November 27, 2008        HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLVI   No. 41


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: The following members' statements will be heard in the following order today: the hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & LaPoile; the hon. the Member for the District of Baie Verte-Springdale; the hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave; the hon. the Member for the District of Bay of Islands; the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; and, the hon. the Member for the District of Grand Bank.

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to recognize and congratulate Corporal Michael Durnford of Rose Blanche-Harbour LeCou on his service to our country and his safe return from Afghanistan.

Corporal Durnford is a member of the Military Police with the Canadian Armed Forces, and he recently returned from a successful tour of duty in Afghanistan. Michael's mission in Afghanistan involved training members of the Afghan police force in modern and ethical police methods. Michael was stationed in Afghanistan for seven months.

Corporal Durnford is the son of Calvin and June Durnford of Rose Blanche-Harbour LeCou and he is married to the former Karen Chislett, also of Rose Blanche-Harbour LeCou. Michael and Karen are currently residing in Shilo, Manitoba, and are expecting their first child.

I was proud to attend an open house and dinner at Rose Blanche-Harbour LeCou on November 14 in honour of Michael's tour of duty. There was a huge turnout, and the support from the residents for one of their own was overwhelming.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in extending thanks to Corporal Michael Durnford on his service to our country. All the best to Corporal Michael Durnford and his family.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. POLLARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate a business that reached a major milestone in its history.

Honourable colleagues, this year 2008 marks the one hundredth year of successful business for George Warr Ltd. of Springdale. In addition, it marks the induction of its founders, George and Mary Warr, into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame.

In 1908 George Warr Ltd. opened a small general store at Pilley's Island which was relocated to Springdale, where the family became involved in the lumber and pulpwood industry, employing up to 300 workers.

Over the 100 year span, the company has operated and managed diverse enterprises, which included not only retail and lumber operations but also a supermarket and dry goods store, freight and mail service, hardware and building supply stores, and most recently, senior cottages.

To sustain a family business for 100 years is no small feat. To be inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame is no small feat.

Honourable colleagues, please join me in saluting George Warr Ltd. as the family celebrates an extraordinary achievement for an extraordinary business.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, Captain Harold Stokes of Bareneed and four of his crew members were honoured during the St. John Ambulance investiture ceremony at the Anglican Cathedral in St. John's on September 30.

The Gold Life Saving Awards were presented to Captain Stokes, Darryl Reid, Rickey Mercer, Karl Avery and Owen Power by the Lieutenant-Governor, Mr. John Crosbie.

We all remember how the crew members of the Nautical Legacy abandoned ship and leapt into the cold Atlantic waters. They were honoured for saving the life of Michael Petten by surrounding him and working tirelessly in keeping him warm and staving off hypothermia as they bobbed in the cold Atlantic waters.

Captain Stokes said it was an honour to receive this award, but the greatest award was knowing that all the boys came home safe.

I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating Captain Stokes and the crew in receiving the Gold Life Saving Award.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the National Historic Site of Battle Harbour on its official opening of their Labrador Fisheries Exhibit.

Mr. Speaker, often referred to as the unofficial capital of Labrador, Battle Harbour became a thriving fishing village in the 1770s when mercantile salt fish premises were established in the area. The community grew both in position and significance through the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Through the efforts of the Battle Harbour Historic Trust, we now have a living tribute to the way of life of Labradorians during that time.

Mr. Speaker, the historical preservation of Battle Harbour continues with the opening of the Labrador Fishery Exhibit which was done by the hon. John Crosbie, the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador this past summer. The Labrador fishery is one of the most significant migratory fisheries to ever occur in the western world and extended from L'Anse au Clair to Ramah Bay when at its peak. The exhibit is housed in the Flour Store on the Battle Harbour waterfront and presents an overview of the floater, stationer and livyer fisheries in our Province. This exhibit enhances the historical significance of Battle Harbour and adds to the unique appeal of this quaint fishing village.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members in this House to join with me in recognizing the addition of the Labrador Fishery Exhibit to our Province. It now joins the Newfoundland fishery exhibit which is housed in Bonavista. It is no coincidence that the Labrador exhibit is housed in Battle Harbour, a place that has provided a vital link to our past and in many ways defines who we are as a people in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LODER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this great House today to recognize a remarkable young man by the name of Liam Loder, a resident of Summerside.

Mr. Speaker, on May 21, 2008, in the middle of the night, eight-year-old Liam woke up and heard a popping sound. He went to the bathroom and discovered a fire.

He immediately rushed and awakened his parents, and his dad, Lionel, put the fire out.

Mr. Speaker, by this young man's action a major tragedy was avoided. For his bravery, Liam was recognized by the fire and emergency services during a ceremony at his school, Templeton Academy, and was presented with a bravery award, an honour reserved for individuals who exhibit bravery or who saved someone's life.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members here today to show their appreciation to this young man for the life-saving action taken.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to recognize a young man from my district, Corporal Scott King, from Lamaline.

Recently, I had the pleasure to join Scott's mom Madonna, Legion members, and a large number of Scott's family and friends in welcoming Corporal King home from a seven-month tour in Afghanistan, where he proudly represented his hometown of Lamaline, his Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and his country.

Mr. Speaker, it was a great feeling to participate in the parade and ceremony, as everyone who participated was very proud and honoured to once again see Corporal King home safely.

Corporal King is to be commended for his bravery and for giving us at home a safe and protected society. Through his efforts, we are all able to enjoy freedom daily and participate in democracy.

This is a significant event for us and I want to congratulate Corporal King on playing such a vital role on the world stage.

Corporal King is the son of proud parents, Don and Madonna King.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of the House to join me in welcoming Corporal King home.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education and Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, on October 21, Oscar the Grouch, the world's most favourite curmudgeon, joined a host of other Canadian celebrities to officially launch One Million Acts of Green.

Spearheaded by the popular talk show, The Hour, this initiative is about encouraging each individual in the country to perform one act of green. The goal is to change how we live and how we treat our planet, one act at a time. It is about planting a tree, using recycled paper, or carpooling.

Mr. Speaker, we know our students and teachers are incredibly imaginative when it comes to projects that help our environment. There are many initiatives already underway throughout the Province. We have schools that are composting and cleaning up our beaches. Others take care of salmon eggs for eventual release into the wild. Some schools in the Province have started recycling businesses called: Think Green, a program designed by Memorial University's award-winning SIFE team.

Examples can be found at almost every turn. One of our high schools competed in an envirothon in the U.S. last year. In the nation-wide Phones for Food High School Challenge, St. John's collected more cell phones than the City of Toronto. An elementary school on the West Coast initiated a non-idling program at their school. These are just a few examples of the great things our students and teachers are doing to support the environment.

One Million Acts of Green is an excellent vehicle to acknowledge the wonderful acts already happening in schools across the Province and there are schools that have already taken up the challenge. I would love to list them all, but as one example, École Boréal in Happy Valley-Goose Bay has begun distributing recycling bins.

To date, Mr. Speaker, more than 400,000 acts of green have been recorded across the country. People are picking up garbage, biking to work or school, and using refillable drinking cups. I know we can see this number grow through the many activities already taking place in our schools on a daily basis. I know our students will come up with some great ideas to inspire real change in a practical way.

I encourage all schools to get involved in this project. It is a great opportunity to inspire our students to be creative, to work together as a team, and to demonstrate to the rest of the country the leadership, commitment and knowledge of students across Newfoundland and Labrador.

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 advanced copy of her statement, and to say there is no greater pleasure than to join with Oscar the Grouch and all the other celebrities throughout this country today in launching this wonderful program.

I want to congratulate all those events that the minister has mentioned throughout our Province. I do not have to go far to think back to my own district, to the wonderful programs that are being done by the schools, whether it is recycling, composting, cleaning up the beaches, and also, Mr. Speaker, carpooling. I have been working with the Department of Transportation, trying to get a particular lot extended where 100 cars now park for carpooling in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say, sometimes I think probably it is not Oscar the Grouch but the grinches here in this Province, because we know MMSB has so many million dollars, Mr. Speaker –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. BUTLER: MMSB has so many million dollars that could be put to wonderful use. Only recently, we saw two schools that were rejected for wonderful programs that they wanted to do. One was composting and recycling, and the other one was to eliminate the plastic cups in their school with dishes.

So, Mr. Speaker, I encourage all the schools to continue with what they are doing and hopefully government will encourage MMSB to work along with the various students and schools in this Province so that this wonderful program can be extended.

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 very much, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for the advanced copy of the statement. Of course, I, too, am very pleased with the initiatives that have been outlined by the minister as part of the activities that are going on across the country and across our Province today. These initiatives are essential and very important as we try to change the mentality of our young people so that they will become people who will be caring about the greening of our environment. All of these initiatives are very, very important, but we do need more action on a government level. By that I mean both municipal and provincial, working together with regard to waste management. It is not enough for individuals to do what they are doing. They also have to have the support of government for the larger picture that they cannot take care of.

My colleague just mentioned the MMSB and the almost $12 million that they are sitting on because of the money they have collected from recyclable bottles; $11.6 million. We have just had the City of St. John's say they have to put off their recycling program, and that is unacceptable, so I ask this government to look at its responsibility to work with municipal governments to get recycling happening around this Province immediately, not in two or three years' time.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers.

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this House today to inform the people of Newfoundland and Labrador of our recent success in recruiting physicians to work in our Province.

I am pleased to say that in a six-month period from March 31 to September 30 we had a net gain of forty physicians spread across various areas of our Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, as of September 30 there were 1,029 physicians in active practice in Newfoundland and Labrador - the most in our Province's history.

Mr. Speaker, this success can be attributed to a combination of factors, including the $7 million investment we made this year in physician recruitment, the diligent work of our Provincial Physician Recruitment Office, and the excellent work of Memorial University's Faculty of Medicine in helping us retain medical graduates.

Of these forty new positions, seventeen are recent graduates of Memorial's Family Medicine Program. A good portion of these physicians are practicing in rural Newfoundland areas, such as Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Baie Verte, Port aux Basques and Bonne Bay. This news means greatly enhanced services and access to physician care for thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Almost all of the seventeen family medicine physicians who graduated from Memorial received family practice bursaries, which see the physician receiving $25,000 per year of return in service. The bursaries awarded to this group will result in thirty-one years of family practice service for this Province.

I am also pleased to announce today that we have approved all sixty-three eligible applicants for the three medical bursary programs for this fiscal year, and twenty-eight of these physicians will start practice in our Province early in this summer coming.

Our government understands the tremendous value in training more of our people to build our physician workforce. We know that over 80 per cent of Memorial medical graduates who we recruit will stay in the Province for at least five years.

It is with these key facts in mind that we are committed to the expansion of Memorial University's Faculty of Medicine with an investment of some $15 million in capital. We have also committed some $11.75 million in new annual operating funds to increase the number of spaces for Newfoundland and Labrador medical students by 10 per cent in the coming year and 30 per cent over the next five years.

This commitment, Mr. Speaker, will help influence our continued success in recruiting Newfoundland and Labrador medical school graduates who choose to live and practice right here in the communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Physician services in this Province are always, I guess, debated region by region. There never seem to be enough to go around to meet the demands in our system. We are always pleased when we hear of some new people being recruited into our Province, and we know that those efforts are sometimes much more difficult than others; but, Mr. Speaker, the reality is that we are still short about 125 family physicians in this Province.

There are still areas in Newfoundland and Labrador where there are significant gaps that are not being met. I refer to places like Gander, where only a short few months ago there were thousands of patients on a wait-list in that area who did not have a family physician. Maybe we need to get an update on where that situation is today.

Mr. Speaker, you look at places like Labrador West. For the last two years in Labrador West they have been advocating for more physician services – a community whose population is growing, whose industry is expanding, but its health care is remaining stagnant. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, the minister will be familiar with Labrador West. It is the same town that they went into, in the middle of an election, and dug a hole in the ground for a new hospital, spent a million dollars, and walked away from it for over a year without even addressing the need of the people in that region.

So, there are still some very significant needs when it comes to physician services in this Province, Mr. Speaker, and we know that co-operation with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association will help improve that. Instead, the government has had a position of conflict with that organization. They have been out there, Mr. Speaker, making comments in the media, degrading the staff and the people who work within that organization, instead of sitting down with them and trying to work towards a blueprint and trying to work towards a physician resources plan for this Province, in co-operation -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: – with those who are in the Medical Association.

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

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

I, too, thank the minister for the copy of his statement, the advance copy.

It is good news that the numbers are increasing, and I am really glad that the recruitment programs are showing success. I think this is one of the areas where the minister can be very proud, because the recruitment is working; but, as he has indicated in his statement, retention is also part of the issue, so I think we have to make sure that effort is put into assuring and ensuring that the quality of life for the physicians, and the pay that they are getting, that they are satisfied enough that they are going to stay on.

I notice that we have a good number who stay five years, but I think after five years we get a real drop-off. We have to stop that loss of physicians that is still going on. We have to do that as well for nurses and for other professionals, health professionals in this Province. So this government does have to look at the retention issues and treating all of these people equitably when it comes to their pay so that they are not tempted to leave the Province after four, five or six years.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we raised the issue of poor air quality at the Seal Cove Campus of the College of the North Atlantic. Media reports have indicated that yesterday's closure was the result of two trucks that were idling outside the building. However, this does not explain the complaints that we received on Monday and the other problems that were experienced prior to that.

I ask the minister: Has your department determined the scope of the problem, and have you had a chance to review the quality air inspections that were completed on the facility, and are you ready to table them at this stage?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, back in 2007-2008, there was some fairly extensive work done on the building at Seal Cove. There was approximately $800,000 worth of work done on the roof and some interior work done on the building.

Early in 2008, the College of the North Atlantic took it upon themselves to do some air quality testing, and testing for mould within the building. The results of that determined that the air quality in the building, from spores in the air perspective, was better than it was outside of the building. The people who did the work determined that there was no issue with air quality at the building. There were two sites where mould was identified and remediation was recommended.

Over the course of the past number of months the Department of Transportation and Works, in consultation with the college, have done the necessary remediation and removed those places where mould was present, from a surface perspective. The building assessment that was done yesterday determined that there was no problem with the boilers. There does not appear to be an air quality problem with the testing that was done from Occupational Health and Safety.

As the member said, the fumes appear to have come from two delivery trucks that were diesel operated parked near the air intake on the –

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

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

The air quality issues yesterday, the fumes were from two diesel operated trucks that were parked near the air intake for the ventilation system of the building, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, we were also advised that those trucks only arrived at that campus at 8:30 yesterday morning and stayed for a short period of time.

I guess my question would be, in light of that, were there any other problems that were found there with regard to where the fumes would have come from? I ask the minister, if there are any carbon monoxide detectors in that building that would have picked up that there was a problem?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, no matter how many times the member asks the question, I can only tell her and others the results of the work that was done. The results have shown that there does not appear to be any air quality issues at the College of the North Atlantic Campus in Seal Cove. The issues around surface mould that were identified last winter have been remediated.

As for the length of time that the trucks were parked outside the door, Mr. Speaker, you know, I guess in some respects it is irrelevant how long they were there. The people who did the work on the building yesterday, who inspected the building yesterday, determined that in their best estimate the fumes that were present in the building did not come from the new boilers that were installed, they came from the exhaust fumes from the idling of those trucks that were parked in the vicinity of the air intake for the building, and that is all I can tell them. As for any other issues and why people are complaining, Mr. Speaker, I can only tell you what the results of the work have shown.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, last night I was advised that government had sent officials out to the Seal Cove Campus to do air quality inspections.

I ask the minister: What was the scope of that inspection, and can he provide the results of it to us?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the member needs to move to her next set of questions because that is the same question she asked now for three times, and the same answer.

The Occupational, Health and Safety people went out there yesterday, they did their testing. She did ask previously if there were any carbon monoxide monitors in the building, that I am not able to tell her right now but I will endeavour to find out after Question Period and report back to the House in as quick a fashion as I can.

As for the scope of the air quality testing, I would imagine, Mr. Speaker, that it is the same as we would do whenever we are made aware of air quality problems in a building, that if there is a presence, or appears to be the presence of fumes, petroleum fumes or otherwise, Mr. Speaker, but again, I will endeavour to find out exactly the scope of the testing that was done out there yesterday and report that back to the House in as timely a fashion as I can.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is what we wanted, a copy of those reports and those air quality inspections that were done.

My next question for the minister - he talks about the air quality assessment that CONA did themselves, at the campus - I just want to clarify: Is it the obligation on the college campuses to do those inspections, or is it part of the regulatory regime of government through Works, Services and Transportation under Occupational Health and Safety?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as most people would know, and I assume the member knows, the Department of Transportation and Works is basically the landlord of the building. Our department is responsible for the building envelope, for the management of the building and what have you. Now, if the College of the North Atlantic want to take it upon themselves, we do regular testing as is required or deemed to be required by our staff in our various facilities. If they identify a problem or believe there is a problem then certainly they have the ability and the right and the responsibility to go through the proper channels within the department to get whatever testing they believe is appropriate, work with the Occupational Health and Safety people. As the Minister of Education said yesterday, whenever we become aware of a problem we try, to the extent that we can, to deal with it in as timely a fashion as possible.

