April 30, 2009            HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS               Vol. XLVI   No. 13


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 Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South; the hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave; the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North; and the hon. the Member for the District of Kilbride.

The hon. the Member for the District of Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate Miss Courtney Woodford of Triton, for taking home the Miss Talent title for the second year in a row, while competing in the Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador pageant.

Ms Woodford is a Level II student at Dorset Collegiate and has competed in several other pageants in the past few years.

These young ladies are judged on personality, academics, fitness, public speaking ability and on stage casual and evening wear competitions, of which Miss Woodford placed fourth.

Her goal from here is to attend Memorial University to obtain a Bachelor of Physical Education, along with an education degree.

I would ask all hon. members to join with me in congratulating Courtney Woodford on a job well done.

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, today I want to personally congratulate Irene Porter of Port de Grave on being awarded the Order of St. John Life Saving Award.

His Honour, the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, conducted the investiture of the Order of St. John at the Anglican Cathedral. The award was presented at this ceremony.

On September 15, 2007, Ms Porter was working at a local retirement residence as a personal care attendant when the incident occurred. She realized immediately that one of the residents was choking and could not breathe. Ms Porter, though small in stature, instantly ran to his aid. Shocked residents looked on as she came to his assistance. After one unsuccessful attempt, Irene administered a second abdominal thrust and the obstruction was dislodged. Because of her quick action, the resident soon began to breathe on his own. It was reported by the medical people that without her immediate intervention, the resident may not have survived.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in commending Irene Porter for her quick actions and for her knowledge and use of first aid in saving a life. Truly an unselfish act.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to recognize and congratulate O'Donel High School in partnering with FedEx, Tree Canada, and the City of Mount Pearl in a property enhancement program which involved tree planting and landscaping on the school grounds.

Funding for this program was provided by FedEx through Tree Canada. FedEx employees also gave generously of their own time to assist with the project. As well, consultation and equipment was offered from the City of Mount Pearl. I would be remiss if I did not mention the students of the Environmental Science class at O'Donel, as well as their parents, who gave freely of their time to ensure that this project was a success.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating all of those involved in this wonderful project of property enhancement. I would like to thank FedEx, Tree Canada, the Parks and Community Services Staff of the City of Mount Pearl, and, of course, the staff, students and parents of O'Donel High School for their dedication and hard work.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DINN: Mr. Speaker, as you know, it is important for any society to develop a strong pool of young people who can assume leadership positions. As I go throughout my district, I am always impressed by our youth who are dynamic, focused on their future and already demonstrating strong leadership abilities. Today I want to tell you about one seventeen year old woman in my district. She is Samantha Elton Taite, a Grade 12 honours student in French immersion at Bishop's College.

In 2007, Samantha was selected as one of the 100 Student Torch Champions from across Canada for the SOS-4000 Campaign for Organ Transplant and Donation. She launched this campaign from the steps of City Hall in St. John's and then travelled to Gander where she met with the town council and Premier Williams to pass the torch on to the next champion. When the campaign finished in Nunavut in 2008, Samantha was named the National Torch Champion and Media Spokesperson for this group, and in July of 2008 she travelled to Ottawa.

On the weekend of April 6, 2009, Samantha travelled to Toronto as the National Champion and Media Spokesperson to oversee the formal awards ceremony and to launch the international campaign.

Samantha is very active in her school as a member of the student council, and in 2008 she represented her school at the Provincial Student Leadership Conference. She also competed in the Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador pageant in that year and placed in the Top 10. She also spent that summer in Quebec with the YMCA Student Exchange Leadership Program and worked at in the University of Quebec - notice I did not say that in French, because my French is poor – as a day camp counsellor.

Samantha is enrolled in MUN for the fall of 2009, and with a Bronze Medallion and Bronze Cross in lifeguarding she recently secured employment with the Aquarena.

When I look at young people like Samantha, Mr. Speaker, I know our future is in good hands.

I ask all hon. members to join me in recognizing this outstanding young woman from my District of Kilbride.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, as Minister Responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities, I rise today to inform this hon. House that the Disability Policy Office is now open for business.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: I am pleased that Mary Reid has accepted the position of director of this new established office. Mary is well known and respected in the disability community. She has worked with communities and governments for over twenty-five years leading integrated inclusion initiatives.

Mary has previously held the role of executive director of the Independent Living Resource Centre in St. John's, and has been a board member with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Coalition of Persons with Disabilities, Human Rights Association Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Roeher Institute.

Mary recently returned to Newfoundland and Labrador, and we are happy to bring her back to Newfoundland and Labrador, to accept the position of Director of the Disability Policy Office following four years of similar work in another province.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment is excited to see the establishment of the Disability Policy Office, and to take a lead role in developing and implementing a government-wide strategy for the inclusion of persons with disabilities. In keeping with the provincial government's commitment for citizen engagement, we will undertake an extensive community consultation where we will seek direction on how we can best achieve inclusion for all citizens regardless of disability.

In addition, to ensure that we work in collaboration and address barriers across all departments and agencies of government, we will establish a number of committees. These will include a committee of ministers, a deputies committee, and an interdepartmental working group.

Finally, in the near future, a call will go forward for Expressions of Interest to participate on a new Advisory Council for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. This advisory council will be instrumental in accessing guidance from the experts; that is from people who have disabilities themselves.

Mr. Speaker, the Disability Policy Office will be a focal point for all of government, providing policy leadership to achieve full inclusion. The office will also work to strengthen partnerships with community agencies, business, and the public sector.

Mr. Speaker, this is a very exciting and challenging new initiative for my department. I look forward to working with persons with disabilities and their advocates towards making Newfoundland and Labrador an inclusive and accessible Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: I want to thank the Minister Responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities for an advance copy of her statement, and to say congratulations to Ms Mary Reid on accepting the position of director. As the minister stated, I have to say that she comes to this position with a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to bring to the office. It is very important, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about inclusion of persons with disabilities. I know how well it has worked in two schools in my district, in Holy Redeemer School and Ascension Collegiate, when it comes to some of the young people in that particular area.

I guess the most important statement in the minister's statement is that the people with the experience, the expertise, the people with disabilities themselves, will be serving on the advisory council. That is very important because, I can assure you, there are many issues that they will bring forward - whether it is accessibility to buildings. I know people who complain often about travelling across our Island, about accessibility to washroom facilities. They find it very difficult. We also heard concerns recently about our various ferry services.

I think it is a great thing, Mr. Speaker, this announcement, to know that the office is open, and I want to wish Ms Reid every success in her role as director.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I, too, thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement and I am very pleased to join with others in congratulating Mary Reid on her new position. We all know that she brings a great deal of experience and knowledge, as the minister's statement has pointed out, and I think will give real leadership in this new division that has finally been put in place.

I do encourage the minister that, as well as setting up this division, government must provide also adequate financial supports for people who cannot work because of their disabilities. I encourage the new office to actively seek input from people with disabilities for solutions aimed at eliminating disability-based discrimination and poverty, because poverty is much higher among people with disabilities, especially women with disabilities, than it is for the general population.

I also hope that this government will invest more in employment programs that allow people with disabilities to work without losing government support payments as they do that.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers.

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today on behalf of my colleague, the hon. Clyde Jackman, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, to inform members of an exciting new development in the Newfoundland and Labrador film industry.

The Canadian Broadcast Corporation recently approved its upcoming television season lineup and confirmed that a one-hour father-son police drama entitled Republic of Doyle, will be among the new shows featured next year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Republic of Doyle is one of the biggest budget television series ever produced in Canada, and the twelve episodes commissioned to date will be filmed right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, this is an unprecedented opportunity for our film industry, and for film industry workers in this Province. We recognized this when the producers approached us last year with a view of securing our financial support in making the television series a reality.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has committed $1.5 million in film equity funding to the project in Budget 2009 to ensure this Province accrues the maximum benefits from this television production. The size of this production will also enable producers to avail of approximately $3 million through the Newfoundland and Labrador Film and Video Tax Credit.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, the direct commitment from the provincial government in Republic of Doyle is $4.5 million -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: - with economic spin-off activities estimated to result in about $11.3 million in benefits to the local economy.

This is an investment that will reap both tangible and intangible benefits. Since Republic of Doyle is produced and written out of Newfoundland and Labrador, the opportunity for talent development is significant. The show's producers intend to hire key crew, cast and other creative partners who are based in this Province.

Newfoundland and Labrador professional film artists will be given the opportunity to develop substantial credentials and expertise and, as an added bonus, with filming taking place in St. John's, this is an extraordinary opportunity to showcase the capital city, and indeed the entire Province, to the rest of country and indeed the world.

Mr. Speaker, we are very excited about this project. Filming is expected to begin this summer, and we intend to make a further announcement at that time, with the producing partners, to provide more details on this initiative.

I certainly invite my colleagues to celebrate with us this milestone in the development of the growing film sector.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

It looks like we here in Newfoundland and Labrador have it going and coming. We have this film as the minister alluded to here; we have Alan Doyle in Great Big Sea going off to perform in Russell Crowe's major motion production outside of the Province; and now this new production, of course, Republic of Doyle. I do not know if there is any relation between Alan Doyle and the Republic of Doyle referenced here, but it is certainly good to see. Whether it is a cultural event, whether it is an historical type of event, all of these events and initiatives that are sponsored by governments, of course, attract people to this Province. Whether it is the ECMAs or the Junos which are coming here next year, all of that gives an opportunity to either showcase this Province, bring money into this Province, give people employment in this Province, and let people experience and gain skills at the same time.

We have a long history, of course, when it comes to the film industry. We have had Random Passage, we have had Rare Birds, we have had Red Door - The Shipping News was made here - all of which have contributed significantly to the economy here and to the skills development of our film community and the people involved in it. We can even go back further than that. We go back to The Rowdyman days and we go back to Orca which was made sometime twenty-odd, thirty years ago.

We have had a long history, and we congratulate government for continuing with efforts to support these types of ventures. There are indeed positive spin-offs in a lot of ways, whether it is in terms of hospitality and showcasing the Province, in terms of talent development and the economic spin-offs, so we encourage the minister to keep up the good work in this regard.

Thank you.

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

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

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

I got a bit of a start, because I knew I was speaking to Tourism and Culture and I hadn't read the title that the Minister of Fisheries was presenting. When I heard that the Minister of Fisheries was standing up, I said, oh, my goodness, and I kept looking through my papers to see what I had to respond to. Now I know that you are speaking for the Minister of Culture, so thank you. I got a bit of a start.

In the Estimates a couple of weeks ago we learned that government had put a large part of money aside for a special project for the film industry, and at that time the minister couldn't, I guess, for whatever reason, say. So I am glad to know what the special project is. I think this really is very important.

It is good to see CBC choosing Newfoundland and Labrador once again, because when we had our own production services in the CBC television studio years ago, back in the 1970s and 1980s, we were nation-wide then in the productions that were being put on here in Newfoundland and Labrador. I am hoping that this will see CBC choosing us more frequently. I know that the government would continue to put money into those kinds of ventures, if CBC does that.

I also encourage government to continue to invest, and I would hope in the next Budget to invest more, in our Arts Council, because it is through funding of our Arts Council that we are giving money to people who are at the beginning of their careers and who do the much needed work, the spade work, with people here in our Province that brings us to the point that we are at today.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Statements by Ministers.

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

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

My first questions are for the Minister of Health.

We notice, Minister, that just before the House started here you had a news conference this afternoon advising people of the situation regarding our state of preparedness with respect to the swine flu, that epidemic - we are Level 5, shall we say, at this point -that is on the go. That is certainly welcome news, of course.

You did mention in the course of that news conference the fact that we were prepared, as best we could be, and you referenced regional committees and so on.

My first question is: According to the government's pandemic planning document, there is supposed to be established a pre-pandemic phase, a provincial pandemic committee, and several regional committees. I am just wondering if the committees that you referenced outside in your news conference were indeed the committees that were established regionally pursuant to that document, or are they committees established particularly to deal with that swine flu pandemic that is ongoing now.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This discussion around a pandemic has been on the go for quite some time, and as a government we have been very proactive dating back, I think it was 2005 and 2006 particularly, we made significant investments to prepare ourselves for what might become some day a pandemic.

What I was referencing outside the House after, Mr. Speaker, was a reference of our provincial strategy, nothing to do with the swine flu outbreak that we are dealing with right now, but our preparedness for pandemic, period.

The investments we made over the last two or three years reflect that kind of infrastructure, that kind of planning structure, that kind of committee structure that exists, both provincially and through each of our four regional health authorities. My reference earlier was clearly around an overall structure to deal with the swine flu today, yes, but anything else that might happen in the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, according to government's pandemic planning documents, government assumes that the peak impact on this Province of a pandemic would be within two to four months of the pandemic arriving in Canada. That means the pandemic that we are possibly talking about right now, which the World Health Organization is suggesting is imminent, that pandemic might fall smack in the middle of a nurses' strike.

What contingency plans does government have in place to address the realities of the swine flu pandemic during any potential strike that we might have regarding the nurses, because that was not alluded to in a news conference today?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to separate two things here, and it is also important to use as we make reference to pandemics. Right now, today, there is a six stage process the World Health Organization goes through. So we do not actually have a pandemic until we get to that final stage. So we are not referencing the fact that we have a pandemic today. I think that is clear for the public to better understand that particular piece.

The second thing that the question talks about in terms of our state of readiness should there be a strike or should there be some other event taking place in our Province at that particular time. The pandemic planning that we are talking about maps out a response to manage what might be an influenza outbreak at some point in time, and if it becomes a stage six where we have a true pandemic then we have an action plan to deal with that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his response.

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In the event that there is a work stoppage and nurses in the Province choose some time next week that they are going to actually go on strike then we have a contingency plan worked through, in some cases with the union, as to how we might provide emergency services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I do not know where the minister is getting his timelines, but I personally watched the World Health Organization announcement last night and the word: eminent, is not my word. The word imminent is put out by the chief doctor who is heading the World Health Organization on this issue, and it was her wording that the pandemic is imminent. So, to talk even in terms of days or next week what we are going to do – that is why I raised the question, because it is their wording, not ours.

Mr. Speaker, with no infectious disease specialist currently working in the Province – and I would think that would be a very important specialty in the case of a pandemic – what impact will this have on patients should an outbreak take place, because you already indicated we are, in fact, doing testing in this Province, as we speak, for some people who are suspected of maybe having this?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Just to speak to the point that the member raised in his own commentary around where we are. The first five stages is a state of readiness.

We have been on a state of readiness for quite some time. In fact, the state of readiness started several years ago when we started to plan for a pandemic, which was the structure that I referenced earlier in my question.

To say, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the infectious disease specialist, I said earlier, in response to a question by the media, it would be in an ideal circumstance, we would love to have an infectious disease specialist. In fact, we are recruiting for them, as I have mentioned in this House many times. In fact, we are recruiting for the second and the third, I say, Mr. Speaker.

Within the absence, though, of having someone like that here, one of the things that is really important when you start talking about pandemic, you have the resources of the World Health Organization, you have the resources of the Public Health Agency of Canada, and we have been working very closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada, together with all other provinces.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Just before Christmas, in the last sitting of this House, the Minister of Natural Resources committed to looking into potential financial irregularities at the Chicken Marketing Board, that were reported to our office, and we raised it in questions.

Our sources told us at that time that a forensic audit was taking place, but to date, we did not receive a response from the minister. I understand that you have now received a forensic audit. Could you tell us who, in fact, prepared the audit, and are you in a position to release the results of the audit at this time?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for the Forestry and Agrifood Agency.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to divulge the name of his source. It is the Leader of the Opposition, and I gave her that information in Estimates, earlier this week, that these actions had been taken. We told her that the report had been received, although I had not been briefed at this point in time.

Mr. Speaker, the Chicken Marketing Board was audited on a regular basis. There were some questions raised in this House that there might be some irregularities there. We went to an outside agency and asked them to come in and do an audit again. They told us they would not do so unless they had some evidence of wrongdoing, and there was none, so we came internal to government, had the audit done, and I am happy to report to the House, Mr. Speaker, that there are no irregularities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

The minister must surely have a problem with timelines because she did her Estimates on Monday night of this week with the Leader of the Opposition. My questions were asked in this House of the minister last December. That is the source to which I refer, that told us there was indeed a forensic audit being done, which you denied at the time and you said you would check it out and get back, which the minister failed to do, and has not done now until it was taken out of her and pried out of her in the Estimates Committees again.

Mr. Speaker, the people who contacted our office certainly believe - and this was back in December - the people who contacted our office and provided the information back in December had very good information that there were financial irregularities. These people made significant allegations.

I ask the minister: Can you confirm that anyone in your office was, in fact, dismissed as a result of what happened involving this matter?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for the Agrifoods Agency.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, when these issues were raised here in the House of Assembly, we went back and we checked into the issue and we took the appropriate action. We have done an investigation. There are no irregularities to report, Mr. Speaker, unlike – given the discussion that we had yesterday - when irregularities were reported to the Minister of Justice back in 2000, he kicked the Auditor General out of the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

A very timely question of reference because my next question indeed talks about the Auditor General. Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to see that the department did go off and do the audit as a result of our questions. She obviously had not done it herself.

