commission who led that commission in the country for well over two years into one of the largest political scandals probably that we have seen at an inquiry level in Canadian history. Well, maybe not in Canadian history but certainly in recent days. There have been some that have been much larger than this in Canadian history, so I correct that statement. An individual, Mr. Speaker, who has just conducted an inquiry of subsequent nature, of high national profile, an individual who did not deserve to be berated, whose reputation did not deserve to be dragged down by the Minister of Justice or anyone else.

MR. RIDEOUT: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader, on a point of order.

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Leader of the Opposition but I have been listening for several minutes now to her debate on Bill 28, An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act And The Tax Agreement Act, a piece of legislation in second reading that has to do, as I understand it, the principle of the bill has to do with removing the insurance tax on insurance premiums.

Now, I am a parliamentarian that has been here for a long time, and I appreciate that during debates on pieces of legislation remotely connected to money you can have a remote connection; but, I have to say, and I am all for giving the Leader of the Opposition whatever licence she needs to do her job, I really do believe that we are setting a dangerous precedent here in straying from the principle of this bill which I believe has to do with removing the tax on insurance, and nothing else.

We can debate that all day and all night, as the old fellow said, until the cows come home, but we certainly cannot stray to the hinterland and do what we like.

I believe it is a legitimate point of order.

MS JONES: To the point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I understand that issues relative to money bills or legislation regarding money and spending of government, or revenues affecting government, is for free debate in the House of Assembly. When you look at sales tax, or tax on insurance, those are taxes that would have accrued to the revenues of government that, as a result of government decisions, will either be lost or be added to the bottom lines of revenue that this government administers. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I feel that my comments would have been very legitimate and well-applied to this bill, so I will await your ruling.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair has raised the issue before, here in the House, as it relates to what is relevant to what we consider a money bill, and what latitude we would give members to speak.

The Chair has had a chance to review, actually, the three bills here: An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act; An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act; and this particular one that we are debating here today.

The Chair has decided that this particular act, while it relates to the retail sales tax on insurance, we would consider as a money bill and we would allow pretty well free latitude for members to speak as if it was a budgetary item or a money bill.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will continue with my debate at this stage, but it is obvious that the government will go to whatever lengths they have to go to, to try and stifle any comments and any debate around this issue because they simply do not want to hear what has to be said.

Mr. Speaker, what I am saying is factual. I am quoting the quotes of ministers, I am quoting the quotes of premiers, I am quoting their actions that they have taken in a very public way in the media; and, Mr. Speaker, the review and the rewind of the story is not one that government wants to relive. Well, as long as I have time and ability and breath, to speak on this particular issue, I will do so, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I was discussing the actions of the Minister of Justice. Again, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice was out yesterday. Not only was he out trying to dig himself out of the hole I referred to, that he has gotten himself in with regard to this issue, interfering in a judicial inquiry in the Province, but, in doing so he had civil servants, high-paid professional civil servants who are hired to assist the ministers in departments within government to provide for the laws and legislation of people of the Province, Mr. Speaker, those were the individuals that he had out yesterday scouring through the back rooms of government buildings, going through file boxes, dusting off the folders and looking for information dating back to the last twenty years. Why, Mr. Speaker? Why? So he could hold it up and say: Look, we are not the first ones to intervene and ask for something in the middle of an inquiry in this Province. The Chief Justice, when he was the Premier, did the same thing.

He ran out to the microphones yesterday, out of this House of Assembly, like a child with a bag of candy, Mr. Speaker, like a child with a bag of candy, going up to reporters saying: Oh, let me tell you what I am doing and let me tell you what we are looking for.

Well, Mr. Speaker, if the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General wants to get his staff, those high-paid professional people who work in his department, spending hours looking through dust-filled boxes, if that makes him feel that is good use of taxpayers' money and good use of the resources in his department, I guess I will have to leave him to his own judgement, but certainly in my judgement it is inappropriate and certainly unnecessary; because, what was the minister trying to prove? The only thing he proved was once again to prove that he has no principles when it comes to disparaging the reputation of profiled people in this Province.

The Attorney General out calling into question the integrity of the Chief Justice of this Province, whom we all know is in a position today where he cannot even defend himself if he wanted to, because he takes an oath as the Chief Justice of this Province and he cannot be out in the media defending himself or responding to comments posed by the Minister of Justice.

The Minister of Justice knows that better than any other person, probably, sitting in this House of Assembly. Mr. Speaker, why have principles? Why stop at that? Why not call into question the reputation of another profiled person in this Province, to try and build some kind of defence for yourself, Mr. Speaker? - To try and build some kind of defence.

The actions I have seen of that minister have been nothing short of totally, totally, inappropriate, I say, Mr. Speaker, and what did he prove? That two wrongs do not make a right, Mr. Speaker, that is about all I have seen of this. To go out and say, whoa, we are not the first; maybe it was done back twenty-odd years ago in the middle of another inquiry. We are looking at it. We are looking through the boxes.

The Dustbuster I am going to call him from now on, Mr. Speaker, the minister that is known as the Dustbuster, because he is the only one I have ever seen dusting off the files to try and prove his point.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Anyway, having said that, what does it really say? It says to me, Mr. Speaker, that two wrongs do not make a right.

It does not matter to me where in this country or where in this Province there might have been someone else who went before a public inquiry and asked or tabled some notification that they were not happy with the process, or the way that something was handled. That does not justify what is happening in this Province today. It does not justify it, Mr. Speaker. In no way, shape or form does it justify it.

Mr. Speaker, furthermore, I say to the Minister of Justice, it proved absolutely nothing. It proved absolutely nothing, only the lengths that you are prepared to go to, to try and prove that you might have a point. That was all. It proved how childish you can actually be when it comes to trying to dig yourself out of a hole and trying to defend your very own comments. That was the only thing it told me. The only thing it told me, Mr. Speaker.

The other thing that it told me, Mr. Speaker, is that no matter what happened twenty years ago - it does not matter happened twenty years ago and what Premier of the day went before a judicial inquiry and said: I don't like the way that things are going here and I would like to change it. That has no relevance in today's debate that is ongoing in this Province, none whatsoever. It does not make what anyone else is doing today, the Minister of Justice or the Premier, it does not make it right in anyway whatsoever, but let me tell you what was unprecedented from people that I have talked to twenty years ago when this was ongoing, and that is that there was not the same inflammatory language being used to accost the judicial inquiry in this Province, certainly not at all. It was not being referred to as inquisitions or the Spanish inquisition, I believe was used. It was not being referred to as a witch hunt, and it certainly was not being dealt with in the process of the public Open Line shows. It was being dealt with in due process, which the minister knows was in place and could have been used but they choose not to use it, only after they had been in the public airways, in the Open Line shows, and all the rest of it, Mr. Speaker. That was the only time they chose then to use that particular process.

Mr. Speaker, it holds no relevance to me whatsoever. It does not change the actions of this minister. It does not change the actions or the comments espoused by the Premier. In no way, shape or form does it change anything that has transpired. So you can take your officials and you can send them into the backrooms of every single government storage room right around this Province, minister, and you can pay top dollar to these officials to go out and dig through the files and dust them off and blow off the cobwebs, and you can come back with whatever you want, it does not change the fact, sir, that you, as the Attorney General in this Province, were interfering in a process, in a public inquiry process that was set up for one reason, not to deal with you. It was set up to deal and to correct the inadequacies that existed within our system to ensure the integrity of our health care system on a go-forward basis and to provide, not just for liabilities but also to provide a level of comfort and answers to the many individuals and families who have been directly affected by this.

Personally, I feel that the Minister of Justice and the Premier had no right weighing in and intervening in the way that they had in this process. If they had an issue with the way questioning was being done within this public inquiry, they had every right and ample legislation, and rules and regulations in place to deal with that and to do it appropriately, but they did not. They used inflammatory language and they questioned the integrity of the process. Not only that, Mr. Speaker, any person in this Province who dared to take an opinion different from the minister or the Premier, their reputations were called into question. We have seen it again today, this morning in the news again, the Minister of Justice questioning and calling into question the reputation of Judge Gomery. This is the level that this government is prepared to go to, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, what is wrong with admitting that you over stepped your bounds? All of this could have been corrected within two hours; within twenty-four hours after the minister put his foot in his mouth and after the Premier put his foot in his mouth. It would have taken only a simple explanation that maybe I have gone too far and I will now take it through the proper processes; but, no, no, there was no backtracking with these people. There was no backtracking. It was scrambling like kids to find a way to prove that I am right. You do not always have to be right. Sometimes the process itself will dictate what is right and what is wrong. Do I need to remind you, that you and the Premier, minister, were the people who put this process in place? You did it with no input from anyone in this Legislature. In fact, I would like to remind the members opposite, as I have in the past and will do again, that when this process was set up we asked to have input into the terms of reference. We asked to have some input into how this was going to be done, and we were told: No way. We were told by the government and the members opposite: No way, you will have no input into this. We are going to do this our way.

Well, even doing it their own way, Mr. Speaker, certainly did not satisfy them. It did not satisfy them. Still, when there was something they did not like, when things got a little bit too scorching hot somewhere - we will find out, I guess, as time goes on - all of a sudden they are running, they are scrambling, they are taking everybody on. They are out there beating the drum, trying to shut everybody down, but people are smarter than that you know. I give people a lot more credit than that. People are smarter than that and they are seeing this for what it is. They are seeing this for what it really is. The fact that government has weighed into it and have made the comments that they have and have made this issue an external debate about them is absolutely resentful in my opinion and it does nothing only take away from the real purpose and the real meaning of what this inquiry was all about. I hope that you keep that in mind as you continue to dig into the bowels of Confederation Building for the documents and the papers and the reports or whatever it is you think you need to prove something.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, while you are digging - I might just leave this with the Minister of Justice, that while they are out there digging for these documents on the Hughes Inquiry to see who said what and what they said, maybe he could also look for me and find out what changes did occur during that Hughes Inquiry. Because I have been told, Mr. Speaker, just like he was told some information, I have also been told some information - because it was long before my time, I say to you, minister, long before the day I ever walked into this Legislature. Let me just say to you that I was also told that the terms of reference for the Hughes Inquiry after was expanded, was extended. Changes were made, and the full scope of what the commission asked for that inquiry was granted. It was granted. Not only that, Mr. Speaker, not only was the terms of reference expanded - and if we look through the legislation in the House of Assembly we may find something on it, at least through legislation in council we will. A Minute in Council for sure had to be developed around that, and the minister has a copy over there. I am sure at some point today if he does not get up in the House and read it out he will run out to the media and explain it to them. So we will have to see, but what I have been told - and when he is looking through his documents, if he finds this, maybe he can table it in the House of Assembly that the former Premier at that time, whose reputation he has been calling into question as well through all of this, who happens to be the Chief Justice for the Province today, at that time actually did amend the terms of reference. They broadened the scope of the terms of reference to allow for the Commission to do the full scope of work that they wanted to do as part of that process. I also understand that they were given the full required amount of time that they needed, and they were given the resources that they needed to finish the process. That is something else that we have had a debate about in this Province in the last recent days, a full debate about whether the resources should be or should not be given by government to Justice Cameron and the Commission to finish the work that they have started, an issue that should have never made it to the floor of this Assembly, in my opinion. An issue that should have been dealt with between government and the Commission in terms of looking at and honouring the agreement that was in place and the terms of reference that were in place, ensuring that those recommendations that we are looking for at the end of this process could be founded in a way that was complex, that was thorough. If that was what was accomplished and it needed more time to happen, then I think that time should have indeed been granted.