Having said that, in this case the College of the North Atlantic decided that they wanted to do air quality testing and wanted to do an inspection for mould in the building. They contracted an outside firm to come in and do that work, Mr. Speaker, and they provided us with the results of that work and we did the necessary remediation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, if the College of the North Atlantic did their own inspections based on complaints, as I heard, from students and staff out there - was what prompted them to do it - when Works and Transportation did the inspection, why didn't they pick up that there was mould in this campus, or did they not do any inspections at all?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, as I said, when the group that were contracted by the college did their work, they did not find any problem. There was no appearance of airborne spores in the building, in excess of what you would find in the normal atmosphere outside of the building. As a matter of fact, the air quality in the building was superior to the air quality outside the building. Mr. Speaker, you cannot improve much on what Mother Nature gives us. So, Mr. Speaker, that was that part of it.

As for the surface mould that was identified, there were two small pieces of surface mould, in my understanding, in proximity to a couple of the windows. This building is in excess of fifty years old. That is not uncommon, Mr. Speaker. My understanding is that the report indicated that there were no problems with this, but that Level I remediation should be done in any event; and that, Mr. Speaker, was done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, we have also been advised that the Department of Transportation and Works is completing structural inspections on the Seal Cove facility as well.

I ask the minister: When were these inspections done? What was the scope of the inspections, and can you table the results of those?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the department does regular inspections on building envelopes. The member is right; as part of the work that was completed by the college last winter, we were advised that a building envelope assessment should be completed. That work has been undertaken. It is not completed yet, Mr. Speaker. I expect that some time over the course of the next couple of months we will have a report on that, a draft report or a final report. Once we have that, we will have an understanding of what the condition of the building is.

As I said, we spent $800,000, approximately – well, $795,000 - on that building last year. My understanding is, over the course of the past couple of years, we have spent in excess of $1 million on this facility, in upgrading it and retrofitting.

Mr. Speaker, if problems are identified - this building is in excess of fifty years old, as I said previously, we would expect that there would be some problems - to the extent that we can, within our fiscal capacity, we will move to try and address those issues, as we do in all other buildings, within reason.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, in September, both Frank Roberts Junior High and St. George's Elementary in Conception Bay South closed due to mould and air quality issues. This seems to be an annual occurrence with schools in our Province; yet, government is unwilling to conduct mandatory air quality inspections.

I ask the minister: Why is government so adamant against conducting mandatory air quality inspections in the schools in the Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education and Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we are working diligently to deal with air quality issues in our schools. One thing I would like to note is that in St. George's Elementary we did have an air quality test done that showed us that there was poor air quality in just one classroom of that school. We felt that an air quality test was not sufficient to give us the information we need to truly look at that school and determine the scope of work that was needed. So, in addition to the air quality testing, we also had an enhanced inspection done of that school which led us to see that the problems were far more than what we would have picked up strictly from the air quality test.

Mr. Speaker, it is not that we are against mandatory air quality testing. We feel that is just one tool that we can use, when we need it, which is an air quality test, but we feel sometimes the more intrusive tests, like the enhanced inspections, are needed and give us better results.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, this year we had two schools in Conception Bay South that ended up closing. Last year in it was a school in La Scie. The year before that it was schools in Corner Brook and Upper Island Cove. It is obvious, Minister, that the current process is not working, whether it is a tool there that you can use when you feel like it or not.

The issue here is mandatory inspections and air quality testing for these schools, and I ask today: Will your government commit to make those a mandatory requirement in this Province for schools?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I would not want the general public to think that this government does not take the air quality of our schools seriously.

Since 2004, Mr. Speaker, we have spent in excess of $47 million to address air quality projects in our schools in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: We have done 446 air quality projects in 186 schools, or 66 per cent of the schools in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, that includes $28 million for 168 roofing projects. It also means that we did 128 building envelope inspections for over $11 million.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, we have had carpet removed from schools, we have eliminated chalk boards, and we have had ventilation projects completed.

So, Mr. Speaker, we may not do mandatory air quality testing but we are doing more intrusive testing. We are certainly putting money in, and we have done 446 projects.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister well knows that a lot of that money was invested as a result of poor quality that was found in schools, after schools opened.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: The minister knows that many, many years these schools are opening –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: – and they are not repaired in the way they should be, to (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, if the minister feels that such great work is being completed in these schools, why is it that her department is refusing to release the air quality and the inspection reports of schools in this Province, under a Freedom of Information Act, to the Opposition Office, but instead looking for us to pay $600 to access that information?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Education and Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I think I need to clarify what the Leader of the Opposition just said.

We have not refused to release reports. Under the access to information there is a schedule set up when there is an excessive amount of information that looks at the cost and a formula because it certainly includes a number of hours of work and photocopying of reports. What we have done is we have done an assessment of the amount of information that has been requested, and according to the formula, we advise the Opposition of what they would need to pay in order to have this information processed and sent over to them.

We have not denied that request, Mr. Speaker. We have responded to it appropriately and we feel that if they want the information as set out under the legislation that they will continue with their request.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to remind the minister that her government has already committed to place water quality inspections on the Internet. You have agreed to put food inspection reports on the Internet. Why will you not put the inspections of air quality in schools on the Internet?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education and Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member makes it sound as if we take these air quality reports or reports that we have on our schools and somehow keep them secretive, which is far from the truth.

Mr. Speaker, as we do reports for schools and the Department of Education, we share these with the school board. The school board has trustees that are elected and they have school councils. They do up plans and work plans on how they are going to address these issues. These are not reports that we hold in the Department of Education only to be shared amongst ourselves. These are reports that are done, they assist the school boards in doing their priorities every year and if anything, they are certainly not kept secret.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

They may not be secret but they want $600 from our office in order to access those reports.

Minister, if you are so forthcoming and you are so willing to provide the information, why not provide it right here-

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: -in the House of Assembly so that the people of the Province –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Why not provide it right here in the House of Assembly so that the parents, the children, the people of the Province can see what inspections have been completed and what the results of them are?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader and Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I guess the hon. member did not understand what I said in my last answer.

What I have said is that these reports are done for the school boards that they can share with their school councils and with the parents. It is reviewed by the trustees. It sets their priorities for a year. She kind of gives the impression that we take these reports and we deal with them primarily from a government or departmental perspective. We do not, Mr. Speaker. They are out there. They are available for the stakeholders who need these reports. I want the parents to be assured that when these reports are done the boards use them each and every time to help set their priorities, to help us as well as we look at the budget and we are able to determine what work is done in any given year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: The minister sits on the Management Commission, Mr. Speaker. She knows that we do not have the resources to access that kind of information. She knows it, Mr. Speaker, and she is refusing to provide it in the people's House.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, my next question is for the Minister of Health and Community Services.

Yesterday I asked the Minister of Health about a Statement of Claim against Eastern Health for a lack of mental health services for youth in the Province.

I ask the minister: Now that he has been given an opportunity to review this Statement of Claim, is he concerned that his government's lack of mental health services to young people in this Province is going to cause legal bills to the government and to Eastern Health?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Over the last couple of days, Mr. Speaker, I have laid out in this House some of the initiatives and some of the investments our government has made in mental health services. I talked about some of our plans for the future, some of the commitments we have made to ensure that we make future enhancements in mental health services for the people of the Province.

What I do not have a control over, Mr. Speaker, and no one in this government has any control over, is what private citizens may decide to sue health authorities or sue government. That is those individual's choices. That is why we have courts, if individuals have recourse and they should pursue those. I have no way of controlling that, I say, Mr. Speaker.

What I do have some control over though, and some influence as a government, we have some influence on, is the kinds of investments we make in health services. When we look at our record for the last five years, I stand here today very proud, indeed, Mr. Speaker, of the investments we have made in health services. I am proud to be able to stand here today and make a commitment that we will continue to invest in health services, we will continue to make improvements in not only mental health services, but an array of health programs throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, I say, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I guess the thing is, if government was fulfilling its requirement to provide mental health services to all youth in this Province up to the age of eighteen, then we would not have a legal suit on our hands.

I ask you, minister: Isn't it more proactive and more effective to be putting the money into those services and not be risking lawsuits against the government and Eastern Health?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: I don't know how many more times, Mr. Speaker, I can say what I just said a moment ago and over the last couple of days.

We have continued to invest in Health care, we will continue to invest in health care, we have made significant improvements in health services, and I pointed out to the member opposite yesterday that back in the middle of October the Advocate herself acknowledged the tremendous improvements we have made in health services. She, along with myself, acknowledged that there is need for continued improvements. I have made the commitment on behalf of government that we will continue to enhance programs.

Now, what private citizens do with respect to their option to take legal action because they feel aggrieved in some fashion, I can't restrict that. That is why we have courts and individuals in this Province have the right and freedom to do that, and I welcome them to do that.

I say, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the investments that we have made in health services, and mental health services in particular, we have made significant improvements particularly in the mental health area in the last three years.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to conclude his answer.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, suicide is a major public health illness and I think we all know that, but it is also a largely preventable one. In the last three years we have had eighteen youth suicides in this Province.

Minister, given the statistics, given the situation that we find our youth in, in this Province today – they are crying out for help – can you at least lay out some kind of a mental health strategy that we can work with to be able to achieve better treatment and better services for these people sooner and not later?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite raised a very serious issue and I want to make sure that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador fully understand and appreciate the kinds of investments we have actually made in mental health services. She is asking for a strategy. I indicated to this House a couple of days ago that in 2005 we developed or rolled out for the people of the Province, because it was developed in concert with many stakeholders, we rolled out a framework for mental health services in this Province.

The following year we created the legislative framework and the regulatory framework for that body of work to be implemented. We have started that process, Mr. Speaker, and in the last three years we have invested over $15 million of new money into mental health services for this Province.

Only yesterday I met with the Canadian Mental Health Association to talk about how we might work together on a couple of very significant projects that will continue to make improvements in mental health services.

I say, Mr. Speaker, we do have a strategy. It is rooted in the 2005 framework and I direct her attention to that. It is on her website. I also direct her attention to the kinds of investments we have made in mental health services in the last three years.

We acknowledge, though, Mr. Speaker, there is continued room for improvement and we are committed to work in bridging some of the gaps that currently exist in services. We, too, are very conscious of the issues she has raised and I want to assure the people of this Province that we take this issue seriously; we take our responsibilities seriously.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister knows, by his own government statistics, that there are well over 1,000 attempted suicides by teenagers between fifteen and nineteen years of age in our Province annually. We talked to the RCMP; their statistics are telling us that they received nearly 1,300 calls for mental health issues last year, and most of these calls were attempted suicides.

Based on that information, based on the fact that we spend the second-lowest amount per person, per child, on youth mental health, of any other province of Canada, based on the fact that our number of people in care outside the Province is growing on an annual basis, again, Minister, I feel the 2005 framework is not addressing the need that is there today.

I have to ask you again: Are you prepared to move towards a treatment facility in this Province with proper services to be able to address the growing need that exists with our young people and our youthful generation of this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Again I want to acknowledge how serious an issue the member is raising. To be posing questions on the floor of the House to suggest: Will government commit to build a building tomorrow? I don't think that is an appropriate kind of decision process that we want to make, an investment that we want to make, in such a significant program.

What I have said in this House, and we are committed to, we are committed to revisit the question of having a residential program in this Province. I have indicated to this House two days ago that the report that was developed in 2003, officials of my department have been tasked with reviewing that report, to update the data that is in that, to determine whether or not the issues and assumptions and recommendations that were made at that time were valid.

I indicated just a few moments ago that I met with the Canadian Mental Health Association yesterday to talk about that and other issues, and we talked about a process that we would engage in to actually revisit that report, to talk about how we might address some of the residential requirements of people who are in this Province.

So I say, Mr. Speaker, to ask the question here today - if we are asked for an immediate question - there are some very complex issues at play here and we need to make sure that we deal with it right, we deal with it seriously, and we bring the appropriate partners to the table to help us with it.

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.

Mr. Speaker, in April 2007 there were draft changes made to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, and I understand these have been under discussion and consultation over the last year. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, while the regulations currently reflect a commitment to protecting workers who work with or around machinery, the proposed changes to the regulations weaken protection for workers who are at risk of industrial disease.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Government Services: Why is the government undermining the rights of workers who become ill from occupational disease, sometimes long after leaving the workplace?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, the regulations entailed in Occupation Health and Safety have been under review for a long time now – probably a year-and-a-half or so. The proposed changes within the regulations are hailed as being some of the most stringent in other jurisdictions, especially in Canada, and in no way – and I want to be very clear here on the floor of the House – do we want to infringe in regard to occupation disease.

What the hon. member is talking about is the removal of what is called section 24, that was entrenched into the regulations some forty years ago. It is a very, very broad section of those regulations that really, actually, devalues the actual registry surrounding occupational health and disease.

Since this time – and it has not really been enacted or capitalized on over that forty years – what we have done with the Wabush Mines and Lab West and other areas is develop codes of practice. In regard to Wabush it is the Silica Code of Practice, which includes a registry and a history of the people who work in regard to those mining.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. O'BRIEN: This code of practice, Mr. Speaker, is hailed around the world as being the template, as being one of the best in the world. As a matter of fact, it is used by Australia itself. It certainly –

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

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

I am well aware of the new code of practice that is in place in Labrador West. The Minister of Government Services in 2006, the minister at the time, brought that code of practice in, and at the time said that it was going to become a model for the Province itself, and recognized at the time that silicosis and other complications may arise years after someone has stopped working.

I want to know: When is this government going to extend the protection to future generations of mining and other industrial workers, and put the Silica Code of Practice in place for all workers who work in comparable situations?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we are trying to do, because section 24 is very, very broad, it is impractical, it is forty years old. At any given time, as the Minister Responsible for Occupational Health and Safety, I can establish a registry, another code of practice. It can be a code of practice in regard to any industry or developing industry in this Province, be it petroleum or be it whatever it is.

The Silica Code of Practice actually is specific and that is exactly what we want to do, to be specific to specific diseases, to specific industries, to specific issues within that industry. That is exactly what we are trying to do.

Section 24, in regard to the way it is written, on the broad sense, I have to start a registry for 35,000 workplaces for every single worker, and that includes every retail outlet in Newfoundland and Labrador, and that is the way it is written. This way, I have the ability to start a registry at any given time, if it is justified. I can start a code of practice whenever it is justified, and we have the template to work out of.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

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

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

I will give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991 No. 2. (Bill 50)

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, I also give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law. (Bill 53)

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion.

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting The Practice Of Dentistry. (Bill 61)

Mr. Speaker, I also give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Venereal Disease Prevention Act. (Bill 58)

Mr. Speaker, I also give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Private Homes For Special Care Allowances Act. (Bill 57)

Mr. Speaker, I also give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Midwifery Act. (Bill 56)

Also, Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Homes For Special Care Act. (Bill 55)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply to Consider a Resolution Relating to the Granting of Supplementary Supply to Her Majesty. (Bill 67)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion.

The hon. the Minister of Education and Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The School Boards' Association Act. (Bill 54)

Further, Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act No.2 (Bill 52)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion.

The hon. the Deputy Premier.

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Mineral Act. (Bill 62)

I further give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Forestry Act, No.2. (Bill 65)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

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

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Rooms Act. (Bill 64)

I also give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Management of Information Act. (Bill 63)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

MS WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting Fire Protection Services in the Province. (Bill 60)

I also give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Provide For The Organization and Administration of Emergency Services in the Province. (Bill 59)

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Minister of Government Services.

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act. (Bill 66)

I further give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Securities Act. (Bill 49)

I further give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting Certified Management Accountants. (Bill 51)

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answer to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitons.

Petitions

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I feel like today saying I am putting a motion forward to build a long-term care facility for Conception Bay North, but I do not hold that position, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to present another petition. I was pleased today to hear the minister talk about the investments in health care. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, any investments in health care is greatly appreciated and we fully agree with that, but it is little consolation to the people of Conception Bay North who have been promised a long-term care facility going back to 2001, confirmed again and reconfirmed in 2007.

I noticed yesterday the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board were sizing up the petition saying that there were only three or four names on them, is that all the names you can come up with. I am going to tell you, when I hear the announcement being made that this is going to be reconsidered and one of the two facilities for St. John's will probably turn out to be one for Conception Bay North, I will present every petition the one day, I can assure you, Mr. Speaker.

I call upon my hon. colleagues opposite, three Ministers of the Crown, that they will ask government to reconsider this decision. I know the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board is over going on, he can stand. He will see petitions with constituents from his own district who are asking for the same thing. He need not think they are all coming from Shearstown and the Bay Roberts and Port de Grave area. He will see them –

MR. KENNEDY: (Inaudible) Carbonear.

MR. BUTLER: Carbonear. They are coming from Carbonear, I say to the hon. member.