Mr. Speaker, we understand that the Auditor General, as well - besides the forensic audit, we understand that the Auditor General as well - is currently doing, or recently did, an investigation involving the Chicken Marketing Board.

I ask the minister: Can you confirm that this is indeed correct, whether the Auditor General recently did a review, if the review is completed, and, if so, are you in a position and would you table his findings?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister Responsible for the Agrifoods Agency.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I do not do a regular check on what the Auditor General is doing. He audits departments and the work of government on a regular basis. I can tell you this, Mr. Speaker: It has not been brought to my attention that the Auditor General has any issues around accounting or auditing with the Chicken Marketing Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I guess that means, Mr. Speaker, he is in there.

Mr. Speaker, my next question – I will move on to another topic here - our federal regional minister, Minister MacKay, announced today $136 million in funding that will ensure that Halifax is the Atlantic Gateway. Unfortunately, our Province has lost out once again. Minister MacKay stated in a news release that this funding will allow Halifax to play their role as a major trade gateway to the world.

I ask the Premier: What recent discussions have you had with Minister MacKay and the federal government regarding our Province's position as the Atlantic Gateway, and were you advised that this funding announcement would be coming today?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to Minister MacKay probably three or four times in the last six weeks and raised all kinds of issues with him: cost-shared funding through transportation and works. We talked about the Gateway. We have talked about all kinds of other projects, kept a constant dialogue going. He did not phone me up today to tell me that this announcement was made, nor would I expect him to, but we have made all appropriate submissions to the federal government. We are maintaining a dialogue with them. If they choose not to fund us at this particular point in time we couldn't care less, quite frankly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Minister MacKay, in his words, stated that it was thanks to the strong relationship between the federal and Nova Scotian governments that communities in that province will see the benefits of the Atlantic Gateway that will allow them to remain competitive and prosperous.

I ask the Premier: Is this another instance where the poor state of federal-provincial relations is costing the people of this Province new money and investment from the federal government?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: This is a situation, Mr. Speaker, whereby we were promised $10 billion from the federal government. They refused to provide that to us, so we took issue with it and we stood up on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador; because with that kind of money we could have paid off our entire debt. They subsequently turned around during the last Budget and basically took away $1 billion to $1.5 billion from us.

On that basis, we are not prepared to turn around and kiss the backsides of the federal government under any circumstances. If that means that we have bad federal-provincial relations, then so be it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Nobody is talking about kissing backsides. We are talking about doing your job, whether you are a Premier or a minister.

I say to the Premier: You alluded to the fact that you have had several conversations with Mr. McKay in the last six weeks. Has there been any discussions between you or any of your ministers with regard to the Atlantic Gateway that we could look forward to seeing some money coming here, or are the state of affairs, in fact, so bad that there is no conversation even ongoing in that regard?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I can only tell you that I have had several discussions with the minister. I have had meetings with the minister. My ministers have had meetings with counterparts and that minister. We have done everything appropriate from our perspective to ensure that we have basically covered ourselves to make sure that we represented on behalf of the people of the Province.

Now I come back to the other principle. We can only go so far. If these people are going to abuse the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, if they are going to slap us in the face, there is nothing we can do about that. What we did do is we conducted a very successful ABC campaign, which ensured that these clowns did not end up with a majority government across this country. As a result of that, they do not have a majority government. Hopefully, there will be an election and they will be kicked out of office. That is our goal. Then we will see where it goes there, and we will see what Mr. Ignatieff or Mr. Layton can do for us at the end of the day.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, we went through the Cameron Inquiry which promised improvements in cancer care data bases and communication protocols. After going through all of that in February we were astounded when we learned of a case of a lady who went seven months without the results of a positive cancer testing. In the past few days, we have learned of two more cases where people are not receiving timely information regarding their cancer diagnosis. It is very clear that people are still falling through the cracks.

Minister, with all of your promises for improvements in the system, why are patients experiencing these communications problems still?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: I cannot defend the story in the paper today, for example, about the test results that were not communicated to patients. That is totally unacceptable. That is something that we as a government will ever condone; not something we condone of our employees, not something we condone of each of our health authorities.

The investments we have made in health care in the last three to four years particularly have been significant. The recommendations that came out of Cameron and the taskforce on adverse health events, we have made a commitment to, in fact, implement those recommendations. I made a commitment to this House during this session. I tabled the action plan that maps out our process to ensure that we have all of those recommendations implemented, all with the view of commitment to implement the recommendations, the investments we have made, the energies we have put into improving our health system are all with the view of making some improvements to ensure that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have a quality health system.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, despite all the investments that the minister talks about having made and the activities and relationships talked back and forth between his department and Eastern Health, the most recent cases of diagnosis delays should have been picked up if the appropriate oversight measures were in place.

I ask the minister: When are these oversight procedures - which you have known for some time obviously cannot be working because these things keep happening. When are the oversight procedures finally going to be implemented to protect patients?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: The recommendations to deal with oversights coming out of those two reports, some of them have been implemented, some are in process.

One of the things that is very difficult to do, Mr. Speaker, is to have full control over the actions of individual employees on a day-to-day basis. Those recent examples that have hit the media, and there has been some discussion about it in the public domain. If you trace it back, to tie it back to the individual performance of individuals who work within the authorities, one of the things that is very difficult to do with processes and procedures is to actually monitor and govern the day-to-day actions and the individual actions and functions of each individual employee on a day-to-day basis.

In a broad way, oversight processes are in place to detect trends, problems in process to ensure that there are improvements made, but the day-to-day actions of individual employees are extremely difficult to police. I want to make sure though, Mr. Speaker –

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

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

My next question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Mr. Speaker, there is a growing concern in the fishing industry that a dispute regarding prices for lobsters and crab could threaten both industries this coming season. The minister, in fact, was supposed to speak on The Fisheries Broadcast yesterday to address this issue, but apparently he says he was in the House until 5:00 p.m.

I ask the minister: Is the crab and lobster fishing industry in jeopardy, and what is government, particularly your department, doing to assist in finding some solutions?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: He was not here at 5:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, again, I take a little bit exception. I was here until 4:45 p.m., by the time I got back to my office it was well past 5:00 p.m., plus I had a personal thing that I had to address after the House yesterday, which is of no business to him. So I will bring it up. Like I said, if you are going to go there, I will go there as well. My business is my business and when I can share it I will, but I am telling you right now is that you have gone over the line on that one. Absolutely! I say too, not the first time, and I am getting kind of tired of it. I am getting a little bit tired of it.

Mr. Speaker, all I can say is, we are doing, again, the due diligence we should be doing, supporting the fishing industry and making sure that all the intelligence is done so that the price setting board can make the decision that is absolutely necessary at this particular time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I struck a nerve that time.

Mr. Speaker, we have spoken with harvesters, crew members, and plant workers who are concerned that the pricing impasse could impact their livelihoods, obviously.

I ask the minister: What contingency plans, if any, are in place to help protect the workers who might get caught in the middle of this controversy?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Again, Mr. Speaker, we are into a situation right now where there is no doubt the world economy is having a traumatic impact on the markets with regard to fish. We are in the middle of this and we are working as hard as we can, as a government.

I also say, Mr. Speaker, that on the harvesting side, on the processing side, and with regard to the price setting board, we are all working diligently to try to find our way out of this. Again, we are not going to leave anyone high and dry. We are going to do what we can in order to assist, whether it is plant workers, whether it is harvesters, or whether it is processors, to make sure that this industry, which is most important to this Province, is the industry that it should be.

Again, there are factors that we are dealing with right now that are far beyond our control, but we are trying to deal with them as best we can, and we will find a way, 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.

Yesterday, the Minister of Environment responded to our concerns about the drastic decline of the woodland caribou by stating, our questions were making her hungry, and I hope I can get through my questions today without causing that to happen again.

In 1996, the habitat study on woodland caribou in Jasper National Park stated that the use of radio collars weakened caribou and caused mortality rates, and groups such as the Sierra Club and the Canadian Wildlife Federation have fashioned this practice.

Given the fact that your department is spending many dollars of the $15 million budgeted on those radio collars, has your department looked at these studies and considered the effect of the collar use on the caribou?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS POTTLE: Mr. Speaker, you can guess what I am having for supper tonight.

Anyway, there is a five-year strategy on the go to study the woodland caribou, to study the predators of those caribou. We are using the scientific information that is coming back from that to move forward, I say, Mr. Speaker. Until we get that information – and we have had a very successful year; we are only into our second year – we will use that scientific information to make our next moves.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, in response to a question yesterday, the Minister of Environment and Conservation said she has been in steady consultation with the stakeholders, but we know the outfitters in the Province are not satisfied and they staged a Save the Resource rally outside the office of the Wildlife Division over the weekend.

The hunting and fishing guide for 2009-2010 states that the department has a future plan to include stakeholders in their work, through a caribou management committee. I ask the minister: What is the status of this committee at this time?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS POTTLE: Mr. Speaker, like I said, the strategy is involving scientific information. We have had great success in the last year, and part of that were hunter education workshops. We reached all the various regions of the Province that are being studied, and we have had great participation there so we know the word is getting out, and we know that they appreciate that government is doing due diligence here and going to use the scientific information to move forward.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, we have had discussions with the Outfitters Association, the president, Mr. Cyril Pelley, who expressed concerns to us that members of his association were originally asked to participate in the caribou management committee, but that this committee quickly fell by the wayside.

I ask the minister: Why did this committee disband, and what will it be replaced by and when?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS POTTLE: My apologies, Mr. Speaker, I do not have that information but I will bring it back.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: I thank the minister for that, Mr. Speaker.

The outfitters feel that the committee was shut down due to outfitter demands that action be taken on the coyote, and more protection given to caribou calving grounds.

I ask the minister: Why is your department dismissing the observations and concerns of the outfitters?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS POTTLE: Mr. Speaker, we are only into the second year of this strategy that is gathering scientific information, and we are releasing it to the public as we get it. We are consulting with stakeholders, with the various people interested in this problem we have with woodland caribou on the Island. We are going to make our informed decision with the information that we gather from the scientific information. We have very good people on this.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, clearly, the government was caught by surprise yesterday with the extent and the kinds of letters and information that were being sent out to the widows of former Abitibi workers and to pensioners. Mr. Speaker, we were all aghast at the coldness of AbitibiBowater which left many seniors in a state of confusion and worry for their future yesterday.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier today: Would he give this House more information about government's response to the incomplete and unsatisfactory correspondence about the cancellation of the unfunded pensions?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as we know in this House, there have been a number of decisions that AbitibiBowater, as a corporate entity, has made over the last little while which have certainly been against what we would consider to be fair and reasonable to the former employees of the mill in Central Newfoundland and Labrador.

In terms of the situation as it currently exists, as I indicated yesterday, there are court proceedings happening today, as I understand it. The company is petitioning the court for a certain suspension of payments, and the union is petitioning against the company's petition to ensure that those payments continue.

After today's court proceedings, Mr. Speaker, due to the court-induced creditor protection that AbitibiBowater is under, we will have a better understanding of where all of that lies.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the workers and the families left in the wake of the shutdown of AbitibiBowater are in a state of anger, confusion, and worry for their future. Many people are saying to me how worried they are about the situation out in Grand Falls-Windsor and the whole Central area.

Mr. Speaker, will the government set up an emergency office to offer all those affected, with needed advice and consultation about the services that they may access as needed, and help in navigating the bureaucracy?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have an office set up in Grand Falls-Windsor to assist with that, as a matter of fact, the kinds of services that the former employees of AbitibiBowater have been looking for, whether it be services in terms of looking for retraining, whether it be services in terms of looking for information about pensions, about severance, whether it is about employee assistance programs, medical issues. All kinds of questions have come forward, Mr. Speaker. We have a team of people that happen to be in the Grand Falls-Windsor region. As well, we have put people in some of the other field offices that we have.

We have been in touch with many hundreds of those employees who have contacted us. We have not waited in our offices for those people to come to us, Mr. Speaker. We have actually been on the phone contacting them, to see what kind of assistance we as a government can provide. That has been a very, very productive exercise and we think we are doing good work there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I have stories of men in particular who have never walked into an office before, having to deal with people in HRLE or in Service Canada, not understanding what is being said to them, coming out, having to get friends to try to explain to them what the process is and what they are going through.

Mr. Speaker, I do not think those services are being offered. Could the minister speak more clearly to those special needs?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Mr. Speaker, let me make it perfectly clear: The people who are out there requiring assistance from this government, or looking for assistance from this government, will get it. Whether they get it in an office, whether they get it in their home, whether they get it in a union hall, wherever we need to go to provide service to the employees and the former employees, we will go and do that. We are doing that, as I said already.

There are a multitude of issues that have arisen here, that a number of these employees have come to us asking for assistance on. Some of these people have come in and have needed twenty minutes or half an hour of our time. Some of these people who we have interacted with, we have been with them for hours, and we have been with them for hours over many, many days, and we are still with them, Mr. Speaker, but the assistance is being provided. We are being told by the people we are providing the assistance to that they benefit from that, and we will continue to do that until the need is met.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The phone calls we are getting in our office are telling me that you are not reaching everybody, Mr. Minister, so I think you had better check on that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, the people affected by the mill closure need to know for their own peace of mind what plan government is bringing to the table to negotiate for the severance and unfunded pensions of the workers as well as the other assets.

I ask the Premier: When is government going to be back at the table negotiating with AbitibiBowater?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, as recently as yesterday we were in contact with the CEO of Abitibi. At that point in time we had a discussion which was a reflection of previous discussions, whereby any negotiation or any discussion or any passing of a cheque over to Abitibi would have to look out for and safeguard the interests of the workers from a severance perspective, so that severance issue is clearly on the table. It has been acknowledged by Abitibi. Now, as to whether they will dispute payment, that is a whole other issue, but from our perspective, fortunately we are in the driver's seat.

As a result of taking the action that we have taken, we hold the assets. If we had done absolutely nothing and this company had gone into an arrangement or receivership and ultimately into a bankruptcy, there would be no right to recover severance; there would be no holding of assets; there would be no cheque to be passed over, so we would not be in a position to do what we are doing. Fortunately, we did what we did.

We have already said, and the minister has already stated - both ministers have already stated - that we will be there to support the workers on severance, but we have to go through a process. We have to go through a process now whereby we have the negotiation with the company. As well, there is now a court arrangement. So anything that we do will have to be sanctioned by the court. We are going through all the proper procedures, but at the same time, we are safeguarding the interests of the workers when it comes to severance. So, I can give you that assurance.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

The time allotted for questions and answers have expired.

I refer hon. members to Question Period. The hon. Opposition House Leader referenced the presence of a member in the House of Assembly. I say to the hon. the Opposition House Leader that he knows full well that it is unparliamentarily to refer a member's presence or absence in the House of Assembly and I ask that he be guided by that in the future.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

For the record, the point that I made was that the member we are referring to is the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. The comment that I made, Mr. Speaker, was that he was not in the House, and the reason he was not in the House was because the House was not in session. It is out of order as I understand it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

The Chair has made a ruling here. I say to the hon. the Opposition House Leader -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

The Chair has made a ruling here. The Chair distinctly heard the hon. the Opposition House Leader refer to the member's absence. The House of Assembly hours are clearly shown. The House of Assembly is broadcasted on television and there is no need for anybody to reference somebody else being absent or being present in this House of Assembly, and it is certainly unparliamentarily.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motions.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Petitions

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

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

I would like to take this opportunity to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Southwestern Newfoundland, particularly the area from South Branch to Rose Blanche, but also down of course to LaPoile and Grand Bruit as well, and that is in regard to the dialysis, or lack of dialysis in that particular area.

As we have indicated, we cover off in that area about 12,000 to 15,000 people who live in the region. All of them who need dialysis services have to go to Corner Brook to get the service. Now that usually involves about three times a week. I believe there is some in Stephenville as well, I say to the hon. Government House Leader. I believe there is in Stephenville as well. Mr. Speaker, that involves at least 400 to 500 round trip kilometres for anybody who has to make that service. By the way, it is not through your usual, regular travel. It, of course, has to take you through the well-known famous Wreckhouse area.

Now we have been after the minister for ten years trying to get him to pay some attention to that particular area. The minister did in fact meet with the town council and representatives of that concern last year in Corner Brook. He told them they would get a letter from him, still waiting for the letter by the way. I talked to the minister about this some months ago. He indicated to me that he would be following up on it. I was asked as recently as yesterday, again by people who are involved with this issue, saying when are we going to get something back from the minister? We have not had a response even since last fall, six months ago.

The people in that area, as I indicated, they are prepared to raise the funds to buy the equipment. That is not an issue. There are staff in the area who are prepared to train to operate the equipment, staff who are long-term lifetime working nursing people in that particular area. They cannot understand why the government would not permit the dialysis to be done at the Charles L. LeGrow Centre in Port aux Basques if the people in that region who need it and the community are prepared to support it, are prepared to raise the funds to put the equipment there, are prepared to train the staff to operate the equipment.

