March 31, 2009             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS             Vol. XLVI   No. 4


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

 

MR. SPEAKER: Today we welcome the following members' statements: The hon. the Member for the District of Lewisporte; the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright–L'Anse au Clair; the hon. the Member for the District of Exploits; the hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & LaPoile; the hon. the Member for the District of Placentia & St. Mary's; and the hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to recognize a recent accomplishment by a group of students at Lewisporte Collegiate, a senior high school in my district. The students are Denika Benoit, Landon Hiscock, T.J. Hart, David Ropson and Meagan Gould.

These students have been participating in a provincial trivia game that was developed by the Workplace Health and Safety Compensation, in partnership with the Department of Education and Futures in Newfoundland and Labrador's Youth (FINALY.)

It is a game designed to educate high school students about workplace health and safety issues. Four school districts, involving eight schools, have been competing for over $20,000 in scholarships and prizes throughout this academic year.

Participating schools: Exploits Valley High from Grand Falls–Windsor; Lewisporte Collegiate; Elwood High of Deer Lake; Corner Brook High; Menihek High of Labrador City; Mealy Mountain Collegiate of Goose Bay; Carbonear Collegiate; and Mount Pearl Senior High.

Lewisporte Collegiate students under the direction of Mr. Edmond Mitchell and Mr. John Walsh won their first battle against Exploits Valley High on October 3, 2008. They won their semi-final game in Gander playing against Carbonear Collegiate on February 25, 2009.

The finals, Mr. Speaker, are scheduled for May 8, at Holy Heart of Mary auditorium. At that time, the member from Humber Valley and I will be on opposing sides as Lewisporte Collegiate competes with Elwood High of Deer Lake for the grand prize.

Congratulations to all students, teachers, et cetera, that have been involved in bringing attention, in a positive manner, to the importance of workplace health and safety.

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: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Even as we sit here today, the bells of Parliament Hill in Ottawa are chiming the Ode to Newfoundland over the National Capital Region in celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Confederation of this Province with the nation of Canada.

In the 500-plus years of our history as a people, Confederation represents one of the greatest milestones that we have achieved in our Province, a union fostered by former Premier Joseph R. Smallwood, a founding father of Confederation who championed the cause as one of the greatest orators this country has ever seen or heard.

Since Confederation, we have seen greater prosperity for the people of our Province than ever before. I do not need to go through the entire list. They are already familiar to us: social supports for families and individuals, such as the baby bonus; income support and old age pension benefits; institutions of higher learning across the Province, such as Memorial University, trades colleges, and the Marine Institute; economic opportunities for our people, both here at home and across Canada as we industrialize through the development of hydro resources and iron ore mining, and further development of the pulp and paper industry; transportation links within our own Province, through the completion of the Trans-Canada Highway on the Island portion.

These improvements to our lives are very obvious to those who recall life in Newfoundland and Labrador before Confederation. But, Mr. Speaker, Confederation was not all about our wallets and what we can get out of it for ourselves. Confederation was also about what we brought to Canada: a proud people ready to contribute and to take our place within the larger Canadian federation.

In sixty short years, there is no doubt that this Province has left a mark on Canada, just as Canada has left a mark on Newfoundland and Labrador, and we can never forget the brave people of this Province who have fought and died fighting for freedom under the flag of Canada, just as their forefathers fought for freedom under the Union Jack.

My district in Labrador has particular attachment to Confederation, and voted overwhelmingly in its favour. Those referendums were the first time that the people of Labrador were permitted the right to vote during more than a century of Responsible Government in Newfoundland. For the first time, the people of Labrador felt that their opinions were valued, that they felt included which is why today they have a strong attachment and pride in our union with Canada.

Confederation is like a marriage: no doubt there are occasional spats and fights, we might take each other for granted from time to time and we have periods of not speaking to each other. But, just like a marriage, the relationship is based on lasting mutual respect for each others positions.

On this sixtieth anniversary, as the bells of Ottawa ring, I think all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the people of Canada, should take a moment to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in a nation with publicly funded social programs, a country known the world over for champion freedoms and equality for all peoples and a country that promotes peace around the world.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FORSEY: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the efforts of Jean Thompson and her sister Marion Brett of Point Leamington for their contributions to the Canadian Blood Services.

Mr. Speaker, Ms Thompson and Ms Brett have been volunteering with the Point Leamington mobiles for many years, Marion as a coordinator and Jean doing refreshments, but what is unique about their story is that recently Jean gave her one hundredth blood donation leading her sister Marion with ninety-two.

The way I am going, another seventy-five and I will catch up with them.

Mr. Speaker, donors and volunteers are the heart of the blood systems in the Province and in Canada and according to regional communications manager for the Canadian Blood Services they need 90,000 new donors each year to keep up with the growing demand for blood and blood products.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating these two ladies for their dedication, and especially to Ms Jean Thompson on reaching this milestone of 100 blood donations.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & LaPoile.

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

I rise today to recognize and congratulate Leah Prosser of Port aux Basques on being the first local junior curler to win her way to the nationals.

Leah was a member of the Gateway Curling Club at Port aux Basques for eight years, all through junior high and high school. She is currently attending Memorial University at St. John's and a member of the Bally Haly Club. Her team mates include Alysha Renouf, Kylie Power and Erin Porter.

The ladies won the provincial Under 21 competition at Stephenville in early January and went on to represent the Province in the national Under 21 Women's Curling Championships in British Columbia in early February. Although the team did not win, they did make an admirable showing with each game coming down to the very last shot.

Leah is the daughter of Richard and Gertie Prosser of Port aux Basques.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in extending congratulations to Leah on being a member of the winning team for the provincial Under 21 curling competition and a good showing at the Nationals. All the best to Leah, her team mates and her family. Way to go, ladies!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this hon. House to pay tribute to a native of Dunville, Master Warrant Officer Donnie Marshall, who was recently inducted as a Member of the Order of Military Merit during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on February 24.

Mr. Speaker, the Order of Military Merit recognizes continuous service and devotion to duty by members of the Canadian Forces, and is similar to the Order of Canada for civilians.

Master Warrant Officer Marshall is an aerospace control officer, specializing in precision approach radar controlling. He is stationed at the Aerospace Control and Warning Operational Training Squadron in North Bay, Ontario. This squadron, through Master Warrant Officer Marshall, develops controller graduates who provide surveillance, identification, control and warning for the aerospace defence of North America.

In his twenty-six years of service, Master Warrant Officer Marshall's prior awards include: 5 Wing Goose Bay, Wing Commander's Commendation, the Commemorative Medal for the 125 anniversary of Confederation, and An Airman of the Quarter Award presented by the Commander of the Air Command.

During his posting in Goose Bay, he controlled an L-1011 Tristar, with two of its three engines out, to land safely in bad weather, a feat which he describes as his most rewarding experience.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members today to join with me in congratulating Master Warrant Officer Donnie Marshall for the tremendous honour and distinction of being inducted as a Member of the Order of Military Merit.

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, Ascension Collegiate of Bay Roberts recently was recognized as the top school of all schools in Atlantic Canada to raise the largest amount of money for World Vision. They were presented with the World Vision award for raising $9,000 for World Vision during the 30 Hour Famine held last year.

The 30 Hour Famine is an international youth movement to fight hunger. The students fast for thirty hours and raise funds to help feed and care for children around the world. A total of $23,000 has been raised in the past four years. To participate, students have to raise at least $60. The students at Ascension Collegiate have sponsored other events such as: the Helping Hands food drive, AIDS walk, the Happy Tree, Janeway hospital and Daffodil Place.

Ascension principal, Mr. Neil Kearley, stated, "This event makes students more aware of global issues such as world hunger and gives them an appreciation for their own lives."

I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating the staff and students at Ascension Collegiate on receiving the World Vision award.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about our efforts to encourage regional co-operation, a key initiative in our department.

Creating sustainable municipalities is a critical issue. Many communities in rural areas are finding it a challenge to provide quality services to residents. Regional co-operation is a way of securing improved services - such as snow clearing, waste management, or fire services - by coming together.

This government has committed to increase regional co-operation initiatives and assess regional service delivery opportunities throughout the Province. We allocated $1 million in Budget 2008 to facilitate such co-operation initiatives, and more than eighteen groupings involving over forty municipalities have expressed interest in exploring such ventures.

I am pleased to report that under Budget 2009-2010, we will continue to promote regional co-operation in an effort to sustain our communities. We will again invest $1 million this year to eliminate barriers to regional co-operation, such as disproportionate debt loads, and to dedicate resources to facilitate discussions and negotiations.

I was extremely proud to be in attendance for the official amalgamation of the new Town of Roddickton-Bide Arm in January. This successful merger has further ignited an interest throughout the Province in co-operation ventures.

I commend the people of Roddickton and Bide Arm for taking the initiative to investigate and pursue the concept of regional co-operation. They wanted a better quality of life for the people of their communities and took the steps necessary to make it a reality.

The residents of Roddickton-Bide Arm will see many benefits from the merger. They will have a stronger local voice, less service duplication and great economy of scale. Most importantly, they will have improved services particularly road upgrading and the expansion of older water and sewer systems.

On the Avalon, we are assisting the communities of North River, South River, Clarke's Beach, Cupids and Mackinsons to form a regional fire protection service.

Regional co-operation is indeed the way of the future. I encourage other municipalities to explore how they, too, could benefit from co-operating with their neighbours.

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 that we totally agree with any towns that wish to come together under regional co-operation. We know that by coming together the smaller communities have a better opportunity to avail of many services that are offered to some larger communities.

I know full well how it happened back a few years ago, when the municipality of Bay Roberts came together with Shearstown, Coley's Point and Country Road, and the tremendous difference it has made in that area. I want to commend Roddickton and Bide Arm for taking on that initiative now.

The minister also mentioned at the end of her statement about how they are assisting the communities of North River, South River, Clarke's Beach, Cupids and Makinsons with a new fire fighting service. I want to say also, minister, that I think those communities are also considering coming together. It is not finalized, but they are considering coming together as the one municipality. I know there are talks ongoing about it, but the only thing, some of the smaller communities are concerned that possibly the cost will be too great for them.

I have to say that we totally agree with regional co-operation, and hopefully many other communities throughout the Province will come together and avail of the services that a larger municipality can put together, rather than smaller entities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to announce the Williams government's latest effort to ensure safety remains the number one priority of the Department of Transportation and Works.

I am sure many of you are familiar with the tragic story that brought the issue of truck side guards, or under guards, to the attention of the general public, but it bears repeating.

On December 19, 2005, twenty-one year old Jessica Holman-Price of St. John's lost her life while preventing her ten-year-old brother from being crushed by the wheels of a snow-removal truck in Montreal. The two were standing on a snow bank at a busy intersection, waiting to cross the street. When the light turned green, the truck came around the corner and caught the edge of the mound, causing the boy to slide under the vehicle. Jessica reached for him, but she too lost her footing and slid under the wheels of the truck. In a split-second, she managed to push her brother out of harm's way before the massive truck fatally injured her.

Jessica's mother Jeannette, who lives in Portugal Cove-St. Phillip's, has been lobbying to require all heavy trucks to be equipped with side guards to prevent such tragedies. You can find out more about her crusade on thejessicacampaign.com Web site.

I first met with Ms Holman-Price in late January, and her story touched me, as I am sure it touches all who have heard it. Her determination and ongoing effort to ensure some good comes from this tragedy is to be commended.

Our government is entering the fourth year of a five-year, $50 million plan to replace old snowplows. When our next order is placed, it will be stipulated that the thirty plows will be equipped with side guards to prevent pedestrians from rolling under our trucks. We anticipate receipt of these new trucks next spring. The provincial government will invest approximately $80,000 for this life-saving equipment. All future plow truck orders will also include the side guard stipulation. These side guards have been widely used in Europe for years and I encourage all governments in Canada, and those operating trucks in the private sector to adopt this policy as well. This simple, relatively inexpensive piece of equipment is also easy to assemble and disassemble. The bottom line is that it saves lives and it makes sense.

Mr. Speaker, Jeannette Holman-Price, Jessica's mother, could not be here with us today. She is in British Columbia to speak to the RCMP Chief of Police as part of her ongoing safety campaign. Jessica's father, Mr. Peter Price, is joining us in the gallery today, I believe.

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 his statement and to say that we are in total agreement that this is a wonderful initiative that the minister has announced here today.

I had the opportunity to speak with Ms Price at the municipalities' convention in Corner Brook - I think it was last fall - when she gave a presentation to all the municipalities throughout our great Province.

Like the minister said, it was a story that will last with you for a lifetime. I think it was only recently that the Municipality of Portugal Cove-St. Phillip's more or less took on an initiative that their own municipal truck will be equipped with this life-saving device. To know that someone took a cause and was so determined that she kept this drive going and the campaign continues today. As the minister said, the lady is in British Columbia.

We in the Opposition want to commend Ms Jeannette Holman-Price and to say that - I guess it is a message to everyone, if you have a cause be persistent and at the end of the day I want to congratulate the government for the initiative that they are taking. Hopefully, as the minister said, all other businesses and various contractors throughout our Province will listen to this cause, listen to the campaign that is ongoing. It is all for the safety of those people that not only live in our Province, but throughout our great country.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, today is the sixtieth anniversary of Confederation with Canada, and there have been many discussions and debates as to our place within that union, but the vast majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are proud Canadians and proud of their country.

I ask the Premier today: What recent efforts have been made in an attempt to improve your strained relations with the federal government and strengthen our union with Canada as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank Joan Marie, I mean, I am sorry, the hon. member for her question.

Mr. Speaker, with regard to our relations with Canada, we have done everything we can to try and improve our relationship with the existing federal government but we are not going to stand back and allow them to punish our Province. We are not going to stand back and have them create an economic stimulus package right across this country, and stimulate every province and every jurisdiction, every territory in the country and allow them to punish us. So we are going to state our piece.

Any time that, whether it is a federal government and happens to be a Liberal government, Progressive Conservative government or an NDP government, we will stand up for what we believe and we will fight for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and we will be heard.

With regard to our relationship with Canada, we are proud Canadians. We are proud to be part of Canada but we will not be trampled on by governments of Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, the Premier appointed our Ambassador to Ottawa, Mr. John Fitzgerald, several years ago in an effort to strengthen our relationship with the federal government. Seeing that our relations today are at an all-time low, I ask the Premier: Has the appointment of John Fitzgerald done anything to strengthen our relationship with Ottawa or is it just a waste of taxpayers' money in Newfoundland and Labrador?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, our relationship with Ottawa has not hit an all-time low. It will get lower if they continue to do what they are doing right now. So do not mark that as a low watermark because that is not necessarily the case. If Stephen Harper and his ministers and the people in Ottawa want to continue to try and nail Newfoundland and Labrador and punish us for exercising our democratic rights, even though it may have been questionable electing Liberals by the same token, but by the same token, when you do not have much other choice you elect Liberals and you elect New Democrats. Having said that, Mr. John Fitzgerald is a tremendous individual. He is a capable individual –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: He is a very knowledgeable individual. He works extremely hard, and just recently he has visited and spoken with most of the ambassadors in Ottawa, with respect to preventing the seal ban in Europe. As a consequence of his hard work, I have written all the ambassadors. So, he is doing a very good job, thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation spends millions of dollars each year marketing Newfoundland and Labrador as a destination of choice for other Canadians, including the multi-million dollar campaigns they launched last year, one called Fresh Air, I think, and the other one called the "Find Yourself Here" campaign.

Well, Mr. Speaker, given the fact that we still find ourselves here in a Confederation with Canada, would it not have been a good opportunity to highlight some of the positive outcomes of our union and to bring a little fresh air to our relationship with the federal government through our Department of Tourism?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, the focus of our ad campaign, as everybody can see - it has been internationally acclaimed, it has been nationally acclaimed, and it has won all kinds of awards - is building on our strength. It is building on what we are all about. It includes the fresh air of our Province, it includes the clotheslines, it includes the beautiful communities, it includes the wonderful names, and it includes the beautiful view-scapes. We are selling what we are all about.

That is why we, as a government and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, take such pride in those ads. That is why people all around the world have taken notice of those ads. That is why other jurisdictions and other territories are copying those ads. Because they represent what we are all about as a people. We don't have to sell our relationship with Canada to sell who we are as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The diamond anniversary of Newfoundland's Confederation with Canada is obviously not even an event worthy of comment by the government opposite, and that was apparent in the Throne Speech only last week.

Mr. Speaker, the government is planning a celebration this year, a huge party across the Province to celebrate another important event in our history and that is the legacy of Bob Bartlett.

I ask, Mr. Speaker, if the government would consider adding the 60th anniversary of our union with Canada as a part of those celebrations as we go through them this summer.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, if we are going to have a celebration in this Province, we will celebrate our pride, we will celebrate our strength, we will celebrate our determination, and we will celebrate our resilience. We will celebrate the resilience of the people of the Port au Port Peninsula and the people in Stephenville. We will hopefully be able to celebrate all the people in the Grand Falls-Windsor and surrounding areas.

Interesting enough, I heard the Leader of the Opposition last night on Out of the Fog – she was also on CBC - and I heard her say how we should change our mind about the addictions centre in Grand Falls because maybe there is not enough support around the area to support an addictions centre. She also said we should also reconsider relocating people for the home heating benefits from Grand Falls.

So you do not even support Grand Falls-Windsor and Botwood and Badger and Bishop's Falls trying to get ahead. You said exactly that. I was absolutely horrified and amazed that you would even say it -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: - but you said it, and you do not want Central Newfoundland to prosper.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will not use my time to debate that with the Premier in Question Period but he can go back and read my transcript and he will know that is not what I said.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier has recently stated that the Province will go it alone in trade negotiations with the European Union because Canada will not serve the Province's best interest at the table.

I ask the Premier: If this is your government's position, why did your former Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture send a letter in August to the International Trade Minister expressing his strong support for the federal government's bilateral trade negotiations with the European Union?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Quite simply, Mr. Speaker, because at that point they had not shafted us again for the third time when they turned around and took away over a billion dollars from us. In all fairness to the minister at that particular point in time, he was indicating that there were good relationships with Europe; but from my perspective and from our government's perspective and from that minister's perspective, who is an experienced Fisheries Minister, we are going to stand up and we are going to protect the fishery in this Province. We are going to protect the seal hunt in this Province, no matter what the rest of the world thinks about it, and we are going to continue to do so. That means that we are going to have to stand up and we are going to negotiate alone with Europe. We will do so because we believe in the culture and the heritage of this Province. We believe in those industries. We make apologies to nobody. If we want to change our mind after the federal government have gone out and shafted us, and we believe that we cannot trust them, then we do not trust them and we act on our own and we go it alone!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: So, Mr. Speaker, it was never about Canada's position at the European Union. It was never about Canada's strength to be able to represent Newfoundland and Labrador. The Premier has confirmed it was all about the fact that they had shafted you, as you say, once again, and therefore it does not matter if we throw out all the good with the bad. That is what I am hearing, Mr. Speaker.