Government suddenly found - very quickly found, in fact - there was no support out there for them to shut down this inquiry. They found that out very quickly, when you had people in the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association out saying: We do not want to do away with this inquiry; we want to see it finished. In fact, we want them to have the resources that they need to be able to do this.

Then we had the Cancer Society out there saying that they did not want to have this shut down. They wanted to see it finish the full scope of the work that they had been asking to have done.

Mr. Speaker, all of a sudden they realized there was no support for them in their irrational comments that they had made to close down this inquiry. All of a sudden they decided they would take a different approach and they would follow the process. Now, imagine that. Imagine that. Now the Premier and the Minister of Justice are going to follow the process, to intervene in this particular inquiry, which is something that four days before they certainly were not doing, but as soon as they learned that the public support was not going to be there for what they were asking, they decided they would look at other options and take other measures.

Mr. Speaker, when the minister is down looking through the storage rooms and going through the boxes of files, trying to find something to prove something to someone, which we do not know what it is all about yet, maybe he could also look for some information for the Minister of Education. Maybe he could look for some information for the Minister of Education as well, because, she seems to have a hard time finding information.

Two months ago – over two months ago - I asked the Minister of Education to table information in the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker. To date, she has not been able to compile it, find it, whatever the case may be, and provide it in the House of Assembly. Maybe she needs to get her colleague, the Minister of Justice, the Dustbuster in the government, to go down and look for her information as well, and dust that off too, and bring it up; because, in over two months, Mr. Speaker –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. members for their co-operation.

The hon. the Opposition Leader.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I am making a very important point.

Mr. Speaker, maybe the Minister of Education could call in the assistance of her colleague and try and dust out the closets in the Department of Education and find this information I have been asking for, for over two months. Because, Mr. Speaker, apparently in twenty-four hours the Minister of Justice had climbed through bundles and bundles, and cartons and cartons, of information, so surely, with a little assistance from him and his officials, I would think that the Minister of Education, over the long weekend, would be able to find the documents I am looking for on the fire safety in the schools, and table it in the House of Assembly next week.

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak about another issue, because I have a little bit of time - not a lot of time, because I have to catch a flight to my district this evening and I certainly would not want to miss that flight because I have important engagements on in my district – but, Mr. Speaker, I do want to speak for a couple of minutes, before I go, on another issue that I raised today in the House of Assembly in Question Period, and this, Mr. Speaker, has to do with the potential criminal matter involving the International Student Exchange Program within the Department of Education.

Mr. Speaker, this is a fund that, as I understand, was administered through the Eastern School District. The Member for Grand Bank would know, because he was the Director of Education with the Eastern School District at the same time that this incident was reported to them, Mr. Speaker, back in November 2006.

In November 2006 a recruiter in Korea contacted the Eastern District School Board, Mr. Speaker, operated under the leadership and authority of the Member for Grand Bank at the time. He was the Director of Education there, and that board was contacted, and an individual in his office was the point of contact. This recruiter from Korea spoke with that individual and reported to him: I have evidence here of a criminal matter that is occurring with an employee within the Eastern School District.

That information was passed on to that school district but, Mr. Speaker, it was never passed on to the police. The Eastern School District at the time, the CEO, did not see it fit to go to the police and to report this matter, but decided to deal with it in-house. In-house, Mr. Speaker! We all know that under collective agreements, when employees are accused of fraud or trying to do side deals, of embezzling government money, it is very clear in the contract what the repercussions are - they are let go – but that does not negate a criminal investigation.

Mr. Speaker, at some point the school board needs to answer for the reasons why they did not take this matter to the police. Mr. Speaker, we will get to that. We will get to that, but the other issue here is that months after this the information was provided to government. It was provided first in an e-mail - e-mails of which I have copies - that were sent to the Premier's office. The e-mails were sent on the fifth of February, and the Principal Assistant to the Premier is who the e-mails were sent to. In those e-mails, they were told: I have learned of serious wrongdoings within a leg of your government.

That is what they were told. They were also told: I had tried to let a department of your government handle it, but no one has moved on it.

Now, we will figure out what department that is, that was contacted prior to February and did not move on it. Maybe they are referring to the Eastern School District. If so, Mr. Speaker, we know that the Eastern School District was contacted in November.

The other thing this individual said in the e-mail to the Premier's office is: I don't know how far this corruption goes, but I do have evidence. First I thought it was small, but now I am feeling it is bigger than I thought.

These were the e-mails that were launched in government's possession in February 2007, telling government that they had evidence of corruption within a government department, telling them that they have concerns about it.

It says in here – I am reading directly from the e-mail –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I am reading directly from an e-mail that says they have knowledge of this corruption and they have evidence of wrongdoing within government.

Mr. Speaker, they were referring to the Eastern School District that is administering a program that is funded by the Department of Education. Mr. Speaker, the Premier's office sent back an e-mail the very next day, as they should, acknowledging a serious, serious allegation being brought to their attention, and said to them: we will alert the Premier of this and bring it to his attention at the earliest possible opportunity. That was on February 6, 2007.

The Minister of Education says I didn't know anything about it until March. Maybe she didn't know anything about it until March, but somebody in your government knew about it in February, I say to the minister. Whether it was the Premier, whether it was another Cabinet Minister, whether it was a deputy minister, whether it was a staff member, I don't know, but we will attempt to find out.

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding that, when government was notified why did they not go to the police? We have heard answer after answer after answer that does not excuse any minister within government or the school board from not reporting criminal activity that is ongoing with public funds within government. I am sure the former Auditor General, who sits in the government opposite, would have an opinion as it relates to that. The Member for Topsail, who was the Auditor General at one point, Mr. Speaker, if she had ever picked up anything like this within government and knew that there was a misappropriation of funds by any employee I can guarantee you, going back to her reports in the ten years that she was the Auditor General, she would not have been shy about writing a chapter or two around this; I can guarantee you. What she will do today I have no idea, but there was a time, Mr. Speaker, when she could have published a full draft on an incident like this ongoing within government.

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue which was brought to the attention of the Premier's office, like the ER-PR issue was, but nothing was done with it. It sat there. It was brought to the attention of the minister and her department and nothing got done. It sat there. There were meetings with the former Minister of Business who today is the Minister of Government Services. The individual went in to the former Minister of Business's office, sat down, met with that minister, discussed the whole issue, and he did not report it to the police. He sent the individual to see the Minister of Education. Finally, this poor recruiter who had evidence of wrongdoing, had evidence on an employee, could find no one within government who would listen to her or act on her issue in terms of bringing it forward to the police in this Province, and finally she went to the police herself. She spent five hours being interrogated by the police and presenting the information into what we know has been launched a criminal investigation. She should not have had to do it. This woman travelled halfway around the world to meet with these ministers to try and get them to bring it forward to the police but they did not do it. At the end of the day, she ended up going to the police herself and spending five hours going through interrogation, presenting the information that she had - as she called it, evidence - in order to launch this investigation.

Mr. Speaker, you do not have to go back very far to find other occasions when there was suspicion of wrongdoing by this government that they were not long running to the police, and that was within the College of the North Atlantic. There were some issues and allegations within the College of the North Atlantic, that officials there had accepted some money from members of the Qatar royal family for work that they were doing, or services they were providing over there. As soon as government became aware of it, they reported it to the police and that was the appropriate thing to do. In fact, it was the Minister of Justice at the time, who happens to be the Minister of Finance today, who actually reported it himself to the police and ensured that this was dealt with.

Why was that same protocol not followed when it came to this particular issue? Why was this protocol not followed within government? I would like to know the answer to that, and at some point I am going to find the answer to that. I am going to find the answer to it because there is no legitimate reason and no rational reason why any minister within a government would not report evidence of criminal activity or wrongdoing of public funds on any occasion, Mr. Speaker, any occasion. The fact to say I sought advice from this one and I sought advice from that one, and I called this one and I was advised by this one, does not negate your responsibility to the taxpayers and the public of this Province to report activity that could be seen as criminal in nature; absolutely not negate their responsibility to do that.

Not only that, Mr. Speaker, why was the school board not called into question? Why was the Eastern School District who was being presided over by the minister's parliamentary assistant, the individual is today, but was the school board at the time was being presided over by that individual? Why were they not called into question? I could not believe the other day when the Minister of Education said at no point did she ever discuss this issue with the CEO of the school board or the director of the school board. The Director of Education within a school board is the individual to whom deals directly with the Department of Education. We all know that, Mr. Speaker. We all know that.

Mr. Speaker, the minister did not even have enough concern to pick up the phone and call the Director of Education within the school board. So, I do not understand while one event within government to deal with the College of the North Atlantic was reported to the police and the proper authorities and followed within days of it being known to government but yet we have an issue that involves ministers, that involves former Directors of Education, who today are members of the government opposite, who had knowledge of this within their departments for up to ten months, and in the school board's case for up to a year, and never went to the police. That is the question that I cannot get an answer to, Mr. Speaker, cannot get an answer to.

Once you adopt a set of protocols within a government you would think that is what would apply right across the board, but that is not the case here. Mr. Speaker, the minister may feel that she had ample information but I am certainly not satisfied. I am not satisfied, because the way I look at it, it does not matter how much money it was, it does not matter what entity of government it was, it does not matter what employee it was, that any time there is activity like this it should be reported to the police and there should be an investigation. That is the point that I am trying to make, and whether the minister wants to hear that point, whether she wants to abide by it, whether she wants to answer questions around it is really irrelevant to me. The relevant aspect that I have here is that once you are notified, you have an obligation and you have a responsibility.

I would certainly hope that when you take an oath of office as a minister within that government, you are taking an oath to ensure that these things are followed through appropriately. Not let them fall by the wayside, not let them sit in your office for months, not leave it to some other employee or person to deal with, but to take it in hand and to deal with it yourself. We certainly did not see that in this case. In fact, we have seen no repercussions and no direction given to anyone as it relates to this matter in terms of where it should have went or what will happen in the future. That is my concern.