We have nine or ten people at any given time who use these machines, and to do so every week of their life, it is just an onerous, onerous situation to place these people in. Not only the patients themselves, of course, but many of these people have to have people who would accompany them. So you are causing stress not only for the patients themselves but also for the parents who are involved, the children of these people who are involved. In fact, we had a situation, many situations where over the years, in ten years many people have had to leave town to move to other places simply because they could not physically, emotionally handle it any more. Not to say anything about financially, because obviously, albeit there might be some aids and supports from government to these people, it never offsets totally the cost of having to do this.

Now anybody who has had a family member affected by this type of disease, of course, knows just how dreaded it is. We look with some hope - in fact, when I heard the minister last week talking about the possibility of using home dialysis that was very positive. That was the first time that the minister indicated and the spokesperson for the association said we might be able to use that more often for more people. I thought that was very positive, felt very encouraged by that, but when we go back and check it out with the people who are currently using it, apparently these people cannot avail of that home service. There becomes a point when you cannot use the home dialysis treatment facility and equipment. Albeit, anyone who could, of course, would love to do it at home. It gets rid of the travel, it gets rid of the cost associated with the travel, and you can live a much more normal life in that situation. The home dialysis is not possible for these people at the present time. They have been waiting ten years for the minister to give some kind of answer. He has not even given an answer that is defensible, or Western Health has not given an answer that is defensible.

I realize, Mr. Speaker, my time has come to an end on this particular petition, so thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to present a petition today on behalf of the residents of Long Island with regards to a petition that they sent in pertaining to the Long Island causeway.

We know back in August of 2003 the Department of Transportation announced that they would build a causeway to Long Island. Then in January of 2004, the then minister of the time, the transport minister, announced that the Long Island causeway would be deferred until the Province became in a better financial position. I guess that is when the government took over. We have heard it said time and time again that our Province was on the verge of bankruptcy. Well, we have advanced past that stage from all the news that we have heard over the last several months.

The people on Long Island have concerns with regards to the ferry service that they have there, which they had for some twenty-five years, and they are very appreciative of the service that they had for the twenty-five years. However, they claim, and they have had the facts and figures and the research done, saying that a causeway is more feasible than even to consider any changes to the present ferry service or any new ferry or what have you. They have many issues when they talk about the concerns that they have for this causeway. Many times, in the winter in particular, when the ice comes into the area they have concerns about their children getting back and forth to school. If they had a causeway there, that would not be an issue.

We also hear talk about the issue with regards to product from the fish plant being transported to market or to other areas within the Province, and that has been an ongoing concern for the people there.

I know recently the residents of the committee have written the member for the area, the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South, and asked him to keep fighting on their behalf for a causeway, not upgraded services. They are asking that he would bring forward their concerns for a new causeway for that area.

Mr. Speaker, the petitions that we have received - we have received numerous petitions - I will be bringing them forward as time goes by, and hopefully what we are doing, we are asking this hon. House and the government to reconsider their decision, where they are saying that we will not build a causeway, and really look into the facts and figures. Over the long haul, the people of that particular area are saying that a fixed link between Long Island and Pilley's Island is the way to go in the Green Bay area.

Mr. Speaker, I present this petition on behalf of the residents.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

The hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & LaPoile, and Opposition House Leader.

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

I take this opportunity to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Ramea, Grey River and Francois with respect to the lack of medical facilities, services, being offered at the Ramea clinic.

The Ramea clinic, of course, services not only the community of Ramea but they also are responsible for doing clinics down the coast to Grey River and Francois. The site in Ramea calls for two nurse practitioners, but for some months - I believe in excess of a year or more now - we have a situation where there has only been one nurse practitioner and she had, for most of that time, absolutely no other support staff. Of course, it makes it really cumbersome because when you are down to one - that is 50 per cent of your capacity shot - it puts coastal clinics off by as much as seven or eight weeks sometimes that people cannot get to see the nurse practitioner, simply because of the lack of manpower or womanpower in having the services provided.

The health committee in Ramea have constantly been in contact in trying to deal with the officials at the Calder Health Centre in Burgeo as well as in Western, of course, because it all comes under the Western Region, to deal with this issue and the situation has not been resolved.

Now, in fairness to the people in Western, and particularly the site manager, Ms Porter, who lives in Burgeo, they have tried their darnedest to get the additional nurse practitioner, but one of the problems they are encountering is, when it comes to the attraction process, the government does have an attraction incentive whereby anybody who is from outside this Province who is a nurse practitioner would get a bonus if they come here to take up employment, but the same attraction does not apply to anyone within the Province who might, for example, leave Corner Brook to go to practice in Ramea.

What we have asked Western - and they, of course, have to go back to the minister's office to get this assurance - is, would they permit that the attraction bonus would be extended so that it is not only limited to anyone outside who might go to these rural areas, where it is difficult to attract people, but would the attraction bonus also be extended so that anyone inside the Province who is prepared for the attraction bonus – it is not a great sum of money; I think it is about $15,000 a year - would go to a place like Ramea to provide these services. Surely it is worth the additional $15,000 attraction that would be involved here.

I believe the other piece was that it was only available to new graduates, which again is very limiting when you consider that obviously a lot of new graduates today - we are doing our best, as I understand it, to try to keep them in the Province - many of these young people prefer to go to bigger centres, to stay in the capital region, to stay in Central, to stay in Corner Brook and places like that.

We understand, as well, that it is not only Ramea that is impacted by this. We understand that there is one in Stephenville, as well, that is needed. We understand that there is one needed in Corner Brook.

Now, obviously if you are missing one nurse practitioner from the complement in Corner Brook it is not as heavily felt, nor in Stephenville, for example. I believe the other one that they are one down is in Port aux Basques. There are four in the region. If you are missing one of a hundred, it is not as bad as when you are missing one of two, obviously; you are 50 per cent down in your capacity.

So, albeit they are difficult to attract, we must keep our shoulder to the wheel in trying to do this, and that is one option that we would suggest to the minister, that it might be possible to attract these people to these rural communities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, from the Order Paper, I would like to call Order 4, to conclude the second reading of a bill, An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration. (Bill 4)

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 4, An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration, be now read a second time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration. (Bill 4)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 4 has now been read a second time.

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

MS BURKE: Now, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 4)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Finance, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 4.

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

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Collins): Order, please!

The Committee is now prepared to debate Bill 4.

A bill, "An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration." (Bill 4)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Clause 1.

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

Last Monday, I do believe, Monday of this week, when we discussed this particular bill in second reading, I posed some specific questions to the minister at that time. I do not know how he would prefer to, or was going to, respond or not, because some of them, given the duration - we both spoke, I believe, for an hour, and we were long-winded, both of us, I guess - we were all over the place in some cases. I do not know how the minister would prefer to respond: to do it generically, or as we come across each section again for me to raise the issues. Because, if he has the responses I would not need to be cutting in all the time and we could move on sort of thing.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chairman, I have a couple of the questions noted that I will address, but if there are any other questions I would prefer to address them at one time.

CHAIR: The Chair reminds the House that the speaking time in Committee is ten minutes. If there are questions to be raised with regard to any one clause, they are to be raised during that speaking period as we go clause by clause.

Clause 1.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chairman, I know I have a couple of questions noted in consultation. Are there any other questions? I am going to address some of the more what I refer to as generic questions. Without reference to a specific question, are there any other questions that need to be answered?

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Not from here, Mr. Chairman.

I outlined particularly section 9 and the interaction with section 34 as one of the concerns I raised the last day. I will get to that now or when you get to section 9, whatever you prefer.

I also made mention of section 46, about the telewarrants and so on.

I also had questions about section 87, in particular about the mining act regulations and the interplay between 80 and 87, and how they might or might now impact the Voisey's Bay Statement of Principles and subsequent legislation that was passed in regard to that.

Those were basically, shall we say, the particular sections that I raised questions about.

CHAIR: The Chair suggests, then, that if the minister has some opening remarks to make that he be allowed to make them, and then any individual questions that you propose do it as we introduce that particular clause.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chair, just to make sure I have the sections – I didn't get the sections that the Opposition House Leader referred to; if he could just refer them to me again.

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

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

There is a question related to section 9 which deals with books and records, 9(1) in particular, and section 9(5) which talked about subsequent production of records, and how that interplays with section 34, which deals with the Statute of Limitations. That was that question.

The other one was section 46, dealing with telewarrants.

The third area was dealing with section – there is an interplay between section 80 and section 87.

I particularly wanted to know, what, if any, impact there would be as a result of these amendments and the earlier legislation plus contractual, plus legislative agreements that were done, i.e. the Statement of Principles in the Voisey's Bay deal.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, the first point I would like to make is that when we look at the explanatory note attached to Bill 4, it says, "The bill would consolidate the law with respect to the administration of various taxation schemes within the Province." Essentially, what this bill is meant to do is simply coordinate various bills under one act, and hopefully, as I indicated the other day, make it easier for the public, for lawyers, for accountants, to reference the various acts.

One concrete example I used, Mr. Chair, was the reference to the search or the inspection sections. Each act would normally have an inspection section but in this particular case we have all of the acts, and I outlined the ones the other day, and then we have the sections that would outline inspection and compliance.

Now, Mr. Chair, as I have indicated, this act is essentially to consolidate and to bring under one roof. One of the issues I had noted the other day, from the Opposition House Leader, was the issue of consultation. Had we consulted with various groups in terms of bringing this act together? The answer is that consultation is something that as a government we do all the time, but this is not - and I will use the example, I know that in poverty reduction there were consultations on a regular basis. I know that in some of the labour market issues, like minimum wage, there were consultations during the pre-budget consultations. Consultations are something that when required this government is certainly willing to engage in. I think right now the Human Rights Commission – that there are human rights consultations ongoing in relation to possible amendments to the act.

In this particular case, Mr. Chair, what happened was Finance officials looked at the act in terms of bringing them up to date and then justice lawyers would have looked at the act to ensure, for example, that the inspection and compliance sections complied with the charter, the requirements of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So, essentially, that is the answer to that. Is that the consultations necessary took place.

In relation to section 9, books and records: a person required to collect, withhold or remit tax shall keep and maintain books. Well, that has to be read in conjunction with section 3 of the act. Section 3 of the act is really one of the main statements of principle in the act.

Section 3.(1) says: "A taxpayer's liability for tax arises when the tax is due and continues until it is paid." Subsection (2), and this is something the Opposition House Leader would certainly be aware of: "A person who collects money by way of tax under this Act holds that money in trust for the Crown and shall pay over the money in the manner and at the time prescribed…" So, if you are going to - then subsection (3) outlines: "A person who withholds tax is liable for the tax when it is required to be withheld and that liability continues until the tax is paid over to the minister."

In order to be able to determine, Mr. Chair, whether or not the taxpayer's liability arises, well one has to be able to examine books and records. Obviously, most of us in this House, or anyone who has been involved in the running of a business, or I guess all of us in terms of running our constituency office, we have to have impeccable bookkeeping in this day and age in terms of the payment for constituency expenses, for example.

So someone has to be able to check, Mr. Chair. There has to be a way to audit to ensure compliance. In order for section 3 to have its full effect than section 9 obviously has to be read in conjunction with it, and the books and records have to be maintained.

My colleagues, the Minister of Justice and the Opposition House Leader, would know that probably the key words in all of this is in trust, because as lawyers there are two immutable principals that have to apply to us, and one of them involves trust. The first would be that of solicitor client privilege, but the second is that when monies are paid to us we hold them in trust until such time as work is completed.

I am trying to remember, I know the Minister of Justice has been in here longer than I have, but I know that the law society requires audits of trust accounts. The words: in trust, essentially mean that it is not your money. You have collected that money – as you are aware yourself from your days as a lawyer - that you collect this money on behalf of someone else. Sections 3 and 9 have to be read together.

The Opposition House Leader does raise an interesting point, Mr. Chair, and it is one of the reasons that these debates are helpful and it is one that allows us, as I went through the process the other day of how we bring in a piece of legislation. It gives the Opposition an opportunity to scrutinize the proposed legislation, to look at it and see if there are any difficulties there.

I will say, when I look at section 9.(5) of the act, which says: "A person required under this section to keep records shall keep those records until authorized by the minister to destroy them but in no case shall the records be destroyed before the expiration of 7 years..."

We have a seven year limitation there in terms of you cannot destroy without permission of the minister. That is somewhat incongruous and somewhat of an anomaly when you look at section 34, and this is something that I will talk to my officials about this afternoon, but when you look at section 34: "A complaint may be made and proceedings may be taken on it in respect of an offence under this Act without limitation of time."

Again, there may be an explanation, but at first glance there does appear to be an issue raised here. You are holding the monies in trust. In order to determine if you comply with the trust, then you have to be able to examine the books and records. Yet, you only have to keep the books and records for seven years. Meanwhile, under section 34, theoretically, ten to twelve years down the road a charge could be laid.

What I will undertake to do, Mr. Chair, when we have a little break here, is I will talk to my officials to see if there is a difficulty with that, because as I indicated the other day, one of the benefits of the debates, it allows us to look at all of this and to determine whether or not there are difficulties with the legislation. As much as I praised our legislative counsel the other day, we have seen in the past that no matter how many sets of eyes are looking at something, sometimes things can be overlooked or there can be inconsistencies or incongruencies. My preference would be, and that is the purpose of these debates, is that if there is a difficulty here I will find the answer.

Mr. Chair, the next question then was in relation to section 46, and that dealt with the telewarrant. Now, a telewarrant is, as I know you are aware and other colleagues in this House will be aware. Telewarrants are something that is a rather recent mechanism used in law to obtain search warrants, but they are quite regularly used now. They are used for – for example, they are used in breathalyser cases, if I remember correctly. They are used in cases where if a police officer pulls in a vehicle on the side of the road and has reason to suspect that there are drugs in the vehicle. There are some times when he can move ahead without a warrant, obviously, as you are aware, but there are other times where he or she may deem it more prudent to obtain a warrant.

This section, Mr. Chair, where you are – again, we are dealing with inspectors. When you are looking at gasoline tax, you are looking at the various types of taxes that we have here. This is simply a matter of coming into the twenty-first century with law enforcement and if it is not practical to appear before a judge well, then, you can make the application by telephone, facsimile or other means of communication.

The main issue always to remember, as you are aware and I am sure the Opposition House Leader would be aware, is that searches cannot be arbitrary and capricious in law. There has to be some basis. As I went through the other day, because this deals with regulatory or strict liability offences, the onus upon the officers, inspection or compliance would be lower. In this particular case, though, there always has to be some reasonable suspicion, is a term that is used in law, reasonable grounds is a term that is used in law.

Mr. Chairman, if you look, then, the sections or the requirements of a written warrant are the same as outlined in section 2. It has to be given under oath or affirmation; may be administered by telephone, facsimile or other means of telecommunication.

Mr. Chairman, then it outlines what has to be contained in the telephone communication, and it is simply a statement of the circumstances that makes it impractical - if you are out on the highway, or if you are in a town that may not have a Provincial Court judge. Then the grounds for believing that a person is contravening the act.

Mr. Chairman, again there is a regulatory pattern here, or a regulatory regime in place, which allows the inspectors to do their job but ensures compliance.

Mr. Chairman, those will be my answers in relation to sections –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KENNEDY: No, sections 9 and 34, because I need to go and look at getting an answer for the Opposition House Leader, the answer on the apparent incongruity between the time limitation on the maintenance of books, and also, Mr. Chairman, I will check on the issue of section 86, the Mineral Rights Tax Act, and whether or not that affects anything with Voisey's Bay. My initial reaction would be that it would not supersede or affect a contractual relationship, but I will make sure.

Those are still the two points that I will have to go, if we –

MS BURKE: (Inaudible).

MR. KENNEDY: Okay. The House Leader is telling me to sit down and go find my answers.

Anyway, thank you Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: A very efficient Government House Leader.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate the predicament of the Minister of Finance, because the Government House Leader often tells me where to go, as well, and what to do.

Just a couple of comments there, again in a generic vein, with respect to this issue. First of all, the minister referenced today the Explanatory Note which is to be found on the inside page of Bill 4. As I pointed out on Monday, as well, that causes some concern, because we have an eighty-page bill – and I raised this question the last time in the House – we have an eighty-page bill which is, no doubt, without question, the most complex, detailed bill that I have seen in this House in the last three years when it comes to intricate detail.

There are people who are chartered accountants who are not going to be able to figure this out, there are lawyers who certainly are not going to be able to figure this out, and tax consultants who are not going to figure this out, and all of these complexities are put into an eighty-page bill. Anyone in this House, or in the public, can go on line and access this - which you can - and see this.

My concern is that we had an eighty-page complex document involving taxes; they try to come up with an Explanatory Note and it is a one-liner. The one-liner says, "This Bill would consolidate the law with respect to the administration of various taxation schemes within the province."

Mr. Chairman, you have a legal background yourself. To the best of us, that is not very enlightening; that is not very helpful. It certainly does nothing to assist in the preparation for this, the dismantling of this bill, the examination and analysis of this bill. It makes it very, very difficult.