All I am asking is the hon. minister and his colleagues to stand behind their constituents. This is not something that we are just pulling out of the air. This is something that has been promised to the people, and if government can come out and say we are going to build two new facilities for St. John's, surely they can say one of those is going to be for Conception Bay North area.

Mr. Speaker, I will be standing each and every day the House is open, until eternity, until someone makes an announcement and corrects this injustice that has been done to the people of Conception Bay North.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Petitions?

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move from the Order Paper, Motion 1, seconded by the Minister of Natural Resources and the Deputy Premier, and it reads:

Whereas section 7 of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act provides that the Law Clerk is to be appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council on a nomination by the House of Assembly;

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation. The Speaker is having great difficult hearing the Government House Leader providing the Orders of the Day.

I call on the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: As I continue with number 1 from the Order Paper:

Now Therefore Be It Resolved that Ms Lorna Proudfoot be nominated for appointment as the Law Clerk of the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation.

Is the House in agreement with the resolution that Ms Lorna Proudfoot be nominated for and appointed to as the Law Clerk of the House of Assembly?

If it is acceptable to members, we are prepared to take a vote. If members need to make commentary, we certainly welcome that as well.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make some commentary about Ms Lorna Proudfoot before we move to a vote in the House of Assembly.

We see Ms Lorna Proudfoot daily here in the House of Assembly, but I don't know how many people here in the House of Assembly actually know Ms Proudfoot and her background.

Mr. Speaker, the position of Law Clerk has a long and valued history in the British parliamentary system. As a Table Officer of the House the Law Clerk supports the Clerk and the Clerk Assistant as required and is accountable for the provision of legal advice on parliamentary matters and procedures to the Speaker, Clerk, Members of the House of Assembly, and the House of Assembly Management Commission. The Law Clerk also provides legal counsel to the House of Assembly service with respect to contract, employment, and other legal issues that might arise.

For many years the duties of the Law Clerk of the House of Assembly in Newfoundland and Labrador have been shared by lawyers employed with the Office of the Legislative Counsel. These lawyers are drafters of government legislation and employees of the Department of Justice.

The Report of the Hon. J. Derek Green, Rebuilding Confidence, recommended the role of the Law Clerk not be performed by Legislative Counsel because of the potential for a conflict of interest. A conflict could be perceived to arise where Legislative Counsel drafts bills for the government of the Province and then, as Law Clerk, advises on parliamentary and legislative matters under the umbrella of the House of Assembly. He therefore recommended the creation of a new Law Clerk position reporting only to the House of Assembly.

Following the direction of the House of Assembly Management Commission a recruitment process was conducted with the Public Service Commission to hire a permanent Law Clerk for our Legislature. Ms Lorna Proudfoot, the acting Law Clerk since 2007, is the recommended candidate for this position as noted in the resolution.

In 1975 Ms Proudfoot completed her undergraduate degree at Memorial University graduating with a Bachelor of Science Honours. In 1981 Ms Proudfoot completed her law degree at the University of New Brunswick and was admitted to the Bar of Newfoundland and Labrador in April of 1982. For the past twenty years Ms Proudfoot has worked with Legislative Counsel, Department of Justice, and as Law Clerk with the House of Assembly. Prior to that time she conducted a private practice in the areas of real estate, corporate, and family law. Ms Proudfoot brings extensive experience in drafting legislation and providing advice on parliamentary matters.

This I found particularly interesting: In accepting this position Ms Proudfoot will be continuing the work of her father, William F. Proudfoot, who was Law Clerk with the House of Assembly from Confederation until the time of his death in 1955.

If the House supports the resolution the appointment will then proceed to Cabinet for final confirmation.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate an opportunity just to have a few words, as well, in support of the resolution regarding the appointment of Ms Proudfoot. Most of us here in the House, of course, know her personally and have had the benefit of working with her in the past. I had the good fortune of working with her in the Justice Department for a while. We all know her to be a person of great integrity, great intelligence, and a good dose of common sense. That, of course, is going to be needed on many the occasions, I would think, when she has to deal with some of the thorny and sometimes sensitive issues that come up here in the House of Assembly.

As indicated by the Government House Leader, she is eminently qualified for this, not only because of her own academic training, of course, and her experience; even genetically, I guess, she has some right to the position in that regard as well. We are certainly supportive of it - the resolution, that is - and her assuming that position.

We have had the benefit, since the Green report, of dealing with Ms Proudfoot, actually, since last fall some time. In any committee that I have had the pleasure of working with, and she has been involved in, she has provided unbelievable advice and guidance to the committees as and when required, including the Management Committee, Public Accounts and so on, and any other committee that we have needed her to be involved with.

We would certainly, as the Official Opposition, be very supportive and confirm our support for the resolution appointing Ms Proudfoot as Law Clerk for our Assembly.

Thank you.

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

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

As Leader of the Third Party I, too, would like to join in supporting the nomination of Ms Proudfoot. The expertise that she has, her experience and her training, have been well outlined by the House Leader and the Opposition House Leader and I will not repeat any of that but just echo it.

I, too, have had the opportunity to work more closely with her than maybe other MHAs because of being on the Management Commission. She certainly has shown herself to me as a person who thoroughly researches and gets inside of whatever issues she has to give an opinion on. So, I am very pleased too to stand and to second – it is not necessary, but - to second the nomination.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Any further commentary?

Is the House ready for the question?

Shall the motion carry that Ms Lorna Proudfoot be nominated for appointment as the Law Clerk of the House of Assembly?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried unanimously.

On motion, Ms Lorna Proudfoot appointed as Law Clerk of the House of Assembly.

MR. SPEAKER: Just by way of commentary, for new members, the Law Clerk is not there wholly and solely for the Speaker's Office. If members want to access the Law Clerk in order to put forward resolutions or to bring about amendments, the Law Clerk is the person that you see and works independently of every other person in the House.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I will return to the Order Paper, Motion 2.


I move, seconded by the Minister of Natural Resources and the Deputy Premier, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Pickersgill Fellowship Act. (Bill 41)

I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Education shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Pickersgill Fellowship Act, (Bill 41), and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the Minister of Education shall have leave to introduce Bill 41, and that the said bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Education to introduce a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Pickersgill Fellowship Act," carried. (Bill 41)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Repeal The Pickersgill Fellowship Act. (Bill 41)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 41 has now been read a first time.

When shall Bill 41 be read a second time?

Now? Tomorrow?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 41 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Motion 3.

I move, seconded by the Minister of Natural Resources and the Deputy Premier, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Memorial University Foundation Act. (Bill 42)

I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Education shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Memorial University Foundation Act, (Bill 42), and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the Minister of Education shall have leave to introduce Bill 42, and that the said bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Education to introduce a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Memorial University Foundation Act," carried. (Bill 42)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Repeal The Memorial University Foundation Act. (Bill 42)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 42 has now been read a first time.

When shall the said bill be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 42 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Motion 4.

I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Natural Resources and the Deputy Premier, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Labrador Linerboard Limited Agreement Act, 1979. (Bill 47)

I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Natural Resources shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Labrador Linerboard Limited Agreement Act, 1979, (Bill 47), and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the said minister shall have leave to introduce Bill 47, and that the bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Natural Resources to introduce a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Labrador Linerboard Limited Agreement Act, 1979," carried. (Bill 47)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Repeal The Labrador Linerboard Limited Agreement Act, 1979. (Bill 47)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 47 has now been read a first time.

When shall Bill 47 be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 47 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Motion 5.

I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Natural Resources and the Deputy Premier, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Labrador Linerboard Limited Agreement (Amendment) Act, 1979. (Bill 48)

I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Natural Resources shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Labrador Linerboard Limited Agreement (Amendment) Act, 1979, (Bill 48), and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the minister shall have leave to introduce Bill 48 and that the said bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Natural Resources to introduce a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Labrador Linerboard Limited Agreement (Amendment) Act, 1979," carried. (Bill 48)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Repeal The Labrador Linerboard Limited Agreement (Amendment) Act, 1979. (Bill 48)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 48 has now been read a first time.

When shall the said bill be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 48 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Motion 6 on the Order Paper.

I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Transportation and Works, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Newfoundland And Labrador Computer Services Limited Amendment Act. (Bill 46)

I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Newfoundland And Labrador Computer Services Limited Amendment Act, (Bill 46), and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the said minister shall have leave to introduce Bill 46, and that the said bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works to introduce a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Newfoundland And Labrador Computer Services Limited Amendment Act," carried. (Bill 46)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Repeal The Newfoundland And Labrador Computer Services Limited Amendment Act. (Bill 46)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 46 has now been read a first time.

When shall the said bill be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 46 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Motion 7 on the Order Paper.

I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Government Services, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Real Estate Trading Act. (Bill 39)

I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. Minister of Government Services shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Real Estate Trading Act, Bill 39, and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the said member shall have leave to introduce Bill 39 and that the said bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Government Services to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Real Estate Trading Act," carried. (Bill 39)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Real Estate Trading Act. (Bill 39)

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a first time. When shall Bill 39 be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 39 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Motion 8 from the Order Paper. I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Government Services, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Corporations Guarantees Act. (Bill 43)

I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Government Services shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Corporations Guarantees Act, Bill 43, and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the said minister shall have leave to introduce Bill 43 and that the said bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Government Services to introduce a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Corporations Guarantees Act," carried. (Bill 43)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Repeal The Corporations Guarantees Act. (Bill 43)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 43 has now been read a first time. When shall Bill 43 be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 43 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Motion 9 from the Order Paper. I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Government Services, ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Certified Public Accountants Act. (Bill 44)

I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Government Services shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Certified Public Accountants Act, Bill 44, and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the minister shall have leave to introduce Bill 44 and that the said bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Government Services to introduce a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Certified Public Accountants Act," carried. (Bill 44)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Repeal The Certified Public Accountants Act. (Bill 44)

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a first time. When shall the said bill be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 44 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Motion 10. I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Government Services, ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Chartered Accountants And Certified Public Accountants Merger Act. (Bill 45)

I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Government Services shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Chartered Accountants And Certified Public Accountants Merger Act, Bill 45, and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the said minister shall have leave to introduce Bill 45 and that the said bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Government Services to introduce a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Chartered Accountants And Certified Public Accountants Merger Act," carried. (Bill 45)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Repeal The Chartered Accountants And Certified Public Accountants Merger Act. (Bill 45)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 45 has now been read a first time. When shall the said bill be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 45 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Motion 11 from the Order Paper. I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 And To Repeal The Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act. (Bill 38)

I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 And To Repeal The Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act, Bill 38, and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the minister shall have leave to introduce Bill 38 and that the said bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 And To Repeal The Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act." (Bill 38)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 And To Repeal The Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act. (Bill 38)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 38 has now been read a first time. When shall Bill 38 be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 38 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Motion 12 from the Order Paper. I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Arts Council Act. (Bill 40)

I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Arts Council Act, Bill 40, and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the minister shall have leave to introduce Bill 40 and that the said bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Arts Council Act," carried. (Bill 40)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Arts Council Act. (Bill 40)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 40 has now been read a first time. When shall the said bill be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 40 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, the Orders of the Day, I would like to go to number 2 on the Order Paper, Address in Reply.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARDING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased today to rise and speak in the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

As most people are aware, the Speech from the Throne is a document that gives an outline of where our government plans to go in the months and years ahead, a document which gives a plan for the future. We, as Members of the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker, all have the opportunity to speak on this document. I do not know if there is any such thing as if it is better to speak in the spring, when the document is presented first by the Lieutenant-Governor, or later on during the fall session, but, Mr. Speaker, I would say that this year, 2008, I believe that it is much better to have the opportunity to speak during the fall session.

This has been a tremendous year in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This has been, in my view, what I would class as a red-letter year in our Province's history. There have been many great things done in 2008, things that have solidified the foundation which we have been building for the past four years. I do not want to leave the impression, Mr. Speaker, right from the beginning with the Opposition, that I am standing here today saying that everything is perfect in this Province. I am not saying that at all. We do have problems, and we are addressing them with our resources in the most responsible manner possible.

I would just like to refer to something I read last night, Mr. Speaker, a newsletter from the United States. More than thirty-six million Americas struggled with hunger last year and had to go to food banks. That is 26 per cent of the total population of the United States last year who had to go to a food bank. This year, Mr. Speaker, with the problems in the United States, that is even worse.

I am proud to say that I believe firmly we are much better off in this Province than a lot of other places around the world. The decisions that we have made as a government over the past five years have been good ones, even though I say it myself as a member of this government. The decision to reduce our Province's debt, the decision to reduce taxes, our decision to make sustainable investments in our infrastructure and our social programs were the right ones for the right reasons. This is certainly being confirmed now, Mr. Speaker, by the watchdogs in the money market.

About a month ago, the Dominion Bond Rating Service upgraded our long-term debt rating from A- to A. On November 21, only a week or so ago, Standard & Poor's recognized our Province's prudent financial management by revising our outlook from stable to positive. Certainly, Mr. Speaker, that says that we are doing the right things and we are on the right track, especially when you consider the economic circumstances around the world today.

Mr. Speaker, in saying that 2008 has been an incredible year in the history of this Province, I would like to make a few references to our Throne Speech, and I would like to see now, and I can say in the fall, how we, as a government, have been following and living up to what we said in the Throne Speech.

First, Mr. Speaker, on page 6 we said that we would finalize the framework agreements with the Hebron partners. Mr. Speaker, the deal is done, a multi-billion dollar deal for this Province. The agreement is signed, sealed and delivered. Even though all around us we see and hear of so much doom and gloom, the Hebron partners confirmed only a week or so ago that this project is a go, the creation of at least 3,500 jobs for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

We also said in our Throne Speech on page 6, Mr. Speaker, that we would participate in the developing of the White Rose satellites under our new agreement. Mr. Speaker, this is done. It is not only done but it also includes a 5 per cent equity stake in the project; again, billions of dollars for this Province's future.

We said in our Throne Speech, Mr. Speaker, that we would be progressing the Lower Churchill project development plan toward project sanction and first power. It is done, Mr. Speaker. We reached that milestone when we negotiated and signed a New Dawn Agreement with the Innu of Labrador. A great day for the Innu of Labrador and a greater day for all of the people in this great Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARDING: We said in our Throne Speech, Mr. Speaker, that we would advance wind power development in the Province. It is being done in St. Lawrence and on the Southern Shore.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARDING: We said in the Throne Speech that we would make preparations for the development and the construction of a nickel processing operation in the Province. It is done as well, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARDING: The decision has been finalized to build a multi-billion dollar hydromet plant in Long Harbour. Again, Mr. Speaker, despite the economic conditions around the world, Vale Inco confirmed just a few days ago that this project will proceed in the spring of 2009. This project will mean an average of 1,630 jobs per year during the three years of construction and, after the construction is finished, a permanent 450 full-time good-paying jobs during its operation.

We also made reference, Mr. Speaker, to the potential expansion of the Iron Ore Company operations in Labrador City. It has been done. That major $800 million expansion is now underway.

Mr. Speaker, I could go on making references to our Throne Speech, and things that we have done and followed for this part of our fiscal year, but I thought I would highlight these few points in particular; because, as we proceed with these megaprojects, they will be major contributing factors to the future of this great Province.

Mr. Speaker, over the past five years our government has made many decisions. We have laid a solid foundation for a brighter future for our children and grandchildren. That is a statement that we made right back in our first Throne Speech in 2004.

We took the approach that we did, Mr. Speaker, because of our pride in this great land. That is why we are in such a good position today. That is why Newfoundland and Labrador today is the envy of every other jurisdiction in this country.

In 1989 former Premier Brian Peckford said: Some day the sun will shine and have-not will be no more.

Well, Mr. Speaker, that day has arrived. I, and I know my colleagues in this House of Assembly, are all proud of that.

It is important, however, to recognize that achieving what we call have status as a province did not happen solely because we were the government these past few years. I would like to say that it was, but I cannot. It happened because of a combination of factors over the years.

Our fishery has always been a major contributor to our economy. As we have heard said so many times before, for every fish that comes out of the water it is a new dollar generated to the economy of our Province and our country.

In my own District of Bonavista North the fishery is a generator of an average of $50 million to $60 million a year toward the local economy in that area. Mr. Speaker, with greater protection of the resource, that fishery will be with us for years and years to come.

Our Upper Churchill Hydro development, not a project that any of us are proud of, is nevertheless a project which is contributing to our economy. After the first expiry date is up for the first contract, we will be much better off in the future.

Our mining industry, Mr. Speaker: Since 2003, the gross value of mineral shipments has risen from $776 million to a projected $5.2 billion this year. Six new mining and processing operations have opened during this period creating hundreds of jobs for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I know a number of people working on these projects were people who were working away in Sudbury and other mining areas around the country and around the world. Mineral exploration in this Province has boomed by 643 per cent. This year alone mineral exploration in the Province is valued at $148 million. So, our mining industry is another contributor to our Province's economy.