The minister wrote in his letter - the former minister, who is currently today the Minister of Transportation and Works – "We strongly endorse your commitment for bilateral agreements and look forward to working with the federal government to achieve a bilateral agreement with the EU."

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Given that statement, given the fact that in August you had the confidence in their ability to be able to respond to this issue, are you now going to work with them to ensure that it happens?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, we have stated all along, and we continue to do so, we believe in free trade with Europe. We have traded with Europe for over five centuries. We believe in it, but we are not going to allow a Prime Minister who works contrary to our interests to go over there and do a deal on our behalf whereby he will not deal with tariffs, he will not deal with quotas, he will not deal with the seal hunt, he will not deal with issues that are important to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

We will go back to the age-old trading whereby they will trade away our quotas, they will trade away our fish, and they will trade away our jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador, in the interests of Canadians on the Mainland. We, as a government, will not stand for that, believe me.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We know today that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is in Ottawa meeting with representatives of the European Union, looking for allies to support the seal hunt and oppose the EU ban on sealing products.

I ask the Premier: Has government had any discussions or correspondence with our fisheries ambassador, Loyola Sullivan, regarding this issue, and what role he is playing in these discussions?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I, as Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, and my colleague, the Minister of Natural Resources, both participated with Ambassador Sullivan on what can be best characterized as a bit of a junket to Europe last year and the year before.

On both occasions, the federal government assured us and the delegation - the delegation that I was a part of, and I am sure the delegation that the Minister of Natural Resources was a part of – that Canada would stand up to protect Newfoundland's interest in the seal hunt in the face of a proposed European Union ban, and that they would initiate action under the World Trade Organization.

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where Mr. Sullivan is now, unless he has gone to initiate action under the World Trade Organization. We have not laid eyes on him or the issue of the seal hunt with the federal government since.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, as the seal hunt prepares to open, there is much uncertainty regarding market conditions and prices.

I ask the Premier today: Do you have any indication as to what the marketing and pricing conditions will be facing sealers this year?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I cannot say precisely what we expect conditions to be at the seal hunt this year, only to say that every indication is that prices will be far lower than they were in the previous couple of years. Indications are, out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, out of Quebec, that prices this year are somewhere in the order of – I have heard, anyway - $30 a pelt. That includes some level of subsidization by the Quebec government.


Mr. Speaker, the market appears to be very soft and I would anticipate a very low uptake in the hunt this year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

During the last election the Premier raised a long-standing interest regarding the Province's establishing its own fisheries research vessel and facilities. In light of the recent news that the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation in St. John's is on the verge of closing, I ask the Premier today: Will you please provide us with an update of your interest in establishing our own research initiatives and research vessels in this Province, as was promised in the last election?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would have to say – I am not sure if the hon. member would be aware of this - I think in large part the reason why the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation kept going for the better part of the last year or two was as a result of a considerable amount of money that was identified by the provincial government through the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, and the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. We wrote to the other Maritime Provinces, and Quebec and Nunavut, to ask for their participation in a cost-sharing formula with the federal government.

My understanding, Mr. Speaker - the last I heard on it - was that some of the other provinces and jurisdictions had indicated their willingness to support that initiative on a go-forward basis, but it appears, Mr. Speaker, that once again the federal government have walked away from funding initiatives here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe the minister can give me an update, then, on your commitment and promise to the people of the Province to look at research vessels for Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I can report that there have been significant discussions over the course of the past year-and-a-half or thereabouts, since we made that commitment in our Blueprint back in the fall of 2007. As anybody who is knowledgeable of fisheries research would know, and oceans research, you have to put together a research program before you determine what your vessel will be.

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions with those who are knowledgeable in the ocean sector in Newfoundland and Labrador, including fisheries researchers, including the Marine Institute, Mr. Glenn Blackwood and company, officials in the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, and the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Mr. Speaker, at the appropriate time when we have our ocean sector strategy more fully developed, and in consultation with the Newfoundland and Labrador Research and Development Council, we will put our money where our mouth is and get an appropriate ship to conduct research in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, while government continues its monitoring activities of the Joir River caribou herd, the Quebec Innu are killing the animals to extinction. The minister stated yesterday that it was too dangerous to act to protect the animals, and they would monitor instead. The same situation has been occurring over the past number of years, and all government has done each year is monitor and document the killing of these endangered animals.

I ask the minister: When is government going to act to protect the remaining few animals left in that particular herd?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources and Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is true, we have a very sad situation that has developed in Southern Labrador over the last week. We have forty-five hunters hunting caribou amongst a snowmobile group of at least seventy-five snowmobiles, demonstrating very dangerous behaviour. We have100-plus women, children and elders in that area and up to this point they have taken just about half the herd, over forty animals.

Mr. Speaker, we have been involved with this particular group of Innu hunters since 2004 on a regular basis, educating them as to the status of these animals, underlining the importance of protecting these animals, and asking them not to engage in the hunt. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, that plea has fallen on deaf ears.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Falling on deaf ears, I would submit, is not good enough. Mr. Speaker, the rights of the Quebec Innu to hunt do not override the legislative powers of conservation and safety. We have numerous incidents where conservation officers have participated in dangerous operations here at home, to protect fish and wildlife. It will be too late to protect the Joir River herd once they are decimated to extinction.

I ask the minister: Besides documenting and watching these animals being slaughtered, do you have any plans developed to protect the remaining herd?

MS JONES: For three years you could not even negotiate (inaudible).

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I hear the Leader of the Opposition talking about, over three years we did not have the ability to negotiate an agreement.

There is no political agreement, or no agreement on rights, that is going to trump conservation, Mr. Speaker. Conservation overrides every other right.

We want to protect this herd, and I can give a list of activities that we have undertaken, even to a point that the Grand Chief of this Innu group is a member of the Woodland Caribou Recovery Team. They are well aware of the status of these animals; but, as important as these animals are to all of us, Mr. Speaker, not all of them are worth the life of one of my conservation officers and I absolutely refuse to put them at risk.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

The minister's diplomacy is not stopping the bullets. Government cannot just sit back and watch the Quebec hunters come into our Province. We talk about standing up for ourselves as a Province in this very Legislature today. They cannot be permitted to come into our Province and wipe out an entire caribou herd.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I am sure it would not be tolerated if it were the other way around.

I ask the minister: Have you at least even spoken to the Labrador Innu or the federal government, as part of this diplomacy, to see if we can start some tribal negotiations even to stop this slaughter?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This government's involvement with Quebec Innu hunters is well documented since 2004, Mr. Speaker. Only earlier in March we had a meeting with Chief Lalo, before she went to the hunt, telling her about the status of these caribou.

As I have said, we have membership on the recovery team, the caribou recovery team in Labrador. We have contacted the Quebec government. We constantly preach conservation. It has been a regular subject of this government in all kinds of discussions, both through my department and the Department of Environment and Conservation, about the importance of these threatened animals.

It is a very volatile situation, Mr. Speaker. It is a wonder that an Innu hunter, or one who has participated in this hunt, has not been harmed. I am certainly not going to put human life at risk to protect the caribou.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I suggest, Minister, if you had done your homework and done the job we would not be in this situation today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, last April we requested information on the Province's inland fish and wildlife program. After information was refused, we appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner, who recently chastised government for refusing, saying that they should have released the information.

I ask the Premier: Why did government refuse to follow its own legislation and, instead, blocked access to information that should have been released with respect to the Inland Fish and Wildlife program?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that all information that has certainly been requested from my department and from the Department of Justice, where the inland fisheries officers operate under, all of the information that we have has been provided. I cannot provide what I do not have.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, government commissioned retired Justice William Marshall to conduct a report of the Inland Fish and Wildlife program back in 2006. In April of 2006, Mr. Marshall wrote the Premier to advise him that his report was over 100 pages long and contained many recommendations to improve the program. He called it a preliminary report, the 100 pages. He stated that the final report would follow.

I ask the Premier: What is the status of these reports and why were they never released to the public?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I have not received a report from Mr. Marshall. The Premier has not received such a report. The Department of Justice has not received such a report. If we had it, we would have released it. We do not have it, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

At least we have it confirmed now, that there was no follow-up final report from Justice Marshall, and we are three years out now.

Mr. Speaker, in a letter to the Premier Mr. Marshall states that his final report will outline in detail the problems with the program. However, he suggests in his preliminary report immediately implementing certain recommendations, or the entire Inland Fish and Wildlife program would be eroded and eventually collapse. Now, this was in 2006 he said that.

I ask the Premier: Can you outline what actions government has taken since 2006 to remedy the problems that Mr. Marshall identified in 2006?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Most people are not aware that from the conservation officer core that resides within the Department of Natural Resources, a significant number of those officers go over to the Department Justice in the spring of the year where they participate in the inland fishery program.

Mr. Speaker, like any other ministry that I have been involved in, I am very aware of the structure of the department, of relationships within the department, the importance of having a respectful workplace. From time to time, issues occur in various branches of the department and from time to time they have occurred with our conservation officers and with inland fishery.

I am happy to say that the program is doing very, very well and there are no significant issues that, certainly, have risen to my attention in the past year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

This is the same program that supposedly is looking after our caribou herd up in Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, much of the information contained under our access to information request remains blacked out. We have been forced to file a second request. In fact, it was recommended to us by the Privacy Commissioner that we go back with a second request, because of what government had done, to ask for the censored information.

From what we have seen, there appears to be a reason why government is withholding this information. One of the statements made by Mr. Marshall is that the program is being mismanaged – his word, not ours – and this has led to significant tension and anger amongst officers.

I ask the Premier: What is being done in the face of Mr. Marshall's comments, to address these concerns?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I can only repeat my answer from the previous question. There are always human resource issues that arise from time to time within departments. We spend a great deal of time in the Forestry and Agrifoods Agency addressing human resource issues, doing everything we can to ensure that there is good communication amongst our workers and with management and that we always, always, all of us, do everything we can to ensure that we have a respectful workplace. I can only report that the program is working very well and I am very pleased with the way that the two departments are working together.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister is not tuned in to what Mr. Marshall did say back then.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Marshall stated in correspondence to the Premier, that 2006 correspondence that he had and I quote: troubling image of an area of the public service with the potential of imploding on itself. He cited 2005 as a year of failure for the program because – now, this is the Premier's pet project, which was to take over enforcements, which the feds were not doing.

I ask the Premier again: Is the inland fisheries program – because we have not heard anything we have heard today from Mr. Marshall since. We have not heard anything having been done from the minister since 2006. Is the program still intact, or is it on the verge of destruction?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, in 2006 I was not minister of this department. I have only been minister in the past three years. I will have my anniversary this summer.

The inland fishery program and my conservation program are certainly two areas that I am particularly interested in. I cannot speak to the particular circumstance in 2006, but I can tell you that I am very happy with where the program is, I am very happy with the way that the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Justice interact and co-operate with one another and how we work really well together in the delivery of this program. I think the people of Newfoundland and Labrador can be very happy with the service that is being provided by these officers.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Marshall also ignites the debate about whether the Province should co-operate with the federal government in a combined effort of Inland Fisheries Enforcement. As a matter of fact, he seems fixated that that co-operation with the federal government on enforcement issues, and I quote from him again: Undermines your policy initiative - referring to the Premier - and should be stopped because they tried it, co-operation.

I ask the Premier: Has this co-operation between the federal and the provincial enforcement officers in fact ceased, and if so, was this decision taken simply because working with the federal government personnel would have undermined your policy, as Mr. Marshall indicated?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

In 2006 the Inland Fish Enforcement aspect of inland wildlife was transferred to the Department of Justice. As the Minister of Natural Resources indicated, every year in the spring conservation officers come over to Justice, a part of the Inland Fish Enforcement Program. The program has been extremely successful and has operated successively for the past number of years.

I can also tell the hon. member that there is co-operation between our conservation officers and the federal officers. In fact, our conservation officers have been designated to conduct prosecutions under the federal legislation as well as our own. So there is co-operation. The program is running very well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

The minister of non-answers again. It seems like we have shifted from Natural Resources to the Minister of Justice, neither one chose to address any of the six questions that have been asked. Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my questioning in that area.

From the officers that we have spoken with, and we have, Mr. Speaker, there is certainly anger and frustration with the programs. It is not all rosy as the minister says. We have the phone calls to prove it.

In an e-mail sent from the former Clerk of the Executive Council to the Premier's Chief of Staff in 2006, it stated, and I quote: It is understood that the final Marshall Report may recommend a more far-reaching reorganization of the wildlife enforcement and Inland Fisheries Enforcement programs.

I ask the Premier: We know that there remains major morale problems within this program, what is being done to help the staff?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I cannot say what will be in Mr. Marshall's final report or when we are going to receive the final report, but I am charged with a responsibility, as is the Minister of Justice, in the delivery of our programs, both with conservation officers and inland fisheries, to provide a specific service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are doing that, the program is working really well. We often have human resource issues. We are paying attention to what our employees are saying, and we are doing our very best to resolve any issues that may exist in the workplace.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation.

Order, please!

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Petitions

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has recognized the hon. Member for the District of Port de Grave. I ask other members to take their conversation outside.

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say, happy sixtieth anniversary.

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to present another petition on behalf of the residents of Long Island with regard to the causeway. I have a number of those petitions, and I agreed that I would do it as the critic for Transportation.

As I stated yesterday, Mr. Speaker, back in 2003 the department, under this government, announced that they would build this causeway. In 2004, the then minister, Mr. Rideout, said that it would only be deferred, and it would be done after the financial position of this Province became a little bit brighter. I don't know; maybe that is why he got the boot as well, because he agreed to build this causeway. I don't know, Mr. Speaker, but those people had a service for twenty-five years and they need a replacement of a ferry service.

They have been told by the minister that a causeway will not be built, and they have major concerns with regard to the safety of the individuals, if something should happen in the evenings when there is no vessel on their side. Their children have to travel back and forth, Mr. Speaker, and they are also concerned about the products from the fish plant being transported over. I understand that the ferry that is in place now, I have been told that the transport trucks, it is going to be difficult to travel on that particular ferry that will be there from time to time.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the residents I present this petition and hopefully government will have a second look at this causeway. They are saying that they will not; but, who knows? They may change their mind. Then again, at least they should be provided a service so that their children and the services that they need, medical services, will be provided to them, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions.

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we will call from the Order Paper the motion put forward by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board to move that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, the Budget Speech, and continue the debate we started yesterday, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

Picking up where we left off yesterday, I still have a head cold and fortunately I still cannot hear the members opposite, which is very helpful when you are giving a presentation here because sometimes the heckling tends to try to distract you, so it is very helpful. I don't have to listen to them, actually.

Anyway, we had a pretty good discourse yesterday. It lasted about three hours, pointing out some of the things that we thought were positive in the Budget, and some of the not so positives, or missing things, I would think, that were in the Budget.

In fact, I never had as many e-mails for anything that I have said here in the House. I was surprised, actually. I was surprised, and I am going to refer to some of the e-mails today in the course of my speaking because I actually printed some of them. It was interesting, some of the questions that came forward. Some of them, by the way, were very good questions. I had one from one gentleman who was talking about the Voisey's Bay deal. It was the first he ever heard of some of the details that were discussed yesterday, so he had some questions and he wondered if we could elaborate on them, and I took the opportunity to go back and elaborate upon them with him. Of course, I still have not had a chance to answer all of them. There are still some more there, people who want some information, and as time permits I will certainly be getting back to them as well.

It was a very, I thought, learning experience for myself as well because you hear about all of these things when you are sitting in the House, or when you are getting ready for Question Period or you are debating a certain piece of legislation, but you do not often get the opportunity to sit down and try to bring it all together, whether you are talking about a Voisey's or a Lower Churchill or an Upper Churchill or a fishing industry. To do it all in the context of a government budget, and not only where we are going in that snapshot in time, based upon the Budget for 2009, but where we might be going on a long-term basis. Because the Budget it an estimate document; it is projections. The government uses the best information that it has available and makes certain projections as to what they are going to spend on certain programs and servicing, debt financing and so on, and come up with figures, and at the end of the year we get the actuals. So, we have the actuals in this Budget for last year, we have the projections for next year, and on it goes and we will see what actually works out.

One of the most important, of course, figures in the Budget is the fact that the government has relied in its projection upon the price of a barrel of oil being $50 a barrel. Last year, I do believe, it was $87 a barrel. Of course, it is so volatile in the oil industry. Last year the government used the figure of $87 and, as we all saw, it went, I believe, close to pretty near $150 a barrel.

MR. T. MARSHALL: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, on a point of order.

MR. T. MARSHALL: I have to do this, Mr. Speaker.

The estimates of the oil last year were $86.87. Although the price did go to $150, I have to say that, as the Minister of Finance announced in the Budget, the actual for the year averaged $86.44. Not too bad.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

It was a good point. I would agree it was a good point, because it is nice to have the information. There is so much detail here you have to drill down. I pointed out yesterday, there are six volumes of information we were given on Thursday. It is very helpful when the former Minister of Finance stands up and says what the actuals turned out to be. It just goes to substantiate the point that I was making, that government estimated $87 a barrel, and it worked out as high $150 a barrel. Of course, the minister didn't come up with that average without taking into where it went for the latter part of the year. We hit down as low as $30 a barrel. I said yesterday, when we were speaking, actually that we were in the range of $52 or $53 a barrel, only to find out when I watched the evening news that it was actually $48 a barrel yesterday. It is very, very volatile. It can jump $2, $3, $4, $5 in any given day.

I tried to tie that in with showing just how difficult it is for any government to base a document, to base its spending for any given year, on a certain figure when you see how volatile that figure can be. Even over the course of six months we can go from $150 a barrel to $30 a barrel. That is pretty volatile. That makes it very difficult for forecasting purposes, when the government tries to say, this is where we are, this what we want to do, this is where we hope to be next year, and this is what we are estimating.

We are all subject to the whims of the world when it comes to things like volatile pricing. That is just in the oil industry. We had similar type pricing declines when it came to the mining industry. We make a lot of revenues in this Province from our mining industries in Labrador, for example, in Lab West and Wabush. As anyone knows, who follows it, the prices hit the bottom in that industry as well last year, and all of it impacted our Budget. I do believe we did have a substantial surplus at the end of it all, because it did well on the front end of the year and didn't do so good on the back end of the year. The Province still managed, because of the good prices we had overall, to do pretty good in terms of a surplus. Can you imagine what we would have done if the economy had kept chugging along the way it was back in April of last year, or June of last year even, with the price of oil well over $100 and the mining industry on very solid footing, and we hadn't been hit yet by the economic meltdown.