That is the comment I would make with regard to the Explanatory Note, what the minister says. Yes, it is a one-liner. Yes, it tells us the treetops - this does not even cover the treetops. This is giving us the cloud view of what this is about, let alone the branches of the tree.

I brought it to the attention of the Government House Leader the last time we were dealing with some complex pieces of legislation. I asked if the people who were preparing this - not so much the draftsman; he just drafts the particular clauses, but in terms of summaries that could be helpful to us, as parliamentarians, to try to dissect what is here and to make the debate fuller and a more informed debate, it would be most helpful.

For example, that is all it said in the Explanatory Note in Bill 4. Yet, when we called over from our office to the Department of Finance and said, can you give us a little heads-up here and give us some guidance as to where we ought to go? In a conversation that lasted probably ten minutes, between one of our staffers and one of the employees over at the Department of Finance, we managed to extract some very helpful, concise, explanatory information of what this bill is about. I referred to that information, most of it, on Monday when we were in second reading.

The point is, if we can call over to the Department of Finance, and someone over there is capable of giving us the Reader's Digest version of what this complex bill is about, I would suggest that the Reader's Digest version should be put in the Explanatory Note more so than we are seeing now, which is just a one-liner.

It is all or nothing it seems. We have a one-liner. I have seen other pieces of legislation - we will be dealing with them in this sitting - which have very nice, concise, helpful guidelines and explanations as to what the piece of legislation is about. We do not see that here.

I will not belabour that point any more, but the consultation piece the minister mentioned again today, I am absolutely shocked – that is the only word I can use, shocked - that the minister says there was no consultation needed here, or none done. For example, in everything else that we have in this Province, including this one, we have stakeholders. Wherever there are stakeholders - this government prides itself, its mantra was openness and accountability and transparency. That has been preached since 2003. They even brought in an act, I do believe, called the openness and transparency act. Yet, when we have probably one of the most important pieces of legislation that ever comes in front of this House, for example, that impacts people – and, by the way, we have 500,000-plus stakeholders in this Province that this bill impacts; 500,000-plus. Every one of us in this Province who pays a tax is impacted by this one, in their pocket potentially.

I asked: Did you talk to the Law Society? Because there might be some ramification to this. Shouldn't we at least run it by them confidentially and say: We would like to do this; what do you think? Do you see anything here that might cause you any concerns from a legal point of view?

I would have thought that the Department of Finance would have given it to the Chartered Accountants' Association and said: Anything you have any problems with here? What about the Tax Consultants' Associations? What about the Certified General Accountants' Association? What about different business associations? What about the Boards of Trade? What about the Chambers of Commerce?

I mean, we are going to amend - albeit another very important act, the Human Rights piece we are looking at, the Human Rights legislation, the Minister of Justice sends out around the Province. I believe we have had public hearings on the Human Rights piece. It was placed on a Web Site, and told everybody it was happening. We have gone out and done consultations in the major centres around the Province. The Opposition were invited to attend these sessions and make suggestions as to what could happen. We made a suggestion, written submissions, to the Department of Justice. People were invited to make written submissions if they wanted.

Now I realize you cannot possibly, probably, deal with a piece of financial legislation in the same way when it comes to sending it out and having public hearings and that stuff, but surely there is some basic level of consultation that should have taken place here to ensure that when we pass this thing in this House and the Lieutenant Governor signs it off and it has its Royal Proclamation and it is law, right then and there, where do we stand the next day if these problems crop up then?

That is the only purpose, of course, of consultation. The biggest purpose of consultation is to see, a lot of times, if you have roadblocks or you have potholes, or whatever, in your legislation. Sometimes when you do these consultations people pick up on them, and they give you a little bit of advice. You might need to tweak it. At least, if for no other reason, it gives you a comfort level in knowing that you have done it right.

If somebody says after, well you didn't do this, if you get people like me standing up in the House of Assembly saying, you didn't do this, you didn't do that, you should have done this, you should have done that, instead of people saying, I told you say, you could stand up in the House and say, yes, we talked to this one, we talked to that group, we got their input, and we think this is the best piece of work that we could culminate at this point to put it into this piece of legislation. We think we have done it right.

Now, nobody is foolish enough to believe that any piece of legislation we pass is carved in stone. It is written on paper, it is passed by law, made a law, and it is implemented and acted upon and applies to people, but nobody is foolish enough to think that you cannot change it. All I am saying is, yes, there will be changes, obviously, time will change things, circumstances will change things, but you may end up changing more than you want or more than you anticipated or more than you need to simply because you didn't consult in the first place.

I do believe this Minister of Finance – he was the Minister of Justice and we dealt with a bill here in this House last fall that had a piece to do, I do believe, with the Law Society and some of the regulations surrounding the court systems and the operations and so on. I was impressed, because when I got up and asked a question of the minister, was their any consultation, yes, there was. They had consulted, I do believe, at that time, the minister told me, with the Chief Provincial Court Judge, Judge Reid, he had consulted with members of the law society, because they were the stakeholders in that particular piece of legislation. It was good to see that. Right here, on probably one of the more complex pieces of legislation, we don't see the similar type of treatment. I think that is sad. I think we should have had that.

Minister, with regard to section 9, the reason I asked that on Monday, and I will concisely state it again, was – it looks like my ten minutes is up, I might not get the opportunity in this ten-minute sitting anyway without leave. My purpose of asking about section 9, and the tie-in to the Statute of Limitations, was, we have a definition of books and records. We have that in subsection (2). In subsection (5) of section 9, it says, "A person required under this act to keep records…" and that is a requirement of the act, that if you are in business and you pay taxes, for example –

CHAIR: Order please!

The hon. member's speaking time has lapsed.

Does the member have leave to finish his question, this particular question?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

CHAIR: Leave to finish this particular question.

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

Mr. Chair, in subsection (5) – and I will read it – it says, "A person required under this section to keep records – which is defined - shall keep those records until authorized by the minister to destroy them…". The second part of it says, "…but in no case shall the records be destroyed before the expiration of 7 years after the year to which the records relate."

That clause does not say that after seven years, if you have business records you can get rid of them. It just says, no way can you get rid of them for the first seven years. If you want to get rid of them after the seven years you have to go get approval from the minister. The words that were used are, "…until authorized by the minister to destroy them…"

I gave an example on Monday of a person who is in business. How many people, particularly in rural Newfoundland, do not have access to the minister, certainly, and don't have access readily to the Department of Finance? I used the example of a person in Isle aux Morts who runs a business for twenty-five years and keeps every single one of the records, and they are pretty complex, when I read it out in section 2, what records and books includes. He has all of this built up and he has to keep it built up, not only while he is in business but he has to keep it stored somewhere even after he goes out of business. There is nothing that says, because he ceased the business he can get rid of it. So, here you are with a warehouse full of records.

Go back to the point again where you are required by law to keep them. That is a law. They told you what it was, what a book and a record was. They said, you have to keep all of your books and records and you cannot get rid of them unless the minister tells you. All of a sudden, this person who had his business for twenty-five years, who has kept all of this in storage for another thirty years, these fifty years, he has his two warehouses jammed, and then somebody says: he did not get authority to destroy those records.

Is it reasonable to leave it that way? Surely, if Revenue Canada uses a seven-year guideline, if every other reporting agency that I know of uses a seven-year guideline for keeping records and books, why don't we have a similar guideline? What is the problem? That is not what it says right now in subsection (5).

In fact, the reason for the tie-in with the other section, section 34, is because under section 34 there is no limit. It goes in perpetuity as to when you can charge someone for not doing what they were supposed to do under the act. That person who conducted business, who paid all of the taxes, went out of business after twenty-five years, retired, was retired for ten or twenty years and had to keep all of these records, all of a sudden someone charges him because he never kept the records. Now, he kept them all beyond the seven years. I am just saying: Why would we leave that loophole here and put that stress and put that requirement on people beyond the seven years?

I suppose we could look at and say, well, he only has to get authority, come to the minister, after seven years. He runs his business for twenty-five years, he retires for seven years, and at any time he can come to the minister and say: we want the authority to destroy them. That might be fair for the minister to say in rebuttal. The minister might say: yes, just come back after seven years. How is that process intended to work now? The minister is going to send somebody out to Joe's shed or basement. How does the department decide to give the authority?

I do not disagree that there should be some connection with keeping your records for seven years, but surely the point here is there should be some time limit on this eventually. If the time limit that we normally use – I mean, even in the Criminal Law system, under our wildlife Statutes, we have Statutes of Limitation.

You might even want to keep a wide-open Statute of Limitation on the tax piece. I have no problem with that. I can even go so far as to say, yes, I agree with that. You would not give anybody relief from non-payment of the taxes, but there is a difference when we are talking about some other requirements under this act. If it is an administrative requirement of keeping records and stuff like that, I think there has to be a distinction and we should not just have a broad section 34 which says no limitation on anything. That is all I am saying here, that I think there needs to be a bit of thought. If there is a tax involved, fine, it should be outstanding in perpetuity. Like I the gentleman, I said, who ripped off the funeral home and never paid it. If you are after him until the last day of his life getting the tax back, so be it, but that is different from the record keeping piece.

That is where I think we have a little glitch here. I just throw that out, that we should not put that onerous situation. If you are an individual in our society in Canada, my understanding is you pay your taxes, and after seven years, when you are in business, that is it. If you throw them out, you do not have to go to any national revenue minister to get authority. I could be wrong, but that is my understanding. After seven years, your record keeping is over. If the tax department has not come back and got you by that time for something, it is out the window, you are not required to keep them.

I am just wondering why we would not have the same kind of reasonableness when it comes to record keeping in this particular case.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The Chair is prepared to give some latitude in the debate of specifics in committee, as it did to the minister in his original presentation, but does the hon. Opposition House Leader have his question framed that we have given leave for?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

First, I will outline a couple of points, Mr. Chair, to address the concerns of the Opposition House Leader.

I do not disagree with the Opposition House Leader when it comes to a degree of consultation but, Mr. Chair, a different type or degree of consultation may depend on the nature of the legislation that is being brought in. If you are bringing in a new act or radically changing an act or, for example, if you are going to reform human rights, well, that is a situation where a lot of consultation might be required.

In this particular case, what we are dealing with, though, is consolidating a number of acts. Mr. Chair, as I am sure my colleague, the Opposition House Leader, is aware, the explanatory note is exactly that. It is not part of the Statute, so it does not form part – it is my understanding now, Mr. Chair, and you may be able to correct me on this yourself, but it is my understanding the explanatory note is exactly that. It does not form part of the legislation. In fact, you will see, Mr. Chair, in some legislation there will be a preamble outlining the purpose of the act: whereas it is expedient or that kind of thing.

In this particular case, Mr. Chair, this act, even though it is law, is no more complicated than it was six months ago. It is no more complicated than it was before Easter, when I understand the Opposition House Leader was provided with a copy of the act. The length of it, by itself, does not mean much. If you have five acts that are ten pages long and you put them together and form an act that is fifty pages long, well that does not make the act more complicated. All we have done here is modernize an act and essentially try to reduce red tape. That is really what this is about; bringing these acts under one roof, as I indicated earlier.

I feel more than confident that the degree of consultation and the type of consultation required here was necessary. I see no need, Mr. Chair, when we are dealing with consolidation of acts, to go and consult extensively with any particular group.

I do have, Mr. Chair, a concern as outlined by the Opposition House Leader into this apparent anomaly between section 9. I am going to have to come back to this, but the question I have is that if you have a limitation on the keeping of books, and come back to section 3 where you are holding the monies in trust, well the only way is that if there is an audit or an investigation conducted, then the examiner, the inspector, the accountant has to be able to look at the books and records.

I agree with the Opposition House Leader, that the obligation on the average citizen, who complies with his tax requirements and his legal requirements to have to maintain books and records in perpetuity, on space, is or could be unreasonable. Now, however, it seems then to me difficult to reconcile the requirement or the non-requirement of keeping books and records and say: well, we will have to have taxes paid in perpetuity. I assume, and I am sure the Opposition House Leader will help me out if I am wrong on this, is that if you owe a tax and it is determined that you owe a tax, then that tax would - there is no limitation on the collection of that tax that is determined to be owned. In this particular case, if the books and records are gone then there is no way, I would think, to determine if a tax is owed. So that is something that we certainly will have to look at, Mr. Chair.

It is my understanding, Mr. Chair, that the rationale for this particular section is that – again, it is something that can be looked at, but the rationale is that sometimes records are required even after seven years because of disputed assessments.

Audit periods are normally three to four years. So, you would not normally look beyond that time frame. It would seem to me that if you have had a seven year period that the chances of a charge being laid are not that great because the audit will normally be conducted in that three to four years. As I indicated - and again, Mr. Chair, you might remember this yourself - I know that because of the importance of thrust conditions in law firms that audits have to be performed on an annual basis. Now, there is authority to destroy the records. I agree with the Opposition House Leader, that it does put an obligation on a person to come forward and ask, as opposed to there being a – it places an onus, or to a certain extent, a requirement on the individual.

Mr. Chair, I do not know if the Opposition House Leader would agree with this concept, but it would seem to me that if a person has a bunch or records – and people do changes businesses in this day and age. The person who may have a retail store at one point could move into another area later in life. There has to be a balance here between the requirement of the state being able to investigate to ensure compliance, to ensure that taxes are collected, to ensure that people are doing what they have to do without placing an enormous onus on the individual. It would seem that the seven year tax requirement could be appropriate here.

Mr. Chair, I would suggest that I will look a little bit further and discuss with my officials the issue of - I am concerned, not about the tax being owed forever, if it is determined you owe a tax that there be no limitation period. I am a bit concerned about the complaint made and proceedings taken without a limitation of time. Again, that is something that I will, perhaps in a few minutes I will go - if there is a break or if we move on to something else, I will go and check those couple of points.

Those will be my comments at this stage, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Chair, at this time I move that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

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

All those in favour of the motion, please say ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: Contra minded, ‘nay'.

The motion is carried.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order please!

The hon. the Assistant Deputy Speaker and Member for Placentia & St. Mary's.

MR. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

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

When shall this report be received?

AN HON. MEMBER: Now.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

When shall the Committee have leave to sit again?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

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

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, from the Order Paper I call Order 7, second reading of bill, An Act To amend The Workplace Health, Safety And Compensation Act. (Bill 7)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 7, An Act To Amend The Workplace Health, Safety And Compensation Act be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Workplace Health, Safety And Compensation Act." (Bill 7)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to rise today to introduce at this time Bill 7, as it relates to the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act. This is a bill which we believe will certainly improve the Province's Workers' Compensation legislation, and it will improve it, we believe, to the benefit of employers, workers and injured workers.

In April, 2008, Mr. Speaker, government announced its action plan in response to the 2006 report of the Statutory Review Committee on Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission. I am sure that many members of this House will recall that the Statutory Review Committee's report contained numerous recommendations calling for a number of different improvements to Workers' Compensation system. In response, of course, we released our action plan in April, 2008. It included many measures that addressed things such as the accountability and the long-term sustainability of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission. It addressed issues around claim duration, which we are very concerned about in this Province. It addressed issues as well around the early and safe return to work. Again, something that we are very concerned about in this Province and an issue that we intend and want to make some progress on. In fact, we have in the last couple of years.

The action plan also included measures that addressed enhancements to client services. I am pleased to say that there are many enhancements that have happened there. Although we still recognize that there may be a ways to go, there are certainly many, many improvements in client services and many that we are happy to speak about and report upon.

Finally, the action plan included measures to improve the capacity to deal with occupational disease, something that has come up in this House many times and something that we believe, as a government, is an action area that we need to address and we will be addressing very soon.

The action plan provides for an accountable and sustainable compensation system, Mr. Speaker, and it includes measures that will, for the most part, balance the interests of employers and workers. That is, overall, what this particular act is about. It is about balancing those interests.

While the main focus of the plan was on various operational improvements, as I said when we talked about client services within the commission, there are a number of legislative change as well that were announced. Bill 7, therefore, is going to address a number of those legislative changes, a number of those amendments.

Included, particularly important, I believe, in the proposed legislation, will be changes that will enhance the governance within the commission. The board of directors and the composition of the board of directors, was a piece that we felt needed to be looked at, and so specifically we are making alterations to the composition of the commission's board of directors, that will allow for, in the future, representation that will include a minimum of one representative recommended by the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council, a minimum of one representative that will be recommended by the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, and one board member, as well, representative of injured workers. We believe this to be a substantive change and one that will be applauded by the community at large.

While the total number of board members will remain the same, these improvements will enhance the level of employer and worker and public representation on the board, and will further recognize the important role, Mr. Speaker, that stakeholders play in the governing of the Workplace, Health and Safety Compensation Commission.

As well, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that, for the first time, the board of directors will now include a person from the general public who represents injured workers. There has long been a call to have a representative of injured workers there, and we are very happy to be able to respond to this and change the composition of that board to ensure that that representation does, indeed, happen.

I am confident, as well, that this presence will help to enhance that perspective of injured workers, the perspective that will strengthen the voice of the injured worker in the workplace. That is something that we feel strongly about and we are very happy to do, when it comes to the inclusion in the composition of this particular board.