When this happens again, what is the course of action that this government will take? Will they stop and look at who the players are before they make a decision? Will they automatically follow protocols? Will they balance it out against how much money is involved and how much is not? None of those issues should be relevant, I say to government members and to the Minister of Education. None of these things should be relevant. In fact, they should all be irrelevant. They should take a proper course of action, no matter whether it involves your colleague there today who happens to be the former CEO or it involves anyone else in this Province. It does not matter who is leading the board, who is chairing the board, who works for the board or anything of that sort, it should be done as a matter of proper protocols to be followed. Therefore, we will continue to ask the questions around it and we will continue to look for the answers, because at no time should three Cabinet ministers, or the Premier's office and two Cabinet ministers have been informed, including the Director of Education for a school board and none of it be reported to the police. If it can happen in that case, it can happen in other cases, and that is what my fear is in this particular situation.

Mr. Speaker, the bill that we are debating has to do with the tax laws in the Province and has to do with the taxes that government charges or do not charge. In this case, I think it has to do with taxes around insurance. The biggest tax that we are dealing with and rate hikes in the Province today is taxes on gasoline and home heating fuel. Last night we seen another jump in the prices of home heating fuel in the Province, we seen another jump in the prices of gasoline in the Province, and it is becoming more and more difficult for these people to be able to provide for themselves the fuel supplies that they need.

We have asked over and over again in this House that the government's tax on gasoline be reduced. We have asked over and over again that the subsidies on home heating fuel be increased to match the demands of what is out there, to match the demands and the price hikes that people have to pay for this service in the Province. We will continue to do that because we think it is important – and we are not seeing any relief. We are not seeing any relief at the pumps or when it comes to home heating fuel for families right now in this Province. In fact, Mr. Speaker, it would probably be the complete opposite. What we are seeing is a continuous increase on a regular basis, and it is causing a lot of hardship for people who are out there.

So, while we look at taxes in terms of reducing income tax, or reducing the HST on insurance, or whatever the case may be, it all plays a role in offsetting the financial burden that is being inflicted upon people in this Province, and it is helpful to those families who depend upon those services and use those services.

Mr. Speaker, it is always important to remember as well that there are many others out there who need to depend upon fuel sources and supplies to keep their house warm, to keep their vehicles running, and they are unable to afford the high costs that we are seeing being calculated in the Province today.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, I will conclude my remarks, because I do have to catch a flight to my district, and I apologize that I will not be able to stay and listen to the rest of the debate that will be ongoing in the House this afternoon. I am sure it will be a very interesting and enlightening debate, and I am really sorry that I am going to miss it, Mr. Speaker, but I would like to conclude my remarks and I am sure there are others who want to add to it.

Thank you.

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

If the hon. the Government House Leader speaks now, if he is speaking to the motion, he will close the debate on Bill 28.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Finance, I move second reading of this particular bill.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 28 be now read a second time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act And The Tax Agreement Act. (Bill 28)

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

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

Now? Tomorrow?

MR. RIDEOUT: Presently.

MR. SPEAKER: Presently.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act And The Tax Agreement Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 28)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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 (Collins): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to call for Committee consideration Bill 26, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000.

CHAIR: The Committee is now prepared to debate Bill 26, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000." (Bill 26)

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: A bill, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000.

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill carried without amendment?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Committee consideration of Bill 27, An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act.

CHAIR: The Committee will now debate Bill 27, An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act." (Bill 27)

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 follow.

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: A bill, An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act. (Bill 27)

MR. CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye.'

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. CHAIR: Against, ‘nay.'

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the Bill carried without amendment?

All those in favour, aye.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. CHAIR: Against, ‘nay.'

Carried.

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

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to call Bill 28, An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act And The Tax Agreement Act.

MR. CHAIR: The Committee is now prepared to debate Bill 28, An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act And The Tax Agreement Act.

CLERK: Clause 1.

MR. CHAIR: Shall Clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, aye.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. CHAIR: Against?

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clauses 2 to 6.

MR. CHAIR: Clauses 2 to 6, inclusive.

All those in favour, ‘aye.'

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. CHAIR: Against, ‘nay.'

Carried.

On motion, clauses 2 to 6, inclusive, carried.

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

MR. CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye.'

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. CHAIR: Against, ‘nay.'

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act And The Tax Agreement Act.

MR. CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye.'

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. CHAIR: Against, ‘nay.'

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the Bill carried without amendment?

All those in favour, ‘aye.'

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. CHAIR: Against, ‘nay.'

Carried.

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

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

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

MR. CHAIR: It has been moved that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

All those in favour, ‘aye.'

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. CHAIR: Against, ‘nay.'

Carried.

Motion, that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again. The Speaker returned to the Chair.

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

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bills 26, 27 and 28 carried without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of Committee of the Whole reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed him to report Bills 26, 27 and 28 carried without amendment.

When shall the report be received?

MR. RIDEOUT: Now.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

When shall the Bills be read a third time?

MR. RIDEOUT: Bills 26 and 27 now, and 28 by leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Bills 26 and 27 now, and 28 by leave.

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

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move third reading of Bill 26, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000. (Bill 26)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 26, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000, be now a read a third time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 26 be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000. (Bill 26)

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

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 26)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move third reading of Bill 27, An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 27, An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act, be now read a third time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 27 be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act . (Bill 27)

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

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 27)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I request leave to move third reading of Bill 28, An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act And The Tax Agreement Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. the Government House Leader have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

It is moved and seconded that Bill 28, An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act And The Tax Agreement Act, be now read a third time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 28 be read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act And The Tax Agreement Act. (Bill 28)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 28 is now read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act And The Tax Agreement Act," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 28)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider certain Estimates.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider certain Estimates, 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 (Mr. Osborne): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, this is a part of procedure related to the Budget actually, which we don't see in the House frequently, I suppose, those days. Just for the record, I remember when every single estimate of every single department was done in the House this way. It was only after the Estimate Committees were brought in – I know it was after Mr. Jamison came back to be Leader of the Opposition, so it was during the Peckford days that the House actually adopted an Estimate Committee procedure so that various heads of government departments could be referred outside of the Legislature, outside of this committee, to individual committees. Up until that time, every single head of every single department was done in this House, on the floor of the House, in Committee of the Whole as we are going to do here now.

What we are doing here, Mr. Chairman, as I said: This House has now resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole on Ways and Means, which really is a Committee of the Whole House to consider estimates of various government departments that didn't get sent off to committee. We submitted, for the consideration of committee, I believe about nineteen heads altogether, including the major departments and some major agencies. There are certain heads we never send out, they are always done here.

These are the Legislature itself. For example, the vote of the Legislature in total, I believe, is somewhere in the order of $24 million. The $24 million or so that we are going to spend to have a democracy in this Province, to elect members to the Legislature, to pay for the cost of having members, their salaries, their constituency offices, their constituency assistants, their blackberries, their telephones, their travel, that kind of thing is covered in the Legislative Estimates.

Of course, besides that we have a number of Officers of the House whose expenditures are also covered in the Legislative Estimates, the Auditor General, for example, the Citizen's Representative commonly known as the Ombudsman, the Child and Youth Advocate, and the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer. These offices are also covered here in the Legislative vote that is before us for consideration today.

I should say, Mr. Chairman, in passing, that year over year there has been a fairly significant increase in the amount of the vote for the Legislature. The budget for the Legislature has been considered already in a public forum. The Management Commission that represents all parties in the Legislature has considered the budget for the various offices that fall under the Legislature and for the Legislature itself. That has already happened in a public forum, as I said, in that particular committee. There is a significant increase and most of the increase is built around increases that were necessary to ensure the implementation of the Green Report on accountability and accessibility of members of the Legislature. If there are any particular questions by members who are not members of the Management Commission, then, of course, as Government House Leader I will do my best to answer them. That is that.

Also, of course, under this head there are various offices of the Executive Council that fall under the general umbrella of the Executive Council that are debated and questioned in the process that we are doing here today. I will briefly give an overview of what estimates these are and if members have questions relative to them or if they want to engage in a general debate on Executive Council and the Legislature and do it in that way, of course it is totally up to members as they proceed to make their way through the estimates that are before us.

In the heads that we have available or that must be considered in this process, in Committee of the Whole, there is Government House. Government House, of course, as everybody knows, downtown, is the residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, and that residence and the staff that support the Lieutenant Governor and the Office of Lieutenant Governor - while the Lieutenant Governor is appointed by the Prime Minister of Canada under the great Seal of Canada, the expenses outside of the salary, the salary for the LG, for the Lieutenant Governor, is paid by the Government of Canada as well. Other expenses, like the operation of the house, the staff, the capital improvements to the house, building the stables on the property, for example, to house the RNC horses, these expenses are covered by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The funding for them is appropriated and voted on by this Legislature under the head, Government House. Again, if there are any questions relative to Government House, I will be happy to answer them.

The Premier's office: The Premier's office staff, by and large, other than basic office supplies, it's

salary estimates or salary details for staff, are covered under this particular vote as well. The Premier's office, of course, in addition to operating an office occupied by the Premier and his staff on the eighth floor of Confederation Building, there is a small office operation in Corner Brook and there is a smaller-still operation of the Premier's office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador, and those estimates are presented for the Committee's consideration.

Cabinet Secretariat: This is the support mechanism for the Cabinet and the Committees of Cabinet. We have the Executive Support, Planning Coordination, Economic and Social Policy Analysis Division, the Advisory Councils on Economic and Social Policy, there is a Protocol office and there is the Public Service Development Plan. All of these expenditures fit under the general head of Cabinet Secretariat, and it is the support mechanism that supports the Cabinet process, the Cabinet as a whole and Committees of Cabinet, like Economic Policy, Social Policy and Treasury Board. All of those functions that are carried on and need support at the Cabinet level, come from the Cabinet Secretariat.

The Communications and Consultation Branch of government is included under those heads as well. Everybody knows that this particular branch gives communications advice to the government as a whole and then to individual departments through the communications directors that are assigned to ministers and departments.

In Financial Administration and Human Resource Support, we have Financial Administration and Strategic Human Resource Management. The Rural Secretariat has been referred out, Women's Policy office and so on. These were referred out.

The next one that we have in this here is Research and Development. Research and development is a new activity that we announced in last year's Budget and are just getting in the process of setting up and getting running now. Actually, the Executive Director has been put in place within the last few months and is busy getting the secretariat up and running. The funding to do that is included in vote 2.9.01 under Executive Council. The Public Service Secretariat, of course, and all of the work that it does in terms of executive support, employee relations and the Opening Doors program for people with disabilities to be able to be employed by government departments, the French Language Services division that provides French language services and, I believe, offers courses in French language operates under this particular heading as well, as does the Human Resource Development Initiatives.