It is exactly those whims that we live with in the world economy that governments have to contend with. One of the points I was trying to make yesterday is, you can't be so cocky as to think that what we have today it going to be there tomorrow. That is where planning comes in, and that is why the Auditor General, for example – I pointed out and read his comments yesterday, from his 2009 report – says, be a bit cautious here. We are relying upon very volatile revenue streams. That was pointed out by him.

The government this year, of course, scaled back. They said, okay, given the circumstances of this year, we are going to go with $50 a barrel. I hope it goes back, for the purposes of the provincial Treasury, to $150; but, of course, that has some negative impacts for people as well because that, in turn, drives up the price of oil and that affects everybody negatively as well. So you have to be careful, sometimes, what you wish for. We would all like to have that good balance whereby we get what we need to provide for the services and programs, and hopefully it does not have too many negative impacts upon the rest of consumers as it goes.

I did get one e-mail from a gentleman yesterday. He congratulated me on the comments that I made, and particularly he was not aware - because he has heard so much in the media the last five or six years about all the revenues, he said: I completely forgot where the revenues – who put it there in the first place. He said: It is only once you started to relive the thing and re-describe it that I realized in fact that it was not Progressive Conservative government creations that put that there.

I am referring, of course, to Voisey's Bay, which this government had nothing to do with whatsoever. I am referring, of course, to White Rose, which the government never created. This government never created that. Terra Nova, this government had nothing to do with the creation of that project. Hibernia, this government certainly had nothing to do with the creation of that project.

That is what our surpluses have come from in the last three or four years, folks. It did not come from any magic wand that this Administration waved and all of a sudden the money pot filled up. They had nothing to do with the price of a barrel of oil. They did not influence it one iota. Now, they might make you believe that they had something to do with it, but they did not have anything to do with the price of a barrel of oil. They did not have anything to do with the price of the mining, the mining industry.

MR. KENNEDY: (Inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I hear the Minister of Finance shouting. I am glad he is here today, and he will get his opportunity, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: He will get his opportunity, Mr. Speaker. I put out a few challenges yesterday, and he can certainly read Hansard. He was unable to be with us, for valid reasons. Anyway, he has answers. He can get his comments in due time.

That is the one great thing about this House: there is a place to always get on your feet and explain yourself and say what you want to do. You can always do that.

Now, it is not like a courtroom. Some people think they are still in courtrooms.

MR. KENNEDY: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation.

The Chair recognized the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

Maybe you should remind the Minister of Finance of that, Mr. Speaker. I think he thinks he was the only lawyer who ever practiced law in Newfoundland, but what he does not understand in this forum here is that these witnesses talk back. They do not shut up because he says shut up. These witnesses talk back, Mr. Speaker. He has learned that over the last couple of months that he has been here, and he will learn it as time goes on.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we can have some talk here on something that really matters. When I was speaking yesterday, I went through the comparisons and I had my little chart done up showing about the increases in government expenditures in the last number of years, and the whopping number that we had was that government programming has increased by 76 per cent in the last six years. Now, the only way that figure is going to roll back is if stuff starts to get cut. That is there; that is fixed. Every year, year after year, the government uses a fancy word called annualized. That is in the figures to stay, and the only way they are going to go back is if the government says we are not going to have some programs now, whether it be the programs that get cut or the personnel involved with the programs get cut, and so on. That is the only way we are going to lessen those expenditures on a go-forward basis, and nobody wants to go there folks.

We saw that back in the 1990s. We had contracts that were overwritten by the Wells' Administration. Nobody wants to go there when you see program cuts. When this government came into power first in 2003-2004 we saw program cuts, services being reduced. Nobody likes to be there, but it happens if you do not have the money.

All we were trying to make the point yesterday was to saw it is great when you have the money, but when you do not have the money what are you going to do then? That is the problem; or, do you have some alternatives in mind to put more money in the pot if the current money dries up? For example, what if you do not get your money from your oil? What if you do not get your money from your minerals? What are going to do to make up for any shortfalls that you might have?

That is when you look at the government and say: What are they doing to see where they might make up any such shortfalls in revenue? That is the bottom line. You are left with two choices. That is not rocket science. You have revenue stream coming in; you have expenditures going out. If your revenues go down, you are either going to cut the expenditures - which is nasty to people, people do not like that, nobody likes to get their services and programs cut - or else we have to find some way to put the extra money in.

The history in six years has proven and shown that this government has become totally, absolutely, single-mindedly relying upon the monies from the oil and the gas - or, not the gas, we do not even have that yet, but the oil and the mining industry. The question is: What are they doing to prepare the people of this Province for when that does not happen any more?

We gave some credit yesterday, too, because a few things have happened in a couple of these major projects that have happened on the watch of this government. I referred, of course, to the Hibernia South piece that is going to go ahead. That is going to give us a bigger reserve in Hibernia and stretch that out a bit. We are also going to have an expansion in White Rose. That is going to stretch that out a bit. We are also supposed to have Hebron; but Hebron, folks, is not going to put one red copper back into the Treasury of this Province until at least 2017 on a royalty basis, not a penny. We are eight years out from any money coming out of Hebron. Obviously, we are going to get some work in the economy if it gets ramped up and it goes from a production point of view, but not from the royalties itself, and this government is pegging our well-being on the royalty revenues. Basically, primarily, that is where it is being pegged.

You talk about the good Minister of Finance here. I have a little clip. He talks about reading Hansard and stuff. Well, I have a little clip from his presentation yesterday. He was in Corner Brook and spoke to the…. Excuse me; I will go back to this one first. This is the one where he spoke to the Board of Trade here in St. John's on Friday past, the day after the Budget. He told his crowd, his audience at the time - and I am sure the former Minister of Finance might be interested in this remark - and I quote, "Kennedy told the crowd his background as a lawyer gives him a different perspective to budget-making than other finance ministers."

I am assuming he did not take into consideration the Member for Humber East, who is also a lawyer. I am assuming he did not take that into consideration. This is why he said that he was in a better state - I take it to be - to be a Finance Minister than some other professions. He said he was a lawyer and it would probably give him a different perspective - no doubt he thinks a better perspective - to budget-making than others. This is what he said, and I quote, "I still believe strongly in all of these social programs. I still believe we have to protect the vulnerable of our society, but as a finance minister now, I have to bring objectivity to this task. An objectivity that requires making tough decisions. Those tough decisions will not please everyone."

Now I do not know, for the life of me, what being a lawyer has to do with being objective. Whether you are a doctor, whether you are an economist, whether you are a mechanic, whether you are a barber, whether you are a school teacher, whether you are a chiropractor, whether you are a dentist, I do believe that any and all of those professions - and you do not even have to have a profession - is capable of being objective. I think objectivity does not rest in one form or another; it rests in the person. It rests in the person. Just because you are a lawyer, you are able to make an objective decision.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Now, we also had a clip from the good minister's conversations with the people on the West Coast yesterday. He had a meeting out there yesterday.

This came from reporter, Cory Hurley, Transcontinental Media, Corner Brook, where the minister spoke yesterday. It struck me that after the meeting the minister was asked - he talked about the $2.5 million being allocated by government this year to assist the college with its transition to greater autonomy. Meanwhile, we are all aware that transition, that decision to give Sir Wilfred Grenfell College university status, was decided upon by government some years ago. I do believe it was at least three years ago that decision was made. Now we get $2.5 million being put in this year's Budget to assist the college with its transition to greater autonomy.

The reporter had a good question, a fairly straightforward question. He said: What is the $2.5 million going to be used for? That is what his question was. Mr. Kennedy, the Minister of Finance, said –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

For the second time in the hon. the Opposition House Leader's delivery he is referring to members of the House by their Christian names. I ask the hon. Opposition House Leader to refer to members by the district or by the executive position that they hold, whether he is reading something from a transcript or just referring in using his own words.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I certainly will.

I am referring, of course, to the Minister of Finance, the individual who gave the Budget Speech last Thursday. The comment, when he was asked by the media, what are they going to spend the $2.5 million on? He was asked this following the speech. The Finance Minister said: I could not provide much detail on what the $2.5 million will be used for. It is my understanding that there are discussions ongoing to examine the process of creating autonomy and what time frames will be involved and what monies are required. I refer you to the Minister of Education and the minister for Humber East, the MHA for Humber East.

Now, here is the Minister of Finance, who is in charge of the Budget, who is spending the money, who already stood up here last week and talked about the $2.5 million and could not give any details as to what the $2.5 million is going to be used for. Now, that is the man who is in charge of this Budget. He did not know.

I also noticed he said – he was asked a question and even the old context – he was telling the people on the west coast: you have to sell yourself. Things are okay in St. John's, he said. Things are okay inside the overpass. You have to sell yourself.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: He said you have to sell yourself.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: We did not hear anything about the fact that the Stephenville Port-au-Port area has been pretty well smacked over the head as a result of the closure of their mill. He did not comment on that. He told them that, you have to go out and market yourself because, he said, St. John's is doing it. They are bringing in the tourists, and if you people do not do it out here, basically you are going to miss the boat, too. That is the only way you are going to maintain and sustain yourselves.

Now, that is the message coming from a positive government. That is a government! That is a government!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: No such thing from the Minister of Finance as to what we are going to do for you, what we can do for you or what we are prepared to do for you other than to say, go do it yourself. Now that is the message; that is the message from the government. You go do it yourself and when you get it done, you come back and you tell us that you have it done. So that is a great message that the Minister of Finance took to the west coast yesterday.

Now, a few other things that cropped up as you are going along in the Budget of course. I had to comment on this because I could not resist it. As a graduate of MUN of course, we all get MUN literature from time to time sent to us and so on. I had a copy of the Gazette, and the same day the Budget was read Dr. Campbell, of course, was a guest in the Speaker's gallery and so on. I had this copy of the Gazette which came out from Memorial University. I came across it again and I thought about talking about things that this government does or does not do. Of course, anybody who has watched the media in the last year, the issue of the MUN selection process and in their very own statement they talked here about Dr. Campbell had applied to UNB.

As we all know now, he was a successful candidate. Our own acting president, Dr. Eddy Campbell, is now the confirmed President of the University of New Brunswick. I took one quote. I see one quote that was in the Gazette and it says. The UNB statement, they were talking about a statement that the University of New Brunswick had issued. The UNB statement said: Dr. Campbell was the top candidate from a list of over fifty individuals. Now, can you imagine that our Dr. Eddy Campbell, who was the acting president, he was deemed to be the best of over fifty candidates to apply for the UNB president's job and he was top choice. He was selected, but guess what folks? Mr. Speaker, guess what? He was not good enough for us. He was not good enough for us. Guess who said he was not good enough? None other than our own Minister of Education.

Now, I tell you, I do not know what it says. Maybe it says the crowd at UNB do not know what they are talking about. I do not know, but they interviewed. They had applications from fifty people and he was the top person and got the job. Now that is the kind of decisions - the government would have you believe they always make the right choices. They always make the right choices. I mean anybody with common sense sitting out in the Province listening to this and watching this unfold in the news media, they all talked about it. They are all talking about it. I mean it is shameful!

The government would say: Oh, it has nothing to do with the academics. We are only concerned about the accountability. We just want the university to be accountable. Well, I pose the question: Why do you need to have your fingers in the selection process of the president in order to get your accountability? I have not heard any answers to that question. We keep hearing about accountability. There are lots of people who are accountable in different professions and different jobs. Surely the government doesn't have to be the be-all and the end-all to decide the accountability. I mean, I thought the principle concern of our university was, in fact, academic excellence and academic freedom. That is what I thought. Whether you paid $10 into their pot or you paid $100 million into the pot, you are contributing to one of our institutions of higher learning. That is your role as a government. That is your goal as a government.

Not this government! They are saying, we will put the money in the pot but we want to pick who is the boss over there. Forget all about the academic excellence. Forget all about the academic independence. That is secondary. Yet, when you ask the question, accountable for what – and isn't there some other way that you can ensure accountability without deciding who the president is. Are you saying, by accountability we want somebody whose strings we can pull? Is that what you mean by accountability, that if you don't agree with us today we give you the flick? Is that what it is all about? Because, I don't think that is what Memorial University is meant to be. That is not the spirit of how that institution was created and intended to run.

It was here long before this government; for years and years. The selection process was made and the government saw no reason to interfere as happened here. Well, this government chose to interfere. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the only people who are going to suffer for this is our institution, because the issue becomes: will we attract anyone, and regardless of who we attract, once the government puts the stamp of approval on that individual, what kind of reputation, rapport and respect will that individual necessary have with the rest of the staff at Memorial?

I just pose the question: Will the rest of the staff at Memorial University, once the government puts the red seal on the new president, say, whoa, that is not our choice? How do we ever know that we have academic independence if the government decides who it is going to be? Now, that is a pretty fair question.

Government didn't go back and say, well, look, is there any way we can achieve some reasonable process here that we can do this, so that we can ensure our accountability but at the same time not be seen as interfering in the process. I wasn't aware of anything whereby government said, here is an alternative solution maybe. The answer was, bring him in – the Minister of Education said, let us do the interviews. Chop, chop! You are not qualified, and out the door you go.

So that is another decision, because some people would have you believe that this government does not make any bad decisions. Some people would have you believe – and if you read the press clippings that they put out, it is a wonder that we do not still have the paper mills in Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor because, God knows, this government puts out enough news releases. They put out enough news releases that they need their own pulp and paper mill. I do not know why we lost either one, actually. I do not know why we lost the paper mill. I really do not know.

I would like to clarify another little comment that was made here earlier today. A couple of the members opposite were talking about – I talked about a positive thing the government did yesterday, and sometimes, you know, the government just cannot accept credit. No matter how good you try to be, how fair you try to be, the government assumes, they just assume, that this cannot be right. There is an Opposition member who is saying something positive about the government. There has got to be some ulterior motive for this, because why would that person stand up and say the government did something positive? That cannot be good. That cannot be good.

I did say something, for example, yesterday, but the explanations always get lost when you want to be critical. The explanations and the background are never referred to when it comes to explanations. I am referring, of course, to the youth addictions centre for Grand Falls, Central. I made a comment yesterday that I thought it was a great move by this government to create a youth addictions centre for this Province, absolutely. I made that statement yesterday, and I repeat it again today, because there is no misunderstanding. There is no misunderstanding what I said. I made a statement yesterday, and I will repeat exactly what I said today. I said yesterday that the move by this government to invest in the building, the construction, creation, whatever you want to call it, of a youth addictions centre is a good thing. In fact, I got a cheer yesterday when I said it. It is a good thing.

I did not question the doing of it. All I questioned, and it is a valid question, was: Have we thought about the support staff necessary to sustain and make this centre workable in Central Newfoundland?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Now, folks, the reason I asked that question is because anybody – maybe a lot of the members shouting over there live inside the overpass and you do not have an appreciation of what we go through outside, sometimes, for certain specialties.

For example, if you live in Western Newfoundland, which I do, there are a lot of services that I would like my constituents to avail of that we cannot get. We cannot get, for example, in Port aux Basques - we realize you cannot have heart surgeons all over the place. We fully realize that. You cannot have urologists and so on, there is no question, and the question still remains: Was it the right thing to do, to put it in Grand Falls-Windsor?

What this government did - they have an economic problem in Central Newfoundland. They have a problem in Central Newfoundland. Not all the doing of Abitibi, by the way, but the bottom line is now we have a problem, and where the rubber hits the road, as they say, is to see how this government deals with it and how they work with and help the people of Central. That is what is going to tell.

Folks, the cake is only in the oven yet. Is has not had time to rise. It has not had time to cook. It is only early in the game, as they say. It is very early in the game, and it is far too early for anyone - not that anyone should ever crow over the loss of a major industry. God forbid that we should ever crow over the loss of a major industry – never - but it is far too early for anyone, on any side of this House or in this Province, to crow over what they have done so far for Central Newfoundland.

Deciding that you are going to build a facility is one thing. Where you put it and why you put it there is something else. The question was posed, and I look forward to the response of the Minister of Health, for example, who I notice in recent months has been very forthcoming in his answers. He used to be wishy-washy before.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SPEAKER (T. Osborne): Order, please!

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will agree to give him back the time, if that is okay with my colleagues.

Just to demonstrate the accurate point of the member opposite, that I am forthcoming, let me answer the question that he has posed. Have we thought about the program and the delivery?

Absolutely, yes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: With respect to the other question that he posed: Do we anticipate having the necessary resources to deliver the programs in Grand Falls-Windsor?

Absolutely, yes, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: I cannot be any more definitive than that. That is as straightforward as you are ever going to get an answer out of me in this House.

I would also say, Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite is going to stand and reflect on his comment yesterday, he should read directly from Hansard because his spoken comment a moment ago about what he actually attempted to say yesterday may have reflected what was in his head but, clearly, Hansard records what came out of his mouth. What he just shared with us then did not come out of his mouth because Hansard records exactly what he said.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WISEMAN: There is absolutely no question that he would question -

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. Minister of Health and Community Services if he is raising a point of order?

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is no question, in Hansard yesterday he was making a comment that brings into question an ability of any government, this Administration or others, to do anything outside the overpass in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we are committed to rural Newfoundland and Labrador I say, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

I recognize the hon. Opposition House Leader.

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

It is quite obvious, that both times the members opposite have spoken today in points of order there were no points of order. That is quite obvious.

Anyway, I will repeat again what I said. No problem with the institution, the facility, but I have serious doubts whether this government put any thought whatsoever into where it went. I think my view is, and I will stand by this, they only put the youth addictions treatment centre in Central Newfoundland because they are using it as a crutch to try to handle the poor economic situation we currently have. Not because you put any thought into the support staff that was needed. The government of this day put that facility in central only as a knee-jerk reaction because you wanted to be seen as doing something. That is not good enough, folks. That is not good enough! I am not backing off one iota what I said because what I said is you did not do it for the right reasons and you have not thought it through. You have not thought it through. History will be my -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: History will prove me right. Do not crow, history will prove me right. History will prove me right.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: You are using a much needed health facility as a crutch to try to get you through your own economic do nothing; that is what you are doing.

I hope you put the thought into it now, now that you have announced it. I hope you put the resources into it to make sure that you do staff it. Don't go creating a pig in a poke for the people of Central. They have enough hard times as it is. Don't go giving them a facility that you have not put the thought into and you are not going to put the resources in to see that it is a fully functioning, viable facility. This is not about using health needs to solve economic problems. This is about creating health facilities because we want to work on health problems. The priority on health facilities is making sure that they work as health facilities, not to use them as economic crutches.

MS DUNDERDALE: What kind of malarkey are you getting on with at all? You should be ashamed of yourself!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I say to the Minister of Natural Resources, she will get her chance to get up, no problem, don't worry about it. I am looking forward anxiously. I hope she is more productive and does more in her speech than she is doing for the caribou herd up in Labrador, because by the time she gets around we will not have one.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask all members of the House to keep in mind the level of discussion on both sides of the House. The Speaker is having some difficulty in hearing the member that is recognized.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I will ask all members of the House to respect the House and to keep a level of decorum here.

