May 14, 2009              HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS              Vol. XLVI   No. 21


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Today, the Chair would like to welcome a special group of individuals who have been attending some festivities here at the Confederation Building today. I am referring to the War Brides of Newfoundland and Labrador.

On behalf of the House of Assembly, I offer each one of you and your family a very warm welcome to your House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Also, we are happy today to welcome a group of ten Grade 9 students from Level I, all the way from D.C. Young School, Port Hope Simpson, in the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The students are accompanied by their teacher, Mr. Thomas Flynn, and their chaperon, Ms Karen Sooley.

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: The following members' statements will be heard today: the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's South; the hon. the Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; the hon. the Member for the District of Humber Valley; the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; and, the hon. the Member for the District of Placentia & St. Mary's.

The hon. the Member for the District of St. John's South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, today is a very special day as we have recognized the significant contributions made by War Brides through the signing of a proclamation this morning. I would like to thank the hon. Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs for signing the proclamation, and the Speaker for his welcome of our special guests today.

I would like to recognize the War Brides who have joined us today in the gallery, and their families, and to thank them for spending the day with us as we recognize them and the contribution that they made to our Province, our culture and our economy.

During both the First and Second World Wars, as well as the Korean Conflict, thousands of servicemen from Newfoundland served overseas and many of them returned with brides and dependants. Approximately 1,000 women married servicemen from Newfoundland during the Second World War alone, making their return home the single largest influx of immigrants in Newfoundland's history. We can safety say they made a tremendous contribution to our population.

With the start of their new lives in their new home the War Brides and their husbands became the new workers, entrepreneurs and leaders of the burgeoning economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, providing a solid foundation for the next generation, thus adding a tremendous contribution to our economy.

Most of the War Brides came from the United Kingdom, and while this is also where most of our ancestors came from hundreds of years ago, they brought a fresh approach to our old cultures and they added new ones as well. I can still taste the Scottish dishes my mother-in-law used to make, and can say from my own experiences that the War Brides added new food and new ideas to our rich culture.

The War Brides who moved to Newfoundland and Labrador left their own homes, family and friends to join their husbands and new families and make a home in an unknown land. They have added to our families and to our communities in many ways. Some of their contributions were made far from the public eye and in ways that cannot be measured, but we are a richer people and a richer Province because of them.

I would like all members of the House to welcome our special guests today and recognize them and their valuable contributions.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, last night was the opening night for Surfaced, the art fashion show and exhibit for the twenty-first annual Textile Studies graduates of the College of the North Atlantic, which is a two-year diploma program offered in collaboration with the Anna Templeton Centre.

Surfaced is the culmination of the final semester of the Textile Studies program. The nine students who are graduating worked very hard to create their own line of products, one-of-a-kind or limited editions, for sale and display in the graduate exhibition at the Anna Templeton Centre.

The Anna Templeton Centre contributes to the cultural heritage of this Province. The quality of work has been instrumental in encouraging the development of the Province's artistic community. The Centre also provides after school and lunchtime arts programs in the St. John's area.

As I mentioned, the Centre is in its twenty-first year and continues to produce great works and inspire artists. The instructors, some of whom have been through the program themselves, have a lot to offer.

The graduates of this year's Textile Studies program are: Aryn Ballett, Ricky Brophy, Kailey Cahill, Meagan Hounsell, Susan Jarvis, Ashlynn Kenny, Laura O'Leary, Rebecca Smith and Denise Walsh. I encourage my colleagues to take the time to go and see what wonderful art they have created.

I ask the House to congratulate the graduates of the twenty-first Textile Studies program and the staff of the Anna Templeton Centre for all their hard work.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Humber Valley.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the Member of the House of Assembly for the District of Humber Valley, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this hon. House today and formally recognize an outstanding young man.

Jeremy Curnew, a Level III student at Elwood High School in Deer Lake, made history for chess on the West Coast at the provincial chess tournament recently held in Gander. He won gold in the Grade 12 division, and he is the first chess player from the Deer Lake area to earn a seat at the final stage of the Canadian Chess Challenge.

The national chess tournament will take place on May 16-18 at the University of Toronto. Curnew earned his place at the national tournament by winning at both the regional and provincial levels. He will be travelling to Ontario with the team of provincial gold medal winners, most of them are from the Avalon Peninsula.

His previous chess advisor, Debbie Olsen, and his present chess advisor, Clarence White, are extremely proud of Jeremy's achievements. The school and the community also share the great excitement in Jeremy's success.

Mr. Speaker, the documented benefits of playing chess are immense. Controlled studies going back over several decades, beginning in Russia, and more recently in the United States, have indicated that chess develops improved concentration, analytical, reasoning ability, circumspection, prudence, and judgement. It is known to foster greater self-esteem, self-confidence and significantly improve academic performance.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this hon. House to join me in extending best wishes to Jeremy and the rest of the provincial team at the nationals.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in the House today to congratulate the Eagle River Credit Union, who celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary at their annual general meeting in L'Anse au Clair this past weekend.

Mr. Speaker, this organization is a major success story in this Province. A credit union that resulted from desperation when the only bank in the area, the Bank of Montreal, pulled out of L'Anse au Loup in 1984. It was a group of local volunteers who formed a steering committee and worked with the Credit Union Council to form what we know today as the Eagle River Credit Union.

Mr. Speaker, since its inception, the Eagle River Credit Union has steadily and gradually expanded to further meet the needs of other surrounding communities. Today, they are the second largest credit union in the Province, having reached over $70 million in assets, establishing six branches in the Northern Peninsula and throughout Labrador, and serving well over 6,400 customer-owners.

As part of their mandate, over the past twenty-five years, the Eagle River Credit Union has made a significant contribution to the community and its people as well with substantial corporate donations and fundraising efforts for all charitable organizations.

Mr. Speaker, the credit union has also been recognized for its impressive track record and has won various awards for economic development as well as being named Credit Union of the Year in 1999 and again in 2002.

I ask all members in the House to join with me in congratulating the Eagle River Credit Union on their silver anniversary and recognizing their management team and their board of directors and wishing them every success for the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, on Valentine's Day this year, I had the occasion to attend a birthday party in Whitbourne for Mrs. Melina Gosse. This was a special birthday party, Mr. Speaker, because on February 14 Mrs. Gosse celebrated her 100 birthday.

Melina Gosse was born in Green's Harbour in 1909, the third of five children of Albert and Jane March. She grew up and attended school in Green's Harbour and in 1939, while working at the Newhook Clinic in Whitbourne, she met and married Harold Gosse, who worked with the Newfoundland Railway. Mr. Gosse died in 1988.

They had three daughters and three sons. One son is Mr. Lloyd Gosse, the current mayor of Whitbourne. Mrs. Gosse still resides in her own home in Whitbourne and is a very bright, articulate and independent woman who reads and follows the news of the day. She has a very keen memory and a repertoire of songs and poetry which she is willing to share readily. I have had the opportunity to visit this wonderful lady on a number of occasions, and it is always a pleasure to chat with her.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members of this House to join with me in congratulating Mrs. Melina Gosse and in wishing her continued good health and happiness.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are renowned for celebrating the Province's culture and for remaining close to their roots. For some it is through song, for others it is storytelling, and for many more it is through making of craft.

In addition to playing an important role in celebrating the Province's cultural identity, the craft industry is an important contributor to local economies. It employs more than 1,600 people and generates in excess of $32 million in sales annually.

To support the continued growth of the craft industry, the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development implements a series of initiatives that enable locally-produced products to be sold at home or abroad. Departmental initiatives include financial investments, regional and national trade shows, training and workshops, and hosting events such as the Provincial Craft Wholesale Show.

It is also an industry led by business savvy entrepreneurs who recognize the need to be innovative and utilize modern applications to market and sell their products. Mr. Speaker, taking innovative approaches to expand the reach of business in the smallest or largest of communities significantly improves the possibilities of success.

With this in mind, the department and industry work collectively to initiate tools that increase awareness in sales of such locally made crafts as traditional knitwear, specialty food, jewellery, and one-of-a-kind pieces that capture the spirit and the distinct culture of our region.

Coinciding with this year's Provincial Craft Wholesale Show, a virtual trade show was launched. The virtual trade show expanded awareness of craft producers and their products to a wide audience and provided retailers unable to travel to St. John's with the opportunity to participate in this event.

I am pleased to report that the virtual show led directly to new sales for producers. As we proceed forward, we intend to expand the use of the virtual shows to benefit all those in the industry.

The department, in partnership with the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador has also launched a series of Internet marketing workshops. The workshops are custom designed for individual craft producers to help improve their presence on-line. Producers acquire practical skills that can be immediately applied to Web site development and enhancements, along with attracting visitors to their Web site.

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador's geography can present barriers for smaller businesses like those in the craft industry. As a government, we are committed to facilitating the adaptation of modern applications and innovation that leads to local producers breaking those barriers and targeting new opportunities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I thank minister for an advanced copy of his statement.

The craft sector, of course, is one of the more underdeveloped sectors in our economy and it is great to see anything that can be done by government and by that department in particular, to enhance that sector of our economy. We, of course, have some of the most skilled and creative craftspeople in this country, and anything that can be done to advance their interest and their industry is certainly beneficial.

I particularly note the use of technology here. We have all seen, of course, that technology and the impact it can have upon economic ventures is overwhelming, and eBay is just one example. Of course, if we can take the craft industry and put it on a more positive footing because of the use of technology, all the best.

I particularly note, as well, the fact that we can use technology to bring people together who have a similar interest in that industry, because oftentimes, given our geography, it is a barrier, that you just can't bring them together. Someone may have a great idea, but quite often they don't have the resources to come to these craft shows, for example, to promote themselves and their business. It is great to see that we are making use of technology in that regard as well.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

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

I have met people who have participated in the professional development workshops the minister referred to. I know that the artisans really do find them to be helpful. Newfoundland and Labrador is full of talented artisans and craftspeople, but it is unfortunately difficult for them to make a living, as we all know, because the market in Newfoundland is so small. Anything that can be done to stretch out and reach a broader market is really important. Unless artisans hit on a specific market right away it is sometimes a long road, because in order to make an income you have to export right away to do that.

I encourage government to continue with these initiatives but also to provide more income support to artisans especially in the beginning of the development of their product when things are so hard for them, and I encourage the government to play a much larger role in helping them with distribution and marketing outside the Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Statements by Ministers.

The hon. the Minister of Business.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ORAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, last Thursday, May 7, the meeting of the Pan-Atlantic Investment Coordination committee was held here in St. John's. This is a group comprised of senior investment coordinators and officials from the Atlantic Provinces and the federal government. Its primary objectives are to facilitate investment partnerships and build awareness in the international markets to better establish the Atlantic region as a good place in which to invest.

This was the first time since 2007 that Newfoundland and Labrador has had the occasion to host a meeting of the Investment Coordination Committee. It provided a beneficial opportunity for officials of our government who are involved in investment attraction to get together and to interact face-to-face with counterparts from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the federal government, in order to communicate, coordinate and share information, report on progress, scope upcoming international events, conferences, and missions and lay out additional groundwork for increased investment activity in the Atlantic Provinces.

Although on one level our provinces naturally compete with one another for foreign and national business, we also hold common interests in promoting our jurisdictions and regions as a whole for investment, and our individual efforts, activities and successes can certainly have mutual benefits for all.

Mr. Speaker, the meeting also provided our Province, as host, with an opportunity to highlight to Atlantic and the federal agencies the strengths and assets that make Newfoundland and Labrador an increasingly attractive place to invest, including our wealth of resources, our current and future major projects, and our significant financial investments in areas like infrastructure and research and development.

Mr. Speaker, like other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world, we recognize that attracting business from abroad creates new employment and contributes to diversifying our economy. That is why our government established the Business Attraction Fund as a key incentive for investors, and why in Budget 2009 close to $30 million was provided under this fund for this fiscal year.

Mr. Speaker, our Province was very pleased to host last week's meeting of the Pan-Atlantic Investment Coordination Committee, as we advance in our own objective to position Newfoundland and Labrador as a preferred destination for inward investment.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

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

Any initiative, of course, or meeting which has as its purpose coordinating your investment efforts is a positive move. We certainly need all the co-operation that we can have when it comes to advancing our trading interests and our business interests in the economy in general, certainly in these tough economic times that we currently have.

I would point out, and I do not mean to be negative here, but the minister uses the words: a good place in which to invest. Unfortunately, sometimes people outside, when they see things happen here, they get a different opinion.

For example, the AbitibiBowater expropriation piece, everybody here positively supported, unanimously endorsed that move, and I support it because I believe it was the proper move as well. Sometimes people outside misinterpret what our purposes were and some people see those types of actions as being unfriendly. I just think we need to educate them better as to why we did it. I would certainly agree that we did the right thing but unfortunately, sometimes people outside misinterpret for their own purposes what the initiative was about.

I would say in particular, with regards to the Department of Business, it has existed now for a number of years, five, six years, and I have questioned the minister extensively in Estimates every year about it and the Premier used to head up the department himself, initially. As I said to the minister, again, we look forward to more positive and substantive announcements. We have had lots of announcements from the Red Tape Committee of which the minister chairs and so on but we have not seen a lot of substantive ventures. Hopefully, the $30 million that is there now we will see that come to fruition with some good investments in the future which will create good economic circumstances for the Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

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

This initiative, the Investment Coordination Committee and these meetings are obviously important as we look to investment in the Province, but we have had a lot of announcements. I do not want to sound repetitive here but we have. We have had the MOUs with Ireland, Iceland and Rhode Island. We know that the department has been in place for six years now. We have had initiatives like the ACOA based Team Canada Atlantic International Business Development Program. We go on supporting this but also waiting to see more to come back. We are soon going to be wanting to see the fruits of that investment.

It is my understanding we have about five businesses that have come forward in the past six years because of the department. We would like to see that double pretty fast, Mr. Speaker, if we are going to continue putting money into this.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In April, May, June and July of 2008, Eastern Health accumulated over 62,000 hours of nursing time during that four-month period. It is equivalent to over 5,000 twelve-hour shifts of overtime.

I ask the Premier: If he can indicate to us today what other government employees have that level of overtime in our system, and I ask if they think this is an acceptable workload to expect from nurses?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I do not know across government. My colleague, the President of Treasury Board, might have some stats across government, but I suspect, Mr. Speaker, I truly suspect that is probably the highest of any employee group in the public service.

There are a number of reasons for that. Last year alone, we have about 5,000 nurses, on average each of them used about twenty days of unscheduled leave, unplanned leave. Now if you combine that with the fact that in December, 2008 the Canadian Centre for Help Information came out with a stat that said that we have the highest proportion of nurses working in permanent positions than anywhere else in the entire country, because that is what the nurses asked us to do. The compromise here though, Mr. Speaker, is when you do that, you do not have as many nurses available for relief. So they have to fundamentally do their own relief, and that is where the overtime is driven in many cases.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If you look at those statistics and you also look at the fact that during that four-month period there was also 23,000 hours of overtime accumulated at the Health Sciences Centre alone, it is a clear indication that there is a lack of nurses in hospitals in this Province.

I ask the government today: If this level of overtime is required to cover regular nursing shifts, why would government even threaten to remove the monetary benefits that they were designing to address the recruitment and retention problem that exists in this profession?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: What the member is highlighting here for us is something that I said yesterday in a couple of comments I made to the press. The actions and the decisions made by the nurses' union to start a job action next Wednesday, and to remove all overtime, puts the health system in a much more compromising position than if they had gone forward with what has normally been referred to as standard strike, where they withdraw the service and, in fact, have a picket line and all the other things that we tend to associate with strikes.

Their decision that they announced this week puts patients in a much more compromising position than if they were to ever follow through with what is normally expected in a strike situation. Because, in that situation, in order for them to have a legal strike, they need to have essential employee agreements in place and that would cover off those critical areas and would respond to patient safety issues that are going to arise in the health system, I say, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Not only do we have concerns with the fact that overtime is being pulled back by nurses in the Province, but this morning I was notified in writing by one nurse who had submitted his resignation to Western Health because of this situation, and I hope it is not the beginning of more resignations.

I ask government today: Instead of allowing our system to free fall into a devastating situation, that we are unable to bring stability to the health care sector, will you not reconsider your decisions and go to binding arbitration on these two issues so that we can avoid any cutback in overtime, any legislating back to work, and nurses from resigning from the system?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The law imposes upon us a duty to bargain in good faith. We have demonstrated our good faith, Mr. Speaker, by offering significant increases in wages, by offering to look at other issues. We were more than generous in our offer to the nurses. On March 26 we first made the announcement of the steps we were willing to take.

Mr. Speaker, for six weeks now we have been begging people to take a 31 per cent raise. In these economic times it is unbelievable that it is being turned down. There comes a point in time, however, where you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

In this particular case, the Supreme Court of Canada has said there is a right to a process, not an outcome. We have bargained in good faith. It is the nurses' union that has been intransigent and inflexible.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The government is insistent on bringing in the labour market adjustment clause for nurses in this Province, but back a few year ago there was an issue with regard to recruitment and retention of nurses in Coastal Labrador communities. At that time, there was a private negotiation or deal done between the government and the nurses' union to pay out recruitment and retention bonuses to nurses who would work in Coastal Labrador communities. That was done in the absence of any labour market adjustment policy.

Why does it need to be done differently today? Isn't the precedent already there to deal with these situations?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, from day one in these negotiations the nurses' union have maintained that this is about recruitment and retention. We know that there have been market adjustments utilized, and are being utilized, by our health boards. There have been, for example, sign-on bonuses, there have been other types of recruitment incentives, and they have been working.

The market adjustment is something that, as a government, we need to allow flexibility to address situations in exceptional circumstances, in hard-to-fill positions. It allows us, as a government, to deal with the issue of recruitment and retention, and that is what the nurses have asked us to do. That is what we have been doing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is true, though, Minister, that this clause will allow you, as a government, to arbitrarily negotiate with individuals within the health care system and therefore bypass the union altogether, and give government that responsibility, and not have to deal collectively with their union process?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: I reiterate, Mr. Speaker, that what this clause allows us to do is to address recruitment and retention, which we were told by the nurses' union is their number one concern.

I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that 30,000 other public sector employees have agreed to these clauses, that we have all of the major unions which have agreed. So, in essence, we have a clause that is being made the focus of an intention by the nurses' union to further a national agenda, because from day one the president of the union has said we are going to take the government to court.

Well, I suggest to the president of the union and her legal advisors that they might want to have a closer read of that B.C. health services case than they have done so far.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What I hear is the minister admitting that negotiating with the union on specific cases, like happened with benefit agreements for recruitment and retention in Labrador, did work and there needs to be no additional clauses.

Mr. Speaker, what I do not understand is, in a time when there is a recognition by the government opposite that we have a serious deficiency in the nursing profession in this Province, why they would be threatening nurses to legislate them back to work if they were to take strike action under conditions and negotiated conditions other than what is on the table today. Why would you do that?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I became the Minister of Finance when the world was turning upside down from a financial perspective. We have seen the jobs that have been lost across this country. We have seen the jobs that have been lost in Grand Falls-Windsor. We know what is going on in Labrador West.

To offer a starting nurse, to say to him or her, your salary will be $60,000 after this contract, or by the time it ends, it is a 31 per cent raise. To say to a senior nurse, 72 per cent of which are on step seven, that you will get a 27 per cent raise, we will make you the highest paid nurses in Eastern Canada - east of Ontario, excuse me - Mr. Speaker, I say is more than generous.

Sixty thousand dollars to start in a profession is not bad, especially in these economic times, and, for the life of me, I cannot see why we are stuck on this market adjustment clause, other than the union has another agenda and that is what is going on here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yesterday government released an external report into the Province's child protection system, which demonstrated very little has changed since the 2003 murder of Zachary Turner. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the report identified five systematic barriers to the achievement of a baseline standard of Child, Youth and Family Services.

I ask the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services - we know that your government has taken many necessary actions since receiving this report, including the acceptance of its ten recommendations. I ask you today if you can tell the public what the plan and timelines are for addressing these key findings in the report.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we have received the report from Susan Abell, as I had released yesterday and mentioned here in the House of Assembly. As Ms Abell points out in the report, and something that this government has reiterated as well, in order to truly be able to address the issues that we have in Child, Youth and Family Services right now, a series of quick fixes is not going to do it, and Ms Abell says that in her report. She indicates that it is going to take years for us to be able to have the system that we absolutely need in this Province. We are committed to do that, Mr. Speaker.

One of the first actions that I will be taking is to appoint the leadership team. We are going to need people who have a very strong background in social work and social work theory, and case management and risk assessment, and who understand the child protection process. I am hoping within the next week or so to have that leadership team in place.

We are going to take each of the areas that have recommendations. We are going to work with the existing division, the executive, and through that leadership team we are going to have action plans, we are going to have time frames, so that we can monitor our progress and see how we are doing; but, Mr. Speaker, we are determined that we are going to address all of these recommendations and build the best system we possibly can build.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

One of the key systemic barriers to the improvement of Child, Youth and Family Services that was identified in the report was the lack of leadership, and I certainly thank the minister for acknowledging that and indicating what her intentions are.

After the release of the Turner Review in 2006, your government committed to engage with experts from the Centre of Excellence for Child Welfare to provide expert knowledge in the area of research and evaluation and best practices.

I am just wondering if that did occur. If so, were there any policies that were reported, or were there any changes that took place at that time?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, there have been a number of initiatives that have started following the Turner report. In fact this government, since 2006, has invested, on an annual basis, $24 million into Child, Youth and Family Services.

What is important to note here, Mr. Speaker - because this is very serious work that we need to undertake as a department - is that we cannot go at this in an ad hoc way. We cannot go at this now and invest in training and development, or invest in policies and procedures.

We need to take each one of these recommendations and we need to make sure that as we address one we fit it together with the next. We need to do a legislative review; that should drive the policies and procedures. The policies and procedures should, in turn, drive the staff development and training that needs to take place. That, in turn, should assist in quality control.

So what we need to be careful of, is no matter what has been done up to this point, we need to make sure that we look at every piece of the puzzle and everything fits together; because, unless it is done with an integrated approach, Mr. Speaker, we will not be able to build the best system that we need.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Government funded 129 new social worker positions since 2006, and I think the minister indicated that yesterday. Yet, the report notes that only 50 per cent of the children in care had the base monthly visit from a social worker, and only 12 per cent of the children in protective care had such visits.

I ask the minister today if this was a result of vacancies in these social work positions and if there was a problem with trying to fill them. If it was, has that now been resolved?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, there is no quick or simple answer to why the social workers did not see the children as required under the minimum requirements in their jobs, but I will talk about the workforce instability because that is something that has plagued this system.

What happens, Mr. Speaker, is people who come in to do child protection work do the most difficult form of social work and they are in the most highly accountable positions that they can be in. Within the whole system, whether it is Health and Community Services or Child, Youth and Family Services, a social worker always has the option to apply on an internal competition to another position, whether it is in mental health or addictions, continuing care, youth corrections, youth services, whatever.

What happens, Mr. Speaker, is most people will try to get out of these highly accountable positions because of the responsibility that these positions entail, and the pay is equal for each and every social work position, including the people doing child protection. So a lot of times we have had case turnover because we have the newest, most inexperienced workers coming into these positions who are seeking out other options within the health care field.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Clinical Services Review analyzed a random sample of 400 active cases in Child, Youth and Family Services, and deficiencies were identified in close to 20 per cent of those cases.

I ask the minister: Have the cases where a deficiency was identified been reviewed since you first received the report, and how will you deal with the more than 9,000 other files that have not been reviewed to date?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, in the review that was done by Susan Abell and her colleagues there were sixty-eight cases out of the 400 that were sent back to the regions for immediate follow-up, so they identified gaps that needed follow-up. In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, what we have instructed was, we want every case on the protective intervention caseload reviewed so that any gaps in services that are identified will need to be addressed. This has been an ongoing piece of work within the regional health authorities.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, based on this report, it also notes that there were a number of cases that were screened out from receiving services; however, they did have a previous file with Child, Youth and Family Services or were recently terminated from the services. I have also asked that the authorities go back, review the cases that were screened out, that had previous intervention with the division, and to ensure that there is an appropriate critical analysis done to either confirm that it should be screened out or to provide the appropriate service.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, the Child, Youth and Family Services Act itself highlighted the harmful effect of judicial delay for child protection services, and our office has also heard stories of a two-year wait to have a child protection case heard in court. We know that your department has taken a lead on bringing changes to our court system and to reduce delays for child protective intervention.

I am wondering if the Minister of Justice, I guess, could give us an update, and whether your department has implemented the alternative dispute resolution process that was announced back in 2008.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we are committed to doing a legislative review of the act that guides the work of Child, Youth and Family Services. It also says in the report that the legislation we have now is not sufficiently child-focused, and there is balance that needs to happen. This is a debate that happens right across the country, probably across North America and the world, where we have child protection services. There is a pendulum that swings between the preservation of the family or the rights of the child, and be child-focused.

Mr. Speaker, it seems at this point in time we are probably more leaning towards family preservation, which is still a very important concept as we work through these issues, but in saying that we also need to make sure that our legislation is child-focused as well.

As we do this legislative review we will certainly try to strike the balance that is absolutely necessary with one thing in mind, and that is the protection of the children.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Also with regard to protective intervention programs, the authors of this particular report noted that when they were investigating complaints of child maltreatment, that social workers' evidence - I guess there were collections of information and documentation and interviews and some other evidence - was not necessarily documented appropriately in case files.

I ask the minister today: What immediate measures is your department taking to ensure that this approach to these investigations into child maltreatment is being documented in a more appropriate manner?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, one of the recommendations from the Abell report also includes documentation, so there is going to need to be significant work done in that area; but, at a minimum, because the reports or the files probably have not been documented appropriately, we have asked - and I have said this before, and this should capture some of the issues with documentation - we have asked that all files under the protective intervention caseload be reviewed so that we can identify gaps and provide the appropriate intervention.

I have also asked that critical analysis be done on the cases that were screened out. Again, if the documentation was the problem, or it was not documented appropriately and they got screened out, they should be captured in this review so that the appropriate services can be applied.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The report also noted that 22 per cent of the children in care and 21 per cent of the youth in care had been in the child welfare system previously, and it also notes that fewer than 10 per cent of protective intervention cases contained the family centered action plan.

I ask the minister today: What will be done to give parents the skills and resources to provide their children with a healthy, safe, life home and to end this instability that have been existing in these caseloads?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question that was just asked because we are here saying now that we want the preservation of the family as opposed to taking the child out, and that is exactly what Susan Abell said was one of the criticisms of this legislation that we are working under right now, that it is not child focused. So we need to be able to look at the protection of the child and put that as our first priority as opposed to preserving the family.

Mr. Speaker, there is also a very sobering statistic that I would like to share with the people in the House of Assembly today. Even when the most intensive, in-house interventions are provided to parents in their homes, studies will reveal that still 40 per cent of children in those homes will suffer re-abuse.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just to switch to the Minister of Natural Resources.

Eighty-seven silviculture workers in Central Newfoundland have run out of work in the woods and they are wondering when government is going to launch its program with regard to silviculture. There are 3 million seedlings and 1,100 hectares of land, I think, to be planted and many of these workers are unsure if they are going to be recalled to work.

I ask the minister today: What the plan is for these employees?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are several agencies that do silviculture in our timberlands in this Province. As a government, we have people, silviculturists who work for the government and do work on behalf of the government. Abitibi had silviculturists who worked for them and were under the CEP and worked under that organization. We have a non-profit organization that operates in the Province who does silviculture work in the Province.

In terms of our own government program, Mr. Speaker, that work is proceeding as it does on an annual basis. In terms of the silviculturists who were affected by the shutdown of Abitibi, we are working very closely with them, Mr. Speaker, to try and be innovative and find ways to get the work that Abitibi normally would have done, completed this season.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I understood that there was a five-year silviculture agreement that existed between the Province and AbitibiBowater, and these eighty-seven employees have been telling me that there is something like 3 million seedlings that need to be planted. They thought they would start work a week ago but they have not been notified and had any response from government.

So I ask the minister today: Can she give a firm commitment that these people will indeed have a job and that these seedlings will be planted this spring?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, there is an agreement between the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Abitibi for silviculture work. Abitibi was responsible for having that work done. The silviculture people who did that work were part of the CEP, separate from government's silviculture program and also separate from a silviculture program that is also delivered by a non-profit agency.

Our program is going ahead as per usual, Mr. Speaker. We are trying to work with Abitibi and with the silviculturalists and their union to find an innovative way to get Abitibi's work done, because Abitibi has indicated that they are not going to do the work. We are finding a way, working with the union, to ensure that that work goes ahead and hopefully we will be able to make an announcement in the very near future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

On March of this year, the last remaining pulp and paper mill in the Province, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, announced an eight-week shutdown of the number four paper machine, resulting in a temporary layoff of thirty unionized workers. This shutdown was scheduled to be from March 22 to May 17. This week, the company announced that the machine will not be brought back into operation. It will remain idle, indefinitely, and those thirty workers will remain unemployed.

I ask the Minister of Natural Resources: What, if any, discussions have been ongoing between government and the company with respect to number four and to ensure that it will re-operate in the future?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for the Forestry Sector.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, first of all I have to correct the Opposition House Leader. Thirty people were not laid off. Thirty people were affected. In fact, there has been no job loss. There has been hours of workers on the call-in list affected but there have been no layoffs permanent or temporary as a result of the shutdown of number four.

Now, Mr. Speaker, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper made it quite clear in their announcement yesterday that markets have not improved. In fact, one of their largest customers does not have the need and requires less paper.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS DUNDERDALE: So, because of those circumstances, number four will, from a month-to-month basis, continue to be shut down.

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, we know that there is a great deal of anxiety felt by offshore workers and their families about the resumption of the helicopter flights to the offshore installations. We have heard from some of these workers that even after the company briefings they are still very concerned that flights could be starting as early as Monday of next week. Industry is adhering to the standards required to operate in the offshore but the anxiety among workers is that the standards are not good enough.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will this government bring to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board a request that the board include in its review – the review that is carrying out regarding helicopter transport – the question of the adequacy of safety standards?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The transportation of workers offshore by helicopter is regulated by Transport Canada Aviation. The Leader of the NDP is correct in saying that the C-NLOPB does have a role in terms of its chief safety officer, in also ensuring that the mode of transportation is safe and secure, and that is their job. They have a primary concern with the safety of employees on helicopter travel back and forth to the rigs. We have every confidence, Mr. Speaker, that they will exercise that responsibility; do everything that they can to ensure that the safety of workers is protected.

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.

Since the March 12 accident, safety in the offshore has become a very public matter.

Mr. Speaker, on March 23 we asked if government would support making public the safety audits for all areas conducted by the C-NLOPB and, Mr. Speaker, at the time the Minister of Natural Resources said she would take the request under advisement.

So, it has been almost two months now, Mr. Speaker, and could the minister update the House on her efforts in this regard?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this government is very concerned with safety in the offshore. Even though we do not have any direct responsibility for the safety of our offshore workers, it is something that we pay a great deal of attention to. Even more emphasis has been brought to it, given the tragic circumstances that we have had to deal with in the last several months.

We are very pleased with the processes that are in place. We have confidence in Transport Canada Aviation, and we are very pleased that the board is doing its own inspections, doing its own review of the safety methods.

In terms of releasing information, Mr. Speaker, we always encourage all of our boards and agencies where it is - there is no comprising to individuals, or to the work of the board or the agency that they make as much information available to the public as they can.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

The time allotted for questions and answers have expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motions.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000. (Bill 29)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

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

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Wildlife Act. (Bill 30)

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources and Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Government Kruger Agreement Act. (Bill 31)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Monday being a holiday, by leave we would like to read the private member's motion for next week, if that is possible.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

Does the hon. member have leave to read the private member's motion into the Order Paper today?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

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

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to move the following private member's resolution:

WHEREAS Members of the European Parliament decided on May 5, 2009 - by a vote of 550 in favour, 49 against and 41 abstentions – to ban the commercial trade of seal products in European Union countries, with two derogations:

(a) the import of seal products shall also be allowed where it is of an occasional nature and consists exclusively of goods for the personal use of the travelers or their families. The nature and quantity of such goods may not be such as to indicate that they are being imported for commercial reasons;

(b) the placing on the market shall also be allowed for seal products that result from by-products of hunting that is regulated under national law and conducted for the sole purpose of sustainable management of marine resources. Such placing on the market shall only be allowed on a non-profit basis. The nature and quantity of such products shall not be such as to indicate that they are being placed on the market for commercial reasons.

AND WHEREAS the next step to bring this ban in effect is a decision of the Council, representing each of the twenty-seven EU national governments; and the Council is expected to consider the matter in June of 2009;

AND WHEREAS it is the height of hypocrisy for European Union countries to ban the commercial trade of products from the Canadian seal harvest - which is ecologically sustainable, economically sustainable, tightly regulated and humane - while permitting the harvest, culling and hunting of animals within their own jurisdictions and the commercial trade of products from such activities;

AND WHEREAS the Council of the Federation on May 11, 2009 discussed the proposed trade ban on seal products by the EU at the request of Newfoundland and Labrador's Premier and Nunavut Premier, Eva Aariak, and expressed a strong objection to the EU's proposed ban, which is not based on fact or on scientific information and could be inconsistent with World Trade Organization obligations and with the commitment made by leaders of the G-20 meeting on April 2, 2009, to refrain from imposing new trade barriers;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the House of Assembly, by way of letters from the Speaker on our behalf, calls on the government of each European Union country to direct their representatives on the Council to vote against the ban on the trade of seal products within the European union;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the House calls on the Government of Canada to challenge the ban immediately, vigorously and persistently before the World Trade Organization if such a ban is finally imposed.

This motion, Mr. Speaker, is seconded by the MHA for Bellevue District.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I give notice, under Standing Order 11, I shall move that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19, 2009.

Further, I give notice, under Standing Order 11, I shall move that the House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19, 2009.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members – the Chair is having great difficulty hearing the direction that is coming from the Government House Leader.

Further notices of motion.

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 appreciate an opportunity to present my eighth petition in this House on behalf of the residents of Southwestern Newfoundland, in the communities from LaPoile, Rose Blanch, Grand Bruit, Isle aux Morts, Burnt Islands, Fox Roost-Margaree, Port aux Basques, Cape Ray, and the Codroy Valley, with respect to the lack of dialysis facilities and services in that particular region.

As indicated earlier, we have been trying to get the attention of the Minister of Health for quite some time now. In fact, he did have a meeting with council in Corner Brook on this issue some months ago. He undertook, at that time, to get back to them. We assumed that would be in this century at least, but so far he has not even seen fit to deliver a letter to them, acknowledging that he had the meeting, or that he was having anyone look at the issue and so on. I guess you can say he paid lip service to the issue.

Hopefully government will, as a result of raising the issue here, and the other people who are protesting the current sad situation that exists, hopefully he will have somebody directed in Western Health to at least look at this issue.

Now, I understand there is a committee currently in place at the hospital there, consisting of the chief of staff, and he is also talking to the person – there is a doctor in Corner Brook who looks after the dialysis services and actually provides the service and the care for the residents from that area who have to travel to Corner Brook. Hopefully, once we get some issues resolved – there is an issue, for example, of what space in the building would be used, should such a service come about, and the actual design of the service. For example, do all eight or nine or ten of these people need the satellite-based system or are there some who, for example, can use home dialysis? Those types of things are currently being looked at, but we do know that not all of them will be suitable candidates for home dialysis so we are still going to have the issue at the end of the day, and it is an issue that has been there for quite some time and needs to be addressed.

We have seen government deal with it in certain areas of the Province. They have dealt with it in St. Anthony. They have dealt with it in the Burin Peninsula region and so on. Labrador West is also now on the radar as needing similar type services, and hopefully government will address it. Certainly, the people in my part of the Province that I represent are no less citizens and no less deserving of care than most other persons in the Province, and if you can see fit to do it in those then I suggest it is only fair that you see the service is extended to the people of Southwestern Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, the people out there have their heads turned to the issue. The people in Western Health, I understand, have their heads turned to the issue. If we could only get the head of the Minister of Health tuned in to the issue and he would get on to it with his staff we might see something happen, because at the end of the day the Department of Health has to sanction that this be done.

Hopefully, the minister will tune in to the issue and at least respond that he is even aware and cognizant of the issue and that he is prepared to have a look at it. That would give the people there at least some sense of hope and not be totally desperate as if this government and that minister in particular seem to just not even care that it exists.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions.

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

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

It is a pleasure to stand today and present another petition on behalf of the residents of not only Pilley's Island and Long Island, but from Triton, Grand Falls-Windsor, and even relatives and friends here in St. John's, Robert's Arm, Triton and so on. I guess it just goes to show that this petition is receiving tremendous support, not only on the island where the people have the concern but their friends and relatives throughout the full area.

I have to say it is a pleasure to stand today and support the residents of that area, as well as the Long Island Causeway and Transportation Committee – and even the MHA in the area. I know I saw an article in the paper where he said that his hands were not tied and he was not muzzled, but I just want to stand and support him and the residents so that their petition is brought forward on a timely basis. They are continuing to come in, Mr. Speaker. I know I have enough now until the House closes, but I will double them up if I get too many more.

Mr. Speaker, it is a very serious issue. Those people were promised a causeway, even though they have had a good ferry system for some time. In their petition they even state if they received a good replacement ferry or a fixed link - that was their request - but their petition is solely for a fixed link between Long Island and Pilley's Island.

Those residents, and I know I have said this time and time again, have many concerns, whether they are medical concerns, getting people back and forth to the hospital in a timely manner, and more so in the winter months when the ice gets in and they do not know if the ferry is even going to get there for them, and many times they have had to call upon search and rescue helicopters and so on. With a causeway all of those issues can be resolved.

Those people are calling upon government to reconsider their decision. Even though they made a promise back in 2003, they reneged on it, just temporary first, saying that it was a financial situation, but since then they have been advised that this fixed link is not an issue with them, they will not look at this possibility again.

On behalf of the residents, I stand today and present this petition. Hopefully, government will reconsider, seeing the petitions that are coming in from that particular area. People say that this causeway, when it comes to the financial aspect of it, they say in the long run this is the most feasible venture, a fixed link, rather than a new or some other form of ferry service.

Mr. Speaker, I just present this petition today on behalf of those residents with regards to the Long Island causeway.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate an opportunity to present an eighth petition on behalf of the residents of Ramea, Grey River and Francois with respect to the current medical services situation that exist in those communities.

All three, of course, are serviced from the medical clinic, which is stationed in Ramea. The persons who work there, obviously, they go down the coast and do coastal clinics on a periodic basis as well into Ramea and into Francois.