Finally, the big office, I suppose - I do not mean big in that sense. Well, yes, I suppose I do. Certainly the office of the Chief Information Officer has become a large operating piece, bringing all of the government's IT matters under one agency. It is the Office of the Chief Information Officer that does that. In that office we have Corporate Operations and Client Services, we have Information Management, Application Development, Application Services, Information Technology Operations, Application Development Capital and Information Technology Operations. The agency itself employs a couple of hundred people, some of them permanent, some temporary as needed for carrying out particular jobs in various departments. It is the IT arm of government that carries out, on a contractual basis for many government departments and agencies, putting in new Information Management Systems and all of that, and doing the day to day IT work that is done around the government sector.

Mr. Chairman, that is an overview of what those heads are about. I believe I was entitled, as the minister, to have fifteen minutes or so to introduce them. I am not going to take all of that time. The official critic has the same time. We can use the time as the House sees fit, either by engaging in a general debate on some heads or all of the heads that are under consideration or by doing line by line considerations with questions, as I said, as members see fit.

Those are the Estimates that are before the Committee for consideration, and on behalf of the government, Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to present them and I will be pleased to answer questions that the Committee might have on them.

Thank you.

CHAIR: I will ask the Government House Leader for some direction.

We do have to call a head. Did you wish to start with any particular head? I understand from your comments that we are going to debate them all as a whole, but will we -

MR. RIDEOUT: Call the first one, I suppose.

CLERK: 1.1.01. Executive Council.

CHAIR: We are debating Executive Council.

Shall clause 1.1.01. carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is my understanding that, once the head is called, I will commence with my fifteen minutes of response to the Government House Leader's comments introducing this; and, as he says, the Estimates process is very important.

Just for anyone who is watching, of course, what it is all about basically is that we have had a Budget entered a couple of weeks ago, two or three weeks ago, and part of the process of a Budget is that each department has expenses associated with it, programs associated with it, but it just does not get done and approved the day that the Minister of Finance reads his Budget Speech.

What happens, of course, every single department of government has to go to an Estimates Committee and that is when members of the Opposition and members of government get to question every single line, every single dollar that is mentioned in any department of government.

As the House Leader said, in the past it used to all be done here but, because it is a pretty complex process right now - you have, I think, eighteen departments of government, so trying to get all eighteen departments of government done in the House, along with your other business that you have in terms of legislation and so on, is kind of difficult and was cumbersome. So, what they have done is followed the Canadian parliamentary system, as I understand it, and set up three outside committees, and they are comprised of members from the government side and members from the Opposition, and we take each department in turn, in those committees, and go through the line by line or you can ask general questions. It does not have to be a specific line in the Budget - you know, how much you spent on salaries in the Premier's office. You can get into some pretty wide-ranging and general discussions in Estimates as to anything that is in there, basically.

Opposition members, of course, find it very, very useful because the only time we normally get to ask questions in Opposition is during Question Period. Of course, it is pretty tough in Question Period sometimes getting the answers out. I guess that it is why they call it Question Period, because it is certainly not an answer period in a lot of cases.

Now some ministers, I must say, in fairness to them, some ministers you ask a straightforward question, you get straightforward answers. Other ministers, for whatever reason, it is almost like a fishing expedition, you have to pry the information out of them. The Minister of Health and Community Services and the Minister of Education are well known for that. They have sort of pat answers and you have to virtually pry it out of them. There is no such thing as a simple answer to a simple question, I must say, and anybody who watches Question Period sees that, of course.

What Estimates does, regardless if it is in here or in those committees that I referenced, what happens is the minister shows up with his or her staff, all of their ADMs, the deputy ministers and so on, and the Opposition members get to ask questions about anything of a specific nature or of a general nature, and sometimes it is very informative.

I went through one a few days ago with the Minister of Finance. He was here with all of his staff and we did it in the House. This was my first occasion, in the nine or ten years that I have been here, as a critic for the Department of Finance. Of course, I usually like to try to understand. If I am going to be critical, I like to be constructive, and therefore I like to understand something about the departments that I am supposed to be constructively critical of.

It is my first experience in being the critic for the Department of Finance, so I took the opportunity in Estimates of put some pretty broad-ranging questions. In fact, it was a great education for myself, and I thank the Minister of Finance and his deputy minister. They were very forthcoming. For example, I had no idea what a sinking fund was. I had no idea about the public debt. I got up here myself and spoke for three hours and seven minutes in response to the Budget Speech, asked all kinds of questions, one of which was: Where did the $1.4 billion go? I could not figure it out. I went through the Budget and, for the life of me, I could not figure out what the government did with the $1.4 billion surplus that they had.

It is not simple. Unless you are an accountant, or you a bank manager or have banking backgrounds and so on, going through these Budget documents and trying to figure that stuff out is not easy. I am sure there are a lot of members here on both sides of the House who really do not have a handle on how the Budget itself is constructed and how a lot of these things are put in different pots and so on, especially when it comes to the debt.

It was amazing how the debt of the Province's structure - what is short-term, what is long-term, credit agencies, how we get our credit ratings, what sinking funds are, and it was very, very educational. I thank the minister and his staff in Finance for doing that.

The only thing I would say about our Estimates Committee process is that it is not totally open and transparent. I say that because open and transparent in this Province now has come to mean televised. We had an old system and the Estimates Committees worked under the old system. Yes it is recorded, yes it is taped, there is no question about that, yes Hansard records everything that every member says at those meetings, but the public doesn't get to see that. The public get to see Question Period when questions are asked and answers are or are not forthcoming, but the public doesn't get to see what happens in an Estimates Committee. In an Estimates Committee it is not a case where I ask a question and the minister tries to fudge off the answer. You don't get that in estimates. In estimates, if I ask a minister a question and he or she doesn't know the answer, you keep prodding, you keep pushing. Usually the answers are more forthcoming because they have their staff with them. A lot of times in the House, I guess, maybe the minister doesn't have it at his or her fingertips, so they can't respond, as much as they would want to, in total detail.

In Estimates Committees, there is no question, they can't get off the hook, shall we say, as easily. You can keep their feet to the fire and get more detail, and your questions can be inquisitorial at times, and I have seen them sometimes when they are prosecutorial almost in the House. Some members approach the ministers to get their questions out in cross examination.

Coming back to my point, it is not televised. The public have no idea, other than what takes place here in the House when we deal with estimates. I will get to that. We have two hours and some odd to deal with these estimates.

The basic process, I would submit, is flawed when it comes to being totally open and transparent, and it ought to be open. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition, the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, has, in fact, written a letter to the Speaker asking that it be raised in this House and that he consider having estimates in the future televised. We are doing them here in the House, for example. After this session is over this afternoon I am coming here and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is coming here. We are going to do estimates here in this very House, the same place I am now. There is no question about the technology required. We do the House proceedings here which are all televised. There is no reason we can't do estimates here televised It is a matter of making sure you have the personnel, the work crews lined up, to work the microphones and to work the TVs. It is not rocket science. All you are doing is extending the time.

I think it is certainly justifiable based on the cost. Now, maybe the government doesn't like it, and I would think some of the ministers don't like it. I did one the other night and it was over two hours. The Leader of the Opposition did one last night with Health and it took five hours; five hours last evening to do estimates. Now, there are a lot of questions that got asked in five hours. There are people out there in the public who would love to know what went on for five hours. Well, it is a pretty detailed, in-depth question and answer period. That is why it should be televised, because our public deserves to be fully informed, and they are not currently full informed when it comes to the actions of this Legislature, because they don't get the estimates stuff.

I think that is very legitimate. We are going to see - the request has been made to the House and of course the government is going to have to play a role in this. We will see where the government stands on that issue of having Estimates actually videotaped and then shown on TV the same as the normal House process is shown.


I would point out as well, the Government House Leader referred to what departments would be debated, or the Estimates would be discussed here in the House, and he referred to Executive Council and all of the different subgroups under the Executive Council. I would point out that albeit Intergovernmental Affairs is under the Executive Council heading, it will not be dealt with here in the House. It will be dealt with in the Estimates Committee. As I indicated, that will be dealt with later today in the Estimates Committee. Even though it falls under the Executive Council, it will not, in fact, be dealt with here.

There is a whole bunch of stuff under this Executive Council piece. Starting off, for example, is the Government House. For example, we have a Lieutenant Governor here in the Province, obviously, and we have Government House here in the City of St. John's, the capital city. The current occupant, of course, is Lieutenant Governor Crosbie who was recently appointed just a few months ago. The Newfoundland Government pays for the maintenance and upkeep of that dwelling and those premises. A nice, beautiful home down here, been there; very historic property built back, I believe, in the 1800s, and very well maintained, but it costs money to keep that place there.

Now, I remember the first days when I came into this House there were certain members of the Opposition at that time - current members, in fact, of the current government - who used to have some tough questions about the cost of maintaining the Lieutenant Governor's house. There were some who, I think if they had their way, would have scrapped it. They would not have even had a Lieutenant Governor, let alone a Lieutenant Governor's residence. They were that dogged in the cost and the fees associated with maintaining the Lieutenant Governor's residence it was unreal, and they are members of the government today. I do not know if they still feel the same way about it but back then there used to be some hot and heavy sessions about the cost of maintaining Government House. They certainly did not want to foot the bill for it.

Actually, according to this year's Budget it is going to cost $646,000 to maintain the Lieutenant Governor's residence. That consists of salaries, because there is a staff down there. There is a maintenance staff for the yards, there is a cooking staff, there is a catering staff. I believe there is a private secretary to the Lieutenant Governor and so on, and maybe even a driver part-time or whatever, but there are certain expenses associated with its upkeep. There is transportation, of course. The Lieutenant Governor, as he or she should, travels around the Province and sometimes outside the Province in fact. They have a role, albeit it might be ceremonial to a lot of people, they do play a very important role in our democratic process as well.

The Lieutenant Governor's pay itself is not paid for by this Province. The Lieutenant Governor is appointed by the federal government and paid by the federal government but the Province picks up the tab on the Lieutenant Governor's residence here in this Province. As is, I understand, the case right across the country, but it is going to cost $646,500 for the Lieutenant Governor's residence this year coming, 2008-2009, and I think that is money well spent. I think it is money well spent. It is an honourable tradition, Lieutenant Governors, and we certainly have a person there now who is going to be a strong advocate for promoting this Province, Mr. Crosbie. Anyone who has known him, of course, he has a wide and varied history when it comes to involvement in the political history and the culture even, of this Province. No doubt, he will - he serves already. I have heard comments that he brings a certain degree of pride and respect and esteem to that office, and we have no reason to suspect that it will be otherwise, and that includes Mrs. Crosbie as well, who is a very active participant, I understand, in certain community activities and fundraising and so on, and efforts. That is very, very nice to see as well. So, that is the Lieutenant Governor's house, and we have no problem with that, not a problem at all.

Now, I indicated to the Government House Leader as well, there are two ways of doing this. You could speak generally about certain headings or you could ask specific questions. I do have some specific questions concerning the Premier's office. I will just get into those now for the few minutes that I have left, and I will come back again when my time comes.