There were other issues that were addressed, Mr. Speaker, around the reemployment obligation of employers. In addition, this legislation will provide a clearer application of an employer's reemployment obligation. We believe that this, too, will be applauded. In fact, we have been told by labour, we have been told by employers, and particularly by injured workers, that they are very happy with this particular amendment that will ensure that workers who get hurt on the job are provided with access to the full two years of employment protection, should they manage to work beyond their original date of injury. Mr. Speaker, we know that to be true in many cases.

Oftentimes, there could be a workplace accident, but the exact injury does not show up until a month or two months or six months down the road, before you realize that that particular injury is the result of the particular accident that you would have had. To ensure the full two years of employment protection, we will be introducing, in this piece of legislation, an amendment that will see, not the date of injury, but the date of the departure from work, initiated in terms of the reemployment obligation of the employer. We have heard from many that that will be something that will be applauded and their will be accolades for that, for sure.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, to those substantive amendments, there are a number of administrative changes that we felt we needed to make at this time as well, and these amendments will help to bring the act into sync with other pieces of legislation, such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

In addition, the bill provides clarity around a piece concerning the annual reporting and the strategic planning standards of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation review division, and removes an antiquated, or what we felt was a very antiquated, reporting requirement, in favour of those contained under the Transparency and Accountability Act.

Now we will simply require one report only per year, and that will be based on a performance-based report, as well, but it certainly will state the indicators and the success of the particular return to work. There will not be a need to look at two reports now, one of them having been a calendar-based report and the other being a report, I think, at the end of March. We will simplify that process and there will be only one report that will be required.

Other out-of-date provisions, Mr. Speaker, and sections that we propose repeal of will be looked at in this particular piece of legislation.

Overall, I feel that these are very positive amendments that will respond to the interests of employer groups, labour, organizations such as labour organizations and injured workers and their representatives as well. These changes are proactive. They are very positive measures and they will demonstrate progress in relation to government's action plan, the action plan that was released in April of 2008.

Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, I am requesting support of this House in approving these amendments.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

It is a pleasure to be able to stand today and make a few comments with regard to Bill 7, An Act To Amend the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act.

To begin with, I want to thank the minister because there were some points of the legislation that I needed a bit of a clarification on, so I met with her one day and she did go through the process. It was very helpful for me to get some information and to more or less make the way a bit clearer on some of the issues that I was not all that familiar with.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act and the commission itself - it is good to see this legislation coming in because, as the minister said, some of the information that is being provided here or some of the clauses are in a housekeeping role and more of it are some major changes that will benefit the injured workers of this Province.

However, I will go through each of those clauses within the act and then I would like to add some comments, because I thought I might have seen more in the act than is actually there, that came back from the report that was submitted to the commission and eventually to government.

Mr. Speaker, first I want to go through Clause 1, the amended section 4(2) of the act to adjust the composition of the board.

The minister has stated very clearly that really the composition of the board will remain fairly consistent with what it is today with regards to the numbers. I know now that the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council will have a representative there from the employers. The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour will have a representative there from the workers. I guess, one of the most important and key members on the board, one of the board members representing the injured workers, will be representing the general public. I know the Newfoundland Labrador Injured Workers Association, and others, have been asking for this particular issue to be brought forward, someone from the general public and someone representing the injured workers. Where better to get someone to take part in that particular legislation than someone from the Newfoundland Labrador Injured Workers Association itself.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other issues that is brought forward there is to amend section 20(2) of the act, to extend the duties of the commission to provide services to Occupational Health and Safety designates. We know, right now, that the service provided by Occupational Health and Safety committees and Workplace Health and Safety representatives, that this would be an addition to this piece of legislation.

Then, I guess, we look at clause 3 which amends section 30 of the act to align the reporting of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Review Division. We all know that the review division plays a very important part when it comes to dealing with issues that have been rejected by the Workers' Compensation Commission. It is an avenue after an internal review has been done. Once an injured worker has their case put by the wayside, they then have the opportunity to have an internal review done, and if it is not successful at that point in time, when all the documentation is looked at and the medical consultants at the commission do their review, we know then there is this other avenue where they can go to an appeal, and it is the Compensation Review Division.

On behalf of the injured workers in my area, I have attended there quite often. It is a wonderful practice where you can go with your constituent, the injured worker. Also, there will be people there representing the employers, as well as people representing WHSCC. They have to report the end result back to the commission. Like the minister said, before there were two different reports they had to put in, and now they are streamlining this so that they would only report once a year. As stated, that goes along with the recommendations we see now with regards to the transparency and accountability act. I think it was in 2006 that this was more or less put in line with the Labour Relations Board and probably other avenues as well.

Mr. Speaker, then we go to clause 4, which amends section 45(3) to eliminate unnecessary service requirements. Under section 45 I think this was introduced in the act back in 1992 to require a worker who was injured in a work-related accident to elect compensation or take an action. Really, this has been changed now; because my understanding is that if a worker should take action the other issue becomes null and void anyway. Once you take that action, regardless of what the outcome is, you just cannot go back to workers' compensation and apply for benefits again.

Under clause 5, which repeals section 53(4), it is just eliminating an unnecessary requirement at this time, and that is with regard to where an injured worker - I think that piece of legislation, subsection 53(4), required a worker that they had to give notification by registered mail. We know in this day and age now that we have various pieces of technology. I know injured workers who can fax it in, even though they have mailed in the original, but we have other avenues today that those issues can be dealt with.

I guess one of the most important clauses that I saw here, and a major change for the injured workers of our Province, is under clause 7, which amends section 89.1(8)(a) to revise the commencement of an employer's two-year re-employment obligation period from the date of injury to the date of disability.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure each and every one of us has incidents where people within our districts, working in whatever profession they work in, from time to time encounter an injury. Maybe at the time it is only a minor injury, a slight injury, but they do report it and maybe only take a few days off work. Maybe some of them do not even take any time off work because they feel that they can continue on, to take part in their employment in the workplace. Maybe three months or six months or eighteen months down the road they find out that this injury, as minor as it was, has come back now to put them in a position where they are unable to work. Really, this amendment here, this clause 7, is adjusting it now so that the employer has an obligation not only two years from the point that the initial information was put forward that they were injured, but now will take place two years from the period when they had to actually give up working due to that injury.

I have to say that this is a very positive piece of information to this legislation, and I am sure injured workers and all those who deal with injured workers in our Province will have nothing but good praises for that.

Like I said when I started, the items that are in this piece of legislation, in Bill 7, I believe each and every one of them are a step in the right direction, eliminating some clauses that are not applicable any more, but also making some major changes.

As I said in the beginning, I thought maybe there might be more in this piece of legislation, and maybe there is more legislation coming later on, because I refer back to the report of the Statutory Review Committee on the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act. They provided an extensive review of the workers' compensation system here in our Province. I think Finding the Balance was the actual title on that particular report. They identified a number of areas for government's consideration.

As the minister stated in her opening remarks, provincial government and workers' compensation have made advances in various areas of those measures that were put forward. One of the ones that I know that has been dealt with is the claim duration. That has been a major problem for many people who become injured, so there is clarification with regard to the claim duration.

Early and safe return to work: I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that each and every individual who ever became injured - there may be someone out there that you hear people say they are just abusing the system, but - I think that every individual, regardless of how minor or how major that injury is, they want to get back into the workforce. They want to return to their jobs and make a standard of living that is far beyond – even though it is good to receive those benefits when they are injured.

Another one that I want to touch on is client services. I have mentioned this before. I have mentioned it in the various Estimates meetings over the years. From time to time you encounter problems within the system. I guess it is not only with the workers' compensation commission; it is probably with all avenues of government from time to time that you encounter situations like this.

I have had the opportunity on many occasions to travel to their office with injured workers for a meeting, just to get some basic information. I have to say, from time to time, 99 per cent of the time, you get excellent service, but there is always a time - and I was amazed at how some of those injured workers were responded to when they asked questions about their particular cases and their files. Like I said, I have mentioned this before in the Estimates and I have been told that issue will be looked at and hopefully rectified in the future.

Injury prevention is another issue. The minister stated back some time ago, I think it was in a Ministerial Statement, how injuries in our Province are down by 38 per cent. That is excellent, Mr. Speaker, but each and every one of us, all stakeholders - the employers, the employees, the commission - everyone has to work together to make sure that the educational programs are put forward, safety programs are put forward, so that there may never be any accidents.

We know from time to time issues will happen. We have all seen it happen. I mentioned the other day I have seen it to happen on job sites that I have been on. It is unfortunate, and nobody wants this to happen, but at least the people we know today are working in the right direction to see that injury prevention is taken care of to a greater degree.

Occupational disease is another issue, I believe, in which government is heading in the right direction. More work has to be done, there is no doubt about that, but it was only this past week that we had the Day of Mourning here at the Confederation Building. I know throughout the Province there were other ceremonies. Once we see this happen, each and every one of us know of incidents where people have been seriously injured on the job, and others who were not so fortunate, who lost their lives in the workplace. I believe for each and every one of us that is our goal, to see that this should never happen again.

Mr. Speaker, like I said, government accepted this report, Finding the Balance, an action plan, a report of the Statutory Review Committee on WHSCC. In the action plan that I saw, I think there were some twenty-plus different actions that are being looked at, and the Statutory Review Committee reports what they had to say. I just want to touch on a few of them, Mr. Speaker.

I know one of the issues that come up from time to time, and I know the Auditor General audits the actual reports of the workers' compensation commission, but I think one of the recommendations was that more thought should be put into the Auditor General; he should be included in the operations of the commission. In other words, he probably should be able to go in there and do a review the same as is done in various other departments.

The other one, Mr. Speaker, is an evaluation of the internal appeal and the external review structure. We all know - and I just touched on it a little while ago - of individuals who make a claim for injuries and after a period of time, whether the medical documentation is not up to what the Commission thinks should be there or for some other reason, the individuals are told that their benefits will be discontinued and it comes to the point where they have to do an internal review. I think it is a sixty-day time frame when they have this review. Many injured workers who cannot return to work, number one, they have this sixty-day period that benefits have been discontinued for them. To go beyond that, if they are unfortunately rejected during this sixty-day time frame, then they have the option to go to the external review, to the review commissioners. I know they are located in different areas of our Province. I think there is an office in Western Newfoundland where hearings are held, in Central, and here in St. John's.

Many of those people go through a tremendous strain and pressure while they are going through this time frame. Like I said, it is a sixty-day time frame to start with. Then they have to go to the review commissioners to present their case, and from the time that they apply to have their case heard up to the point when their case is actually heard here in the city or wherever, and then they get their reply back, there are several months that have gone by.

Mr. Speaker, I know for a fact, many of those individuals go through a very stressful situation and some of them find themselves in a very difficult position, because I have attended hearings. One of the things that I would like to touch on here is that many of them, when they go to this review commissioner, the evidence that is put forward, not all times only includes the medical documentation from their general practitioners or from their specialists. I have attended appeals and hearings where evidence is put forward by the employer, and rightly so. If an employer thinks that someone is not injured to the degree that they think they are, many of them pay quite a number of dollars to have a video surveillance done.

I had one particular case, and it is still not closed. That particular case has gone to three review commissioners - three. The first time we went to a commissioner, and I will not mention any names, it was referred back to the Commission. The second time, it was referred back to the Commission again. The third time, the injured worker – this was about two or two-and-a-half years after this process started – was denied his benefits.

The case went beyond that. The evidence that was used was a video surveillance, where two investigators were hired by an employer to travel to this particular town in my district and do a video surveillance on this individual. I saw the video. It was about two to two-and-a-half hours long. In that video, I know the gentleman, and from the pictures that I saw it was very difficult to know who was in the video it was taken so far away, about a mile or a mile and a half from his residence. Several times in the video it was his son who was there. It was his son who was doing some minor jobs in the backyard but he was penalized because they thought it was him.

Why I am bringing this up, the sad part, and I hope the minister and the Commission will look into this aspect of it. When that video surveillance is put there you do not get an opportunity to have those people appear before the review commissioner. You can go there and talk to the representative for the employer. You can go and present your case back and forth with people from the Commission but you do not get an opportunity to ask those individuals questions on the statements they have made about an injured worker. To me that is very unfortunate. I think that is something the Commission and the government should definitely look in to. If the video surveillance shows the proper documentation to prove something, and I know there are cases when this happens, but there are many cases when it goes against the injured worker and it should not be.

Another issue I think that was brought forward and I think should be looked into, was the development policy to manage employer, worker requested independent medical examinations. Many times when it comes to the medical side of it, you go before the commissioners or you present your case to the internal review specialist and they say to you: look, the documentation is from the general practitioner. They do not look at it the same as if it was something from a specialist. I have seen many cases where I have went and we won, because finally when the review commissioner looks at the documentation that is put forward, who knows an individual any better than the general practitioner. Yes, you have to go by the medical reports, you have to go by the x-rays, but more thought should be put into what a general practitioner is saying about an individual patient who they have probably known from birth right up until they suffered this injury.

Another very important part I think that I would like to have seen in this legislation, and maybe this will come later on, is to implement changes in its application of proportionate. That is a very important issue when it comes to injured workers. From time to time you have individuals who probably had some medical condition prior to their injury. After awhile, once they get in the system with Workers' Compensation – and all too often I have seen it where they try to proportion it out, that they minimize the injury to the individual. They could turn around and say that we proportion the percentage of your injury at 25 per cent, but 75 per cent of it was because of something that happened or a condition that you had prior to. Even though they had no problems, they were able to go to work, they were able to do whatever they had to carry out in life, but at the end of the day nothing happened. They had no problems where they were unable to work until they had this injury.

The other issue is the establishment of an Occupational Disease Advisory Panel. I know government and the Commission have looked into the possibilities of occupational diseases and so on. Maybe I will be corrected here, but I do not think that a panel for Occupational Disease Advisory Panel has been established at this point in time. That was another issue I thought that we might have seen in this piece of legislation.

Another key area that was brought forward by the strategy review committee is what we call shellfish asthma to the proposal Occupational Disease Advisory Panel for further analysis. Many people in the area that I represent work in the various plants, but in particular in the crab plants in my area. The individuals, from time to time, specialists and their general practitioners diagnosed them with what they call crab asthma. It is a very serious situation, but many people when they sign on for their claim of Workers' Compensation, after a period of time when an investigation is done, they determine that that individual who many years ago probably smoked, they were fairly regular smokers. This is where the proportionate bit comes into play again, because those individuals who contacted what specialists – and I know, I have a couple of people from my area who even went to, I think it was Quebec City, where they saw a specialist outside of this Province with regards to the crab asthma. It was diagnosed that this was the disease that they had, but when it came to the commission they did not think that was the cause because those individuals, fifteen or twenty or twenty-five years prior to that, used to smoke, and the proportionate bit came in again: We think that 75 per cent of your cause is because of your smoking, only 25 per cent because of what happened to you when you worked in the crab plant.

This is an ongoing thing and it seems like some of the workers, as they get older in age, this issue of crab asthma is being diagnosed more and more, but it is an issue that I believe the commission and probably government should have another look at, and hopefully it can be resolved to a greater satisfaction on behalf of the injured workers.

The other issue is, the commission and the proposed fishery sector committee should collaborate with the Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board to establish safe training programs for fish harvesters.

One of the most recent cases I had happened to be a fisherperson, a harvester who was out on the boats, and he became injured. It was a stormy day, and the stack of crab pots that was on that boat just toppled over and struck the individual and he became injured. He was out to sea, and when he came in he was told by his employer, the gentleman that he was fishing with: If you leave this boat, your job is taken from you. We cannot afford to lose you at this time.

The gentleman had no other recourse only to go back on that boat again. After the third trip, he came in and he walked off the boat. He had not choice. Lo and behold, his case went before the review commission and it was upheld by the review commissioner after it had been rejected. So there are many cases that go forward, and it is good to know that this process is there.

Another issue that was brought forward by the action plan is, workplace safety programming should be a mandatory part of high school and post-secondary programming in Newfoundland.

I stand to be corrected again. Maybe that is in place; I am not sure. I am not aware of it, but I think that is an excellent idea, not only to educate the people who are in the workplace, through the employers and through the people involved in the various industries, but to start at an earlier age with young men and women – at least when they are in the high school level and post-secondary – to let them know of what accidents can happen in whatever trade they want to take part in, so that they can be prepared more.

We all know what it is. Things can happen and you have nothing to do with it, but many times if we know that there are dangers lurking, that there are issues that can become dangerous, that we have to look out for, and if we have this early time frame when we learn about this, it can be very encouraging and a benefit to the workers of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, those are my comments I have to make. I know I went on beyond the clauses that are in the act. I want to say to the minister, from what I have seen and we have been informed on Bill 7, An Act To Amend The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act, I think the legislation that is there is very encouraging. I have not only spoken to the minister; I have spoken to people from the Newfoundland and Labrador Injured Workers Association, and what is in this piece of legislation is good. It is good for the injured workers. The only thing I had hoped is that there would have been more legislation that came from the action plan that would have been included in this piece of legislation.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I take my place.

Thank you.