As indicated earlier to this House, the problem, of course, is that there is supposed to be two nurse practitioners servicing that particular area and there is only one. Again, they brought the matter to the attention of the authorities at the Calder Health care Centre in Burgeo, which looks after the services, as well as to the people at Western Health. The issue is we cannot attract the additional nurse practitioner that is needed.

We have suggested to government that maybe they should look at changing the existing retention and recruitment. We even had questions in Question Period today where we have talked about specially negotiated agreements with Coastal Labrador, for example, to get the needed personnel there. So we are wondering again, why doesn't government look at such a solution as that as a possibility to attracting this additional person there? We have whole communities that are without medical service. One person cannot work seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day for 365 days a year. She needs to get rested. She needs to get a break like anybody else. She cannot be on twenty-four-hour call all year round.

Now, they have tried to fix the service by bringing in an LPN and an RN actually from Burgeo from time to time, but that is not sufficient. You are always left short when you only have one person of the quota that is there. You are always dependent on somebody else coming in, and you do not always get it. Any time you do not get it, the communities are at risk.

I am hoping, of course, that the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune will stand up and support me on that issue as well, or at least acknowledge that she is aware of the issue. She represents one of those communities. Of course, the more pressure we can bring to bear and highlight this issue and the concern for this issue the better. Albeit, we are on opposite sides of this House, it would certainly be helpful if that member would, in fact, endorse even in writing that she is aware of the concern, that she supports the concern because working together on an issue like this everybody gains. Nobody loses if this issue is brought to the attention of the minister as a joint co-operative package rather than be seen as somebody in Opposition bringing it forward.

It needs to be solved, and it is much easier solved if we have both parties involved. I would encourage the member for that particular district to get involved. It is her constituents that are in need of this service as well and I look forward to her standing and giving me support on this issue.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move Motion 8, pursuant to Standing Order 11 that the House not adjourn at 5:30 o'clock p.m. today, being Thursday, May 14, 2009.

Further, Mr. Speaker, I move Motion 9, pursuant to Standing Order 11 that the House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. today, being Thursday, May 14, 2009.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

The motion is that this House do not adjourn today at 5:30.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

A further motion that this House do not adjourn at 10:00 o'clock today.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Government Services to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Occupational Health And Safety Act. (Bill 23)

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

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Government Services shall ask leave to introduce a bill, An Act To Amend The Occupational Health And Safety Act, Bill 23, and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the minister shall have leave to introduce Bill 23, and that this bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Government Services to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Occupational Health And Safety Act," carried. (Bill 23)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Occupational Health And Safety Act. (Bill 23)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Government Services, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting The Registration Of Births, Marriages, Deaths And Other Vital Events, Bill 24; and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Government Services shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting The Registration Of Births, Marriages, Deaths And Other Vital Events, Bill 24; and that Bill 24 be now read a first time.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Government Services to introduce a bill, "An Act Respecting The Registration Of Births, Marriages, Deaths And Other Vital Events," carried. (Bill 24)

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 24 be now read a first time.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act Respecting The Registration Of Births, Marriages, Deaths And Other Vital Events, Bill 24.

MR. SPEAKER: Bills 23 and 24 have now been read a first time. When shall the said bills be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bills 23 and 24 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. the Minister of Government Services, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Provide For Change Of Name, Bill 26; and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Government Services shall ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Provide For Change Of Name, Bill 26; and that this bill be now read a first time.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Government Services to introduce a bill, "An Act To Provide For Change Of Name," carried. (Bill 26)

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 26 be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Provide For Change Of Name, Bill 26.

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 26 has now been read a first time. When shall the said bill be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 26 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Government Services, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting Marriage In The Province, Bill 25; and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Government Services shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting Marriage In The Province, Bill 25; and that Bill 25 be now read a first time.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Government Services to introduce a bill, "An Act Respecting Marriage In The Province," carried. (Bill 25)

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 25 be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act Respecting Marriage In The Province, Bill 25.

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 25 has now been read a first time. When shall this bill be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 25 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting The Public Trustee, Bill 27; and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting The Public Trustee, Bill 27; and that Bill 27 be now read a first time.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General to introduce a bill, "An Act Respecting The Public Trustee," carried. (Bill 27)

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 27 be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General to introduce a bill, "An Act Respecting The Public Trustee," carried. (Bill 27)

CLERK: A bill, An Act Respecting The Public Trustee. (Bill 27)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 27 has now been read a first time.

When shall the said bill be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 27 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Justice and Attorney General, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act 1991, Bill 28, and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded that the hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act 1991, Bill 28, and that this bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 28 be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991," carried. (Bill 28)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991. (Bill 28)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 28 has now been read a first time.

When shall Bill 28 be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, Bill 28 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, from the Order Paper, I call Order 5, second reading of a bill, An Act Respecting Chiropractors. (Bill 8)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 8, An Act Respecting Chiropractors, be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Chiropractors." (Bill 8)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this bill that the government is putting forward now should enhance the practice of chiropractors in the Province. This new legislation, the Chiropractors Act, 2009, serves to enhance the governance and disciplinary procedures for chiropractors in the Province. These changes improve the public protection by placing greater accountability on the part of the chiropractic profession and it highlights their responsibility to the people that they serve.

The new act sets out an open and transparent disciplinary process which is regulated by the Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractic Board. This process grants the board the appropriate powers and authority to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by the chiropractic profession.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, this new act provides the capacity for chiropractors to form a professional corporation, which is a current practice with other professionals including physicians and dentists and optometrists, bills that had been introduced in this House earlier, Mr. Speaker.

Given that the ability to incorporate is common in many other Canadian jurisdictions, this additional professional act will assist to make Newfoundland and Labrador a more competitive Province in attracting and retaining chiropractors. The act reflects new governance arrangements and disciplinary procedures adopted by the provincial government and incorporated in other legislations governing other disciplines such as massage therapists, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, ophthalmology, medicine, physiotherapy, dentistry and others; all have been introduced in this House in the past.

You may recall the origin of these changes, and amendments to these, together with other and all self-regulating disciplines, will eventually be covered by these changes. It comes about as a result of a White Paper on self-regulating disciplines.

All of these measures all reflect our government's commitment to make sure that we have quality patient care and have the necessary regulatory and legislative structure to ensure that we govern the people who provide those services.

The bill itself, the Explanatory Note is pretty straightforward, "This Bill would revise the law respecting the regulation of chiropractors." There are a couple of things that I think are important which speak to the thrust of the bill that I just want to highlight.

It talks about the board itself, and I just want to bring to members' attention the board's composition. There are six members elected from and by chiropractors, in accordance with their own bylaws, who sit on this board. There will be three members that will be appointed under section 5 of the legislation, who are not chiropractors. The board shall elect from among the elected members a chairperson and a secretary-treasurer. That it the composition of the board that we are talking about.

I will not read each section of the bill, but given the thrust of the legislation I do want to speak to a couple of pieces here. The board shall register as a chiropractor and issue a licence to practice chiropractic to a person who (a) pays his or her professional dues. The individual will hold a degree or a diploma in chiropractic from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, a university or college within Canada recognized by the Council of Chiropractic Education (Canada) or another program that the board considers to be of their equivalent, making sure that there is an appropriate credentialing process if you are to be registered to practice chiropractic in this Province.

The other thing that this intends to do, which is a big thrust of this, is there is a complaints and disciplinary panel. From within the board itself, the board shall appoint at least three of their members, at least one of whom is a member appointed under section 5, which is the public sector piece. Section 5 speaks to those individuals who are on the board who are not practising chiropractors. They will constitute a complaints authorization committee.

So individuals or the general public who have a complaint with respect to the conduct or behaviour or practice of a chiropractor has an ability to register a complaint with this board and the complaint will be heard. This provides for an element of protection, which is the whole reason for legislation such as this. It provides for an element of protection for the consumers of the Province. The residents of Newfoundland and Labrador who avail of those services have some element of protection.

Some of the other points that I want to raise with respect to the bill, Mr. Speaker, because they are consistent with the other legislations that we have introduced in this House to deal with self-regulating disciplines, it talks about the whole complaint procedure and how that process works. If individuals are not necessarily happy with the results of that, there is a process through the court to ensure that if you feel aggrieved in some fashion there is a mechanism through a complaint procedure together with a court to ensure that you had an opportunity to have a true and fair hearing of the complaints that you have made.

Mr. Speaker, this is a significant bill in that it deals with the practice of chiropractic in this Province, and chiropractors in this Province. It is a significant bill in that it provides an element of protection for the consumers of this service in Newfoundland and Labrador, and it is a bill that provides a consistency in how we actually regulate and govern self-governing professions in the Province. So this legislation now will mirror that which is provided to other disciplines. As a benefit to the chiropractors, obviously, this legislation now gives them the opportunity to become incorporated.

Mr. Speaker, inasmuch as it is a significant bill, it has a significant element of protection in here and it is intended to provide a greater degree of transparency and openness in a practice such as this, but it is to some degree consistent with everything else we have done in this House with these other disciplines.

I will not spend a great deal more time talking about the bill because it is, to some extent, somewhat straightforward. It grows out of a White Paper. This is one of many that we have done. There are still a few more to be done, and we will introduce legislation in this House in the future to make amendments to the further legislation.

Given the fact that we have done this many times in this House to many other disciplines, this legislation has become somewhat routine, I say, Mr. Speaker, so I will end my commentary but I would move, seconded by my colleague, the Minister of Justice, that we would pass this bill in the Legislature and I await any comments from the Opposition. When we get into Committee, I will be only too glad to answer some questions.

MR. SPEAKER (T. Osborne): The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly wanted to speak to Bill 8 today, An Act Respecting Chiropractors and chiropractic in the Province. Mr. Speaker, most people in the Province are familiar with chiropractic, and what it is all about, but the bill today speaks to the occupational regulations of the profession. It comes as a result, as what the minister said, in 1996 there was a White Paper that was released, titled: Challenging Responses To Changing Times, and it was a new proposal for occupational regulation.

As a result of it, Mr. Speaker, it encouraged a critical look at self-governance in all different professions. In fact, in many of these professions right now, including psychology, psychiatry, physician services, the legal practice, in all of these different professional areas we have already had a very critical look at the self-governance process and have enacted in this House of Assembly legislation regarding a number of these professions already.

Mr. Speaker, the goal of the White Paper on occupational regulation was to encourage very comprehensive and consistent practices within the Province. That means that every single chiropractor, every single chiropractic business would have the same act. They would have the same regulations. They would have the same consistency within their scope and their practice that was permissible under law in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The other purpose, Mr. Speaker, was to improve public protection through the establishment of efficient and effective disciplinary mechanisms. Mr. Speaker, that is very critical, because the public, no matter what the service is that you use, they want to at least feel that they have a safeguard there, that they are protected. They are protected in the case of malpractice; they are protected in the case of some kind of damage or injury that could occur. More importantly, they are ensured that once they walk through the door to seek the services of a chiropractor in this Province, or of any other professional service, whether it be dentistry, whether it be physicians, whether it be psychology, whether it be psychiatry, that they are walking through the door of an office that is regulated, that is monitored, that there is protection for their health and welfare in place. That is very important to people today, to consumers of these services when they go out to look for those kinds of treatments.

The other thing that the White Paper on occupational regulation looked at, Mr. Speaker, was more public trust; more public trust in the process of self-governance. That is to me, Mr. Speaker, that nobody is above the law. Nobody is above the law. So that even if you are practicing chiropractic in the Province, that if there is some reason in which your licence needs to be reviewed, if there is a right reason why you need to be looked at independently by a tribunal or by an appeals commission, that those mechanisms are there because they need to be there in order for the public to have confidence in the service that they are seeking, in order for them to have trust in the services that they are using.

It is our job, Mr. Speaker, in the Legislature to ensure that these laws and these regulations are put in practice for the protection of the public. It is also to ensure that practitioners are dealt with fairly. Just like when we passed the self-governance bills to deal with doctors in the Province and with other professional groups within the medical field, dentistry being one, pharmacy being another, and there were many others. Just like when we passed those acts, there also needs to be insurance that these chiropractors will be treated fairly. Because allegations are allegations, and while those that make the allegations are entitled to have trust in the system, to know that there is a process by which they can be heard and their complaints will be given fair hearings, so do the chiropractors themselves. They need to be assured that they are going to be dealt with fairly. They need to ensure that there is a process as well for them so that when there are complaints made that they can go to an independent, non-biased tribunal process and they can be given a fair hearing. They can be given a fair hearing, and they need to have that protection in their scope of work as well, Mr. Speaker.

So these things are very important and we realize that a self-regulated organization, in this case being chiropractic, will protect the public and will protect the practitioner, even though it does not look at things like the economic interests of that particular practitioner but it does look at the licensing. It looks at ensuring that they are given fair and reasonable treatment.

Mr. Speaker, the public also demands that there be standards around services like this, that there be accreditation around services like this, and I think it is only appropriate. It is only appropriate today when you go out to seek any professional services in this Province that those services be governed by standards and that they be accredited. Meaning, Mr. Speaker, that there would be laws and regulations of practice outlined by government in legislation, which is what we are doing in Bill 8, and that those particular laws be a credited process of how a person gets to practice in the Province.

When you look at accreditation, accreditation is done in many forms. In fact, Mr. Speaker, part of an accreditation for a chiropractor will be in meeting the licence requirements, will be in the kind and scope of practice that they can conduct, will be in the educational requirement and skill requirement that they are expected to have. That is just a few examples, but there could be a whole host of things that are included within the accreditation of chiropractors in the Province. Mr. Speaker, that is a standard today. It does not matter if you are in Newfoundland and Labrador, if you are anywhere in the country, it is a standard today that there be an accreditation process for professional services, and we have done this with a lot of professional services in the last two, three years in the Province.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, since the White Paper in 1996 there have been a lot of work done in drafting what standards would apply, what regulations need to be implemented, how these particular bills and pieces of legislation could be updated and revamped. In fact, the Chiropractic Act itself, I think, was amended in 1997 after that report. It was amended again in 2001 and amended again in 2006. So there has been amendments made three times since this particular White Paper to amend the practice of chiropractic in the Province and this is just another - not a further amendment but this is a revised act; a revised act, which I will get into in a minute, in terms of what new additions have been added and what things have been changed in that act. There have been some new things added and there have been some changes but for the most part the scope of the practice have been maintained and those things stay the same.

So, Mr. Speaker, just a little bit about chiropractic I suppose, first of all. It is a practice that has been ongoing in Canada since the early 1900s. In fact, Alberta was the first province in the country to bring in chiropractic services and to regulate the profession under legislation, and that was done in their Parliament in 1923.

Mr. Speaker, there are other provinces across Canada that eventually followed, because that is normally the trend. When things happen in the country, there is always one province that will enact or enforce legislation around a certain practice and then others will follow. In the country, chiropractic was first regulated under law in Alberta in 1923. It was after that that other provinces, as well, started to follow suit.

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador was the final province to pass a chiropractic act. In fact, in looking at the old act that I have here, we did not pass the act around chiropractic until 1990 in Newfoundland and Labrador, which is not very long ago, actually. I am sure most of you, like me, take the chiropractic service now for granted, in terms of being one of the longer standing practices that we have seen.

You know, what is ironic about all of this is that although chiropractic services and the regulated service was not introduced in Newfoundland and Labrador until 1990, this is indeed one of the largest primary health professions in the whole country. In the whole country! In fact, Mr. Speaker, it is the third largest primary health care profession in Canada. It is only third to the practice of medicine and the practice of dentistry, and there are over 6,000 practitioners of chiropractic that are regulated throughout Canada today. That is a large number.

I did not realize it until I was looking at this bill, and I went to do some research around the chiropractic profession itself in the country, in terms of looking at the statistics and the number of people that use the service, and I was absolutely surprised, myself, to learn that it was one of the third largest primary healthcare professions in the entire country, and realized that it came third only to the practice of medicine and dentistry. I bet there are a lot of people who do not realize how big this practice is and how much work is being done by chiropractors.

Mr. Speaker, chiropractic is a profession today, a professional profession that is established in over seventy countries around the world.

In Canada each year, there are more than 4 million Canadians who seek the help of chiropractors for relief from muscle, joint and spinal pain conditions. Mr. Speaker, we have all heard of people who have had injuries such as whiplash, sports injuries, accidents in the workplace, and accidents at home. All of these people normally end up seeking the services of a chiropractor. It is one of the mainstays of getting treatment for a lot of these injuries, and especially to get relief from pain and from muscle discomfort.

Mr. Speaker, there is over $8 billion spent in Canada's health care system each year that is related to back pain and other disorders, such as shoulder disorders, neck disorders, and things, like I have said, such as whiplash and other injuries. Can you imagine that? That is an astronomical amount of money, over $8 billion a year in Canada, Mr. Speaker, being spent on chiropractic services for people who have things like back injuries, shoulder injuries and other joint injuries. I never would have guessed that it would have cost that amount of money.

Mr. Speaker, it is a very important service and obviously the reason why people seek this service. It is important because it has helped so many people gain back a quality of life that they would normally have not had. I know that, Mr. Speaker. I have been, myself, in a couple of automobile accidents and I know, today, if it was not for the chiropractic services that I had gotten I would have more extensive injury today, especially in my back and in my shoulders. I think anyone who has ever had an accident, who has been seriously injured in one way or another, especially in terms of back pain, neck pain and so on, they have had to seek the services of a chiropractor and they know how beneficial it can be.


Mr. Speaker, on three different occasions in my life so far, where I have had accidents, I have had to go and seek the services of a chiropractor in this Province. I have to say, I am lucky, I have a great chiropractor who gives me excellent service. In fact, I would recommend him to anyone because he has been such a professional at what he does, and provides such excellent treatment to the people who have used him. I, myself, Mr. Speaker, have referred numbers of people to him over the years and he has performed miracles for them as well in their lives in terms of getting a quality of life back, in terms of being able to function on your feet everyday, and having to do so without that pain and that anguish that often comes with those kind of injuries.

Mr. Speaker, he is a good Labrador chiropractor as well, born and raised in Labrador, who now has a practice here in St. John's, a guy by the name of Dr. Robert Burton, who owns the Burton Spine Centre. I say to all hon. members, if you are looking for a good chiropractor there is a good one just down the road, Mr. Speaker, here in the city.

No doubt, Mr. Speaker, there are fifty-three individuals in this Province, fifty-two other than Dr. Burton, who have license to practice chiropractic in Newfoundland and Labrador. Those fifty-three individuals who are spread out all over Newfoundland and Labrador provide first class service to the people of the Province, provide an exemplary service to people who suffer from injuries, especially from workplace injuries.

 

In fact, Mr. Speaker, it was back a few years ago that, through the lobby efforts of members in the House of Assembly and through organizations like those that are lead by Patricia Dodd of the Injured Workers Association, in which they lobbied government to have workers comp injured patients able to seek the services of a chiropractor and have it covered under Worker's Compensation. I think it was only appropriate, Mr. Speaker, because a lot of these people who were suffering from workplace injuries needed the services of a chiropractor and they needed to have it covered, because they did not have the financial resources after being injured on the job, after not having an income, not being able to even provide for their family and could no longer work and were suffering and in pain. Mr. Speaker, they needed to go and seek the services of a chiropractor.

 

In fact, Worker's Compensation does now cover that service if it is deemed to be necessary, and I think that that is appropriate. The concern that I do have, Mr. Speaker, is for all the people out there who need the services of a chiropractor and it is not covered. There are numbers of them and I have had calls from quite a few of them over the years.

 

I am one of the lucky people, because I had a job in which I had insurance. I had a job which allowed me to carry insurance, so when I became injured I was able to seek the service of a chiropractor and I did not have to pay the full cost of that service myself. Obviously, I had to pay a portion of the cost. Obviously there was a cap. When I went over a certain amount I had to pay the rest myself, but it did allow me to seek those services and be able to be covered under my insurance program.

 

Not everybody in the Province has an insurance program. Not everybody in the Province who suffers from injuries, like back injury, neck injury, and severe pain that needs the services of a chiropractor, not all of those people are going to be workers' compensation cases and covered under that program. Not all of these individuals are going to have an insurance program whereby they will be covered under their own insurance program. Many of them, unfortunately, do not have the option to seek those services unless they can financially afford it themselves, and I find that unfortunate. I find it unfortunate because I think that our MCP program should allow for some of that coverage. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I do not think even our Drug Subsidy Program, in which we seek other services and claim back a percentage of income, even looks after chiropractic. I do not think people have any financial support whatsoever in the Province, who need to seek the services of a chiropractor, who are outside of workers' compensation and their own insurance program.

I think that is unfortunate because oftentimes the services of a chiropractor will allow a person to get back on their feet earlier, will allow them to get back to work earlier, will allow them to be able to deal with their pain in a more effective manner, and will allow them, again, to gain back a quality of life that otherwise would take them a longer period of time.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that chiropractic should be looked at in terms of a service, a medical service, a medical therapy, that governments provide to the people of the Province. Of course, Mr. Speaker, like other government therapies and other government medicare services of this nature, they are often cost-shared, depending on the financial situation that people find themselves in, but today people without money or without insurance or without being injured and receiving the benefits of workers' compensation do not have the option to avail of these services, so it is one of these situations that I think government should be looking at.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit about the licensing and the regulation of chiropractors. As you know, I have just said there are fifty-three practising chiropractors in Newfoundland and Labrador. There are fifty-three of them, which is a fairly large number for chiropractic services; realizing, of course, that most of them are in the eastern Avalon Region, but there are chiropractic services provided in almost all areas of the Province. I, unfortunately, do not have a chiropractor in my district but I guess it is because of the small population and the fact that it is spread out over such a large geographic area, but I do know of many other areas in the Province that are able to readily avail of this service, and it is a good service.

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador, like all other provinces, have a minimum licence requirement and that includes a graduation from an accredited chiropractic college, and we would all expect that would be the case. It has a minimum of three years pre-professional university or college studies, and I think most people would expect that would be required. As well, they have to have passing scores on all national examinations administered by the Canadian Chiropractic Examining Board, and they have to have all passing scores on provincial licensing examinations.

That is only fair. There is nothing nicer than knowing that the chiropractor that your are walking in to see tomorrow morning has had to write an exam for national standards and provincial standards and pass those exams, and did so with passing scores, Mr. Speaker.

It is a degree of comfort, again. It is that degree of trust in knowing that you are getting a service from individuals who are well qualified to provide that service and well qualified to be able to practice in that capacity.

Mr. Speaker, we were talking about lower back pain. Research indicates that 50 per cent of the population suffer from low back pain each year. Subsequently, it is the most common reason that any person would have to visit a chiropractic practitioner.

Mr. Speaker, next to low back pain it was neck pain and headaches, which are the second most common reason for visiting a chiropractic practitioner, accounting for 20 per cent of all visits to a chiropractic office.

I think those statistics are not really surprising to anybody. I think we all know that the most common reason that anyone would have to visit a chiropractor would be because of lower back pain. The next reason would obviously be because of neck and shoulder pain.

Mr. Speaker, these things account for the bulk of most visits to a chiropractic practitioner's office. Again, as I said, it is important that we have in this Province - although we were one of the last provinces in Canada to enact legislation and regulations around chiropractic - I think it is very important that we have self-governing bodies around this profession. I think it is important that we do this in a way in which the public can see that it is open, it is transparent, it is regulated, and they can have confidence in the services and in the system that they are accessing. It is also important that chiropractors themselves have a fair process in which they can operate and work in this Province and know that if there ever are allegations, if there ever are any kinds of complaints made untoward their practice, that they have the benefit of being able to seek fairness within the system to have those allegations heard and to have them disputed.

Mr. Speaker, chiropractic is a regulatory body. It is a self-governing profession. It has the authority to grant licences and to grant the scope of practice. Each province establishes a self-disciplining and regulatory process.

The bill that we are debating today changes the legislation for chiropractics to increase the level of transparency and accountability, as I have just said. In fact, the original bill, which I have here and had an opportunity to look at, was only eleven pages. It is clear that the new bill, which I have here, is over thirty pages in length. Indicating the content in itself and the length of the content indicates that this is a much more comprehensive piece of legislation, that it outlines a great deal more in terms of accountability, both to those who use the service as well as to those who provide the service.

Mr. Speaker, the new bill that is being presented here today by the Minister of Health and Community Services, Bill 8, will come into force in October of this year. It has much more detail, as I said, than the original legislation, and for all who wants to read, it very clearly outlines the expectations of chiropractors in this Province.

One of the notable changes from the original legislation is that under the old bill the board was composed of five people. Those five individuals were appointed by the minister. Three of them were chiropractors and two of them were non-chiropractors who were representing the public interests. In fact, what this bill has done, it has increased the size of the board from the five members to the nine members. It has also taken out the address in here in which the minister would appoint the five members of the board and then has left it for six of these chiropractors to be elected amongst their peers. Mr. Speaker, I think that is only appropriate.

There are fifty-three practising chiropractors in this Province and they should have the opportunity to elect the people that they want to represent them to sit on this board. So they are asking that there be six chiropractors elected to this nine-person board and the other three members will be non-chiropractors that are appointed by the minister. I do not have a problem with that, Mr. Speaker. I think it creates a balance and it shows some fairness on behalf of the chiropractors because it gives them an opportunity now to elect the people that they want to sit on this board to represent them and it also gives an opportunity to have members of the public on the board. Maybe they should have been elected as well but the act is asking that they be appointed by the minister, and I do not necessarily have any issue with that.

We have all kinds of boards in this Province in which the Lieutenant-Governor in Council reserves the right to make those appointments from the public. I guess it is one of the perks or one of the benefits that you have in being in government these days, is you actually get to appoint somebody to a board. So be it, Mr. Speaker.

I have some confidence that the individuals being appointed to this board will be citizens of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, for one; for two, that they will be people who have a level of knowledge about the service being provided in the public, so that when they sit there, as members of this board, representing the broader public of Newfoundland and Labrador, that they will be able to ask intelligent questions. They will be able to debate rules and regulations. They will be able to hear the information, the requests that are coming forward in a very non-partisan way although they are being appointed by the government. So I have confidence that that would be the case, that those conditions would be met, Mr. Speaker.

I know from personal experience that most people who are appointed from the public to boards in this Province, no matter what party is in power or what government appoints them, these people normally take their jobs very seriously. They feel that there is a level of accountability on their part to the public for having the opportunity and the privilege to be able to sit in a position like that. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, they take their role seriously enough and they perform it to the best of their ability.

Mr. Speaker, I do like the fact that the original legislation is being changed and that the board is being changed, because it is important that the very board that this bill will serve, that of chiropractic, would have the opportunity to have some say in who sits there and who represents their interests.

Mr. Speaker, Bill 8 is simply in keeping with all other self-governing organizations in the Province. It is in keeping with all of the other legislation that has been designed to date, and that governs other professional occupations in this Province, everything from dentistry to pharmacy to psychiatry to psychology. All of these things we have also done legislation on, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I have twenty minutes or so left so I am going to take a few minutes to get into some of the different sections in the bill and what has changed as part of this new legislation.

As I said earlier, under the old bill we were dealing with about eleven pages to a bill. This new bill has over thirty pages contained in it, which should tell, in itself, that it is more comprehensive and it deals with a lot more issues, especially with more accountability and transparency issues. These things are, in fact, very important and very important to the public.

The old bill, Mr. Speaker, was amended several times, because the White Paper that talked about self-governing of professions in the Province was done in 1996 and under that particular bill it made the recommendation that all professions should have a self-governing practice and regime. Of course, since 1996 the old chiropractors act was amended several times. It was amended in 1997, in 2001, and again in 2006.

Mr. Speaker, this is not an amendment in this case. It is basically a complete new act that has been revised. While most of the things in the act are the same, there are some things that are different. I just talked about one of those things being the structure of the board and that fact that in the past there was a five-member board and all the members were appointed by the minister. Three of them would be chiropractors; two of them would be members of the public. Of course, now that board will be changed. There will be nine members on the board. Six of them will be elected by the chiropractors in the Province; that means the fifty-three regulated chiropractors that are out there licensed to practice. They will elect six member and, in addition to that, the minister will have the opportunity to appoint three people from the general public to sit on the board.

In addition to that, there are some other new things that are contained in this bill; several new things, in fact. There are six of them that I would like to highlight and get into right now because I do have a limited amount of time.

Mr. Speaker, the annual report, first of all, on the activities of the board, as well as the audited financial statements, and a fine of $1,000 where the board fails to comply. These things are new within the legislation, and basically what they are saying to chiropractors in the Province today, they are saying that you will have to file an annual report. The board will have to file an annual report. The board we just talked about being set up, that board will have to file an annual report on all the activities that they have completed as a board. They will also have to do audited financial statements. If they refuse to do those audited financial statements, then they will be imposed a fine of $1,000. So, any time where the board does not comply with the legislation they are and will be fined up to $1,000.

Mr. Speaker, what they are simply asking this board to do is not unusual. In fact, it is normal for most boards in the Province today, and that is that most boards would normally report on their activities. Most boards would normally have to provide to whomever they are established under, under what particular regime. In this case it is an act of the Legislature so they report to the House of Assembly, I guess. I would have to double-check that, but they do have to provide an annual report as well as audited financial statements, and the annual report may be a requirement of the Corporations Act as well.

Professional corporation: it allows for one or more chiropractors to be incorporated as a corporation to provide chiropractic services. As well, it outlines the details of a corporate registry, a corporation of annual licence, and effect of incorporation, and the act still applies to the individual chiropractors as well.

Although there is a separate clause in the act now that deals with professional corporations, in which these corporations have to be incorporated, they have to provide corporate chiropractic services, and they also have to outline the details of their corporate registry, they have to provide a corporation of annual licence and the effects of incorporation, this is all part of their incorporation.


Mr. Speaker, the act will still apply to individual chiropractors what the liability of an individual chiropractor is under that corporation as well as any misconduct of a professional chiropractic corporation. Those things will still be contained in the bill as well.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, there will be a complaints and disciplinary panel. This panel will be consisted of five chiropractors who are not members of the board. Mr. Speaker, the six chiropractors that will be appointed to the board to oversee the self-governance process for the practice of chiropractic in the Province will not be allowed to sit on the disciplinary panel, the complaints and disciplinary panel.

I think that is only fair, because if they were to sit on the complaints and disciplinary panel then they would, in essence, be in a position to be hearing complaints about themselves, and that would be an unfair process. This would be a different board; it will be the complaints and disciplinary panel. It will be established with five chiropractors who are not members of the board. Mr. Speaker, it also gives the minister again the right to appoint two people who are non-chiropractors, who are people in the public, in the general public, who the government opposite or the minister opposite feels would make a contribution to this particular board and they would be able to be appointed. It will be these five chiropractors, and these two appointees, that would constitute the complaints and disciplinary panel in which people could go to have their allegations heard.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to talk about allegations, because that is outlined in this bill as well. This bill outlines the full method of allegations to be made against chiropractors: what the effects of filing allegations are; what the powers and protocols of a complaints authorization committee are. It outlines the adjudication tribunal, which I talked about earlier as being very important to this process. It also outlines in the bill what the process is for a hearing, what information can be used as evidence in one of these hearings or in one of these tribunals. It also talks about what happens in the case of a guilty plea, and also the powers of an adjudication tribunal.

It outlines how to file and how to publicize decisions. Very important, Mr. Speaker, because we have gone through a lengthy process with Eastern Health on how they file and publicize decisions within the Health Care Corporation, and we certainly want to ensure that legislation that we are passing like this would outline what that process is and how it could be dealt with.

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about some of these, because the powers and the protocols for complaints to the authorization committee is very important. It is very important, because oftentimes when people do have complaints or they do have issues of concern they often do not know what mechanism is available to them to report these things, to ensure that somebody gets to hear what their experience has been or what their concern has been.

I think it is important that there is a full process outline, that there is a full process outline that defines exactly what the protocols are, so that if people do have issues and have complaints they know where they have to bring them. They know to what level they have to bring them. Whether it is to a committee, whether it is to a tribunal, whether it is to a complaints panel, they at least know where they have to go.

They also, Mr. Speaker, know who they have to go to. They know who they have to go to. When they get there, they know what the process is. They know what the process is. If this is an issue that will have to go to a hearing whereby they can present their case and be heard, they will know what the process is for that hearing. They will know what information they can bring to this hearing, what is the information that I can bring to this particular process to enter as evidence in my case. All of these things are outlined in this particular bill and in this legislation, which is very important.

The other thing it talks about in here, Mr. Speaker, is de-registration and suspension. This outlines what happens when a chiropractor is allowed or directed to surrender his or her licence in the Province. This outlines to everyone, in law, what happens when a chiropractor fails to comply and what the process is for a re-hearing. That is very important, because chiropractors themselves need to know that there is a process for them as well. They need to know that they will get a fair hearing if there is ever an incident in which they are being told that they are failing to comply with legislation; if there ever is a time when there is an allegation made against them in which their licence could be called into question. There is a process outlined in this legislation that will deal with all of these things as well.

Mr. Speaker, there is also a method for appeals, which is very important. I was going to get into that a little bit here. I just need to find the section here in the act.

Overall, I think that this bill, within itself, provides for a great deal of openness and transparency in seeking the services of a chiropractor in the Province. It also outlines in great detail how the board process will be established, not only the actual board for the self-governance of chiropractors in the Province, but also it outlines the entire appeal process. It outlines the tribunal process. It outlines what can be used as information and as evidence to deal with any of these things.

For example, Mr. Speaker, one of the final acts of the bill, one of the final regulatory pieces deals with the appeals section. One of these things is the ability to appeal to the trial division of the courts. What it outlines is that the board or a respondent may, within thirty days after receiving notice of a decision or order of an adjudication tribunal under this act will appeal the decision or order to the trial division by filing a notice of appeal with the Registrar of the Supreme Court. An appeal under this section does not stay the decision or order being appealed unless the trial division orders otherwise.

Mr. Speaker, there is no stone left unturned when it comes to giving people the opportunity to be able to register their complaints, to be able to bring forward issues, to look at options and routes in a case when they feel that they have not gotten the treatment that they expected. Even when they have gone through all of these different appeals, even when all of these decisions have been made, when judgement has been passed, they still have the opportunity within thirty days, even after the adjudication of a tribunal, to apply to the trial division of the Supreme Court.

So, Mr. Speaker, I do not think there could be anything else that people could ask for further within this bill, but what I can say is this, that chiropractors in this Province perform a very important service. They perform a very important service and they perform a service that may be constituted as a high-risk service in certain cases, and that is open for dispute. In fact, I have had this discussion with chiropractors in the past and they have quoted to me statistics on the low number of cases affecting chiropractic in the country compared to other medical practices.

We know it is an important service, Mr. Speaker, because we know that it is the third largest primary health care service being provided in the country today. We know that it takes third place only next to medicine and to dentistry. We know that chiropractors under this legislation will not only have to meet the demands of a Canadian regulatory process but also of a provincial licensing process. We know that every chiropractor, no matter whose door we walk through, will be required to have a certain degree of education, a certain degree of training. We know that they will have to write exams to meet the Canadian standards and pass those exams. We know that they will have to write exams in Newfoundland and Labrador and be able to pass those exams in order to practice in our Province.

So, Mr. Speaker, these are all very important pieces of legislation because they affect the health and the welfare of every single person who needs to access those services in the Province today. So, we have no problem with supporting the legislation. I think it is important to highlight the importance of a lot of these bills as we bring them forward. I think if there is something further that government would want to do for chiropractic in the Province, it would be to look at how we can address the concern raised by people who cannot afford the service, by people who need the service.

Mr. Speaker, when you look at the statistics that tell you that there is $8 billion a year spent in this country accessing the services of chiropractors for back injury and for neck injury and for other injuries, it tells you that it is a form of medical treatment that is working for people. I know that because I have talked about my own experience. I have had firsthand experience with the system. If there was one thing that government could do, it would be to ensure that there is an affordability of this important service for other people in the Province as well because right now today, as I have outlined earlier in my address, there are a lot of people who cannot afford the service. There are many of us who are fortunate to have medical insurance programs that cover a portion of it. There are people, unfortunately, who are injured on the job but because of the work done by the Injured Workers Association and by others like ourselves who have pushed to have Workers' Comp cover injured workers in the Province, they have been successful in getting chiropractic covered as a form of therapy and rehabilitation for those people to get back on their feet and get back into the workplace. So, there are things that could be done to allow for more access to the service and I think that these are things that government needs to look at and needs to consider.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I am sure there are others in the House who would love to speak on this bill today as well. I do have a little bit of time left but I have concluded most of my comments and I would say that this is certainly a bill that we will be supporting in the Legislature.

Thank you.

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

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

I am glad to have an opportunity to speak to Bill 8, An Act Respecting Chiropractors. I have a great respect for chiropractors. It has been a long time since I first went to a chiropractor. I think at the time that I first did visit a chiropractor here in St. John's, that person was the first and only one here practising in St. John's. So we have come a long ways in the twenty-five years or so that I can remember first going to a chiropractor in this Province.

We have come a long ways, both in terms of numbers of chiropractors and we have come a long ways in terms of chiropractic being recognized as a profession, being registered, legislation covering it, and that makes me feel very good, actually, that people in this profession have the recognition and the protection that they have.

Bill 8, which we are discussing here this afternoon, is part of the ongoing harmonization of legislation for all self-regulating occupations, in accordance with a White Paper that was put forward by this government in 1997. Many organizations, such as registered nurses, physicians, dentists, denturists and others, have similar bills, similar pieces of legislation, that regulate their associations. This is extremely important, because if we are going to have groups that are registered and groups that are serving people in the Province we need to have legislation covering them.

All the bits of legislation that have been modernized and improved since 1997 are focused on recognizing the associations of professionals as groups that are self-regulating and groups that have independence, while at the same time being accountable.

Some of the areas that the legislation covers, and that similar legislation covers, are the appointment and election of board members, with a responsibility being shared between the profession itself and the government.

Another area that is covered is licensing and registrar functions, disciplinary procedures, complaints, appeals, and standards for educational programs. I think the standards for educational programs is a very important area, because it is those standards that ensure that chiropractors who are working here in this Province are equal in education and skills to chiropractors in other parts of the country.

One of the things that is important, number one, is that people are being treated by the most highly skilled people they can be treated by, and the other issue is that chiropractors, like other professions, should be able to move around the country in doing their work.

I do know, I have been told by the Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractic Association, that they were consulted by the government and they did have a representative of their association who worked closely with the government in drafting the new law. I have to say that I was really glad to hear that.

I do know that with the other pieces of legislation that are similar to this one for other self-regulating organizations, the same kind of consultation happened. I think that was extremely important for those bills, as well as for this one, so that we know that the people who are going to be governed by this legislation feel comfortable with it and know that they can work under this piece of legislation.