Anyone who recalls last year's Estimates, the big, hot and heavy item at that time regarding the Premier's office was the magnificent increases in salary that the Premier's staff got. I believe there was his Chief of Staff, and his Executive Director, I believe, and certainly the Director of Communications. There were some quite substantial pay increases given to those individuals in the Premier's office and it caused quite a stir in the media. A lot of people wanted to know: What were these raises all about? Were they justified? Why was the Premier cranking up the salaries of these people in his own office and expecting the other people in the Public Service to live on 3 per cent? Because theirs was certainly more than 3 per cent, there was no question about that. They were far greater. I do not have the figures right off the top of my head but they were certainly more than 3 per cent. Those questions got asked, and the Premier, of course, justified it by saying: Yeah, but they are very important people to me. They do work, they work long hours and they are very valued employees and I feel that they are entitled to this money - and he did it. Anyway, he did it, and not everybody agreed with him but he did it. I guess that is all you have to do. Once he does it, you have to live with it. Put up with it he said, put up and shut up. Well, obviously, people did not shut up. They talked about it, and they still talk about it, in fact, about how that took place in his office. Some people were very, very disturbed about it.

Anyway, I have a few questions. As the Government House Leader said, we can go back and forth, sit down, ask a question, wait for the response, or sometimes it will be several questions and the House Leader will get up and respond to three or four at the one time. That is probably the best thing to do. In this case, I was going to ask some questions about the Premier's staff.

Now, in addition to the Estimates book that we have that comes as part of the Budget documents, we have another booklet called departmental salary details book and in it you get more detail. For example, in the Estimates when it talks about the Premier's Office it says Salaries, $1,374,100 for this year. That is what is going to be spent in salaries. So the logical question was: Who are all these salaries being spent on? You have a million dollars, $1.374 million being spent by the Premier's Office for salaries. Now the question is who gets it? Well, I would assume a part of that is the pay for the Premier, which we all know he has donated his pay to charity since he became the Premier, but I am assuming that is in there somewhere, his salary pay. In fact, it is outlined there. As a Premier you get $72,409 a year, and that is in the detailed salary booklet.

Then the Premier has a Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier, $26,000. A Chief of Staff, that was one of the ones who got the big pay raise last year. The Chief of Staff to the Premier makes just about $135,000; $134,982. There is a Director of Communications - that was another one who got the big bump there last year in a pay raise - $107,000. There is a Deputy Chief of Staff, $99,700; a Special Advisor to the Premier, $97,000; a Principal Assistant to the Premier, $94,999; a Director of Operations, $86,000; a Manager of Community Outreach, $82,000; an Executive Assistant, $126,000; a Special Assistant, $111,000.

AN HON. MEMBER: There are two of them.

MR. PARSONS: There are two of them actually, yes, and there are two Executive Assistants as well. A Personal Assistant to the Premier, $59,000; an Administrative Assistant, just about $95,000, two of those; a Special Assistant in Communications, $44,000; Policy Analyst, $37,000; Secretary to the Chief of Staff, $37,000; Secretary to the Parliamentary Assistant, $39,000, and a Receptionist, $30,000. So, all totalled, there are twenty-one people who work in the Premier's Office, including the Premier; twenty-one different people to run the Premier's Office. Now, I do not know how that number compares to last year's numbers. Maybe the House Leader can tell me. I realize he might not have some of this information readily available, but the other thing we always do in Estimates is that if we want information and the minister does not have it available right then they give an undertaking that they will provide it in due course. Sure enough, within a week or so the information comes along. I realize here that the Government House Leader may, in fact, not have some of this detailed information in front of him. If he needs to go get it, that is fine, we have no problem with that. He can certainly provide it in due course.

I am just wondering, I am curious - I do not have the information in front of me - if he could tell us in short order the number of employees in the Premier's office since 2003. For example, has it gone up, has the number of employees gone down, and so on? That information would be very important and nice to have, just to see how the staff has grown. I pointed out in my comments to the Budget Speech that the number of employees in this Province has increased dramatically since 2003. When it came in, the 2004 Budget, there was quite a substantial cutback actually, but since 2004, it is my understanding and I stand to be proven wrong, but my understanding from the statistics that I have seen is that the level of employees that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador had in 2003 got cut in 2004, but has substantially gone up. In fact, it surpasses what was there in 2003 big time. I am wondering if the same trend has happened in the Premier's office as well. I am sure that information could be pretty quickly provided.

Another thing: I would like to have some idea - I do not need to know the names of these people. I am sure that could be available, I suppose, if you asked the Premier's office who fills these positions that are here. The roles: It would be interesting to understand, because I do not understand myself what roles some of these play. For example, what is the difference between Special Advisor to the Premier –

CHAIR: Order please!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Leave.

CHAIR: Yes, the member has leave.

MR. PARSONS: I will just finish off my comments on this heading under the Premier's Office, if that is okay.

What is the difference between a Special Advisor to the Premier and the Principal Assistant to the Premier? They are obviously two jobs. I am just curious as to what kind of job description goes with the two positions. Besides that, there is a Special Assistant to the Premier, there is an Executive Assistant to the Premier, and then there is a Personal Assistant to the Premier. I am just wondering, for those five positions, what kind of job descriptions would go with that? Besides that, there is a Director of Operations.

The one I cannot understand is Manager of Community Outreach. I haven't the foggiest idea what that might be. What is a Manager of Community Outreach in the Premier's Office? I think it would be educational and informative if the people of the Province could understand and have some idea not only that there are twenty-one people in the Premier's Office but some idea of what they do. That is very important.

I will just end my comments right here at this point under the Premier's Office heading and I will come back when it is my turn to speak again.

Thank you.

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

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

I am quite pleased to be able to speak this afternoon to the Estimates discussion around the Executive Council. I see that I have ten minutes. That is good. I will try to honour that for my first time around.

This is an important discussion because it is a discussion of the money that belongs to the people of this Province, and we all know that. We are in a situation now, as members of this House, where we have committed ourselves - we have not passed it yet but we certainly will be passing it - we have committed ourselves to a Code of Ethics and that Code of Ethics, I would suggest, is not just a Code of Ethics for us as individual MHAs whereby we are putting ourselves in a situation of saying, we understand the responsibility that we have for the money that we spend as an MHA.. We are not just responsible for that as individuals, but we are also responsible for the money of the Province as a whole, as a group, as the group that sits here. Through the Budget discussions, through the Estimates meetings, that is what we are exercising. We are exercising our responsibility to make sure that the money that belongs to the people of this Province is spent well and is spent for the good of the people in this Province. It is a serious thing that we do when we come here to discuss the Estimates, whether it is the estimates of the various departments, whether it is the estimates of the Executive Council, no matter what the estimates discussion is, all of that money is the money of the people and we have a responsibility for that money. It is an honour to be able to be here and to perform that duty this afternoon as we discuss the Executive Council Estimates.

One of the things that has struck me, as I have gone through the Estimates that are here - the general public who are watching do not have these books in their hands. They could have access to them but it is hard to be having this discussion knowing that people do not have these books in their hands.

One of the things I have noticed in going through some of the estimates is how careful some of the agencies or departments under the Executive Council have been. I saw that earlier on when we had the privilege as the Management Commission to look at some of the budgets. I do feel confident that what we have are people carefully trying to spend the money of the people, that we have the workers in this Province, we have the people responsible in various departments who have a sense of responsibility for the money that they are spending. That makes me feel good. I have noticed in some areas, for example, people have actually budgeted less money for this year than they spent last year, or in a lot of other cases it is par. I think that people out there in the Province should have confidence in knowing that there are departments that are operating that way, that are being very careful and who are not just spending money for the sake of spending money.

Having said that, there obviously are places where I see increases in money, so I will be asking about some of those. There will be reasons for the increase and I think it is important that the reason for the increase is put on the record so that we all know why that increase is there. That is the whole purpose of the Estimates. It is not to probe negatively, it is just to see what it is that money is being spent on and to say, okay, I understand that, that makes sense. We have to do that because we are doing it in the name of the people. They cannot do it here, we are the ones who can do it.

I did notice, though, that my colleague, the Opposition House Leader, spoke to the fact that it would be really transparent if all of the Estimates Committee meetings were public, if they were all televised the way our regular sessions in the House are televised. I have to say, I agree with him. It would make for a more complex process, because I think we would only be able to televise one Estimate Meeting at a time, but I think it would really show the people of the Province that we really do believe in our code of ethics and we really do believe in transparency and accountability. I think it would be very good if we had this proposal brought to the House and we had a serious discussion about advertising all the Estimates meetings. As I said, it will make for a longer process, it will make for a more complex process, but it will make for a completely open process.

I know that not everybody wants to watch Estimates Meetings and I am sure a lot of people do not watch the Management Commission meetings either, but there are people who do. Of course, the media has access to the Estimates Committees anyway. Even though the public - in the sense of it is not televised, if somebody from the public wanted to come in and sit in an Estimates meeting they can do that. Now, they are not always held in rooms where a whole lot of people could come, but in actual fact if somebody said they would like to sit in, they can sit in, and the media has access to the Estimates meetings.

I have noticed, for example, last week, a couple of times there were articles in The Telegram which referred to issues that had been discussed in the Estimates meetings, and I was glad to see that. I was glad to see that The Telegram was carefully following, that they had a journalist who was carefully following, the procedures of the Estimates meetings and was putting articles in the paper. So at least in that way there is a public nature to the Estimates meetings at this time and there is some reporting that is done as the Estimates meetings go on, but I think we probably will want to have a discussion about how to make it more accessible to the public as part of the whole movement within this Assembly towards accountability and transparency.

Having said all of that, I think I will take the rest of my time right now to ask some of those detailed line-by-line questions. I will start with, actually, the Cabinet Secretariat. There were a few things there that I wanted to look at, and that is head 2.2.02., for the sake of the House Leader.

I notice under the Cabinet Secretariat, under Planning and Coordination, which is that head, the salary line has gone up considerably to $501,100, up from a revised cost last year of only $239,100. I also noticed that, of the $501,000, $418,800 is for temporary positions. So I would be interested in having an explanation of what is happening under the Planning and Coordination division of this Cabinet Secretariat, resulting in that increase.

The other point, under 2.2.02., subhead 05, Professional Services, there was no money in Professional Services last year under the subhead Professional Services, and this year there is $250,000. I would be interested in knowing, what is the activity going on, under Planning and Coordination, because overall we have the budget going up from last year's estimate, going up over $400,000, so a bit of an explanation around that because there is no information there. We have to ask the questions around that, so that is something I put to the House Leader.

I would like to move down, then, to head 2.2.04., and this is the Advisory Councils On Economic And Social Policy. For the sake of anybody watching, this covers appropriations which provide for independent advice to government on major economic and social issues.