Our agrifoods industry, Mr. Speaker - something that we don't often hear very much about - is a more than $500 million contributor to our economic wellbeing; an industry that is supplying more than 6,000 people in the rural areas of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Over the last five years our government has invested more than $17 million in funding more than 1,400 projects in our agriculture sector, and I would like to commend a couple of the companies that took advantage of some of the funding and have gone into further secondary production. I would like to commend Brookfield Dairy. They have had a very productive year in their newly expanded ice cream plant. Also Central Dairies: Central Dairies just recently completed their first production run of their new cheese products.

Mr. Speaker, we have also had our best year ever in cranberry production. This year, the harvest has increased by more than 26 per cent from last year. The industry produced a record harvest of 172,000 kilograms of cranberries. The majority of this year's crop, 80 per cent, was processed in my District of Bonavista North by Indian Bay Frozen Foods in Centreville. Mr. Speaker, I know there are some people out there who may laugh at the fact that we are developing such a thing as the cranberry industry, but I say to you, Mr. Speaker, I remember not too long ago when people laughed at Skipper Art Sturge in Valleyfield and Max Attwood and Ralph White and Lester Petten in Port de Grave, laughed at these fishermen when they started the crab fishery back in the early 1970s and stuck with it right on through today. Who ended up laughing after?

I also like to remember the fact that Skipper Boyd Way, the owner and founder of Beothic Fish in Valleyfield, started the lump row fishery back in the early 1970s. People were laughing at him then, but who ended up with the last laugh? I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that with the potential for cranberries in this Province and the excellent marketing opportunities that are available, we will be saying the same thing as that industry grows and increases.

Our forestry industry, Mr. Speaker, has been a major contributor over the years. Even though it has struck on difficult times now, not only in the Province but around the world, I believe and am confident that that will change as time progresses.

Our tourism industry has increased dramatically over the past few years. Our government has doubled its investment in marketing from $6 million in 2004 to $12 million in 2008. I know the tourism industry is a great contributor to the economy in my District of Bonavista North. We have a facility out there, the Barbour Site in Newtown, which is second to none in the Province. We also have a dinner theatre that has attracted thousands of people each year to that part of the Province. I am pleased to say and recognize that one of the actors in our dinner theatre is here with us now; one of the Pages, from Greenspond, here in the House of Assembly, and doing a fine job, I might add.

Without a doubt, Mr. Speaker, one of the major, and I guess the major contributor to our economy has been our offshore oil and gas. Without a doubt, as well, the renegotiation of the Atlantic Accord by this Premier and by this government has been a major factor in putting billions of additional dollars into the coffers of the Newfoundland government.

So, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that the combination of and the culmination of all of these factors and others have put us to where we are today. The key to all of it is maximizing our benefits from our rich natural resources, and being responsible and prudent in our spending. This government has been proud. This government has been strong. This government has been determined in its negotiations with the federal government, with the multi-national oil companies and others in ensuring that at the end of the day we, the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, are the principal beneficiaries of whatever is taken from our land, from our inland waters and from the oceans that surround this great Province.

Mr. Speaker, some have said to me, since we have achieved this have status, since we have stopped receiving equalization payments from Ottawa, some have said they do not see any difference. They do not feel any better today than they did when we were a have not province. I will say to these people, Mr. Speaker: Where is your pride as a Newfoundlander and Labradorian? Where has the fighting Newfoundlander gone? We have always been recognized as the people who treasure our heritage, as a people who are proud of our culture, as a people who have always wanted to be independent, and as a people who always wanted to pay our own way.

Mr. Speaker, after a half century of being perceived in this Country of Canada as having our hand out begging, we should all be proud today that we have finally turned the corner. Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have finally turned the corner, again with our hand out, but, Mr. Speaker, giving instead of receiving.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (T. Osborne): The hon. the Minister of Labrador Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

It is always a pleasure to be back in this hon. House with my colleagues, and to have the opportunity to speak here today to represent the great District of Lake Melville, the communities in Lake Melville, and, indeed, to represent Labrador in this House of Assembly, and certainly in the Cabinet.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague before me certainly stated a lot about the fact that our government, since 2003, has come into its own. It has come into its own because of the leadership of Premier Williams and the vision that he has for this Province and the vision that we, as a collective caucus and Cabinet, have to ensure that this Province is going to take the right path and to ensure that our children and our grandchildren have a firm footing for a solid future.

As I stand here today, Mr. Speaker, and do the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, I want to take the opportunity to tell the people of the Province and my colleagues some of the great things that is happening in Labrador. As many of you know, Labrador is a big land. We call it the Big Land, some 295,000 square kilometres. That is a large piece of real estate when you consider that you can put Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the Island of Newfoundland inside the map of Labrador. A huge piece of property; a huge piece of property with some great resources and certainly some great people. It is very unique to this Province. It is a northern location that has its challenges.

I must say, I have been happy since the last election to work with my hon. colleague, the Member for Torngat Mountains , the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs as we take on some of the issues of Labrador and bring it to our caucus and to the Cabinet and address some of the issues and challenges that we face there.

I want to take a couple of minutes, Mr. Speaker, to talk about the Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs. We are a unique department in many respects. Certainly, the minister's office, the Minister of Labrador Affairs office is in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and there we have some fifteen dedicated employees. I must say, I am absolutely thrilled at the work that my staff do each and everyday to serve the people of Labrador as we deal with the many issues that face us.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs, if we look at our mandate, we coordinate and facilitate basically all government activities related to Labrador and Aboriginal issues in Labrador. Virtually all the department's activities involve close collaboration with all of our provincial entities, the Aboriginal groups, the Inuit, the Innu and the Metis of Labrador, and certainly the new Nunatsiavut government that is at work in Northern Labrador.

Our major role, basically, is to influence policy, especially when it pertains to Labrador, and we advocate for Labrador. We push the agenda inside of government for Labrador, and we make known the needs of the people of Labrador to ensure that their issues get addressed in the various levels of government and the various departments.

One of the projects that I am very, very proud of, and that has been moving forward with tremendous success, and we have done a tremendous amount of work over the last number of years, is the transportation and roadwork that has been done on the Trans-Labrador Highway.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report to the people of the Province here today that we are moving into the final stages of completing the Trans-Labrador Highway, and just weeks ago - as a matter of fact, it was only days ago that the contractors moved their equipment off-site because winter is starting to come in. We have completed somewhere in the vicinity of 215 kilometres of the 265 kilometres of road between Happy Valley–Goose Bay and Cartwright, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: What we have left now, Mr. Speaker, is approximately fifty kilometres of road to be completed in next year's construction season.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot even start to begin to tell you how excited we are in Labrador, to know that we will be able to get into our vehicles in Happy Valley–Goose Bay and be able to drive down the beautiful Coast of Southern Labrador and into the Straits, and to cross over onto the Great Northern Peninsula and be able to do business in Western Newfoundland, in Corner Brook, in Deer Lake.

I cannot tell you, Mr. Speaker, how excited we are to know that our children, once they finish high school and once we get that new university in Corner Brook, that our children will be able to get up at 7:00 in the morning, leave, and be in their campus in Corner Brook that particular evening. It is incredible, Mr. Speaker.

It wasn't all that long ago, Mr. Speaker, back in 1989, when I cut my eye teeth as a young town councillor for the Town of Happy Valley–Goose Bay, and my very first trip to this particular building was to meet with the Transportation and Works officials. I remember people in the room with me at the time - the late Lawrence O'Brien, the late Harry Baikie, the late Herb Brett, Bill Burden, Dennis Conway - and the assistant deputy minister of the day looked into our faces at that time, into our delegation, and said: If you think that this government or any government will build a road across Labrador, you are all living in dreamland.

Well I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that dream is about to come true. It wasn't without a lot of hard work, it wasn't without a lot of good fights and good arguments, but we were persistent. One of the gentlemen that I always allude to when we talk about the Trans-Labrador Highway is a former Mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Hank Shouse, when he came in and started putting his papers on the wall, and had this concept of building a road across Labrador connecting many of the big communities, and certainly the South Coast.

I hope one day, Mr. Speaker, I hope one day, that we will be able to work with the Nunatsiavut Government and with the industry and see a road to the North Coast of Labrador and to some of the communities certainly in Postville and Makkovik and Rigolet.

That is our dream; that has been always our dream. Transportation has been a huge issue for us. It has been a huge challenge, and when you look at the expenses that we pay each and every day to fly out of Labrador, with today's airfares, it is just a tremendous expense, particularly when it comes to medical and vacation and these types of things that we like to take advantage of, for those of us that live there.

This year, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about the Trans-Labrador Highway and some of the progress that was made, I am happy to report that over ninety kilometres of widening has been done between Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Phase I, and some seventy kilometres in Western Labrador have been completed.

We hope to see, next year, the start, the beginning, of the hard surfacing and the laying of asphalt coming out of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Labrador West. It is a tremendous feat, Mr. Speaker, a tremendous feat, some 1,125 kilometres of road connecting Western Labrador and the Straits, and it is going to bring the people of Labrador closer together, and it is going to be able to bring our Province closer together, Mr. Speaker. As I often say in this hon. House, and I say wherever I go, the future of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador lies in the development of the resources of Labrador. When government invests in Labrador, they invest in this Province's future. We have been certainly, for many, many years, paying our way with the royalties out of IOC, Wabush Mines, Voisey's Bay and the Upper Churchill.

 

We are going to see, and my hon. colleague alluded to it just before me - this year was a spectacular year - he mentioned the Hebron agreement. Again we talk about leadership, we talk about courage. If Premier Williams, with the support of our government, had not stood up to the big oil companies we would still be getting what we have gotten in the past, very little out of this resource. That is not what we did here, Mr. Speaker, and that is not what the Premier's vision was here. His vision was to make sure that we get the maximum benefits for our resources.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, to every one of my colleagues here on this side of the House, we all believe that the days of the giveaway of the resources of Newfoundland and Labrador are over.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: I was particularly pleased this summer, Mr. Speaker, and I want to commend my colleague, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, who played a very integral role in the negotiation of what we call the New Dawn Agreement with the Innu Nation, an agreement between the Innu people of Labrador and our government. This was an exceptional negotiation. It was not easy, and I want to commend here today in this hon. House, the president of the Innu Nation, Mark Nui, and the vice-president and grand chief, Peter Penashue, and their negotiating teams, and to the members of our negotiating team who had many long hours and much time in discussions about this new agreement.

This agreement is the beginning for the Innu of Labrador, and indeed our Province. It is an agreement that, I can tell you, many Aboriginal groups across this country are looking at. I can tell you that it is an agreement that many Aboriginal groups across this country would like to have when it comes to playing a key role in benefiting from the resources that are on their lands.

This agreement, Mr. Speaker, resolves key issues related to matters between the Province and the Innu Nation, certainly surrounding Innu rights. It covers issues like the Lower Churchill Impact and Benefits Agreement and the Innu address on the Upper Churchill hydroelectric development.

I was particularly pleased because, out of all of the MHAs here, I am proud to say that I have the largest Aboriginal population of any MHA in the Province. On this particular agreement, Mr. Speaker, I was particularly pleased because of the agreement we made regarding the Upper Churchill.

As we look back through our history, Mr. Speaker, the Upper Churchill - and certainly I know full well, I grew up there - we saw the flooding of the Smallwood Reservoir, we saw the trees left in the reservoir, we saw the land in which many of the Innu hunted and trapped flooded, Mr. Speaker, without any consultation. Now we are going to be able to see those Elders who hunted, trapped and travelled on that land, start to get some compensation for the Upper Churchill. I am particularly pleased about that, and I want to say I look forward to later on this year when we will see the ratification - hopefully the positive ratification - of that particular agreement by the 2,300 members of the Innu Nation, both in the communities of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish.

Mr. Speaker, the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement is another agreement that I can say our government was proud to sign off with, with the Inuit of Labrador. I will say here today, we have had a good working relationship with the new Nunatsiavut Government. It is very important that we deal with the Nunatsiavut Government as government to government, minister to minister. I hope that as we move on with the issues that both areas of government need to deal with, we will see success. I am very happy that is after taking place.

One of the agreements, Mr. Speaker, and certainly one of the strategies that we put forward – and I am very, very proud that our department played a key role in it - is the Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador. As I have said many times, this is just not a plan like past plans that were taken, put together and then placed on a shelf collecting dust. This is a plan that we have put together that will see some $300 million invested in Labrador. It is a plan to improve the health and well being of Labrador and Labrador communities. We are starting to see that, Mr. Speaker.

I can tell you, it is good to see the new long-term health care facility in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and to see the construction of that particular facility move forward. I was never so pleased to see the other day that now the outside work is pretty well almost completed. The work will continue inside over the winter.

I was never so pleased, Mr. Speaker, to see our College of the North Atlantic with some $6 million of investment to expand the college there and to provide us with more space so that Labrador youth can have a good place to go to train so that we are ready for the development of the resources that is going to happen in Labrador in the course of the next number of years.

Mr. Speaker, the other one in my district that I would certainly like to talk about is coming into the final stages of construction, and that is the new auditorium that is being built attached to Mealy Mountain Collegiate in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. While many sectors in the Province, Central and different areas of the Province, have Arts and Culture Centres, Happy Valley-Goose Bay did not have a home for the arts, and this new auditorium will, without question, Mr. Speaker, be the home for the Labrador Creative Arts Festival, so that we can showcase the talent that we have in our culture and heritage and the people of Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to talk about, for a minute, a couple of other issues that have come certainly to the forefront and a couple of more initiatives.

I want to commend the Minister of Natural Resources who was recently in Labrador, along with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. We talked about two new energy initiatives in which we selected Coastal Labrador communities to identify potential alternative energy sources for isolated communities. The provincial government, Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say, this government, is spending some $500,000 to conduct an alternative energy study and an energy efficiency community pilot project in Coastal Labrador communities. The funding is part of the $13 million allocated in the Budget in 2008 for implemented key energy plan initiatives. These initiatives will assist residents and businesses to conserve energy and better manage their consumption. Both projects are being undertaken by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and will be completed, Mr. Speaker, I am happy to report, by the end of 2009.

The alternative energy study is being conducted in several Coastal Labrador communities, Mr. Speaker, Cartwright, Charlottetown, Hopedale, Makkovik, Mary's Harbour, Nain and Port Hope Simpson. The energy efficiency community pilot project will explore conservation and efficiency opportunities in two coastal Labrador communities, communities of Hopedale on the north coast, and Port Hope Simpson on the south coast. These are great initiatives, Mr. Speaker, because these are initiatives that will help these communities.

When we talk about the cost of diesel power out on the Coast of Labrador, a tremendous cost to the people who live there in a harsh climate, a very harsh climate. So I am really, really pleased that our government, under the leadership of the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, have taken these two initiatives to the forefront.

Mr. Speaker, our government has allocated some $8.2 million for the construction, repair and assessment of off-reserve Aboriginal housing throughout the Province. Six million dollars has been invested in off-reserve Aboriginal housing repair program to be delivered and administered by the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, the Labrador Metis Nation, the Mi'kmaq First Nations and the Nunatsiavut government for their members. Off-reserve Aboriginal people outside these groups may apply to Newfoundland and Labrador Housing for assistance. This is a great program, Mr. Speaker, and the Nunatsiavut government has also been provided an extra $2 million for Inuit housing in communities of Nain, Hopedale, Makkovik, Postville and Rigolet.

One of the programs that the Department of Labrador Affairs - we certainly manage - is the Air Food-lift Subsidy program, Mr. Speaker. This has been reviewed by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and touted as one of the best programs throughout the north and throughout the country. The Air Food Subsidy program, and the expansion of the projects announced, is a result of the Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador.

In Budget 2008, the Air Food Subsidy program received some $200,000 to implement new enhancements to the program. Since its inception in 1997, the Air Food Subsidy program's funding has doubled from $300,000, Mr. Speaker, to some $600,000 dollars.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

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

MR. HICKEY: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member by leave.

MR. HICKEY: Just to clue up, Mr. Speaker.

The Air Food Subsidy program, Mr. Speaker, the funding will be used to extend air freight subsidy during the marine shipping season on the North Coast in communities of Black Tickle, Normans Bay, Williams Harbour. As well, the funding will enable the provincial government to introduce a full air freight subsidy for fresh milk to those communities in Coastal Labrador, and a great initiative, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: Mr. Speaker, always a great pleasure. I know my time is up but, rest assured, I have only just started talking about the good things that our government is doing for the people of Labrador and for this Province.

Always a pleasure, Mr. Speaker, thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Before the Chair recognizes the hon. Member for Kilbride, who I see standing, the Chair would like to respond to a point of privilege that was raised here in the House of Assembly on November 25, Tuesday past, by the hon. the Government House Leader.

The Chair has decided to respond to the ruling and the arguments that have been put forward by members on both sides of the House. I have considered the points and arguments before me and I have reviewed the issue of privilege that has been raised, and I am ready now to make a ruling.

Having accepted that a motion was being put forward and heard arguments with respect to this substantive issue, I am going to proceed and give a decision on this matter with respect to its substance, notwithstanding some deficiencies in the forum used by the Government House Leader in making the point.