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

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

I am happy to be able to stand and speak to Bill 7, An Act to Amend the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act, because this is a very important area in this Province, the issue of occupational health and safety.

As we all know, we had a review done of the occupational health and safety issues of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission. A year ago, actually, the government spoke out. Almost exactly a year ago the government did speak out with regard to the review, and to how the government was going to respond to the review. In actual fact, the document from Human Resources, Labour and Employment from 2008 is dated April 25, so it is just about exactly a year ago.

I am not going to speak more to the individual clauses that are in the bill, because I think both the minister and the Member for Port de Grave have both spoken to those and I think they are pretty straightforward. Some of them deal with important content. For example, section 1.(2)(a) which talks about the board of directors, and the makeup of the Board of Directors of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation having three persons representative of employers, a minimum of one whom shall be recommended to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council by the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council; and three persons representative of workers, a minimum of one whom shall be recommended to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council by the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour; and three persons representative of the general public, one of whom represents injured workers. This is a good change. It is good, for example, to have representation from these groups, and it is also good that there is at least one person, both in terms of employers and of workers and of the general public, who are nominated by an important group who, in each case, is working on the issues, so the Employers' Council itself, the Federation of Labour, and the injured workers. It is good that the representation comes from there, and I am pleased about that.

Some of the changes deal with important content such as that one. Some of the changes are more functional, and that is what bills are about. Sometimes the bills are about intense content, and sometimes the bills are about things that are just functional or administrative.

Of course, one of the purposes of this bill, too, is removing things that are unessential. For example, when we look at the repealing of section 53(4) of the original act, what we are repealing is workers having to provide notice of an accident by registered mail. Obviously, removing that is a good thing. I think it was totally unnecessary.

Anther piece that was removed was a section that actually had been expired; the whole meaning had been expired. Some of the things that are gone are, as I said, functional; some of the changes are content. I think enough has been said about those, so I am not going to speak further to the actual revisions themselves. What I want to speak to is what has not been changed and what has not been dealt with.

Last year, when the government put out its statement through Human Resources, Labour and Employment - a different minister but the same department - when it put out its statement with regard to the review of the workers' compensation system, it included an action plan in response to the report of the Statutory Review Committee on the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act and I have been reviewing the action plan.

Now the action plan is made up of a combination of actions to be taken by the Commission and actions to be taken by government in response to recommendations by the committee. It was interesting for me to go through this action plan and to see what things that government said it was going to do have either happened before, prior to today, or are included in today's bill.

It is very interesting that not very much, actually, is included in this bill. There are things that government said it was going to do but so far I do not have any sign that it has been done. As I said, some of the things have been done. For example, one of the recommendations from the review committee was that the board of directors should be made up of four employee representatives, four labour representatives and an independent chairperson, and appointments to the board be selected from nominees submitted by employer and labour stakeholders.

Government has done its own version of that recommendation but at least, while it is not totally the way the review committee had it, and I sort of wish it would have been, because then you would have had all the nominees coming from the sector that they represent and then government would have a group to choose from, a group that had been chosen by their peers. I think it would have made for a better representative board but at least the government has put in place in this act representation that has a minimum of one person from each of the peer groups on the board.

So they took a step in the right direction but, unfortunately, I find very often with government, it takes a step from a recommendation but it does not go the whole way. I wish they had gone the whole way. So that one, that was in the action plan has been covered in today's bill.

Another piece in the action plan that was put out by HRLE last year was that government will undertake an evaluation of the elements of the Workers' Compensation Internal Appeal and external review structures to identify options for enhancing the quality of the client's experience. I really have no idea if government undertook that evaluation and I would like to hear from the minister, when she speaks again in response to our comments, I would like to know if that point in the action plan has actually happened or is it even in process.

Another piece in the action plan, which is in the bill, that has been acted on is the one that says government will bring forward an amendment to section 89.1 of the act to delete references to the term medically from the phrase, medically able, to clarify that the return to work decisions of the Commission are based upon an assessment of the functional abilities of injured workers. That was a recommendation from the review committee and the government has taken the recommendation exactly as it is. So that has been taken care of.

The other thing that government has done as well is to act on the recommendation for the act to state from date of disability, rather than from date of injury.

One of the big areas that was a point of reference for the review committee and something that they spoke to had to do with occupational diseases. I have to say, I am very concerned and I am disappointed that we do not seem to be much further ahead in this Province with regard to occupational diseases. The statutory review committee said that the Commission should immediately establish an Occupational Disease Advisory Panel consisting of representatives from workers, employers, health care providers and the representative from the Commission to review and advise on the issue of occupational disease.

Well, that has not happened. As far as I know, there has not been an occupational disease reserve fund set up as well. So neither a panel to deal with occupational disease nor an occupational disease reserve fund, yet this is an extremely important area. In some ways it is a growing area but it is not growing because diseases are growing in number, it is growing because we are becoming more aware of occupational diseases.

One of the things, of course, that we are all aware of is what is happening with regard to workers who worked at the asbestos mine in Baie Verte. Because of the latency period of the diseases that one can get from working with asbestos, many of the diseases did not come to light until the last ten years. People who had worked in Baie Verte in the 1960s, for example, are only now being diagnosed with some of the diseases. So the occupational disease area is very concerning, extremely concerning.

We have a research body in the Province now at the university, SafetyNet and occupational diseases is a really important aspect of what SafetyNet deals with. Occupational diseases can be anything from crab asthma, through to what happens when one works in various mines. It is very complex, because the diseases are so different in each of the workplaces. So there is no blanket statement one can make with regard to occupational diseases.

We need, I think, a centre of excellence in this Province. I think the researchers at SafetyNet would agree with this, where there is concentration on the occupational diseases.

Now, I do not know the degree to which people in HRLE are in communication with the researchers that are part of SafetyNet. I do know that in the early days of SafetyNet, and I assume that is still going on, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission was involved with SafetyNet very closely. I would hope that they still are, but I do know. We do know that Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission is working with SafetyNet, for example, when it comes to the Baie Verte Miners' Registry that is now being put in place. SafetyNet is coordinating putting the miners' registry in place, and WHSCC is funding getting that miners' registry in place.

That is really good, but the funding is only for a short period of time. I do not believe for one minute that the work is going to be finished - I think it is in eighteen months. I could be off by some months, but I think the funding is for eighteen months. I do not believe for one minute that the work will be done by then, and that work is a small piece of work. It is only one piece of work, because it is only looking at the workers who worked in the mines, but there is proof that families of workers who went home to their homes wearing the same clothing they had on in the mines, until some safety procedures were put in place, that those families were also endangered.

The amount of work that has to be done to determine who has been affected by the Baie Verte mine is a tremendous piece of work. That is why I think we need an ongoing centre and an ongoing advisory panel, both because of new diseases that are coming in and because of the current effects of old mining sites. This is an extremely important point.

The other thing related to that is bringing the policies up to date with regard to the occupational diseases. A very serious case in point has to do with the WHSCC policy, the EN-14 policy which eliminates compensation for any cancer other than lung or mesothelioma, such as gastrointestinal and renal cancers, and that has to do with workers who worked in the Baie Verte mine who were exposed to asbestos.

The policy that is currently in place is really causing a great deal of anxiety for workers who have been diagnosed, and for families of deceased members. It is causing anxiety because in some areas it has been determined that there are gastrointestinal and renal cancers that are caused by asbestos; however, because of the policy that is still in WHSCC, this EN-14 policy, because of that, many workers are being denied coverage. They continue to go to WHSCC and make claims because of their gastrointestinal and renal cancers, they continue to put their claims in, and they continue to have them refused.

I think this is something extremely serious, because the EN-14 prevents people from winning asbestos-related claims. Yet, in other sectors, in other areas, the gastrointestinal and renal cancers have been recognized. If we had an occupational disease advisory board, if we had a centre of excellence dealing with occupational diseases, this would not be the case. The changes we have here today, while they are important, they are pretty minor when it comes to the issue that I am raising right here with regard to occupational disease.

Now, I am hoping that the presence on the WHSCC board of workers who are being nominated from their peer group might mean that some of these issues will be dealt with more intently, especially the issue around occupational disease, dealt with more intently by WHSCC. It is an area of great concern.

Another area of concern is an area that is not covered by workplace compensation, and that is home care and domestic workers, for people who are receiving, who have won a claim and who are receiving some compensation but who do not have compensation for home care and domestic workers. It seems to be an ongoing theme for us here in this Province, not recognizing that when home care is required, or domestic work is required, for somebody who is sick or disabled, that we have a responsibility to cover it. Other jurisdictions have done it. Other jurisdictions have included home care and domestic worker costs in compensation when people make claims. Other places have done it and we really have, I think, an obligation to look at this.

There are different ways that it could happen. Some jurisdictions, for example, will reimburse people who are hired by the workers. There are other jurisdictions, for example, where workers are employed by the compensation bodies themselves and can be sent out to work with workers. There are different models that could be used. I am sorry to see that these issues have not again been covered by these changes to our act.

Another big issue here in the Province - and this is something I would like the minister to respond to because it was something that was part of the statutory review - is the whole thing of enhancing client services. The action plan said it would look at enhancing client services so that wait times would be minimized. I am not aware that we have had anything significant done in the Province in the area of wait times. Right now - back in 2008 when the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment at that time put out his statement and the action plan, he acknowledged that the wait time for people with claims here in this Province was 30 per cent to 40 per cent higher than in other parts of the country, and there was a commitment to look at the whole issue of wait times. I am not sure that anything has happened in that area, and that is something else that I would like the minister to respond to.

I know that these issues are bigger than the bill, I know that they go beyond the clauses in this bill, but I do not believe that we can talk to this bill, which is responding to some very small issues that came from the statutory review committee, I do not think that we can talk to that bill without talking to the bigger issues that were recommended by the statutory review committee and that have not yet been dealt with by the government. It is an extremely serious issue.

I know that the Commission has worked towards a number of the things that were in the action plan.

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

MS MICHAEL: They certainly, with regard to Baie Verte, are working –

MR. SPEAKER: Order,, please!

MS MICHAEL: I will clue up if I have permission, please?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

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

I will clue up. There are many issues to talk about in regard to this and I obviously have used my time. I do look forward to hearing from the minister with regard to the issues that I have raised, and I look forward to maybe getting a chance to speak again to this in Committee.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is certainly good to get up and speak to Bill 7. I certainly enjoyed the discussion that I heard from my hon. colleague from Port de Grave and as well from Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi. A couple of parts of Bill 7 we have had good discussion on, but a couple of parts of Bill 7 I would certainly like to speak to, Mr. Speaker.

Obviously, as we know, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission is a partnership between multiple stakeholders in terms of providing benefits for injured workers and provide protection for them as well as protection for employers. No doubt it is a complex system, but how it works best is certainly when all stakeholders are engaged, working together, bringing forth issues that arise and able to work through them in the partnership that is required.

No doubt, over the past couple of years the Commission has had success in terms of workplace injuries and incident rates, and reducing those in a number of industries across this Province. That is certainly positive to see.

There has been a range of positive initiatives, and certainly on the education side of it, too, in terms of the prevention side of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission, in terms of getting out there and working with employers and working with Occupational Health and Safety committees. Those initiatives have shown great results and are extremely important. As well, the early and safe return to work and a whole number of initiatives that have been put in place over the past couple of years to assist injured workers who get, unfortunately, injured and require assistance to get back into the workplace.

Those are a couple of initiatives, Mr. Speaker, that have gone well. Obviously, there is always room for improvement. Through consultations, as I mentioned, and the groups coming together, that is how we get there in terms of making the required changes.

Mr. Speaker, specifically in terms of bill 7, I just wanted to speak to clause 1. That has been spoken to already in terms of some adjustments to the composition of the board of directors and the overall governance of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission. The composition of the board really, under this bill, is going to remain consistent, except that in the future there is going to be specific, I guess, representation from the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council obviously bringing forward an employers' rep., and, as well, from the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour who would bring forward a representative from Workers.

As well, this amendment allows, through clause 1, a board member representing injured workers. That would be a first for this Province in terms of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Board of Directors. No doubt, it would put at the table and put at the government structure all stakeholders so that all views can certainly be heard. No doubt, this is a positive initiative, I believe, in terms of this bill, Mr. Speaker.

As well, we look at clause 2. It looks at the duties of the commission to provide service to occupation health and safety designates in line with the existing requirements under of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This is not a huge initiative, Mr. Speaker, this is just bringing the two pieces of legislation in line to be consistent in terms of what has been referred to as designates. That could be in regards to occupational health and safety committees as well as occupational health and safety representatives.

Mr. Speaker, clause 3 will amend section 30 of the act, as well to align the reporting requirements of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Review Division with the Transparency and Accountability Act. This, again, is not a huge adjustment but basically it looks to solidify one reporting system that is consistent on a go forward basis.

Mr. Speaker, we look at clause 4 of the bill, as well, and it is basically just a tidying up in terms of the legislation, eliminating unnecessary service requirements. This would speak to section 45, which was introduced in 1992, and requires a worker who is injured in a work related accident to elect compensation or take an action.


Under the Act, Mr. Speaker, there are specific provisions in terms of when action can be taken to the courts, one being when there is coverage in place under the automobile insurance, and the other being when there is third party negligence. In those particular cases, under the current situation the person would have to elect up-front, before they took compensation, and as well the requirement to elect if they chose to go to the courts would have to notify the Commission on two separate occasions. All this does is basically says, one election is fine, that would take care of it and there is no duplication. This certainly falls within the government's mandate of reduction of Red Tape initiatives to take this unnecessary step out of the current legislation through this Bill 7.

Mr. Speaker, as well, we look at clause 5. This eliminates unnecessary service requirements. It deals with a notice by a worker when they are making a claim for compensation. It was brought in, in 1962, and required that a worker provide notice of an accident by registered mail.

Obviously, in terms of where we are today in terms of reporting, what is available to us, this is not required and there is certainly no compromise in any way to remove this as a necessary hurdle for an injured worker to report an injury.

Mr. Speaker, we go on to clause 6, and this basically deals with removing an expired transitional provision respecting employer payments of excessive compensation. This deals with section 81.l which was brought in, in 1982, which prohibits employers and workers for payment of top-up benefits beyond what is designated under the act in a particular year as annual insurable earnings.

Section 81.1(3) contained a transitional provision which allowed these agreements to remain in force for a two-year period after that legislation was brought in, in 1992. Obviously, that legislation, that requirement, has ‘sunsetted', so there is really no need for that to exist anymore. Under Bill 7 it would indeed be removed.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I will just speak to clause 7 which is probably the most significant clause of this bill, section 89.1(8)(a). It talks about the commencement of an employer's two-year reemployment obligation period from the date of injury to the date of disability. Right now it is from the date of injury. As we know, when I originally spoke I talked about consultation and I guess this was brought up and discussed. It is talked about in the statutory review committee on the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission that was released on May 31, 2006. That process is a process that takes place every five years under the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act. It is a legislative requirement that the act be reviewed and all stakeholders come together. Certainly, different initiatives, different concerns, different changes, and amendments can be brought forward and put before this committee; all partners. So they can bring forward their issues of concerns and have them filtered through, and obviously, the committee, at that point, would compile a report with recommendations.

One of those recommendations in May of 2006 did deal with the two-year reemployment obligation. One of the concerns was that oftentimes when an injury occurs disability is not immediate, or the person may not be off work immediately. So in that particular case, they could have an injury date. Due to the nature of the injury, there could be attempts to stay in the workforce. Unfortunately, they may not be successful and their actual disability may be weeks or months after the actual injury date. Therefore, this is changed to the actual date of disability, which then is certainly reflective of the time out of the workplace for that two-year period.

So, no doubt, that recognizes, from the stakeholders, what has been expressed. Obviously, it is identified as a concern, and through this Bill 7, this actual clause will be adjusted and will be addressed to address those concerns that government has heard.

Mr. Speaker, overall, I think this bill certainly reflects what has been heard in the public domain from all stakeholders. Certainly, I would ask all hon. members, when the time comes, to speak to this and support it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is certainly a pleasure for me to stand this afternoon and speak for a few minutes on Bill 7. As one of my colleagues just said, it is a pleasure to listen to me, and I am sure it is.

It is a pleasure for me to stand and talk about this important piece of legislation. I have listened to the other speakers here this afternoon, and while I may repeat some of the things that have been said, I hope not everything that I say is going to be a repeat.

Mr. Speaker, Bill 7 is an amendment to the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act. Now the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act is an extensive piece of legislation. In preparation for talking, I took the opportunity to print off the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act and it comes out to be sixty-seven pages. So the amendments that we have here today are basically just a small part of that act.

The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act is divided into eleven sections itself, subtitles such as the Workplace Health and Safety Commission. It deals with, of course, health and safety at the workplace. It deals with appeals. It deals with compensation and the right of action for the workers and the employers. It deals with medical aid. It deals with return to work and rehabilitation. It deals with industrial diseases with the injury fund, with all kinds of regulations.

It is a very important piece of legislation, and I would certainly encourage anybody who see themselves being affected by this, particularly people who may have injured themselves at work and are wondering about their rights, I would certainly encourage them to become familiar with the act and to become informed about exactly what is there.