It is important that we deal with this piece of legislation today, because the new act is to be proclaimed in October. When we leave this House this spring we certainly will not be back before October, if past experience proves me right, so it is important that we pass this act so that it can be proclaimed in October as, I think, has been promised to the Chiropractic Association.

The act that this bill is replacing was passed in 1990 and proclaimed in 1992, so this bill is modernizing that act, making it more modern in terms of recognizing the right of the association to govern itself . The legislation gives guidelines for that self-governance and gives guidelines for accountability but recognizes that the association should be able to govern itself.

There are some things in this bill that are new from the act as it exists. Some of them are significant. I think they are all significant or they would not be changed. One, of course, is the number of board members. The number of board members has been increased, and the increase is allowing for the board to have a mix on it, a mix of people who are elected from chiropractors themselves - that number is six - and then three who are appointed by the minister.

The purpose for the appointment by the minister is to have the public represented on the board of the association. I think that is extremely important and I am really glad to see that the Chiropractic Association would agree with that, because they have to be accountable to the public, not just to government as a body but to the greater public which government represents. Having members on the board who are appointed by government from the public is completely important. Of course, because of the larger number of members on the board they also had to increase the number that makes a quorum for the board. That makes sense.

Something that is in the bill, I think, that is important and that is in the other professional bills that we have passed in this House over the past couple of years, is that there is a Code of Ethics in the bill. That is new. That is something that is not in the current act. I think, in today's climate, a Code of Ethics is something that one expects when one is looking at a professional organization.

There is also a section in the bill – and this would be new as well – it is a section on corporations as members and individuals as part of corporations and liability. It looks at who is liable when anything goes wrong. I think it is a very important piece.

Another important piece is that all chiropractors have to have liability insurance. I think that is extremely important. Again, that recognizes their professional position. It recognizes that they are dealing with the public, and that just like any other practitioner in the medical field there is always the potential of needing insurance because of claims being brought against them.

The other thing that is new – and this is something, again, that is in all of the legislation covering professional associations – is that you have now, for the chiropractors, a complaints committee, a disciplinary panel, and an adjudication tribunal. Previously, there was only a discipline committee. With only a discipline committee anybody who may have to be called and disciplined had no rights. They just had to accept the decision of the discipline committee. Now, with the adjudication tribunal they can request that a decision by a discipline panel can be revisited. They can ask that the decision be looked at. I think that is really important. Previously, only the committee decided on wrongdoing and ordered restitution. Now, there is a layered process. What is also important is that the process includes others, not just board members.

You now have a process in this legislation that ensures that chiropractors are treated fairly and with justice, and if there is a complaint brought against a chiropractor that he or she is given an absolutely fair hearing, as fair as one can possibly have.

I would like to use the rest of my time to talk a bit about chiropractic care and also about what happens in other provinces in Canada. Provinces that cover chiropractic right now are Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. They have partial coverage, it is not total coverage, but at least, because they are being recognized under the medical plan, which is extremely important, it means that the profession now has a recognition that is, I think, beyond where it was before that happened. It is the next step after registering a group and after putting them under legislation. Recognizing that they are part of health care and introducing this service into health care coverage becomes the next step. As I said, there are four provinces in Canada that have partial coverage: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

I would like to look particularly at British Columbia because British Columbia is very interesting. They have something that the other three provinces do not have. They actually recognize a number of therapies that currently in most parts of Canada, certainly here in Newfoundland and Labrador, are only covered by third party, and that means by insurance companies. One is chiropractic, the others are massage therapy, naturopathy, physical therapy and non-surgical podiatry. In British Columbia, each of these areas is covered partially under their health care program. One can have an annual limit of ten visits in each calendar year either in one of these areas or in a combination of these areas. I know now, actually my notes show me, that since last April as well acupuncture services were included among this group that gets covered.

It is very interesting that this is premium assistance that one gets under the medical plan in British Columbia. Supplementary benefit services include: income assistance recipients; Convention refugees; inmates at BC correctional facilities; individuals enrolled with the BC medical plan through their at-home program; residents of long-term care facilities receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement; and individuals enrolled with the BC health program as mental health clients. They have a particular group of people whom they totally cover under this plan.

I find it very interesting to see such attention given by a provincial health plan to the coverage of therapies that in some cases, by some people, are seen as fringe. I would like to point out that all of these areas, chiropractic, massage therapy, naturopathy, physical therapy and non-surgical podiatry, are all therapies that are in use everywhere in our country today. All of them are covered by insurance plans which is very interesting, because the coverage by insurance plans shows a recognition that these therapies really do help people who need medical help. We all know that insurance companies would not be covering something if it could not be shown that the therapy that is being covered definitely can help the person who is receiving the service.

It is very important, I think, for us to reflect on that, because sometimes you hear phrases like traditional medicine and non-traditional medicine or alternative medicine. You hear all kinds of different phrases categorizing therapies. I think it is important to recognize that by doing that we sort of push things off to the side and they do not get recognized. I think it is good for us to reflect on the fact that in British Columbia their health plan recognizes that these therapies are essential to health and therefore are covered under their health care plan, partially. It is not a total coverage, it is a partial coverage.

The Leader of the Official Opposition talked about how she used chiropractors. I, myself, use physical therapy on a regular basis, and I know there are others of us in this House who do the same thing. Wouldn't I love it if physical therapy had some coverage under the health care plan, because all of these therapies are therapies that really do help people have better health.

What I would like to do is talk a bit, as well, about the rationale for public coverage of chiropractic services. People might say: Well, why even bother? We do know that chiropractic care plays an important role in relieving the stresses and strains on our health care system. There are many things that chiropractic deals with that, because chiropractic care is there, people are not depending on the health care system as much.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of chiropractic care for musculoskeletal disorders. It is often the most cost-effective treatment for many joint and muscle dysfunctions that keep Canadians off their feet. This is something that I think, if we were to do a review of our health care system in Newfoundland and Labrador, one of the things we could look at is what are the preventative ways in which we can help people be healthier so that they are not turning up in emergency rooms, for example, that they are not turning up on a weekly basis in their doctors' offices.

Some of these therapies, especially chiropractic, but the others that I have mentioned that are covered in British Columbia, these therapies really do have a preventative nature to them. Some of it is curative but some of it is also preventative, and they keep people, in a lot of cases, off medications. The therapies actually keep them off pain medication. It has been proven, and studies have shown that.

Some of the ways in which chiropractic helps Canada, with regard to medical costs, and helps the health care system, have been documented in studies that have been done.

For example, costly back surgeries can often be avoided. Ineffective and costly treatments, even for diseases, are avoided. Emergency room crowding can be reduced. Studies are proving this. Medication costs are lowered. People feel better more quickly and they get on their feet more quickly. Recurrent injury is prevented or minimized, and that, of course, is what helps keep treatment costs down. Productivity of workers is improved. That is why, in some cases, workers compensation will cover chiropractic. Dysfunction is prevented. Chronic care costs are minimized. Workers are back on the job more quickly. This has been proven again by studies.

To get the best benefit for the health care system from chiropractic, we need to look at policies and practices that will help more people be able to use chiropractic. Of course, we also need to help them pay for it. Some of the things that we need, we need to remove barriers to inter-professional referrals. It would be really good, you see, if chiropractic was covered by health care. A general physician could recommend that their patient go to a chiropractor and get coverage. These are the kinds of things that we need to do. We need to bring chiropractic practice into the mainstream. So the bill that we are passing today helps with bringing chiropractic practice into the mainstream. It is another step towards recognizing the profession and it is another step towards, I hope, this Province joining other provinces in Canada who have recognized the benefit of chiropractic and have put chiropractic under their provincial health plans.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have been able to make those points this afternoon.

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 have a few words with regard to Bill 8, An Act Respecting Chiropractors.

We know, as we have heard from other speakers on this bill, it is a very important piece of legislation for the chiropractors and it is a very detailed piece of legislation with some fifty sections covered under the analysis section. It deals with regards to the makeup of the board, reference to meetings and quorums and by-laws. It also talks about the annual report and if there should be a misconduct or what have you, with the professionals in that corporation.

Mr. Speaker, to add to that, this piece of legislation really is simply in keeping with all other self-governing organizations in the Province. We know that in our last session of the House there were various other groups that legislation was brought in to bring forward rules and regulations, updating, housecleaning issues, I guess, and really this is what this piece of legislation is all about. We know that those individuals, the chiropractors, and it goes back – while I was doing some research, going back to 2003, February 14, it was at that particular time under a former Administration, the Department of Health and Community Services, the Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractors' Association, and the Newfoundland Association of Radiologists, a piece of legislation was brought in where improved services would be made for the residents of this Province. The key benefit that was brought forward at that time, it would save time for patients. Because before that piece of legislation was brought in, the chiropractors would have to route their patients back to their general practitioner before they could be sent for X-rays or other medical information. So when this piece of legislation came in, I guess this set the track for those individuals that it was time saving, not only for them, but also for their patients.

I have to be honest with you, when it comes to chiropractors – and I know there are many other members in this hon. House who from time to time have to see a chiropractor. The Leader of the Official Opposition just mentioned here this afternoon, she suggested that if anyone wanted to see a chiropractor you could go visit her doctor here in St. John's. Well, I have to say, I am going to stick with the one that is in Bay Roberts.

There is a lady in Bay Roberts, my personal chiropractor, who does a wonderful job. I have to be honest with you, back a few years ago if someone told me the work that a chiropractor could do versus other forms of medication, I have to say, I do not know if I would believe it not, but I had an experience and I was advised to go there, to try it out, and I have to say it is one of the best moves I have ever made. As some other speakers mentioned, one of the key components - some 50 per cent of the people in this Province suffer from low back pain. I have to tell you, since that first visit and the treatment that I received I can assure you I have recommended many other people. They have accepted that challenge and proven this to be very worthwhile.

Also, Mr. Speaker, we know that there are fifty-three practising chiropractors in this Province. So it is fairly wide-ranging. I do not think they are all here on the Avalon. Maybe quite a few of them are, but then again, it is a service that is available to many of our residents here in the Province. Like I said before, it is an experience that once you go there it is not something that you are tied to for the rest of your life from it. Some people have to attend more often than others, but once you get in the system with a chiropractor and they find out the medical condition that you have, they just do not do something for the sake of doing it. They check things out.

This bill - once this comes into force - the rules and regulations and the governance of the chiropractors, this will be coming into effect this coming October.

Like I said, Mr. Speaker, this is a piece of legislation in keeping with other various organizations here in the Province. When I saw this piece of legislation I did approach the individual that I visit from time to time when I do have a problem. As a matter of fact, they looked over the legislation and like they said, there is nothing there; it is a good piece of legislation. I can assure you that, at the end of the day when the vote comes, I will be supporting this piece of legislation.

Just another couple of comments I want to make. I do not want to take too much time on this particular bill, but when you look at this bill there are some key components to it when it comes to the complaints and the disciplinary panel that will be set up. All too often we hear, not only with chiropractors or doctors, but with other professionals there comes a time when something unfortunately goes wrong and you have to go before a panel or place your complaints, it is good to know that this particular panel will be in place. There will be five chiropractors who are not members of the board and there will be two other individuals who are appointed by the minister. So we know that is in place there. Then there is also a method in place if there are any allegations that have to be reported.

With regards to de-registration and suspensions, many times people wonder where to go and what to do. So there are rules and regulations here. There is a fee system, a penalty system, if the reporting is not done on time. The key to it, I think one of the most important pieces there, is the appeal, the method to appeal if something should go wrong.

So, Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to take those few minutes to say that I support this particular piece of legislation and say that it is a good piece of legislation, and hopefully, what is in this legislation is what the chiropractors wanted. We have not had any negative feedback from it.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Collins): The hon. the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we will leave the debate on Bill 8 at this time and we will call Order 6 from the Order Paper, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act. (Bill 9)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 9 be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act." (Bill 9)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is certainly indeed a pleasure to rise today and to have a few comments about the amendments to the Student Financial Assistance Act.

As a government, we are certainly pleased to continue to provide our students with one of the most affordable and accessible post-secondary education systems in the country.

In 2007, our government provided significant enhancements to students by supporting an interest rate reduction of 2.5 per cent and introducing a progressive upfront grant program of up to $70 per week. These measures were applauded by students not only in our Province but across the country.

Government has also continued with a tuition freeze at our public educational institutions at a cost of $56 million to cover the freeze to the 2011-2012 year. Undergraduate tuition for MUN students has been frozen at $2,550 since September 2003. This is the lowest in the country next Quebec, for Quebec residents only. In fact, for university students, undergraduate tuition is 44 per cent lower than the national average, and college-based tuition is 43 per cent lower than the national average as well.

In addition, we have been providing other relief such as relief to parents who support their children's education, increasing loan limits for students who need more support, including co-op students, in our Debt Reduction Grant Program, providing extra support for students who have difficulty in repaying their loans, and integrating our loan process with the federal government to ensure students can manage their loans better. These significant changes are having an impact on students, their families and their communities, and students have been repaying their loans at even higher rates.

Budget 2007 initiatives provided $14.4 million in up-front grants and interest rate reductions directly in the pockets of students. Mr. Speaker, in 2007 we engaged students in our Province to determine their views on the assistance provided. This is another example of how our government has engaged the citizens of our Province on the issues that matter to them. Again, in January 2009 my colleague, Minister Burke, held a student debt roundtable. At that time students clearly articulated support for the 2007 Budget initiatives. They indicated that indeed they are the envy of other students all across the country. Those discussions, Mr. Speaker, have had an impact and this government has listened.

Mr. Speaker, today I am very pleased to introduce legislation to amend the Student Financial Assistance Act to provide further assistance to our students. As indicated in Budget 2009, three new measures have been directed to reduce the debt owed by Newfoundland and Labrador students and build on the measures previously introduced by our government. These changes will provide another $5 million to students, reducing the debt they accumulate and helping those struggling to repay their debt, on top of what we have done previously.

The elimination of interest on student loans is an unprecedented change in the way financial assistance is provided to students. Students have told us, Mr. Speaker, that this will make a significant difference in their lives, allowing them to pay off their debt faster and move on with critical life decisions.

We are also increasing the non-repayable up-front grants available to students by an extra $10 per week. In 2007 we placed a cap on provincial student borrowing so that students who borrow the maximum student loans would borrow no more than $70 per week in provincial loans and would be eligible for $70 a week in grants.

These are grants that are not required to be repaid. This was the first time since 1994 that this system was in place. Today, we are announcing that provincial loans will now be capped at $60 per week and students will receive an additional $10 per week, for a total of $80 in up-front, non-repayable grants. Mr. Speaker, this change is strategic, further reducing the debt students will have when they leave school.

As a government, we are committed to an educated and productive society, and the investments that we are making today will certainly make paying for that education more affordable and should improve access to post-secondary education for the students of our Province.

Mr. Speaker, as we move on with the debate a little bit – I have had a few introductory comments - I do want to make a few more comments by way of information that I certainly think people in this House and people who are attending to the debate will be interested in.

The legislation that we are introducing today will be applicable to any student who applies for a student loan. Any student will qualify, and it is projected that about 49,000 students will be affected by the legislative changes we are introducing here today. The changes will be effective August 1, 2009. So, effective this coming August, the interest on the student loans will cease, and the changes to the up-front grants will become effective.

By way of information, Mr. Speaker, the changes are applicable only to the provincial portion of a student's loan, so there is still a federal student loan – or a federal contribution, I should say – but the changes today are applicable only to the provincial portion of the student loan.

The other piece that I think is important is, the changes that we are making will come automatically, so there will be no need for students who are currently in repayment of a loan to seek us out to try and make sure they get what is owed to them. In fact, we will make the changes automatically to anybody who is currently in possession of a student loan and currently in the process of repaying. We will certainly make the necessary adjustments to the debt that they have, and the interest that they have, and make sure that gets eliminated for all students who are engaged with us with a student loan.

As well, Mr. Speaker, I just want to make a comment on the up-front grants. If a student is eligible for the provincial loan of more than $60 per week, they qualify for an additional $80 in an up-front grant. Mr. Speaker, that is certainly a tremendous investment and, as I said a few moments ago, students in the Province have certainly said to us clearly that they are supportive of that and they recognize that our government is taking some very, very strong measures in support of what they are trying to do.

I want to share a couple of facts, Mr. Speaker, with members of the House. We are talking a little bit about investment in post-secondary education. I just want to first of all share a couple of things with you. The first is a couple of figures on tuition rates in Canada. I just want to give you a couple there, for the information of those who may not be aware. In Newfoundland and Labrador right now our average undergraduate tuition is $2,632. By comparison, the Canadian average tuition rate is $4,724. Further, Mr. Speaker, let me pick some numbers to read out to you which represent tuition rates across Canada: $4,530; $5,900; $5,500; $5,600; $3,200; $5,300; and $5,040 compared to $2,600 here in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Those are undergraduate tuition rates. I will touch very quickly on graduate tuition rates. In our Province, the average right now is $3,686 compared to $5,777 as an average across the country, Mr. Speaker. Just to pick a couple: in Nova Scotia, for example, the tuition is $7,200, just about double that of Newfoundland; in B.C., $6,500; in Alberta, $6,300; in Ontario, $8,797 tuition rate, compared to $3,686 here in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I also want to provide an example of what this means for people here, Mr. Speaker. I am going to just give you an example. Two examples, actually, I am going to provide you. The first example is a student, a dependent student from a family of four, going to Memorial University. I will use MUN as the institution of choice in this particular instance, but a student from a family of four, whose parents have a combined income, gross income, of $70,000, from August 1, 2007 to today, with the current changes that we are implementing, that student will save more than $17,500 or 63 per cent of what they would have paid back prior to August 2007; so, it is a difference of 63 per cent in savings from the student loan prior to August 1 to what will happen once today's legislation becomes effective.

Mr. Speaker, the second example I will provide is, similarly a student from a family of four but a higher income, a family making a gross income of about $110,000, the same student will have a savings of nearly 33 per cent from what they would have had to repay prior to August 1, 2007. Mr. Speaker, as you can see and I am sure everybody else can understand, those are significant savings for students of this Province and certainly a strong move on the part of our government and a move that we are very proud of, to work towards debt reduction.

Mr. Speaker, I remember working in the system prior to having been elected. I remember working through the 1990s and the early 2000s in education in this Province, and I remember how much focus there was on restraint and cutbacks from the government of the day. I remember vigorously pursuing, trying to get investments in roofing, repairs, windows, siding for schools, textbooks, and teacher allocations. I remember all kinds of challenges over the years when I used to work with the school board, a number of school boards in the Province actually, Mr. Speaker. We worked and lobbied government. We were in times of restraint and student loans and student debt was continuing to go through the roof and tuition rates were continuing to go through the roof. They were very challenging times, Mr. Speaker, challenging times for all of us.

We have rounded the corner, though, in education. I would like, probably, to call this a time of renewal in some respects. Over the last couple of years we have seen significant investments at the K to 12 Level in particular. For the first part we have eliminated school fees, we have provided free textbooks for K to 12 students through the entire system, and we have modified and re-jigged the teacher allocation formula to provide more support to schools, greater teaching resources and a greater focus on the needs of schools and the needs of students to ensure that we continue to offer the kinds of programs and the quality of programs that we need in all of our schools in the Province; the kinds of programs, Mr. Speaker, which will open any door that a student wishes to walk through to go to post-secondary studies, whether it is Memorial or College of the North Atlantic or some other career choice that they make. We have made those investments to make sure we prepare all of our students no matter where they come from.

We have invested heavily in reforming the special services piece of education at the K to 12 Level with the ISSP/Pathways review. It has resulted in a significant reduction, Mr. Speaker, in the ‘administrivia', as some people would refer to it, or the reduction of paper work that teachers have to do. It has helped us move through the system faster in identifying children and getting the necessary work done and the necessary programs in place and allowing teachers to have more time to focus on the needs of those students and more time to focus no the kinds of programming requirements they have.

I say that, Mr. Speaker, because a big piece of what we try to do in education at the K to 12 Level is to make sure that by the time our students leave Grade 12 or Level III, that they are well prepared to move into the post-secondary institution of their choice, or should it not be a post-secondary institution at least to make sure that they are as well prepared as we can possible make them and assist them to become productive members of society.

As I said previously, at the post-secondary level we have made significant investments. First, in program offerings, we have extended and expanded program offerings at Memorial and at College of the North Atlantic throughout the Province. We have invested heavily in our infrastructure, a significant investment. We continue to do that today to make sure that the facilities that we have across our Province at the post-secondary level are indeed quality facilities and well designed with the appropriate technologies and the appropriate resources to ensure that when our students come out they are coming out with a quality education, second-to-none in the world, and well prepared to move on and start productive careers.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, I referenced just recently the release of a survey, I believe it was on May 13, conducted of graduates of College of North Atlantic, between February and May of 2008. The survey highlights that there is a 95.5 per cent employment rate of graduates in College of the North Atlantic who were surveyed during that period of time. The graduates also indicated under the survey that they are extremely satisfied with the kind of program that they received at the college, very satisfied with the quality of programming they received, and very satisfied with how prepared they were to take on a career out in society. The survey also showed us that 98 per cent of the graduates who came through College of the North Atlantic would certainly recommend to other students that they attend that college.

As I said, we are certainly very, very pleased with what is happening at the college and what is happening at Memorial and Grenfell. To that end, the legislation that we are introducing today just builds upon some of the things that we have been doing over the past number of years to help our students get more money in their pockets, more money upfront, and less student debt on the backend when they graduate from their programs.

Mr. Speaker, it was only about two weeks or so ago we met with representatives of the Canadian Federation of Students, whom we meet with on a regular basis on a whole host of issues. As my predecessor, Minister Burke, would have done before me, we take their advice and we take their guidance on many of these issues which affect students. We are not able to do all that they ask for, but they recognize that as well. We certainly do our best to work with them and try and move the agenda forward that supports our students.

Two things came out of the meeting, Mr. Speaker. One was that they reported to us that in a recent meeting with other student leaders and other student federations from across Canada that was held in Ottawa, I believe, within the last three or four weeks, they were informed - and I have said it here before - that we do have the best student aid package in all of Canada, Mr. Speaker. Not only have we made good improvements but we are now leading the country in the kinds of support that we are providing our students and in the kinds of mechanisms that we are introducing to try and reduce student debt so that when they come out they have a better chance of succeeding and a better chance of getting on with their life.

I want to give a real example, Mr. Speaker, of how these reforms are impacting students and graduates on a daily level. The Canadian Federation of Students told a story of a phone call they received – and they receive many, as they tell us, when reforms like this are introduced. They often get the first call from students who will say: Well, what does this mean to me? How does this change affect me? How is it going to put money in my pocket? They get calls, Mr. Speaker, from students who have other concerns and other issues and other challenges.

In this particular case Mr. Speaker, a call was received from a graduate who had incurred significant debt over the course of her career doing a nursing degree. This particular individual, Mr. Speaker, had decided to leave the Province and go to the Western part of the country for what she saw as a greater income and said very clearly, Mr. Speaker, that her objective was simply to go where she could get a higher salary and try to pay down her debt and her student loan faster and hopefully give herself a greater chance of getting ahead and being successful in life.

The purpose of the call, Mr. Speaker, was to seek clarification from the Canadian Federation of Students of what exactly the elimination of interest means for her and what exactly the debt reduction grant means and how it might affect her. When they worked through the process, the result was that this particular student received back from government an amount of somewhere around $12,000. When that was applied against the debt that she had incurred, the student came to the conclusion, I am pleased to say to this House, Mr. Speaker, that she did not need to be out West. In fact, I think as we speak today the student is now back in this Province, employed as a nurse in this Province, making a living that she is certainly happy with and comfortable with, with a significantly reduced debt load, Mr. Speaker, about to start a family and about to move on with her life, and attributes a big part of that, Mr. Speaker, to the reforms that we have brought forward as a government over the last number of years.

I am certainly pleased to relay that story to the House because I think it is a success story, Mr. Speaker, for this government and for the reforms we have introduced. It is but one example, Mr. Speaker. There are many of those examples across the Province that we will see coming forward over the coming weeks and months and years, certainly, as we see the actual implementation of the removal of interest on the provincial portion of student loans and as we see the up-front grants continue to increase now from $70 to $80 per week.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I am going to conclude my introductory remarks by saying that it is certainly a pleasure to be able to introduce today legislation that will reduce student debt in this Province and put more money into the hands of our students.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I have to say, it is a pleasure today to stand with regards to Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act. From the explanatory note on this legislation it says: "This Bill would amend the Student Financial Assistance Act to allow the making of regulations to eliminate interest effective August 1, 2009…"

Mr. Speaker, no doubt about it, that is a good piece of legislation. I know some of my hon. colleagues said, say, no more. Maybe that is the end of it. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, I have to take a little bit more time than that. It is a good piece of legislation and I am sure each and every one of us here in the hon. House have heard from students over a period of time, how they find themselves in difficult situations when it comes to their student loans and the interest that is being charged.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to take us back for a little while. I know when I start some hon. colleagues across the way will say: Yes, but the former Administration did this or did that. The hon. minister, he mentioned about the cutbacks in the 1990s and early 2000s and how the funding was not there for various projects that had to take place. Mr. Speaker, that may be so, because we have heard it many times that when this Administration took over in 2003 we were on the verge of bankruptcy.

Then again, I want to take us back, Mr. Speaker, to January 14, 1999. At the time, the Administration that was in power was under the leadership of Premier Brian Tobin who committed a total of $106 million to the operating budget of Memorial and $45.4 million to CONA. As a result, Memorial and CONA were able to freeze their tuition levels for two years. That is not bad for someone that now we say that there was never anything put into the Department of Education to help students or anyone else.

The student debt was a national concern, Mr. Speaker, but both Memorial and CONA, at that time, let me assure you they welcomed that announcement. The president at the time was Dr. Arthur May, and he thought that no tuition increases could be any better news to Memorial University students who were celebrating their fiftieth anniversary as a degree granting institution.

Then we go to March, 2000. The Premier at the time was Premier Tobin, and he renewed his commitment to provide affordable quality education to the Province's post-secondary students. The two-year tuition freeze benefited students at Memorial and CONA and he stated that it will continue for an additional year. The government's total investment for the tuition freeze was approximately $36 million over a three-year period. Those fees at the time, Mr. Speaker, the university during this time were the lowest in Atlantic Canada and the college fees were the second lowest. So we heard here today, we were talking about we have the lowest fees. That is true, that is good news, but it was also good news back in March of 2000.

On April 5, 2002, under the former Administration, the Premier at the time was Premier Grimes, announced that changes to the Student Aid Program will include enhanced interest relief for students; $3.5 million has been earmarked for MUN to make university education more affordable. Student leaders and administrators will be invited to participate in a round table discussion to provide advice on how best to invest this money by a further 10 per cent tuition reduction or other actions to reduce student debt. So that was back in 2002 when we found ourselves in a very difficult financial position and there was a reduction of 10 per cent in the student loan program.

Mr. Speaker, this particular piece of legislation – also, I might add, in August of 2002, under a former Administration, there were changes to the Student Aid Program. They would become effective August, 2002 and they included: new debt reduction grants, enhanced interest relief, increased loans for Memorial University medical students, grants for early childhood education students, and a new institutional designation.

So, Mr. Speaker, back in those days when we found ourselves in difficult positions there was still funding, maybe not to the degree what is happening today because as someone said earlier, we have turned the corner financially in this Province. I have to say it again, we know what caused that to happen. It is the projects that came on stream back some time ago, and from 2003 on, the funds began to flow from those particular projects.

Mr. Speaker, under the current legislation it states that the Lieutenant-Governor in Council may make regulations setting lower interest rates for students, loan agreements and setting the effective date for these lowered interest rates.

In 2009, under the amended legislation, paragraph 16(1) says, "setting lower interest rates or eliminating interest for student loan agreements and setting the effective dates for those lowered interest rates or eliminated interest…" rates.

Mr. Speaker, from time to time, and I know the hon. minister, with all due respect, mentioned about funding for repairs to the roofs and other infrastructure within the school system and so on, but that is why we bring up, from time to time in this hon. House, issues related to the schools in our Province. Whether it is air quality caused by mould or whether it is from asbestos, whatever the issue may be, we know that many of the structures of our Province, some of them are old, there are many new ones that were built previously, and new ones are being built today. That is all good, Mr. Speaker, but that is why we bring it up, because we know that the individuals who are attending those schools today are the people who will be moving on to Memorial University, moving on to CONA and other private institutions, and they are the ones who will benefit from this piece of legislation today, as well as students who are already there.

Mr. Speaker, there are many issues when it comes to education. There have been changes, and changes will have to continue. We bring up issues with regards to the infrastructure within the various communities in our Province. We bring up school bus safety, and so on. Mr. Speaker, that has to continue. It is not being negative towards government or towards anybody. It is an issue that is brought forward by various school councils, by the parents, and we bring those issues forward and we will continue to do that.

Then, under subsection (2) of paragraph 16 it says: setting lower interest rates for debts owed to the Crown or the corporation as a result of the Crown or the corporation fulfilling the obligations of a borrower under a student loan agreement. The new piece of legislation, under 16(1)(2) of the act, the old legislation will be repealed, and it says, "setting lower interest rates or eliminating interest for debts…"

We understand where this is coming from, because the new Bill 9 states very clearly that as of August 1, 2009, the interest rates on the provincial portion of the student loans will be eliminated.

Mr. Speaker, I guess when we talk about Memorial University we know there are many issues that come to the forefront, and from time to time we bring those issues so that they can be addressed. Back over the last year-and-a-half there were issues that came up with regard to what many people – the Opposition probably said it, but many others in the Senate, the Board of Regents, and other professors at the university, we all got involved with the issue with regard to the selection of a new president for MUN, and how it came about, the political interference in the selection of a president.

I know myself and the hon. Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi attended a seminar or a briefing session at the university one time and we heard it very clearly from the individuals there, the concern they had, how the autonomy of the university was being affected, how the reputation of the university was being affected.

We have gone beyond that, Mr. Speaker. We have gone beyond that, because other individuals have taken over and hopefully within the next year or so someone else will be coming on as the president of the university, even though we believe that we lost a good individual who has now gone to New Brunswick and so on.

Since that time we have heard from the Canadian Association of University Teachers and they had major concerns with what went on. We know now the Board of Regents came forward and presented to government four recommendations to be considered, and they were hoping that this would come before this House, whether in this session or in the fall, and the four recommendations would be brought forward.

They were, Mr. Speaker: Change the act so that government no longer would approve the presidential selection, that it would be done by the Board and the Senate; a representative from the academic community would sit on the Board of Regents; that there would be an independent election of the Chair by the members of the Board of Regents; and the removal of Board members by government before their term is expired, with no reason.

Those were the four recommendations that were brought forward, and we are looking forward to that legislation coming before this House before 2009 is completed. Mr. Speaker, they were major concerns. There is no two ways about it. We have heard from, as I said before, individuals throughout the Province, throughout the country, so that this would be taken care of and it would not be an issue any more with regard to the involvement of government with the selection of a president for Memorial University.

Under section 16(4) of the current legislation, again it just states, "An interest rate lowered in accordance with regulations made under paragraph (1)(e.1) and (e.2) applies to a student loan agreement or a debt owed to the Crown or the corporation…." That is being repealed and amended to include an interest rate lowered or interest eliminated.

Mr. Speaker, as the minister said, this is good news to many individuals in our Province. I am sure that many of us - I know I have had individuals who have called and found themselves in a very difficult position.

We also know there was another issue that we brought forward only this week and it involves individuals who we are referencing here today when it comes to the interest relief. Those are the individuals who are attending another great college in our Province. I never had a chance to say this the other day. Question Period was over, or our time, when I was asking questions with regard to Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. I think the minister at the time made some comment, here we go again, that we were against another institution outside of the overpass in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. I hope that proceeds. Government are ones who made the announcement on it. They are ones who said that this would proceed, and there is no legislation in place. I tell you, Mr. Speaker –

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell us where you stand.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. BUTLER: I say to the hon. minister, right now I am standing in the place where the people of Port de Grave elected me to stand.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. BUTLER: I will stand here and bring forward the issues that we have been asked to do. There is no legislation in place with regard to giving Sir Wilfred Grenfell College status at this point in time. I will go through the scenarios, the time frames that were set out by this government.

Government previously indicated that it intended to introduce such legislation in the fall of 2008. Here we are, the fall session for 2008 has gone by and we are getting very close to the spring session of 2009 closing. Notice was given here today that we are going to burn the midnight oil. So, you never know, any time at all after this evening this hon. House could close and we still will not see this piece of legislation. Hopefully it will come forward in the fall, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, back in December 2005 government announced the commission of a feasibility study to examine degrees of autonomy for Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. That was back in December, 2006. In June 2006 government announced a $1 million extension, money to be spent on infrastructure to expand office space for facilities and support staff. Mr. Speaker, that is all good and wonderful, to spend this money, to recommend this money, but then again the legislation has not come forward to do what has to be done.

Mr. Speaker, in March 2009, Mr. Paul Wilson, a professor at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College and a member of the Senate with Memorial University said, "… while this process is being delayed and while we are not given our own budget and ability to get out there and recruit actively for Grenfell university, our registrations are going down year by year by year…." That is his quote. That is his quote, Mr. Speaker. He said, "There comes a critical point, and we might be there relatively soon, where you no longer have enough students to maintain the upper levels of your degree programs."

I think the numbers that were used, the numbers at Grenfell university, were in the vicinity of 1,400. When he made this report he said the numbers were down to 1,000. I think what has been stated, that they were hoping that the numbers by the fall of 2008 would be in the vicinity of 2,000.

We asked questions to the minister on that issue. We asked the minister: Is this why the legislation has not come forward? He said they were prepared to move ahead with it and so on.


Mr. Speaker, those are some of the issues that come up from time to time when we reference the universities, the structure here in our Province, and we fail to get the answers, fail to understand why the legislation has not been brought forward.

Mr. Speaker, back in October 2006, in regard to the bill that we are talking about here, the government announced that it was prepared to look at student debt ideas. That was good, Mr. Speaker, back in 2006. Really, it all started, I guess, when a young chap from Grand Bank, Travis Parsons – and I am sure we all remember him – launched an on-line petition urging government to wave the interest on student loans. Even though this is 2009, we are very thankful that that happened, for young people such as this young gentleman to bring it forward. Then again, government had to listen and here we see Bill 9 bringing about the issue that this young gentleman had. The petition started the year before the 2007 election and was to be delivered to government within six months. Then in November of 2008 we had the Federation of Students launch a petition campaign. They consisted of people from MUN, the Marine Institute, CONA, and Grenfell as well. They had a news conference to call on government to bring awareness to the fact that students today are grappling with high loan payments.

Like I said, it is good to see this piece of legislation. I guess the challenge now - and as far as I know it is not in place - is for the federal government to do the same thing when it comes to the federal portion of the student loans that the students here in our Province are burdened with from time to time.

In January, 2009, Mr. Speaker, the MUN Student Union prepared to give the petition over to government. I remember the day they presented it to the then minister. They were hoping for 20,000 signatures but they figured they actually had about 7,000 which was still a very positive number; when we get 7,000 individuals who come forward with a petition to government. It was predicted that eliminating the interest on the student portion of student loans would cost about 0.5 per cent of the Province's surplus for 2008. Like the minister said, 7,000 signatures made a tremendous impact, I am sure. It is good to know that government listened to their concerns because those individuals had a very trying time in dealing with the interest that was built upon their loans.

Mr. Speaker, now that the legislation is before us and it will become law, I think it is in August of 2009, we know that some of the individuals and constituents, individuals who are members of various institutions and those who have graduated, many of them have questions that they are asking. They are wondering who will qualify. The minister touched on some of this earlier today, the people who will qualify. Anyone who is currently repaying their student loan will no longer be required to pay interest effective August 1, 2009. That will affect, I think it is somewhere in the vicinity of 49,000 students. That is a great piece of business, Mr. Speaker.

Some of the other questions they are asking: What if I had a loan from years ago? Well, unfortunately we get good news, but then again there are people who are wondering: What about me, a prior time? It is not retroactive. It would be wonderful if it was but we cannot push it too far. We know that there is a tremendous benefit coming from what is being done there now.

When does it come into effect, they ask? Well, we know that answer now.

The other one: Is it really zero per cent interest. Yes, it is, and that has been announced by government and the students will have that.

They are wondering if a person's salary or any other type of earnings factor into whether or not they qualify for elimination of interest. In my understanding, that does not factor into it at all.

Those individuals who have a student loan, those who are presently in the system, from here on in they will have zero interest on their loans, Mr. Speaker, and that is a tremendous piece of business for them.

Mr. Speaker, I do not have a great deal more to say on this particular piece of legislation, other than to say that once this piece of legislation is brought forward and implemented, it will be a tremendous benefit.

I have had individuals over a number of years who find themselves in a very difficult situation and anything can happen to them. Many of them, after getting out of college or university, find it difficult getting that first job. I had one individual at one time, and I guess it came to the point where they had to start paying on their student loans. They were threatened that they would lose their home or they would lose their car. I guess they let it go too long and did not go through the proper channels. At least now we know something is going to be here for them to help lessen that burden.

I am sure the minister has probably already done this, through consultation with their counterparts in Ottawa, have made those suggestions to the federal government, made suggestions that they would consider doing the same thing because it is the right thing to do. Those individuals, when they come out, have a tremendous burden on their shoulders. That is why, in the past, many of our young people were unable to find jobs here in the Province. We know that is beginning to change around, even though we have a long way to go. Many of them would leave here and go out West. Some of them would go to the United States.

I have constituents of my own who did that, because the jobs were not here to provide the funds that they needed to pay off their student loans. They would go away to other places to work, and make the big dollars. Once they got their student loans straightened away, let me assure you, they came back home if there was a job available for them.

Mr. Speaker, with that, I will just say that Bill 9, no doubt about it, is an excellent bill. I can assure you I will be voting for Bill 9. Anything that is here to help our students in this Province, to help them financially, is wonderful.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.

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

MS MICHAEL: Oh, I did not realize you were there. Do you want to go first?

MS JONES: (Inaudible).

MS MICHAEL: Oh, you go ahead then.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wanted to certainly have a few words with regard to Bill 9, and I thank my colleague, the Member of the NDP, for allowing me the time to speak now, because I will not be here from seven to seven-thirty, which would be the next half hour of debate.

Mr. Speaker, a couple of things with regard to this bill. First of all, I think every single one of us in this House of Assembly, over the time of our career in politics, has been engaged or met with students who have certainly had difficulty in trying to meet their financial requirement to obtain an education in this province. I think we have probably all listened to the stories that they have had to tell. I know so many young people today, in this Province, who work jobs, some of them even two jobs, still trying to put themselves through university, still trying to put themselves through college, trying to meet the demands of a full course load and still being able to earn money to pay for those courses and to pay for that education.