Marleau and Montpetit supports this at page 126 of the 2000 edition, stating, "The Speaker would be reluctant to allow a matter as important as a privilege motion to fail on the grounds of improper form."

Beauchesne, 6th Edition at §167 states: "The Presiding Officer, while but a servant of the House, is entitled on all occasions to be treated with the greatest attention and respect by individual members because the office embodies the power, dignity and honour of the House itself."

The recent statements by the Leader of the Opposition and the media would appear to be an affront to this principle and this is a serious issue. I can well understand why the Government House Leader has raised the matter as a breach of privilege of this House.

I thank the Government House Leader, I thank the Official Opposition House Leader, and I thank the Leader of the Third Party for their presentation of arguments yesterday. Some were very helpful, others somewhat beyond what were needed to establish or disprove a prima facie case of privilege. Some comments, such as the implication that the Chair of the Commission was not able to vote, were simply incorrect.

The issue before me is, in its narrowest sense, to determine if it is a prima facie case for finding that there has been a breach of the privileges of this House of Assembly.

Briefly, the facts of the matter are that after a meeting of the Management Commission of the House of Assembly where the Speaker, as Chair of that Commission, cast a vote which broke a tie respecting caucus resources. The Leader of the Opposition made remarks to the media indicating that the process of the Commission was biased and that the Chair's breaking of the tie was an indication that the process was biased.

I have examined the news items cited by the Government House Leader, and the news releases of the Opposition Leader. In the press release, the term Chair is used and not the term Speaker. I also noted that there was a reference to the Chair's actions being an attack on democratic principles, and that the Chair's decision was characterized as being along party lines.

The Telegram story of November 19 stated that the Opposition Leader stopped short of saying that the Speaker was being partisan. Other media also reported on this and in doing so have referred to the Speaker when, in fact, the Leader of the Opposition referred only to the Chair.

With respect to the comments that the process of the Commission was biased, I would like to point out that this process is one recommended by Chief Justice Green's report and the Commission structure was approved by all members of this House, including, I might add, the Leader of the Opposition, when the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act was passed unanimously in June of 2007. Comments indicating that the process was biased impugn the recommendations made by Chief Justice Green.

In addition, while the voting procedure in the act is not exactly as recommended by Chief Justice Green's report, clearly the Chair may vote. In voting with respect to the tie, the Chair was in fact following Chief Justice Green's report recommendation.

While a challenge to the Speaker's impartiality would be prima facie, a violation of the privileges of the House with respect to its proceedings or with respect to proceedings of committees of the House, meetings of the Management Commission of the House of Assembly are not proceedings of the House; nor is the Commission a committee of the House of Assembly. The Commission is responsible for the administration of the House of Assembly and its services.

The same is true of the federal Parliament. Marleau and Montpetit, The House of Commons Procedure and Practice 2000 Edition, at page 248, states: All matters of administration and finance are overseen by the Board of Internal Economy, a statutory body of the Parliament of Canada.

The Management Commission is not created by traditional House procedure and is not established under our Standing Orders. The Management Commission is a statutory body created by the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, and, before that act, the Internal Economy Commission Act.

I have reviewed several parliamentary texts on this and consulted other jurisdictions and there is no support for the premise that the Commission is a committee of the House. Therefore, Commission meetings are not proceedings of the House.

The comments made against the Chair of the Commission are certainly inappropriate and not conducive to the proper conducting of the business of the Commission, but they are not comments affecting the duties of the Speaker and the proceedings and works of this House of Assembly. Commission members should refrain from commenting on the motivations of the Commission Chair in carrying out his duties, and should treat the Chair with respect. However, the comments are not in themselves a violation of the privileges of the House and no prima facie case of privilege exists.

Thank you.

Before I recognize the hon. Member for Kilbride, I would also like to rule on a point of order that was put forward here yesterday by the Opposition House Leader and responded to by the Government House Leader as it relates to the right of the government to maintain their position for Private Members' Day at the next Private Members' Day which is next Wednesday.

As all members would know, yesterday was supposed to be Private Members' Day. Because of the point of privilege that was carried from Tuesday, when it was raised, to Wednesday, the whole afternoon was taken up with that very important piece of business. Because of that the chair adjourned the House at I think it was 4:38 p.m., because it was unfair to expect the member to take part in a Private Member's Resolution with such short time.

The Chair has taken into consideration comments by the Opposition House Leader, the comments by the Government House Leader, and the Chair will say that the next Private Members' Day will belong to the government benches, which is next Wednesday.

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DINN: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to stand today in this House to make some comments in reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Two or three days ago I dug out a copy of the Throne Speech, again for review, not realizing, I guess, as a relatively new MHA, that the Reply to the Speech from the Throne would continue on in the fall session. I guess I found out that it was and therefore I dug out a copy and I had to review it again.

While I was reading the first few pages, I stopped and went back over a few key phrases that grabbed my attention immediately. These phrases were: masters of our own House; no more giveaways; self-reliance; pride, strength and determination; vibrant new future. As I went back over these phrases I thought how much things have changed here in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador over the last couple of years.

As a younger man, which was a few years ago, I guess – I don't know if you realize it but, even though I don't look like it, I am probably one of the senior people here in this house with regard to age.

AN HON. MEMBER: You didn't fool us.

MR. DINN: I know, but I look after myself, okay.

As a younger man I was often very upset and very angry at the way this Province had been run. I was sick and tired of our resources being given away, raped and hauled to other parts of Canada or the world to line the pockets of others. Most of the time all was got from it was some short-term employment or short-term political gain. Deals were struck and our resources went elsewhere with little return to this Province.

Mr. Speaker, how many times did successive federal governments trade off our fish stocks to foreign countries as a lever to get these countries to buy prairie wheat? Countries like Spain, Russia, and Portugal, just to name a few, were given quotas of 10,000 or 20,000 tonnes of fish to catch, but ended up catching what they wanted. It seemed like the 10,000 tonne quota was a licence to do what they wanted to do.

Paper companies that set up here many years ago were given timber and water rights over vast portions of this Province, and I guess, today we have to deal with the fact that they have these rights. It is going to be very difficult to get them back. I guess we will end up having to buy these back, in time.

I guess, the most galling example of this Province getting the dirty end of the stick was the 100-year Upper Churchill hydro deal that gives Quebec the lion's share of the profits and to us only a few crumbs.

Thank God these days are over! Premier Williams and his government, five years ago, embarked on a path of no-more giveaways, and recent deals and deals to be signed in the future under our watch will be signed only if this Province is the principle beneficiary.

This message is now out there in the marketplaces of the world, that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will no longer be taken advantage of. I think we can see a prime example of that in the Hebron negotiations, and, I guess, in any other negotiations that are on the horizon.

I think about the poverty that our ancestors had to bear back many years ago because of the fish merchants in this Province. I can remember as a young person, a few years ago, sitting down and listening to my grandfather talk about the times when they had fishing stages set in Shoal Bay. They fished out of Nipper's Cove down in Shoal Bay, a place that if you walk the East Coast Trail you will come across, on your way to Petty Harbour these days. He told me about what they got for their fish. Basically, what they got was only enough to keep them at the poverty levels. If it was not for the hard work and the resourcefulness of these people, where they were able to go in the woods and catch a few rabbits and grow a few vegetables and that, I guess a lot of these people would have starved to death years ago; but they were strong and survived.

This change in the way we do business now, Mr. Speaker, has led to a newfound spirit of pride and determination. People from this Province hold their heads high and no longer feel like the poor second cousin waiting for a few handouts from Ottawa. We know we can stand on our own feet. We know we possess very valuable resources like energy from water, wind and oil. We know we have mineral wealth. We also know that these resources are needed in the world markets and that others are not getting these things for nothing anymore.

People in other parts of Canada should remember too, that even though we were a have not province for many years, during these lean years our resources helped to make these provinces have provinces. Our oil and minerals helped fuel the manufacturing industries in Quebec and Ontario for years. Our fish helped to feed this people.

Mr. Speaker, listening to the debate in this hon. House these past few days I could not help but notice the references made to out-migration and in-migration. Out-migration is not a new phenomenon. People have been leaving this Province for many decades because we gave away the resources that could have kept them here.

In the early 1900s, many Newfoundlanders left and went to Eastern parts of the United States. In the 1950s and the 1960s many went to Toronto and to other parts of Ontario. Nowadays, and I guess for the last twenty or so years, the Prairies have been beckoning us and we have a good few people who have gone.

Mr. Speaker, there is one thing certain that most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians know, that those who leave this Province have a desire to come back. They have a very strong desire to come back. If you talk to some of them when they come home visiting they will always say: I cannot wait for the day when I can get enough money or a good job here to come back and settle back here again. Now, many of them do come home and I think we are seeing that today too. You will go around and you will see people who went away twenty years ago coming back, people who went away, worked their lifetime and now are retiring back here. Many are coming back now and there are going to be many more in the future.


Do you ever wonder why they want to come back? In how many other places in this world can you walk a short distance or drive a few miles in the spring and get a catch of trout? Where else could you get a meal of capelin or cod in the summer? Where else can you take a bucket in the summer and pick a feed of wild strawberries or squash berries or raspberries or blueberries? I am sure you would not do it in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, or Vancouver. Where else in the fall of the year can you get a moose, a few rabbits, a few grouse or partridge for your table? I guess in many places, along with having your grouse and your rabbits you can go to your garden, haul up a few carrots, potatoes or turnips, a parsnip or two and make a good rabbit stew for yourself.

AN HON. MEMBER: All in the Goulds.

MR. DINN: Yes. Not only in the Goulds but in a lot of places in Newfoundland you can do this. Actually, you could do it in St. John's if you wanted to.

To top all this off, you can go a few mils away from any settlement or any community, even the urban ones here in Newfoundland, and you can cut your own firewood for your fireplace or for your stove. Even people in St. John's can do this, believe it or not. Wouldn't you call this living? To me, it is the ultimate. Who would not want to come home to Newfoundland to a life like this?

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a quality of life you cannot find anywhere else. The peace and quiet and the friendliness is unique to us. Foreigners who visit us cannot understand our easy going lifestyle. Some of them wonder: How come you do not lock your doors in the night? How come you speak to strangers? How come you invite your neighbours over to have a barbeque? You do not see this happening everywhere else, especially in large cities.

Through the efforts of our government and our Premier, many who have gone away will be able to have their dream of returning home fulfilled in the future.

Mr. Speaker, in the past few months we have seen many countries in this world sink into economic decline. It could go from recession to depression. What caused this economic collapse? Most experts say that out of control government spending, uncontrolled debt load, high taxes and a lack of infrastructure spending are the leading causes of this economic meltdown. When Premier Williams and his government took control of this Province in 2003 they certainly found an environment that contained all of the elements that lead to recession. The Province had an operating deficit close to $1 billion. The debt per capita was the highest in the country and infrastructure spending was close to drying up. Roads, bridges and public buildings were in bad need of maintenance repair or replacement. The place was literally in a mess.

Actually, if you listened to Question Period today you are still getting the repercussions of some of that neglect. You hear about our schools having mould and all this type of stuff. All of that results from a lack of maintenance, especially.

This government embarked on a five-year plan which coincidentally is the same type of plan financial experts from most recessionary countries say is the best way to get out of this economic mess. Taxes were reduced, personal income tax. The provincial portion especially was reduced for two successive years. In 2007 and 2008 budgets presented by this government reduced income tax for not some but all of the people in Newfoundland. These tax reductions were especially greeted with favour by the middle class who had for years been the recipients of tax increases and government increases in almost all kinds of programs.

Deficit spending was controlled first and then eventually eliminated when this government took over and public debt was reduced considerably. When this government took over in 2003 the public debt I think was over $11 billion, closing in on $12 billion. Now it is down to the $10 billion range and I guess after this year coming it could be less than that. Now, what that means for a province is that you are not paying as much interest on your debt load.

Actually, two years ago, or maybe even last year, the number I saw that we were saving in interest because of the initiatives we were taking in reducing debt including our pension liabilities was somewhere around $256 million, money which is now able to be used in other programs. A quarter of a billion dollars saved on interest, money that was going out needlessly.

Along with reducing your debt you have to remember - and I think one of my colleagues mentioned it today already - that reducing your debt also puts you in better favour with the money markets of the world. That again gives you a better credit rating which again reduces your interest rates which again reduces the amount of money you have to pay on your debt.

When this government took over in 2005 millions of dollars were spent in infrastructure. Many of the roads which were deteriorating have been fixed or will be fixed. I do a lot of hunting, as some of you know, and I travel around. I do not stay around the Goulds to hunt. I usually travel for an hour or two hours in a vehicle. I remember four or five years ago, five or six years ago, when I travelled out around Fairhaven and back, the Trans-Canada Highway was hardly fit to be on. This year I drove to the Buchans area and it was a pleasure driving out to these places. You could get out there much faster than before, much safer.

This government has spent millions and millions of dollars on roads. We have spent millions and millions of dollars on bridges and public buildings. I refer to one road in particular, one provincial road. Myself and my colleague from Ferryland, we share the Goulds as part of our districts. The City of St. John's is responsible mainly for the infrastructure there, but there is one road in my district, Pitts Memorial Drive, which is a provincial road. Back seven or eight years ago and even before that, and up to the last few years, that road was very, very bad to be driving. There were ruts everywhere, there were holes and potholes everywhere, but government spending the last couple of years have now made this a really good road again.

This past year alone, $3.2 million was spent on that road to upgrade it. Now, some would say, why would you spend such money in the St. John's area? Pitts Memorial Drive is probably the busiest road in all the Province. If you took traffic counts on that road daily you would find out that the numbers are much higher than they are even on the Trans-Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I must reiterate, that this plan that our government embarked on five years ago is the very same plan that countries now in recession are thinking about doing themselves. That tells you that there is a lot of wisdom around in this Province. The government of this Province, the Premier, had the wisdom five years ago to embark on a plan that these countries are now thinking about.

Still we have concerns, Mr. Speaker, about the effect the global economic meltdown will have on us in upcoming months. Even though we see that we have taken steps, there is still concern. It is hard to predict what lies ahead, especially when you consider the fact that we are kind of subjected to and dependent on what happens in the world or the global economy, but we can rest assured that our government has insulated this Province in all the best ways possible to ride out this economic recession or downturn.

If I were to list all the accomplishments and the good things that this government has done in the last five years, I am sure I would need more than the last three or so minutes that I have left. I would need probably 20 minutes more. What I am going to do now is, I am going to just focus on a few that seldom get much notice.

For several years, the police forces in this Province were very concerned about the erosion of their resources. They had been losing manpower through attrition and the workload had increased. Their material resources were aging and becoming unusable. I heard of incidents where police officers, back a few years ago, had to look around their parking lots to find a car that could safely take them to a call. Now, this is actual fact. I heard that.

This government listened to the concerns of our police forces and increased their numbers and provided the equipment they needed to do their jobs. You hear lots of repercussions, lots of feedback, about that, when you talk to the police officers themselves. In doing this, not only did this government help the police forces, but you also paid attention to the concerns that the public had for safety. This was an issue that was starting to develop too, around those times.

Wildlife officers were given the resources by this government to replace aged equipment so they too could do their jobs. Countless hours of on-the-job were lost in the past because the old trucks that these people were driving were in garages getting repaired. Now, how would I know that? I know one of the garages in Goulds that they were repairing these vehicles in, and they were often there for days waiting for parts that were hard to get.

This government recognized the value of agricultural land and put enough money into the Land Consolidation Program to give the owners of the land a competitive price, if and when they wanted to sell. In the beginning when this land consolidation board was set up, people could sell their land, their agricultural land, and they would probably get $1,000 to $5,000 an acre for the land depending on where the land was. The government of the day have topped this up and they are now giving very competitive prices to people that want to sell this land.

Through our departments of Health and Community Services, Education, Tourism, Culture & Recreation, this government has initiated a program to encourage people to become more fit. Now, I keyed in on some of these because I have not heard these issues being mentioned before. I know that everybody talks about the big things, the prescription drug program, the income tax and all this stuff, but very little attention is paid to these last three things that I have mentioned.

Now, I do not have much more time. I suppose I could go on for another ten minutes, but I am not going to. I just want to sum this up and conclude by saying this: I know we cannot undue what was done in the past - what happens in the history of Newfoundland is done and over with - but this government is on track to make sure history, especially the negative economic history, does not repeat itself.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (T. Osborne): The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister Responsible for Forestry and Agrifoods Agency and for the Status of Women.

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am happy to stand today to speak in the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, and the difference, Mr. Speaker, that five years make. I remember the first time that I was called upon to speak here in the House of Assembly, and the Government House Leader said to me: All right, it is your turn; up you go for twenty minutes.

I said: Oh, please have somebody behind me because I am not sure that I can give twenty minutes. I will do my best to give you ten or twelve, but I don't know what I am going to talk about for twenty minutes.