I recognize the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate your protection. I am one lone voice in the wilderness here with forty-four shouting people at me and cannot be heard above the din of calls coming from the government side.

I guess it goes to show, Mr. Speaker, it always happens, if you stand up in this House and you tippytoe around the subject and you give the government all kinds of platitudes, they are over there –I even get a clap once in a while, I do, when I say something positive. But, guess what? If you say something that questions what they did, or ask about, do you have a solution for this maybe? Do you think maybe you could have done this a bit differently, or have you thought about doing something else? What do you get? They get very, very angry.

It is like the Minister of Finance again. I mean, he cannot contain himself. I cannot believe it. The Minister of Finance is literally jumping out of his chair. My, is the truth so hurtful that you people have to get so vocal?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I call for your protection again.

Anyway, let me go back to talking about some of the stuff they did. Now, I broke it out into a couple of headings. We will get into some of these of course. We have Estimates committees as well. Talking about corrections – and in the course of talking about these things I have always said whether I thought it was a good move, bad move, and I always ask, usually, if there is some rationale behind it. I have done that in the case of the Youth Addictions Centre. I have done it in the case of the home care yesterday, when we posed some questions. I have done it in the context of the Lower Churchill piece and I posed some questions yesterday, challenged government to some of their assertions, figures and facts and look forward to getting some responses, and the same thing here.

I noticed, under Justice, for example, there was – we had, under the former minister, we had a fairly substantial review of the prisons done in the Province and the minister responded to that last fall. Some money was put into it, some committees were formed and so on, but an ongoing major, major, major problem that we have in our justice system - and anyone who can look and who has ever been there can see that, and that is Her Majesty's Penitentiary. It is antiquated, it is old. I think it came from the eighteenth century. There were a couple of additions put on to it later on, but anybody who has seen HMP knows that it is not a fit place to be keeping prisoners.

We also know that there has been an ongoing discussion, battle, whatever you want to call it, between the Province and the federal government to see if we can get the money to have a new one. The figures that I heard being tossed around in the public media last year were to the tune of $100 million roughly to do it and they were looking for $70 million from the federal government and $30 million from the Province was my understanding. That has gone off the rails now.

I heard the Minister of Finance, who was then the Minister of Justice, again, he was out lambasting Mr. Manning. Mr. Manning was the MP of the day and the minister was out tearing strips off him, saying: where is the money for the pen? You federal crowd are not considerate at all, we need the money. Well anyway, it is not MP Manning any more now. It is Senator Manning. We do not have an MP Manning who is a part of the government. We do not have a PC member who is part of the government. He is in the Senate. The question becomes: Where are we on the penitentiary piece?

In the Budget, for example, there is $6 million I do believe, roughly, going into investments in corrections. That is $300,000 for remediation of cells at Her Majesty's Penitentiary. That is what I read, anyway. If I am incorrect again, I invite the minister to correct me. There is about $200,000 for new programming space that is going to go in HMP and about $100,000 for the Correctional Centre for Women at Clarenville, I take it, for medical and programming matters.

Now, on the whole of what it takes to build a major penitentiary and what we have down here, that is not a lot of money. So I am just wondering, again, you see something that looks positive, it is positive, but with that amount of money, does that mean that we are not going anywhere with the federal pen in the short term? What is the status of the negotiations, because, albeit, it is not a lot? It is $6 million worth of improvements, and that is a chunk of money to put into a place if there were imminent discussions ongoing that we are going to have a penitentiary. That is a fairly big chunk of money.

So I am just wondering if the Minister of Justice, when he gets an opportunity, can tell us where are we on the negotiations with the federal government. Are we going to get a penitentiary or not? In fact, I had this conversation with Mr. Manning when he was the MP, this was back last summer before the federal election, because I wanted his take on it. I was hearing things in the media from the minister as to what the feds were not doing. So I said I will call Mr. Manning and see if I can get a – I heard him in the media as well. I said I will call him and see if I can find out what his side of the story is.

Now, from what he told me at the time – and I went back and we had our staff do some checking as well. It is my understanding that the bulk of the prisoners at HMP, in any event, are not federal prisoners. My understanding is the bulk of HMP prisoners are provincially sentenced individuals. They are not individuals who have been sentenced to federal time. I think that was – of what was down there at the time, the numbers on that given day, if the place houses 180 approximately, I understood that about sixty at the time were federal prisoners and the balance of 120 would have been provincial prisoners.

In the course of the discussion, Mr. Manning had indicated to me: Well, why should we pay $70 million of a $100 million facility if the bulk of the prisoners that are down there are provincial prisoners, not federal prisoners? So he was indicating to me that the figures were not right. Why would you be wanting the federal government to put in 70 per cent of the project when we do not have 70 per cent of the prisoners?

I would appreciate, again, if the minister might give us some indication of those figures, the nature of those discussions about percentages and whether it ever got to discussing an amount. Because I know, I believe it was Minister Day at the time, who spoke with the previous minister and had some discussions. Again, just so the public can have some idea of where the talks are at this time. If they are off the rails, is there anything contemplated that we might go it alone, for example? Might we build a smaller facility to house the provincial prisoners, and say to the federal government: Look, you are on your own. Thank you very much. We are going to look after our share, this is what it cost to do it, and you find some way of looking after your own prisoners. I would just like to have some detail, if we could, to flesh it out a bit as to where that thing is going.

The other thing, of course, mentioned in the announcements, it has nothing to do with the physical plant of the place, but it had to do with the services being provided there. That is there is going to be, as I understand it, some new psychological services being provided, psychiatric services and medical services. That is a positive. We all know for years and years, listening to the media reports, that we have had ongoing concerns about the programming and counselling that inmates had been receiving. So that is very positive. Whether they do it in the current HMP or whether we do it in a new facility. That is good to see, and you have to give credit for that stuff because it is good. It is overdue, it is needed. We got the money, we should do it. There is no question about that.

Also, for example, we are going to have a new pre-trial detention centre for women and youth in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. That is needed. We had some horror stories that came out of some of the facilities up there last year in Labrador involving women, for example. It was just unacceptable. I do believe Mr. Fleming, the Citizens' Rep went up, came back and filed a lengthy report as well and made some recommendations. Now I do not think we are going to get the type of facility that he recommended exactly. I think he recommended a more upscale, bigger, shall we say, top-end type of facility, but we are going to get a facility, and it is a start. It is a good start. It certainly gets rid of the type of problems that we had in some of these facilities.

I do not mind commending government for that. That is good stuff, because it is things that impact people's lives. It does not matter whether you are Joe working on a snowplow or you are an inmate, there are certain basic human rights that you are entitled to and we, as a Province, have a responsibility to see that we get them.

It is like the Minister of Transportation and Works did here today in his ministerial statement, a great move, a fantastic move. That shows that you have compassion and you are human. That was good to see. That is why you were roundly and soundly applauded from the Opposition as well when the minister gave his statement today.

Talking about Tourism, Culture and Recreation, and we are going to get into this a bit later today, the minister and I. We have our Estimates meeting, but again, anybody - and I would concur with the Premier by the way, talk about good stuff again. I have seen the ads that were done for this Province for tourism and they are second to none, second to none folks. In fact, I was at a friend of mine's, who is not here in this Province, outside of this Province, they saw the ad and they could not believe it. There was a bride coming up the street in a very colourful part of downtown St. John's here, coming up over the hill, it was very touching. It showed this Province in all its splendour and St. John's, and the whole St. John's. That is good stuff because a lot of our industry depends upon tourism.

Now we both know that tourism has been declining in the last couple of years, is my understanding. It has dipped down a little bit, but that does not take away. That is all the more reason why you should market, I think. It is usually what they tell you in the advertising business. If your business is not doing so well you advertise and hopefully you will bring in business. So, I can see that as being a good expenditure, and the government, give them credit. Give yourselves a pat on the back, you put money into it in the last four or five years. I do believe $1 million a year, on average, going up over the last five or six years. That is good stuff. You have the money and I believe that is one case where you are spending it wisely. No question about it.

Again, and it was raised somewhere I do believe in one of the statements today. We have a couple of events happening this year as well, like the Bob Bartlett thing and the anniversary at Cupids, the four-hundredth anniversary. It is good to see that coming back again because back in the late 1990s we had a lot of these major, major celebrations. Now these are not - I believe Bob Bartlett is going to quite a few places but I do not know if it has the same stature as they used to have back in the soirιe days or the Mathew visit and stuff like that, but it is certainly a very good effort. It is good to see the Department of Tourism turning back to that type of celebration because it gives an opportunity for everybody in the Province to get onboard, and of course it puts money in people's coffers. That is the bottom line. That is what it is all about as a government putting money into these things, bring people in and let them spend their money.

Now a few comments on Forestry and Agrifoods, mostly on Agrifoods; I mentioned yesterday Mr. Wiseman, Merv Wiseman I think his name is, he was a past President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Agricultural Association. He raised a very good question. He said we had $6 million in our pot, we only got to spend two of it but the government did not leave it there for us to use this year. He was amazed, because he says as far - there are lots of projects out there. There are lots of programs. There are lots of development initiatives that he could have used the money for. It is just that it never got ramped up time enough to use it all in that year. He is saying, why would you take it and let it slip, never to be seen again? Why did it get lost? He was very upset, very perturbed. Now that is not the Opposition saying that. That is somebody who I take had some knowledge of the agrifoods industry. The gentleman was, regardless of what his politics is, the gentleman was the President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Agricultural Association. He spoke on behalf of the farming industry in this Province, as I understand it. So, you can't just say, anything he says doesn't count and it doesn't carry any weight, because he happens to be of a different political stripe or he happens to live in a different part of the Province. He made his opinion.

My question, of course, to the Minister Responsible for Agrifoods, would be: Is he right? Was the gentleman making any sense when he said that, or is he being unfair? Because, if he is being unfair and what he is saying is not right, he deserves to be corrected.

Now, there is a way to correct people too, when they don't do things right.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Yes, there are lots of ways.

This government, the Premier himself, has been known to call certain individuals in Central, traders, because they didn't agree with him. I don't believe that is acceptable practice. I don't agree with that. You can disagree with someone without trying to lob their head off, but that is not the practice of this government. It is like his comments about Mr. Weaver, the former President of Abitibi, of whom we used to have two pulp mills in this Province, one in Stephenville and one in Central. The Premier made a comment some years ago: Mr. Weaver needed a fast ball up the side of the head. Well, I guess we got our fast ball. I don't know about the fast ball, but he certainly sent us to the dugout and left us without two pulp and paper operations in the Province.

I believe sometimes you get more with sugar than you do with vinegar, and more than you get with caustic remarks. Maybe somebody likes to put on the boxing gloves all the time and thinks that by being Joe Louis you can get more. I personally don't believe that. I believe the first initiative always should be diplomacy, communication, and talk to each other. That didn't happen in a lot of these cases. The government can try to justify it all they want, but the horse is gone now. The barn door you have shut, the horse is gone, and now we have to live and see how it unfolds on a go-forward basis.

That raises another interesting question from the Budget. Back when Stephenville went through its traumatic time with the pulp and paper mill three or four years ago – and I stand to be corrected, and I challenge government to correct me - I do believe that the provincial government, as part of the tools to help the Stephenville-Port au Port area recover, you agreed to put into the Stephenville municipal coffers, the Town of Stephenville, an operating grant to the tune of about $800,000. That is what I understand. Correct me if I am wrong. Because they were no longer going to be getting the grant in lieu of taxes from Abitibi which had pulled out, so therefore they needed to sustain the services they had. So, government said, as part of the package we will give you a hand.

My question is: If that was done in the case of Stephenville when they lost their mill, are we using the same template for Central Newfoundland. I cannot find anything in the budget documents. I have heard some commentary in the media from some of the mayors querying: how are we going to replace that money? Grand Falls-Windsor, for example: what are we going to do with our grant in lieu of taxes? Buchans has even questioned it; Bishops Falls, Botwood. They are all saying the same thing: are we going to be treated like Stephenville? Are we going to get our $800,000?

AN HON. MEMBER: The mayor's statement is there.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Yes, I am aware of what the mayor said today, I read his press clipping. Positive over the budget overall. Positive to see what the government is doing, no doubt. That does not take away from the fact of, what are we going to do, because despite the commentary you hear from the mayors in the media, we know that behind the scenes there is still this very thorny issue of what is going to happen on the contributions to these communities in terms of a grant in lieu.

No mention in the budget! Government does not want to talk about it, but it has got to be talked about, because the mayors of these communities are not going to sit on this for very much longer. They are going to say: government, are you going to treat us like you did Stephenville? I noticed government apparently decided, a few months ago, that we are not going to give it to Stephenville this year, we have to cut it off. We have to stop that. We have been at it now for three years, giving them the $800,000. We are not going to do it anymore. I wonder: was that just coincidental because government knew that down the road we were going to get the same request from the Central communities? They said: before we get into that bailiwick again, let us get out of the one we are already in, and then we can say that we do not do that anymore.

Was that the reason? Is that how you are trying to legitimize the issue, by saying, we do not do it in Stephenville anymore, we have stopped that, so therefore we do not have to do it in Central? I do not think that is going to wash, and we will see where the fox crosses the brook when these communities say, your regional committee of ministers that you have is not working. We will see that.

I wish you all the best of luck with your committees, what you are going to put in, and the $41 million that you are putting in there now into Central. I wish it replaces the hundreds and hundreds of high-paying jobs that were at that mill. I do sincerely wish it, because I have already seen what it has done out in Stephenville. I have seen the impacts of losing these high-paying jobs out in my area, on the West Coast. Let us see if you can reproduce that.

The $41 million that you are putting in, $5 million of it comes from the federal community trust fund, not your money. The feds got it there. You carried it out and you are going to put it there. The other $36 million, how much of it is standard usual infrastructure spending that government would have had anyway? Go figure. Do the math and see how much actually is being put into Central Newfoundland to stimulate. Anyway, time will tell that. Only time will tell.

As I go back to saying again: you can take all the much needed health care facilities you want, such as the youth addictions centre, and say you are going to put it in Central, but you cannot use a need in the health care system just as a tool to try to crutch yourself through an economic situation.

I still raise the question, a very legitimate question: you made a decision to put the facility out there, but I question, did you put any thought into the support services, the analysts, the specialists, the psychologists, and the psychiatrists that are needed to make it function properly? Your knee-jerk reaction will come back to haunt you, I say, because you did not put the thought into it. You will react to that situation like you constantly find yourselves reacting to a lot of situations. It is not a planning exercise, it is a reaction exercise. Anyway, only time will tell.

Mr. Speaker, I only have one minute and twenty-two seconds left. I had the privilege of speaking yesterday in this Chamber for three hours, I had another hour today. Regardless of what the forty-four individuals in the government might feel about my comments in the last two days, my good friends Martha and Joe who watch this on TV, they have been watching and they have heard some probing questions being asked. I am looking forward now, in the few weeks we have left in debate, to see if the good members can stand up and give some of the answers.

We just were not critics. We gave credit where credit was due. We raised some questions. The question is going to be now, to see if you people can respond. Instead of just being a group of cheerleaders for your leader, can you honestly get up in the next couple of weeks and give some substantive answers and opinions on where you stand as individuals, and not just speak the party line? Can you actually say what you feel is right and what you think is going on, and if that is right? I look forward to that.

Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. When time permits in the future, I will, of course, have my opportunity again to respond to the Budget.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am now speaking to the non-confidence motion.

Mr. Speaker, this Budget was one that had to be crafted carefully. It was a recognition of a significant deficit, but there was also an acceptance by our government that we would not cut jobs, cut social programs or reduce services. What we decided to do, Mr. Speaker -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: - as a government, was to continue on the path that we have been on.

I want to highlight, as I begin, Mr. Speaker, a couple of what I consider to be very significant announcements in this Budget. First, Mr. Speaker, there was the investment of $5 million to eliminate the interest on Newfoundland and Labrador Student Loans, a move that will benefit 49,000 people.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Second, Mr. Speaker, there was the low income tax reduction which will put more money in the hands of families and parents by increasing the tax threshold. What we have, Mr. Speaker, is, those who need the help being helped by this government.

My third point, Mr. Speaker, is that this year, again, we will invest $132 million in the Poverty Reduction Strategy which spreads itself across our Province.

Fourthly, Mr. Speaker: one of the things we are very proud of is the way that we have addressed the situation in Central Newfoundland and Labrador. What we have done, Mr. Speaker, is said to the people of that region that we stand with you side by side, that what we did in Stephenville worked and we will do the same in Central Newfoundland and Labrador.

I cannot, Mr. Speaker, begin to express my disappointment today in the comments made by the Opposition House Leader; also, as referred to by the Premier, the comments made by the Opposition Leader. To decry the steps that we have taken to assist people in need in that region is not becoming of the people of this Province, Mr. Speaker. We expect better from politicians, especially those who were elected to represent the interests of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I read from an article yesterday, by Sue Hickey of the Advertiser, where it quotes Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Rex Barnes saying that he and his council are pleased with the amount announced for the Central Region. There are some good things in the Budget which is going to mean jobs for people in general, he said. It may not mean jobs for people in the mill but it will mean jobs for the citizens in the whole Central Region.

One item he was particularly pleased with was the announcement for the youth drug addictions centre.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: He called that enormous, especially since many working in the field of drug addictions in relation to youth have been calling for a centre for many years.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I will look at what was said in Hansard. It is not a question of me paraphrasing what the Opposition House Leader said. He stood up there, Mr. Speaker, boldfaced, and questioned why, as a government, we would do something to help Central Newfoundland and Labrador. I find it astounding, Mr. Speaker. I find the comments to be callous, a total disregard for the people in that area, and demeaning.

Mr. Speaker, page 34 – excuse me, it is page 34 of what I am looking at – this is what the Opposition House Leader said. These are his remarks, Mr. Speaker: Are we going to be able to get the child psychologist? No, we do not have psychologists in Central Newfoundland. I mean, how stupid to make those comments. Are we going to be able to get the psychiatrists, the analysts and the support staff? Minister, what is the population of the surrounding area – ministers – between Grand Falls –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KENNEDY: Yes.

So 100,000 people and we are not going to find a child psychologist, according to the Opposition House Leader. Quite frankly, folks, I do not think that was thought about.

Mr. Speaker, who does this guy think he is, to make such comments? When we have a Cabinet sitting around a room, we have the advice given to us, and we have a people in need. We have the mayor of the community saying this is great; thank you.

We are trying to do what we can to stimulate the economy, recognizing the difficulty that the people of that region are encountering, saying to them, we are with you, standing hand in hand.

Then he goes on to say, the Opposition House Leader, when he is normally – I have to say, Mr. Speaker, and I said to him: Well, do you think about what you say or are you saying things because you think that your Joe and Martha Chesterfield want to hear it?