I have a tremendous amount of respect, Mr. Speaker, for students, a tremendous amount of respect for any person who wants to be a student of learning, because I think it is very important. There is absolutely no doubt, today, that it is the young people, it is the youth of our Province, who will form the next opportunities, who will drive the new economies. It is the youth and the young and the educated who will determine what the real future is for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on a go-forward basis.

Mr. Speaker, I, today, deal with a lot of youth in my own district in particular. It is somewhat sad because a lot of the young people tend to graduate and move on to post-secondary education, and many of them do not come back to live in the communities or in the regions where they had grown up. It is unfortunate, but in a highly technical world most young people today are choosing occupational fields where they can become financially independent, where they can work at jobs, where they can have a quality of life that they desire. Oftentimes that forces them to make decisions to live in different regions, not necessarily in their hometowns or where they would like to be, and I certainly understand all of that.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you today that in dealing with the young people in this Province – and, as I said, I deal quite a bit with them in my own district but also all over the Province - there is one thing that I have seen. I have seen in young people today a degree of professionalism, a degree of work ethic in terms of professional occupational career-seeking young men and women that are certainly on top of what they are doing. They know their game and they know their material. They will be the people who will drive the engine of business in this Province. They will be the new investors. They will be the people who will make the brave and bold decisions to create business, to create industry, and to go out there and try and make something in areas and fields of industry and study where very few have been bold enough to walk before.

A lot of us in this House of Assembly grew up in an age when technology was not the driving force of the economy, but rather it was the public sector and the social industry sector that drove the economy. Many of the people in this House grew up in a time when it was the thing to do to become a teacher or to become a nurse or to become a social worker. I am not saying that is not the thing to do today, because there are still lots of job opportunities in those areas, but you had fewer people who were looking at things in the technology field. You had fewer people that were looking at things in the advanced engineering fields.

We live in a different time. We live today in a society and in a world where the entire economy is being driven by technology. We live in a time where it is going to be critical to every province to be able to advance industry based on the new knowledge economy. We realize it here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and that is why we have focused in this Province more on those types of programs and those types of industry opportunities for our young people; but, Mr. Speaker, in order for our young people, in order for our youth, to be prepared, to be able to take on those jobs and those responsibilities, in order for them to be in a position to launch in and to invest and to be able to create opportunity where we have seen none in areas which have not been plunged by them or anyone else, they need to be educated. They need to be educated. If they are going to be the business investors of tomorrow they need to have money. They cannot come out of university and out of college with educations and see themselves strapped for ten and fifteen and twenty years with loans, and high loans, stopping them from having the ability to own property, to invest in business, and to do a lot of these things that many of us have had the opportunity to enjoy and do in our lives.

People will say it all comes in time, we have all had student loans, we have all had to make those payments, and it comes in time and I agree. I agree, it is all a part of growing up, it is all a part of the process, it is all a part of maturing, it is all a part of learning responsibility, but at the same time you can learn it with a lot less money hanging over your head. You can learn it owing a whole lot less money, there is no doubt about that.

Mr. Speaker, we always think that any time you can make it more affordable, more accessible and more readily available for young people in particular to be able to obtain an education that is a responsible thing for governments to do, to clear the path for that to happen.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, I have long been a person who has admired the system of free education. In fact, there was one Premier ever in the history of this Province who provided free education in Newfoundland and Labrador and that was the hon. Joey Smallwood, when he was Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, not only was he the only Premier ever in our history to provide an opportunity for young people in this Province to get a free education but he was also the very Premier who built the education system in Newfoundland and Labrador. He was the individual who started the institutions of higher learning in this Province, the individual who created things like Memorial University, who put us on the path to education. In fact, he was the one who decided to build community colleges all over this Province at a time when most areas of the Province had very little infrastructure. He had a vision that it was an educated society of people that would have the opportunity to be able to advance the people in this Province, to be able to advance the economic circumstances of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, you will have to forgive me for talking somewhat loud, but I can hardly hear myself speak.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the members for their co-operation. I cannot hear the member speaking.

Could I have the co-operation of members, please?

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, between the Minister of Finance and the Member for Lake Melville, I could hardly hear what I was saying in the House of Assembly, and it is unfortunate because I am sure that these two individuals have enough critical issues in this Province –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: - that they could deal with, that they do not need to be sitting in their seat heckling all afternoon while we are talking about a student loan bill, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: In fact, it might be somewhat enlightening if they read the bill themselves. Now, wouldn't that be something?

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, there was one Premier in this Province who did provide free education to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Actually, I know many of the people who have sat in this House of Assembly - in fact, I have sat with a number of colleagues in the past who availed of the free university system that was offered to them at that particular time and, in fact, told me that they had come from families and areas of the Province where they would never have had the –

[Fire alarm sounds]

MS JONES: I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I think the Minister of Finance has set off the fire alarm, Mr. Speaker! He will not silence me by setting off the fire alarms in this building. It is either that or Debbie Forward is in the building, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The House is now in recess until we can find out what is going on.


May 14, 2009             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS            Vol. XLVI   No. 21A


The House resumed sitting at 7:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

The Chair is ready to hear continuation of debate on Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, on a point of order.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Just a point of information, I guess, for the House.

The Government House Leader and myself spoke after the recess which was brought about as a result of the fire alarm. The Leader of the Opposition was in the process of speaking at that time to the student aid bill and we have agreed that, as a result of a commitment, she will continue her speaking time later in the session and the Leader of the NDP will start the session tonight.

MR. SPEAKER: By agreement?

MS BURKE: By agreement.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, by agreement.

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

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

I am very pleased to stand tonight to speak to this bill, which is An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act. The reason why I am so pleased is because the amendment that is being recommended is something that was in the Budget this year: that the government would eliminate interest on the provincial portion of student loans, which is on 40 per cent of the loan.

I am very pleased to stand and say I will be voting for this amendment, especially because the removal of the provincial portion of the interest of the student loans was something that was part of the NDP platform for the 2007 election.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS MICHAEL: Well, it was; we were there first.

So I am very pleased to see it, because we got a lot of positive feedback from the Canadian Federation of Students who said to us: Wow! That is fantastic! We didn't even think of asking for that.

Then they started to ask for it and they did their petition –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS MICHAEL: Oh, yes, that is the way it happened, and I am really glad to see that the government listened to the students, to the petition of 12,000, and to something that originated with the NDP platform of 2007. I want the record to know that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: I want the record to know that.

This is wonderful. It is really good, because one of the worst things that students have to face the minute they graduate is that debt that is on their back. This move will affect approximately 49,000 people. That is really something.

The Canadian Federation of Students estimated the cost at $8 million per year. The Budget, I think, has earmarked $5 million to cover the cost of the elimination of interest, to increase the amount of needs-based grants and decrease the spousal contribution amount.

The interest rate on students loans, as many of us know - especially those who are paying it know - has been prime, which is about 4.5 per cent, plus 2.5 per cent. So, with the elimination of the 2.5 per cent, the people who have been paying student loans and will continue to do so are having quite a burden taken from their backs. Of course, they still will have to pay the federal interest on 60 per cent of the loan and that is still prime plus 2.5 per cent.

The thing that I think would be really good is if this Province, in communicating with the federal government, could get them to understand what the burden is for students and to get them to do exactly the same thing. If the federal government were to remove the interest payments at least on their potion of the loan, what that would mean for students everywhere in Canada but especially for our students would be stupendous. It would mean that all the interest would be gone, and that would be something that would help them get more on their feet.

We all do, I know - it's not just me in my office - every MHA in this House must get phone calls from people who are students who are calling to see: can we help them deal with the payment agencies, the collection agencies that they are dealing with, and help them deal with the burdens that they have? On a regular basis my constituency assistant has to deal with helping people with regard to their student debts. It is an ongoing problem.

This is a wonderful thing that is happening for our students, and I am delighted that we have this bill in front of us and that we are going to pass this tonight. On August 1, to know that all of those people who have been carrying these debts are going to get this break beginning August 1, it just makes me feel good to know that is going to happen.

One of the things that I want to talk about is that there are not complications but there are things that had to be put in place once the Province made this decision. For example, in 2007 when the Province reduced the interest rate by 2.5 per cent they had to communicate with the federal level to make sure there would be no problems. They had to deal with the different federal and provincial interest rates that would now create an incongruous situation that did not exist between the feds and other provinces. They had to make sure that the students were not going to suffer from red tape as a result of what the Province did, but that got worked out, just as what is happening now is going to get worked out. As far as I can see, there will be nothing that those who are carrying student debts will have to suffer from in terms of red tape except for still having to pay their interest to the federal level.

There is nothing wrong with this amendment. I think everything in this amendment is as it should be and, as I said, I am really very pleased to support it, but there are some things that I think we still need to think about to help post-secondary students in this Province.

One of the things that has been brought to my attention, and I am not sure the degree to which this is a problem but it has been brought to my attention, is that the Canadian Federation of Students is finding that it is not quite as able to be able to advocate for students who do have to deal with collection agencies. They are being told that they cannot represent them. So there has been some talk and some communication with me saying that perhaps the time has come to create an ombudsperson office to deal with student debt repayment issues, so students are able to pay back without issue. As I said, the groups that represent students, such as the CFS, are finding that it is not as easy for them to advocate because of privacy issues.

This is something that has just been brought to me quite recently but it is something, I think, because it has been brought to me that it is worth investigating. I am sure that the Minister of Education will be interested in looking at that, and to see the degree to which this has become a problem for the Canadian Federation of Students, and may also be for the student union as well. This issue came to us from the Canadian Federation of Students. There was a time when somebody from the CFS could go and actually advocate for a person when it came to dealing with the organizations they had to deal with in terms of problems that arose because of their student debt.

If this is a problem, if this were indeed proven to be a serious problem, then something like an ombudsperson would certainly be something that could be put in place to help students. Because I do not want, and I am sure that my colleagues in the House do not want to have the type of calls that I get.

We had a call one day from a man – we got it about 9:30 in the morning – and he had a deadline that day with regard to repayment. The way in which he had been treated over a period of time by the agency he was dealing with was just completely unacceptable. My constituency assistant spent most of the day working with him and with this agency; so that by 3:30 that afternoon things got resolved. He was even having the agency say things to him like: Well, if you cannot pay go to your family; somebody out there must have money to lend you.

He assured them that was not the case. Well, then, why don't you get another mortgage on your house? He was even told when he talked about his child and his responsibilities: Well, maybe you had a child too soon. Maybe it was irresponsible to have your child when you had your child.

That was actually said to this man. As I said, my constituency assistant worked with him all day. Imagine that kind of thing happening. It is difficult when somebody has been out of school for a number of years and they are dealing with the agencies and this is the kind of thing they are dealing with. I do not think that kind of a person – well, he wouldn't; he wouldn't feel like he could call the Canadian Federation of Students. Maybe this is the kind of case that the Canadian Federation of Students is talking about when they say that they think an ombudsperson would be the way to go to help students who are in that kind of situation. Maybe the person could be within the Department of Education, maybe it could be a separate office, but it is just a proposal that I am putting out there because of issues that I know are still out there. Yes, the elimination of the interest payments is going to be good, but it is still not going to remove the student debt problem. We know that is still a major problem for so many students.

Another issue is looking at who it is who has loans and who it is who has debts, and the realization that we do need to look more at needs-based grants and offer more needs-based grants. Right now, for example, in Newfoundland and Labrador, 52 per cent of full-time post-secondary students aged eighteen to twenty-four, whose parents earn less than $40,000 a year, received a loan from the Canada supports loan program. That was in the year 2000. That is the latest statistic that we have. So 52 per cent of full-time students, their parents made less than $40,000 a year. This statistic shows us that students of lower-income parents are the students who need the loans and then they are the ones, the students, who become saddled with the debt. So they are the students who came from a family that had to get a loan and who had very low income. They themselves probably had low-wage jobs while they were in university, because unfortunately so many students have to carry jobs when they are in university these days. Then they come out of university with a debt that they had to incur. However, when we look at students whose parents earn $80,000, or more, only 14 per cent of students whose parents earned more than $80,000 received a public loan.

There is a real disparity between those who are at the lower end and those who are at the upper end. It does turn out for those at the lower end it is the student who carries the loan when they come out of university.

Another disparity that exists, and which says that we should have more when it comes to needs-based grants, is between women and men. More women students received CSLP loans than did their male counterparts. Of women, 34 per cent of women received CSLP loans whereas 29 per cent of men received CSLP loans.

Another statistic which should really jar us, I think, here in this Province is the difference between students who live close to a post-secondary campus and students who have to commute. One of the statistics here in our Province is that only 3 per cent of students from low-income families living beyond commuting distance participated in university - only 3 per cent. This, to me, is really upsetting because we know our geography, we know where our campuses are – and this statistic does not have to do with post-secondary in general; it has to do with university. So, basically we are talking about the campus in Corner Brook and the campuses in St. John's. Only 3 per cent of students from low-income families living beyond commuting distance participated in university.

What that means is that those who are living outside of the commuting range, who cannot afford to come in because they are from low-income families, are destined to continue to be in the low-income range, because they are not getting the opportunity to move beyond that range. I find that percentage very disconcerting.

We need to ensure in our Province that the students, the young people who are the most disadvantaged, can have a full education like everybody else, that they have to be able to access education like everybody else. Needs-based grants, a major increase in needs-based grants, would do that.

I remember when I went to university in 1960; we had bursaries then. If you went into education, for example, to get your education degree, you received a bursary. Everything was paid for. You did not have to pay for university. There are others in this House who remember when university was free. I did not have to pay for my degree, but that is not the case for our students now.

If we really are serious, and I hope that we all are, about really trying to increase the education level of our young people in this Province, if we really are serious about those young people becoming trained and educated to prepare for the new jobs that we think are going to be out there, if they are not already there, because of the new industries that are happening in the Province - whether those jobs are in trades and technology, or they are jobs in areas that relate to university, so whether it is university or college it does not matter - if we want them to be able to be trained and educated for those jobs then we have to make sure that they can go to post-secondary schools, that they can become trained, that they become educated, without, at the same time, ending up with a massive debt on their backs that would lead them to a point like that thirty-year-old man who called my office one day, begging for help to try to deal with the debt.

Now, with him that day it ended up positively, but it ended up positively not just because of my constituency assistant trying to help him – at least she was keeping communications open - but a friend finally came through at about 3:00 o'clock that afternoon with $12,000 - just over $12,000 - to lend to him without, of course, any strings attached, so that he could get the creditors off his back. I know we all know of people like that, maybe not personally but through our constituency offices.

So, yes, I am delighted that we are passing this bill. I am delighted that it is before us. I am delighted that we have taken another step towards helping our people who are going to post-secondary education, going to either the college or to the university, and it is another step.

What I hope is that this government will continue to listen to students, will continue to listen to the Canadian Federation of Students, will continue to listen to the NDP, and the next act might have to do with needs-based grants.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Once again, I guess I am disappointed to hear that the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi is upset and hurt again, but if you listen to her comments today I think it is quite evident that her concerns, the concerns of our government, that she is obviously echoing the support for our government and I certainly want to thank her for that.

Mr. Speaker, as well, to get this going this evening, I certainly want to pass a quick comment on my good friend from Port de Grave who made comments earlier. Again, I think if we look through what he was saying, obviously he, too, was offering great support for our government and again I certainly want to thank him for that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, this is an evening sitting. We cut short earlier this evening due to an unfortunate fire alarm. It is my understanding it was just that, a false alarm, but I will say somewhat fortunate because the Leader of the Opposition was - I will not say a rant, but - giving us a history lesson again about the great vision of Joey Smallwood. It was not something I wanted to hear heading into my supper, I have to tell you the truth.

You were talking about the free tuition that occurred. I think it was somewhere around 1965 there was some free tuition, I think history has shown, under great pressure, thanks to a young Rex Murphy at the time, but it was short-lived; probably as short-lived as the great Industrial Revolution and the vision that was all a part of that period of our history when we took $40 million into Confederation and not long after we went into debt, and we are still in debt and still trying to find our way out. So, Mr. Speaker, perhaps a timely break for dinner.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to pass some comment on the amendments that we are putting forth here today on the Financial Assistance Act for students. It is a great piece of legislation, but there is some irony in it because we are adding something that we are taking away. Primarily, what we are adding here in the legislation is one word, and that is: elimination. We are adding something so that we can eliminate the centrepiece of this piece of legislation; we are eliminating interest rates on student loans.

Mr. Speaker, that, in itself, speaks to where we are as a government as we continue to listen to students, continue to listen to the young people and see what their needs are and do what we can, as I will show in a moment, all of the things that our government has done with respect to tuition and post-secondary fees to support our youth.

One of the common phrases that we hear quite often is that our children are our future. Certainly for those of us who come from education and an education background, we strongly believe that a better educated child and a higher educated child will make for a much better and prosperous future. That is exactly what this government has been about and that is exactly what our Department of Education has been trying to accomplish since 2003.

Mr. Speaker, this year there are a number of new measures, measures that highlight again initiatives to make post-secondary education more affordable and more accessible for students. There is a front end and a back end to our programs.

I will start at the back end, Mr. Speaker. The elimination of interest on student loans will have an impact for some 49,000 former students in this Province who are currently repaying their student loans. Mr. Speaker, that is significant. With a cut in interest rates, what that means is there is more money in their pockets. It means, for some, when they finish their undergraduate degrees they may be in a position and be able to afford to continue their education, on to masters or Ph.D. programs.

With the confidence they have in our government, knowing that our government is supporting education, we are seeing more and more students interested in coming to the Province to be a part of our education system. On the back end, what the elimination of interest on student loans is actually doing is allowing students to pay off their debt much faster. We are seeing that the accumulated debt in this Province is in decline and students, in paying off their debt much faster, are able to make more contributions to our economy.

Mr. Speaker, another key point with this amendment and what we are trying to do to make education more affordable and accessible is the increase to non-repayable upfront grants, from $70 to $80. This is going to support some 8,400 students in this Province. It builds on the initiative that we started in 2007.

Mr. Speaker, earlier today the Member for Port de Grave was up and talking about, very quickly, to list the initiatives that previous governments to ours made to support education. What he did leave out was that in the Liberal government of 1994, when they cancelled the upfront grant system and went to a full loan system, he left out that that initiative, along with rising tuition fees, the student debt in this Province rose by 300 per cent in one year. I went through the 1990s paying my loans and I would certainly have appreciated some elimination of interest rates at the time.

However, building on this 2007 initiative, we are able to cap the borrowing at $60 per week and increase the non-repayable grants to $80. What this means, Mr. Speaker, students get the money upfront, and on the end they do not have as much money to pay back. In 2007, when we brought in the grant program, that essentially, for all new students, cut their loans in half because they were able to balance the money they were receiving in loan with the money they were receiving in grants.

Mr. Speaker, added to that, an initiative this year is that we are decreasing the amount spouses are to contribute to their partner's education. Reducing the discretionary income considered as a resource, from 80 per cent to 70 per cent, allowing families to keep more of their income and allowing spouses who want to pursue education, who want to pursue higher learning and perhaps switch careers, we are giving them a better opportunity. Making it more affordable and accessible for them to go back and pursue post-secondary education.

Mr. Speaker, if I might quickly point out, since lists seem to be the order of the day. If I could quickly point out what changes we have seen and improvements that we have seen in the student loan program since 2003. I will do this quickly. We saw tuition freezes for MUN and the College of the North Atlantic in 2004. We saw an integrated provincial student loan program with the federal government, to make it almost a one-stop shopping where we have one student, one loan approach. We established the Student Loan Corporation to allow for direct lending and to support the integrated student loan program. We had a further tuition freeze in 2005. We increased student loan limits from $110 to $140 per week in 2005. We increased the debt reduction grants in 2005. We increased the income threshold by 5 per cent to allow more students to qualify for interest relief.

Mr. Speaker, we combined the parental contributions and made it less, so that parents would have to contribute less to a student's education. We froze tuitions again in 2006. We extended the debt reduction program to include co-op students in 2006. We froze tuitions in 2007. We reduced parental contributions so that parents with a combined family income of less than $65,000 would no longer have to contribute to their child's education, and the upper limits also changed so that families with a combined income of up to $140,000 would now qualify.

Mr. Speaker, we decreased interest charges on student loans from prime plus 2.5 per cent, to prime in 2007. We implemented a $70 per week upfront needs-based grant in 2007, cutting loans in half. We froze tuitions in 2008. We froze tuition in 2009. Now we see in 2009, elimination of interest on student loans, an increase in upfront needs grants, and a reduction in spousal contributions.

Mr. Speaker, that is a number of initiatives, but I think what it speaks to loud and clear, from the outset of 2003 when this government was elected and this Premier was elected, there was a strong commitment to education, a strong commitment to our youth, and it is not by a single initiative but it is one thing after another, and we continue to find ways. We continue to work with students and student unions to find ways to make education more affordable and more accessible for all youth in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, it shows our commitment to education, to higher learning, and it shows our commitment that education is indeed one of the pillars for economic growth in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of other initiatives that we have done to support our youth in post-secondary education. Just to list some that we have seen this year: $1 million to support the graduate school fellowships; $5.1 million to expand the MUN School of Medicine; $1.4 million to Marine Institute for multi-beam sonar mapping; $575,000 to the Marine Institute to develop and apply the ocean mapping program. We have increased professional seats in our schools of nursing, social work and pharmacy. We have seen a $56 million commitment to tuition freezes for four years at Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Port de Grave referenced today that during their tenure of government they had low tuition fees, the lowest in Atlantic Canada. Well, Mr. Speaker, we have low tuition fees as well, only our tuition fees are the lowest in all of Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: In all of Canada, Mr. Speaker, outside of Quebec that has a special tuition fee for their own residents. Our tuition fees, particularly at MUN, are 44 per cent lower than the national average.

Mr. Speaker, we are investing in new residences, addressing housing concerns. We are investing in new academic buildings, the Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, and we continue to support the scholarship programs at Memorial University. A suite of initiatives that our government has taken upon to support students and demonstrate our steadfast commitment to support education, to support Memorial, to support the College of the North Atlantic and to, most of all, support students and families of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, when you look at the full package, when you look at our history from 2003 to now, it is quite obvious that our government has met the challenge to try and remove barriers to affordable and accessible education. Tuition freezes, up-front grants, eliminating interest rates, reducing parental and spousal contributions, are having a big impact in our Province.

Many youth were forced to choose to go outside of this Province to look for a paying job because they could not afford to go to post-secondary. With these changes, more students can go to post-secondary. We have seen a trend where many students are taking part-time jobs to try and pay for their education. Mr. Speaker, these kinds of initiatives mean fewer students will have to get part-time jobs, and the research will show those without jobs that can commit to and study and be more focused on their studies will have better results.

Mr. Speaker, by reducing debt, at the end of the day our government has supported the students and families who are more likely to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador, more likely to find work in Newfoundland and Labrador, and more likely to support our economy right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Mr. Speaker, the minister referenced today as well a meeting recently with the Canadian Federation of Students. I, too, sat in on that meeting and I could sense their enthusiasm, their support, and they did reference their national meeting in Ottawa. I could see the pride in their faces that they, along with the work of this government, were able to accomplish. They did indicate they were the envy of their colleagues, the envy of the country.

Mr. Speaker, when they told them about the elimination of interest rates their jaws dropped, and around the table they were just looking at each other; they were in shock. Not only were they in shock that we had the elimination of the interest rates, but they were in shock looking at these young students wondering how they did it. They could not believe that they could accomplish this.

Mr. Speaker, very proudly they indicated to us they accomplished it because of the excellent working relationship that they have with our government and the former minister and now the new Minister of Education.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DALLEY: Oh, we have to throw in the parliamentary secretary as well.

Mr. Speaker, all of these initiatives we have seen from a report released in June 2008, a report by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, indicating that there has been a significant drop in the number of Newfoundland and Labrador students studying in the Maritimes.

As we know, we have declining enrolments in our schools. Most significant from this report, this report indicated a significant increase in the number of Maritime students coming to Newfoundland and Labrador. The report indicated that we have seen a 1,100 per cent increase in students coming to Newfoundland and Labrador to do their studies.

The minister referenced today that the Canadian Federation of Students are getting calls almost every day. They are excited; they know that we have one of the best educational packages and programs that can be offered in this country, not only from a student aid and student loan perspective but also from quality education as well.

Mr. Speaker, these inquiries about tuition rates and interest-free loans, up-front grants, and the supportive environment that they are seeing that our government is providing to education in this Province are making people want to come to Newfoundland and Labrador.

In closing, being a rural MHA, I think it is important for me to be able to apply a rural lens to the kinds of initiatives that take place in government, and to ensure that the people that I represent in my district can and will benefit from the initiatives of this government.

Mr. Speaker, when we consider a rural student in post-secondary education, I read a stat where the cost of their post-secondary education is approximately 20 per cent higher. Being from rural Newfoundland and having gone through the post-secondary system, I would probably argue that is on the low side. When you consider rural students who have to travel to prepare and find housing, and plan and leave home and come in to try to find suitable accommodations, the expense of travelling home the odd weekend, the expense of parents having to make moves and travel back and forth, all of this, Mr. Speaker, is an added cost and an added burden to rural students.

When I looked at these new initiatives that would allow students on the front end to get money up front and a grant debt reduction program when students finish, and the elimination of interest rates, these initiatives are aimed directly at those who borrow most. Those who borrow most are those, in most cases, whose education costs the highest, and that is our rural students. So I see these initiatives having a significant impact, and initiatives that will directly help make education more affordable and accessible for the rural students of our Province.

Mr. Speaker, one other point I want to make before I sit down, having met with the Canadian Federation of Students, the initiatives that we have taken since 2003, I think it is important that all of us, when given the opportunity, call on the federal government to make some universal changes, make some universal changes to their portion of the student loan program to make education more affordable and accessible right across this country for all students, and most importantly for the students of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly call on them to follow the lead of this government, for this government to work with students, to listen to them, to find ways, and to continue to work with them to find ways, to make education what it is today.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words with respect to Bill 9.

I do not think I will need the full twenty minutes that is allotted. I just had a couple of questions I would like to put to the minister, actually, and make a few comments. First off, I hope I don't disappoint the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's because I am going to commend the government on something again. He says I never give credit where credit is due. I think I did a lot of it yesterday and I am going to give credit again, because anything by any government that helps relieve someone of a debt that they have, particularly when that debt was incurred in the pursuit of making themselves better, making themselves better educated and in a position to contribute to the Province, is a good thing, no matter who does it, so you have to give credit when these types of things are done.

Some would suggest that it should have been done a couple of years earlier when we were in a surplus situation. I do believe the price tag on this, it ranges. The government, I think, budgeted $5 million for it this year. The student federation says it is somewhere in the vicinity of $8 million. Regardless of whether it is five or eight, the bottom line is, it is not an extremely expensive proposition for the government to do this. Some said it should have been done earlier and so on because we had the money in the coffers to do it.

Of course, some of us here have had the burdens of student debt in the past. There are some who, in the 1960s, of course, were fortunate enough under the old system in the Smallwood years, I do believe, that there was free education; they did not have to pay any tuition. Of course, that did not continue for obvious reasons. The Province was not in a financial position to be able to continue to afford it. Not only did tuition start but tuition escalated to very high proportions in some cases.

I know, myself, I attended Memorial University in the early 1970s, from 1972 to 1976, and incurred student debts. I know what it is all about. Actually, when I first went to work, working in Corner Brook, after I graduated from law school, it is pretty disheartening after you spend six, seven or eight years trying to get yourself into a position to get into the workforce and you realize right away that the first cut that comes out of your paycheque is that you have to pay for that student debt. Of course, I was pleased by the fact that you at least had your education. Yes, you had to pay it back, and there were certainly no breaks on interest that was charged on it there. It took quite a while to do it, actually. It took about another seven or eight years to actually repay it. They set you up on a repayment program, so you were actually in the workforce for some seven or eight years before you found yourself in a position that you had your education paid for. I also don't mind saying I was fortunate enough that I did not have a lot of student debt. I had great parental support so I did not have a debt like a lot of the kids coming out today.

I know in my own community there are people who have in the $40,000 range. Particularly I know of one young couple, after they graduated, I believe each of them married and they each had $35,000 or $40,000 in debt to pay back - and, of course, the interest on top of that.

That is a pretty tough start when you are in your mid-twenties and you are married and you are anxious to get into the workforce. You had spent six, seven or eight years or whatever educating yourself, and you find that kind of burden that you had to repay. So anything that can be done to alleviate that; because, God knows, these young people, when they start off, they have enough expenses. There are a lot of us here, I am sure, who have kids of our own who went through that process. They get out, and if they are married with a young family, trying to look after the family, trying to get a home for yourself, trying to get a vehicle for yourself, the last thing you need on top of all your usual debts when you are getting started is to have to pay a student loan. So, when you do, any break that comes on that debt obviously is much appreciated.

I know in my own case, I had three children involved and was fortunate enough, of course, that they did not have to get student aid, but between all three of them, they spent twenty-two years in university. So, I am sure they appreciated it and it gave them a leg up when they got out that they did not have to face that kind of student debt. So, it is costly, but it is also something that everybody in this Province appreciates that is good to have, which is an education.

Now, it seems the focus has changed over the years. I know back in the early 1970s – in the late 1960s and the early 1970s when I was in the education process, it seemed like the governments of the day and the teachers of the day were driving the university education piece. You have to go to university to get truly educated, to get truly skilled to be something; whether you wanted to be an accountant or a teacher, or whatever. That focus seems to have switched somewhat. The actual university education today does not seem to have the same need or impact or focus that it had back in that time. I know a lot of people these days, for example, go into the trades instead, go into the skills. A lot of people, for example, in the Marine Institute doing different degrees, nautical science degrees and so on. So they seem to be getting in these shorter programs in some cases.

Trade schools; I know in Port aux Basques, for example, we pump through, every year in the local CONA, what they call an NDT course, Non-Destructive Testing course. Actually, it is the only facility in the Province that trains people for non-destructive testing. In fact, not only has it become a training centre for the students, and we get them from all over Newfoundland and Labrador, they come there to get trained. I think it depends, in some cases a twelve month program, in others it is an eighteen month program, or sometimes even a twenty-four month program.

The bottom line is, it is a case where it is not of long duration, but these people who have graduated, most of them that I know ended up going to Alberta, and they commute back and forth a lot of them. Some of them went there and lived there and raised their families there, and have settled into Alberta and do not intend to come back. A lot of them still continue to reside in this Province, and they make great money. Every person who was trained with NDT in that facility, since - I believe it was 1989 that it started, they make anywhere, $100,000 plus, from a one-year course that they took at CONA. Now that is great wages, that is great income, and it did not take four or five, six years to get it. Those people seem to have shifted a lot today towards the college education and trades education as opposed to the more standard back in the 1960s, early 1970s, getting a teaching certificate or getting a teaching degree, an education degree. So it has switched and it has changed.

My questions in particular about this, and this is for explanation because we come here to vote for or vote against or make suggestions and comments about a piece of legislation. I like to give and take when I - if I have a question, when I get an answer back as well. That is the purpose of course in second reading, is to get that explanation and allows the minister an opportunity to speak with his staff or whatever and get any info that he might need to give the explanation, and usually that is given in the committee stage.

In particular, I notice here we are talking about, in section (1) - because what this is doing of course is amending the already existing Student Financial Assistance Act. We are getting rid of some clauses that are in it and we are putting in a few more new ones. My reading and understanding of this is, what we are saying is we are basically giving the government some regulatory ability to make some regulations that deal with the student interest issue, and it talks about lowering them and it talks about eliminating them.

Now, the last sentence, and I have my own understanding of what it means but I am not clear on it and I would appreciate it if the minister could educate me there. That is the very last piece that says, (e.1) "setting lower interest rates or eliminating interest for student loan agreements and setting the effective dates for those lowered interest rates or eliminated interest…"and this is the piece I was wondering about "…except where a judgement of the court has been made with respect to a student loan agreement."

If you look down into the second piece there (e.2) the same thing "…excepting debts that are owed to the Crown or the corporation as a result of a judgment of a court." I am just curious as to what that actually means. For example, I would assume it means that if I had a student debt and I, for whatever reason, could not pay it, I was taken to court and I was ordered by a court order to resume payments on my debt. I would assume that is what happened and the court put that in the form of a judgment or whatever for the arrears, but also my understanding is that part of that court order is that you resume the payments on your outstanding debt. I am just wondering how the regulations are intended to work. Like, for example, anybody who was taken to court and ordered to continue, will they get the benefit of this interest reduction here or elimination as well? I would just like to know the interplay between what the court action did or did not do vis-à-vis a student debt.

Also, when you get into subsection (4) there, and again, I just cannot understand what it means. It says, "An interest rate lowered or interest eliminated in accordance with regulations made under paragraphs (1)(e.1) and (e.2) applies to a student loan agreement or a debt owed to the Crown or the corporation as a result of the Crown or the corporation fulfilling the obligations of a borrower under a student loan agreement notwithstanding that that lowered interest rate or eliminated interest…" and this is the piece again "…is contrary to a term or condition of the applicable student loan agreement."

For the life of me I cannot figure out what that means. I am wondering if the minister can, by way of explanation, give some example of how that would work in real life. I am certain that a lot of other people who might read this or students who will wonder about what does this mean or not mean. I think if we are going to be voting in favour of it, and I support the principle of it, that is the purpose of second reading, but I would like to have an explanation and an understanding of what it is exactly that I am voting for as well. This, no doubt, would be appropriate time to get that explanation, and I am sure it will be forthcoming from the minister.

Not withstanding that, that is the only comments that I had on this bill. I will certainly be supporting the principle of Bill 9.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and good evening.

It gives me great pleasure to rise this evening to speak in support of Bill 9, which is An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act.

Effectively, as previous speakers have indicated, Mr. Speaker, this legislation gives us the ability to fulfil one of the commitments that we made in the recent provincial Budget, and that is to eliminate the interest on the provincial portion of student loans.

Mr. Speaker, here in Newfoundland and Labrador we are very fortunate. We have one of the most affordable post-secondary education systems in the country. We have one of the most accessible post-secondary education systems in the country, and we also have some incredibly high quality post-secondary educational institutions in the country right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We, of course, have Memorial University, we have the College of the North Atlantic and we have some great private colleges in this Province as well.

I remember being in high school and guidance councillors at the time suggesting that maybe I should apply to some universities on the mainland, in Nova Scotia or in Ontario, or elsewhere. I really believe, Mr. Speaker, that one of the best decisions I made was making the decision to stay and pursue an undergraduate degree at Memorial University. Unfortunately, the Student Financial Assistance Program that I experienced was nowhere near as great as the program that is in place for today's students. I did have student loans, as I expect numerous members of this House did, and at the time there were no up-front grants like the ones that students now enjoy today as a result of the actions of this government and this Administration.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, today's amendment allows us to eliminate the interest on loans. This is unprecedented. Students have asked over the years for this to occur and this government has listened. As a result, legislation like this and announcements like the ones that were made related to post-secondary education in this recent Budget make a real difference in the lives of students in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We are increasing the non-repayable up-front grants available to students by $10 per week. These non-repayable up-front grants were reintroduced in 2007 and that was the first time since 1994 that students in this Province have been able to avail of those up-front, needs-based grants.

As the minister explained quite well this afternoon, the provincial loans, the provincial portion of the student loans, will now be capped at $60 per week and students can receive up to $80 per week in grants that they do not need to pay back. This is quite significant.

To put it in perspective, there are literally tens of thousands of students in Newfoundland and Labrador that will benefit from this good news. In fact, about 49,000 students will benefit from this move to eliminate the interest, and about 7,000 students got up-front grants in the 2008-2009 school year. Now as a result of this latest announcement, about 9,000 students will benefit from up-front, needs-based grants. This is quite significant as well.

These announcements represent a major commitment by this government to investing in post-secondary education in this Province. These changes will cost about $5 million in 2009-2010, about $6.4 million in 2010-2011, and about $6.7 million in 2011-2012.

Mr. Speaker, these were not the only commitments that this government announced that affect post-secondary education that was announced in this recent Budget. Just to quickly share with you a number of other announcements that were made that I think are relevant. We saw $8.3 million in increased funding for College of the North Atlantic, over $21 million of increased funding in this fiscal year for Memorial University. That includes things like salary increases, the continuation of the freeze on tuition rates, and other programming supports. We have seen other investments in other areas as well. We have seen $1 million this year to support graduate school fellowships, $2.5 million to assist Sir Wilfred Grenfell College with the transition to autonomy, which is another great commitment that this government has made.

In these tough economic times, we all recognize the need to invest in infrastructure. We have had some great announcements in this Province in recent days and there were several commitments related to post-secondary education in this recent Budget; a new campus for the College of the North Atlantic in Labrador West, some improvements, a new academic building for instance at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook. So our commitment to increasing the quality of post-secondary education and to continually invest in post-secondary education in this Province, our commitment is very clear.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the District of The Isles of Notre Dame pointed out that aside from the Province of Quebec, which has a special program in place for residents of its province, Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest undergraduate tuition rates in the entire country of Canada. Good things are happening in post-secondary education in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker. In fact, our recent research shows us that more students are entering the labour market upon graduation, which is great news for the economy of this Province.

The amount of average student debt is starting to fall in Newfoundland and Labrador. Those who are in the repayment phase, those who have finished their post-secondary education and are now paying back their loans, they are paying less than what they have paid in the past, which again is great news for families, it is great news for the communities in this Province. The policies of this government are definitely making a difference and these are just a few simple examples of how they are doing so.

Mr. Speaker, we have increased funding to Memorial University over the last five years by 56 per cent. We have increased funding to the College of the North Atlantic over the last five years by about 70 per cent. These kinds of investments have never been seen before in this Province and it is great news for students. It is great news for educators and it is going to do great things for the economy of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is also significant to note while we are talking about financial assistance to students, we have also made considerable investments in apprenticeships which I think reflects a need in our economy today in the skilled trades. We have committed in this budget year $3.6 million targeted at hiring apprentices, which is going to be great news for our business community and for the skilled trades. We have committed another $20,000 to support a conference for skills work for women. We have also had other projects related to facility and equipment improvements at the College of the North Atlantic, another $2 million investment in this fiscal year and we have also introduced a mentorship program for female apprentices at a cost of about a quarter of a million dollars.

We have also made changes to allow credit for job training in Alberta. So these are some of the things that have benefited apprenticeship programs that are definitely impacting the post-secondary education system in a positive way. There has also been a significant increase in the number of apprentices in Newfoundland and Labrador over the last five years. In fact, in 2007 alone, we had over 4,000, about 4,100 apprentices. The result is going to be very positive for the skilled trades in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I want to get back to talking about student financial assistance and I would like to give a very quick history of student aid grants over the last couple of decades in this Province.