He said: Surprise yourself - and I did. I must say, I got through it. I have just the opposite issue today; I have twenty minutes to speak here in this hon. House and there are so many things that I want to talk about that I hardly know where to begin.

Despite the current issues that we face along with the rest of the country and the rest of the world, Mr. Speaker, this is a wonderful time to be in Newfoundland and Labrador. I happened to be in Ottawa speaking at the Affinity Dinner the day that we learned that we were no longer a have-not Province. It is difficult for me to describe to you the energy and the joy that was in that room that night, filled with graduates, young people from Memorial University who are now earning their living in the Ottawa area. They were so excited, as was I, about this wonderful news.

My colleague spoke earlier of the great pride we have as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, the great strength of character we have, and it has been quite a burden for us to bear in the last sixty years to be described as have-nots. Somehow, people use that information to make us feel less than, and marginalized in this country, and that wasn't very pleasant. Worse still, it confined and narrowed the options that we had, as young people growing up in this Province, about our ability to stay here to work, to raise our families here. Not only having gone through that ourselves, and some of the lucky few being able to stay and live in this wonderful place, we saw our children faced with the same dilemma. With broken hearts, many of us watched them move away to find opportunities elsewhere. Not that there is anything with young people moving away. We should always encourage our young people to explore the world, to gain new experiences, to learn new skills and trades, but, in doing that, that they always have, as an option, to come back to this place, to come back home, to come back to parents and grandparents.

I remember ten years ago watching a show on CBC, Land and Sea, and they were filming Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers out west in a place where we had a large population of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They were taping the performance and showing the taped performance. They were singing Saltwater Joys, and as the band performed the song they were panning the audience and people were sobbing, crying, and wiping away the tears. I remember sitting on my chesterfield at home, watching the show, wiping away the tears, too, because I knew how lonely they were. I knew how they must have felt about this place, if they felt the same way that I did, that they were so connected to this place and they were so far away from what was so meaningful to them: their families, their home, the smells, the taste, the sounds, all the things that make us what we are. It was so sad because we had so few options.

To be in a room of young people on the day that we found out that we were now a have Province was a wonderful thing, that we were completely self-reliant. It was a wonderful thing. It did not mean that all our problems had gone away. It did not mean that we had everything in the world that we wanted to have, but it meant that what we did have we were paying for ourselves. Not only that, we had some that we could share with people who had been generous to us in the past. That was wonderful. What a difference five years makes, even in that piece.

I remember clearly, too, the process of developing our first Budget. We had been going through a three-day marathon in the budget room and I had little sleep in those three days because of the challenges we had in trying to bring down a Budget, and the things that we were being asked to consider. It was a terrible, terrible time.

I remember, after one long session, walking out through the corridor outside the Cabinet room with my head down, feeling really down, and the Premier walking up behind me and saying: This is not what you signed up for, was it? I said to him: No, Premier, this is really difficult. I am having a really hard time with this. He said: So are we all; but, you know, this is the situation we inherited, this is what we have to deal with. Understand what the big picture is, but then we have to take it off a little piece at a time, a little piece at a time. That way, we will work out way through it. And, that is what we did.

First we had to get our financial in order, our fiscal house in order, and that wasn't easy. People were not delighted with a lot of the measures that we had to take. Then we did an assessment of what we had and what we owed. Of all of our spending, once we dealt with health and education, we had twenty-three cents left from every dollar to service our debt, to do economic development, to do things like social services, to rebuild our infrastructure that had been falling down for fourteen years. You almost needed the wisdom of Solomon to decide how you were going to best spend that money.

We did the best we could with it, and we saw results from it because the first thing was that our lenders saw that we were making a sincere effort in getting our fiscal house in order. Then we did an inventory of the resources we had, of the developments we had, and what was the return to Newfoundland and Labrador. The result of that inventory, Mr. Speaker, was startling. We found out, at that time, of the $20 billion that had been earned on the Upper Churchill, that Newfoundland and Labrador had only had a share of $2 billion of that $20 billion. We found out that of the $18 billion at that time that had been earned from oil resources here in the Province that oil companies had earned $10 billion, the rest of Canada had earned $6 billion and Newfoundland and Labrador again had only earned $2 billion.

The Premier, on behalf of this government and on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador undertook that as his first challenge, particularly the piece around oil development. He went and he fought a masterful battle to have the federal government acknowledge that the promise had been that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians would be the primary beneficiaries from the development of that resource and that that was not happening under the Atlantic Accord, and some adjustment was going to be required to meet the promise that had been made. And we got the $2 billion. What a great day that was!

Then, what did we do with the $2 billion? We paid down debt. Oh, Mr. Speaker, I recall the debates in this House of Assembly where we were chastised roundly for paying down debt. Members in the Opposition would use examples like: everybody has debt; everybody has a mortgage; everybody has a car payment; debt is a normal part of everyday life. So, have debt, you don't have to be worried about debt. Make your payment and spend the money in infrastructure. Thank goodness, we never followed that advice!

We invested that money very wisely paying down the unfunded liability in the teachers' pension. We got ourselves in a good enough state that we could go and get the money to pay down the unfunded liability in the public service pension. Both pensions, if we hadn't taken some drastic action, could have gone bankrupt by 2012, Mr. Speaker. If we hadn't done that, if we had frittered the money away, Mr. Speaker, where would we in the crisis that we are in today? We could have thousands of people who serve this Province without a pension. We could be in very, very serious difficulty.

Had we followed the advice that was being proffered from the other side of the House, Mr. Speaker, that is where we would be today. We didn't take that advice, we invested the money wisely, and then we said: Okay, we need to have a go-forward strategy. We need to develop our vision for Newfoundland and Labrador. We need to do a scan to see: What do we have that we can work with? Mr. Speaker, what do we have that we can work with? That was the wonderful thing that we began to explore, the richness of this place.

So, Mr. Speaker, while we had developed about 6,700 megawatts of hydro, we still had another 6,000 megawatts that we could develop. We were going to develop 51 megawatts of wind but we had another 5,000 megawatts that we could further develop; 5,000 megawatts! The same amount of electricity that is generated from the Upper Churchill.

We had almost 3 billion barrels of oil under development here in the Province and we found that we had at least another 6 billion there for further development. Natural gas, 10 trillion cubic feet; six off the Island portion of the Province, four off Labrador and at least another 60-70 trillion cubic feet of gas to be developed without ever talking about tide or tidal energy or wave energy or other new, emerging technologies. So we knew we had something to work with.

What all of these companies that came here to Newfoundland and Labrador to invest their money said to us was: Give us clarity. Tell us what the terms and conditions are going to be under which you are going to allow these developments to go ahead. We developed an energy plan which laid that out very clearly. What we said was what we had promised the people of this Province when we asked them to elect us here as their government in 2003, that the primary beneficiaries of any natural resource development in this Province had to be the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Beyond being the primary beneficiaries, the other principle that we embraced, Mr. Speaker, was that we wanted to help guide the development of those natural resources. So we looked for equity in our natural resource development. There will come a day when the oil and gas is gone, Mr. Speaker. So we now have to develop a legacy while we have access to those resources, a legacy that will drive the economy for generations to come. Learning the skills and the knowledge and the services that are required to have a successful oil and gas industry serves us now, but will serve us long after our oil and gas is gone.

The money that we earn from our non-renewable resources, we will reinvest in renewable energy, such as the Lower Churchill and wind development. There are exciting opportunities, and we will make sure that we are masters of our own destiny and we never, hopefully, will ever end up in a situation where we feel powerless, where we feel marginalized, where we feel taken advantage of, ever again.

So it has been a wonderful journey over these five years to finally get ourselves in this place, and the future looks bright, Mr. Speaker. We have major projects that will take us up nearly to 2020. The ones on the immediate horizon are the hydromet facility in Long Harbour, coming right on the back of that we will have the Hebron development and, hopefully, right on the back of that we will have the Lower Churchill development, and there are other projects under discussion. Within this government we are planning for all of those major projects, and making sure that we have the economic and the social infrastructure in place so that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can take full advantage of the wonderful things that are yet to come.

I was very privileged in the last Cabinet shuffle to be asked by the Premier to take on the role of Deputy Premier and Minister Responsible for the Status of Women. I was humbled by that and delighted to have the opportunity to do it. I know I have big shoes to fill in terms of the Status of Women portfolio, but I also know that I have the support of the person and my Cabinet and caucus colleagues in doing this work.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: One of the things that I am proudest of – I mean, the benefits that we negotiated under the Hebron agreement have never been seen in this Province before. They are so comprehensive and they are so detailed, but one of the things I am so proud of is the gender and diversity agreement. Never before in the history of any agreement in this Province, in this country, or as far as we can tell, in the world, has there ever been this kind of agreement. We are leading the way. We are ensuring that women, who were completely, almost completely shut out of the Hibernia project, will have a major role to play this project, in this Hebron development, doubling our workforce, bringing all of their gifts and talents and energy to this project. People with disabilities will have opportunity in the Hebron project. This is a wonderful thing. Again, Newfoundland and Labrador is leading the way. It is a wonderful, wonderful agreement for all of the people who live in Newfoundland and Labrador.

That is not to say, Mr. Speaker, that we do not have challenges. Last year in mining we had a bumper, bumper year. We had mineral shipments last year that were valued at $5.4 billion, a 40 per cent increase over the year before and an 850 per cent increase since 2004. We know that the commodities market has hit some rough water now with the world-wide economic situation, but we hope, Mr. Speaker, that the good times will help these companies now find their way through the rough times, and at the end of the day we will be able to go ahead with business as usual.

The forestry sector, as we all know, is under considerable stress in this Province, and that is why we introduced a $14 million forestry diversification fund. While the challenges will not be overcome overnight, we have a go-forward plan and we are working together with the industry to make that plan a reality and to get that industry on a sound footing here in the Province.

My time is coming to a close, Mr. Speaker. I just want to say that in the midst of all of this good news and the confidence we can have as we move forward, there is still a great concern for the people of Central Newfoundland, and particularly what is happening with Abitibi Bowater. We expect that we will hear early in December what the company's decision is going to be with regard to the future of that mill. We have walked the walk with the employees of the mill and we have been in constant communication with the company, not only during the last year but since this industry has been in turmoil over the last five years.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say today that we will continue to walk with them and, regardless of what the outcome of the decision is going to be from Abitibi and Bowater, we will never walk away from the people of Central Newfoundland.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: We will work out a future that sees the industry thrive and grow, and we hope that is the answer that will come forward. We want AbitibiBowater to be successful in Central Newfoundland and we are going to do everything and have done everything we can to support that; but, regardless of the decision, we will be there for the people of Central Newfoundland, the eighteen communities that depend on that resource, and together we will continue to build an economic future for the people of this region.

I see my time has run out, Mr. Speaker. I will have to garner off another twenty minutes somewhere soon to carry on with the rest of the good news. I have not even touched agriculture, which is so important to the people of the Province as well, but I thank you for this opportunity, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Collins): The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Member for Harbour Main.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again I would have to say, Mr. Speaker, we cannot forget our aquaculture as well. It is an important part.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and the Member for Harbour Main.

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you much, Mr. Speaker.

Again, it is indeed an honour to be stood here in the House as we begin another session, and a session that is an important one, as we have already seen in some of the issues that have come forward.

My colleague just reflected upon the first time that she stood in the House, in this hon. House, and I started to reflect a little bit as well, but I stood a little bit earlier than my colleague; at a very different time, I might add. It was back in February of 1999, Mr. Speaker, and I came in as a novice, I suppose. As I look around the House today, and I was saying to one of my colleagues, I think I can count two people – or, one person right now – that came in around the same time, who is currently sitting here right now today.

That was close to ten years ago, Mr. Speaker, and let me tell you, the position that I stand now as an MHA is far different than when I came in here in February of 1999. I am very, very proud to be part of an Administration that has brought this Province so far in so little time.

In order to appreciate it, Mr. Speaker, I have to go back to 1999, and I have to say that I entered this House at the time as a member of the Opposition, one of fourteen, and stood in this House. I can tell you, I stood in this House with very little hope because, when I looked across at the Administration, the Liberal Administration that was in at that time, I saw where they were going and they had lost their way, and lost their way seriously, because they had forgotten about what the people of Newfoundland and Labrador were looking for. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador were looking for a leader, a leader that could take this Province further along to self-sufficiency, to independence within the federation, to self-sustainability. Mr. Speaker, they did not find it in that Administration.

I can tell you, that time, those five years that I was in Opposition, were very, very lean times - coming in with district needs, roadwork up around $50 million, with regard to municipal infrastructure falling down around people's ears, or with regard to our schools. I can tell you there were some bright spots, and I would be the first to admit there were some bright spots, but not enough of a light to shine to the path that we needed to get on.

During those five years, I learned very, very quickly what the issues were, where we needed to go, but it was also during that time that we did have come on the political scene a leader who saw what was needed for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to get to that point where they could say that they were independent, that they could say that we were getting the most value out of our resources, and that was in the person of our current Premier, Premier Williams.

Premier Williams came on the scene and very quickly - and we look at him now as leading in government, but he led as well in Opposition. At that particular time he found ways in which to get things done, and clearly indicated to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that he was prepared to lead and prepared to take them down a path, no matter what it cost him personally, to his party which he represented, but he was determined, and that determination today speaks loudly.

As I look back on these last five years that the Williams' government has taken over the reins in this particular Province, I can tell you that we have, as a government, moved this Province along. I would say to you that really I entered as an MHA as a have-not and I am very, very proud to stand here today and talk about being in a Province as a have-Province. People do not seem to understand how important that is to our future as much as it is to our present.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, and many of my colleagues in Cabinet will tell you, when this government took over the reins and started to work with their federal counterparts and their provincial counterparts and territorial counterparts across the Island, when we sat at those tables very few people noticed that we were there at the beginning, but I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, five years later they know that we are from Newfoundland and Labrador. I can tell you that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: I can only tell you, Mr. Speaker, that when I am sitting in a room with these leaders across this nation and they are looking and talking about how they are doing it in Newfoundland and Labrador, what is happening in Newfoundland and Labrador, I can just go down through a number. My colleague who just rose, the Minister of Natural Resources, her energy plan is the envy of every jurisdiction in this nation, and not only in this nation but throughout this world.

Our poverty reduction strategy, do I need to even mention it? Because, like I said, that is a pattern that has been mimicked and aped throughout this entire country. Our cultural plan - last year, I had the pleasure of serving as the Minister Responsible for the Volunteer and Non-Profit Sector, and guess what? Right across this nation, wherever I went, people came up to me and congratulated the Province on being so forward thinking with regard to where they were going. These are only a couple of incidents.

Like people who have been standing today have been saying, twenty minutes is not enough time for me to even touch on any one particular strategy or program that we have put in place.

Mr. Speaker, what I am saying to you is that the constituents that I represented, and continue to represent today, back in 1999 I said to myself: When I am finished up - and I am far from finished up yet - I am hoping that I can make their lives a little better in the time that I am serving as their MHA.

Like I said, I went through some lean times in Opposition and almost went into despair, because again I did not see my district moving forward in any great way. As a matter of fact, I saw my people moving but guess what, Mr. Speaker? They were moving to other provinces. They were moving to Alberta. The out-migration in and around Conception Bay over those years was a situation that was really causing great community breakdowns.

It is not that the tradespeople in Conception Bay did not travel around, but they always, always, had their residence back home in Newfoundland and Labrador. Now, ten years later, Mr. Speaker, it is amazing what a decade can do - especially the last five years. Who could ever believe that you would sit down in front of CBC news on any given night and be told that there is a baby boom in a part of the Province? It is just absolutely amazing, because we were told to forget it. You know what is gone out of her. It will never come back. It will never come back, but here we are in Labrador City, which is right now bursting at the seams with youngsters – sixty-six, I think, this year.

So this tells me, Mr. Speaker, and not only that, but who would ever believe that I would be standing – I did not believe in my lifetime I would be standing anywhere, let alone the House of Assembly, and talking about a Province now that is in the category of the have in this country of Canada, I tell you, Mr. Speaker. Where does it go back to? It goes back to an Administration, to the Williams government, who, as a team – and I stress the word team, because when we first got in, we were on the ground running. We knew where we had to go.

Certainly, we learned a lot of lessons from Opposition, because we saw a government in Opposition who, like I said, had lost their way, but we certainly found a path, and a path which we followed – but we did not do it willy-nilly. What we did, Mr. Speaker, was make sure that we were in contact, that we knew where the people needed to go. We did that because we are open, we are willing to listen. Not only that, but we are willing to change direction if, indeed, it is in the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Everything that we do, you are right - everything that we do, because we know that we are here for a period of time, but we want to make sure that being in here in this period of time, that we are leaving a legacy that is important to those who come behind. Those sixty-six children that are going to be born this year in Labrador City, I tell you, they are born into a Province that will make sure they have a future here in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: I could not say that, I could not get up before any crowd ten years ago and say that, Mr. Speaker, but I can say it today and I can say it with confidence because, again, we have, as a government, brought this Province to a point where the future is theirs and the opportunity is there. We are not concerned that the people will not take advantage of that opportunity, because it is most important. Like I said, we can rattle off; I can rattle off any number of strategies that has brought us to this point. The strategies are there. The direction is there, but, again, it all comes back to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I am proud to be a Newfoundlander, a Labradorian, Mr. Speaker, because again, we are at a point in time where we can make a difference, and we are making a difference. I might add, we are not only making a difference in this Province but we are making our mark on the world, and not only within this nation but throughout the world. Our reputation was pretty secure all through the years, because I can tell you, anywhere you go in the world a Newfoundlander or a Labradorian was valued as a worker, as a person, as a friend. We know what we are made of and certainly, I am very, very proud.