Well, Mr. Speaker, there is a reason that there are three of them over there. It is the kind of foolishness that comes out of the mouth of the Opposition House Leader. The reason it was not thought about is because this government, as part of trying to deal with the problem in Central, said: Let's build a facility out there. It will create a few jobs with our building - but scarcely any thought has gone into it?

Mr. Speaker, there is a Department of Health who has expertise. We have a Minister of Health who is very experienced. We have a situation, Mr. Speaker, where a determination was made that this can work in Central Newfoundland. The people wanted it and needed it.

Mr. Speaker, we have the Humberwood addiction facility which is located in Corner Brook. It works very well. I have not heard any complaints about how that facility works out there. Do the Liberals want us to take the view that everything should be in the Avalon Region? Is that what they want? Because that is what I am hearing over there, Mr. Speaker. What we are trying to do is to spread it around this Province and to try to ensure that there is economic viability and sustainability in all areas of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, then the Opposition House Leader quotes from a speech I gave yesterday in Corner Brook. He takes a quote. What I was saying, Mr. Speaker, is that this Province is the greatest place in the world to live and we have to learn to market ourselves better as a Province. It is not just about money. As we recruit nurses and doctors and other professionals, not only in the health profession, we have to outline the quality of life that we have here, Mr. Speaker, a quality of life that is second to none in this country and perhaps in the world. Where else, Mr. Speaker - and I was particularly talking about the West Coast of this Province – could you, in April, ski in the morning, probably play golf in the afternoon, and then hike in the mountains later that day? You can go, Mr. Speaker, from – what is it, Minister, from Corner Brook to Gros Morne National Park? How far is it to drive, an hour or an hour-and-a-half?

What you have, Mr. Speaker, is a beautiful part of the Province. We have a university out there. Well, it is not a university but a college that we want to make a university and we have not heard much support from the Liberals there, Mr. Speaker. What we have is an area that has all of the amenities. Then, an hour away we have Stephenville and the beautiful Port au Port Peninsula.

AN HON. MEMBER: Even better again.

MR. KENNEDY: I won't get into that, Mr. Speaker.

This brings me to my point: How do you maintain an area? How do you ensure economic viability? By doing the kind of things that we are doing in this Budget; by saying to the people of Grand Falls-Windsor: We can build this centre here and we want to build this centre here. You have the expertise. Of all the things I have heard in the last year or so, or fifteen months I have been here, I have to say the Opposition House Leader's comments on Central Newfoundland are among the most shocking. I feel like apologizing for him, the comments are so bad, but we have expressed our confidence by doing what we are doing, Mr. Speaker, which then brings me to the whole issue that the Opposition House Leader talked about.

He talked about the university, and how we do not respect the university. We are the ones who want to create Sir Wilfred Grenfell College as a university. We are the ones who want to make sure that the West Coast of this Province has its own institution; that the people of Labrador have a place to go that is closer than St. John's. So, we are criticized for wanting the university to be (inaudible).

Mr. Speaker, in the New Brunswick Budget that was handed down on March 17, 2009 - and that is where Dr. Campbell is going - the Finance Minister stated at the time that he expects universities and municipalities will, quote: take appropriate steps to manage wage bills in a manner similar to the Province. This is a quote and I say this, Mr. Speaker, and the Minister of Education will be interested in this, the Minister of Finance in New Brunswick stated: or grants to universities and municipalities will be adjusted in future years to reject this expectation.

Now, the very things we have been criticized for in this Province, which we have never said, are things that New Brunswick has outlined in their Budget Speech. Grants to universities and municipalities will be adjusted in future years. Not may be adjusted, not could be adjusted, but will be adjusted in future years to reflect this expectation.

Mr. Speaker, what we are doing in our Budget is ensuring that services continue. Also, Mr. Speaker, I saw a quote from the president of Memorial saying they were pleased with the steps taken in relation to the university.

In relation to the Budget itself, Mr. Speaker, Budget 2008, the fiscal year was a good year, a $2.3 billion surplus. The Minister of Justice, his timing was impeccable in determining when to leave. He left in a time of surpluses and left me with the deficit, but $2.3 billion this year, $2.4 billion actually. A total of $4.2 billion in surpluses, Mr. Speaker, over a period of four years; but, you see, that is what allows us to weather the storm. That is what allows us now to say we will not cut services and cut jobs. We will take a chance this year because we have the money there to cover it. We have the money there, Mr. Speaker, without having to borrow. That is one of the ways that our fiscal restraint policy has benefited this Province.

I can remember clearly the Opposition House Leader standing up in this House in November saying: Well, what are you going to do, Mr. Premier, about this recession? What are you going to do to battle this? Our words were: We are going to stay the course.

We were, Mr. Speaker, castigated by the Opposition House Leader for making that comment. We indicated at the time, Mr. Speaker, that we had advice from economists which outlined how you battle recession. You battle recession by spending money on infrastructure. We have been doing that, Mr. Speaker, for a number of years, and in February – I think it was February 15 or around there - we announced an $800 million infrastructure package, but that is still not good enough for the Liberals. They criticized that. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, we created employment. Last year was the lowest unemployment rate in this Province since the 1970s. Mr. Speaker, the third way is you reduce taxes. Well, we have reduced taxes and we have reduced taxes again this year for low-income workers. In previous years, Mr. Speaker, we have reduced the tax - in the previous Budget, 2008, we eliminated tax on insurance. We eliminated certain taxes in relation to seniors, increased the benefit. The fourth way, Mr. Speaker, is that you pay down debt.

I have to take you to this comment, Mr. Speaker, because the Opposition House Leader has said, again, many ridiculous things in the last year-and-a-half I have been here, but this one takes the cake. This one takes the cake, Mr. Speaker, and I am hoping now that everyone is going to pay attention as I read this, because it is unbelievable that a person who has been elected – and he is a lawyer. I do not know if he has ever been to court, but he is a lawyer, Mr. Speaker, and he indicates: Ronald Reagan won an election campaign – the President of the United States – back in 1980, and he asked a simple question: Are you better off today than you were four years ago?

This is what the Opposition House Leader is saying. Well, I guess we could pose that question today. If you get into these facts and figures, to anybody in Newfoundland and Labrador - you hear these facts, you see these figures – again, I say, challenge me. Tell me if I am wrong. Prove that I am wrong. This is what he is saying: Are we better off in terms of net debt today than we were eight years ago?

The answer is no, ladies and gentlemen. The answer is no. Well, wait now. When we took power in 2003, Mr. Speaker, the debt was $12 billion. The debt today, Mr. Speaker, as of today, the end of this fiscal year, is $7.9 billion.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Seven point nine billion dollars. We have reduced debt, Mr. Speaker, by 25 per cent.

Now, to put this in perspective, if you have a mortgage on your house and you reduce that mortgage, that opens up, then, money that you can utilize yourself if you lose your job, if you run into health problems, or there are harsh economic times. You can access that money. You are not paying the same interest rates because you have reduced your mortgage.

What we have done is reduce the debt to the point that we are now able to weather the economic storm. What we are saying is not that everything will be fine. This is the worst economic crisis that has hit this world in many decades. What we are saying is we are cautiously optimistic that we are taking the steps necessary and that it will work out.

Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting aspects of this new job is that I have been able to read a lot on areas like finance, economics and oil - and I will get to oil in a second – but to show you how little experience the Opposition House Leader must have as a lawyer, he referred to my comments: Well, what prepares a lawyer to be a Finance Minister?

Well, Mr. Speaker, I was a trial lawyer, unlike the Opposition House Leader. As I have indicated, I do know if he was ever in a courtroom. I could never tell it by the way he acts. As lawyers, we learn to prepare for all kinds of cases. What we do is, you take a case and you have to learn it. You go to the experts. You consult with the experts, and what happens is that by preparing for court you learn the subject.

What we have done here – what I have done, Mr. Speaker - is consult with the experts, listen to them, bring an open mind. I am not attached to any economic philosophy, not tied up in any way of thinking, but simply looking at it from both a common sense and objective perspective: How do we get through this time?

That is what prepares a lawyer as opposed to anyone else: we are used to dealing in terms of going to trial. You have to learn complex issues. You have to learn them in a way that allows a lawyer to speak to a jury.

The jury we spoke to the other day was 500,000 people. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that overwhelming the response to this Budget has been nothing but positive, expect for those three lonely people over there, and you can see why they are over there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Five hundred thousand people.

MR. BUTLER: I would be ashamed to get on my feet.

MR. KENNEDY: You couldn't get on your feet. You can't spell feet, you (inaudible).

Mr. Speaker, what we have is a situation –

MR. BUTLER: How do you know?

MR. KENNEDY: Well, I have heard you speak. You are not very good at it.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, what we have is a situation with the Budget where we have now –

MS JONES: (Inaudible) pathetic behaviour.

MR. KENNEDY: Oh, boo-hoo.

Out of the Fog last night, your comments on Central Newfoundland, unbelievable!

Mr. Speaker, in terms of looking at the Budget, we have to come up with a price for oil. What is the best price this year? Last year we looked at $86 – what was the top, eighty six point…? This year we have chosen $50. Why have we chosen $50, Mr. Speaker? We have spoken to the experts. We have oil pricing agencies that we consult, and we have come up with $50. If it comes up, Mr. Speaker, $70 puts us in a surplus situation. The volatility of the commodities market is unbelievable. What we have to do is choose the price that allows us to forecast on a budget. Could we be wrong? Last year it was pretty good. The Minister of Justice indicated today it was pretty good, so we forecast the price and this year we have chosen $50.

Why did we choose $50, Mr. Speaker? In determining the price of oil you have to look at supply and demand, you have to look at the economies of the merging markets in India and China, and right now we are seeing growth go from - GDP growth in China this year, I think, is going down from 9 per cent or 10 per cent to 6 per cent, and India is approximately the same.

As their demand for oil and nickel decreases then obviously there is an extra supply in the world, but more significantly, Mr. Speaker, is what is happening in the U.S. I forget the actual figures, but I saw the figures on the amount of gasoline that cars use in the United States. It is absolutely phenomenal.

In the world oil supply, Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that there are 86.5 million barrels of oil produced a day. Approximately 37 million of those are produced by the OPEC countries, approximately 12 million by the former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia. Then we have the Americans who produce, I think, approximately 7 million barrels a day. Our production right now, I think last year we produced something like 123 million barrels. This year, it is going to go down to approximately 100 million barrels a year. The production, though, can depend on whether or not there is going to be a shutdown, for example, as there was in the Terra Nova a number of years ago, or whether or not there will be an increase in the reserves.

There are two prices, Mr. Speaker, that are utilized by the oil analysts that we are most familiar with. The one that we see show up on the NTV News on the weeknight is the West Texas Intermediate. That oil is historically a couple of dollars more expensive than the oil that we use as our benchmark being Brent Crude. Brent Crude is a North Sea crude, Mr. Speaker. That is a sweet crude. It is one that fetches a good price on the market and it is different again from the one that they use, I think, in B.C. or Saskatchewan. They use a type of oil called West Cushing.

So what we have is our Brent oil, at one point this year was down I think below $35, or pretty close. The last few days it fluctuates up to $51, $52, and it is down again today to $47. So the volatility of the oil markets are such that there is no crystal ball. When we choose $50, we choose it not because we are low-balling but because based on the information we have available to us right now, that is the best number. Do we hope it will go up? Yes, Mr. Speaker, we certainly do.

There is another factor that could play into it this year too, and that is whether or not we hit payout on Hibernia, but that again comes to production. It is dependent, Mr. Speaker, on an eighty-cent dollar. You go down to seventy-nine cents, we make more money. So there are so many factors, but I want to assure the public that we are not trying at this point, we are not trying to mislead anyone. We are making the best effort to come up with a reasonable figure and we feel that this is the figure to utilize.

Mr. Speaker, the next point that I want to talk about, and this was spoken about by the Opposition House Leader yesterday, and he went on in great detail about the Lower Churchill. Now, one of the things that we have done as a government, we have learned from the lessons of the past. We have learned that when projects are created for jobs and jobs alone, then what happens is that there is a potential to make mistakes. What we are trying to do with the Lower Churchill is to ensure that the Lower Churchill is done properly and at the right time.

The Opposition House Leader indicated yesterday that he did not understand why we were putting all this money into Nalcor. Well, I will let the Minister of Natural Resources, when her turn comes, speak to this, but the reason we are doing that is that we have a company with expertise that know what they are doing. We have a company, Mr. Speaker, whom we have the utmost confidence in and that we feel we will get a high return on our equity.

So when you are developing a project like the Lower Churchill, it has to be done right. You get one chance at it. What was demonstrated in the Upper Churchill development in 1967, or leading up to - I guess you really have to start with the creation of BRINCO in 1953 and lead up then to the CF(L) Co days, was the lack of government involvement was appalling. Essentially, what had happened, Mr. Smallwood had brought together a consortium of financers, including the Rothschilds from England, and had given them a grant, if I remember correctly, of enormous amounts of land in Labrador, in the Hamilton Falls it was called at the time.

I have read transcripts, Mr. Speaker, of Hansard where the Premier of the day, Mr. Smallwood says: Well, I did not see the contract. Well, I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that nothing will take place like this under this government. That there will be no deals entered into, because like the Liberals a few years ago, they wanted to get elected and they were ready to do a deal, there will be nothing like that under this government, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: What we will do, Mr. Speaker, is do the deal that is right, because thirty years from now our children and grandchildren will own that Lower Churchill. So that when the Upper Churchill is ready to be returned – which again, by the way, was a result of Liberal mismanagement. When the Upper Churchill is returned, Mr. Speaker, we will be set then for generations with clean, green and sustainable energy.

Mr. Speaker, in relation to the Upper Churchill and the Lower Churchill, one must always be aware of the lessons of the past. The same is true in this economic crisis. You cannot forget the lessons of the past. As we go through these economic times we have to be prudent in terms of the way we manage the money of this Province. So what we have decided to do is to invest. Invest in our people, invest in infrastructure to stimulate the economy, and that is what this Budget will do, Mr. Speaker.

I am not going to go through in detail the Budget itself. The numbers are outlined in great detail, but I just want to highlight a couple of the significant points. Last year, in 2008-2009, we had some real good economic indicators. Despite a decline in offshore oil production, our real GDP or Gross Domestic Product had increased, driven by consumer and government expenditures. Although our offshore oil production has decreased, the value of the oil production increased by about 23 per cent to 12.7 billion.

Mr. Speaker, this year we expect that GDP will be down significantly. However, our other economic indicators are positive, including we expect growth in personal income, 3 per cent, and disposal income. We expect that retail sales will grow. There appears to be a confidence in the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador that is encouraging retail spending that we do not see in other provinces. Housing starts will be down from the record last year, I think of 3,150 units down to approximately 2,600 units, but that is still approximately the same as the 2007 numbers. Employment will decline by approximately 1 per cent. So unemployment will increase.

Then, Mr. Speaker, on the horizon there are three significant mega projects. There is the Vale Inco hydromet project, the development of the White Rose expansion, followed by Hebron, and both of which our Province has an equity stake.

The Opposition House Leader said: Well, what has this government done? Now the Minister of Natural Resources, I am sure, can correct me if I am wrong, but I thought these equity stakes were ones that our Premier had fought very hard to get. In fact, I remember there was a breakdown in negotiations at one point. So, as a government, we are working hard to ensure that we get our fair share.

Mr. Speaker, when you look at the deficit this year, the projected deficit of $750 million, it can be essentially broken down into two components. You have to look at our public sector increases, our wages. Each percent was approximately $25 million, so that the first 8 per cent was $200 million. Each year thereafter, for a four-year term, it is $100 million for a total cost of $500 million for the public sector wages. That is a 21.5 per cent wage increase compared to the federal civil service; PSAC I think was 6 per cent or 6.65 per cent over three years. We are seeing wage rollbacks in some other provinces and wage freezes.

What we have in this Province, if you look at the changes to the Atlantic Accord, the unilateral changes to the Atlantic Accord, and the Opposition House Leader will say: Well, what have you done to get along with the federal government? When you see the types of movements that were taken by this federal government again and again and again, it is hard to have any confidence that we are going to get along.

Four hundred and fourteen million dollars that we had budgeted for in the fall financial update, $414 million, taken just like that, no consultation at all, Mr. Speaker.

Then we have encountered significant pension losses, which will add another approximately $380 million on to it, Mr. Speaker. I think it is approximately $190 million for amortization costs, and approximately $190 million for interest.

So despite everything, Mr. Speaker, with growth this year of 9 per cent, with public sector wage increases – yet, without those two factors, we would be in a surplus situation. It is absolutely amazing; but, according to the Opposition House Leader, we had nothing to do with this. No, this just happens by itself, Mr. Speaker. This does not involve a budget process whereby we sit down, we start in December getting ready for a budget. It does not involve, Mr. Speaker, Cabinet and caucus and continuous meetings as we try to determine how we are going to best spend the money that is available. This is just pure luck, Mr. Speaker, according to the Opposition House Leader, or as a result of the Liberals.

I would prefer, Mr. Speaker, to accept it as pure luck than to give any credit to that other side, when we encountered a $12 billion debt in 2003, Mr. Speaker –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: – and a Province that was almost bankrupt as a result of the Liberals. Unbelievable, the comments of the Opposition House Leader, that he can say them with a straight face.

Mr. Speaker, we expect to be back in a surplus situation, however, within two years. It is possible next year, Mr. Speaker. I do not have the numbers in front of me, but in the Budget numbers I think we are indicating approximately $147 million deficit for 2010-2011. Let me see, Mr. Speaker. Yes, $141 million deficit for 2010-2011 and a $30.8 million surplus in 2011-2012.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in other provinces – Quebec, if I remember correctly, has a deficit they expect to be four years. New Brunswick expects to be four years and to return, but they are not including their pension losses as a part of their deficit. We have Ontario, which has significant deficits and could be longer than four or five years getting back into surplus. We have a federal government, Mr. Speaker, I think they are projecting deficits that could be as much as $85 billion in deficits by the spring of 2013.

We have two provinces, Mr. Speaker, looking at surpluses this year. Manitoba has a surplus of $48 million, a projected surplus, and Saskatchewan has a projected $425 million surplus. British Columbia has a deficit and they expect to be returning to balanced budgets by 2011-2012, and Alberta is expected, Mr. Speaker, to run its first deficit in fifteen years. We have not heard from Nova Scotia or P.E.I.

Mr. Speaker, these numbers themselves should speak to the seriousness of the economic situation that we face, but what the numbers do not reflect, and what we have that some of these other provinces do not have – I am not being critical; I am just using it by way of comparison – we are lucky that we have the oil off our coast right now, Mr. Speaker, because I would not want to be in the situation of some of these other provinces in trying to come out of these deficits without that potential boon.