In the 1990s there was a loan remission grant program and there were only about 500 students in the entire Province that availed from the program. In 2002, there was a debt reduction grant program and about 1,200 students benefited from that program.

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the leadership of our Premier and thanks to the leadership of our Ministers of Education and this government, in 2007, up-front grants were introduced. About 7,000 students benefited from those grants, a commitment of about $9 million. Now in 2009, over 8,500 - I think it is around there somewhere. About 8,500 students will benefit from up-front grants, at a cost of about $13 million. As you can see, there has been a major impact and a major increase in the number of students who are availing of those kinds of supports.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Port de Grave this afternoon identified that when it comes to student financial assistance, it is indeed a national concern, and I would agree, it is a national concern. I would like to challenge our federal government to start to show some leadership on this issue and to show the kind of commitment that this government has shown to reducing student debt. I would like to challenge our federal counterparts to introduce non-repayable needs-based grants. I would like to challenge the federal government to reduce interest rates and ultimately eliminate interest rates on their portion of student loans and then that will have even greater impact on students, not only in Newfoundland and Labrador but right across this country.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Port de Grave talked about the previous Administration and talked about the history of petitions that have been presented and so on. I think we have demonstrated that this government is truly listening to students. In fact, my colleague from The Isles of Norte Dame outlined some of the things that have happened over the last decade or so, in terms of tuition freezes and other improvements such as interest rate reduction and now ultimately the elimination.

The Member for Port de Grave also could not resist the urge to comment on the autonomy of Memorial University. Mr. Speaker, for a number of years I have monitored the results of the Maclean's magazine survey that looks at post-secondary institutions in Canada and does a fairly objective comparison, for the most part, of universities in this country. Since 2001, Memorial University has been ranked fifth overall in the comprehensive university category. Memorial University has an excellent reputation and I would argue, Mr. Speaker, that it is a strong, vibrant, independent institution and it is among the best in the country, and as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians we should be quite proud of that.

My colleagues across the House also noted that they have received calls from students with concerns around student loans and student grants. Of course, all MHAs in this House get those kinds of calls from constituents, I do as well, and often working with the folks within the Department of Education we are able to resolve some of those concerns that students have.

I am surprised, Mr. Speaker, that there are still many students out there who are not aware of some of the programs, such as debt reduction and other supports that are in place for students today. Part of the process that we go through as MHAs is being able to inform our constituents of some of those supports and programs that are available that are definitely making a difference. I do know that many students in Newfoundland and Labrador are very pleased with the kinds of improvements that have been made, particularly over the last five years.

In 2007, our Minister of Education at the time engaged students to determine their views on issues related to post-secondary education and on issues related to student debt.

In 2009, just recently, again under the leadership of the former Minister of Education, now the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services, a student debt round table was held. Students clearly expressed their support for the actions that this government undertook in 2007 and they talked about the positive impact that those changes have had on students over the last couple of years. Our students told us loud and clear that they are the envy of other students across the country. That is really great news for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I am confident that this government is going to continue to listen to our constituents. We are going to listen to student organizations like the Canadian Federation of Students that was mentioned earlier this evening, and by listening and by partnering and working with those kinds of organizations we can come up with great policies that truly do impact people's lives.

One of the most exciting things about being a Member of the House of Assembly is having the opportunity to help constituents solve problems, and it is gratifying when I can work with a student in my district and help them overcome challenges that they face in terms of student financial assistance.

Another thing that is really exciting about being a Member of the House is passing legislation that truly does impact people's lives. Mr. Speaker, as simple a piece of legislation as Bill 9 is, we are simply adding a few words to allow us to eliminate interest. It is going to have a profound impact on students in this Province now and in the future as well.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I get great feedback on in talking to my constituents is the ongoing tuition freeze at Memorial University and at College of the North Atlantic, our two public post-secondary institutions in this Province. To date, we have committed about $56 million to support the continuation of those tuition freezes, but we have not stopped there, Mr. Speaker.

Recently, we have provided relief to parents who support their children's education. As well, we have increased loan limits for students who need more financial support. So we are reaching out to those who have the greatest need. We have in fact included co-op students in our Debt Reduction Grant Program which has been a big benefit for students in programs like business or engineering and some of the programs at College of the North Atlantic as well. We have also provided extra support for students who have difficultly repaying their loans, which I think has had a major impact on students as well.

Mr. Speaker, again, my colleague for The Isles of Norte Dame noted the challenges that students from rural Newfoundland and Labrador face, and it is true. Our stats show us that rural students accumulate more debt than students living in urban areas; about 20 per cent more debt on average than students in urban areas. The exciting thing about our debt reduction initiatives is that they are targeted at those who borrow more. Rural students, as a result, will benefit greatly from these recent announcements and they are benefiting greatly from the announcements that have been made over the last couple of years.

Mr. Speaker, we are on a great path. I think the decisions we have made are doing great things to support post-secondary education in Newfoundland and Labrador. There is recognition in this Province, and there is certainly recognition by this government, that continued investments in education are going to be key to ensuring a bright future here, socially and economically. If we have a better educated workforce then we are going to be well poised to meet any challenges that lie ahead.

Mr. Speaker, while the changes to the actual legislation today are minor in nature, the impact of eliminating interest on student loans is incredible. The impact of increasing non-repayable up-front grants in this Province for students is incredible. Education is a critical part of this government's plan and I certainly applaud this most recent initiative that was announced in the recent Budget.

This government is committed to an educated society and a productive society. We have increased needs-based grants. We have eliminated the interest on student loans and these things are making post-secondary education in Newfoundland and Labrador more accessible. These moves are making post-secondary education in Newfoundland and Labrador more affordable.

Bill 9 is more great news for the students of this Province. They have spoken, we have listened, and I certainly commend the Minister of Education, as well as the former Minister of Education, and our Premier on following through with initiatives such as this one.

Mr. Speaker, it has been a pleasure to speak to Bill 9 and I certainly fully support the move on behalf of this government.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, in an effort to accommodate all the speakers who would like to speak on the various bills this evening, we may need to juggle between one bill and another.

So at this time I would like to call Order 11, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Legal Aid Act. (Bill 15)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 15 be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Legal Aid Act." (Bill 15)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

It is indeed an honour and privilege for me to stand in my place today to carry out one of my duties as the Minister of Justice and to introduce this piece of legislation, which is An Act To Amend The Legal Aid Act.

It is an amendment which is set out in the Explanatory Notes. It says "This Bill would amend the Legal Aid Act to repeal paragraphs 49(a) and (c) to improve the efficiency of processing legal aid applications." I should have added: legal aid applications in summary conviction matters.

I am pleased that after hearing about the passing - the debate and the unanimous approval of members in the House about the legislation to eliminate interest on student loans, at least the Newfoundland provincial portion of a student loan, and to increase the needs-based grants. I can follow that piece of legislation up with this piece of legislation, which will improve access to the judicial system for people in this Province that will reduce an impediment to obtaining funding for legal aid, and that will increase efficiency and reduce delay in the criminal justice system.

So, Mr. Speaker, legal aid, I want to make clear, is not about aid for lawyers. I know there may be some people out there who may think that, but that is certainly not the case.

Mr. Speaker, the government of this Province spends a lot of money to provide a justice system for the people of the Province, a justice system that they can have pride in. The justice system consists of many of the people that you see everyday in this Province. You may start off with the police, whose job is to enforce the law, whose job is to investigate criminal activity, and to lay charges. It is quite a powerful role the police play in our society. They are the institution in our society that determines who is going to be investigated. They are the institution that determines who is going to be charged with a criminal offence.

Then, after the charges are laid, the matter goes over to the Crown Attorney's office, which is also provided by the Department of Justice. They prosecute cases in the criminal courts. The courts, of course, are provided by the Department of Justice as well. We provide judges in provincial court and we provide the officials who work in the courts. The federal government in Ottawa appoints the Supreme Court judges. Then there is a need for defence counsel. There is a need for anyone who is charged with an offence to be able to be defended by somebody who is learned in the law and can provide a fair and good defence to the person so charged.

Now, Mr. Speaker, legal aid in this Province is governed by a commission, the Legal Aid Commission. The Legal Aid Act of 1975 provide for the governance of legal aid in the Province by establishing this Legal Aid Commission. There is a commission consisting of five members and those five members are appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, which is the Cabinet. It also includes the Deputy Minister of Justice and the provincial executive director.

The Province is divided into ten areas and each of those areas has an area director. The Commissioners that presently serve this Province: Mr. Nick Avis, Q.C. is the Chair of the Commission. Mr. Avis, as many will remember, was one of the counsels in the Lamer Inquiry. I know Mr. Avis, many years ago, was a legal aid lawyer himself before going into private practice in Corner Brook and now here in St. John's. Mr. William Collins, who is a noted prominent defence counsel, is on the Commission. Krista Gillam, another lawyer; Katie Rich from Natuashish, former chief of the Natuashish band council, Innu band council, and Mr. John Jenniex from Humber Village, a former regional director of the former Department of Social Services, is a very valued member of that Commission as well.

Now, to become eligible for legal aid, section 47 of the Legal Aid Act does provide that - it sets out the proceedings for which legal aid can be provided. These include in Supreme Court, in Family Court, in Provincial Court, where the applicant is charged with an indictable offence. An indictable offence, in a proceeding by way of indictment is more serious offences that exist under the Criminal Code as apposed to the less serious summary convictions, and the third group is the hybrid offences in which the Crown can proceed either by way of indictment or by summary proceedings.

Also, legal aid is available for sentences of preventative detention under part 24 of the Criminal Code. Now that is the dangerous offender or the long term offender provisions under the Extradition Act of Canada and under the Fugitive Offenders Act of Canada. So as you can see, legal aid is available for the serious offences, the indictable offences.

Section 48 also provides that legal aid coverage may be available - and I want to emphasis the word may - in the less serious summary conviction offences where upon conviction in those summary convictions offences where there is a likelihood of imprisonment or there is a possibility of loss of means of earning a livelihood.

Legal aid is available or may be available on summary conviction matters, but section 49 of the act also states that no coverage is available for a summary conviction offence unless the area director of the Legal Aid Commission is of the opinion – and there are four criteria that have to help him form his opinion. Under section 49(a), there must be a possible defence to the charge. Under 49(c), there must be in existence circumstances that will serve to mitigate the severity of the penalty that may be imposed.

Mr. Speaker, the Legal Aid Appeal Board which was established under section 55 of the legal aid regulations – we know that many of the appeals that are heard by that appeal board are in relation to summary conviction offences involving sections 49(a) and 49(c). These sections, as I previously indicated, dealt with whether or not there was the merit of a defence.

The Legal Aid Commission is of the view, and the Department of Justice certainly shares that view, that litigants should have proper legal representation in the courts in order to get a fair trial in a timely manner. However, much time is expended, much time, I believe, is wasted, when people who are charged with summary conviction offences have to go to the area director and to convince the area director that there is a valid defence, that there is a defence that exists. As I said, the commission is of the view, and the Department of Justice shares the view, that everyone who is charged with an offence in which there is a likelihood of imprisonment or there is a possibility of loss of livelihood, that that person is entitled to a defence, a legal aid lawyer, and a lawyer at the trial.

Mr. Speaker, when the Legal Aid Act was first passed the maximum jail sentence that was allowed for summary conviction offences was only six months. The Criminal Code has been amended a number of times since then, and with respect to summary conviction matters there is an increase in the maximum allowable sentence, and it is now twenty-four months. Obviously, there is now a major increase in the number of applications for legal aid coverage with respect to summary conviction matters.

Delays in assigning defence lawyers result in cases taking much longer than might otherwise be the case. You could have a year versus several weeks. These proposed amendments would remove the onus of area directors to demonstrate that there is a possibility of defence in summary conviction offences, so legal aid may be provided to the defendants. This would provide increased access to the court system for defendants, and it will also free up legal aid resources.

Now, the present Minister of Finance, who is the former Minister of Justice, called into being a Task Force on Criminal Justice Efficiencies. This task force is formed to examine the operations of the criminal justice system in the City of St. John's, and to make recommendations to increase efficiency and to reduce delay in the court system without compromising fundamental principles of justice.

The task force reported in February, 2008 that unnecessary delays resulted in hardship for the accused who is in custody. Secondly, it rendered it more difficult to ensure that a trial is fair, that they are likely to be prejudicial to the prosecution's case and could have a devastating effect upon both the victims and key witnesses. There would be increased costs that place additional pressure on scarce resources, and it would breed cynicism and lead, or tend to bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

The task force made a number of recommendations to improve legal aid, to improve the process, including a specific recommendation for early assignment and assessment of legal aid cases, and in the Crown's office. The amendment that is before you today, under Bill 15, would be consistent with this recommendation and would allow for applications for legal aid to be processed more expeditiously, thereby reducing costs and inefficiencies in the court system.

Mr. Speaker, I am advised that there is no other system or jurisdiction in this country which limits legal aid coverage in summary conviction matters to situations where there is a possible defence to the charge. However, the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Yukon do limit legal aid coverage to summary conviction matters where there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earning a livelihood upon conviction, and two, because of extraordinary circumstances, it is in the best interest of justice that the applicant be represented by counsel. These circumstances which exist in these provinces are similar to the proposed amendments that we are proposing to section 49 of the Province's act.

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased that we are introducing legislation here today to improve legal aid. I am very pleased that in our budget there was an additional, I believe it was $485,000 of additional new money that went into legal aid. I am pleased that over the years we have invested $4 million of additional funding to provide legal aid to the people of this Province. We are doing so at a time when in other jurisdictions, because of the financial difficulties or the fiscal difficulties, because of what has been referred to as an economic tsunami, because of this great recession, that other jurisdictions are having to do the opposite, that they are actually cutting funding from legal aid.

I noticed in New Brunswick that there is recently a Chief Judge of the Court of Queen's Branch in the Province of New Brunswick. I criticized the New Brunswick government for reducing funding for legal aid in New Brunswick by $360,000. Again, the chief of the provincial court in New Brunswick echoed that particular criticism. So I am pleased that we are doing the opposite here, that we are making legal aid more accessible to more people. We are removing an impediment and we are increasing access to justice.

Mr. Speaker, this government, the government of Premier Williams has made significant investment in legal aid in our Province. We recognize the value of this service to the people of our Province who may not have the financial means of accessing the justice system. Since 2003, as I said earlier, over $4 million of new money has gone into the commission. We have increased the number of lawyers by twelve, the complement of lawyers in the Department of Justice; we have lawyers in the Crown Prosecutors Division; we have lawyers in the civil division. Now the number of lawyers in legal aid, for the first time this year, I think, is greater than the number of lawyers in the civil division or in the Crown Attorney's Office.

We increased the staff by eight administrative assistants, six articling students, four paralegals and two in-take positions, as well as two social workers to support Child, Youth and Family Services teams. I know last year, Mr. Speaker, when money went into the system for more lawyers for Child, Youth and Family Services there was also money given to legal aid so they could make lawyers available as well to deal with that very important topic of child protection.

Mr. Speaker, we funded an in-take officer for the Legal Aid Commission for provincial court, as per the recommendations of the Task Force on Criminal Justice Efficiencies and also a client services officer to assist inmates at the prison, as per the recommendations of Chief Justice Lamer. These positions allow for quicker assessment of applications and for quicker assignment of lawyers for those who requested services of legal aid. Similar to the amendments we are debating today, the positions help increase efficiency within our court system.

Mr. Speaker, Labrador has been a major focus of our spending on legal aid. In November, 2005, I had the pleasure, as being Minister of Justice at the time, of attending the formal opening of the legal aid office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The expansion of this service was no doubt needed, greatly needed, and our government is very proud to deliver this for the people of Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, in 2007 government, the Member for St. John's South was the Minister of Justice at the time, and he reappointed a provincial court judge in Wabush to service that area. To support this full-time presence, $200,000 was provided in Budget 2008 to establish a legal aid office in that area. That is one thing about the justice system, if you invest in one part of the justice system such as police, well if there are more police officers that means there are going to be more charges. If there are more charges that means you will need more legal aid lawyers. There are going to be more trials, so you need more judges and if there are more convictions you are going to need more room in the prisons and more probation officers and victim services officers.

The legal aid office in Labrador is supported by a lawyer and an administrative assistant. Of course, the Member for Labrador West who very nicely and very quietly but very effectively was the person who was instrumental in having a judge reappointed in Labrador West. Following that a –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. MARSHALL: - a Crown Prosecutor was appointed in Labrador West and following that, a legal aid lawyer was appointed in Labrador West, and then there is a need for jailers, male and female jailers for Labrador West. Then he came to me yesterday and he now wants additional sheriffs in Labrador West. He did it without petitions and he did it without ranting and raving but he did it very, very effectively.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. MARSHALL: Many people in the area, Mr. Speaker, particularly women's groups, stressed the need for legal aid services in Labrador West. The Department of Justice was informed of the need to have affordable legal services, as in many cases individuals, particularly women, were facing the unfortunate circumstances of a terminating marriage or partnership and could not afford these services. So I think we are all very proud, and I know the Opposition shares the view that this very important service is now available to the residents of that part of our beautiful Province.

In Budget 2008, $400,000 was provided to the Legal Aid Commission to allow for counsel of choice for those who were facing charges of murder and manslaughter. This was another recommendation of the Task Force on Criminal Justice Efficiencies. It was intended to end the deliberate slowing of trials on procedural matters which often accompany such cases.

One hundred and twenty-six thousand dollars was also provided, Mr. Speaker, to support persons with mental illnesses who would be required to make court appearances under the Mental Health Act. This is about showing care and showing compassion for the vulnerable of our society. The idea of showing care and compassion has been an ongoing theme with respect to legal aid in our dealings with the Government of Canada. The challenge of convincing the federal government to support civil legal aid has been a significant one. It is a challenge which has united all justice ministers in all provinces and all territories of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I spent three years previously as Minister of Justice and I attended these FPT meetings. We had the honour of hosting the federal-provincial territorial meeting of Justice Ministers, and it took place at Little Rapids in the Humber Valley Resort. What was interesting: Usually when you go to these meeting there is a very large rectangular table and the ministers and their officials and their delegations are around this very large table and you are pretty far from one another. In Humber Valley the rooms are not big enough and we were told by the federal government that we couldn't have the meeting there. Even though Newfoundland was hosting, we couldn't have the meeting there because they couldn't get the big rectangular table into the room. We said, no, we are going to have it there and we will use a circular table, which is what we did. Everybody was kind of huddled together around the table. I remember having my arm over on the Minister of Justice from Saskatchewan. As a result of it all, we all got very, very friendly.

I know at one meeting I went to in Ottawa, Irwin Cutler, who is the Minister of Justice under the Liberal government, the Martin government, was very supportive of legal aid. He is a very well known and a very well respected human rights lawyer with an international reputation. He indicated to me that he was unsuccessful in convincing his colleague, Finance Minister Goodale, to put additional funds into legal aid.

Then there was a change in government, and when we had the meeting at Humber Valley on the West Coast, the hon. Vic Toews, who is now the Minister of Justice, and Stockwell Day who is the Minister of Public Safety, came down. There was a large delegation from here in St. John's that went out and we broke bread with our federal counterparts and we worked on them to provide funding for legal aid. In fairness, Minister Toews, I don't think he was with us but he agreed that he would bring our issue, that the federal government should put more money into legal aid, because it is about protecting vulnerable people, it is about access to justice for people who can't afford it, it is about women, it is about Aboriginal groups, it is about the poor, it is about people with disabilities, and legal aid is very, very important. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful once again.

When I became Minister of Finance and went to the first federal-provincial territorial meeting of Finance Ministers, the first thing I did at that meeting was raise with Finance Minister Flaherty the issue of legal aid. He looked down at me and he said: Why the heck are you raising that here? I raised it there because I understand that Minister Nicholson was of the view that the Department of Justice in Ottawa was not responsible for civil legal aid, and that it was a matter that had to be dealt with by the Department of Finance. I raised it, it was acknowledged, but now the federal government will still not provide the funds. We can only continue to appeal to them, that there is a significant group of people in society who need help, and the federal government should join with the provinces.

I am pleased that our Province has invested – you know, when legal aid started, the federal government provided 90 per cent of the cost and the provinces provided 10 per cent of the cost. That is now completely reversed. We are now in a situation where the federal government is providing about 20 per cent of the cost of legal aid and the provinces are providing the rest.

We will continue to do so, because we think it is important, but I would urge all members of the House to encourage their counterparts in Ottawa to get the federal government to change its position.

Mr. Speaker, the amendment here is a positive one. Both the public and stakeholders in the court process will benefit from this amendment. The purpose behind this legal principle is to improve the delivery of legal aid services and to facilitate access to justice. There is no point having one of the greatest justice systems in the world if an important segment of our population cannot gain access to that system. The government is doing the right thing by amending the Legal Aid Act here to ensure accessibility for the people of our Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to speak to this, and I would urge passage of second reading of this bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I take this opportunity to have a few words on Bill 15, An Act To Amend The Legal Aid Act.

I listened intently to the commentary of the Minister of Justice. I must say, right off the top, I am still not certain if I will be voting in support of this, or against this bill.

The reason I say that is, again, I do not have a good enough understanding at this point. That is the purpose, of course, of debate, to get educated when you do not understand something, to ask some questions. I will pose those questions and make those comments to the minister because I do not know if I misinterpreted what the bill is suggesting or not, but he started off his commentary by saying this bill will improve the system, will cause an efficiency, will make access to justice easier.

Now, I do not know if that is exactly what this is about, and I will go on and hopefully explain why I think that. I believe that is the intention. The government was hoping to improve the inefficiency, shall we say, in the legal aid application process that is there right now.

If that is the case, of course, we applaud it and we will be supportive of it. Anything that improves the legal aid application system, of course, is beneficial to the citizens, and that is what any program that we have is hopefully all about.

A lot of people, of course, avail of the legal aid system. I believe last year's figures show that 7,585 people made application for legal aid; and, of those numbers, about 3,900, almost 4,000, were processed. I am not sure if those are exactly the latest figures. I know it was mentioned, and I had the benefit of reading, the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission Annual Report, but that report is for 2007-2008, so some of the information, no doubt, now that we are in 2009, might need to be updated.

We have received hundreds of calls in our office. That is part of an Opposition office, of course, that whenever something goes wrong people call you, not only as an MHA but in your main office here in the Confederation Building, when they have a problem accessing the system, and we have gotten literally hundreds of calls from people who say they have been denied access to legal aid and they do not feel it was proper that they were denied, and they have their reasons and state their reasons why they were denied.

In a lot of cases in our system right now, if you are wealthy or better off you can do fairly well in the justice system because you have the money to pay for a lawyer, or if you are on the other end of the range and you are poorer you can avail of the legal aid situation, but there is a whole body of people in between that who have to pay the piper themselves. No doubt the rich people pay themselves, also, but a lot of people do not have the money that it takes to go through some complex cases sometimes. Certainly, when it comes to civil matters that can be litigated for months on end, it is a very costly procedure. In fact the phrase, I think, that is being used today is that clients are being bled out, because the system is so expensive that it is not affordable, and that they are bled out because they are financially, in a lot of cases, bankrupt and insolvent before they get to the end of the case.

Fortunately for some people they realize that going in so they just do not retain a lawyer in any case, but too often, of course, there is a financial barrier that results in people giving up the fight before the justice that they are entitled to can actually be served.

The purpose of legal aid, of course, is to hopefully help the situation whereby you can provide to some people, along with certain criteria, who meet certain criteria, legal aid counsel so that they can help them out.

The minister used the word when he was going through, and he said: I emphasis the word may. That is no doubt the operative word here because it is not a case of shall - for example, the government shall do this or the government should do that, or legal aid, in this case, shall do this. It is not a mandatory provision that you are automatically going to get it; it is a may. There is always a question mark around it: Do you meet the criteria or not?

Looking at the amendment that we have here, specifically the first amendment, the only substitution I see from the old law to what we are amending is the word only, in section 48.(1), because previously it read as follows, "The area director may grant legal aid to a person otherwise entitled to it in a summary conviction proceeding under an Act of the Parliament of Canada or of the Legislature where upon conviction there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earning a livelihood."

Now it says in this Bill 15, "The area director may only grant legal aid to a person otherwise entitled to it in a summary conviction proceeding under an Act of the Parliament of Canada or of the Legislature where he or she is of the opinion that (a) there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earning a livelihood upon conviction; or (b) because of extraordinary circumstances, it is in the interests of justice that the applicant be represented by counsel."

Then it goes on, "(2) For the purposes of paragraph 47(d), an offence that may be tried on indictment or on summary conviction shall be considered to be an offence triable on summary conviction until the time that the prosecution elects to proceed on indictment."

Basically, as I read this, the word "only" - that substitution - suggests that there was more room previously to the area directors to make consideration on individual cases under the old provisions. The area director had a fair amount of discretion. For example, in the old legislation, legal aid would not be granted unless - and there were four conditions back then - (a) there is a possible defence to the charge; (b) there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earning a livelihood upon conviction; (c) there are in existence circumstances that would serve to mitigate the severity of the penalty that may be imposed; and, (d) because of extraordinary circumstances, it is in the interests of justice that the applicant be represented by counsel.

Now we have gone from those four provisions that were there before, to now we only have two. I would suggest that, as opposed to making access easier to the justice system, what we have done here is removed from the area directors the discretion that he had before to give consideration to those other two issues that have now been taken out.

For example, before, if there was a possibility of a defence to the charge, the area director could have given a legal aid certificate if there was a possibility of a defence. So, when the person who was charged went into the legal aid office and made their application, somebody does the assessment on a financial basis – do you meet certain financial criteria – but there was also a consideration of: Does the person have a defence possibility here?

You might well listen to the circumstances, read the facts or whatever that are provided in the disclosure documents from the Crown, and you might decide, as an area director, yes, we believe, on assessment, that person has a great defence – a possibility of a defence. Yet, now, under the way this act is being amended, that discretion piece is being taken away from the area director.

So, are we compromising on the one hand, that we are thinking we are going to achieve efficiencies in the system by cutting it from four provisions down to two, but at the same time we are taking that discretionary piece away from the area directors? What is more important?

I say that because you hear the old phrase: Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. I am all in favour, and I am sure everybody is in favour, of getting efficiencies in any system, but at the same time if you compromise the opportunity that a person might have to get access to justice, by taking that out, have you really gained? Or you have gained but you have compromised the access to justice piece? Because I may well have a good defence but, right now, according to my read of this, an area director is not even going to have any - anything about it. In fact, they use the word only. They do not say, well, we are taking it out but the discretion still exists there. It is made very clear to area directors on a go-forward basis that there are only two things you can consider.

Now, whether or not the person had a good defence is out the window. I do not think that is very beneficial for our system. If we trust these people who work in our legal aid offices and our area directors to make these decisions, what is wrong with leaving that consideration in there? I think it is a very good consideration. In fact, I have a feeling that as a result of this amendment we may well end up with people falling through cracks in the system by taking this discretionary piece away from the area directors.

Under the current system, for example, if I applied for legal aid and he said you did not qualify, there is an appeal process. A lot of times in the appeal process you could argue that: Look, I should be given legal aid because I have, not only a possible defence, I have a probable defence. I have a great defence. The area director might even agree with me, but on a go-forward basis his hands are tied. He cannot, under the best of circumstances, say that is a consideration.

The other one that is being removed here is currently called (c) that is being taken out. It says: There are in existence circumstances that would serve to mitigate the severity of the penalty that may be imposed. The purpose that this is all about, of course, is so we do not have someone in court who is defending themselves, we are trying to provide counsel if it is going to help the system. Why would we take that away from the director? A person, for example, might qualify financially, meet all the financial requirements and today, one of the facts might be that by having a lawyer go to court with that person and explain the statement of facts, give the explanations as to what happened, speak and represent the accused, that may well help that individual have a less severe penalty by having legal counsel, but the area directors, on a go-forward basis, will not have that discretionary authority. I do not know how we are causing an efficiency in the system if we are taking away things that are intended to give people access to justice. It is contradictory. We trust these people. Just because it does not exist in B.C. or it does not exist in Nunavut, why do we need to take it out here?

So I think, contrary to what the minister started off by saying we are causing efficiencies in the system, I think just the contrary. I think we are causing less people to have access to the system because we are now forcing the area directors to be restricted to two reasons as to why he will or will not give legal aid. They specifically do that. There is no misunderstanding here. They use the word only. In other words area director, no matter if you think that you can get that person, by having him have a lawyer he can get two months as opposed to two years. Forget about the fact that he has a perfectly valid defence. Out the window, you are not even going to get to look at it. Now I do not think that is very good for our justice system, and that is not what it was all about.

The minister talks about all of the good things that government has done over the years when it comes to the provision of legal services. There certainly have been things done, not only in the legal aid system, but police officers, for example, more members for the RNC, more training for the RNC officers, new court facilities, and more sheriffs' offices and so on. These are all great things but if at the same time – and he talked about, in a lot of cases he said: legal aid is about disadvantaged people. Legal aid is about women. Legal aid is about Aboriginal people. Legal aid is about the poorer people. That is all true, but at the same time this amendment, I suggest, is going to compromise some of those same people by not having the area directors on a go-forward basis be able to exercise this discretion.

Now that is some of my main concerns about the actual bill, and I am sure the minister will ponder the situation and I would appreciate his commentary on it. Maybe I am just confused, maybe I am out to lunch on this, but that is my reading of it. You had four ways to consider something, you say now you only have two ways. I think by taking away those two we have compromised the access, and I do not think that is the intention here. I do not think that is the intention at all but that is the way, I would submit, that is the end result of it. Not intended, but that is the end result of it.

If you read what it says now, go back again, it says: "The area director may only grant legal aid…" So we are not talking about something that is done in a positive vein even. Even the language is restrictive, negative, thou shalt not do. "The area director may only grant legal aid to a person otherwise entitled to it in a summary conviction proceeding…" and, by the way, summary conviction proceedings, for those who do not know, we basically have under our criminal code two systems, two types of offences. We have summary conviction, which are the less serious of charges versus indictable offences, which are the more serious.

For example, murder would be an indictable offence whereas you might have - summary conviction might be a break and enter for example. So when you go to court the charges are laid, the Crown prosecutor decides, in some cases it could be either. Sometimes it could be indictable but he has the prosecutorial digression to go by summary conviction rather than treat it as the more indictable offence. Here we are talking about: "The area director may only grant legal aid to a person otherwise entitled to it in a summary conviction proceeding under an Act of the Parliament of Canada…" and that is no doubt talking about the criminal code or other federal offences "…or of the Legislature where he or she is of the opinion that (a) there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earning a livelihood upon conviction; or (b) because of extraordinary circumstances, it is in the interests of justice that the applicant be represented by counsel."

Now maybe we do not need, maybe it is going to be suggested: well, we are getting rid of the earlier clause (b) that I talked about, the possibility of a defence (a) we are getting rid of that because now we can fit that under (b). It could be suggested because of extraordinary circumstances it is in the interest of justice that the applicant be represented by counsel. The minister might try to convince me and convince the public: well, we do not need that (a) one that we had formerly because the possibility of a defence fits under this one right here. Well I submit it does not, because this offence, this section talks about extraordinary circumstances. Now the possibility of an offence or a defence is not an extraordinary circumstance, I would submit. So what you have done is you have definitely restricted the authority of the area directors and you have done nothing to speed up the process.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Pardon?

In the old legislation legal aid would not be granted unless (a) there is a possible defence to the charge (b) there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earning a livelihood upon conviction (c) there are in existence circumstances that would serve to mitigate the severity of the penalty that may be imposed, and (d) because of extraordinary circumstances it is in the interest of justice that the applicant be represented by counsel. That was under the old system and now we are only going to have the two. You are only going to consider two events not the four events, I say to the minister.

Anyway, I look forward to the minister's explanation of it. I pose my concerns and he will get an opportunity in closing or in committee reading to give his explanation, but that is the concern and that is why I said when I started I cannot say I am going to support the bill because I am not clear again. Not that I do not support it, it is just that I am not clear on the old wording, the new wording, and if we are really getting ahead on accomplishing anything here.

Now the minister talked a little bit about our legal aid system of course, and this is where all of this fits. We are making amendments to an act but there is a process that we have to go through. I would like to spend a few moments, if I might, just talking about that process as well. We started legal aid in this Province back in 1968 and at that time legal aid was managed by a committee of the Law Society. We did not even have like it is today. There was just a committee of the Law Society, the lawyers themselves, and they managed the whole system back then. That was in 1968, but in 1976 that changed, and the Legal Aid Commission was then established. That was established under the Legal Aid Act and they assumed responsibility for the legal aid plan.

So they shifted it out of the Law Society where there were obviously some possible administrative issues, the fact that it was governed by lawyers and so on. Governments were putting monies into the plan and only the lawyers themselves were deciding the administration of it. They decided that was not a good system. So we are going to take it out of the hands of the Law Society committee and put it into its own statutorily constituted commission, and that is when it started. There are seven people on it, as the minister said. You try to have people on there who, number one, work in some way or experience in some way the people who use the system so that there is an appreciation, as a committee member, of not only the wording of the act and how it is applied, but you have some understanding of our justice system, you have some understanding of the different circumstances in which legal aid might be required.

The persons on it now, of course, Mr. Nick Avis, alluded to by the minister. I happened to be the minister at the time and appointed Mr. Nick Avis as chair of the commission. That was back, I do believe, in 2002; very well-known criminal law practitioner in this Province, Mr. Avis, a friend of mine. I first met him back in Corner Brook. He was working with legal aid at the time. He punched his time in the trenches. He certainly knows what it is like to represent – he did some of the more complex, serious criminal cases in this Province while he was a practitioner with legal aid on the West Coast. Then he went into private practice after a few years and he moved in –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Avis. Then he moved in here to St. John's and he has conducted a private practice in here since as a criminal lawyer again. I believe he is also very well-known in family law circles are well.

He is a very competent person, very well-organized person and certainly understands the system. I am pleased to see that not only did I think I made a good choice when I appointed him back in 2002, but he is still there with this government as well. In a lot of these appointments, if you are fortunate enough to have someone of that capability to do the job - and he is absolutely apolitical, he is the type of individual who is concerned about the process and concerned about getting it right, a very competent person. In fact, as mentioned by the minister, he was one of the legal counsel to the Lamer Inquiry. I am pleased to say as well that I was the minister who appointed the Lamer Inquiry. We had some serious issues in our justice system in this Province, wrongful conviction issues. They had percolated for years in the system. People said we had issues with our legal aid system. We had issues with our police system when it came to the RNC, possibly, and how they investigated an offence - was it done properly and so on - and suggestions that the prosecution arm of our system might be faulty in some ways, so all of that culminated.

I was personally of the view that, look, it is time to delve into these things and have a comprehensive review of our criminal justice system, because if the population does not have an appreciation and a respect for and confidence in our justice system we are on a short road; we are going downhill pretty fast. That is why I was personally pleased to be involved with the appointment of the Lamer Inquiry. That was the whole purpose, to do a comprehensive review of our justice system. Because each and every one of us, on a daily basis, needs to have that confidence in the system to make sure that it works for all of us, because it might be someone today but it may be yourself tomorrow, or a friend or a family member of yours, and we all need to have confidence that the system will work, regardless of who it is and who is involved.

The other person involved there, I noticed the vice-chair is a Krista Gillam. I was not aware of that until I saw the annual report, but I am pleased to say that Ms Gillam, actually, is a native of my home town, Port aux Basques. I did not have anything to do with her appointment. It was after my time but I am pleased to see that again government, in its wisdom – besides, of course, she is a big advocate for women's rights and she is a very intelligent person. In fact, she is one of the few people, as I understand it, from the Province who was accepted for law school after only two years of university.

For most people the trend is, if you go to law school you generally need to have an undergrad degree before you are accepted. Ms Gillam was very intelligent and very bright, and after two years of Memorial University she was accepted into Dalhousie Law School, I believe it was, and she became a lawyer in five years, shall we say, as opposed to the normal seven or eight years that it takes for the normal route.

She is very experienced in the criminal justice system. She came here after her graduation. She worked with another gentleman who is mentioned there, Mr. William Collins. Mr. Collins, of course, is well known in criminal legal circles in this Province as being one of the best when it comes to the criminal law, and how it works, and as a defence counsel. Krista Gillam worked for William Collins for quite some years. I do believe now she has moved on; she is in one of the government agencies, the workers' comp board or one of the other agencies. I do not believe she is actually practicing any more now in private practice with Mr. Collins, but Mr. Collins, of course, is still plying the trade, and very ably so.

One of the nicest things, I guess, you get to do when you are Minister of Justice is the process of QC appointments. Every now and then, every year - there is actually a Queen's Counsel Act, and under that act you have the right, as a minister, to bring forward certain names and the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, based upon the recommendations and so on, makes the appointments and there is an official swearing-in service. It is a recognition to people who have been in the service long-standing, recognized for their skills, experience and so on, and they are awarded a QC thing. The Minister of Justice was a QC recipient back in the 1980s, I do believe. That is how the system works.

I did not know Mr. Collins but his reputation preceded him, and I had the pleasure of awarding a QC to him back some years ago. I have to say, the man was the most appreciative recipient of a QC that I have ever met in my life. In fact, I remember when they did the swearing-in ceremony; they had a little reception after. The Law Society usually hosts a little reception, and they hosted a reception at the Delta after the ceremony took place at Government House, and I met his mother. Mr. Collins himself, I guess, is in his sixties now, late sixties, and his mom was there, a senior, but she was as proud as a peacock. Here was an individual who had years - thirty-plus or forty years at that time - in the legal profession and he had not been recognized as one of the principal practitioners of the criminal justice system in this Province. Over all those years that he practiced - and he was well known; he is a constant fixture when it comes to TV and major cases in this Province - he had been overlooked. There was, I say, a great source of pride on my part that I could do it and give him the recognition that he so richly deserved.

That was my experience with Mr. Collins, and to see that we have a Legal Aid Commission which has someone of his calibre on the Legal Aid Commission, there is no wonder that the commission is working properly, and no question as to why this commission is advancing when it comes to trying to make the legal aid system in this Province a better place.

The other mixture: Mr. Jenniex, of course, a former member of Social Services, great background, great experience as a social worker and administrator in this Province, to bring those skills sets to the commission; Katie Rich, the Aboriginal perspective that the minister alluded to, several of the major projects that the Legal Aid Commission have administered, created, administered in the last number of years, involved Aboriginals. To have someone of her stature and experience and capability and understanding of the problems first-hand, and how you can best deal with them, to have her insight onto that committee again is certainly very pleasing to see; and, of course, you have your government officials there. I do believe the current Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr. Burrage, is there, a very knowledgeable person; and, of course, we have the gentleman who I believe has been around as long as legal aid has been around, Mr. Newman Petten. It seems like he came with the system, a great gentleman, very competent again, very concerned and dedicated to his job, and he has been there for a great number of years. So we are certainly in good hands in terms of who we have on deck and the senior officers when it comes to the Legal Aid Commission itself.