To get back to what has brought us to this point in time, let me tell you – and I am just going down, and I already mentioned the poverty reduction, but one of the biggest drawbacks in this Province since I have been a politician, Mr. Speaker, is the infrastructure. I tell you, right off the bat, even in lean times, the road network throughout this Province had been neglected for – I tell you, I think when I was in Opposition I might have gotten half a million dollars over five years, Mr. Speaker, which filled a few of the potholes and maybe a kilometre or two of pavement. It did not address the absolute need for the road network that is required in this Province. Even now, ten years later – and the last five years, Mr. Speaker, the money that this government has invested in the road network in this Province has been at least $60 million or $70 million a year, on average. It has gotten us to a point where a lot of our major roadways are done but, Mr. Speaker, there is still a lot more to go.

This government is determined to make sure that the lives of our people in Newfoundland and Labrador, that they can live with some degree of quality, that they can drive on half decent roads, that they can send their children to half decent schools. I should not even say half decent because - again, I refer to the Minister of Education. She was up a little earlier today talking about, basically, the tremendous amount of dollars that this government has invested, not only in the infrastructure of our schools, not only in the buildings, but she has gotten inside the buildings and she has turned around what was happening inside, with our teacher allocations. Not only that, but she has also –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: - very quickly understood that those that were in there who were most vulnerable, she has found a way – and, again, through consultation with the stakeholders, she has found a way to make sure that every student who goes inside the doors of our schools are in a safe environment, that they have the programming they require and that they are going to reach their full potential.

Like I said, just take the aspect of providing the resources that they need without any charge. Now that tells a lot about any government. Oftentimes, we are all judged as to how we treat our children and I can tell you, the record of this government in regard to students in this Province is impeccable. I say to you, that we are not finished yet.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: We are not finished yet. We are not done. Absolutely not done!

There is a lot of good news, I say to my hon. colleague here, and good news. We should not be frightened away about good news. We should not be looking for ways in which to drag down good news. We see enough of that through perhaps our local news and whatever.

To get back to our have status, Mr. Speaker, it did not just happen. It just did not happen. It came about by design, by hard work, by determination and by hard decision making. Of course, our future is bright because that is where we are. We are looking at more people coming into the Province now. We are looking at, as I mentioned, the baby boom. As importantly, we have our fiscal house in order. Who would ever believe, who would ever, ever believe - if someone told me this ten years ago I would have had to say: you're nuts. This is, I believe, if I am not mistaken, isn't this the fourth year of surplus?

AN HON. MEMBER: Fourth year.

MR. HEDDERSON: This is the fourth year of surplus in this Province by this particular government and we are looking forward to next year as well and years to come but that is a far cry, I would say to my hon. members, when we took government back in 2003. We were close to - well, we were what? We were $10 billion, $11 billion in long-term debt. In the deficit we were up to close to $1 billion, we were almost $1 billion, just this side of a billion. Of course, no one believed us. No one believed us. The Opposition over there said: No, we left everything in better shape than that, you are making it up. Well, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador knew what the situation was. Did we get backlash from the people? Absolutely not! We certainly got re-elected, Mr. Speaker.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I hear some comments from the Opposition out there. I cannot really pay attention to them, but maybe write me a little note and I will include it in my next speech. My hearing on this side is not the best; I have to admit to you. I have to admit to you.

Mr. Speaker, the point that I am trying to get across is that certainly we have worked hard as a government, but equally the people of Newfoundland have responded and the attitude throughout this Province right now is one of can do. I tell you, that is something that is priceless, because if you have people, as we have people in Newfoundland and Labrador now, who have hope, who have looked to where we are trying to bring them and came onboard, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, anything is possible. The have status, as I pointed out, that is the result of it; Not necessarily because of the great work that we are doing but also we have to look to the people who have responded in spades. We have asked them to stay with us and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that they will continue.

I just have a couple of minutes left, Mr. Speaker. I started off correcting the Speaker, which I do not often do, but I am very, very proud to be given the opportunity to be the Minister of Fishery and Aquaculture. I say that, Mr. Speaker, because I want to make a point and the point is this: That is an industry that sustained this Province long before Cabot came, our Aboriginal peoples and so on. It is a sustainable industry. It is a $1 billion industry, I might add, Mr. Speaker, on the fisheries side. We consider that particular industry to be part, not only of our economic outlook but as part of who we are as a people, and it is an important one.

I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, that the fishery will be here long after we are gone, but we have to be stewards of it at this particular time because there are many, many challenges in that particular industry. The aquaculture side is growing in leaps and bounds and we are hopeful that that aspect can allow us as well to continue to support our rural areas.

Mr. Speaker, I am looking forward to the challenge that has been put before me in my ministry but I am also looking forward to the challenges that we, as government members, face in trying to move forward in this particular session.

Actually, the clock is ticking down, Mr. Speaker. I certainly want to thank the members for their attention today. I wish them well as they go forward in this session and I am looking forward to lively debate.


On those words, Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LODER: Mr. Speaker, it is a great time to be up here and there is no doubt it is quite easy to have a smile on our faces with all the good news brought out by my hon. members here today.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you on behalf of the constituents of the Bay of Islands for giving me an opportunity to speak on their behalf and with the Throne Speech.

For the record, Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform members or reconfirm my district and what communities it takes in. A lot of people do not realize that 26 per cent of my district takes in a portion of the City of Corner Brook. Now, I brought that up for one particular reason and it is a note of thanks. It is a note of thanks to my colleagues, the hon. Member for Humber East and Minister of Justice, the hon. Member for Humber West, and the Premier, of course.

Being a part of the City of Corner Brook gives me opportunities that I never expected to exist. Of course, being in their portfolios, they have positions that take them away from their offices and into their districts. In this way, it gives me the opportunity to pinch-hit for these fine people, to go and make representation on behalf of the government, and to make some announcements which is great to see. That does not extend only with these fine two gentleman, it extends to the Minister of Natural Resources.

I had the occasion to thank the fog that she could not come to the city on one particular incidence this past spring and I had an opportunity to represent the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the hon. minister in the oil symposium at Marble Mountain. That is extended to the Minister of Tourism and all other departments. It gave me an opportunity to be exposed and to represent this fine Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, since 2003 our present government took over the work of taking care of Newfoundland and Labrador and trying to start its future. They started to build a road, a road by the way that was very soft, with a soft foundation, boggy, and it was difficult to build. However, with very prudent financial fiscal management, the investment of infrastructure, the reduction of taxes and the payment of the debt, we are here today as a have-not Province, and that is a wonderful thing for everybody. It is a wonderful thing as brought out by everybody here today. I am so proud to stand up and say, yes, we are not a have-not Province. Why? This is the reason why we should all smile, of course.

Now, I would like to give you an overview on what has transpired, how the money came in, of course, and where we are going in the future.

First of all, let us look at the economic performance since 2007, where the real gross domestic product was increased by 7.9 per cent, driven by the exports of oil and minerals. The unemployment rate fell to 13.6 per cent, a reduction of 1.2 per cent, and the lowest, Mr. Speaker, in the 26 past years - isn't this wonderful; personal income growth of 4.3 per cent, giving a personal, disposable income growth of 5 per cent; and the retail sales growth of 9.5 per cent, giving the opportunity for more Newfoundlanders to purchase the vital things they want, whether it is important to their lifestyle or for social reasons. Of course, once all this money came in, it was calculated and we put all the money together, and what should happen? We had a surplus, a surplus, Mr. Speaker, of $1.4 billion – that is with a b – the largest in the history of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LODER: Isn't this wonderful!

Of course, taking this money wisely, we reduced the debt from $11.6 billion to $10.3 billion, and of course, we are hoping this year, in 2008-2009, to be below the $10 billion bracket.

Now, the forecast for 2008-2009 we were hearing some negative things approaching our way because of the world market. We realize the oil has been reduced substantially per barrel, and of course, that it is out of our – not jurisdiction, but there is very little that we, as the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, or even a Country like Canada, can do about it.

Having said that, we estimated that we would have a surplus, for 2008-2009, in the amount of $544 million. Of course, as you probably recall from the hon. Premier's speech there on opening day of this session, we should have no problem in providing this $544 million towards a surplus. Of course, that will bring us down below the $10 billion bracket.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Province has continued to increase disposable income for its residents. Of course, some of these reductions in 2008 took place, which would include but not limited to: the personal income tax was reduced down by 1 per cent in each bracket, which would bring it down to 7.7 per cent, 12.8 per cent, and 15.5 per cent. The retail sales tax on insurance, which assisted everybody throughout Newfoundland and Labrador who has a business, a house, a cabin, a vehicle, eliminated the taxes off insurance, and everybody benefited from that reduction. Effective May 1, of course, we had the motor vehicle registration fee reduced down from $180 to $140. As small as it may be, it is a benefit to the majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Of course, that continues to go on.

As a result of all this money coming in, of course, we can make major investments, and this present government made major investments. One of these investments went into education. We saw $70 million to be invested in the Department of Education, to bring the total budget to $1.1 billion. Now, that is something; $1.1 billion went towards the future of our young people so that they could be here in years to come to support this great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We also saw $500,000 additional funding to school districts for discretionary substitute teacher leave. We also saw a $3.56 million investment to help school districts with planning for school programming and teacher needs. Continuing on, we saw $5 million this year and $56 million over the next four years to continue with the tuition freeze at Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic. That is wonderful. Again, benefiting 25,000 students and benefiting our future. We also saw funding of $25.35 million for key infrastructure requirements including continuing work on the Labrador West campus of the College of the North Atlantic and the residences at Memorial University and, of course, our own Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, and a new academic building for the Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. It is wonderful, Mr. Speaker.

Continuing on with other major investments, we look at the figure of $673 million in infrastructure, increasing the Province's six year infrastructure investment to more than $3 billion. Isn't this wonderful, $3 billion, creating all kinds of employment and I understand it could be 6,500 person years of employment. We have also seen $182 million go into road improvements, including $73 million for the provincial roads, and that hit home when it comes to the District of Bay of Islands. We seen $2,040,000 invested this year to the roads. We have a carry-over of $440,000 from last year, giving us a total of $2.5 million investment in road improvements for two sides of the bay, the north and south shore.

Mr. Speaker, this was not an inch levelling pavement asphalt going over our roads. No, we took the time we required to put a levelling coat over the roads. We put a good coast of asphalt. I don't know exactly the measurement. It looked like four to five inches - I stand to be corrected - but we did it the right way. We ditched the ditches on the way through. We replaced new guardrail throughout, and we put in new culverts. So, what we did there in the Bay of Islands was purely a good job. It was done properly and will last residents for years to come, and that is only the beginning.

Going back to the investment of infrastructure, last year our Minister of Municipal Affairs introduced the cost-sharing toward the municipalities, reducing our portion for smaller communities, to which I do have majority in our district, down to a ninety-ten cost ratio. What that means, Mr. Speaker, for example, if a fire truck costs $750,000, with the taxes reduction and this 10 per cent taken off, they will pay approximately $26,000 or $28,000 towards a new fire truck, as opposed to years ago when it would be $100,000. So that was a great benefit.

Also of benefit was the infrastructure that we completed this year with funding using this cost-sharing ratio. I would like to pinpoint a few major investments we did throughout the district, one of which was Mount Moriah. Mount Moriah had $581,000 in investment in upgrades of sewer lift stations - or sewer outfalls, sorry. Humber Arm South received $285,000 to outfall repairs. The Town of Irishtown-Summerside received $390,000 towards a new chlorination system which, as I speak, is being worked on today. Of course, we are looking down at Meadows; Meadows had some overlap of money that was passed on to the previous year but this year they are going to do $96,000 on repairs to a lift station. We are using that money wisely in our district, and small communities that we represent are benefiting from this cost-sharing.

We also, of course, have $1.7 million for firefighting equipment throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Of course, I am very pleased to announce - and we are probably all aware of it today - that the Town of Irishtown-Summerside received approximately $250,000 to put this towards a new fire truck.

This is where I would like to go a little further in my speech and go off the usual platform and go into the firefighters of our area. I want to do this not only for the benefit of my district but for the benefit of all the fire departments throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. We all realize there is a problem out there with participation, getting the young people involved in our fire departments, and I thought this would be a great opportunity, speaking to the Province entirely, and hopefully get across the importance of having our young people get involved and trained under their local fire departments.

I would like to take a picture now of what I see when I go into the firefighter halls throughout my district. First of all, I look at the color of their hair, if they have hair, and that will give me an idea of the age of the firefighters in that particular fire department. Starting with Mount Moriah, Mount Moriah, if you look at their hair, they have salt and pepper. We have dark hair, we have white hair, but we have a good combination of people there supporting the fire department. If we go out to Humber Arm South, we have a lot of people there. I think one of the criteria of being a member of that particular fire department is that you have to have dark hair. Everybody there has dark or black hair - it is amazing - but it looks good to see all of the young people involved. Now, going to the York Harbour and Lark Harbour fire department, yes, again, they have a blend. The same thing goes with Cox's Cove, McIver's and Gillams; they do have a mixture of young and old alike.

Two weeks ago, I had the occasion of being in the fire department, the fireman's ball, with the Town of Meadows. The Town of Meadows, I must say, does have a good source of young people and they have them older there too.

One particular fellow - actually I passed on a plaque on behalf of Municipal Affairs for thirty-five years service. This gentleman now is seventy-one years of age and I understand he is always the first one to be at the fire department should a response occur. He is ready to go. He has the fire truck warmed up and ready to go. Unfortunately, they did not think he was going to make this fireman's ball because he had to work. At age seventy-one he returned to work driving a cement truck. He worked more hours this year than he ever did before. You can see the interest this gentleman had and it was quite pleasing to pass on this plaque on behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The last fire department I want to bring up here would be in HIS. I am not bragging about this particular fire department, but we do have old people in our fire department. God bless them, they are starting to bring in the young people, but at one point I looked around the table and all I saw were these people aged seventy-five, seventy, sixty-eight, sixty-six, sixty and going down the line. I said to a couple of people jokingly: If this keeps up and the old people stay here with no influx of young people, the only calls we are going to respond to in the future will be false alarms. We have nobody physically to go and take the hose and be active. Mr. Speaker, that has changed and we are getting a good influx of young people.

Why did I bring this up? Mr. Speaker, I would like to give you an example of what volunteer training can do for people in the local fire departments. For example, I had five or six people in our fire department who left our fire department and actually started a career related to the experience they gained in training through the fire and emergency services or internally.

For example, we had one fellow who left our fire department and who had the major job of fire chief with North Atlantic petroleum. He took the position of safety supervisor, and he recently went up to another step.

We have one fine gentleman working with the Marine Institute out in Stephenville training people in the fire service and, in particular, our military, I understand. That is a good benefit.

We had another young man who just joined the City of Corner Brook. Again, they realized the training that was developed in a local fire department and volunteered.

Then we have another fellow who was working up at Voisey's Bay when the mine was being constructed, and he became fire chief. Again, good evidence that training does prevail.

Lastly, we presently have a gentleman working in Yellowknife doing underground mine rescue and fire service.

That is why I want to give these examples. I am sure fire departments, Mr. Speaker, throughout Newfoundland and Labrador have had local firemen pass on their experiences, go to the employer and benefit them substantially and financially. I want to encourage you young people, 18 and up, men and women alike, because women are being recognized in the fire department.

I know the City of Corner Brook and our fire departments do have participation from women, and that it great to see.

You know, when young people get involved in the local fire departments, they may have an opportunity to not only benefit the community, but they are having an opportunity that they could actually save a life. Because now, we are not only dealing with fire services when it comes to fires and vehicle accidents and whatever, we are dealing with emergencies when it comes to oil spills. Of course, with the new technology we are now supporting the medical services with the advancement of the AED, or Automated External Defibrillator. More fire departments are getting this piece of apparatus, that they can go to the homes and support the family and hopefully save a life.

I am encouraging, again, the young people to get out there and to support their fire departments.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I hope that takes note throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, encouraging these young people again.

We also have some other issues, and I see my time is up and I ask for Leave.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Does the hon. member have Leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Member, by Leave.

MR. LODER: Thank you.

One of our investments, of course, as I said earlier, was the poverty and the investment in the Poverty Reduction Strategy. That is a main source of investment, as alluded by our Minister of Fisheries.