I do not have a lot of information on the Councils on Economic and Social Policy, and I do not know a lot of places where I can go to get the information, so I would like to have an idea of not so much the individuals, obviously, who make up the councils, although that should be public information too, but what exactly the councils are, and how do they operate?

I notice in subhead 01. under Salaries that last year $100,900 was budgeted for Salaries under that head. Nothing was spent and now, obviously, there is an anticipation of having people hired. I would like to know what exactly those people would do. Maybe it is one person. What does that $100,900 represent, and what exactly that person would be doing for these councils.

Again, subhead 03., Transportation and Communications, what will that money be spent on? Last year $15,000 was budgeted, only $5,000 was spent, and this year $15,000 is budgeted again. I would like an explanation of that head as well.

I see my time is up, Mr. Chairperson, so I will leave that for the moment. I will get time to ask questions again. I have other things that I want details on.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I will attempt to give some answers now to some of the questions raised by my colleagues in their remarks.

First of all, both speakers for the Official Opposition and for the third Party mentioned the openness of the Committee process in terms of - the Estimates Committees, that is - that we refer heads out to, and the possibility of having those Committees televised, which would make the process more open and accessible and therefore accountable to the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Anybody who is following the procedures of the House closely, I think, will know that all members of the House who sit on the Management Committee have been addressing this issue now on a couple of occasions. We need to find a way, as a Legislature – well, first of all, we need to find a place. We need to find a place that can be appropriately wired and set up for Committee purposes. As of this moment, other than this Chamber, we do not have a place. This Chamber is not a good setting for our Management Committees, and I think all members on both sides of the House would say that. I believe the media who cover this would say that it is not conducive; it is set up for a large group of people, forty-eight members. It is a cavernous space that does not lend itself to a small gathering of half a dozen people in a more confined space.

We, the Legislature, of course, have the responsibility to find space for its activities. In addition to finding space for the Legislature to sit, which we have, here on the floor, we also have to find space for appropriate activity in Committee to take place. That includes the Estimates Committees, it includes other standing committees of the House, the Public Accounts Committee, for example, when it gets struck, the Management Committee itself. We just had several meetings of the Privileges and Elections Committee. If we wanted to have those activities televised, we could not do it unless we had it in this place.

So that is a function that I believe, as a Management Committee, we have asked the officers of the Legislature, the staff of the Legislature, to address on our behalf. In fact, we have given them instructions - I think some fairly specific instructions - as to how they should go about finding a place and then getting it appropriately wired so that we can begin to carry on further from here the openness and transparency that we are all committed to.

Having said that, Mr. Chairman, if we are going to have Committees that meet for several hours in the night or whatever, there will be certainly additional costs that the taxpayer will have to be cognizant of. The satellite time does not come free. It costs several hundred dollars an hour to have satellite time to feed the feed around the Province so that the cable companies can pick it up and people can watch it in their living rooms. We are cognizant of that and the House, I think, as a whole - the government can be committed to it but the House has to be committed to it as well. As far as I can tell, from discussions and debates that we have had in the Management Committee, which are open to the public - so we have already had those open debates publicly - as far as I can tell there is a desire, a will and a commitment by the House to expand the openness and to expand the transparency by expanding, as soon as we can, as soon as we can find an appropriate place and have the appropriate mechanical setup done, the technical setup done, as soon as that can happen then we can move to broadcasting other Committees of the House including the Estimates.

As the Leader of the Third Party indicated, the Estimates procedure is open to the public now. When we have an Estimate Committee in this House tonight, for example, there are 100 seats or whatever there are in the public gallery. Every one of them could be full if people wanted to come in and take part, if they had nothing better to do on a St. John's foggy evening than come in here and have a look at the fogginess that goes on on the floor. They could not do it with a Committee that is meeting somewhere else. They could do it, yes, but there would not be the same number of places available.

All of the Estimates Committees are certainly open to the press, the press gallery. Sometimes they attend and sometimes they do not. I guess they make a judgment on whatever Estimates might be on as to whether there might be anything interesting or not. But, they are open. All of the Estimate procedures are recorded so that there is a Hansard record of what took place, who asked questions, what the answers were and so on.

It is not the kind of openness and accessibility that we have in this House during the normal proceedings of the House, and like we have here right now. We want to get to that stage, Mr. Chairman, and we are committed to getting to that stage as soon as we can.

On both sides, by both members there were a couple of detailed questions.

First of all, the Opposition House Leader asked about staff in the Premier's Office. I can tell the Opposition House Leader that there were twenty-one people, including the Premier, on staff in the Premier's Office last year, and the same number of positions are in the detailed Salary Estimates this year for a total budgetary commitment of about $1.3 million and change. However, out of the twenty-one positions three of them are vacant. There are eighteen positions currently – seventeen, I should say, because one of the eighteen includes the Premier. There are seventeen positions currently staffed in the Premier's Office. There is no principal assistant to the Premier at the moment. That position has been vacant since Mr. Noel, I believe it was, moved to a position in Tourism, Culture and Recreation. The Manager of Community Outreach is vacant. That position is not filled. There is one special assistant, out of two positions that are listed here, vacant. So, out of the twenty-one positions including the Premier, three are vacant. If you exclude the Premier, that means seventeen of those are filled. Three are vacant and they are not filled and there are no plans at the moment, as I understand it, to fill them, although they could be filled at any time in the sense that the budgetary allocation is there for them.

In terms of the Leader of the Third Party, 2.2.04, the Advisory Councils on Economic and Social policy, those councils are provided for in the Estimates but since we have been the government we have not struck them. There is no advisory policy group on economic policy or social policy. The government is still contemplating striking those advisory groups. We have a number of advisory groups in a number of areas and we are contemplating doing that, but at the moment we have not done it. Therefore there was no expenditure on the salary side last year because these would be honorariums that would be paid to the people who would be on those advisory councils. There was no salary spent and we just rolled over the amount in case we moved to strike those advisory councils this year.

In terms of the issue in head 2.2.04 – that was the program evaluations. We believe as a government that we should be continuously evaluating programs that the government delivers. Some of them, it is no question. All the programs that government delivers are good, I suppose, or we would not be delivering them, but there are times – we went through a program renewal exercise. The hon. Leader of the Third Party who asked the question was not here then, but in our first year or so of office we went through a renewal exercise to renew and review every single program that government delivered. I believe that is a healthy exercise. I believe we should be doing it on a regular basis. So the amount of money that she refers to in that particular head is there for that purpose, to engage some outside consultants from time to time if we need to, to use our own people from time to time if we need to, but to have a head of expenditure under which we can be all the time reviewing and evaluating all the programs that government delivers. Some will need to change. Some, perhaps their time might come when you need to shut them down and start up new ones. We should never be closed, I don't think, as a government, nor should we be bound to always continue a program for the sake of continuing it just because it was there for the last 100 years. Programs change, needs change, society changes, and we need to be able to evaluate and change with it.

I know my time is up for this round.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) continue.

MR. RIDEOUT: I thank my friend who said continue.

There was one other question -

CHAIR (Collins): Order, please!

I was wondering if (inaudible).

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: There was one other question, I believe, regarding $418,800 in temporary salaries.

All of those positions were temporary in the Transparency & Accountability Office, and the process is underway now to making them permanent. So, the salaries that were there as temporary positions up until now will be converted and rolled over into permanent salary units and will be seen from here on in, in the budgetary process, as permanent salary units in the Transparency & Accountability Office.

I believe those were the questions that were asked, but I will certainly listen to see if there are others.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate another opportunity to ask a few questions about the Executive Council Estimates which we are doing here.

Again, I thank the Government House Leader for his responses. I understand now, for example, the positions that are vacant. I guess I am still at a loss as to what some of the positions are in terms of their job descriptions. I believe that was the tenor of my questioning. For example, what is the difference between a Special Advisor to the Premier; a Principal Assistant to the Premier; Director of Operations; Manager, Community Outreach; Executive Assistant; Special Assistant; Personal Assistant; Administrative Assistant? Special Assistant Communications makes sense, but the other ones that I just named, as to what different roles each of these bodies play in the Premier's Office would be helpful.

I also notice on page 14, under the Premier's Office, under 03. Transportation and Communications, that last year it cost - a pretty exact figure, actually - it was estimated that it might be $296,700 for travel and communications in the Premier's Office. Yet, it worked out to be $225,000 spot-on, and that was a pretty exact figure. In fact, when you look back, there are a lot of exact figures under the revised columns and that seems pretty unique. I don't know how anybody got it so precise that everything there is rounded right off to the dollar under revised budgets. Even the salaries, like $1,358,000; $2,500 in Employee Benefits; $225,000 in Transportation and Communications, they are pretty exact numbers. There is no extra dollars left over, and that seems pretty unique. I do not know if I have seen that in any of the other Estimates, where there were not odd figures or whatever referred to there.

Under the transportation one, which shows $225,000, I am wondering if the Government House Leader can give me the details as to the split on that. How much was for transportation and how much was actually for communications? I would certainly like to know that.

We realize it is not a case that the Premier does not travel; obviously, the Premier has to travel, not only within the Province but the Premier travels around the country to different conferences, as he should, and outside the country, on different trips and so on. That is pretty obvious. Anyway, we are entitled to ask and we will see if the information is forthcoming.

I am wondering if the minister could give the split on what is the difference between the transportation and the communications, and just some details surrounding the transportation. Some of it we are aware of. We know that the Premier was down in Houston, for example, recently for the oil show. I would think that is - I cannot say it was an annual thing, because I understand he did not go last year. He was in a spat at that time with the oil industry, so I do not think he went last year, but there are certainly things that he does go to. So, it would be nice to have some further details surrounding the transportation to justify that expenditure, whatever it was, of the $225,000.

Moving along there, I notice on page 17, heading 2.3.04., the Ottawa Office. Now, that is the famous office that the Premier set up when he took over government in 2003, and I think the first person he stashed away up there was Mr. Bill Rowe, the Open Line Show host. Mr. Rowe subsequently relinquished the job and came back and took up his job again as the Open Line host on VOCM in the afternoons, Backtalk I think it is now, but there is a new gentleman there.

We raised questions last year because we questioned the necessity of having the individual there. I do believe it is a Dr. Fitzgerald or Fitzpatrick – Fitzgerald - who was a former professor at the university who filled that role now for a couple of years or so. It cost, according to the information here, this year it is going to cost $362,000 to have Mr. Fitzgerald in Ottawa.

I asked the former Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs - we call him Dr. Feelgood. The reason we call him Dr. Feelgood, of course, is because the only thing we could figure out he did was make people who visited from Newfoundland, who made trips from Newfoundland to Ottawa, his job was to make them feel good. Somebody put the name on, Dr. Feelgood's Limousine Service, because, when I asked the former Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs what he did, he said: Oh, he greets people at the airport and he takes them to wherever they have a meeting to go to. He takes them back to the airport, and he has a meal with them and he entertains them.