Some people think that legal aid is only associated with: someone has committed a crime so they go down and they fill out an application and they get a lawyer appointed to them who will look after them. They never had any money and they could not afford it, so they got a lawyer to look after them because they committed a crime. That is the general understanding of a lot of people of what legal aid is all about, but legal aid has a line of business that is a little bit more complex than that.

For example, legal aid provides duty counsel to accused persons appearing in provincial and youth courts across the Province - duty counsel. Now, that is not where they have been assigned a lawyer to fight their case for them, shall we say. Usually when the court day starts there is a plea day. There could be fifty or sixty things on the docket for that day. A lot of times people are in trouble with the system for the first time and they do not understand the system, and that is what duty counsel does. It does not matter who you are. It does not matter how much money you have. You can go to court on a plea day and the duty counsel will give you some guidance as to what to do. There is no financial restriction on the duty counsel, and that is great - you talk about making the system efficient – that is great, because a lot of times if someone does not understand the basics of the system, and how it works, you can spend a lot of time in a courtroom trying to get through that process.

I have had cases myself, for example, where you would be sitting in a courtroom, there are fifty or sixty things on a docket, and there was no duty counsel, but these people have legitimate questions. You would not believe how much court time gets consumed, because the judge has an obligation to explain the process to these people and he took the time. All the judges that I ever had took the time, when an individual had a problem, to explain the process to them so that these are your options. This is the charge that is against you, that is alleged against you. Now, what do you want to do? These are your options.

That used to take a lot of time whereas now the duty counsel, that is done outside before you ever walk in through the court door. You have had the process explained to you, and you know what your options are. Then, when you go into the courtroom, the judge does not have to take that time to explain it all to you. We did not always have that, so the system does indeed work more efficiently today because we have the duty counsel.

They also have a system, as I understand, what they call the Brydges duty counsel. That is a twenty-four-hour telephone service to people arrested or detained by the police. Now, contrary to most people's beliefs again, you do not have to be poor to get legal aid. You certainly do not have any financial restrictions on you when it comes to, if you have been picked up the police. It applies to everybody, without restraint, and a lot of people do not know that. For example, if anyone in this House tonight left here to drive home and the police, for whatever reason, felt they had some grounds to arrest you, and they pulled you over in your car and you said: Well, what is this all about?, and they took you and arrested you, no matter what your level of income, you have a right to call the 1-800 number and get some advice from that lawyer. You do not have to go through any financial process. You do not have to pick up the phone and say: Oh, I have a problem. I am down in the lock-up and I need some advice. What do I do?

Nobody takes a financial statement from you. You just make the call and there will be somebody twenty-four-seven to answer your call. A lot of people do not know that, and that is a nice piece of information because, as I say, no matter if you are a man or a woman, or if you are rich or if you are poor, that right exists for everybody, and that is what justice is all about.

A lot of people do not know the intricacies of the law and, because we do not, that is why we need to have some advice. It might be something very simple that you need to know, but obviously if you are not legally trained you do not know it. You can pick up the phone and call that legal aid number. In fact, you do not even have to know the number. You hear these things about the one phone call, and all this stuff that you hear. A lot of that comes from American television, of course. We have had some incidents lately, of course, involving the young gentleman who had autism, who was picked up by the police, in terms of the phone call or how many phone calls he could make, or did he get to make a phone call and so on.

If you are detained or arrested - and there is a difference between being detained or arrested - you have a right to say to the police: I want to call a lawyer and I understand that you have a number here for a free lawyer, the legal aid lawyer, duty counsel. I want the number. They have to give it to you. In fact, it is posted up down in all the police stations, and everywhere you might go in this Province you can avail of that service.

Also, the legal aid system, residents of this Province who meet certain financial and case eligibility criteria can get representation not only in criminal law but in family cases. You can also get it in some instances for appeals. There may have been something happen and you are not pleased with the decision and you need to appeal that case. So you can get it in the appeals. It is not only for the provincial court circumstances, for the things you see going through provincial court. It can be a higher superior court, if you meet certain criteria. Representation before administrative tribunals, in such areas as: immigration and refugee claims, Canada Pension, Employment Insurance, and social assistance. Now in a lot of these cases people either do it themselves - like everybody in this House, for example, is certainly familiar with the Canada Pension appeal system and with the Employment Insurance system.

I know the Member for Port de Grave here is probably the most experienced, I would go so far as to say the most experienced member or MHA when it comes to Canada Pension Plan appeals and EI appeals, bar none, than anybody who has ever sat in this House. Not only that, he is very successful at it; a great track record. The F. Lee Bailey of Canada Pension and EI claims sits right here as the Member for Port de Grave, and any person you ever talked to who has sat as a commissioner on these tribunals will acknowledge that. Very well presented, does not have a legal background, always perfectly prepared, knows how to explain the case, always has his medical evidence and stuff that he needs and knows the fashion to put his arguments together, and the results have spoken to just how organized he is in that pursuit. Now, not all of us of course have the experience and the wisdom of the Member for Port de Grave and can do that.

So, you can get legal aid in some cases. A lot of people do not know that. A lot of people do not even know about the existence of that right, but under certain circumstances if you have a Canada Pension Plan issue you can get legal aid, as I understand it, to give you legal counsel under certain prescribed circumstances. As well as certain social assistance tribunals, if you need it, if you can justify it and you meet the criteria, you have that right to have that representation.

MR. T. MARSHALL: (Inaudible)

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Yes, and I say to the Minister of Justice, not only is he the expert, he does not charge. You cannot say that for the legal system. He does it all free of charge as part of his duties as an MHA. He is not required to, of course, but most MHAs do these things as a service to your constituents. Especially, a lot of times I find – I have had the experience that a lot of people do not understand the system. They feel intimated by the system. Some people lack the educational ability to even figure out the forms or deal with the paperwork involved, and MHAs of course step up to the plate and do these kinds of things because that is part of your chores to do them.

The legal aid system that we have goes far beyond criminal law, as I just indicated. The other piece that I found intriguing is it is not only for residents. You would think that in order to access the legal aid system of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador that you must be a resident of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. That would seem to be an obvious thing, but there are circumstances where non-residents can access it. Even though you live in Ontario, there are circumstances where you get into an issue here, a problem while you are here, you can go to our legal aid system and they have mechanisms whereby they might provide the defence here and there is a trade off then with the legal aid plan of your home province. So that kind of stuff happens. A lot of people were not aware of that.

Tourists, for example, how often – I know I personally had a situation where a lot of tourists, over the course of the twenty-odd years that I practised, came to me and they had a little issue. They ran into something in a park while they were here, or they got a traffic violation, or something happened of that nature and they did not know where to turn. They do not need to come in and pay a lawyer to get that information. Our legal aid duty counsel, the twenty-four hour service will tell you that. Whether you are a resident or a non-resident, you are allowed to avail of that service. That is, again, a circumstance that a lot of people were not aware of.

Talking about the expansions of the system as to where we have come, and we have come a long ways over the last thirty years when I first saw the practice in Corner Brook. We have offices now in - St. John's, of course, houses the head office of legal aid. That office has a provincial director and there are four senior lawyers there and fifteen support staff. In St. John's we have two other offices in addition to that. Marystown has an office; Clarenville has an office, Gander, Grand Falls, Corner Brook, Happy Valley, Stephenville, and Carbonear. There is also a family and child legal aid services office here in St. John's. There is a family and child legal aid services in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. There is a mental health court. That was a project that has proven to be very successful, as I understand it, and that is here in St. Johns. We have family justice services in Central Newfoundland; that is accordingly to this report. I am aware, as well, that some other things have improved since that time.

The minister made reference to Wabush, for example, with a legal aid office there. In fact, I am pleased to say again that the young gentleman who staffs your Wabush office is a resident of Port aux Basques. Yes, we do produce a fair number of lawyers out of that little place, and he is running the legal aid office in Wabush. A very bright person; actually articled at the firm where I was working myself. So he got great training I would submit. He went into the system, and he is there and he loves it; loves Labrador. He is a native of Port aux Basques. He did not know when he first left and went to Labrador - he first went to Happy Valley-Goose Bay and he was not sure, being away from home for the first time, he is only a young guy, he did not know how he was going to make out. I was speaking to him shortly after - he was not up there I do not think six months and he happened to come home for a visit with his mom and dad again and I ran into him, and he loves the place. He has since taken up residence in Wabush. I fear that, other than a family visit from time to time, we are not going to see him back on the Southwest Coast of Newfoundland anytime soon.

I mentioned earlier about the number of people who apply for legal aid. About, right now, I think there is slightly less than 50 per cent who apply, who get accepted. About 7,600 people applied in that particular year and about 4,000 people got accepted. Now obviously, I guess, in an ideal utopian system everybody would have a lawyer, without issue, no matter if you have money or you did not have money. If you had a problem you would have a fully paid legal counsel to help you through our system and give you the justice. Unfortunately, we are not in that utopian situation where we can afford to do that.

I would like to mention as well a couple of the projects that the Legal Aid Commission has been involved in over the past number of years, and very, very good projects. That is why I say about the people who you have on the Legal Aid Commission and a lot of this stuff generates from them and the staff members and so on that they have working with them.

There was an Aboriginal project, for example, operating out of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay office. It was intended to facilitate working with Aboriginal communities to better improve the quality of legal services to Aboriginal people. I understand that it has worked very, very well.

We had the mental health project, which of course, that was in collaboration with the Health Care Corporation. The purpose of that was to develop a protocol to improve and more efficiently deliver legal services to people with mental health problems. I have already alluded to the fact that they have established here in the city a particular mental health court. It is good to see that you just do not run the system the same year in and year out. We have come to the realization that you need sometimes special courts to deal with special issues.

For example, you have the Aboriginal project, which is great. You have the mental health project. We have a French-speaking project. That was, of course, where they hired a lawyer to make sure that the lawyer was fluent in French and to provide legal advice by telephone. Lots of times we have people in this Province and visitors from outside who do not speak English and yet legal aid has the capability that you can contact a person and get representation, get advice. In fact, in some cases you can get trials.

My friend, the colleague from the District of Port au Port, for example, he has a lot of French-speaking people in his district and if that is their preference, that they qualify for legal aid and they want to have a French-speaking lawyer assigned to them, that capability is there within our legal aid system today. That, I do believe, is patterned off – the same issue existed in our courts. I do believe at one time we did not have in the provincial courts in our Province the capability to deal with people - I know we had cases when I was practising where if you have an individual who is travelling through the Province who runs into a problem and he ends up in court and the judge does not understand the language, how do you ever deal with and dispose of the case?

Now we were fortunate enough for awhile on the west coast. I do believe the first provincial court judge appointed specifically because he had French-speaking capability was Judge Michael Roche some years ago. He had been a Crown prosecutor on the west coast for many, many years and he became a judge. I believe that was one of the criteria that was in his favour big time, was that he was fluent in speaking French as well.

MR. T. MARSHALL: And his brilliance.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: And his brilliance as well, I say to the minister. He was in fact a very brilliant character. I had the pleasure or misfortune sometimes, I was on the wrong end of many judgements that he had rendered because once he got on the bench of course he had to do what was right and proper when it came to his judicial renderings. I did not always get the answers that I wanted but you got justice and that was the name – at the end of the day you had an opportunity to represent your client fairly to see that your client availed of all the rules that exist and then you of course had to live with the decision once it came down.

We also have family and child legal aid services. I understand there are two offices, one in St. John's and one in Happy Valley–Goose Bay and according to that report there was intentions to do the same thing, I do believe, and it is now in the Corner Brook office as well, Family Justice Services. We have recently, of course, had the appointment - in this Province, when it came to family law, we had the Unified Family Court system, which has existed in St. John's here for quite some time. These judges are appointed by the federal government, as are all of our Superior Court judges. There was a system in St. John's that dealt exclusively with family law, but we did not have a similar system anywhere else.

For example, if you were getting a divorce in St. John's, or had a family issue involving custody or access, you could go to this court that had exclusively trained, experienced judges who dealt with family law, and had years and years of it, whereas on the West Coast, the judge who sat there, he had to deal with all of it. He is more like the MD as opposed to the specialist. One day he might have a divorce, the next day he had a corporate case, and the next day he had some criminal law case. Now that has changed. They are going to be putting a system in Corner Brook which has the exclusive family law piece, like they do down here in the Unified Family Court. The person who is appointed to be the first judge, as I understand it, of the Unified Family Court in Corner Brook, is Judge David Peddle.

AN HON. MEMBER: He was born (inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I cannot say he was born in Port aux Basques, but he is the godfather of my son so I did have the occasion of meeting him. He is a very intelligent, down-to-earth person. I wrote him, of course, to congratulate him upon his appointment as soon as I heard about it - a very level-headed, common sense person. I think, in order to be the most effective Family Court judge, besides just the judicial understanding and smarts, you need to have a huge dose of common sense. He certainly has that, and a good, sound humanity about him. They could not have made a better choice when it comes to that type of selection than Judge Peddle.

The Legal Aid Commission, too, as I understand it from the commission, are not a standstill type of organization. I am sure they keep the feet of the Minister of Justice to the fire, because they are the type of group that every year can come back to you with fifteen new recommendations as to how we can improve the system. Of course, most times these recommendations have a price tag attached to them and you want new offices, you want new staff, you want the things that go with it, you want these extra projects that you have, and, of course, the minister and the department is not always in a position where you can give everything that you would like to be able to give when it is asked for.

I know when I was there, for example, we did not have the benefit of the cash flow that has existed in the past few years. The need was no different back in 2001 and 2002, for example, when it came to the need for legal aid lawyers, the need for RNC officers, but the money just was not there to do what you wanted to do and what this government has been fortunate enough to do in the last few years. We have seen massive changes to the legal aid system.

I would like to comment as well, the minister made a comment about who does what. It is pretty obvious that the federal government has seriously, drastically, unforgivably, dropped the ball when it comes to their obligations on legal aid and the support for the legal aid system in this country - not only in this Province but in this country. Back originally the federal government used to put in 90 per cent of the cost of the system and the provinces had 10 per cent. Now, over the course of the last twenty years, as the minister said, that switched. In fact, the minister said he believes the federal government now only puts in about 20 per cent. Well, the figure is actually 16 per cent. They have gone from putting in 90 per cent of the cost of the legal aid system, down to 16 per cent.

Of course, fortunately, the Province over the years did not say that the amount of money in the pot declined, the feds are not putting it in, and we have to get by on what we have. Governments have tried to make up for the difference, because albeit the feds did not put the money in the pot, you still needed a pot because you still needed a system. Because the federal government failed in their obligations to put the money in that was required, the provincial government had to step up to the plate. Unfortunately, you did not always have the money to put in what you wanted to the same extent as they were not putting it in, and that, of course, impacted the system and that led to fewer lawyers then there ought to have been in the legal aid system. It is a simple process when you size it up.

The justice system moves slowly at the best of times, but if you have a system whereby people who want and need advice to walk through that system do not have it, you cramp the system even more. Of course, that is the role of having duty counsel, legal aid lawyers; that is the role of having legal counsel appointed.

I have had the benefit of - or, not benefit of - the circumstance of, shall we say, of being a prosecutor for eighteen years, and there is nothing tougher than being a prosecutor, and I would think being a judge, if you have someone who is charged who is not represented. I have gone through that where you feel, albeit you had to do your job as a prosecutor, you also feel, because you are an officer of the court, you want to make sure that the person understands exactly what is going on, and that if there is a defence that he or she needs to get out, that they get it out. That is not your role as prosecutor, just to get convictions. That is not what it is all about. You have to do it fairly and present the evidence that exists in a proper manner. It is very unfortunate, and that happened and that cramped our system here, simply because the federal government did not put their money in.

I actually looked at the Estimates; I did the Estimates Committee earlier this month with the Minister of Justice. That is a process, of course, where we get to ask him about where the money goes, where does it come from, how much money is in the system, what do you spend it on, or are you spending it wisely and so on. I do not think anybody in this Province would suggest that what goes into the legal aid system is not spent wisely. There is a recognition that it is needed. We all probably, if we truly understood the system, would appreciate that there is not enough money into it.

I mentioned those figures of the federal government only puts in 16 per cent and the Province puts in the rest, which is 84 per cent that the Province kicks in. Right now, this year, there is going to be a total of $14 million put into the legal aid system in this Province, as I understand it; $14 million a year that it takes to run the system. That is a lot of money, but it is not enough. It is still not enough.


It is interesting, and I never realized this before, when I looked at the Legal Aid Commission report, they have financial statements attached to the back of the report, and I notice that it is not only the federal government and the provincial government that put money in. The Law Foundation of Newfoundland also puts money into the legal aid system to the tune of – at least in this count here it was $1.1 million that went into the legal aid from the Law Foundation, so it comes from a variety of sources, their funding. The provincial government puts in the bulk of it, the federal government kicks in their, I shall say, measly 16 per cent, and the Law Foundation kicks in a few dollars as well to make sure that the system is working properly.

The other thing about the report is that they just did not give you the sugar-coated stuff, the sugar-coated version of what was good. They pointed out that they have some challenges. I like it that they do not consider them just challenges; they consider them to be opportunities as well. For example, one was the Wabush-Labrador City office that, at that time, they wanted to put there; and, sure enough, they have that done now. They wanted to put a family and child legal aid services office in Corner Brook. That has been done in the last year.

He points out - Mr. Avis does, in his report - very, very well that when you do these kinds of projects it is not simply a matter of throwing some money at something and it happens. There is a lot of planning that goes into this to see: What is the need? What are the options we have? What is the best way to go about trying to fix the problem?

For such a project to succeed, of course, there needs to be education, education of the public. The public needs to have an understanding of what it is you are trying to accomplish, and the staff need to have an understanding, because in a lot of cases the system will work better if you have people who are experienced, who are well trained, who understand what it is you are trying to do with the new project and so on - and, of course, the courts. So, there has to be a whole bunch of stakeholders who are educated as to what it is you are trying to accomplish.

That was like in the case of the mental health court, which we have had and it has been successful. In fact, I do believe that the mental health court was so effective that it became a template for another particular problem that we saw, and that is the issue of family violence. A lot of times these cases are complex and they are very, shall we say, emotion laden because you are dealing with families, you are dealing with violence issues, you have victims sometimes who are spouses - quite often, in fact, females, women, who were the victims in family violence issues - and you had children who were victims, so you needed to have a system that had its own experience and its own piece of common sense and humanity around it for dealing with the issues and you just could not strictly deal with it in the parameters of a normal courtroom type of setting. You needed to have judges who were properly equipped to deal with those types of issues, and the staff who knew how to deal with those types of issues.

I am very pleased to see recently, in fact, that the Family Court system project has been kicked off here, and hopefully it will have the same life as the mental court process and at the end of the day it will not be just a project any more; it will actually be a continuing part of our justice system.

The judge there, of course, is Judge Greg Brown who has been a member of the bench for quite some years and again, in my belief, an individual who certainly has all the qualifications and capabilities that it takes to be a fantastic Family Court judge. He has the predisposition to be involved in that type of courtroom. It is not that he never had it for the rest, because he certainly did. He is competent in many, many ways, but he has a particular bend to him when it comes to being able to deal with family type issues and family violence type issues, so it is great to see. I have no doubt whatsoever that with the proper resources and the staffing, with him as the skipper on that ship, there is no question, this will not be a project only. This will actually come to fruition and it will be done, and not only done but done well, because that is the type of individual that he is.

My time is getting pretty well up there, Mr. Speaker, so I would just like to conclude by saying that we do have a very valuable system when it comes to legal aid. It is a necessary system, and hopefully it will continue. I am sure that the minister will try his best to continue to fund the requests that they need, because it is certainly a very valuable piece of our justice system, but I do have these concerns about the bill. I have alluded to those in the first part of my speech, and I have those concerns.

I am all in favour of efficiencies, but I would appreciate an explanation as to how this is making it more efficient. The minister has not convinced me yet as to why this is being more efficient. Perhaps if he could give me some more information, or put a little bit more flesh on the bones, shall we say, as to how this is actually going to make it more efficient, without necessarily getting into a legal debate here - because at the end of the day the people need to understand as well. We toss around words in here sometimes but the bottom line is, it is about understanding and that is what I am looking for here. I do not have a good enough understanding right now, based upon what the minister has said, based upon what I have read in this bill, as to why this is going to improve the legal aid system. If it does, fine, and I am sure that was the intention, but I would certainly appreciate a little bit more information in that regard.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my leave with respect to comments in second reading on the legal aid bill.

Thank you.

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

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

I am pleased to speak to this act, An Act To Amend The Legal Aid Act. I listened very carefully and with interest to what the Opposition House Leader has been saying, because the Opposition House Leader has hit upon some confusion that I have had with regard to this act, and which we have been dealing with in my office.

At first read it looked like it was a simple amendment, but when we read it carefully a lot of questions came up for us. When we read the short explanatory note that comes with the bill, it says, "This Bill would amend the Legal Aid Act to repeal paragraphs 49(a) and (c) to improve the efficiency of processing legal aid applications. As a consequence, sections 48 and 49 would be repealed and substituted by one section."

When we read section 49, the whole section, and particularly 49(a) and (c), and read the amendment that is being proposed, it seemed that in actual fact the amendment was more restrictive because of the removal of (a) and (c). Even though the Opposition House Leader read this out when he was speaking, I am going to read it out again because 49 in the act as it stands says that, "An area director shall not authorize legal aid in respect of an offence punishable on summary conviction unless he or she is of the opinion that (a) there is a possible defence to the charge; (b) there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earning a livelihood upon conviction; (c) there are in existence circumstances that would serve to mitigate the severity of the penalty that may be imposed; and (d) because of extraordinary circumstances, it is in the interests of justice that the applicant be represented by counsel."

Now, the proposal in the bill is that that get changed to say, "The area director may only grant legal aid to a person otherwise entitled to it in a summary conviction proceeding under an Act of the Parliament of Canada or of the Legislature where he or she is of the opinion that (a) there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earning a livelihood upon conviction;…" - which is in the act now – "…or (b) because of extraordinary circumstances, it is in the interests of justice that the applicant be represented by counsel." That is in the act now.

In reading section 49 from the act, and section 48, the amendment, I realize that in reading it I was reading both the same way, and that did not come to me until I was listening to the debate from the Opposition House Leader.

We did take time to contact one of the ADMs in the Department of Justice, and the explanation that was given us did not make sense to me. On one level I suppose it made sense, but on another level it did not because what was being told to us was that with the current reading and the current act there was too much court time wasted by people asking for extensions to appeal the director's decision to a legal aid appeal. So, apparently there were a lot of people being refused and there was too much court time wasted on appeals.

We were also told that the amendment expands access to justice and ensures more people get access to legal aid, thereby taking pressure off the system. I could not figure out how the amendment expanded the access to justice, but I think now I have an explanation that I will be asking the minister to think about in responding to both of us, I think.

If it is that the practice under the act as it is now means that all four conditions had to be met in order for the person to access legal aid then I see the difference. So, if in the act as it is now the presence of a possible defence, the likelihood of imprisonment, circumstances that would serve to mitigate the severity of the penalty, and because of extraordinary circumstances, there are extraordinary circumstances, if all four of those had to be present in order for somebody to get legal aid then I can see why it was definitely restrictive for somebody who was facing an offence punishable on summary conviction. I can see why it was very restrictive. I can see why there must have been a lot of appeals, because I can see why a lot of people may have been refused.

I guess my question to the minister is: Will he be able to tell us exactly how 49 in the current act was interpreted in practice? How was it being interpreted in practice? If in practice all four of those conditions have to be there, then, yes, it makes absolute sense to say that the amendment is now less restrictive, that the amendment is allowing more access, because in the amendment there are only two conditions and it is either-or: that the area director may only grant legal aid to a person otherwise entitled to it if - I am putting in the if, but that is the meaning - if there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earning a livelihood upon conviction; or, because of extraordinary circumstances, it is in the interests of justice that the applicant be represented by counsel.

If those are the only two conditions, and only one of them has to be met, then there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there is an expansion of access to justice, but what I need to know is, if in 49, all four conditions have to be there. If it is that all four conditions - it is or, or, or, or - then I do not see why 49 is being changed, but if it is that all four conditions have to be there, then I can understand what the Department of Justice was dealing with.

I know the minister is probably dying to get on his feet, because he had to listen to the Opposition House Leader talk for quite a while and now I am putting the same thing forward. I think I am putting it forward with clarity for myself that I did not have before I came into the room, and that is what the debate should be about: we should be getting things explained.

As I said, we made an attempt to get things explained over the last week, and even that was not clear enough to help me fully understand what might be the thinking that happened in the Department of Justice to bring the amendment to the House.

I shall definitely be looking forward to hearing from the minister, because I am assuming that by the time he gets up to respond to us he will have a clear answer for us on that. If it is as I am interpreting it now, then I would obviously vote for this amendment. If it is not, if it is at 49 you have the four different options - all either-or, either-or - then I do not see the reason for changing, so I look forward to what the minister will bring to us in responding to that.

Having spoken very specifically to the amendment itself, and the technicalities of the amendment, I would like to take just a little time to speak generally to the whole notion of legal aid. Here, of course, in this particular amendment we are dealing with a very particular aspect of legal aid, and that is legal aid as it relates to somebody who is in danger of being convicted of a summary offence, and that is one way in which one can access legal aid, but there are many other reasons why one might need legal aid.

I would like to speak to the reason that I think was one of the things that caused a legal aid office to be opened again in Labrador West, and that is the need of people, like women living in abusive situations, facing situations where they need legal assistance in getting out of an abusive relationship, getting out of a home, having their rights and the rights of their children protected. Many, many women who are in that situation do not have access to the resources that one needs to go into a courtroom. They do not have resources to access a lawyer. They do not have resources to even know how to get to the point of accessing a lawyer. They stand alone many times. It was the ongoing petitioning by the Status of Women Council in Labrador West that I know went on for years that I think must have eventually gotten through to the government because I had been, over a number of years, in contact with the Status of Women Council in Labrador West and I know how much time the coordinator of the Women's Centre in Labrador West spends in the courtroom. She was acting as a legal aid person and she still does in many ways. She spent so much time as a coordinator of the Women's Centre in dealing with women who needed legal help, who could not pay for lawyers and who could not access legal aid because there was no office in Labrador West.

When we are looking at setting up legal aid services, we are setting up legal aid services not just for people who are, to put in a colloquial way, in trouble with the law - that is one aspect of needing legal services - but another aspect of legal services is of those who are victimized. Whether it is victimized by strangers or victimized by people in their own home, like a male partner, and they absolutely need the assistance of a lawyer. So, obviously, in Labrador West they are very, very pleased at the Women's Centre. They were very pleased when last year the money was there for a legal aid office to be set up in Wabush. It was absolutely essential for the well-being and the health of women and children in Labrador West.

I would like to talk a bit about the Legal Aid Commission and its three-year plan because I think it feeds directly into what we are talking about here tonight in terms of legal aid itself. The Legal Aid Commission, as other bodies in government, is required to prepare a three-year plan based on strategic directions of the Minister of Justice. The commission provides a lawyer to help people arrested or detained by police or anyone facing provincial or youth court without representation. So, it is an important body.

Currently, the commission employs fifty-two lawyers and forty-seven support staff. Now two of the areas - and this is what I was getting at. Two of the areas under which people may access legal aid through the Legal Aid Commission, one is under criminal law. Under criminal law, of course, you are dealing with indictable offences or summary convictions, and the other way to qualify for legal aid is under civil and family law. The proviso is: provided where there is case merit. In other words, the situation has to be investigated and a decision has to be made that the case merits legal help. Ninety-eight percent of the cases that come that are taking on by legal aid are dealt with by the legal aid staff; about 2 per cent are covered by private practice.

Right now, the Legal Aid Commission is in year two of its three-year plan. One of our concerns is that, both in terms of the values that are laid out in the plan as well as the goals of the plan, there seems to be somewhat of a vagueness. For example, the goal that was set for the year 2011 was to enhance its administrative structure and services to the Province. Now that is a pretty vague goal, to enhance its administrative structure and services to the Province. What we are concerned about is that there are not enough tangible indicators. How is the commission going to evaluate how it has enhanced its administrative structure and services to the Province?

It would be good if the commission, at this point in time, half-way through its plan, were to set some hard number targets. It would be good if they could name some more tangible indicators; perhaps if they were to look at having an independent audit done at the end of year three of the targets and tangible indicators. As it stands now, it appears that the goals, the indicators and the final results will all be measured by the commission itself.

Another thing that the commission could do in evaluating its goals, meaning that it will set concrete targets and it will set some tangible indicators, another way to evaluate if they meet that goal is to do a survey with clients to see how the administrative structure worked for clients. Do a survey with clients to see how they felt they were able to access the services and how the services worked for them. Then ask the clients what impediments, what barriers may have been there for them in trying to access the services. They may have been able to access them, but did they access them fully? The services were there in some way for them but not totally. So do a survey with the clients.

I believe that the Legal Aid Commission has good will and I think it would be very good if the minister were to look at this notion of making their goal, asking them to make their goal for 2011 a more practical concretely-based goal that can be evaluated, because if they do not do that they will never know if they did what they wanted to do. They will never know if the administrative structure has become more serviceable to people in the Province. I would recommend then that the minister look at asking the commission to revise the plan to include more tangible ways of measuring goals. To revise the plan to set more real measurable targets, also to have the plan involve outside independent verification of their measurable targets.

These are some ideas I pass on to the minister to help make the work of the Legal Aid Commission to be more efficient and more effective and of better service to the people in the Province. A lot of changes have been made; a lot of improvements have been made. Certainly there is more access. There are more lawyers but there is more that can be done to help us evaluate so that as the commission moves on in doing its work we can be sure that every year there is improvement and more people are benefiting from the work of the legal aid office.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I will just reiterate - and I know the minister has heard and he is working on it - that I look forward to a clarification of what the meaning, and practice based on the meeting, of the old section 49 or the current section 49 of the act is and based on what he tells us about that, then I will be able to interpret better whether the amendment that is being proposed is an improvement or not. So I look forward to that information from the minister.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Is it my understanding if the minister speaks now he is closing debate?

MR. T. MARSHALL: That is my understanding, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. T. MARSHALL: I am told it is still Thursday, so I will speak now and close debate.

I really thank the Government House Leader and the Leader of the Third Party, the Leader of the NDP, for their comments tonight. The Government House Leader was certainly most interesting. I know the other day he talked about my forthrightness in answering questions, but he also said that I was long-winded. After tonight I have a different point of view.

Mr. Speaker, I will say, with respect to the concern raised by the Opposition House Leader, and it was a good concern because the whole purpose of this legislation – and, of course, the comments of the Leader of the NDP, whose interpretation of the legislation was the same as mine – the Opposition House Leader did leave me under the impression that we may have been doing something the exact opposite of what we were intending to do. What we are intending to do is to make it easier for someone who is charged with a summary conviction offence to get legal aid, not make it more difficult. When the Opposition House Leader got up and said we were making it more difficult, of course, it caused me some concern.

Section 48 of the act very clearly says that the Legal Aid Act will permit legal aid in summary conviction matters in certain circumstances where upon conviction there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earning a livelihood. That is a general rule that is set out in section 48(1).

Then, in section 49 it says that there is a limit on the area director's power to grant a legal aid certificate in a summary conviction matter. We are not talking about indictable offences here. It states that no coverage is available for a summary conviction offence unless the area director is of the opinion that, number one, number two, number three - and the word there is and - and number four. All four things have to be there in order for the area director to give the certificate.

The problem is with (a) where it said there must be a possible defence to the charge. We are of the belief, or the Legal Aid Commission is of the belief, and the Department of Justice supports the belief, that if someone is charged with an offence where that person could go to jail, or that person could lose his or her ability to earn a livelihood, that person is entitled to a lawyer to defend the charge, whether or not there is a possible defence.

What was happening was that the people were going to legal aid, and legal aid was bothered by number (a), and there was a lot of discussion over that. Then the appeal, it was not an appeal in the court; it was an appeal to the legal aid board, and that was what was taking up all the time. So the amendment that we are bringing forward is that we are going to eliminate the old 49(a), we are going to eliminate the old 49(c), and that means that if someone can show the area director that there is a likelihood of imprisonment or that, because of extraordinary circumstances, it is in the interest of justice the applicant be represented – and the word is or; it is either-or - if you can show either one, you get your certificate and you got a lawyer and that is the way it should be.

I guess I will close debate and urge passage of this bill, and I look forward to any further questions during Committee.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: 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 Legal Aid Act. (Bill 15)

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

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

Now?

MS BURKE: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Legal Aid Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 15)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, from the Order Paper I would like to call Order 12, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Tobacco Control Act. (Bill 17)

Motion, second reading of bill, "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Control Act." (Bill 17)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would move, seconded by my colleague the Minister of Justice, that Bill 17, An Act To Amend The Tobacco Control Act, be passed in the Legislature here.

I want to make a few comments on it in second reading, as this is a piece of legislation that has some real significance for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This bill deals with a number of things, and I will go through all of it in a second, but I wanted to indicate up front that the major thrust of this bill is to eliminate what is commonly referred to as power walls in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Power walls are these large displays that you see. If you walk into a convenience store, and particularly you see them in convenience stores and other areas that sell tobacco products, these are large displays and they vary in size. Some of them may take up eight or ten feet of a wall, and some of them may take up smaller spaces, but what it is, the terminology is because they are powerful. They stand out. When you walk into these stores you will see great displays of tobacco products. Each and every kind that store is selling is very visibly displayed in a very colourful way, in a fashion to attract attention and to promote the use of tobacco products. There is lots of signage around promoting the tobacco products. You might see it in the store itself; you might see it advertised outside of the store. Sometimes large billboards will display some of these tobacco products, and the thrust of this bill is to eliminate those power walls, and there are some other things that are associated with it as well that we will talk about in a second.

Mr. Speaker, the significance of this bill, studies have shown very clearly that these power walls convey a message and they do, in fact, influence people's thinking, particularly children and young adults who see these images. They are very impressionable at those ages, and the tobacco companies prey on individuals like that because the exposure to that kind of advertising and these colourful images promote tobacco products as being something that is normal and something that they should be engaged in, and they try to trap young children into starting to smoke at a very young and early age.

This bill also deals with some of the in-store advertising. In addition to the large power walls and displays of the tobacco products themselves you will see colourful signage promoting tobacco products, whether it is produced by a particular company and their brand, and then another brand will be displayed as well, again with some colourful posters, to lure people into the store but also, when they are in, to encourage them to buy the products. This bill now will focus on making change to that. No longer do we want to see that kind of promotion trying to lure young people to start smoking at a very young age.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, statistics show that most people will start smoking before the age of nineteen. So these products and the display of those products, and the signage used to promote these products, are targeting a very specific group of people, because statistically they will start smoking before the age of nineteen, and if you are able to make an impression upon them at that age then obviously they are going to be, as a company, as tobacco companies, they believe they will be successful and they will always have a market for their products.

I think, Mr. Speaker, we will all agree, and I do not want to speak for members opposite but I am certain as we hear comments this evening that no one will challenge in any way the suggestion that smoking is harmless to our health. Smoking is the number one cause of preventative deaths in Canada, and is a major contributor to serious chronic illness. If we are able to get at the source of it, and be able to make sure we get to young people early so they do not start to use that product and become addicted to it, then I think we will be a much healthier society.

Our Province has taken a very aggressive approach. It has been measured in some ways, trying to attack the issue from a variety of perspectives, whether it is education, legislation, promotion programs, social marketing campaigns, all of which have had some impact. I am very pleased to be able to say here tonight that since the Province's provincial tobacco control strategy has been implemented, the overall smoking rates have declined in this Province from 28 per cent to 21 per cent, and smoking rates among our youth age fifteen to nineteen has dropped from 30 per cent to 17 per cent.

I am saying that, Mr. Speaker, not because I am boasting the fact that we still have 21 per cent and 17 per cent respectively of smokers in this Province, but the progressions we have seen here, the progress we have made moving from 28 per cent to 21 per cent overall, and moving from the 30 per cent to 17 per cent for youth, I think, reflects the notion that if we have a concerted effort, we develop a comprehensive strategy and stay focused on that strategy, we will achieve the desired results. This legislation, this bill here, is one more step in our overall strategy as we try to have a bigger impact on reducing the number of smokers in the Province.


I want to acknowledge this evening as well the partnerships that we have formed throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. We have the regional health authorities working together with the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco, including organizations that are part of that alliance: the Canadian Cancer Society, the Lung Association, the provincial wellness coalitions, and all of the school districts that have been very actively engaged with the Department of Health and Community Services and our four authorities in targeting, working collaboratively, targeting initiatives that will help see the reduction of smoking in the Province.

The amendments that we are proposing this evening, Mr. Speaker, as we talk about the Tobacco Control Act, some of these include the banning altogether of all promotion and advertising products from both inside and outside those retail outlets, and the regulation of the storage of tobacco and tobacco products so they are not visible. When you walk into a store in the future, when this bill is enacted, you should not see any tobacco products at all, and other than those very specified signage that will be allowed, either issued by the department and/or produced by the store itself, you will see a very small display indicating that tobacco products are, in fact, sold there, but it will not be the glossy prints that you see now. It is a small eight-and-a-half by eleven white sheet of paper with black lettering on it rather than the glossy formats you see now. All the catchy colours and the images to try to, again, bring your attention to a product. So this will be very much different than what we are seeing now as we go into many of these stores.

The other piece of this legislation also deals with some changes in the legislation where we are going to further restrict where products can be sold. Many of these products, and I have made reference to convenience stores as an example and grocery store chains, you have self products, but we have some others which is kind of contradictory. We still, today, allow tobacco products to be sold in sporting venues, which is a real contradiction when you think about it. We are still having tobacco products sold in some educational institutions. Again, contradictory to what we should be doing in those institutions. We have various events, cultural events and special ceremonies, and fairs, activities like that where vendors are allowed to sell tobacco products. With the implementation of this particular piece of legislation, we will, in fact, be further restricting where tobacco products can be sold.

I want to, at this time, Mr. Speaker, as well, acknowledge and commend municipalities. In the recent past, we have heard a number of municipalities announce that they are no longer going to allow smoking on many of their premises, in their stadiums, and balls fields, and recreation complexes. Municipalities are now banning smoking in these places and banning the sale of tobacco products in advance of this legislation coming.

I want to commend those municipalities who have shown the leadership, had the vision and had the understanding of it, the challenges and problems that are being created with the use of tobacco products. They are very clearly providing strong leadership to their community and I commend them for that. Now, this legislation will aid them in ensuring that this will become part of a provincial ban. So those communities out there, who have done it, thank you for the leadership. Now with this legislation, other municipalities will have to follow suite.