At this time, Mr. Speaker, we are amending several sections of the act. As has already been alluded to, subsection 4(2) deals with how the board of directors is going to be comprised. The current reading before this amendment is passed says that the board of directors shall comprise of three persons representative of employers, three persons representative of workers, and three persons representative of the general public.

With the amendment it will read like this. There will be three persons representative of employers, with a minimum of one of whom shall be recommended to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council by the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council. Then, again, three persons, a minimum of one who shall be recommended to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council by the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, and then, three persons from the general public, one of whom represents injured workers.

What this amendment does is it ensures that the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council have input, it ensures that the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour has input and, most importantly, as was already stated by the Member for Port de Grave, it ensures that injured workers have a voice at the table. That is very important when we are talking about how the board is made up. It enables these different categories of people to have their voice heard and ensures that they will be there.

If we look at, there are a couple of other sections that are being amended. One of them is the 20.2, in the original wording says: in order to promote health and safety in the workplace and to prevent and reduce the occurrence of workplace injuries and diseases the Commission shall promote public awareness of workplace health and safety, educate employers, workers and other persons and provide services to Occupational Health and Safety committees and to work with worker health and safety representatives.

There is an amendment again to that section. Section 20.2 of the act is repealed and the following has been substituted. It says you are going to provide services to Occupational Health and Safety committees, to worker health and safety representatives and the following has been added, it says and to workplace health and safety designates. So what this amendment does, it adds the category, workplace health and safety designates. That ensures consistency with the language that was added to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 2004. Of course, this addition makes the Workplace Health and Safety Commission Act fully in sync with the Occupational Health and Safety requirements.

There was another addition which talked about reporting. The minister has explained that, as some other people today, so I will not go into that.

One of the last sections that is there talks about section 81.1(3) the original wording, this section was added in 1992. That one has been repealed. That section was added in 1992 to prohibit agreements between employers and workers for the payment of top-up benefits beyond what has been authorized by the Workers' Compensation legislation - 81.1 (3) being repealed. What that does, really it is just cleaning up and tidying up the act a bit. There was a two-year window there, given basically back in 1992. Given that this is 2009, that has been long ‘sunsetted' and really there is no need for that to appear in the act any longer. So it is just tidying up that legislation there.

An important part, though, that I wanted to speak on a little more deeply is 89.1(8), "An employer is obligated under this section until the earliest of, (a) 2 years after the date of injury." That was the original wording, and we have changed it: 89.1(8)(a) of the act is amended by deleting the words "date of injury" and substituting the words "date of disability".

Now, what is the significance of that? I realize a couple of other speakers have talked about that this afternoon, but I think that is kind of a nice step forward for the workers in this Province. Because, if you are on the job and you injure yourself you actually, in some cases, may work for quite some time after you sustained that injury. As a matter of fact, some injuries that people have at the place of work do not really get aggravated to the point where you have to give up work until some time later. So, by changing this in the legislation, it means that employers are obligated to workers two years after the disability or two years after the time at which they actually depart work, as opposed to two years after which they have sustained the injury. I think that is a great, great, step forward and I am sure that the workers out there in the Province would applaud that measure.

Mr. Speaker, it is an extensive piece of legislation. I am glad to see that these amendments have been brought forward today. Health and safety is very important in this Province, very important in the current times. Employers, government, have taken all kinds of measures to ensure that proper safety considerations are being put in place at all the workplaces.

When there is an accident - and we hate to see accidents, but when there is an accident - it is good to see that there is proper legislation in place that protects the workers, makes sure that they get the benefits that they are entitled to, they have places to go, and they know where to go, to be looked after.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my remarks.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: If the minister speaks now she will close debate.

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will close debate. I do, though, before I close the debate, want to respond to some of the questions that were posed by the Member for Port de Grave and the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi. I took some notes as we were going through. Hopefully I have written them all down and I did not miss any, but I am sure you will let me know if I have. We are getting nods. For sure, you can speak to me about them if I have not responded to all of them here.

There was some question with regard to the evaluation of internal and external review processes, and I am happy to report that these review process are happening and they are happening through the Labour Relations Agency. They are currently leading, or taking the lead on the evaluation of those services, Mr. Speaker. The reason is, we are looking for ways to identify and enhance the quality and the efficiency and the effectiveness of what we do at the commission. That is not to indicate or to suggest for a minute that things are broken, but it is simply that we can all benefit from evaluation. We can all benefit from taking that second look, so this is the reason that we are entering there. We believe that every organization can improve, and this evaluation will certainly help us in the sense of being able to identify some very practical improvements that can be made in the short term through to the long term. So we are happy to report on that, that both of those reviews, actually, an internal and an external review process, they are both underway and I am expecting a report, Mr. Speaker, by the fall of 2009. So we are expecting to have those processes looked at by then.

I also want to talk about client services, as the Member for Port de Grave made mention of the client services area. Certainly, we had identified that some improvements were needed there. As a result, in March 2008, to address those issues such as timelines and payments and services and accessibility to staff, fair and respectful treatment, which to us was paramount and extremely important, clear and timely communication and employer issues, a permanent client service officer was put in place - or office, rather, was put in place - and we are happy to report that it is part of the strategic plan, the commission's strategic plan from 2008-2010. It has a major focus on client service. We believe that we are seeing improvements in client services. We are cognizant of the fact that this is a process that we need to continuously evaluate, that we need to continuously enhance, but we are very happy with the progress that we have seen.

A new system, as well, for claims registration was implemented in October of this year - October 2008, rather - and all staff who work in front-line positions, if they have not already, will receive training that focuses on customer service, on client service as well, and they will also – all staff – be involved in a decision-making process where they will receive extra training in medical management, in decision-making and in communications, and all of that will happen in 2009.

The end result is that we are hoping that through our new client service office we will be able to address any particular difficulties that might exist. I encourage the members opposite, if they have particular issues, to let me know about them so that we can see that they are addressed through this new client service office. We certainly would be more than happy to look at that. Early survey results tell us that clients are indicating an improvement in service as a result of this particular office.

One of the other issues mentioned this afternoon by members opposite dealt with occupational disease and the establishment, particularly, of the Occupational Disease Advisory Panel. Mr. Speaker, I am really happy to report that this is a piece of work that we have undertaken and that I received the report on March 31 of this year, so just three or four weeks ago. I am in the process now – of course, there was an Easter break in there – of reviewing that particular report and we will have some further information available as soon that review is done.

What I can tell you is that, for us, it was extremely important, in looking at an Occupational Disease Advisory Panel, that we build expert scientific capacity in the Province to address any existing and future occupational disease matters. It is part of our strategic plan. It has been identified as an initiative that we want to follow up on. I can tell you that there will be good things coming forward in the very near future with regard to this Occupational Disease Advisory Panel. I think that members opposite will be very happy with the results of this particular report, and I hope to be able to bring that forward with the recommendations very soon. Some very nice work has been done there. I wish I was able to share that right at this moment in time but it will happen very, very soon.

There was a question with regard to the reserve fund, as well, and the value of an Occupational Disease Reserve Fund. I do not think anybody would be surprised by the fact that those numbers are going to be exceedingly high; however, we are working with an actuary on this matter at the present time. It will take a little bit of time to complete that actuarial study, but we will be moving ahead with regard to the Occupational Disease Reserve Fund as well. It is expected to be completed by the end of next year so that we will have some idea of what the area of occupational disease is anticipated to cost us in this Province.

Occupational disease, as I said before, is a very serious concern of this government and we recognize that there are some initiatives that need to be put in place there. As I said, I think members will be pleased with the results of the review that was done.

It took a little bit of time to get it ready, of course, but the reason for that is, again, that we wanted to get the best scientific and the best medical information that we could in place, and the best empirical data that we could put in place as well, so as to put together an advisory panel that will make this a centre of excellence. There is no question about this. I think when you see what we have in this particular report we will make this a centre of excellence for occupational disease.

I am hoping that answers the questions around occupational disease.

I believe you also had asked some questions around shellfish asthma. Certainly, that is an area that we have been investigating as well. The commission has consulted with respiratory specialists, physicians, and technologists on developing a protocol for diagnosing and treating this particular condition. Again, as we put the panel in place, this will certainly be a very important segment of that particular panel.

The same thing is true of the Baie Verte Miners' Registry. We are very happy to have partnered with the groups in the sense of putting this together, the Baie Verte Peninsula Miners' Action Committee, the United Steelworkers, and, of course, SafetyNet. As of this point in time, I know that 900 of the 3,000 workers have come forward and are registered and that will certainly help us and help them if they need to make claim under the WHSCC. At least the preliminary will have been done, and that will certainly be helpful for us.

There were some questions asked, also, around safety training for fish harvesters and also some questions around the fish harvesters sector in general and the proposal for a separate sector safety council. What I can tell you is that the commission, along with some other partners, has provided funding toward the development of a safety video for fish harvesters that has been very well received. Fish harvesters themselves have told us that they were surprised by some of the occupational hazards that existed for them, and that, in reviewing these videos, they have become more cognizant of the possibility of accidents in their workplaces and they have found these very, very helpful.

The establishment of a fishery safety council with representatives from the industry is something that we are also looking into, and we still have ongoing discussions through the commission to ensure that particular council is fully entrenched in the work that we are doing.

The Member for Port de Grave mentioned proportioning workers' compensation benefits due to other medical conditions, and that is actually a particular application that we do put forward with regard to looking at a fair application of the process. Proportioning benefits simply ensures that the commission is paying only for the entitlement related to the work injury, and not previously existing conditions. There are some questions around the actual act of the proportioning of benefits, but we are analysing that. We know that we are putting into place some of the best analysis and the best applications that we possibly can. The commission analysed the application of the policy in 2005, to ensure that it is fair and that it is consistent and that decisions made will be in the best interests of that injured worker.

In terms of the numbers of objections, I think it is interesting to note that the number of objections to proportionment decisions has declined substantially from seventy-three appeals in 2004, to thirty appeals in 2008. So, we are seeing some improvements there as a result of the applications that we have put in place and the analysis that we have done. While we are not completely there yet, we certainly recognize that there are huge improvements in that particular area as well.

Finally, there were some questions asked with regard to education and awareness and the school system and courses being offered. I can tell you that the commission continues to promote the Workplace Safety 3220 high school course. That is an elective course, but we do continue to support that and to promote that.

There is a compulsory and a mandated Career Development 2201 course that was established in high schools in 2006, and that deals with workplace safety. That is a mandatory course within the curriculum of our schools.

There is a new initiative underway. If you have not seen it yet, I think it is a brilliant way to educate our young people. It is a travelling youth game show, and it is called Who Wants to Save a Life? A brilliant game show, similar to Who Wants to be a Millionaire! If you have not already played the game - and I think I am seeing that some of our minister have probably had a chance to play the game - but it really is good in terms of generating interest in and discussion on health and safety and so on. It is a wonderful educational tool that we are not using simply in our schools. I know that Allied Youth has used it, I know that FINALY! has used it, and it is working very well.

Finally, the commission is working with teachers to promote workplace health and safety in the skilled trades high school programs that we are delivering to our students as well.

In terms of the questions asked around what is happening in our high schools and the education piece, we think we are doing a fairly good program here. There are optional courses, there are mandated courses, and there are some other pieces that are in place as well. So, hopefully, I have answered the questions that have been posed here this afternoon.

In conclusion, I would like to say that we are very happy with the work that the Commission is doing on behalf of injured workers and on behalf of workplace health and safety, generally speaking. I would very strongly urge this House to support Bill 7.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved and seconded that Bill 7, An Act To Amend The Workplace Health, Safety And Compensation Act be read a second time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the said bill be now read a second time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Workplace Health, Safety And Compensation Act. (Bill 7)

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

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

MS BURKE: Now, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Workplace Health, Safety And Compensation Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 7)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 7.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that I do now leave the Chair for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole and to consider the said bill.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

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

Committee of the Whole

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Chair, we will call Bill 7.

CHAIR: The Committee is now ready to debate Bill 7.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Workplace Health, Safety And Compensation Act." (Bill 7)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clauses 2 to 7 inclusive.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 7 inclusive carry?

The hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

MR. BUTLER: I did not realize I had to get up now.

I just have a couple of questions for the minister. First of all, I want to thank her for the wonderful responses to the questions that I did put forward.

With regards to Bill 7, three short questions. So I will put the three of them the one time, if that is okay with you?

Under clause 1, section 4(2) where it says one board member representing injured workers. I was just wondering if you could clarify if the Newfoundland and Labrador Injured Workers Association would be considered, if they could put a name forward?

Under section 30, reporting requirements of the Compensation Review Division. I was wondering - I know there were two reports before, one was a calendar year and the other one was a fiscal year. I was wondering, which do they have to go with now?

The last one is section 81.1(3). I know this was added back in 1992, it has to do with top-up benefits. I am just wondering, I know that is no longer useful now, is that the area where we look at the 80 per cent of net with no top up? I just want clarification on that.

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

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Yes, yes and yes. In terms of the Injured Workers Association, they are certainly welcome to put forward a member to sit on that particular committee. The answer to the second question would have been fiscal year, and the third question, yes; the top-ups refer to the 80 per cent, yes.

CLERK: Clauses 2 to 7 inclusive.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 7 inclusive carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clauses 2 through 7 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Workplace Health, Safety And Compensation Act.

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill carried without amendment?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Chair, while we are in Committee, we would like to continue in Committee and call Bill 4.

CHAIR: We are now ready to resume debate on Bill 4.

A bill, "An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration." (Bill 4)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clauses 2 to 33 inclusive.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 33 inclusive carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clauses 2 through 33 carried.

CLERK: Clause 34.

CHAIR: Clause 34.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

During debate on this bill, it was pointed out by the Opposition House Leader that there appeared to be an anomaly, an incongruity, an inconsistency, between two sections of the act, one dealing with the keeping of records and a second dealing with the laying of a complaint and the bringing forward of a prosecution.

As I indicated, I looked at this and I indicated to the Opposition House Leader that I felt, in fact, he was correct. When I discussed this with my officials, they indicated that administratively the chances of someone being prosecuted after seven years was pretty well nil. That being the case, my question became: Why don't we put that in the act?

Again, in some further looking at the act, seven years was the time frame that records were to be kept. When I spoke again to my officials, they indicated that after seven years the chances of a proceeding are not very great. So the proposed amendment - section 34, as it read prior to the debate, stated, "A complaint may be made and proceedings may be taken on it in respect of an offence under this Act without limitation of time."

So, in essence, you could have this hanging over your head forever in terms of this particular act. Now, it is important that we understand, Mr. Chairman, and I should have outlined this earlier, what this act is dealing with. The Opposition House Leader raised the issue of people maintaining records and having to keep the records, and I interpreted that his comments could be in relation to a small business or a convenience store, for example; but, Mr. Chairman, this act applies to – the Revenue Administration Act - the consolidation of these various acts are the gasoline tax, the payroll tax, or HAPSET, the tobacco tax, the Insurance Companies Act, the horse racing tax and the RST on used vehicles.

Mr. Chairman, in terms of how these taxes are collected, gasoline tax is collected by refiners and wholesalers, so I do not feel as concerned about having wholesalers and refiners keep their records for more than seven years in case there is an audit ongoing or an audit has to be looked at. Tobacco tax is collected by manufactures and wholesalers, so again we are dealing with the same big corporations; we are not dealing with the store, for example. My concern would be the convenience store who is selling tobacco. Insurance companies' tax is paid by insurance underwriters. Payroll tax only applies to companies with payroll in excess of $1 million. There is only one operator of horse racing events. Sales tax on used vehicles is collected at Motor Registration. So, Mr. Chairman, this act or this section will have no practical impact on convenience stores or small businesses like that because the Revenue Administration Act does not apply to them in those circumstances.

In most cases, Mr. Chairman, the taxpayer is a large, sophisticated business. In any event, however, no one should still have to live with the possibility of events going on forever, or investigations going on forever. So what we have proposed, Mr. Chairman, having regard to the Opposition House Leader's comments - and this is one of the things I indicated a couple of days ago, and I reiterate - in terms of the purpose and function of debate, it allows the Opposition, members of the government side, to look at legislation and to see if there is a problem, an anomaly, an inconsistency, something that needs to be fixed up now, as opposed to coming back, Mr. Chairman - and you are well aware from your legal training - as opposed to someone getting in court and saying: Why is this happening? Why did the Legislature leave this out, or why did the Legislature put it in there?

We have identified a problem, and I do not think, Mr. Chair, that having discussed it with my officials in taxation, I do not feel it is something that we have to go look at and say: well, we need to examine this and have a further consultation or a further Cabinet review. It is fairly straightforward.

We are going to try to make the act consistent so that the new section 34 – excuse me, first the old section 34, I am told by my officials is only intended to apply to cases of fraud and reasonable time limitations would have been applied administratively in considering prosecutions for other types of offences. If that is the intent, and that is our intent, why not put it in there now and clarify it for everyone? The proposed amendment, 34.(1) "A complaint may be made and proceedings taken on it within 7 years of the date of the offence."