I said: Well, fine. What is that, a host then? We are paying $362,000 to have an official hostess up in Ottawa. We were wondering, what is the significance and the importance of this office, especially in these times of, I would say, the chilly relationship that exists between the Premier and the people in Ottawa.

I do not know what doors Dr. Fitzgerald is opening these days. I do not know if he has even been asked to knock on any doors, because I understand that the ministers here do not deal much with the federal government anyway unless they have the permission of the Premier, so I would like to know what he is doing there.

MR. SKINNER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: I say to the Minister of Labour, there is $362,000 being spent here. We are entitled to ask where it is being spent. We are entitled to ask. The gentleman has gone up there. He has a full-time job.

I would like to know, for example, $212,000 in salaries, who is employed for the $212,000? I am sure he does not get all of that. I would not think he gets all of that. I would just like to know, how many staff does he have? How many staff does he have? That is all I am asking regarding the salaries.

Thirty-five thousand dollars in transportation, $85,000 in Purchased Services; I would just like to know, what are the purchased services that this gentleman requires to do the job in Ottawa? That is a pretty straightforward question. I do not think there is anything wrong with asking that. That is a legitimate question. Why does Dr. Fitzgerald require $85,000 in purchased services? Maybe it is to rent an office. If it is, that is fine, just explain and give us a breakdown as to what it is for. I am sure the Government House Leader will; he is not getting upset about anything. He understands these are legitimate questions to ask.

That does not take away from our right to ask the questions. Maybe the government members do not like it, but we are entitled to ask. It is pretty obvious - I have had people in the public say to me: What is Dr. Fitzgerald doing in Ottawa in terms of being productive if it is known by everybody in this Province that there is a chilly situation which exists between this Province and the federal government? What is his effectiveness?

We have all heard about the ABC campaign. We have all heard about that, Anybody But Conservative. Now that does not bode very well. I would not want to have to go and knock on many doors up in Ottawa knowing that is the kind of attitude and the relationship that exists. It must make the man's job awfully tough. Even more importantly, I raised the question of, what is the evaluation process of him? How does anybody ever find out what he does? There is usually the rest of us here. The Minister of Justice or the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs or the Minister of Fisheries, there is usually an accountability process. If a member wants to know something or the public wants to know, they usually can, in Question Period or in Estimates, ask the appropriate minister the question. We do not have any evaluation process for the effectiveness of Mr. Fitzgerald's office. How do you determine if you are getting your money's worth? That is a pretty straightforward question. How do we determine if we are getting our money's worth?

It is like I asked a question in Business Estimates. We had $30 million or $28 million in the Department of Business last year and never spent a penny. I think it is a pretty legitimate question in that case: Well, why do you need $28 million if you never spent a penny? Why didn't you spend a penny? I got some good answers back, I might add, from the minister, but it was a legitimate question. The minister of the day, no question, he said we had $28 million but we could not spend it, did not spend it, and here is why and laid it out. That is what I like, you ask a question and you can get an answer, and a straightforward one.

Anyway, my personal opinion on what I have seen and observed - and I am entitled to an opinion like anyone else, I guess - is that I cannot see anything productive that Dr. Fitzgerald has done. Now maybe the man has worked wonders, I don't know. Maybe he is behind the scenes negotiating interprovincial agreements. Maybe all of the roads money that is coming down, maybe he is involved in that, I do not know. Maybe he is involved in - there are all kinds of social transfer payments that have been made down here. There was $23.5 million, I believe, that came down recently. It is called the trust fund that came down and is over in Municipal Affairs, I believe. Maybe he is behind that. I thought that was the role of Intergovernmental Affairs, actually. I thought that department did those things. So I am just curious, if Intergovernmental Affairs does those things, I just wonder what the job is of Dr. Fitzgerald?

Now, we have heard that he a liaison. The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs said he works for us. Now I do not know, I will get to ask him this question later today when we do our Estimates of the minister, but does he work for Intergovernmental Affairs? Because under the Estimates documents that I am looking at, he has his own separate office set up. So I take it that he is independent.

CHAIR (Collins): Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that his ten minutes is up.

MR. PARSONS: By leave, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: You want to continue?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you.

I will just finish off my comments on this. I say to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs that he may work with us - now I do not if you mean by that, that he works for government generally or he works for the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs directly. He is a public servant, there is no doubt about that, I guess. He is on the public pay, we know that. We know he is on the public purse.

Now, who he works for, my understanding was he reported directly to the Premier. That is my understanding, and when the job was created, that is what he did. He was the Premier's Emissary, we call it, in Ottawa. He was the Premier's host - knock on doors. If there were things that needed to be done, he went around and talked to people and so on. I am just saying, we do not understand and the public cannot see any tacit things that he has played a role in, that's all.

In fact, we are anxiously awaiting - Mr. Rowe, I understand, is in the process of doing a book himself. I understand and I would expect that there is going to be some level of detail contained in his forthcoming book as to how he got the job and what he did in the job and so on, and what he thought about the effectiveness of the job and so on, and the ups and the downs of it. I have not seen anything from Mr. Fitzgerald in a concrete manner to show what he works at, whereas with the rest of us there is some kind of accountability. Well, at least we all get tested every four years anyway, as to whether you are doing your job or not. The people will tell you whether you did it right. We at least have to go through a vote process where anybody can ask us questions, and I just do not see it in the case of this office.

I say to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, he may be a public servant but under these Estimates he is outlined as a separate group. He is a separate individual, a separate heading. Appropriations provide for the operation of the Ottawa office. That is a pretty in-depth description, an Ottawa office. Now, other than that, I have no idea what this individual does to justify $362,000. I know who he is. I know what it costs to have him there, but all I see anywhere, printed documents here, is that: Appropriations provide for the operation of the Ottawa office. True. My question is: What does he do in the Ottawa office? That is a legitimate question. The same as I asked the Government House Leader: What is the difference between a Special Assistant and an Assistant to the Premier? That is pretty straightforward stuff. We just do not know. It could be very - I am sure it is all legitimate. The Premier would not have twenty-one people up in his office with titles on them. If they are there, if the positions are filled and they do not have something to do - I am just trying to figure out and get educated as to what the distinctions are, and that is a legitimate question. Anybody who is using and getting receipt from the public purse, you should be able to tell us what you are doing. That is why I direct my questions in that regard to the Ottawa office.

At this point I will sit down, Mr. Chair. I understand other members have questions and I will come back again if I get an opportunity.

Thank you.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am glad to have another opportunity. I do have some more questions that I would like to ask. I thank the House Leader for getting the answers to my last questions. Thank you very much and I look forward to more answers to the questions I will put out now.

I have to say before I start, I was really interested in what the House Leader had to say about reviews, and I totally agree with you. I wish you had stood yesterday and said the same thing about the review of our health care system because reviews are positive. So, that encourages me, that if you believe that I will probably be bringing another motion sometime during the forty-sixth Parliament with regard to review of our heath care system because it is the positive things that you put out and the necessity to do reviews of departments and the programs that government delivers is so that we can look at what is going right. We can see what maybe needs to be changed. So, I was very interested in hearing the hon. member speak to the positive nature of reviews. As I said, I am sorry that you did not share that view yesterday but that is the way it goes.

I do have some particular questions. I would like to get more information if we could about the Research and Development head, 2.9.01. It is a brand new initiative. I note from the Estimates booklet that the Premier is the Minister Responsible for the Research and Development. It is a hefty - not terribly large but it is still a $1.5 million Budget item and there are subheads for very specific areas: Salaries $520,000; Employee Benefits, $16,000; Transportation and Communications, $72,800; Supplies, $14,400; Professional Services, $608,700; Purchased Services, $197,200, and then Property, Furnishings and Equipment, $70,900; coming to $1.5 million.

I guess my question to the House Leader is: Is there anything that has been put on paper with sort of a plan for what the research and development division is going to be doing? Where did the sub-heads come from for the Budget items, for these expenditures? I am assuming that these sub-heads had to be based on something, some idea of what the Newfoundland and Labrador Research Development Council or its equivalent, is going to do.

I really would like to have some detail around that because we are approving a $1.5 million expenditure and I am not really clear about what this council is going to do. It is probably a really good idea but there has not been much discussion on it, so I would appreciate some detail. If the House Leader cannot get it for today - I hope he can. I hope he can give me some idea of how we came up with a budget for something that is brand-new and for which we have not really been given a lot of detail in terms of what it is going to be doing.

I then would like to ask some questions, but before doing that, under head 2.3.04, the Ottawa Office, I would be interested in having some kind of report on that office, because it is $362, 200 being spent on it. I would like to know if there is a report. Have reports been made in writing by Dr. Fitzgerald, and if they are, could those reports be made public so we get an idea of what it is that that money is going towards? I would like to see a written report.

I am now going to move over to the Public Service Secretariat because there are some things here that I have questions about. I think that is the next section, yes. Under the Public Service Secretariat, I do not have questions about every head. The first one I would like to go to is the 3.1.04, Opening Doors. I am very pleased that we have this program. For the sake of those watching, I know the House Leader made reference to it in his opening but I would like to do it again. Opening Doors is a program inside of government which provides for employment opportunities in government departments and entities for persons with disabilities, a component of which is cost-shared with the federal government under the Labour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities and the Canada/Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Market Development Agreement. It is a wonderful initiative and I am really glad that government has this initiative.

I am just wondering, under subhead 01, Salaries - last year the budget was $2,940,300 but we spent a bit less than that. We spent $2,699,100 and we are going up this year to $3,078,400, which is $379,300 more than what we spent last year. I am wondering why we did not spend everything last year. Maybe it was because there were positions not filled and this year we are hoping to fill them all. I would just like an explanation of the salaries in that section.

The next head that I would like some clarification around is 3.1.06, Human Resource Development Initiatives. Again, this section, "Appropriations provide for strategic human resource development initiatives throughout the Provincial Government and its entities, with relevant funding transferred to departments during the year as required," now with this one, in subhead 01, Salaries, $1,140,000 was budgeted last year and only $250,000 was spent, but this year we are still estimating $1,140,000. I would like to know why so little was spent last year and what the expectations are for the coming year with regard to that service. Again, it is an important service.

Under subhead 06 of that head, which is Purchased Services: again last year the budget for Purchases Services was $806,000, only $200,000 was spent, however, this year the Budget is allowing for $1,719,500. I would like to know what is being thought about inside of that division. They must have some plan in mind if they are asking for a budget of $1,719,500. I would like an explanation of that, please.

I can get a couple of more in here.

Head 4.1.01, Corporate Operations and Client Services: Again Salaries, subhead 01, we did not spend as much last year as had been estimated, as a matter of fact, about $200,000 less. Yet the estimate for this year is a little over $400,000 more than last year. Again, I just would like to know: Is that just filling a vacancy or is there a new position going in or a couple of new positions going into that division?