The other thing we are trying to do, Mr. Speaker, the legislation deals with as well, is an implementation strategy. We obviously, in as much as the thrust of the bill is to eliminate the display of those power walls, we need to acknowledge that many individual stores have gone through great expense to create those display units. They have gone through, as they design their store or modify their store to be able to display those kinds of products. As we did the consultation, one of the things we heard was we need to look at how we implement this and over what period of time, and how reasonable we might be in dealing with these vendors. So the implementation of this will be effective January 1, 2010.

The intent here is to try to work with the industry so they can make the necessary preparations, if necessary, to modify their stores, to think about how they may want to use that current space that is now being used by these huge power walls to do something different, or to make an arrangement to store their tobacco products in a very different way. We did some consultations as we approached the development of this legislation. We did not just consult with those individuals who may sometimes have lobbied government or have a special interest in ensuring that tobacco products are removed from display, but we talked as well to the retail sector.

One of the things I am very pleased to say, Mr. Speaker, is that 63 per cent of all the retailers that we surveyed responded to the questionnaire, and 77 per cent of those retailers are in support of the changes to the legislation that we are making here. There is, contrary to what might be popular belief, those very retail outlets that are actually going to be impacted by this legislation in fact support the initiative of government, and I want to commend them. I thank them for their participation in the survey. I thank them for their participation in the consultation process, but I also commend them for the insights that they have and for taking their role as a part of the community and showing some very significant contributions they want to make in improving the health of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians by supporting what we are doing here, even though it may have some impact on their very business, but they are prepared to participate with us in the best interest and in the overall interest of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

If you look at the last four or five years, particularly since we have been in government in 2003, our government has made some significant progress in moving forward with initiatives to see us reduce the amount of smoking taking place in the Province, but also as a part of our effort to normalize smoking. Obviously, it is a legal product that can be sold. People will make choices about smoking or not smoking, but we want to make sure that the activities that we are engaged in as a government not only encourages people to stop smoking, we want to make sure that it is not viewed as a normal thing to do.

I think it is these power walls we are talking about and the promotion material used by the tobacco industry that talks about smoking as being a natural thing to do, something that you should do as you reach a certain age, it is a normal activity, I say, Mr. Speaker. That is the image. That is the kind of message that they are trying to give to, especially the young people of our Province. We want to do just the opposite of that. We want to make sure that people understand that smoking is not normal, smoking is not healthy. It is not normal, and the more we can de-normalize it the better it is going to be. These initiatives that we are undertaking through legislation like this are all a part of our Provincial Wellness Strategy, I say, Mr. Speaker.

Now there are a couple of - one of the things that we have – unfortunately, and I just want to share some facts with you because this is pretty startling insights as I start looking at the impact that smoking has on people's lives; who in fact are smoking and when they are starting to smoke. It is frightening in some respects, Mr. Speaker. So anything that we can do as legislators, anything that we can do as a society to protect individuals, particularly young people, then I think we have the responsibility to do that.

I just want to share a couple of facts with you. Mr. Speaker, 21 per cent of youth in Grades 5 through to 9 have tried tobacco. So when we start talking about these power walls and what impression they are having on what population group. Just picture this, small kids between the ages of, I guess, in Grade 5 to Grade 9, you are still in your preteen years, in your early teen years, these kids are in and out of grocery stores. They are in and out of convenience stores. Each and every day they are walking into those places and seeing these large displays of tobacco products, seeing pictures of people, pictures that display normal daily activities where people are smoking, trying to entice these young people to take up the habit of smoking, use their products. When you start looking at the ages of these young kids, obviously, we would all acknowledge that they are at a very impressionable age and these displays are intended to target that particular group.

The other statistic, Mr. Speaker, is that 17 per cent of youth aged fifteen to nineteen in Newfoundland and Labrador smoke. I said earlier, that is a significant reduction from where we were five years ago but we still have a long ways to go. If we are to have a real impact on our young kids then we need initiatives such as this one and others that are involved with our anti-smoking campaigns, and the kind of money we have put into the Smokers' Helpline, the money we have invested in the alliance we have for control of tobacco, those initiatives.

The other thing, Mr. Speaker, I just want to share with you as well, is that 85 per cent of smokers start before the age of sixteen. So just think about it, Mr. Speaker. These kids, before the age of sixteen they are in primary school, middle schools, they are in junior high and they are the people that the tobacco companies are targeting to bring into their fold as being smokers and hopefully they will be addicted then for a long period of time. That is how they make their money, preying on the innocence of our young children.

When we see these large displays and promotion material targeting our young kids, then I think, Mr. Speaker, the onus is on us as leaders in our communities to enact legislation such as this to ensure that we are protecting their long-term interests.

There are a couple of things that I just want to walk through, Mr. Speaker, in the bill itself because the explanation of the bill – any time you introduce legislation in the House, this one is entitled, Bill 17, An Act To Amend The Tobacco Control Act. Inside, one of the first things you will find in a piece of legislation is an explanatory note, what this is intended to do. Mr. Speaker, this is intended to amend the Tobacco Control Act. There is already a piece of legislation on the books and this bill here tonight is intended to amend that piece.

Some of the areas that we are amending, I say, Mr. Speaker, are very clearly expressing: What is the purpose of this bill? Why is it that the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has a piece of legislation on the books at all known as the Tobacco Control Act? Just so there is no misunderstanding at all as to why we had this piece of legislation I just want to read the purpose, because I think it is an important point, Mr. Speaker, because it speaks to the comments I made a moment ago about what age people are starting to smoke, what the target population would be for the tobacco industry as they use these promotion walls.

"The purpose of this Act, in light of the conclusive evidence that tobacco use causes premature death and disease, is to protect the health of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and in particular young people by restricting access to tobacco and tobacco related products and to protect them from inducements to use tobacco."

Clearly, Mr. Speaker, that is the expressed purpose of this act. It is the expressed purpose of what this government is trying to do with control of the use of tobacco in this Province. So let be clear, this bill has one intended purpose, this piece of legislation has one intended purpose, to protect young people of Newfoundland and Labrador from being sucked into, pardon that pun, to be lured into the undertaking and starting to smoke and use tobacco products that we all understand and acknowledge is hazardous to their health.

The other piece, Mr. Speaker, that I think is important to highlight here is that the act also talks about banning where you can sell products. I just want to make sure that as this bill expands - as I said a moment ago, we now have recreation facilities that will be banning smoking. So there are certain places you cannot buy tobacco products. For example, Mr. Speaker, this bill, this act will band the sale of tobacco or tobacco products in a pharmacy. In pharmacies in this Province you cannot sell and will not be able to buy tobacco products. Any temporary facilities, for example, fair grounds, exhibitions of some kind, or the Regatta, for example, here in St. John's, a popular event each and every year. Those kinds of temporary facilities will not be allowed to sell tobacco products. Obviously, you will not see them in any of the health facilities, whether it is long-term care homes or hospitals or the like.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the university, as defined in the Memorial University Act, the college, as defined in the College Act, private training institutions, recreation facilities where the primary activity is physical recreation, including such things as bowling alleys, fitness centres, gymnasiums, swimming pools, an arena or rink, all of those areas. You are not permitted to sell tobacco products in any of those facilities. Again, all with a view of ensuring that we are removing the products. We are restricting access to a limited number of places where people can buy these products.

Mr. Speaker, another significant piece of this bill deals with the issue of signage. I said earlier that these displays of tobacco products is one thing, but the other area that we want to talk a little bit about is the whole issue of signage. I said earlier, not only can we not display the products but we are going to eliminate - you might drive out to any street, any highway where you might see these large billboards, sometimes you will see them as a part of a temporary fixture where a service station or a convenience store may have tobacco products in big letters, eight or ten inches high, promoting a sale on tobacco products. All with a view of enticing people off the highway into their store to buy a tobacco product at some discounted price as a part of any promotion. Those sorts of signs will disappear. As you walk into those convenience stores and other areas where you can buy tobacco products, where you will see these large displays of signage clearly indicating that they have a sale on this week of a certain brand name at a discounted price, these signs tend to be produced by the tobacco manufacturers and they tend to be done in a very professional and glossy fashion so as to capture your attention.

What will happen in the future, Mr. Speaker, you will see a very small sign. As I said a moment ago, it will be a piece of white paper eight-and-a-half by eleven with very small print, black letters on it that says: Tobacco products are sold here. You will not see a list of all the brand names that you can buy. You will not see a list of prices. So if you walk into a store in the future and you do not see the display of any tobacco, you do not see the display of tobacco products, and signage that says: We sell cigarettes here, and here are the brands. You will not see the products themselves displayed. What you will see is a very small sign acknowledging that tobacco products are sold here.

If someone wants to find out what products they have to choose from, then they will be allowed to have a small catalogue that they are able to pass out to one of their customers, have them browse through the booklet to determine what products they have and what prices they have. That will not be a very large digital display, but they will have to make available to them a price list and a list of products to be sold. So that is a very limiting display of, not only the product but the signage used to promote it, Mr. Speaker.

One of the other things that I think is really important in this bill is to start to look at the whole piece of this bill in concert with the other things that we have done. If you reflect for a moment on the things that we have done as a government, you might recall several years ago we banned the use of tobacco products in bars and bingo halls. At that particular time there was a real concern by the industry that this was going to have a negative impact on their business; bars would be closing by the dozens. I say, Mr. Speaker, that did not happen. Some of the bars went through some change as a part of normal business cycles. Some of them may have been impacted in some fashion. At the same time, Mr. Speaker, if you walk into a bar today no one is smoking. The same bars that were filled ten years ago are still filled today. It has nothing to do with the ban on smoking, but that action did have an impact in reducing the number of people who smoke in the Province. Pieces of legislation like this will now ban the display of tobacco products, another initiative to ensure that we are going to be moving forward with an aggressive campaign to reduce the use of smoking.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things as we went about this particular process and talked to the – I want to speak to this point for a second because there was an expectation that the people who would be most opposed to this would be the vendors themselves, people who sell these products. One of the things I want to say, Mr. Speaker, is we had a very positive response, very active participation from the retail sector in participating in our consultation process. As I said a moment ago, we were quite pleased with the fact that we had a large response, but equally as important, not just a response but we were surprised, and pleasantly surprised, to know the large number of retailers who actually support this initiative. Because they too believe, Mr. Speaker, and here is the interesting point. Despite the fact that they make money from this product, and the sale of this product, they too believe and fully understand and accept their responsibility to help governments, to help society, to help individuals not only cease smoking but also to recognize the hazards of smoking so that they will not take the habit.

Mr. Speaker, there are a series of penalties. This is not intended to be a piece of legislation that is threatening people, that if you do not do this then here is what will happen, but I think with any piece of legislation where we are trying to impose a responsibility - on vendors in this particular case - there has to be some kind of understanding that if you do not obey the legislation there have to be some penalties associated with it.

I just want to highlight how serious government takes the impact that this legislation will have on people. The penalties, I think, reflect the significance of the breach of actions by any retailers, because for the first offence there is a fine of $500 and the individual store or outlet will be prohibited from selling tobacco products for a period of three months. For a second offence there will be a fine of $2,500 and the outlet will be prohibited from selling tobacco for a six-month period. If there is a third offence, there will be a fine of $5,000 and prohibited from selling tobacco products for nine months. Obviously that is subject to a conviction under the act, but clearly those kinds of penalties reflect how government takes this action seriously, takes the significance of this bill seriously, and that is why we are introducing it.

Mr. Speaker, this will be just one of a series of initiatives - or one more, rather - in a series of initiatives that this government has undertaken under this particular piece of legislation here, which is the Tobacco Control Act, but also the environmental legislation that deals with - the last time we did something on that one was to deal with the ban on smoking in bars and bingo halls.

Mr. Speaker, we as a government are very pleased to be proposing these amendments to this legislation and I look forward to the support of Members of the House of Assembly as we move forward, together with our partners, and our many partners, as we do a couple of things. One, we want to make sure that we reduce the incidence of smoking in this Province, and we very aggressively try to ensure that the message gets out to the youth of this Province that starting to smoke is not healthy for you, starting to smoke is not normal and it has a major impact on your health and the quality of life, and decisions you now make as a young adult are going to be with you and affect the rest of your life and the quality of health that you will experience as you age.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the debate here on this particular bill, and if members opposite have some questions that we may want to deal with in Committee, I would be only too glad to entertain the questions and provide a response.

I do encourage members of the House, as they consider their views on this particular bill, to recognize that this has widespread support throughout the community at large, widespread support from the partners that we have engaged in the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco, the Lung Association, the Cancer Society, the health authorities, and all school districts in the Province, together with a large portion of the vendors who are going to be impacted as we implement this particular piece of legislation.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will sit down and look forward to the continued discussion around the thrust of this bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am certainly pleased to speak to Bill 17, An Act To Amend The Tobacco Control Act. I must say, in Newfoundland and Labrador, we have certainly come a long way when it comes to the restrictions around tobacco in the Province; not just the display of tobacco or the sale of tobacco, but also the consumption of tobacco in areas that have been restricted for use.

I think going back just a few years ago when the first rules and regulations started to change around tobacco usage in the Province, and the kind of opposition that was posed by the public and by people out there in the communities. I remember when we were bringing in the first pieces of legislation around the control of tobacco in restaurants, and banning smoking in restaurants in the Province.

I remember at that time there was such an aggressive lobby being launched by people who owned these establishments, that they were going to be out of business, and that it was going to affect their profits, just like retailers are saying today that it will be investment loss for them.

I remember, going back, that many of these restaurant owners would come in consistently at the time to meet with either the Minister of Tourism or the Premier of the day, or the Ministry of Health, whoever they could lobby within government, to see if they could stop this from actually happening, because they felt that it would be jeopardizing their businesses. They felt that people wanted and needed to have the freedom and the flexibility, when they went out to eat, to be able to sit back after a good meal and light up a cigarette and enjoy that cigarette in a restaurant. They honestly did, and they felt that it was going to affect their business.

You know, it is just a few short years since that happened. I do not even think it has been ten years since that regulation was imposed in the Province, and I do not think we have seen any restaurants go out of business because of it. I do not think we have seen any owners that have actually lost business because of it. In fact, I would think a lot of them have gained business. I would think that there have been more restaurants set up in the Province, more establishments open since that time to cater to people who want to dine out in public.

In fact, if you go into any restaurant right now - and I know members in the House do. If they are like me, they often meet with constituents, meet with interested parties, in restaurants, because oftentimes the only free time we have is when we get to eat. Therefore, we take that opportunity to meet with groups, organizations and individuals to discuss business, and it is such a comfort today to be able to go in and sit in a restaurant and be able to have a meal and not have smoke surrounding you, and not have people lighting up cigarettes at the table next to you or at the table with you. I think people have seen real benefits in that particular ban, but no doubt it was a ban that was a catalyst for other things to happen around the usage of tobacco in the Province.

I remember the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco, which is an organization that partners with municipalities, and partners with other groups such as the Cancer Society and the Lung Association and other organizations that represent coronary diseases. It also partners with government, it partners with young people, with schools, and what they do, Mr. Speaker, is they take a strong message, a strong message to the public on how tobacco is used, where it is used, how it is sold, how it is packaged, and they have been very successful. They have been very successful in Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, I have met with the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco on a number of occasions in my own political career, and listened to them as they made presentations and lobbied for change within the industry. They are still very active in this Province. In fact, they are part of the tobacco strategy for the Province to look at how we continuously reduce the use and the consumption of tobacco, how we continuously spread a message that this is unhealthy and it makes for an unhealthy environment.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, the first regulation around the usage of tobacco in restaurants, that restriction became the catalyst for a lot of other restrictions that have evolved over that period of time. I think the first regulation was probably the toughest one, because people had to become more desensitized to the change in regulation, to the fact that things were going to be done differently, and oftentimes change is not received very well by people, unless it is something that they collectively instrument themselves. Sometimes it is received differently by different people.

Mr. Speaker, as a result of the success of the ban of the use of tobacco and smoking in restaurants, we have seen other bans. We have seen bans around the smoking in bars, which again was a very strong lobby launched by the Bar Association in the Province, by Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador, as an industry representative group who again felt that this was going to affect the business that they operated.

I understand that; we all realize that. These are people who have invested a lot of money. They have invested a lot of money to build their businesses over the years, and all of a sudden we, as government officials or parliamentarians, decide that these are regulations that are healthy for the environment, they are in your best interests, so we are making those decisions. Not everyone sees it that way.

I remember when the ban was being imposed in bars in the Province, that there was a lot of protest by the bar owners. They would be here in Confederation Building. I remember seeing them sitting in the galleries and out in the lobby, looking for an opportunity to talk to ministers of the Crown, to talk to any politicians who would listen to what they had to say, and to make representation on their behalf.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I do not know of any bars that have really closed down in the Province as a result of that regulation. In fact, I have heard a number of them say it is one of the better things that has happened.

People still go to restaurants. They still go to bars. They still participate in that kind of public social environment and they still, if they want to smoke, I guess they still find a way to smoke, whether that would be out in the streets, or somewhere outside of the establishment, but they do. So, Mr. Speaker, it has not been a bad thing in terms of being something that would destroy or bankrupt businesses in the Province, as we would have been led to believe a few years ago when all of this started.

Today, Mr. Speaker, tobacco products are restricted in a lot of different places that they were not years ago; for example, just in public buildings alone. If you go back to the installation of this Legislature, you will find that at one time parliamentarians smoked in the House of Assembly. You would find out that Premiers smoked in their offices. In fact, I have seen pictures of past Premiers, both Liberal and Conservative, pose for photographs with cigars in their hands, in their offices, because it was the thing to do. I have seen pictures of Premiers and Cabinets that have sat and convened to do the business of the government, and the business of the people of the day, when all around the table you would have people who smoked. They would be sitting back in a Cabinet meeting having a cigarette. It was perfectly acceptable at that time, but things have changed a lot and it is not acceptable any more.

In fact, we work in a building that is completely smoke-free today, whereas a few years ago that was not the case. Today in this building, like other public buildings in the Province, there is no tolerance for smoking in these buildings. I have nothing against people who want to smoke, but these things are all done for a reason. They are done for a reason, and I will get into some of those statistics in a little while in terms of second-hand smoke and what it means to people who are in and around second-hand smoke.


Mr. Speaker, this act is basically saying that a person shall not sell or offer for sale tobacco in any of the places that I will read out for the record. For example: in a pharmacy; in a temporary facility; in a facility operated by a regional health authority or a personal care home in the Province. None of these facilities have the ability to be able to sell or offer for sale tobacco in this Province. A long-term care home; a nursing home; an assisted living facility; a child care service; a school; a university; a college; a private training institution; a building or a part of a building that is owned, leased or operated by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador; an agency of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador; a Crown corporation or a municipality. Also, Mr. Speaker, the sale of tobacco restriction applies as well to recreational facilities where the primary activity is physical recreation. It applies to a bowling alley; a fitness centre; a gymnasium; a swimming pool; an arena or a rink; a theatre or cinema; a library; an art gallery; a museum; an amusement park; a video or games arcade; and a place prescribed by regulation.

Mr. Speaker, all of these places are restricted from the selling of tobacco products in this Province. Not only are they restricted from the sale but they are also restricted when it comes to the use of tobacco in or around the premises of these facilities. In fact, I was at a graduation ceremony last weekend when, at the graduation, the Mistress of Ceremonies stood up and made an announcement that anyone in the room who wanted to smoke would have to not only go outside of the facility but they would have to go outside of all the parameters of the school property, which meant they had to go actually out on the street or they had to go across another parking lot in order to be able to have a cigarette. Those were the strict rules that were being enforced in that particular school. So, Mr. Speaker, not only are you restricted in this Province from smoking in a public building but that restriction also applies, in most cases, to a large extent of the parameters that surround those buildings as well.

Mr. Speaker, there has been quite the change in regulation around the use of tobacco and the display of tobacco in the Province over the last number of years, and there have been a number of people, as I said, who have been opposed to this. In fact, when the minister announced that he was going to bring in a ban of signage on tobacco products in businesses, I think he used it as a power wall, that he was going to ban the power walls, which was an advertising gimmick that was often used by tobacco companies to promote their products. Mr. Speaker, we all know what that is. We have seen it ourselves, when you walk into a retail store or you walk into a gas bar and you look behind the counter and the entire wall is a huge display of tobacco products, displaying them in all shapes, colours, in all kinds of signage and promotion; and, you know, it is rather eye-catching when you walk in. It takes up a large amount of space, so therefore it is really hard to miss. I guess that is why they call it a power wall, because it dominates the advertising of mostly all the other products that are in the store, that you can see when you walk through the door.

When the government did announce back some time ago, after they had some consultation around the Province and also after a very aggressive lobby by the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco with government, there was some opposition to it. In fact, I remember one individual in the Province who made a comment, I think it was in the paper, when they said they had been smoking since they had been thirteen years of age. They did not like the fact that there was another restriction being placed on tobacco. They really felt like, these days, because they are a smoker, they are almost participating in something that is illegal.

I can certainly understand that perspective as well, because we also know that tobacco is a highly addictive substance. We all know that. We all know of people, or ourselves, who at one time were smokers and how hard it is to quit, how hard it is to reform yourself as a smoker because it is an addiction. It is a very addictive substance. I have talked to a lot of people about this who have tried to kick the habit, who have tried to be a non-smoker simply because they feel they are almost a minority these days, that they are segregated in society because of this addiction that they have. It is like every addiction, it is hard to just heave it down. It is hard to just give it up. For many people the desire might be great but the ability to do it is very, very difficult.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, I had a friend who quit smoking just about a year ago, and for about four months she used to say to me: I am just not the person I used to be, I have such a short tolerance, I find I do not have the patience that I used to have. I have been saying to my family: You had best stay away from me today until I can get through one more day. She has been successful, but it has been hard. It has been very hard to try and overcome an addition like this.

So, Mr. Speaker, when government announced that they were going to do this, and I read the comments by this gentleman who really felt like he was being treated as if he was doing something illegal because he was a smoker, simply because of all these regulations, I could understand where he was coming from. He also felt that every kid is going to try this, and you are not going to stop kids from trying this. He may be right when he says that just because you take all the power walls out in retail outlets when it comes to promoting cigarettes, just because you ban smoking in restaurants and bars and public buildings and playgrounds, it does not necessarily mean that you are going to stop kids from trying it.

Maybe he was right in his statement, but I think that as we become more educated, as we understand more what the implications of tobacco are, we do have a responsibility, and that responsibility is to place restrictions around the use of it. It is to regulate how it is being promoted and sold, and that is our responsibility. Maybe we will not stop kids from doing it, but we will at least hopefully reduce the number of children that actually do attempt to try it or entice to try it. We will hopefully reduce the number of children who actually see this as being something that is cool or glamorous or something that is being seen as acceptable.

When a person who is a smoker says they feel like what they are dong is illegal or that they are a minority or that they almost have to hide away to have a cigarette because there is a shame that is attached to it, well that already tells me that we have been successful in discouraging others from becoming addicted to this product as well. That tells me we have already had some success in ensuring that less people become addicted to tobacco.

So, Mr. Speaker, everyone has, I guess, a different opinion around these particular things, but we also have a responsibility to those who do not smoke, to ensure that they have a clean environment to work in, to be able to socialize in.

Mr. Speaker, it is well-known facts that second-hand smoke, which is known as environmental tobacco smoke - we also know that these cigarettes or this tobacco contains over 4,000 chemicals. These 4,000 chemicals, once it is inhaled and exhaled, it is also spread to other people who are in that vicinity. We know that second-hand smoke contains the same 4,000 chemicals that a smoker inhales through a cigarette. That has been proven, that is scientifically proven.

Mr. Speaker, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, and second-hand smoke, we already know and has been proven, is extremely dangerous to infants and to young children. In fact, babies who breathe in second-hand smoke have a higher risk of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or crib death. Babies and children who are exposed to second-hand smoke have more frequent lower respiratory tract problems, such as coughs, pneumonia, bronchitis and other things like that.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, we have all heard of the numbers of children who are on inhalers or puffers, as they call it. I know in my own district, I have noticed that there are a lot of children who actually use puffers or inhalers. Now, I am not saying it is because of exposure to second-hand smoke. It could be exposure to other environmental things as well. Whether it be mould or whether it be air quality, whether it be natural environmental pollens or whatever the case may be, but there is a higher level of children who do suffer from respiratory tract infections and coughs, and pneumonia and bronchitis, when they are in the presence of second-hand smoke.

Mr. Speaker, children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop asthma and they will suffer more from it than children of non-smokers who have asthma. I found that very interesting, very interesting indeed, because we also know that there is a high level of children who suffer from asthma. I do not know what the statistics are right now, but I remember about a year ago looking at – in one of the medical journals, I believe it was – some of the stats around asthma and the number of children who suffer from it. This will tell you that second-hand smoke, children who are exposed to it, are more likely to develop asthma than children of non-smokers and to have it more seriously than children of non-smokers.

Second-hand smoke also increases the number of ear infections in children. Now, most people would not have made that conclusion at all, but it certainly was indicated in the statistics that I looked at when I was doing the research for this particular bill and it noted quite clearly that second-hand smoke increases the number of ear infections in children. So I think it is important, when we bring in regulations like this, that it is not a form of punishment to anyone but it is a form of trying to foster a healthier society of people, and I think as we learn more about it we will want to do more to provide for that protection. As we learn more about how children can suffer, and what the consequences are of being in the presence of second-hand smoke, we will want to take more care to ensure that we have regulations that will protect them.

Mr. Speaker, some other things that are noteworthy as well: lung cancer is the leading cause of death due to cancer in Canada as well as right here in our own Province in Newfoundland and Labrador. Smoking tobacco is the single most important preventable cause of lung cancer and it accounts for 85 per cent of all of the new cases of lung cancer in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, we all know this, as a society. How many of us in our lives have known someone, had a relative, had a friend or someone in the community where we live, who has died or suffered from lung cancer. When you look at this and you know that most times it is preventable - the only preventable thing, I guess, or one of the most significant preventable indicators of lung cancer is smoking tobacco.

Also, Mr. Speaker, smoking tobacco can lead to respiratory and upper digestive tract cancers, and I think we have all known that as well, particularly mouth cancer, throat cancer, cancer of the voice box and the esophagus. Research also indicates that smoking tobacco is a contributing cause of leukemia and cancers of the bladder, the stomach, the kidney and the pancreas. It also indicates in the study that I looked at that female smokers are at a greater risk for developing cervical cancer.

Mr. Speaker, you might read all of these things and realize that, with statistics like that, why would people smoke? Again, it is substance that is addictive. It is not as easy as waking up tomorrow morning and saying: Oh, I have just learned all of this so now I am going to throw down the cigarettes and I am never going to smoke again.

It is not always that easy for most people, and I know that. It is very addictive and it is very difficult to overcome, and I certainly have a lot of pride for those people who do, and a lot of respect for them, because I know that it is very difficult to do things sometimes in life. When you look at addictions - addictions to anything, whether it is food, alcohol, drugs or tobacco - it is very difficult to kick addictions, to be able to change your lifestyle so that you can actually move away from those particular things. It is very difficult.


Mr. Speaker, in 2006 there were almost 5 million people, representing 19 per cent of the population of Canada, fifteen years of age and older, who continued to smoke. In Newfoundland and Labrador we were even at a higher rate than that. The Canadian rate of people over the age of fifteen who smoked was at 19 per cent. In Newfoundland and Labrador that statistic was at 21 per cent. Mr. Speaker, what was even more surprising is that 2.5 per cent of those people were between the ages of ten and fourteen.

Sometimes we think that kids do not always have the opportunity, do not have the resources, and do not have the accessibility to be able to get tobacco products. After all, we have increased the age limit for the purchase of tobacco. You have to show an ID now when you walk in to purchase a pack of cigarettes, if you are a youth, but they do have access and they find access to things like tobacco. Obviously, if they did not then we would not have 2.5 per cent of young people between the ages of ten and fourteen who were smoking.

Also, 27 per cent of males who smoke were between ages fifteen and twenty-four, and nearly 19 per cent of females. Again, the other thing that I was very surprised to learn, and very disappointed to learn, actually, was that pregnant women between the ages of twenty and forty-four, 10 per cent of them smoked regularly during most of their pregnancies. Isn't that alarming? I would think that one of the first things, if you were having a child, would be to make as much of an effort as possible to be able to give up smoking. I know that it is not easy to do, as I said, but 10 per cent of those pregnant women between the ages of twenty and forty-four smoked regularly during most of their pregnancy. Those are some of the statistics that were researched and presented in a report that looked at these statistics in both 2006 and 2007.

One of the groups in this Province that has been very successful in promoting the effects of tobacco, the effects of tobacco on children, on adults, one of the groups that has been very effective in providing information as to what the health effects of tobacco are, is the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco, and not only the impact that it has on those who are smokers but also on those people who are in the area where they are subject to second-hand smoke.

Mr. Speaker, the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco has been dedicated and committed to reducing the negative health, economic and environmental effects of tobacco use in this Province. I would say that there is not a Member of the House of Assembly who, at one time or another, has not had a presentation from this group or has not been lobbied by this group or sent information from them giving us materials, educating us to what the impacts are.

They have also been involved with the Provincial Tobacco Reduction Strategy and they have been coordinating a plan around controlling tobacco and activities related to tobacco in the Province. That is the reason why we are here tonight looking at a bill that is going to ban how cigarettes are displayed and promoted in the Province, and it is only because of the effective work that they have done and the lobby efforts that they have made.

Mr. Speaker, the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco is really a group of partners who have worked tirelessly to implement not just the Tobacco Reduction Strategy throughout the Province but also to educate people. As I said before, their partners include groups like the Cancer Society, the Lung Association, health, education and labour organizations. It includes municipalities. In fact, the Federation of Municipalities have been very active in this campaign. Parks and Recreation have been involved, and so have Social Services, young people themselves, and government departments, school councils, Aboriginal groups, and there is probably a list that goes on and on. Mr. Speaker, they are making every attempt to communicate their messages to the public, to share their ideas for change that are relative to the control of tobacco and to try and get other people to come onside and to support their common goals.

Mr. Speaker, this particular bill, Bill 17, I guess the goal of this bill is to be able to ensure that there aren't power displays of tobacco in retail outlets across the Province, that there isn't that strong message when you walk into a door to influence young people or to influence people in general towards tobacco. That is the real purpose of the bill, but in doing that, in banning these displays and promotions of these products at retail outlets, there has to be regulations around it. There has to be controls built in and there has to be penalties for those who do not comply.

Mr. Speaker, they will be expanding the list, I guess, the list that I read from earlier when I talked about how pharmacies and schools and hospitals and municipalities are not able to offer up displays of tobacco and be able to promote tobacco products. Well they will be now adding another group to that list that they will stop them from using power displays to promote tobacco in the Province. They will be restricting signs indicting the availability of tobacco products and the price of tobacco products both inside and outside of the retail location.

So, Mr. Speaker, the time when you could walk up to a gas bar or retail store and see a big sign in the window that was promoting a tobacco product will be gone in this Province. You will not see those things any more. The day when you walk into a store and right behind the counter there is a full wall of tobacco products, that will not exist any more, that will be eliminated.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, all displays of the product will be eliminated and restricted. There will be certain rules for advertising and displaying tobacco in a store, and those rules will be specifically outlined as part of the legislation. There will be rules around how the tobacco products are advertised and the promotional materials that can be used where tobacco is sold.

For example, when tobacco companies now send out their product they also send out a whole bunch of promotional material to go with it that you can display around the business; that you can post, that you can use, I guess, as an advertising gimmick to get people to buy. Well, those advertising and promotional materials now will be prohibited for use in places where tobacco is sold.

Also, Mr. Speaker, there will be regulations around the kind of signs that may be used on any premises to be used in these displays, and there are going to be restrictions around that. There will be restrictions on where these signs will be permitted to be placed on a premise. For example, one time you could post it wherever you like. You could put it in the window of your store. You could stick it on the door. You could have it hanging over the counter where someone was going to purchase a product. Now, of course, there will be restrictions around where these signs will be allowed to be permitted in a business or on the premises of a business.

Mr. Speaker, there are going to be much tighter regulations around the sale of these products. In fact, the act itself says that, "A person shall not display or permit the display of tobacco in a place or premises in which tobacco is sold or offered for sale by a means or in a manner, including the use of a countertop or wall display, that permits a customer in the place or premises to view tobacco before purchasing it."

So, Mr. Speaker, I guess they are going to have to have a drawer or some kind of a cabinet under the counter someplace where they can lock up the product. Certainly, the act indicates that you will not be able to display tobacco for sale on any countertops or on any wall display in a place where a customer can view the product before they purchase it. So, really what they are doing is they are saying that tobacco products cannot be visible whatsoever; inside to the public, from the outside or the inside of an establishment.

Mr. Speaker, it is not an offence to view a product during the restocking of it or while a retailer is doing an inventory. That is always good to know, because you would not want to have to close down the business to restock the cabinet with tobacco products. So, at least they will be allowed to restock and they will be allowed to do an inventory.

Mr. Speaker, the act also says, under section 4.3 that, "A person shall not advertise or promote the sale or use of tobacco in a place or premises in which tobacco is sold or offered for sale on the exterior of the place or premises or anywhere within the boundaries of the place or premises." I think that is pretty self-explanatory. That is basically as to what I spoke to earlier, that you will not see the cardboard displays that you normally would have seen when you walk into these establishments.

Also, Mr. Speaker, with respect to signage, there is a section in the bill that speaks to that. It is actually under section 4.5. It says, "…a person may in a place or premises in which tobacco is sold or offered for sale (a) display or make available for viewing upon request, a sign that lists the types of tobacco for sale and their prices, if the sign complies with and is displayed in the manner, place, form and size prescribed by the regulations."

So what this actually means, Mr. Speaker, is that you will not be walking into a store and actually looking on a shelf, asking for a certain pack of cigarettes or a tub of tobacco or a pack of cigars. You will be able to go in and see a list of what they offer. You will be able to look at that particular list and you will be able to tell the person behind the counter what you want to purchase off that list. So you will no longer go in and say I want to pick up a pack of cigarettes in this brand but you will be given a list that you can look at, and that will be legal to be able to look at that list and to order.

They will have to display signs that are supplied by the minister, Mr. Speaker. I do not know what these signs are going to look like yet, I do not see that, but I guess it is part of the regulations that will accompany the bill. It also says that they will "…display a magazine or other publication that is offered for sale and that contains tobacco advertising if the magazine or publication is displayed in such a way that the tobacco advertisement is not visible to a customer unless he or she is reading the magazine or publication."

I think we have all gone into stores, Mr. Speaker, where we have seen magazine racks, where we have seen a whole bunch of magazines that are just lined up on racks on the wall. Well, in many cases tobacco companies advertise in those magazines. Mr. Speaker, if the store is selling the magazine and there is a tobacco company that has an ad on that magazine, on the back cover, that cannot be displayed in this store. In fact, they can still sell the magazine but they cannot display the ad for tobacco products. They would have to make sure that ad is not visible if they wanted to sell those magazines.

Mr. Speaker, there are very tight regulations but it also speaks to tobacco shops in particular, because we all know that there are particular businesses that only conduct the sale of tobacco, and this act very clearly speaks to different regulations, to a degree, for those particular businesses. Because when you see a tobacco shop, or a smoke shop I think it is called, in different places in the city, that is the only business they are into.

Mr. Speaker, the sections that I have quoted previously, sections 4.2 and 4.3, do not apply to those particular shops because they may display the name of their business outside the shop. For example, if they are the smoke shop they are allowed to have a sign, or if it says the local tobacco store they are allowed to have a sign that actually displays that, but advertisements, promotional material or products shall not be displayed or visible from the outside of the shop or the interior of the shop. The owner or person in charge of a tobacco shop shall not permit a person under the age of nineteen years to enter the premises unless accompanied by an adult. Mr. Speaker, there are some different regulations that affect those businesses that deal directly in tobacco products and tobacco products alone.

Mr. Speaker, once again we will have a transition in the Province when it comes to tobacco regulations, but it is not the first transition that we have gone through in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am sure that there will be some opposition to these rules and regulations and the legislation that government is enforcing here as well, but the reality is that what we are doing is not really going to affect the bottom line of any business, and we all know that. I totally agree that as a government we should not be promoting addictive substances, and tobacco is an addictive substance. In fact, we go to great lengths to try and rehabilitate people, to try and help people who want to quit smoking, to help them reform their addiction to that product. So while we are doing that, I agree, we should not be out there promoting or encouraging.

I, too, agree that sometimes when we see those power walls of tobacco products, when we see the kind of promotion that goes on around those products, it can become quite appealing to young people. It can be appealing to young people who look at things that are being presented to them in a very upbeat fashion, in a very cool-looking fashion, in a way that makes it look appealing to be involved in it. So I think it is part of our responsibility to ensure that we try and curb that somewhat, and that we ensure that we make it as less appealing as possible, because I can bet you any money that any parent today who smokes and has an addiction to tobacco has probably tried to quit dozens of times in their lives and have been unable to, but I bet they do not want their children to become addicted to the product as well. I am sure that many of them would agree that, listen, if I need to get my pack of cigarettes, I can still run down to the store and pick them up, but my child does not have to walk in and see all of this promotion and all of this display, and thinking that it is something cool to be involved in.

Mr. Speaker, in concluding my comments, I just want to thank the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco for the work that they have done in this Province to promote the usage of tobacco, to promote the sale of tobacco, and the restrictions that need to placed around it, and to say that I think they are doing a good job as part of the Tobacco Reduction Strategy, and they have continued to be thinkers; they have continued to look at what controls need to be brought in place.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, this is not just Newfoundland and Labrador doing this. In fact, I think every province in the country now has brought in restrictions around the sale of tobacco, the signage, the promotion, the advertising of the product. I think almost every other province has banned the power wall image of tobacco products right across the country. In fact, I think we are probably one of the last provinces in the country to be bringing forward this kind of regulation.

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly conclude my comments on Bill 17, and I am sure there are other people in the House who would like to speak to this legislation as well.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to this bill.

We have a lot of positive bills here tonight, and this is another one of them. I think this bill has been a long time coming, and we are pleased to see it. I am not going to go through a lot of things that have been said by both the minister and the Leader of the Official Opposition. I think we all know in the House, and anybody who might be up at 11:00 o'clock at night watching us knows by now, what the main purpose of this bill is with regard to controlling where tobacco is sold.

We have done a lot around legislation with regard to smoking itself, and where smoking might happen, but then there is another whole issue about how accessible tobacco might or might not be, and how where it is sold has an effect on who is smoking.