We use seven years, Mr. Chair, for a number of reasons. One, it is consistent with section 9 of the act, which talks about the keeping of records for seven years unless the minister gives permission to destroy the same. Importantly, Mr. Chair, "Notwithstanding subsection (1), a complaint may be made and proceedings may be taken on an offence referred to in paragraphs 32.(1)(h), (i) and (j) without limitation…" In essence, I will go to section 32.(1)(h),(i) and (j); 32.(1)(h) deals with the destruction, alteration, mutilation, concealing or disposing of the books.

In the types of companies that we are dealing with, Mr. Chair, obviously, as a government, you want big companies and medium-size companies, which I think a payroll of $1 million would be considered for the HAPSET, or the payroll tax a medium-sized company. We want them maintaining their records. In this day of computer technology they can maintain their records, unlike the convenience store owner, for example, in some small community who would have boxes of documents. They can probably maintain their documents on a computer disc. We want them to maintain their documents. However, if they destroy their records they have seven years before they could be held accountable.

The important ones, Mr. Chair, are 32.(1)(i) "makes or permits, or assents to or acquiesces in the making of, false or misleading entries or omissions..." Now we are dealing with fraud, Mr. Chair. The same thing with the next section – excuse me, before I get to the next section. This would make it consistent with the criminal code provisions. If someone commits a fraud over $5,000 there is no limitation on when you can be prosecuted. Again, that in theory, Mr. Chair, as you are aware, and as the Opposition House Leader and the Minister of Justice is aware, there are practical implications. What we try to do, or what I would suggest the Legislature – we should try to do with the law, is not to envisage all situations but to keep it open as possible, while getting some degree of certainty, which is, I think, the point that was being made by the Opposition House Leader.

If someone is entering misleading entries or committing fraud, Mr. Chair, it could take years to discover that fraud and it could result, for example, in an audit six years into the records. I will point out that there is nothing here that will change – there is no limitation on the collection of tax owing. In other words, if you have been determined to owe tax, then within that seven-year period, then the limitation for – there is no limitation for the collecting of that tax. Again, having regard to the example used by the Opposition House Leader the other day. So it is important to make that point.

Section 32.(1)(j) also, which has no limitation, someone "who wilfully evades or attempts to evade compliance with this Act or the payment of tax."

Again, we are not dealing with the person who owes a small amount of tax or the person who might have been mistaken, or just did not do it. The companies we are dealing with here under this act will be, as I have indicated, fairly big companies, I would think. Again, when you use the word wilfully it sets a high standard and that they would have to intentionally evade; not a mistake, not inadvertent.

So, Mr. Chair, I would suggest, and we will hear from the Opposition House Leader, but this again illustrates the purpose of debate in this hon. House. It illustrates what I would suggest is a valid point to be making and a reasonable compromise being reached in an expeditious way. In other words, I do not need to come back here next week and say: well, okay, now we will go through it. It is that when I met with my officials, they indicated yes, this makes sense.

The final point, Mr. Chair, I want to make here today is that in terms of the question of the Opposition House Leader in relation to the Mineral Rights Taxation Act or the Mining Rights Tax Act, whatever it may be called, that the Voisey's Bay agreement is not affected because in fact, the Voisey's Bay agreement under section 6.(9) actually deals with the Mining Tax Act and refers to the Mining Tax Act and states that the government shall introduce and support legislation to amend the Mining Tax Act in accordance with the Mining Tax Act amendment, and that was done. So, it appears that the Voisey's Bay agreement in fact acknowledges the application of this act and resulted in changes to the Mining Tax Act.

So, Mr. Chair, those would be my comments in relation to the proposed amendment to clause 34.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CHAIR: Order, please.

I would ask the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, is he moving the amendment?

The amendment has not been moved and seconded.

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Chair, I move the amendment to clause 34 of An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration, 34.(1) "A complaint may be made and proceedings taken on it within 7 years of the date of the offence. (2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), a complaint may be made and proceedings may be taken on an offence referred to in paragraphs 32(1)(h), (i) and (j) without limitation of time."

CHAIR: It is has been moved by the hon. Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, and seconded by the Government House Leader, that clause 34 be amended.

The amendment reads as follows: "1. Clause 34 of the Bill is repealed and the following substituted: 34.(1) A complaint may be made and proceedings taken on it within 7 years of the date of the offence.

(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), a complaint may be made and proceedings may be taken on an offence referred to in paragraphs 32(1)(h), (i) and (j) without limitation of time."

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate an opportunity to comment on the amendment that has been put forward, and appreciated, by the way. Sometimes in this House here we can - all parties, all sides, I guess, tend to get our backs up and get stubborn sometimes and refuse to even recognize what are rational, logical conclusions. It is good to see that sometimes, when upon a second glance, if somebody gets an opportunity to reconsider it and something you might not have had an opportunity or looked at before. When someone points out that there might be an inconsistency that might be rectified, that we take the time here in this House to rectify such.

So it is good to see that the minister, today, this was pointed out, and it is good to see that the government are at least willing, in some cases, to be open and actually accept a rational, reasoned amendment, and that is the light in which it was put forward.

That takes me back to the whole reason I asked on Monday about the consultation process, because we, as an Opposition, get this documentation a week to two weeks to three weeks in advance, and we, of course, along with our research staff, read it over and try to find if there are any inconsistencies, in our view, and we bring these to the attention of the House when it is debated. Of course, a lot of that would be short-circuited and would be unnecessary if the consultation process took place. That was my reasoning for getting into the consultations, that we here often find ourselves sometimes rushed, sometimes pressured, to let's get on with business. The Government House Leader has a certain book of business every day that she would like to get concluded, and we as well. We do not want to be obstructionist. If something is reasonable, needs to be done, and should be done, it ought to be done and it ought to be done in a reasonable, timely manner. That is exactly what happened here.

I just used that one example of Joe who had a convenience store in Isle aux Morts, potentially. There are a lot of Joes with a lot of convenience stores in a lot of areas of this Province. You potentially had a situation where you could have thirty years of all of your records in a convenience store business, being required to save them all of your lifetime, if you just overlooked and forgot to go get permission from the minister to destroy them. You could be facing any punishments that were outlined under the act. Common sense would tell us, that is not fair, that after a while it becomes impractical to think that somebody, or even the records that you have, are going to be usable after a certain period of time.

What we see here is that those types of, shall we say, non-fraudulent, those types of recording, administrative reporting requirements and preservation of documents, by way of this amendment now we are putting a reasonable time limit on it, seven years. If seven years is acceptable for a lot of things under our Criminal Code, or under our federal income tax Statutes, why wouldn't it be adequate under here? It is a guideline accepted in the rest of the Nation as being acceptable and that is what we are proposing here.

Likewise, we should not do an amendment here that lets everybody off the hook, irregardless of the seven-year period. Therefore, if someone is fraudulent, the word the minister used, or someone evades the payment of a tax or tries to evade the payment of a tax and so on, they are still going to be on the hook beyond the seven years, and sure they should, because that is different. There is a difference between administrative oversight versus deliberate, calculated, fraudulent, evasive action. Tax evasion has, in and of itself, its own definitions. It has been defined, it has been litigated. There are all kinds of judicial precedent as to what evasion means. For example, tax avoidance: perfectly legal. You can avoid all the tax in the world. There are all kinds of tax advisers out there who people hire year in and year out to help them avoid the payment of taxes; a perfectly legitimate activity. Avoid all the taxes you possibly can, but evading taxes is a totally different ball game.

That is what we are saying here now, that nobody in this Province should be given a higher standard when it comes to administrative requirements and responsibilities than you would under the Income Tax Act when it comes to these administrative holding documents requirements.

It is good to see that the government has accepted this. Unfortunately, and I say this again in seriousness but not to point fingers or bring up an old sore, shall we say, open old wounds, but we have limited resources in which to do this. I think we have, right now, something like eighteen or nineteen pieces of legislation that we are hoping to get through in this session, and I understand from the Government House Leader there may be more.

This place is supposed to have, in addition to question periods and so on and debates about budgets and whatever, opportunities and requirements to pass legislation. Your debate is fuller, more open, more detailed, and more logical the better the research you have done vis-ΰ-vis those pieces of legislation. Again, there are only three or four of us over in Opposition, but yet we all have an expectation, the public has an expectation, that we are supposed to know what we are doing and we are supposed to have done our research and we are supposed to be prepared to come in here to speak to these pieces of legislation. There is a serious limitation here because we do not have the resources that we ought to have.

I will not get into all of that debate again about who voted where and who should have what resources, but that is an example, just so the public understands, that there are limitations on the Opposition in how detailed and comprehensive our commentary sometimes can be in here because we do not have the research backup in order to do that.

That, of course, is anther issue, but it is a real issue. It is a very substantive issue, a very real issue, that if you had the necessary research support staff you could be prepared. For example, the Minister of Finance, in bringing this amendment forward, he could pop out of this House today after he decided that he was agreeable to this and it was a reasonable thing to do, he could leave here and there are at least fifty people, if he needed to call upon them, in the Department of Finance to discuss this issue, consider whether it was a wise thing to do or an unwise thing to do, say, draft it, how are we going to purpose it. He could put his fingertips, today, at a whim, on fifty persons in this building to help him come up with that amendment - at least – and that is what governments ought to do. That is a government responsibility. Likewise, there should be equal opportunity for people in Opposition, who have an expectation to prepare this information, to do the proper research. Of course, that is not there because the same government who are being very reasonable today chose not to be so reasonable on another opportunity when they slashed the resources that were available to the Opposition.

Notwithstanding, now, that it was not the Opposition who just went cap in hand and said give it to us. There was an independent third party who decided and recommended that should be done. It was not the Opposition who said give us $1 million or $2 million. Somebody outside, who a joint mutual party appointed, went and viewed all of the structures in Canada and said: What do we think is fair given the circumstances? Where do they operate? How many members do you have? What is the nature of the responsibilities? How many people are in Opposition? How many parties in Opposition? What should we do?

That independent party came back and said: This is what you ought to do. But the government, of course, in its wisdom, chose to penalize one particular Opposition party, and that is the Official Opposition. They allowed the NDP, the third party in the House - Fine, they said, we will go along with that. We will go along with the money for ourselves, the government, but we will cut the feet out from under the Official Opposition.

Of course, there is a reason for that, because the less resources that an Opposition has, the less work you can get done. That is only humanly physical requirement. We cannot get all of that done. Some people, now, would like to go back in history and reinvent the wheel, and go back to Joey Smallwood's day and say: Well, we did not do it this way back then and you never gave us enough back then, and all of that kind of stuff. Some people would go way back there in history and try to recreate that, but we are not dealing with 1949. We are not dealing with 1969. We are not dealing with 1989 or 1999. We are dealing with a circumstance that in 2008 an independent third party went out, sized up all of the circumstances, and said this is what they should have for the House of Assembly.

For obvious reasons, of course, the government obviously did not want to go along with that. Because, given the job that the Opposition are doing now, I would suggest, with the limited number of bodies that they have, and with the few researchers that we can afford to get, I think they are doing a pretty good job. I think the people see that, too. That is pretty evident when you look at the news reports in the media. I do not think there are too many issues in this Province, really, that do not get put on the radar screen by the Opposition.

Sometimes they come from the media, and some people would think that because it was mentioned first in the media that the Opposition should not talk about it. I have heard people here on the government side say, during Question Period: Oh, yes, you read The Telegram again this morning.

Thank God for places like The Telegram. If we could not go to places like the media sources, if we did not have concerned citizens in this Province delivering us information - it is like the issue this week in Question Period when the Leader of the Official Opposition asked the Minister of Health about the treatment centre in Central. The Leader of the Opposition got up and said: We have a letter from four groups –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: We have a letter from four groups who have questions about the placement of the treatment centre in Central.

All of a sudden, the government members start to shout and say: Oh, you don't want the treatment centre in Central. You crowd in Opposition don't want the treatment centre in Central.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I would like to remind the member that in Committee, especially being that we are dealing with specific clauses, amendments, to try to keep his comments more relevant.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate your guidance. My comments, I would suggest, Mr. Chair, are always relevant. I am commenting here on the need, the real need in any democratic system, to be able to function within the system, to be informed. I am appreciative of the fact that the Minister of Finance today has used his resources, and the resources of the Department of Finance, to get this amendment put forward. In that light, I am commenting on, to the general public, why it is important to have these resources so that we can get these types of amendments done.

Again, the government now might think and do not want the Opposition to bring some of these issues forward, but this is an example where, as I said about the Minister of Health, we can get into reporting requirements if we want to get relevant here, and use words that make it relevant, and talk about reporting requirements. The government members went haywire because we raised the issue on Monday, but guess what? When CBC carried the story, and NTV carried the story, all of a sudden there was a lady and a gentleman, I do believe, on different open line shows, who called in and said: Excuse me, I am the president of such-and-such a group and these are the reasons why I am upset. By the way, we sent a letter to the Opposition telling them that, and we appreciate the fact that they brought it up in the House.

All of a sudden the government takes a different tack. All of a sudden the government sits up in their chairs and they listen, because they say: Whoa, this is not only coming from the Opposition over there. They are not muckraking any more. They are actually bringing forward some group who has serious concerns, so maybe we should tune in now.

Mr. Chairman, I am down to my one minute and forty-one seconds here, so, in conclusion on this particular amendment, I would say to the minister, thank you very much for your commentary. Thank you very much for being open today on this issue of the amendment. I look forward to the other pieces of legislation we have being dealt with and treated in the same manner.

If it is logical and rational that we put forward – at least the consideration that it is rational. We had examples in this House where albeit, we might put forward a good situation, a good amendment. We have had officials come back and say to you, thought about it, makes sense what you are saying, it is an issue, but we cannot deal with it by way of an amendment for a, b, c, d, e, f, g reasons, and we have said: understand completely and totally, and backed off on it. If that light of give and take is the way that we operate in these situations, we will go far in this chamber and we will certainly accomplish a lot of things.

It is better to get it done here with a little bit of delay than it is to put it out, send it out the door, and find out, as the minister says, you end up with more complaints, you end up with cabinet meetings, and you have to come back to make these simple amendments. It is better to do it in this process. It is good to see that the process does work and that we are going to save somebody a lot of trouble in the future because we took the time today to do it right.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Is it the pleasure of the committee to adopt the amendment to clause 34?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: Oh, I am sorry. My apologies!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I know that you cannot see me through the Clerk, and I am not tall enough for you to see me over the Clerk either, so thank you.

I just want to acknowledge the amendment and say that I am glad to see that the minister did do the amendment. I just wanted to get that on record.

I just want to mention one other thing that I want to thank the minister for, because I could not be here when we were in committee before and I did not get to speak to him about something, in committee, so I spoke to him about it outside of committee, and I would just like to mention it. It had to do with the fact that when the minister presented the bill, he talked about the discretionary powers of judges when it comes to incarceration.

I have to say, I went through the notes and he did not mention exactly how that was dealt with in the bill. Actually, it is dealt with in the schedule. I wanted to point that out, because people reading the bill, if they do not read the schedule, will not find the discretionary powers of the judges.

In the schedule, when you look at the column that deals with incarceration, all the minimum requirements have been removed; and, because the minimum requirements are removed, that means a judge does not have to give a sentence. There is a maximum, so that if he or she does choose then they have a maximum, but there is no minimum any more.

I just wanted to point out that the minister and I had discussion and I thought it was important to put it forward.

Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Is it the pleasure of the Committee to adopt the amendment to clause 34?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, amendment carried.

CHAIR: Is it the pleasure of the Committee to adopt clause 34 as amended?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 34, as amended, carried.

CLERK: Clauses 35 to 128 inclusive.

CHAIR: Clauses 35 to 128 inclusive.

Shall those carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clauses 35 through 128 carried.

CLERK: The schedule.

CHAIR: Shall the schedule carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, scheduled carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration.

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill carried with amendment?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

Motion that the Committee report having passed the bill with amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: I move, Mr. Chair, that the Committee rise and report Bill 7 and Bill 4.

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise and report Bill 7 and Bill 4.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

The hon. the Assistant Deputy Speaker.

MR. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and reports Bill 7 carried without amendment, and Bill 4 carried with amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of the Whole reports that Bill 7 is carried without amendment and Bill 4 with amendment.

When shall the report be received?

MS BURKE: Now, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, report received and adopted.

MR. SPEAKER: When shall the bills be read a third time?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that the amendment be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the said amendment be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: The first reading of the amendment.

On motion, amendment read a first time.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Finance and the President of Treasury Board, that the amendment be now read a second time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the said amendment be now read a second time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: Second reading of the amendment.

On motion, amendment read a second time.

MR. SPEAKER: When shall the bills be read a third time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, bills ordered read a third time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, for the record, I would like to note that on Monday the Social Services Committee will meet in the House at 9:00 a.m. to review the Estimates of the Department of Justice.

Further, on Monday afternoon the Resource Committee will review the Estimates of the Department of Environment and Conservation at 6:00 p.m. in the House of Assembly.

With that, Mr. Speaker, it being 5:29 p.m., I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Transportation and Works, that the House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: It 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 1:30 of the clock tomorrow, being Monday.

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