Mr. Speaker, that is encouraging in terms of it is a short-term deficit and not a return to structural deficit. This year, we will be spending approximately $103 million for municipal infrastructure. This is money that will be spent in new water and treatment facilities, new recreational facilities, new roads, and the Province will pay 70 per cent to 90 per cent of the municipal share.

For example, I think, if I remember correctly, St. John's and Corner Brook would pay 70 per cent. Towns like Carbonear, Harbour Grace, would pay 20 per cent. Other communities with less than 3,000 people would pay 10 per cent. This is a great way, Mr. Speaker, for municipalities to take advantage of the monies made available by government to create the infrastructure.

We are spending $277 million for transportation and infrastructure, including a $70 million provincial roads program. We are spending approximately $156 million for educational facilities, and I am sure that my colleague, the Minister of Education, will speak to that when she rises. We will spend $167 million for health care facilities and equipment. Again, I am sure you will hear further details from the Minister of Health. More than $87 million in business development programs, and I am sure you will hear from the Minister of Business and the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development when we get to these numbers, Mr. Speaker. All programs that encourage long-term private sector growth, employment creation and economic diversification in all regions, Mr. Speaker. Again, that is why Central Newfoundland is so important to us in this Budget.

The money spent in relation to Labrador, there is a section in the Budget that outlines what we are doing in relation to Labrador, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, today - and I cannot really say if it is today or tomorrow that is the sixtieth anniversary of Confederation. Mr. Speaker, this Province was created as a result of the fishery. I should not say province. This country, the country that we were, was created as a result of the fishery. We are now, next year, going to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of John Guy's creation of a settlement at Cuper's Cove in Cupids. We have had our settlements, Mr. Speaker, in relation to John Cabot. It is a shame to see what has happened with the fishery, and for the Opposition Leader to say to our Premier today: Well, why won't you work with Canada? Why are you saying you are going to do it on your own?

Well there is no greater example, Mr. Speaker, of the loss of and mismanagement of the fishery as a result of the federal government's action and, more than anything, inaction.

One thing missing, Mr. Speaker, from the 1949 Terms of Union, and I do not think it is there – again, I do not know all the Terms of Union; I have not read them recently - is in relation to the fishery. Under the Constitution - the Constitution Act was initially the British North America Act, 1867 - there would have been that distinction, as you are aware, between federal and provincial jurisdictions. So we inherited, to a certain extent, the issues of that Constitution. Our fishery should have been left for us to manage. Does it make any sense that we have a Department of Fisheries in this country with its headquarters in Ottawa? That, to me, just defies common sense. If it was in Victoria, B.C., if it was in Halifax. It should be in St. John's, but this is an example of how a central government has failed us.

Although in the minds of some - and I said earlier today that I am a strong nationalist, I am a strong Newfoundlander and Labradorian, but when asked on balance whether entering Canada was good for this Province I say yes. However, that does not say – it is not an uncritical yes. It is not an accepting yes. It is a yes, Mr. Speaker, that says, one, I am proud to be a resident of this Province but I am also proud to be a Canadian, but what we are asking for and all we have ever asked for in this federation is to be treated fairly, and that fairness is not forthcoming.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, there are many people in this Province today who have mixed feelings. It is a fascinating read. Again, I cannot believe when the Opposition Leader refers, in disparaging terms, to Dr. John FitzGerald. Dr. FitzGerald is one of the real experts in this world on what took place between 1930 and 1949.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: There is no better person to have placed in Ottawa to represent our interests than a man who understands the past, the significance of the past, and the importance of not making the same mistakes again.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, Dr. FitzGerald's book, Newfoundland at the Crossroads, contains excerpts from 1945 to 1949. There are a lot of questions about what took place in that timeframe, but it is the past. The reality of our past, Mr. Speaker, is that we were a country built on the fishery. We are a country built on the sea and that is what we will always remain, and we can never forget that. Although there may be oil here today, it is always the fishery to which we must return, and it is the fishery that we must try to save because it is the future, to many extents, of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. There are many people who feel passionate about the fishery, Mr. Speaker, and in this Budget we took further steps in recognizing the importance of the fishery.

As the Premier stated earlier today, Mr. Speaker, we will support and continue to support the seal fishery; the seal hunt, I guess you would call it more appropriately.

Mr. Speaker, today is a day that brings with it, for some, reminiscing, for others, celebration, and for others, disappointment. However, despite the efforts of Prime Minister Harper and his government, we will not give up. We will not be beaten down. We are a resilient and a tough people. That comes from living by this sea for 500 years and fishing off its coast, and we will continue to make our place.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: This year, Mr. Speaker, we became a have province.

On November 3, 2008, I was sitting in a meeting in Ottawa when the Minister of Finance for Canada, Jim Flaherty, indicated that Newfoundland and Labrador would no longer be receiving equalization payments. Now, Mr. Speaker, that does not mean that we have more money. In fact, it means that we lose a source of revenue. What it means, as outlined in the Budget Speech, is that it is a significant step on our way to self-reliance and prosperity.

Mr. Speaker, the Opposition House Leader said, in his speech yesterday: well, what has this government done? Well, of all of the things that Premier Williams has done, one legacy that will be left behind is the message that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can stand on their own two feet, go anywhere in this country, be proud of themselves, and stand up with the best of them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: That is an intangible, Mr. Speaker, that is worth more than money can buy. The past, Mr. Speaker, is important in that it informs the present decisions that we make, but also allows us to look to the future, so hopefully we do not make the same mistakes again.

Are we, as a government, saying that we will never make mistakes? No one can say that, Mr. Speaker. Can we say we are doing our best for our children and for our grandchildren, and for the people of this Province? Yes we can, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, before I finish, I have one area of the Budget I want to touch on, and then there is a secondary I am going to talk about. What we will do in this Province this year is continue on the course we are on. We will continue to fund our social programs. We will continue to look after the poor and the vulnerable through the poverty reduction strategy and other strategies.

We have increased education funding this year, Mr. Speaker, to $2.6 billion. We have increased education spending to $1.3 billion. That is what a government, Mr. Speaker, which has its eye on the future, should be doing.

Mr. Speaker, we will not cut jobs, we will not cut programs. We hope for a return to economic prosperity, and economists tell us –

MR. O'BRIEN: Without borrowing.

MR. KENNEDY: Without borrowing. It is a very important point, I say. We will do that, Mr. Speaker, without borrowing.

MR. O'BRIEN: The Minister of Government Services.

MR. KENNEDY: The hon. Minister of Government Services, yes.

We will protect our environment, Mr. Speaker, and we will keep this Province on the right track.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals will have their chance two years from now. Is it two years? When do we go back to an election, 2011?

MR. O'BRIEN: 2011.

MR. KENNEDY: They can take our record, and they can take it to the public of this Province, but I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, we will stand up on this record anytime, in terms of what we are doing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, in the Budget Speech last week I outlined that we were willing to increase our offer to the nurses' union. Yesterday, there were questions in the House of Assembly. I wish I had been here to take them but the Premier handled them quite well. I outlined, Mr. Speaker, in a speech today earlier what this means, because it is not enough to talk about, well, we are going to take away a couple of steps, we are going to add a step. I do not know what other members of this House might think, but all I can say is that we have heard that recruitment and retention are the issues that the nurses face.

Mr. Speaker, we are very concerned about the nursing shortage. We are concerned about the ability to recruit nurses. We have concerns about our health care system. Most importantly, we are concerned about the patients of our Province who use these health care facilities on a daily basis. What we attempted to do last week, in the Budget process, when there was an indication from the president of the union that there was nothing in last year's budget to deal with retention, we said we will address it. That is what a budget is for. We have to allocate funds. We outlined the steps that we were willing to take.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Opposition House Leader referred to the strike of 1999, he talked about the nurses' strike. This is what he said, Mr. Speaker. He was going to be a speaker at the Lion's Club in Port aux Basques and when he arrived there, there were nurses there, friends of mine, dear friends of mine. I am telling you, when it came down to getting a fair deal for the nurses that is where friendship ceases. They wanted a fair deal. It did not matter if I was a friend of theirs.

The question I ask, Mr. Speaker, what I say to the nurses of this Province, what I say to the public is: Is the deal we are offering fair? The 21.5 per cent, Mr. Speaker, is unheard of in this day and age. What we did, Mr. Speaker, to put this in perspective - they have also said to us, we need to be competitive with other areas of Canada. We need to be on par. So we looked at that. There is no question that during the uncertain economic times that we face that we have to run a government. We have to run that government with prudent fiscal management. When other provinces are cutting back, Mr. Speaker, and eliminating jobs, we are giving substantial wage increases. We are doing that to say to the people of this Province, we value your work, we value your effort and your sacrifices over the years. With the nurses, there is 21.5 per cent it started with.

Mr. Speaker, we heard from the nurses and from the public, that recruitment and retention are their priorities and that those two areas need to be addressed. We agree, Mr. Speaker. It is why we have increased our offer.

Now just let me outline what this offer really means. A nurse, if we remove – the nurses, it is my understanding, operate on a seven-step scale. A nurse who would come in at step one makes a certain amount of money. I do not know how long it takes to get to the step seven. It might only be seven years. A nurse, who comes into our system, as it presently stands, would make approximately $46,000. That is right at the bottom of the scale. With the proposed 8 per cent salary increase and the removal of the two bottom steps, the salary for a nurse will increase by approximately $7,000, to $53,000. The starting salary of a nurse in this Province will be $53,000. Mr. Speaker, that is, again, 8 per cent plus over four years.

Mr. Speaker, now let's take step seven, because approximately 70 per cent of the nurses in this Province are on step seven. It is not really a reflection of age, because my understanding is you can be in your early thirties and on step seven or you can be fifty on step seven. So, 70 per cent of the nurses are on step seven. At NS-28, this nurse at step seven will earn approximately $58,000. With the proposed 8 per cent salary increase and the addition of a top step, which is worth another 4.5 per cent, I think, the top salary scale will increase by approximately $8,000, to $66,000. That nurse who is now making $58,000 will make $66,000. By the end of that four-year contract, a nurse at the top of the scale will be making approximately $74,000. We will have gone from $46,000 to $53,000 for the nurse coming in, and the nurse at the top of the scale will go from $58,000 to $66,000.

Mr. Speaker, those nurses – and I have the number somewhere – who are in the last years of their career, for example, looking at retirement, this four-year package would have a significant impact on their severance and pension benefits; significant benefits, Mr. Speaker.

In the House the other day, when I outlined this package, this is our best offer. This is where we are. Now if we are going to put this offer out, this kind of numbers, well, we want something back in terms of the other issues that we were looking for. If the nurses are willing to take less money in terms of the salary, then we are willing to look at all of the other issues. We are willing to look at the issues that they raise. I think the Premier indicated in the House yesterday, if they are willing to look at the PSAC deal we are certainly open to all kinds of considerations, including a two-year deal.

Mr. Speaker, the collective bargaining process has entered the House of Assembly by the Liberals raising it, and it was raised in the fall. It has entered the public airways and it certainly did so prior to me making comments in the Budget last week.

Mr. Speaker, this is a total new offer, because we are looking at also increasing standby and shift differentials, increasing those rates. Now it is my understanding they have a significant impact. What we are hearing from nurses is they want the quality of their life improved. They want their time off. All of us, Mr. Speaker, acknowledge that that has to be the case. That everyone needs their time off, everyone needs their time to themselves and they need to work shifts, I guess, that are set out in advance. So what we have tried to do is allow for recruitment and retention. These figures will put us right now at the bottom of the scale at second in Atlantic Canada and Quebec but for the nurse at the top of the scale, this 8 per cent and the salary step, template and the salary step will make them the highest paid nurses east of Ontario.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, what the Opposition House Leader said yesterday was that in 1999 the nurses told them they wanted a fair deal. Well, Mr. Speaker, we feel this deal is fair. We are hoping that a strike can be avoided because none of us want that.

In 1999, the union commenced their strike on March 24, 1999. It was a strike for nine days. The Liberal government legislated them back to work and imposed a settlement, and the legislated collective agreement expired June 30, 2001. The pattern settlement at the time provided for increases of 2 per cent April 1998, 2 per cent September 1999, 2 per cent September 2000 -

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you say pattern?

MR. KENNEDY: That is just my comment – and 1 per cent in May 2001. Basically, that is the comment they received under the previous government –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KENNEDY: Seven percent, yes.

So what I say today, Mr. Speaker, is that we want nothing better than to see an agreement reached and hopefully we can get there for the good, especially of the patients of this Province. We say to the nurses, we appreciate the work that you are doing.

Mr. Speaker, my last couple of minutes here now I am going to talk about, in a general term, where we are going as a Province and why are we taking the steps that we are taking?

The Opposition House Leader criticized us yesterday, apparently, from what I could read into his comments, for going into deficit. Well, the choices were stark. We either accept that there is going to be a deficit this year or we cut programs; we cut services, we cut jobs. We chose not to do that, Mr. Speaker.

There was one media article which referred to us taking a calculated risk. There certainly is a risk, Mr. Speaker, in anything you do. Do I feel that next year oil is going to reach $70? I do not. I am hoping it does but the impression left is that – and in the media lockup the other day the impression is that we are using $50 but we really know it is going to be seventy. That is not the case, Mr. Speaker.

The process of oil pricing is very complex. We have seen – what I have watched in the last number of months are ups and downs. The commodity markets in general, it is a global market out there now. It is not only what takes place in other parts of Canada; it is what takes place in the U.S., what takes place in India, China and the emerging South American markets. So there are so many factors at play.

What takes place in the United States over the next number of months, Mr. Speaker, will have a significant effect. Canada, as a result of its banking system, has not encountered the same kinds of difficulties that they have encountered in the U.S. Our system is much more regulated and there are far, far fewer banks. In that respect it has been a good thing.

We have seen, Mr. Speaker, some of the banks – the numbers earlier this year, some of the most established banks in the world, I mean these investment banks in the U.S. have been around for, I do not know if it is hundreds of years, but certainly hundreds of years and the difficulty that Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley and what they all ran into. Then we have seen the state of the banks in the UK, like Lloyds Bank and the Halifax Bank of Scotland. The amount of their assets and their shares in the market were phenomenal.

Now, will this pick up? Again, the lessons of history have demonstrated that there are cycles in the economy, and these are lessons, Mr. Speaker, that we must pay attention to. Is it going to happen overnight? There is nothing to indicate that it will, Mr. Speaker. When you look at the situation in Ontario, when you look at the situation in the rest of this country, when you look at the situation in this Province, with the difficulties we have encountered in terms of AbitibiBowater, the commodities markets in mining, we have to be prepared for the worst.

Do you know what is really positive, Mr. Speaker? Even a second year, if we have to - if we have to - we can incur a second year of deficit, and use our surpluses to get us through it, Mr. Speaker, and that is what a lot of other provinces do not have the luxury of right now.

It means yes, our debt increases, but we will do what we have to do to protect our valued social programs. We will do what we have to do to protect our education and our health care system. We will do what we have to do to protect rural Newfoundland and to help Central Newfoundland and Labrador.

These are steps, Mr. Speaker, that are necessary for us to take. These are not luxuries that we are looking at now and saying well, it will get us votes; because, Mr. Speaker, what we are doing is not about getting votes. It is about protecting the people of this Province, of using the monies that we have earned to help them through hard times.

What we see in the future, Mr. Speaker, is a gradual improvement in the economy, a gradual improvement in the price of oil, but it is something that we have to monitor on a daily basis.

A number of economists I have spoken to were having difficulties forecasting where all of this was going because they had never seen anything like it. When there are stable times, economists can predict fairly well what is going to happen, but in these times they cannot predict.

So, Mr. Speaker, we have to have faith in ourselves as a Province and as a people, to stick together to help the people that find themselves in situations like the people in Central Newfoundland and Labrador right now. We will ride out this storm as we have rode out every other storm in the past, and we will survive.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Collins): Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am certainly pleased to rise and speak to the Budget debate today. I will respond to a number of the comments that the Minister of Finance made as he spoke for the last hour in the House of Assembly. Some of it pertained to the Budget, but some of the comments that he made I thought were a little bit ridiculous. They were degrading and they were disrespectful to members of this House of Assembly. I refer to the comments that he made across the House to my colleague, the Member for Port de Grave.

Mr. Speaker, we all come here as equal members, and to be so disrespectful to other members of the House shows the disrespect and disregard they have for the people who elect them and send them here. That was what I saw from this minister today.

Mr. Speaker, it is no wonder that the state of affairs between the government opposite and AbitibiBowater ended up the way they did. It is no wonder the state of affairs exist today in the Province between that minister and that government and nurses if that is the attitude that prevails when dealing with people. It is no wonder we have the relationship that we have with the federal government today, a relationship that should be fostering wealth in return for the people of the Province, but all it is doing is sufficing to the chest pounding and grandstanding of the government opposite.

That is what I see from that minister and from that government. It shows their lack of respect for people. It shows the level of arrogance they carry in the jobs and in the position they have. I certainly hope it is not traits that they are going to perpetrate upon the people of this Province, as they have been in the past.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you what this government is. Besides being disrespectful to the views and the opinions of others - because they are - how anyone dares speak against the powerful government of Danny Williams and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador? How dare they speak against them?

We have seen it time and time again. Even when we question in this House of Assembly, simple questions that hit a nerve with this government, they go off and they go inflated. Mr. Speaker, their egos inflate, their arrogance is perpetrated upon the House of Assembly, and they continue to throw insults. We have seen it with other people in the Province, mayors in this Province who have dared to speak out publicly, who have gotten calls, Mr. Speaker, calls from ministers and members and the Premier: How dare you speak against me and my government!

The young man out in Grand Falls, whom I have never met, asked a few questions about the AbitibiBowater mill.

MS BURKE: He is not young.

MS JONES: Maybe he is not young, I say to the Minister of Education. She probably knows him more so than I do because I have never met him. Mr. Speaker, what I do know is that when he dared to ask a question he was deemed a traitor by the government opposite and by the Premier. He was asked: How dare you speak up and ask questions of my government!

What kind of an operation is that, Mr. Speaker? Is that one that fosters freedom of expression and opinion? Is that one that wants to provide answers to the people of the Province?

Not only that, Mr. Speaker, this government is not consistent. They are not consistent in their views and in their opinions. I am going to demonstrate that to you today, because today, Mr. Speaker, we are debating, in this House of Assembly, a Budget that carries the largest deficit that we have ever seen in our history, the largest deficit ever brought into this House of Assembly by any government. The largest deficit, Mr. Speaker, any government has ever racked up on the books in Newfoundland and Labrador is being run by the minister and the government opposite.

Mr. Speaker, they not only run the largest deficit but they have increased spending in each of those years as well. I point that out for only one reason. Because, back in 2001, Mr. Speaker, and in 2003, let me tell you what the Conservative Opposition was saying about deficits that were $30 million in this Province, deficits that were being run at $30 million in this Province, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. T. MARSHALL: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

The Chair recognizes the Minister of Justice on a point of order.