Now, since 2004 it was revealed Newfoundland and Labrador had 60,000 people who would be listed in the poverty bracket. Of course, with investments since 2004 and 2006 it was revealed now that there are 38,000 people still in poverty; a great reduction of 37 per cent, 38 per cent, but as we all realize here now that is not enough. There are still 38,000 people in that bracket who should not be. Of course, we are working towards that and that will be in the future. It will come and hopefully we will all be able to stand up on that day and announce that we do not have any poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now, I could continue on with other poverty reduction strategies like investment in housing, improving the Healthy Baby Clubs, and $500,000 to expand the Kids Eat Smart Program. Mr. Speaker, it is great to see, but that does not stop there. All this investment throughout Newfoundland and Labrador does not stop there. We have to look at the health care, and we know the major investments we have put in the health care to date. We have a massive, massive undertaking and investment of spending; over $2.3 billion in health care services in this year or 2007. That is an awful lot of money. Can you imagine what that partakes!

We realize there are still problems out there in health care but we are seeing the good results and we thank everybody for participation in the investment, the wise investment of this health care plan.

Included in the health care, of course, we have $133 million in capital spending, a $79.1 million investment in new and redeveloped health infrastructure. Isn't that great? We also had a $52 million investment of equipment such as MRIs and CT Scans. We have $33.5 million in addressing high priority repairs and renovations.

Coming down the line- I will take a short approach to it - we also have an investment in our own local area starting with over $500,000 to the investment of a new hospital for the region of the West Coast. This year it is only $500,000 and of course that gives us the foundation of planning what type of hospital we need and where it is going to be located. I expect and I hope to see major investments in next year's budget.

In concluding, Mr. Speaker, most of us here are, of course, baby boomers and we were not familiar with war when we were growing up. We did have members of our families who probably passed away or were killed in the wars in the past, but on November 11 I had the occasion of attending the Remembrance Square in Corner Brook to lay a wreath on behalf of the people of the Bay of Islands.

I could not believe the people who came out to support this particular day; young people by the thousands, older, everybody to the point that they are planning now to change the Remembrance Square to make it bigger so more people can get involved. Of course, that is now being recognized for our peacekeepers, our own Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who now are involved in protection of other countries and peacekeeping; in particular, to the country of Afghanistan. Now we see our own people, our families and friends involved in this confrontation.

So, Sir, on behalf of the people I have to bring this up, because after I left the Remembrance Square, I attended a meeting with the senior citizens in the town of Summerside, the community of Summerside. During this meeting, a lady there, and I do not think she is going to mind me mentioning her name, Mrs. Harriet McLean. Mrs. McLean had a photograph there of her father. First of all, I asked her, what is the photograph for? I realized he was a military man because he was dressed that way. She said: Terry, in the Battle of Beaumont Hamel there was 801 soldiers went over the top. My father, she said, Emmanuel Butt, of Perry's Cove – somewhere near Clarenville – was one of the people who answered roll call the next day. He was one of the people. She was so proud to say that he came back safely.

So, Mr. Speaker, that – I wanted to bring this up. Even though we are talking about the Throne Speech, I thought I would bring that up. It is a very touching story when we realize and support our military, not only our present but we are going back to World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict and, of course, our own people here today out fighting for us. It is the reason why we have this beautiful House of Assembly here today, is because of those people. It is because of those people we are making our own rules and, Mr. Speaker, that is why I brought this aspect up to this great House today.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the great District of Bay of Islands, and thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from the Bay of Islands was on such a roll that I am reluctant to follow him. He reminds me of a story of an emcee at a wedding who was giving a toast and went on and on. Anyway, he finished: I could go on, and I do not apologize for the length of time I am after taking but I left my watch home. I do not have a watch. Someone piped up and said: There's a calendar behind you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: My accolades to the hon. Member for Bay of Islands for his enthusiastic and profound comments. He is a hard act to follow.

Before I make my comments, Mr. Speaker, with regards to the Speech from the Throne, I want to take this opportunity, because I do not think that we have done it very often in this House in the last few days, take this opportunity to welcome our two new members.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: The hon. Member for Baie Verte – Springdale and the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis, and to say to them - and I think it needs to be said - that they have entered an honourable profession, contrary to what they might hear. This is an honourable profession. Public esteem, of course, would sometimes dictate otherwise. It is sometimes said that it is difficult to figure out who is at the bottom of the barrel, whether it be politicians or lawyers. Some of us have the dubious distinction of being both.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Having said that, Mr. Speaker, it is an honourable profession. For myself, I have been around the block a few times in a couple of other careers, as an educator for thirty years and a practicing lawyer for twelve, and I cannot think on a more fitting way to end my career than a career as an elected MHA.

Some people said to me I had more guts than brains, and they might be right. I am proud to be an MHA and I think it is a great privilege to be able to work with and represent the people of Placentia & St. Mary's, and I think every MHA in this House would say the same thing. It is an honourable profession, no greater privilege than to serve and to work with people from the district, to help people. By virtue of being an MHA, you have a certain amount of power and status that enables you to help people. Sometimes it only means a telephone call on their behalf. Sometimes it means a letter, sometimes a little bit more advocacy than that, but most of the time you can help some people - help people most of the time. You cannot help everybody.

It was the hon. John Crosbie at his inauguration as Lieutenant-Governor who said: You will find out, unfortunately, that not all the people out there loves you. You know, that is hard to take sometimes but it is true.

You will be castigated on Open Lines. A little bit of that. You will hear it, but there is no better reward, Mr. Speaker. I say to those two hon. gentlemen, no better reward than to have a constituent come to you and say thank you for what you did for me or for my wife or for my son, and that is what this business is all about. That is what this business is all about. I have had people come to me and say, you have my vote forever. We do not do that for votes. We help people because we want to help people, and if we do not want to help people then we have no business in this profession. That is what being an MHA is all about. I say that to the two hon. gentlemen who have come into this business with us in the last few days. They have got big shoes to fill, Mr. Speaker. They have big shoes to fill.

The Member for Baie Verte-Springdale has to succeed the hon. Tom Rideout, who was probably the longest serving, I believe the longest serving member, or close to it, in this House. He was the Premier at one time, the Deputy Premier, minister, House Leader. So the hon. Member for Baie Verte-Springdale has big shoes to fill.

The hon. Member for Cape St. Francis has to follow the late Jack Byrne, one of the greatest ministers we had. One of the pioneers of this government, one dearly loved in his district. Both ministers were well respected by all MHAs in this House, on both sides of the House for that matter, and big shoes, big shoes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: But they are two great replacements, Mr. Speaker, two great replacements. I am sure our leader and this government is very proud to have them, and we wish them well in their new positions.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Now, we do have to speak about the Speech from the Throne.

On October 9, Mr. Speaker, the electorate of this Province gave this government an overwhelming mandate, an overwhelming mandate to build on the initiatives of the previous four years. It was a blue wave that swept across the Province, reflecting the confidence that the people had in this government, reflecting the trust the people had in this government, and the hope they had in this government, and the pride of a Province that came to the surface in glowing terms in that October 9 election.

They acted on terms that were used, for example, being masters of our own destiny. Control of our own destiny. Masters in our own house. No more giveaways. Self reliance. These were the jargon, these were the issues and the terms that spurred that October 9 election.

Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne takes off from that date and reflects that pride, that trust, that hope that was generated on October 9. It is a profound statement planning out a range of commitments in the resource sector, in the growth sectors and in the leading edge sectors, and it depicts the plans of the government for the future. It was a profound statement that delineated a positive course of action building on the achievements of the last four years and the leadership of our Premier. It set the direction for the future.

Every Throne Speech does that - it is a positive document praising the government, giving accolades to the government, setting out a road map for the future and so on - but this speech went beyond that. This speech reflected that positive attitude of the people, reflected the pride of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, a pride hitherto not experienced in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I want to quote from the Throne Speech. "Ours is not the province it was two decades ago. Indeed, it is not the province it was five years ago. Fiscally and economically, we stand in a far more commanding position today than at any other time in the past twenty years. As a result of our collective efforts to wrestle down the deficit, to ratchet up growth and to reach an agreement that fulfilled the promise of the Atlantic Accord, we are - for the first time in our history - poised to come off equalization very soon. This is a stunning achievement that will reinforce the bold new attitude of self-confidence that has taken hold among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."

Now, of course, we all know that stunning achievement came a year early. Who would have thought, Mr. Speaker, that in such a short time we would come from years of deficit to a have-Province in 2008?

Mr. Speaker, my father was a strong Confederate in 1949 because he saw the poverty all around him in this Province. He saw the hunger, he saw the lack of clothing, he saw the lack of schooling, and he was a strong Confederate and voted for Confederation because he thought it was the right thing to do. A lot of people thought the same way. There are some people today who have misgivings about whether or not we did the right thing but most, I think, will agree that we have benefited from our relationship with Canada.

Now, how did we get there, Mr. Speaker? How did we get to this? Before I go on, my father told me stories. I don't remember them, the bad times, (inaudible), contrary to what some of you might think. My father told me stories, and he told me one story of how, during the so-called dole years, you had to go in a motor boat to the next community to get what they called at that time their order. The order was the supplies, the groceries, or whatever they could get for that particular month. The amount of groceries, or the size of the order was determined by the number of kids you had in the family, the number of children you had. The more children you had, the more you could get. He picked up his friend to go over to the other community to get the order. They got the order, came to the community, and dropped off his friend at his wharf. His friend - I will call him Mr. Flynn, for want of a better word; actually, that was his name - Mr. Flynn was one of the biggest fish killers in Placentia Bay at one time. He had his own boat, trap crews, the biggest fish killer. He was one of the most affluent people on that side of Placentia Bay, but he had been affected like everybody else by the bad times. When he was going up the rails of the wharf, getting out of my father's motorboat – it was Easter Sunday coming up - he said: I never thought I would see the day when I would not have a bit of salt beef for my dinner on Easter Sunday.

My father went home and started to think about it: How could a man who was so affluent come down to this level? He took his piece of salt beef - he had salt beef because he had more children in his family and he could get salt beef - and he went over to the stage, took the axe and chopped his salt beef in half and brought the other piece up to Mr. Flynn.

That was the spirit of Newfoundland in the outports in those times, but these were also the conditions that spurred him to be a strong Confederate, and these were the conditions in Newfoundland outports that spurred Confederation.

How did we get to this position, Mr. Speaker, of being a have Province? We got there through tough negotiations, fair negotiations, no more giveaways, good planning, prudent spending, good investment in infrastructure, reducing taxes, paying down the debt and so on, all prefaced by the Premier bringing home the Atlantic Accord. That is how we got there, and we invested heavily in social initiatives, personal income tax, poverty reduction, increased funding for diagnostic and other medical equipment, insulin pumps for children, prescription drugs and so on. The list goes on and on. All of this activity on the part of this government has spurred confidence and pride in the people, so much so that the election of October 9 gave overwhelming support to this government to continue on that path and to lead us into the opportunities of the future. That is what this Throne Speech says. That is what this Throne Speech is all about.

There are an awful lot of initiatives, as the previous speakers have mentioned, that could be addressed, and there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel on all of these because people have talked about them already.

We are in the midst of an economic downturn, but Canada is well positioned to come out of it and Newfoundland is probably the best positioned of all the provinces. We are so positioned for the same reasons that we came to this state in the first place, and these have already been referenced today: paying down debt, reducing taxes, investing in infrastructure, and because of that we are in a good position today to weather this meltdown.

I want to address for a few minutes, in the few minutes I have, some of the initiatives in my district that I am excited about and my district is excited about. Last night I attended a council meeting in the Town of Long Harbour, and what a buzz of excitement I met in the Town of Long Harbour last night. The Town of Long Harbour is doing extensive planning and preparation for this new Vale Inco project. It is filled with excitement. They have to hire staff, just to deal with the inquiries and telephone calls and representations that have been made to the town on what is going to be happening over the next little while. They want to maximize, they want to prepare themselves, position themselves to maximize the opportunities coming out of that project.

The Town of Placentia has put millions into infrastructure in the last two or three years. A new school is being built; the tender is being called fairly soon. Town offices have been built. A new arts centre has been built. They are focusing on the history and archaeology for tourist development, all in an attempt to maximize opportunities over the next few years.

I am so happy for the people of that region because they have rode an emotional roller coaster for the last ten years, experienced the highs and lows of that project, the highs of the expectations and the lows of the disappointments. I am so happy to see the revitalization, and I look forward to the revitalization of that area, of that region, a population that dropped from 8,000 people down to 4,000.

The Chamber of Commerce is very active with its businesses, again to maximize the opportunities coming out of that project. We all know the figures: $2.17 billion; 2,000 workers; 450 workers in the final operation, not to mention the service industries that are going to be needed, that will employ more people just to feed this project alone. Then (inaudible) catering, for example, the fibreglass industry, the fabrication of temporary offices and camp site buildings and office buildings. The project is so big that it is difficult to get a grasp on what it is going to mean, but the people in the area are working at it, they are planning for it and they are preparing for it. Hopefully they will be ready, and I think they will. The next step now, Mr. Speaker, is to get the federal permits in place, and there is a general comfort level on the part of the company that that will happen.

Sandy Pond is still an issue. There are still the naysayers, but I think everybody has come to the conclusion and realization that that is the best option. Even the Opposition themselves will say that that is the best option for the residue storage for that plant.

Now I know the Liberals will take credit for the initiative, and to their credit, they have to take some credit for it. No doubt about that. It was their initiative, but this government has kept Inco's feet to the fire on this project for the longest time and have built up a tremendous relationship with Inco, so much so that this project is going to proceed this year. The whole Province will benefit from that, not just the Placentia and Long Harbour area, the whole Province.

Mr. Speaker, I want to mention one other initiative, and I have talked about this before. In the Throne Speech and in the Budget Speech, the initiative brought in by Municipal Affairs on the new cost-sharing formula for municipal development. For my district this has been the best thing since sliced bread, and I am sure every MHA here will agree with me. This is the best news this Province has had in a long, long time. In my district, the community of Branch, of Admiral's Beach, communities like Point La Haye, Gaskiers, Mount Carmel, St. Bride's, Long Harbour, Whitbourne, these are all communities that could not benefit from municipal restructuring because they could not afford to pay their share. That has changed. With the 90-10, and with the exception of Placentia, all the communities in my district fall under the 90-10 with less than 3,000 people.

Already we have had funding for projects in Admiral's Beach, in Mount Carmel, in St. Bride's, in Placentia, in Whitbourne, and there are several more applications on the minister's desk. Hopefully, we will see some favourable consideration in the near future. That was a great initiative for my district, a great initiative and I look forward to the growth of these communities using this initiative.

The only other point I want to raise, Mr. Speaker, on August 1, 2007, my district was ravaged by the tropical storm Chantal. Many roads on the Cape Shore and Dunville, in Long Harbour and Ship Harbour, all washed out, municipal infrastructures destroyed. The community of Ship Harbour was isolated for a whole week. The Premier and the late Minister of Municipal Affairs, the late Jack Byrne and I flew over that area that day and we were awestruck by the damage that had been done. It was difficult to see how you would ever get Humpty Dumpty back together again, but the Province made a commitment at that point that we will be there. The next days, weeks and months the people of Placentia and Long Harbour and the Cape Shore and these areas, and some of the areas beyond my district, being Conception Bay, the grit of our residents came through. The grit came through.

The point I want to make, Mr. Speaker. Most personal property claims were settled within six months; within three months the roads were rebuilt and several million dollars spend on highway repairs. I do not have the complete monies for everything expended but I know, Mr. Speaker, and I will summarize this here rather than get into details. In the whole area, including Conception Bay, there were 881 individual claims and thirty-three municipal claims, totalling a cost of $18 million. A month ago, Mr. Speaker, only five claims remained open. That is just an awesome response. That is an overwhelming response by the government to that disaster. In Dunville alone $600,000 was paid out in personal claims.

So when we look back at the lay of the land, Mr. Speaker, on August 1, 2007, when Chantal occurred and we flew over that area and we saw the people crying in the streets and their houses being washed away, it was improbable that this could be done in such a short time. But, while there are always people who are never satisfied with the pace of the process and never satisfied with the amount they get, most of the people in that area are very positive about the treatment they received from the government officials, both in the Department of Transportation, Department of Municipal Affairs, and Emergency Services. They were highly pleased with the relationship and the speed with which they moved. While nobody wants to see another situation like that, I think we have to be more than pleased with the response that we received from the provincial government.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, back to the Throne Speech; the initiatives I just talked about, Vale Inco, the Chantal response, the municipal infrastructure, just to touch on a couple. These are the sorts of initiatives that manifest the principles that came out in this Throne Speech. These are the sorts of things that have injected pride in our people, hope in our people, enthusiasm in our people and a new day for this Province. That is what that Throne Speech was all about.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. COLLINS: But, Mr. Speaker, I am on a roll.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just to say again, the Throne Speech inserted the pride, reflected the pride and the enthusiasm of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians because of initiatives such as this.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you for the opportunity.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.

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

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock being Monday.

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