I have a question with regard to the revenue, so subhead 01, Revenue. The budget last year was anticipating $500,000 from the federal government. Obviously that money did not come in. There was some revenue from the provincial government, $9,200. I would like to know what that revenue was, $9,200. Then, the estimate for next year is anticipating money from the federal government again. I presume this is a special program and why haven't we received it? I would like just an explanation of what is going on with the federal government contribution.

Under the next head, 4.1.02, subhead 05, Professional Services, again we have a big jump in Professional Services from what was budgeted and spent last year. So, just an idea of what it is that they are covering under Professional Services. Everything else there is not exactly static but there is nothing that stands out.

Under Purchased Services, subhead 06, the budget last year and the revision were the same. The budget last year was $25,000 but Purchased Services this year is $225,000. I am wondering what they are anticipating under Purchased Services to be spending $200,000 more than last year.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Yes, thank you.

That is fine, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Order please!

I am looking for direction here. I am wondering if the Government House Leader will want to respond to the questions asked within a timeframe or did he want the hon. member to carry on?

MS MICHAEL: No, I am finished.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

Under 4.1.05. Information Technology Operations, under Salaries 01. the salaries used almost $2 million dollars less last year than was budgeted and this year going back up again. So, the budget last year was $6,396,200, the revision was $4,833,500, but the new estimate is $6,693,900, so just some idea of what is happening with personnel under that division, under IT Operations.

Then, in head 4.1.06. Application Development, appropriations provide for the development, acquisition and implementation of government's computer applications. There must be something really big that is going to happen this year, because the budget is $2,400,000 and last year the revised budget was $95,000.

The same way under Professional Services, so I am assuming something big is going to be happening under the Application Development division, because 05. Professional Services, also last year the budget was $2,557,200 and this year the estimate is $5,898,300. If you have an explanation of that, that would be helpful.

Under head 4.1.07.05. Professional Services, last year the budget was $400,000, the revision was $150,000, but this year the estimate is $750,000. I am just wondering what professional services they expect to be anticipating use of this year to put the budget up to that degree, by a few hundred thousand.

That is it.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. They are all my line questions.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I will attempt to answer in detail some of the questions that have been posed by my friends on the other side.

Let me start off with the office of the OCIO, first of all. I think I can deal with it in broad strokes. In many cases, Mr. Chairman, there were – what happens in an agency like this is, departments put forward to the agency a work plan that they are going to carry out this year, for example, in fisheries and aquaculture, that is going to require OCIO to come in on contract to us and put in a whole range of new IT programs, information programs, management information programs and so on – and this goes right across to government. It might $34 million or $35 million worth of work. By the time the various departments get along through their fiscal year of doing that work, some may decide they are going to do some of it, some may decide they are going to do all of it, some departments may decide that their priorities have changed and they are not going to do any of it; they have a pressing requirement in other areas and they are going to go to Treasury Board, perhaps, to look for a transfer of funds for those pressing needs or whatever. Anyway, suffice it to say, by way of example, not all of the requests that get made for funding and get built into the OCIO budget get carried out on behalf of the departments as we go through the fiscal year.

If that happens then, Mr. Chairman, what happens, there is less of a requirement for temporary employees, there is less of a requirement for contractual employees, there is less of a requirement for outside consulting services, and those heads drop accordingly. Then, the next year, coming into this fiscal year now, those departments make their requests all over again, so the agency budgets those requests again. They may end up doing some of them - no doubt they will do some of them - they may end up doing part of it, and they may end up doing all of it, they do not know, but they go through the budgetary process as if they are going to be carrying out all of this work on behalf of all the various government departments and government agencies.

So, you see a pretty broad fluctuation in their actual expenditures vis-ŕ-vis what they spend, but let me give you some examples, Mr. Chairman, and I will not give them all. I can do that, but I do not think the members expect me to do that. This year, in new and ongoing projects, for example, in various departments, OCIO is budgeting about $33 million worth of work on behalf of various government departments; $4.1 million, for example, is in the budget to implement an integrated corporate human capital management system that they refer to colloquially as HCM, focusing on improving overall organizational performances in a particular department.

In Government Services there is a procurement project which is budgeted to cost $880,000. There is another one in Finance budgeted to cost $860,000 to replace existing application and upgrade current budgeting processes to make them more efficient in going through the Budget. That is the kind of thing, right across the whole of the government service, that – there is one for $300,000 in the Registry of Deeds, for example. So there is a whole range have done that. If the departments carry out with their budgetary plan, they will ask the OCIO office to do this work for them, based on those estimates.

In terms of federal revenue, that is a legitimate question. The various departments anticipate cost-shared arrangements with the federal government on a go-forward basis. We are not sure exactly how many of them will be put in place over a given year, but we anticipate that we may get a cost-sharing arrangement on the Trans-Labrador Highway, for example, and we have one.

Now, when we have those kinds of cost-sharing arrangements there is a certain amount of information systems requirements that the federal government will sometimes contract to us through OCIO, to do for them. If that work gets carried out, there will be revenue returned to the Province from the Government of Canada as a result of our agency doing the work for them. If it all does not happen, then the money does not come. So you budget the revenue. The revenue may turn up, it may not.

In terms of the $9,000 and change that the hon. member referred to as being in there as provincial revenue, I know, for example, the office will go out and do contractual work, say, for example, for the health and safety - what used to be the Compensation Board, or the Labour Relations Agency. If they do contractual work for those kinds of agencies, they will have an income from those agencies for doing it. So it will show up in the budget of OCIO, a certain amount of income as revenue from having carried out that particular task on that particular agency, doing that particular work. So that is the kind of thing that happens on a regular go-forward basis.

There were some questions raised by both members in terms of the Ottawa Office. Now, I want to say frankly that the Ottawa Office is part of Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat and it has been referred out and will come up, I think, for detailed questioning tonight when the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister defends his Estimates before the Government Services Committee.

I just want to generally say this. The Opposition House Leader said someone stalled this office as Dr. Feelgood Limousine Service. Well, my recollection is that the person who stalled that office by that name was the hon. member. He is the only one that I ever heard, since this office was created, refer to Dr. Feelgood Limousine Service. So I think it was his own creation and his own stalling and perhaps he ought to give himself credit before the rest of us commit all kinds of plagiarism and attach it to ourselves.

I want to say this, since the matter was referred to in a general way by both colleagues opposite, the Ottawa Office is a very, very important office for doing the business of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in Ottawa, a very important piece of business in the way we do business in Ottawa. Go to Ottawa. Hon. members, I am sure, in the Opposition have been to Ottawa, some when they were in government or some in private life, and you will see that many, many provincial jurisdictions and many private corporations have full-time permanent offices in Ottawa. Now why do they have it? Why would, for example, the Northwest Territories have a much larger office in Ottawa than does Newfoundland and Labrador?

There must be a reason why a jurisdiction like the Northwest Territories, and like many other provinces, would operate an office in Ottawa. They do it because we have ministers going up there, so we have someplace in Ottawa to go. We have a person in Ottawa to arrange meetings on our behalf. We have our eyes and ears around the Parliament Buildings, the Centre Block, the East Block, the West Block, the committees in the committee room. We have a person up there in Ottawa that we can call on at all times, who monitors what is going on in that huge place called the nation's capital. This person, Dr. Fitzgerald, for the salary that he is getting, provides yeoman service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, let me tell you.

This government, as we were with Bill Rowe, is fortunate that we have people of the calibre of Bill Rowe, or the calibre of now Dr. Fitzgerald who are prepared. I am sure both of them could have done much better in private life without subjecting themselves to what goes on with drawing your salary from the public purse. I am sure they could have probably done much better in private life if they were to continue there. This office is absolutely vital to the communication process, to the carrying on of intergovernmental business between ourselves and the national government and it is there for the same reason that many, many other jurisdictions in Canada, many provinces, at least two territories that I am aware of, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, many private sector groups have an office in the nation's capital so that they can be on the spot. They can be informed. They got somebody there you could almost call Johnny-on-the-spot that you can press a button and say: Get over there and see what is going on, on our behalf. The same reason why, Mr. Chairman, I would suggest to my hon. friends, many provincial jurisdictions have offices in international cities. Right?

Quebec, for example, has almost a suite of embassies around the world, equivalent to the Government of Canada, our national government, but so does Ontario. So does Alberta. Many of those jurisdictions have trade offices and immigration offices in particular, operating in many national capitals around the world, to take care and to promote. I would love to have a Newfoundland office in Brussels, for example, promoting the interest of the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador. I hope that one day we will be able to afford to fund that kind of office, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: So that is the kind of thing that Dr. Fitzgerald is doing in that office. I am sure there will be more detail that the minister will provide to the Estimates tonight.

Again, I see my time has gone, or has elapsed. Mr. Chairman, since we are up around the adjournment hour, at this point I am going to move that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again, and we will get back to this particular estimate head again on Tuesday.

MR. CHAIR: It has been moved that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

All those in favour, ‘aye.'

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. CHAIR: Against, ‘nay.'

Carried.

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

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Committee of Supply have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report that they have made some progress on the debate and the Estimates of the Executive Council and ask leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of Committee of Supply reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed him to report that they have made progress and ask leave to sit again.

When shall the committee have leave to sit again?

AN HON. MEMBER: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, report received and adopted, Committee ordered to sit again on tomorrow.

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, before moving the adjournment motion, I would like, for the benefit of members, to mention the committees that will meet this evening after adjournment.

The Resource Committee, I understand, is going to meet after adjournment to consider the Estimates of the Department of Environment and Conservation. That is going to be here in the Legislature, Mr. Speaker.

The Government Services Committee will meet in the West Block in the Executive Boardroom to consider Intergovernmental Affairs, which we have probably now considered, and the Volunteer and Non-profit Sector.

The Committee meetings scheduled for Tuesday, Mr. Speaker, are the following: Government Services will meet in the morning here in the Legislature to consider Labrador Affairs; the Social Services Committee will meet in the Executive Boardroom at 9:00 o'clock Tuesday morning to continue with the Department of Justice; the Social Services Committee will meet after the House rises on Tuesday here in the Legislature to consider Education and Women's Policy; and also the Resource Committee will meet, after the Legislature rises, in the Executive Boardroom in the West Block to consider Innovation, Trade and Rural Development.

Mr. Speaker, it being just after 5:00 o'clock now, before I move the adjournment motion I would like to note that is the long weekend. I do not know where people are intended to go in view of the weather that we have here in St. John's, but perhaps some of us are hoping to find a bit of sunshine somewhere. Wherever hon. members' travel takes them for the long weekend we wish them well and hope they enjoy the long weekend, the first long weekend of the spring, I suppose. We will see everybody back here on Tuesday.

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

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 tomorrow, being Tuesday, at 1:30 of the clock.

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