MR. T. MARSHALL: I want to correct an error made by the Leader of the Opposition.

The biggest deficit in the history of the Province is not this year, it was the last Liberal budget of 2003-2004.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. T. MARSHALL: The deficit was $913.6 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. O'BRIEN: Get your facts. Get Joan Marie to dig a little bit deeper.

MS JONES: I can go back and check the numbers that I (inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: Too bad you didn't check them while you (inaudible).

MR. O'BRIEN: Fire Joan Marie.

AN HON. MEMBER: 1-800-Joan Marie.

MR. O'BRIEN: Joan Marie is on the job. (Inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the Member for Gander, I have no problem admitting if the information that I have here might be wrong. Unlike the member opposite, Mr. Speaker, and unlike the government opposite who find it hard to swallow - sometimes, they almost gag trying to apologize for their actions. Certainly, Mr. Speaker, if I made a misinterpretation of budget deficits in this Province, I sincerely apologize.

Let me say this to the Minister of Finance, let me say this to the Minister of Justice, I will certainly go back and I will check the numbers that I have. According to the information, Mr. Speaker, in the research that we did on accumulated deficits in this Province, it shows that this was the largest one.

Let me tell you what the Conservatives had to say when we were running deficits of $30 million and $80 million a year. They were saying, Mr. Speaker, that the economy and the deficits that are running are going to have tremendous harm to the Province. This is what they were saying. They were saying that the Budget deficits are ballooned because they went from $30 million to $80 million. These are the kinds of comments that they were making. Premier Williams, Mr. Speaker, who was the Leader of the Opposition at that time was disappointed, he said, to see another significant increase in a deficit.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: He said, it reflects the government's inability-

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would like to remind the hon. member that on two occasions now she referred to the Premier by his name. She has been around long enough to know that you cannot refer to people by their names in their House.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will try not to refer to the Premier by his name.

Mr. Speaker, at that time the Premier was the Leader of the Opposition and he said he was disappointed to see another significant increase in the deficit. He said, it reflects the government's inability to properly manage the operations of the Province. That was what the Premier said in 2003. He said, any government that has to run deficits shows their inability to be able to manage the affairs of the Province. Well, Mr. Speaker, the government opposite is a government that has enjoyed ballooned surpluses in the budget, Mr. Speaker.

I am going to show you this graph. This is a graph of revenue from oil in this Province, oil alone, from 2003 up until 2009. You can see the ballooning surpluses of funds that this government had to work with, and yet they still failed to provide for the proper management of that revenue in this Province.

The revenue, as I indicated to you, Mr. Speaker, did not come from any Conservative deal, it came from all deals that were negotiated by Liberal governments in the past, and that money started to flow under the administration of the government opposite. What did they do? They failed to do what the Premier actually said every government should do. He said, any government's inability to properly manage the operations of the Province and run a deficit reflects their failure. He is saying his own government, because they could not manage the surpluses, they could not plan properly, they had to run deficits, indicates a weakness in their government.

Let me give you another piece of information, Mr. Speaker. Not only did he think it was –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would like ask the members for their cooperation.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Gander is like a squawk box over there. He has been squawking from the minute that I stood on my feet in the House of Assembly. I am going to tell you, it is absolutely ridiculous that a Minister of the Crown could sit in his seat and squawk for the last ten minutes consistently and say absolutely nothing.

Mr. Speaker, this is what the Premier had to say again in 2003. He said: There are serious matters and this accumulating deficit is something that we have to be very concerned about. You just cannot keep overspending and spending beyond your means. Well, even in a year that we are running one of the largest deficits ever in the history of this Province, government spending is still increasing, and the Minister of Finance knows that. These are the very things that the Premier said before he was elected would not happen under his watch, that he felt was irresponsible for any government to do and that it should never happen.

Mr. Speaker, listen to this one. When today's Minister of Health and Community Services, the Member for Trinity North, crossed the floor, I think it was back in 2002 or 2003, he said that he had to cross the floor because the Province was running a deficit, the government he was a part of was running a deficit. Now we are over here frightened to death that the Minister of Health is going to want to cross the floor again, because he is now part of a government that is running a larger deficit than when he left in the first place.

Do you know what kind of fear that is, Mr. Speaker? I read this last night and I never slept. I never slept for the entire night, because I said I am going to wake up tomorrow morning and I am going to get a phone call from the Minister of Health and Community Services, because the last government that he was a part of that ran a deficit, he ran across the floor, Mr. Speaker, saying I will not be a part of a government that runs deficits in the Province.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I can tell the Minister of Health and Community Services he may as well sit down and stick her out and stay tough, because I can guarantee you there is no room in the three seats over here for the Minister of Health and Community Services.

Now, Mr. Speaker, let's talk about the Auditor General for a minute. Let's talk about the Auditor General for a minute, because the Premier, when he was the Leader of the Opposition, was always really pleased to quote the Auditor General. At that time the Member for Topsail was the Auditor General, and the Premier was pleased to stand in the House and quote her report as she talked about government calculating its deficits, Mr. Speaker, and she was concerned about governments running deficits, and he said: Yes, we have to be concerned. We have to listen to what the Auditor General says.

The Auditor General had trouble with the accounting methods. The Member for Topsail, who was the Auditor General then, had a problem with the accounting methods that were being used: that we did not use an accrual accounting method; we did not take in the debt of our boards and the debt of our schools, and we did not work all of that into our budget.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the government opposite today does not do that. The former Auditor General recommended that the accounting mechanism should change, and the Leader of the Opposition, who is the Premier today, supported her, but they do not use that accounting method in doing their own budgets, Mr. Speaker. In fact, I was told by Treasury Board and the Department of Finance that they stopped using that method two years ago.

Mr. Speaker, I sat here in the House every day and listened to the Premier, when he was the Leader of the Opposition, and the member who was the Auditor General, out every day in the news saying: This is the way it has to be done.

Well, Mr. Speaker, go over to Treasury Board, as I did two days ago, and say: Okay, what accounting method are they using now? Well, we don't use that now. We stopped doing that two years ago. We do the summary in the back of the book, but we do it on this and we do it on that, and we do it on something else. So, Mr. Speaker, it was a short-lived commitment that caused a lot of debate.

Now, how the former Auditor General can take it upon herself and bear to sit in her seat and be a part of a government that did not practice the very accounting method that she herself advocated when she was the Auditor General every single day as the only way, the proper way, how she can sit there today and watch the improper accounting of the budgets of the Province, I will never understand.

Mr. Speaker, she also expressed concern over deficits, government spending and deficits, not unlike the current Auditor General expressed in the last couple of AG reports as well when he pointed out that annual surpluses are in large part due to our oil revenues and our transfer payments from the federal government, but he was concerned. He was concerned and he said: Right now, if you look at where the revenues are in this Province, and the comparison of federal government revenue with our own sources, it reflects how dependent government is on the transfers of the federal government.

Because, Mr. Speaker, we know that even without equalization there is still a large chunk of federal money that gets transferred to the Provinces under the health and social transfers and other cost-shared projects like transportation infrastructure, like municipal infrastructure, which is the money the government is spending today which they are negotiating and receiving under those transfer agreements with the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, he also talked about offshore oil royalties and revenues having become the single largest own source revenue in Newfoundland and Labrador, with the increase in this revenue being largely responsible for generating the surpluses that we saw in 2008. What he predicted, Mr. Speaker, is that we would reach have status this year but it would be very short lived. It would be very short lived.

Mr. Speaker, I do not see the former Auditor General now being too concerned with running deficits in the Province, or too concerned with increasing program spending again this year up by 13 per cent - 12 per cent or something last year - and how those particular programs are going to be managed into the long term. It is funny, they were awfully concerned about it before they sat on the other side of the House. They made hundreds and hundreds of speeches about it, Mr. Speaker. They were in the media every day, talking about how irresponsible it was for any government to run a deficit, that it only showed that they could not manage the money that they were given.

Well, there has been no government in our history given any more money than the government opposite. There is no government in our history that has seen royalties balloon and surplus like the government opposite has. Did they manage their money? Did they manage their money so that at a time when royalties started to fall, when oil production started to be reduced in the Province, they could be able to manage the affairs without running deficits like the Premier committed to, Mr. Speaker? Like he committed to do? It did not happen. It did not happen and they need to reminded, Mr. Speaker, that the holier-than-thou attitude that they had around this is a very short-lived attitude. There is no doubt about that, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the reality is - and this government does not want to face the reality - the monies that they have enjoyed, the monies that they have spent on behalf of the people of this Province, the monies that they failed to plan for appropriately so we did not run into deficits this year, was all monies accumulated under deals that were negotiated by Liberal governments. That is the part that they do not want to see, Mr. Speaker. That is the part that they find really hard to swallow, knowing that they are like the banker. They are like the banker. The money flows in, we pass it out, but we do nothing to earn it. We do nothing to earn it, and have done nothing to earn it in the past. In fact, Mr. Speaker, there has been more industry closed up in this Province under this government than ever before, I say, than ever before. More jobs lost in this Province. Jobs in rural areas right throughout this Province. Regardless of what they say, regardless of how many soapboxes they get on, the recovery has not met the downgrading. The recovery has never fostered the kind of wealth that they had known previously. That is the truth.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen where oil revenues have gone, and where production rates have gone, and we also know that those production rates are going to start dropping off. That is a concern for us, a huge concern for us, because once the production rates start dropping off then that means there is going to be less revenue. They started to drop off this year in the Province already. We have seen the slowing of production this year, Mr. Speaker, down to about 120 million barrels of oil. That is what we have seen.

Mr. Speaker, we know that there has been a slowing in production, and we know that there was also a prediction by the Dominion Bond Rating Service that forecasted a 15 per cent decline in the production in its most recent report on federal government financing.

Last year we saw oil production at about 120 million barrels of oil in the Province. This year we are going to see that production drop to about 105 million barrels of oil. We are basing that on $50 a barrel of oil, which means that next year, unless oil prices balloon again this year, next year we are going to be running another deficit in this Province, another deficit that is going to reach about $800 million, Mr. Speaker. Unless there is some situation where there is going to be either a rebound in production or there is going to be an increase in the price of a barrel of oil.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I think it is ridiculous that the Member for Gander has not stopped squawking since I have stood on my feet. The member has yet to get in this House of Assembly and debate the Budget. He has yet to stand on his feet and have anything substantial to say, Mr. Speaker, but yet he will sit back there in the chair and he will squawk all day. He is running a department that has produced no results in the Province, Mr. Speaker, absolutely no results and yet he claims that he knows everything about nothing, I say to the minister.

Mr. Speaker, I sat back for the last hour and I listened diligently to the Minister of Finance as he made his address in this House and I did it pretty well uninterrupted for the whole time. It is absolutely shameful that the members opposite do not have the same respect for other members as they stand in the House. I guess the Member for Gander, you can only expect so much, so much from any individual and I expect very little from him.

So, if you look at the fact that production in oil is going to be down from 120 million barrels this year to 105 million barrels this year, and if the price does not take an incline - in fact, if it even falls below where it is today, we know that next year we could be forecasting another deficit in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, we also know that the slowing in production is happening at a more rapid rate than government's Hebron project is coming on stream. We are hoping that White Rose and Hibernia South will hopefully make up for some of that oil production, but we will have to see where government is in getting those projects off the ground as well.

Mr. Speaker, the truth is hard for the members opposite to listen to. The truth is really hard for them to listen to, but there is a lot of it to come. They do not like the fact that they were out making comments about any government that runs deficits is irresponsible and it shows that they do not know how to keep their own affairs in order, they cannot forecast budgets for the future. They said that at a time before they were in government. Now they are a government that has enjoyed the largest amounts of royalties and surpluses of any government ever in our history and they failed to plan appropriately, thus showing their own irresponsible actions of government. Just to throw their own words back at them. It is always hard to hear your own words.

I am going to talk about Confederation for a few minutes now. Confederation, it has almost become a dirty word for the government opposite. They can hardly say it. They almost gag trying to get it out, which is shameful. Absolutely shameful! Do you know that it is all about a disagreement with the government and the Prime Minister in Ottawa? That is what it is about. It is about the fact that they are not big enough to overcome the disagreements, the differences of opinion, the challenging and the questioning by another government. They have not been able to rise above it and foster a relationship that could prove to be somewhat beneficial for the people of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, they get really touchy when you talk about Confederation, but Confederation is much bigger than the Prime Minister currently in the country, Stephen Harper, or the Premier of this Province, I say to the members opposite. It is much bigger than either one of you or the positions that you currently hold. Confederation was fostered and developed and grown over sixty years, long before any of the people opposite ever showed up to take over government in this Province. I think it is ridiculous that because they do not share a cosy relationship with the federal government, because they are not allowed past the doors of the Parliament building in Ottawa because of their own actions, that they choose to ignore a significant piece of our history.

Mr. Speaker, they are not the first government to have disagreements with Ottawa. I was a part of a government that had lots of disagreements with Ottawa; disagreements over the fishery, disagreements over transportation, disagreements over health transfers, disagreements over royalties and resources. I can keep on going. There were lots of disagreements with the federal government, but we never took it to the degree that the government opposite. We have never made it personal. It did not become a fistfight between me and him, which is what we are seeing today in the Province. It is more about who can throw the hardest punch. It is more about who can throw the hardest punch, who can leave the biggest bruise. It is more like a barroom brawl than a political and passionate debate.

We have even had Royal Commissions into our place in history in Confederation. We have a Royal Commission now that sits in the office of the members opposite. Maybe they should read it because they could learn a lot from it. That is how we have been with the federal government over the years. Even through all of these disputes, even through all of these disagreements, even when Newfoundlanders and Labradorians stood up for themselves against the federal government, and oftentimes got results and oftentimes did not, like the government opposite today who gets no results, but they did stand up. They are not the first government to stand up and pound their chests and say: I am a Newfoundlander first and I am proud and I am strong and I am determined.

Many have done it and many have gotten results, unlike the members opposite, unlike the government opposite that have never produced results from standing up to the federal government. In fact, they continue to lose. They just lost again in the last round of the budget of the federal government. They just lost again on the O'Brien Formula, over $500,000.

Standing up is one thing, but actually succeeding when you stand up, delivering on something is a whole other ball game, I say to the members opposite.

Even when the Royal Commission was done, and even when other polls were done and people were asked: Would you rather separate from Canada because of these disagreements? Do you know something, Mr. Speaker, less than 15 per cent of the population of this Province would ever talk about separating our union from Canada, would ever take the chance to break away and to be our own country, and that is the truth.

I listen to prominent people. I listened to George Baker there a while ago, and I nearly fell off my chair. George Baker, who sat in the Government of Canada for years, talked about the cut of money under the federal government under the transfer program that would be $1 billion to the Province over the next three years. He said that this would promote separatism in this Province, a movement, he said, that he would encourage. Well, Mr. Speaker, when Senator Baker made those comments he did not say he was also prepared to give up his pension that he is getting from the federal government. He did not say he was prepared to give up his big check he is getting from the Senate of the Government of Canada. He would encourage separation, Mr. Speaker, but I heard no talks of him forfeiting the pension that he receives today from being a sitting member in our federation with Canada.

That is the kind of an attitude that you get out there. People go out and they talk about it. You know, it is not a great union, it did nothing for us, we could be much better. Well, put your money where your mouth is, I say to people. I say to the government opposite, if you do not want to be a part of the federation with Canada, you do not want to work with the Government of Canada, you do not want to acknowledge that we are even a part of it, you cannot stand in the House on our sixtieth anniversary and talk about our federation, good, bad or indifferent. It speaks volumes in my mind as to what the attitude of the government opposite is about our union with the country.

At the same time, Mr. Speaker, they are happy enough to take the checks when they roll in, the social health transfers this year, the transportation agreement monies, the municipal infrastructure agreement monies, the community development fund they just handed out to Grand Falls-Windsor; all federal money, Mr. Speaker. They are glad enough to reach out the hand and haul it in, but, Mr. Speaker, will not acknowledge our sixtieth anniversary of our Confederation with Canada.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of people who do acknowledge it. There are not a lot around any more who remember our pre-Confederation days, the days of poverty, Mr. Speaker, in this Province, the days when people and children talked about going to school without boots on their feet or coats on their back, a day when families were bartering fish for food because they had no money that was coming to them. There was no income to support their families. It was Confederation, Mr. Speaker, that put money in the pockets of ordinary families in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I hear the Member for the Straits & White Bay North over there squawking now, but I bet you there are a good many families on the Northern Peninsula, that before Confederation did not have two nickels to rub together, Mr. Speaker, did not have clothes to go on the backs of their children, and were bartering fish for food, because they did not have cheques coming in. That is the reality.

I grew up, Mr. Speaker, in a family that could not vote. It was not until Confederation that my grandfathers actually got to vote in this Province, because under the Responsible Government of Newfoundland we were not permitted to vote in Labrador. There was never a ballot box. There was no freedom to make those decisions.

Irregardless, Mr. Speaker, of the rift between the government opposite today and the federal government, I am very passionate about that issue. I am very passionate about the freedoms that were afforded to people, and I do not think they should be dismissed with laughs and giggles and chuckles, Mr. Speaker, and snide remarks and slurs and comments. I think it is disgusting that the highest level of government in this Province could even forfeit such actions on such an occasion, because they do not want to listen to the reality and the truth.

Mr. Speaker, it gave my family, it gave my grandfathers, the right to vote. It gave the people of Labrador, Mr. Speaker, an opportunity to be included, because they never were included before. That is the reason, Mr. Speaker, when the Premier went out and stomped his feet and pounded his chest and pulled on his hair and hauled down the flags, the Canadian flags in the Province, because he was mad and upset and angry like a kid on the steps of a daycare centre, Mr. Speaker, because he did not get the right cookie that he wanted out of the pack, when he hauled down the flags, Mr. Speaker, in an act of childish behaviour to send a message to the federal government, it was Labrador, Mr. Speaker, that did not take down the Canadian flag.

Mr. Speaker, it had nothing to do with the argument between the Premier and the federal government. It had nothing to do with the fact that they were supporters of Stephen Harper, because my guess is they definitely are not. It all had to do with the pride and the position that they felt they held within Canada, the fact that it was this nation that gave us the right to have a voice. It gave us the right to vote. If you look at when people voted for Confederation, you will find that an overwhelming majority of them voted in Newfoundland and Labrador for Confederation, Mr. Speaker.

I am not going to go on much longer about that today, but I did want to make mention of it, because, Mr. Speaker, even under Confederation there have been issues in Labrador, and I do not dispute it. Even under Confederation with Canada, once we became more a part of the Province, we were not given an opportunity for voice. The Upper Churchill was a perfectly good case of that, a case of where the government of the day came in and said we are going to develop the Upper Churchill, and this is how we are going to do it. We are going to flood the land, we are going to flood out trap lines, villages and settlement areas, we are going to flood acres and acres of trees, Mr. Speaker, and we will give you no compensation. That is the reality of what happened. We were never asked. We were never included in a decision making. We were told; not unlike what is happening today with the development of the Lower Churchill, I say, not unlike what is happening today with the government opposite when they talk about developing the Lower Churchill.

They will deal with the Innu because they feel they have to in order to honour the Land Claims Agreement, but what about the Metis who they choose to ignore? What about the Labrador settlers who they choose to ignore, where they are still going to go in and flood acres and acres of land without giving anything back in return?

Look at the energy plan that the government opposite proposed for Labrador. It was disgusting. It was a slap in the face. It was the Upper Churchill all over again for many people, because once again it was a government with their shoulders propped up, Mr. Speaker, and their big, arrogant attitudes who were walking in and saying: we are going to develop your land, we are going to flood it, we are going to do this and we are going to do that, but we are not going to give you anything. The energy plan affords nothing for Labradorians.

I heard a person from the Nunatsiavut government speak, Mr. Speaker, a couple of weeks ago on the Lower Churchill. Do you know what that person from the Nunatsiavut government said? We will never support the Lower Churchill development project until there is a transmission line that brings power to every community in Northern Labrador. Do you know something? I admire that individual. I admire the leadership that is in the Nunatsiavut government for taking that particular stand, because that is the way it should be, Mr. Speaker. That is the way it should be! They should stand and they should take the position that, until the government is prepared to run power to every community in Labrador, there should be no exit strategy for electricity. There should be no transmission lines that bypass Labrador communities and leaves them without power, Mr. Speaker. Any government with a conscience would ensure that that is an integral part of the plan, that that is one of the ultimate goals that they strive for, because that should be the reward for the people of Labrador.

What I see happening with this government is no different than what happened on the Upper Churchill. My father worked on the Upper Churchill project. My father helped build the transmission lines that were put in place when the Upper Churchill was done, but when it was over he was sent home to live in a community and to raise his family in a community that, still today, pays the highest prices for electricity of anywhere else in the Province – still today.

He got the job. Don't talk to me about the jobs, because I have seen it. We have seen it in other generations. I have seen it in my father's generation, and so have the people of Labrador West, and so have the people of Happy Valley-Goose Bay who worked on that project, but when it was over that was it. That was your reward. That was your benefit from this project.

Mr. Speaker, sad news for the minister opposite: she has more webs to wiggle her way out of than running a transmission line through Gros Morne Park. She has more webs than that to wiggle her way out of before she gets a transmission line for the Lower Churchill, I say to the minister. I can guarantee you, I have been reading what has been said on the Northern Peninsula. I have been talking to not only the municipal leaders on the Northern Peninsula, but I have been talking to a lot of environmentalists who live there. I have been talking to a lot of tourism operators, and I have been talking to individual businesses and individual people. I can tell you that they are not happy with the plan that government is proposing, a plan that is going to run a line right up through one of the most national historic properties in this Province, one that has been the landmark attraction for the tourism industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, one of the biggest icons and catalysts for development of the industry in Western Newfoundland and the Northern Peninsula for the last twenty years.

Mr. Speaker, that is only going to be one little tangle for the minister to get through, one little tangle. The big tangles are going to come when they have to start raising the money to build the line across the Province and across the Strait of Belle Isle and across the Gulf of St. Lawrence and down through the Atlantic Provinces. There is going to be the tangled web for the minister to manage her way through, as she tries to convince the people of the Province that it is actually feasible, that it is actually fiscally prudent and viable to do it. I cannot wait to see how she is going to climb her way up out of all of this one, Mr. Speaker.

I will tell you what I do anticipate. I do anticipate, Mr. Speaker, that at the end of the day when millions of dollars are spent, that the government will stand up and say: We tried. We tried, Mr. Speaker. We tried to bring the transmission line to the Island. We tried to bring it to Holyrood. We tried to develop it through another route, Mr. Speaker -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: - but the reality is we will have to go through Quebec. Then they will be back, Mr. Speaker, trying to get the people in Quebec and the government to talk to them again yet. They will be back yet, Mr. Speaker, but they are going to go on their knees this time because Quebec is way ahead of them. Quebec is way ahead of them, Mr. Speaker. Quebec is already developing hydro power on their own rivers. They are a lot further along, Mr. Speaker, than even the government opposite is. We will see the Romaine River developed, I am sure, ever bit as quickly as this government will figure out how they are fiscally, prudently, getting the line through the Island of Newfoundland and across the Strait of Bell Isle and across the Gulf of St. Lawrence and down through Atlantic Canada. On top of that, Mr. Speaker, they have no one to buy the power yet. We have the agreement they signed with Rhode Island. We have the agreement. It is absolutely pathetic, Mr. Speaker. I should have brought it down to the House of Assembly with me, because we asked for the agreement with Rhode Island for the purchase of power and were refused it by the government. We were refused it. We cannot give it to you. It is a confidential document. Well guess what, Mr. Speaker? We called up the government of Rhode Island and we had it sent to us on our fax machine. That is how confidential the agreement was that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador had to hide it. They had to hide it away, shuffle it in under some big filing cabinet, probably with the report they received on mental health services five years ago. They shuffled it away somewhere, Mr. Speaker. So we called up the government of the State of Rhode Island. We had the agreement that was signed with the provincial government faxed down and there was nothing in it, Mr. Speaker, nothing in it whatsoever.

This is a government who went out and made a big PR issue over signing an agreement with Rhode Island, that was a couple of paragraphs that said if and when you ever develop a power project in Newfoundland and Labrador we may - we may - be open to purchase power. That was their big agreement with Rhode Island, Mr. Speaker. Absolutely pathetic and ridiculous, and we have to hide that. We cannot give that to the public. That is a private agreement. That is a private document, Mr. Speaker. I could not believe it. I could not believe the fanfare that they created over it. The sudden hush-hush around it, the confidentiality, and we get the State of Rhode Island to send it up to us on our fax machine, Mr. Speaker. That is the reality of it.

This is how this government likes to play things up. This is how they like to mislead people into thinking that we are on top of it; we have everything in our grip and our grasp. We know where we are going, and we are doing it for you. Well, Mr. Speaker, most of it is fluff, and you do not have to look very far to see how shallow some of it really is. That was one perfect example.

I sat down in my office that day when the agreement came in from Rhode Island, and I shook my head so much that I thought it was going to fall off, Mr. Speaker. I thought it was going to fall off, because between the shaking and the laughing I could not get over that the government came back from Rhode Island, the Premier marches in, the minister marches in: We have an agreement signed with the State of Rhode Island on the power on the Lower Churchill, Mr. Speaker.

Two paragraphs: If we develop it, we may buy power. That is exactly what it says, Mr. Speaker. No agreement whatsoever. It is all fluff, all fluff. I am sure Nova Scotia would sign one tomorrow. New Brunswick would sign one. Quebec would sign one. Ontario would sign one. Every state on the Eastern Seaboard would sign one, but what does it mean? It means absolutely nothing. It means that there is no agreement. It means that there are no secure markets negotiated, and it means that this government, at this stage, does not even know if it going to be feasible to develop the project in the way that they are absolutely laying it out for the people of the Province. That is the kind of stuff, Mr. Speaker, that you hear from the government opposite.

Anyway, I started out talking about Confederation. I got sidetracked on the Upper Churchill and the Lower Churchill project, Mr. Speaker, but I am going to talk about the Lower Churchill project tomorrow. I am not going to get into it too much today.

I have an hour tomorrow and I am going to get into it, but what I am going to get into before I finish today is the situation with the nurses in the Province. Because, Mr. Speaker, I could not believe the other day, in the Budget Speech, when the minister stood up said, "I am going to do something right here that I am told is not normal."

Well, Mr. Speaker, I do not expect a lot of normality out of the Minister of Finance, in fact, but I never expected for him to say what he said and to do as he said. He said I am going to speak without a script now. It is not scripted. It is not in the Budget Speech, and it is the ultimatum for nurses.

Now get this, Mr. Speaker, the head of the Nurses' Union shows up in Confederation Building on Budget Day, like every other group and organization in the Province. She shows up to hear the details of the Budget. While she is here to listen to the details of the Budget she is handed a yellow envelope and she is told: these are the preconditions for our bargaining negotiations.

Now that might not sound all that extreme. It might sound like there is not too much wrong with it, except you have to know the history. You have to know the history behind this. The history is this: the Nurses' Union wanted to go back to the bargaining table and they wanted to go back with no preconditions attached. Before they went out with their strike vote the head of the Nurses' Union gave the government the courtesy of saying, before we launch a strike vote in this Province, do you want to go back to the negotiating table? Do you want to go back and bargain with nurses to preserve the integrity of our health care system to ensure that we do not have to shut down the system to the demise of patients of the Province – at risk to the patients of the Province, I should say?

Mr. Speaker, she waited for a response from the government and she put them on notice. She said: listen, we are going to start our strike vote. If you want to go back to the bargaining table with no preconditions, I want an answer before our strike vote starts. Well, Mr. Speaker, on February 9 there was no response from the government. That was the day the strike vote was about to start. So the Nurses' Union launched their strike vote on February 9 across the Province and only four days later, on February 13, the Minister of Finance comes out, calls a press conference out here, outside the doors, all in his glory and he says: We are now prepared to go back to the table with nurses with no preconditions.

Now how insulting is that, Mr. Speaker? After being given notice by the nurses, after being given the courtesy of saying we have our strike vote on February 9, we are prepared to go back to the table and postpone our strike vote but you have to let us know by Monday, February 9. Well, they did not let them know by Monday, February 9. They waited until the strike vote had started. They waited until it had started because they knew then that they could not stop midway through a strike vote, they had to continue on. Then they go out, calls a press conference late in the afternoon, goes before the microphones, the Minister of Finance does and says: Okay, now we are ready to bargain with the nurses. We do not care that you already started your strike vote. We do not care that you told us we had to let you know four days ago. We are letting you know today.

That was the attitude, Mr. Speaker. That was the attitude. It was an attitude that was meant to make nurses angry in my opinion. It was an attitude that was meant to foster disrespect, which is what they were shown. But, Mr. Speaker, the nurses did go ahead. They did go ahead with their strike vote, but what they did say to the government is: Listen, we will go back to the bargaining table. As soon as our strike vote is completed we are prepared to go back to the bargaining table with no preconditions because we want to sort this problem out. We want to avoid a strike in our health care system. We want to avoid putting patients through that misery, but if we have to do it to strengthen the health care system then we will, but we want to avoid it. So let us get our strike vote out of the way and we will go back to the bargaining table. That was the opinion, and it was very public. I have all of the comments here.

Then, Mr. Speaker, the nurses proceeded to have their strike vote. They got an overwhelming support. In Central Newfoundland, the day I was there and the CEO who happens to be affiliated with the Conservative government tried to kick me out of the hospital out there. It was that day that the nurses' vote was going on, and guess what? Ninety percent of the nurses voted to strike. In the Eastern Health area, over 90 per cent of the nurses voted to strike. In Western, nearly 87 per cent of the nurses voted to strike, and in Labrador 87 per cent of the nurses voted to strike.

So, why is it that only a few days – because I think it is on Thursday they actually go back to the bargaining table with nurses. Why is it that after all of that, that only a few days before nurses were expected to go back in good faith to bargain with the government with no preconditions that the Minister of Finance had to go unscripted in the House of Assembly and lay out: this is what we are prepared to give nurses? Where is the government that keeps its word here? It is absolutely sickening! This is a government who everyday talks about the federal government not keeping their word to the people of the Province, not owning up to its commitments to the people of the Province. This is a government who goes out and says to nurses, one of the most critical bargaining groups that are left in the Province to settle with, one of the groups that are critical to the entire health care system and the health of the people of this Province, and they make a commitment to them that there will be no preconditions for negotiations, and right before they get to the negotiating table they pull the rug out from under them and say: No, I am not going to honour my word now. These are the preconditions. This is what we are willing to give you. We just laid it all out for you. We are willing to give you steps increases, we are willing to give you this, we are willing to give you that.

Well, it is not about what you are willing or not willing to give. It is about showing respect; respect to the bargaining process, respect to the nurses in this Province, respect to the people of the Province for honouring a process that is in place. So don't let me hear you talk about the federal government breaking its word, not honouring its commitments, when you have just done the very same thing to nurses in the Province by telling them you would go back without preconditions and then, all of a sudden, going out and laying out all the conditions of negotiations.

Do you know what the minister had to say when they asked him about it? Here is the headline: I thought they would be happy. That was his comment: I thought they would be happy. Well that just speaks of the shallow thinking and the arrogance that is being shown by that minister in making a statement like that: I thought they would be happy. Did you ever think to ask them? Did you ever think to talk to them? No, because we do not talk to each other. We are told what to do. We instruct people what to do. We don't talk to each other. Why would I talk to the nurses? I thought they would be happy. Why did I have to go talk to them? They would be happy that I broke my commitment, that I broke my word?

Mr. Speaker, they are so familiar as a government with managing the puppet MHAs in the caucus, not allowing them to have a voice for their constituents and for their districts that they think they can manage everybody else in the Province in that way. They often forget that the public is not quite as fickle.

I think it is ridiculous that the Minister of Finance and the Premier would make such a commitment to the nurses in this Province and then turn around and break their word. It is not the first time that we have seen it. We have seen it with other incidences.

Mr. Speaker, nurses were not too happy. It was not only Debbie Forward, the head of the Nurses' Union, who came out with an overwhelming support for a strike from her union, despite the fact that the government tried to force her to a wall. Despite the fact they tried to really make her look weak as a union leader, she came out with an overwhelming support and majority vote from her membership showing they see the strength in her leadership, showing that they support the position that she has taken on their behalf, and supporting her in carrying forward with the negotiations.

Mr. Speaker, I have had lots of e-mails from nurses and I am going to read one of them. I do not normally read a lot of these e-mails in the House of Assembly, but there are a couple of quotes in this one I am going to read, because there are nurses out there - this one nurse, at least, has the guts and the courage to tell the government opposite how they feel. A lot of them may not, but this is one that certainly does. She said that she believes that the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses' Union is being dealt with in this manner because it is predominately female, and our work is still not respected or valued. It surprises me that not one of the women in your caucus is insulted by these tactics.

Mr. Speaker, they are pretty strong comments. Even I would not say those comments, Mr. Speaker. They are pretty strong comments, and they are the comments of a nurse in this Province who really feels that she is being treated disrespectfully by this government. In fact, she voted for the Williams' government, she says in her letter, and she voted for the Member for Kilbride. Mr. Speaker, she says it is the last time she will give her support, because she is a nurse and a woman - and my gender and the work that I do deserve to be valued and treated with respect.

Mr. Speaker, there are nurses that are very upset by the games and tactics that have been played by this government.

AN HON. MEMBER: Table it.

MS JONES: I do not need to table it, because you all have a copy of it. It was sent to you all.

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of things that I wanted to do before I sit down. I do have to move a sub-amendment but, in addition to that, I want to speak a minute on the addiction services for Grand Falls-Windsor, because I have never said that I disagree with the addictions service facility going in Grand Falls-Windsor. What I said, Mr. Speaker, and I will get the transcript - I have it ordered -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

MS JONES: What I have said, Mr. Speaker, is that I think that government made the decision based on the economic circumstance in Grand Falls-Windsor and not based on serving the people who need addiction services.

Mr. Speaker, I challenge the government to show me the numbers on addiction services. Show me the recruitment trends for the professionals for this facility. Do you know right now, today, that the psychiatrist in Grand Falls-Windsor has left, Mr. Speaker?

I wanted to clarify that, Mr. Speaker, and I only have fifty seconds left so I have to move the amendment, which is seconded by the Member for Port de Grave: that it be amended by changing the period at the end of thereof to a comma, and by adding immediately thereafter the following words: "and that this House also condemns the government for its failure to present a budget that reflects the possibilities which exist in terms of addressing the needs of the people and dealing with problems such as: the financial crisis in municipalities, medical travel assistance, retirement package for fisherpersons and plant workers, the special needs of some school students, and the extension of 911 service."

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has not had an opportunity to read the sub-amendment as put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, so the House will take a brief recess.

I ask members, since the clock reads 5:28 p.m., if we need an extra minute or two minutes, to stop the clock at 5:30 p.m. so that they might deal with the amendment as put forward.

Are members in agreement?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

MR. SPEAKER: This House now stands recessed.

Recess

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

The sub-amendment as put forward by the hon. the Opposition House Leader and seconded by the Member for Port de Grave reads that the amendment be amended by changing the period at the end of thereof to a comma, and by adding immediately thereafter, the following words;

"and that this House also condemns the government for its failure to present a budget that reflects the possibilities which exist in terms of addressing the needs of the people and dealing with problems such as; the financial crisis in Municipalities, medical travel assistance, retirement packages for fisherpersons and plant workers, the special needs of some school students, and the extension of a 911 service."

The Chair deems this sub-amendment to be in order.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, by leave, I would like to make some amendments to the motions of March 30, referring the Estimates to the Standing Committees.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Leave.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move that the motion referring the Estimates to the Standing Committees be withdrawn and the following substituted:

That the following Estimates be referred to the Resource Committee: Business, Environment and Conservation, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, Newfoundland and Labrador Research Development Council, Rural Secretariat, Natural Resources, Women's Policy, Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

That the following Estimates be referred to the Government Services Committee: Finance, Public Service Commission, Office of the Chief Information Office, Government Services, Government Purchasing Agency, Transportation and Works, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs, Intergovernmental Affairs, Volunteer and the Non-Profit Secretariat.

And that the following Estimates be referred to the Social Services Committee: Human Resources, Labour and Employment, Municipal Affairs, Justice, Education, and Health and Community Services.

And, Mr. Speaker, I would also like to note that this evening the Resource Committee will review the Estimates of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation in the Assembly Chamber after the House closes.

On tomorrow, April 1, the Resource Committee will meet in the House at 9:00 a.m. to review the Estimates of the Department of Business, and tomorrow afternoon the Government Services Committee will meet in the House to review the Estimates of the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Volunteer and Non-Profit Secretariat.

Further to that, Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded the hon. Minister of Natural Resources that the House do now adjourn.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Before I recognize the hon. member on a point of order, members have all had a chance to hear the motion as put forward by the hon. Government House Leader with the committee structure.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

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

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

Just a point of clarification really with the Government House Leader. I thought I heard her say that tomorrow evening it was going to be Government Services, whereas it is my understanding, and according to the list I have, it is Intergovernmental Affairs. I just need some clarification on that.

MS BURKE: (Inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I thought you said Government Services, but it says –

MS BURKE: No, Government Service Committee, Intergovernmental Affairs will be (inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Okay, thank you, no problem.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is properly moved and seconded that this House do now adjourn.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

This House now stands adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow being Private Members' Day.

This House is now adjourned.

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