I am sure that all of us here have concerns about smoking among students, because smoking among young people is one of the places that have the highest percentage of smokers - it is with young people. This is something new, but it is something that has been happening over a period of time.

Once this bill is put in place, the fact that tobacco products will not be as visible in our society is going to be, I think, something that is going to really help with cutting back even more on the smoking that is going on. Because seeing things, having things suggested to you by advertising and by presence, that in itself creates a high incentive for people to start smoking, and basically for young people because it is young people who actually started. So, banning the sale of tobacco from the long list of places that we have here in this bill is extremely important. I am not going to go through the whole list again, I think it has been read out twice tonight and I do not think we need it read out again, but in general we are talking about any government buildings, health facilities, education facilities, athletic facility, museums, art galleries and other places. It is important to do this in order to dissuade people, especially young people, from smoking.

One of the things that have been pointed out is that in the definition of tobacconist - and the bill does allow a place that is devoted to the sale of tobacco, and we do have tobacconist shops here in St. John's; I do not know where else in the Province, but I do know they do exist here in St. John's - a tobacconist shop means a place or premises in which the only business conducted is the sale of tobacco. I understand that definition is one of the tightest across the country, so I am proud to see that.

Tobacco remains the third most commonly used substance among students in this Province. That is really interesting because we hear of other drugs that students are using, but tobacco remains the third most commonly used substance.

The Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey notes in the 2008 figures that the smoking rates for Newfoundland and Labrador is at 21 per cent. Now, we have come down in Newfoundland and Labrador. We seem to be hovering between 21 per cent and 22 per cent, but it means we have reached a plateau and we do not seem to be dropping below that, and we are still above the Canadian average which is 19 per cent.

I am hoping that this legislation, which I am definitely supporting, will help push the number of smokers downwards and that, as it is harder to find tobacco for sale, in terms of places where you may buy it, and it is not as obvious, so that we will get fewer new smokers coming in, that we will see our percentage drop even more. It would be good to push through the plateau that we seem to have been stuck in over the last few years.

There are some things that I would like to raise tonight with regard to how I wish the bill had gone just a little bit further, and in some cases I have some questions.

We are wondering whether or not the banning of the display of tobacco products extends to things that may be sponsored by tobacco companies. One of the things I have had said to me was, somebody mentioned that in the store in his neighbourhood, when he goes in, there is a clock on the wall. The clock is a du Maurier clock, and du Maurier is written on that clock. Now, it does not say the word tobacco, and it does not say the word cigarette or cigar, or anything else, but everybody knows that du Maurier is a tobacco company. The question is: Does this banning of the display of tobacco and tobacco products extend to things like that?

Obviously display signs advertising events, if tobacco is on them, I think that would be covered, but what about things like these clocks? These go back quite a bit in time, when clocks used to be sponsored by tobacco companies. It used to be sponsored by Coca-Cola and Pepsi, too, I think. That is one question.

Another question that I have is: Why is the department waiting until January 2010 to put this bill into force? I hope the minister might be able to give us an idea of why you are waiting until 2010 for that to happen. I am sure there is a logical explanation, so I would like to hear what that explanation is.

I am also curious with regard to vending machines, why vending machines were not banned altogether. There are not many places left where a vending machine could be put up, because when you look at the list of places where tobacco products may not be sold any more, some of these are places where vending machines would have gone. I guess I am wondering why the bill did not look at the whole issue of vending machines, and why vending machines could not have been removed.

Relating to the sale of tobacco products, of course, is the whole issue of smoking, and the minister did mention co-operation from municipalities. I think one of the municipalities that are really looking at smoking even more deeply now is here in St. John's, where I think they are going to be banning smoking, for example, in outdoor areas, outdoor athletic fields - a big question about what will happen at the Regatta this year when smoking will not be permitted down in the Quidi Vidi area.

I think it is really good that the City of St. John's is looking at banning smoking in those areas, because they are areas where families are around, all kinds of children are around. One might think you are out of doors and the smoke is dissipating, but when you are in tight crowds, like the crowd that happens down at the lake during the Regatta, smoking can really affect people around a smoker. I think it is really good that the City of St. John's is doing what it is doing with regard to the outdoor smoking.

I have experienced, and I am sure others have, too, of being outdoors, even being on a sidewalk, passing somebody, and actually having smoke blown right into my face when I am outdoors. This is something, I think, that does happen, and happens regularly, so seeing a municipality take on this issue around smoking in the outdoor facilities is really good. I do not know, maybe there are other municipalities in the Province who have done that as well. I am not aware, but I am aware of what they are doing here in St. John's.

I would also like to see the government sponsoring more smoking cessation products, therapies and programs, and doing more education around the therapies and programs that can help people stop smoking. We do have advertising going on but I think we need to beef that up and especially aim it at young people because they are the ones where the percentage of smoking is the highest.

One of the areas that is problematic is this thing of flavoured tobacco. It has been said, and I believe it, that flavoured tobacco is a tool to try to get young people to smoke, to use tobacco products. Is there any thought being given by the government to banning flavoured tobacco, because it is quite problematic? Now it will not be able to be advertised. I hope it will not be able to be advertised because of the new bill and the amendment to the act but if kids know it exists they are still going to look for it.

I do then ask the minister to explain to us why this bill is not coming into force until January, 2010? I do encourage the government, as I know it will do, to continue efforts to dissuade smoking which is a serious health issue in this Province.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the members of the Opposition who have contributed to the debate and the discussion this evening and I thank them very much for their comments.

The Leader of the NDP posed a couple of questions and I will attempt to, in my comments, respond to her. One of the questions was around vending machines. Vending machines are regulated federally and they are restricted as to where you can place them, in areas where you will not find minors. So if you look at the areas where we now sell tobacco products, vending machines will be located in bars and bars would not be included in that list of places where you cannot sell the product. Vending machines will only be in places where you have people of the age of majority would be attending. So therefore that is limited to bars. That was the logic behind that particular piece.

With respect to the other one, the implementation date, I had said in my comments earlier that we were trying to – and we understand that there are going to be some changes that retail outlets will need to make and we wanted to make sure that, in all fairness to them because many of them have invested significantly in some changes in their store and how they display their products and how they have laid out their counter space and so on. We wanted to be fair to them and ensure that they had ample time to make those kinds of changes, and some of these stores vary in sizes.

Now if you are part of a large national chain, you may have the resources to do some of these changes overnight. If you are a small corner store and your margins are very small then some of these changes may need to be made over a period, or allow you to adjust your business plan and to be able to arrange the financing, if necessary, to be able to do that. So in all fairness to them, we thought we would give them five or six months to do this. So that is why the implementation date.

There was a question, and it is an interesting question actually. I want to undertake, under committee, when we get into committee I will have a definitive answer for you on your example of the clock, because you are right. Sometimes these companies will have various promotions, like T-shirts or ball caps and a variety of things like that, that you might see hung up in a store. It is an interesting question. I will make sure when we get into committee, I will have had a chance to examine the legislation a little more closely and look at how that would be treated, and I will give you an answer at that time.

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my comments, and I will undertake to have those questions answered for you in committee.

Thank you very much for the contribution you have made to the debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that this 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 Tobacco Control Act. (Bill 17)

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

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

MS BURKE: Today – presently, I guess.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

MS BURKE: Now.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Control Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to call from the Order Paper, Order 9, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Pharmacy Act. (Bill 12)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Pharmacy Act be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Pharmacy Act." (Bill 12)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is a bill that will be of benefit to the pharmacists in the Province and a benefit to individuals, particularly those who travel into the Province and may want to have prescriptions filled and use the services of the pharmacists that exist in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is not a major amendment to the current piece of legislation, the Pharmacy Act, but it is one that enhances the services that are available to the people who travel in the Province, but also too, it makes it much easier for the pharmacists who practice in this Province to carry on their business.

This amendment also, Mr. Speaker, will allow pharmacists to fill prescriptions written by licensed prescribers in other provinces or territories. The bill, I might add, has been supported by the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board. As we drafted this bill we wanted to make sure it was consistent with things that they wanted to do and was consistent with the things that would enhance their practice.

Currently, pharmacists who are in Newfoundland and Labrador are restricted from filling prescriptions that are written by other health professionals that might be in other parts of the country; covering prescriptions for people visiting here, tourists are here, people here for conventions and other reasons. There are lots of opportunities because of change of pharmacies, to be able to travel to Newfoundland and Labrador and have a pharmacist here fill a prescription that had been written by a doctor or some health provider in B.C. for example.

The sole purpose of these patients' visits to physicians is often to just obtain signatures on a prescription. So why would we want to put someone through the rigor of visiting Newfoundland and Labrador, needing a prescription refilled, and only to see a physician here in this Province just to get a prescription filled? There is really no need for that kind of visit. So, it is much more of a convenience for the patients and for the people who are visiting the Province.

In recent years, Mr. Speaker, the volume of patients who have prescriptions written by authorized health professionals have been increasing steadily. Physicians are able to write prescriptions, veterinarians frequently write prescriptions, nurse practitioners write, and optometrists write prescriptions. There has been an increase in the number of individuals who are able to prescribe medications and therefore we are seeing obviously an increased demand upon our pharmacists.

By amending this act, Mr. Speaker, we will eliminate the need for such prescriptions to be co-signed by a physician within our own Province. It speaks to this whole issue of convenience of service for the people who are travelling. Obviously now too, Mr. Speaker, this brings us inline with the current practice around the country. Some of the things that we do sometimes in Newfoundland and Labrador, sometimes we are the first to be moving out on some of them and blazing new trails, but this particular piece of legislation here, this amendment, makes us now consistent with the rest of the country. That is one of the reasons the licensing board supports the initiative here and concurs with the language we have used in this particular legislation. In fact, the Pharmacy Board has requested that we would in fact introduce this legislation.

Also, too, Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that it is supported by the College of Physicians and Surgeons. We have consulted with them in this process and they too are in agreement with the amendments that we are making here and concur it is the right thing to do.

Mr. Speaker, also, now that we are talking about it, it is not the subject of the amendment necessarily but I want to highlight a couple of other initiatives that will positively impact pharmacists in this Province and the health care system as a whole. Later this spring the pharmacy network will be introduced to pharmacists throughout the Province. This will provide an opportunity for pharmacies to be connected with health providers. So we have a - electronically, we will have an ability to be able to track people, individual patients who are having prescriptions filled so that health providers are able to share the information in that data base and be able to provide enhanced quality patient care. This is a part of our electronic patient record system they are implementing. You may have heard me indicate in the House that we are one of the first provinces in the country to have PACS as an archiving system for our imaging system. I say, Mr. Speaker, this is one piece of all that - as we have the pharmacy network will also introduce at that particular time.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is somewhat of a routine amendment to an existing piece of legislation but it is also one, very clearly, that will enhance the services provided, enhance the services provided to the people who travel in Newfoundland and Labrador and provide an enhanced ability for pharmacists to enhance the service that they provide but also allow them to continue with their practice and to provide a better service to their customers.

With that in mind, Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my comments and I look forward to members opposite contributing to the debate and discussion. I am certain, as I have done with other bills, if there are some questions that are raised I will only be too glad to answer them when I stand and close debate and or when we get into committee, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am going to have a few words on Bill 12. This is an important bill because it has been having a tremendous impact on people in the Province and people who are travelling outside of the Province as well.

Mr. Speaker, what Bill 12 actually speaks to is allowing for pharmacists to be able to fill prescriptions that are prescribed by physicians that would normally not have a licence to practice in Newfoundland and Labrador, but would have a licence to practice in the country. In fact, I ran into difficulty with people who were faced with this particular regulation. I cannot even count how many times I have run into situations that were built around this legislation.

For example, Mr. Speaker, I happen to represent a district that most people will know borders on the Province of Quebec. In fact, a lot of people in my district go to the hospital in Quebec to see specialists, to see doctors, to have different therapies done that are not offered in my own district in Newfoundland and Labrador. Because they go to Quebec and they have a relationship with the physicians and the specialists that are in that hospital, oftentimes they are written prescriptions but when they bring their prescription to have it filled in their hometown, in their own district, they are unable to get the prescription filled and get a rebate, in particular on their drugs. We ran into this problem any number of times over the years, any number of times, but more importantly in the last year.

When the prescription drug program changed and there was a higher level of subsidy being afforded to people who were using the system and accessing medication, of course people wanted the opportunity to be able to get that discount on their drugs. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, they wanted to be able to fill that prescription at their own pharmacy and save that 30 per cent or 40 per cent in co-pay amount that they would get on their medication, but because their doctor was in the hospital in Quebec that had prescribed this particular medication, then they were not able to get the prescription filled there because that particular doctor did not have a licence to practice in Newfoundland and Labrador. They were licensed to practice in Quebec. So, therefore, Mr. Speaker, they could not get the prescription filled, therefore they could not get the co-pay amount reduced on their medication. Therefore, they would have to take their prescription back to the Province of Quebec, have it filled, but then they would not get their discount. They would have to do a mail-in to the Province and through MCP and the prescription drug program in order to get that money back. That is something that my constituents have been dealing with, in particular for the last year-and-a-half when the program changed.

What this regulation will now allow them to do is to be able to continue to go to the hospital in Quebec to see their same regular doctors, to see the same specialists, because they do have a lot of specialists there that we do not have, at the Forteau Health Centre, and that otherwise people would have to fly to St. Anthony to access. Of course, that would be a long trip, as you know, and it would be an expensive trip. So, Mr. Speaker, a lot of people do not want to take that option. Why would they? If you were living a fifteen- or twenty-minute drive from a health care facility, or even an hour drive from a health care facility, where you could go and see specialists and you could see surgeons and you could have tests done and there were doctors there, why would you want to drive past that facility, get on an airplane, fly to St. Anthony and see a doctor over there for the same thing?

Obviously, people use the health centre in the Province of Quebec because it is more convenient for them. It is just more convenient for them to be able to do that. Not only that, but it is more affordable for them; because if you are driving past a health centre that you can get the services in, and you are going to an airport and you are getting on a plane and you are going to another location to access those services, you are not doing it in one day. You have to overnight, so there is a cost associated with that. You have ground transportation when you get there; there is a cost associated with that. It just saves time and money for most people to use the health centre in Quebec, but the problem always was, when you went to that health centre and you had some problem that was diagnosed and treatment was prescribed, you would want to take your prescription and go to your own local pharmacy where you could hand in your drug card under the Prescription Drug Program and you could get your 30 per cent, 40 per cent, 50 per cent off, whatever you were eligible for, and you would save yourself some money up front.

What was happening was, because the doctors in Quebec were not licensed to practice in Newfoundland and Labrador, because of that, these prescriptions were not being accepted at the pharmacy in our Province and these people were being turned away. They did have the option to go to Quebec and have that prescription filled, which a lot of them would have to do, but then they would not be able to get the discount that they were eligible for under the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program. This will certainly help people in that area of the Province, but it will also help a lot of other people, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, in this Province we have a highly mobile workforce that commutes from one province to the other province on a regular basis. For example, we know that at any given time there are thousands of people from this Province who are engaged in a commuter workforce. Last year, a year ago, when there was a boon in Alberta, especially in the construction and trades industry, we had probably more Newfoundlanders and Labradorians commuting to work than ever before in our history, but they were commuting to the Province of Alberta, or they were commuting to Ontario.

Mr. Speaker, what was happening again, these people may have had prescriptions for medications, they were working for extended periods of time in other provinces and they were not able to get those prescriptions filled. This was indeed a problem for those people.

We have a lot of people in this Province who are sent out of the Province for specialist appointments, and when they come back, if they have been seen by a doctor in Ontario when they were there getting specialized treatment - because we all know that there are a lot of people who do have to go outside for treatment. For example, there were several times last year when there were different procedures that could not be provided for in the Province and people had to be sent out of the Province to have those procedures done. When they were sent out of the Province to have the procedures done, more than likely they were being prescribed medications by those doctors, whether that was at Mount Sinai Hospital, whether it was at another health care facility in the Province. Then, Mr. Speaker, when they came back home they were unable to get those prescriptions filled in Newfoundland and Labrador. They were unable to get those prescriptions filled.

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

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

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

I do not normally interject like this, but there is someone actually singing on the government side, to the point where it is disruptive. I realize it is late at night and whatever, but surely we can take the singing outside and not be as disruptive.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is very disruptive, with all the conversations. You add the musical notes to it, and it can throw you off when you are trying to discuss the Pharmacy Act at 11:39 p.m. in the government's family-friendly House sittings that they promoted in the middle of a campaign. Let us not forget that was one of the commitments that they came in with, that they would have family-friendly sessions in the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Anyway, Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding that, it is only 11:39 in the night and we are here talking about the Pharmacy Act. I have to check the title at this hour to make sure I am still on the right bill.

As I was saying, this particular bill allows for prescriptions to be issued by doctors who are not licensed to practice in Newfoundland and Labrador but are allowed to practice elsewhere in Canada, and they are now able to be filled by pharmacists in this Province.

I think, Mr. Speaker, it is important for a number of reasons. One I have just outlined, because of the commuter workforce that we have in this Province, and because there are thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians every day who are commuting to work in other provinces in the country. If they get sick while they are working in Alberta or Ontario or British Columbia and they have to seek the services of a physician while they are there, then when they come back home they cannot get those prescriptions filled. That was an issue, and an issue I am sure that many of us have been confronted with over the past couple of years.

The other issue was people who were being sent outside of the Province for specialist appointments and were being prescribed medications while they were seeking the medical services in other hospitals in the country. When they came back, they could not get the prescriptions that they had filled by pharmacists in this Province. That was a problem for them because then they would have to go and see another doctor, explain the situation, those physicians would have to be calling physicians at other hospitals in other provinces and getting the prescriptions reissued here in Newfoundland and Labrador so that these people could get the medication that they wanted.

Also, Mr. Speaker, there were stories of people who were travelling to our Province. In fact, there was a lengthy article in The Southern Gazette in September 2008 by a lady by the name of Florence Hynes. She had come home to Marystown, in fact, for a vacation, and when she came home she needed medication. She was residing in Fort McMurray at the time and she came home. She decided, because of personal circumstances and family circumstances, that she would stay in the Province for a longer period of time. Therefore she needed to be able to renew her prescription, but when she went to have her prescription renewed in Marystown she was told that in Newfoundland and Labrador we are not able to do that for you; we cannot do that for you.

Of course, she did not know that, as most people visiting the Province would not know that, because Newfoundland and Labrador is the only Province in Canada, outside of Quebec, where it is illegal to fill prescriptions that were written by a doctor who was not licensed to practice in this Province, because all other provinces had already changed their legislation to reflect this particular need. So people who were coming home on summer vacation, coming home because there was an illness in the family, coming home because of other circumstances, and decided to stay longer, or they would run out of medication while they were here, then they would have to make other arrangements because they could not just take their prescription into a local pharmacy anywhere in the Province and have that prescription filled.

That was an issue for them, and therefore it was an issue for people who were using the system. In fact, pharmacists have been expressing this as a concern for a while. In fact, Mr. Rowe, who was the President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board, Don Rowe, he indicated at one point that he was getting calls from pharmacists on a regular basis with this concern. He had written a letter to the Registrar of the College of Physicians and also to Dr. Ritter at the time, who was the Executive Director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association. Everybody must remember him. He was the one that the Premier did not think too kindly of, in issues dealing with physicians in the Province. Anyway, Mr. Rowe, who is with the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board, he did take it upon himself to write these individuals regarding the issue and indicate that there was a need to have it addressed, and that the act should be changed to reflect this concern that was being expressed by pharmacists throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Rowe and his group, through the Pharmacy Board, did lobby government to have the legislation changed, because it made sense to have it changed. It made perfectly good sense to have it changed, so therefore they made that representation. In fact, Mr. Speaker, every province in Canada now has changed its legislation. It was only in the last year or two that Ontario and Nova Scotia went ahead and made changes as well.

Mr. Speaker, there are other issues around pharmacists as well that need to be addressed by the government opposite. These are issues that I have raised in the House of Assembly, in fact, and I have a copy of Hansard here. I will probably go through it in a few minutes. Mr. Speaker, many of the pharmacists who are prescribing medications in other provinces are allowed to do so under what is called medication management. Now, in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Pharmacy Act does not speak to this. In fact, I questioned the minister in the House of Assembly on this only about a week or so ago, and about the legislative changes that pharmacists were asking for, so that they could manage medications without actually writing prescriptions or anything like that. I think the term they use medically is called continuous care, in which pharmacists, as I said, would not be permitted to write a prescription but they would have the ability to have some flexibility to do a couple of things. For example, if you are dealing with the same pharmacist - I know I deal with the same pharmacist on a regular basis. I know my pharmacist. I can go in and I can talk to him about the medications that I have. They know what I am taking. When I do go in, they will tell you if there is a new medication, if there are any side effects, if there are any problems in conflicting medications that you might already be taking, and you have a relationship with them that is one of trust and that you feel confident in the advice that they are going to give you, and you are very comfortable with it.

Mr. Speaker, we all have seen situations. We have all run into situations. In fact, I had a client last week in my office, an individual from St. John's, whose medication had run out. In fact, Mr. Speaker, they were taking a medication for bipolar disorder and their medication had run out. They had no money to be able to get their medication. We all know that pharmacists stock extra meds and sometimes will be gracious enough to extend those meds to a patient they are familiar with, a client they have been serving, but they do not always have the ability to do that. In fact, they do not have the ability at all, I suppose.

Mr. Speaker, what about there was a situation? Say, for example, it is Christmas Eve and your mother or your parent is on some kind of a medication, and they have been prescribed this medication and their prescription runs out on Christmas Eve. You need to get enough medication to tie them over for those three days until the Christmas break is over and they can get an appointment to go see a doctor. Maybe they will just need three pills or four pills to tie them over until they can get in to get another prescription issued from their doctor.

All pharmacists want is the ability, in cases like that, to give them that extra day or two days of medication until they can get in to get a new prescription filled. That is all they are asking for, but really, they do not have the authority to do it. Under the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Act they do not have the authority today to be able to do that. How many times in a year do you think a pharmacist is confronted with a question like that? They are constantly confronted with questions like that. That is the reality of the field of work they are in. The reality of human nature is that there are times when we will all forget things. There are times when we will all forget to get that prescription filled right before Easter break, or right before Christmas, or right before the long weekend we have coming up this weekend, or we are about to go out of town on an important trip and we cannot get in to get an appointment to get our prescription renewed. The first thing you do is go to your pharmacist. You go to your pharmacist to see if you can get that extra medication to tie you over for another day or two days or three days.

Mr. Speaker, it is not that they do not want to give that prescription, but they also know they are going to be subject to an audit at the end of the year. They do not want to be doing things that they are not legally allowed to do. So as much as they want to do it, they have to be very careful. They have to be very careful when they do so.

Mr. Speaker, they are confronted with this every single day. They are confronted every single day with a patient who walks in to get medication and finds out their prescription has expired, but yet, it is a Friday afternoon. They cannot get a doctor's appointment until Monday morning and they need that medication. Believe me, the pharmacists want to give it to them but under the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Act it does not allow for this type of medication management by a pharmacist, and this is what they have been indicating to government.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, when I raised it in the House of Assembly about a week or so ago, do you know what the minister said? He said: In fact, the Legislature will be making some further amendments to the legislation that will permit pharmacists to fill prescriptions written by physicians from out of the Province. Now how does that help a pharmacist who wants to have medication management under the act? I have no idea, but that was what the minister had to say. He went on to say a lot of other things that did not make a whole lot of sense either in that response, but he did respond.

Mr. Speaker, this is something that the pharmacists have been asking for. If the minister was going to bring in an amendment to the act tonight, why didn't he bring in that amendment as well? The only implication to doing that is allowing the pharmacists in this Province to have the same kind of medication management that they have with other pharmacists across the country. So there was really no reason why it could not be done.

I will give you another example. If your doctor writes a prescription for a child, say my child was sick and I brought them in to a doctor and the doctor said: I am going to prescribe this to your child, this is the medication that they need. Well, when I get to the pharmacy to get that prescription filled, that prescription is in a capsule form or is in a tablet form. Because my child is young, the capsule might be big or the tablet might be big, and I ask the pharmacy: Does this medication come in a liquid form? He says: Yes, of course it comes in a liquid form but I cannot give it to you because your doctor has asked that I prescribe you this medication that is in a tablet form. Although it is the same medication, it is prescribed in the same dosage and in the same regulatory process that they have to take it, whether it is one, two or three times a day, or four times a week, but that pharmacist cannot say to that parent who wants a liquid form of medication for her child that I can switch it. Now, they can do it, but at the end of the year when they get audited they are going to realize the prescription that was given to that patient by the doctor is not the same as the prescription that they filled as a pharmacy.

So, Mr. Speaker, every other place in the country this is allowed. Other places in the country this is allowed. I do not understand that when the minister was looking at changes to the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Act, why he did not institute those changes as well. Because I can guarantee you, Mr. Speaker, that a year from now, hopefully not at midnight, but a year from now we will be back here in the House of Assembly amending the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Act again, only the next time to incorporate the practice of medication management for pharmacists in the Province, which could have been done tonight and this issue would have been resolved.

Mr. Speaker, these are the kinds of things that have been going on in the pharmacy industry forever. However technical it is to change a prescription like this, the Pharmacy Act does not allow them to do it in the Province. Although there is an expectation and although there are some pharmacists who do do it, but others do not, they stick to the letter of the law. They will not make a change whatsoever because they fear the potential of legal issues and that is the reality of it.

Mr. Speaker, recently the pharmacy acts in both the Province of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island was just amended making it legal for pharmacists to do medication management, such as the things and the examples that I just indicated. Even though pharmacists do not have the ability to write prescriptions, full prescriptions, they should not have the ability to do it, that is not their job, but they should have the ability to manage the medication that is being prescribed. There has been a recognition of this right across the country, that pharmacists should have the opportunity and the ability to be able to do this.

So I have no idea why, after aggressive lobby by pharmacists in the Province they have written - in fact, Mr. Rowe, who is the head of the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Association have raised these issues with government and with the minister. Pharmacists have raised these issues. They have made no bones about it, that while I am not allowed to do it, I have done it. Pharmacists have done it in the Province. They have done it because they know their client. They know the situation that this patient is in at any particular time and they just go ahead and allow for them to be able to access those medications, but legally they are allowed to do it because the act does not permit it.

Mr. Rowe, with the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board, who speaks on behalf of all the pharmacists in the Province, says that the legislation needs to be changed. They need to be changed in order to define what the competencies of these pharmacists are and as to what they can do and to ensure that they are protected from a legislative perspective, because they feel today that they are not protected.

You have to realize as well that pharmacists do more than just dispense drugs. They have a value-added service in our system and a value-added service that is provided into the health care system in general. It goes far beyond the dispensing of drugs, Mr. Speaker. In fact, pharmacists do a lot of patient counselling, and I have witnessed it. I am sure you have as well when you go to a pharmacy to get a prescription filled and you see a patient at the counter and they are talking to the pharmacist and the pharmacist is explaining to them different aspects of the medication that they are about to take, what the side effects are when you take this medication combined with another type of medication that might be prescribed for that patient. I seen them comforting patients at the counter in talking about how they control the illness that they have, what they can do to try and alleviate pain, things they can do to make it easier on themselves. I have heard them stand there and talk to patients to make sure they understand how they are supposed to take this medication, how often they are supposed to take it to ensure that they do so in a safe manner.

Pharmacists also, Mr. Speaker, are involved in disease management, complex disease management; again, a part of their counselling but also a part of the other work that they have done. They also implement care plans for patients. We have all seen this, I have seen this. I have seen pharmacists take all kinds of time to sit down and review, especially with elderly people, a plan in which they should be taking all of their medications, how they should be taking them, and the things they need to do to take better care when they are being prescribed certain drugs and medications.

They review patients' medical files, and I have been witness to that myself. They have done that to me, when I went down there to get a new prescription filled. They will look at my file and they will say: Well, you were taking this particular medication but you have not renewed that prescription in a year or six months or a year-and-a-half. They will pick that up on your file immediately because that is part of what their job is, to ensure they review your file every time that you go in to ensure that they know what is going on with you and the medications that you are taking. Mr. Speaker, I know that to be a fact, not only in my case. It not only happened once but it happened on many occasions. Pharmacists do more than just pass you out the medication after you pass them in a paper over the counter. In fact, their job goes further beyond that.

I want to talk a little bit more about the fact that they were asking for changes under the medication management program that did not materialize. One of the consequences of not having that in the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Act is because all of these pharmacists are subject to an audit, and I talked about the audit a few minutes ago. How the audit works in a pharmacy is that an auditor will walk into a pharmacy and they will pick up probably about 400 different prescriptions as a sample of what pharmacists do, and believe me, pharmacists do a lot of prescriptions in the run of a year. We are not talking about a few hundred, but more like a few thousand. So an auditor will go into a pharmacy and they will take a sample to audit, and usually it is about 400 prescriptions that they will take. They will review every one of these prescriptions and they will discuss this with the pharmacist, and if there is any outstanding issues as to why a pharmacist may or may not have done something with any of those prescriptions - for example –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

I remind all members, even though it is late in the evening, that the House of Assembly is still in session and we are dealing with Orders of the Day. The member identified and recognized by the Chair has control of the floor, and I ask all members for their co-operation.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is not by choice that we are here. It was government's decision to be here so maybe they should settle down and listen to the bills they have on the floor.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. member to continue with her delivery.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was talking about the auditing process that pharmacists have to go through. One of the consequences of this auditing process is the fact that they do not have in legislation in this Province the ability to be able to manage medication. In fact, I asked the minister about this again a few weeks ago in the House of Assembly. In fact, he was very – not forthcoming, I should say, with a response as to when we could see a change in the act to incorporate this.

The reasons, Mr. Speaker, that pharmacists do not want to, whenever they are requested to be able to give out those extra medications for a couple of days or to change a medication from a tablet form to a liquid form, is because of the auditing process that they are subjected to. At the end of the year when an auditor walks into a pharmacy, they will take about 400 prescriptions. They will review every single one of these prescriptions and they will look at whether they were in complete compliance to what those prescriptions ordered. So if they pick up one of these prescriptions and they notice that doctor so and so prescribed to this person a medication that was in a capsule form but the actual sale of the medication that was presented by the pharmacist was in a liquid form, then they are considered to have done something wrong. They are considered to have done something wrong.

If there is a case where there is a prescription that they have found an error with, then there are three things that could happen, depending on what the audit shows at the end of the day. This is why pharmacists are so careful of what happens, because if there is an error in one of those prescriptions that are picked up, there are three things that can happen. They can report that pharmacist to a regulatory body, and we all know what that regulatory body is because we voted on it and set it up as an act of the Legislature back about a year or so ago. So, they can report it to that regulatory body.

Government also has the opportunity to ask the pharmacy to pay back the cost of whatever that prescription was and the dispensing fee. So if a pharmacist decided to do this for a patient or they were frequently coming to their pharmacy and they had gotten to know over the years, as a result of that audit and picking that up they could be asked to pay back the cost of what that medication was, plus the dispensing fee. The most serious thing that can happen to a pharmacist is they can be billed by the government for a clawback on the number of prescriptions they filled in a year, and that clawback is 5 per cent.

For example, if a pharmacist filled 1,000 prescriptions that year and they billed the government about $1 million for those prescriptions, then the government could clawback up to 5 per cent of the total cost that they were billed, which is a significant amount of money. One of the reasons why many pharmacists will not give you those two or three pills over the counter to tie you over until you go and get a new prescription from a doctor is because there is a penalty attached.

Now when I asked the minister about this in the House of Assembly, I asked him if he would put a process in place to ensure that they would not be subjected to this kind of auditing. This is what he said, Mr. Speaker. He wanted to correct me in my preamble, he said: Because there are no fines, and I want to point out that the audit process does not impose a fine. The audit process is around where - because pharmacists get paid automatically for the prescriptions that they fill. The auditing process is a review of what has taken place after the fact. Mr. Speaker, what he did not say, and he knew that I was right. It may not be constituted as a fine but it is constituted as a penalty. So while it may not be a fine that is issued, it is a penalty that could be imposed by the government.

In this auditing process against pharmacists, if there are errors found then the government has the ability to be able to clawback 5 per cent of all the billings that that pharmacy makes to the government in that year. If that billing to the government happens to be $1 million a year, then the government can clawback 5 per cent of that. The minister says: I want to correct the member in what she is saying in her preamble because there are no fines. Well, that is pretty loose with words. If it is a penalty, a fine, call it whatever you like, the ability is there for government to clawback this money.

Mr. Speaker, when I asked the minister about it in the House about a week or so ago, that was his response. Here it is written right in the auditing process as part of the legislative ability to be able to do, is to clawback this money from pharmacists. So words are very important, there is no doubt about that, very important in terms of how you portray something.

Mr. Speaker, a couple of other things with regard to the pharmacy piece and the prescription drugs because, as you know, pharmacists deal with all of the prescription drugs that are prescribed within the Province. One of the things that we have learned is that Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the provinces in the country that takes the longest time to consider cost additive drugs to be added to the formula. Yet, Mr. Speaker, they are one of the first provinces in the country to be able to add cost savings drugs to the formula. Now, isn't that ironic?

What happens, Mr. Speaker, is that under the Canadian Common Drug Review program they make recommendations on new drug therapies that can be prescribed. For example, there might be even new information on existing drugs that now makes it more available to people, more predominant in using in different treatments and so on. Under the Canadian Common Drug Review they will make those recommendations but what happens in Newfoundland and Labrador, if one of those drugs that are being recommended cost more, there is no rush by the government to add it to the formula. In fact, they will only add cost additive drugs to the formula once a year, and that is in a new fiscal year which usually starts on April 1.

That is why every year when the Budget comes down you will hear the government saying we are going to add this new drug, or that new drug, but that new drug may have been available to other people in the country for the last eight months but never got added in Newfoundland and Labrador because there was an extra cost for that drug. Because the drug is cost additive, government takes up to a whole year in some cases before they add it to the formula, but if the Canadian Common Drug Review was recommending a drug that was less cost, cheaper for the Province, do you know what the timeline for the turnaround of adding that drug is in Newfoundland and Labrador? Sixty days. In sixty days they can put a cheaper drug on the formula in the Province and have it available to people in sixty days, but if it costs a little bit more than the one that was already there, it takes them a whole year to add it to that formula.

Mr. Speaker, in fact, we think that that is deliberate. We do not think that is by coincidence. We think it is a deliberate effort by government to save money on some of these drugs. I do not think it is realistic, and I think that if people knew the information around it they would not be happy with it. In fact, if you look at the billings for drugs, whether it be through pharmacists or through clinics or hospitals over the last couple of years, you will notice that the amount of money that we spend in drugs have decreased in this Province.

In fact, in 2008-2009 we were spending $148 million, over $148 million in fact, in drug costs in the Province. That number was revised. In fact, it was revised at a lot lower number. I think it was something like $14.6 million lower this year than it was in 2008-2009 for prescription drugs in the Province. So there is no reason that government had to wait a full year to add medication that many people in the Province needed as lifesaving medications and medicines.

Mr. Speaker, we have a record now in this country. In fact, it was just written in the provincial reimbursement advisory, it was just written in the international marketing services - that was on February 9, actually - that Newfoundland and Labrador is the second slowest provincial jurisdiction in Canada for adding many of these drugs to the formula. Now, isn't that something? While our people out there needing lifesaving medication, needing these drugs for their illnesses and the diseases that they have, they have to wait sometimes up to twelve months longer to access these drugs than other people in Canada. They have to wait twelve months longer even though they are just as sick as the person in the next Province, they are just as sick as anyone else in the country who needs this medication, but in this Province they are waiting up to twelve months longer to get it. This is being done at a time when the government is saving nearly $15 million again this year in its provincial drug program. That is completely unnecessary, completely unnecessary.

Mr. Speaker, pharmacists know what new drugs and new medications are out there to be added to these formulas. Obviously, that is where we get our information. How would we know, Mr. Speaker, that there are new drugs out there today that should be available to patients in this Province that they will not get for a year? We only know that because we are being told by pharmacists and people who work in the pharmaceutical industry. They have actually told us what medications they are, that right now today are being provided to patients in other parts of the country but not in Newfoundland and Labrador and will not be provided here until probably April 1 next year. Yet, the minister and the government are going to save nearly $15 million this year over 2008-2009 drug costs in the Province. There is no reason why they could not be added and added to the formula immediately.

Again, Mr. Speaker, under special authorization we have seen a change this year as well. In fact, I can give you the list if you want the list. There are a number of lists. I do not have it in front of me but there is a list of medications that I was provided with through people in the pharmaceutical industry and I will give them to you. Apparently, I have been told they are under review in your department, by people in your department. They are under review.

MR. WISEMAN: (Inaudible).

MS JONES: Oh yes, I have all of that here too. You can speak to that when you close your remarks this evening.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, the minister is over there trying to take away from the bit of time that I have to speak on this important bill. He will get a full hour in a minute to speak on closing the bill.

Mr. Speaker, his question is the names of the drugs, and I already told him that I would get him the list of the drugs. I do not have it with me, but we do have it. We do have the list of the drugs but I just checked the back of my briefing note and it was not attached to the back of my note.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I only have ten minutes or so left so I want to get to the conclusion of the rest of my comments.

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak for a minute to special authorization of the drugs as well; again, another integral part of what happens in the pharmacy business, in the prescribing of medication. Maybe the minister could provide a response for this when he stands.

In 2006-2007 in the Province there were 26,521 special authorizations for medications that were approved. Also, in 2007-2008 there were 23,115 special authorizations that were approved in the Province. In fact, these are numbers that the minister probably has in his own briefing book, I would say to him, because I think they came out of your briefing book, Minister. Before you condemn you briefing book, they came out of your briefing book. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, what I found interesting about this was not in the number of special authorizations that had been approved, although the approval level was lower in 2007-2008, but I also know that there were some changes made in some of the drugs that were normally offered through special authorization.

What I found interesting was the number of special authorizations that were denied. In fact, in 2006-2007 there were 671 applications for special authorization of drugs under the program that were denied, but in 2007-2008 there were 8,932 requests for special authorizations that were denied. I found that was a huge number - huge. When you compare the fact that the year before it was only 671, why would you have almost 9,000 people who were denied application for special authorization drugs?

MR. WISEMAN: (Inaudible) drugs came on the market that same year.

MS JONES: Maybe there were new drugs that came on the market that year, but maybe the minister could give me an explanation for that when he stands.

Now we know, Mr. Speaker, that there were a number of new drugs, and a number of these new drugs became open under the benefit program. I think that was this year that happened, not last year, so these statistics would have been from 2007-2008 as opposed to 2008-2009. Mr. Speaker, a number of the new drugs, I understood, that became open, where no longer people needed to apply for special authorization, happened between 2008 and 2009. Maybe if that was the case - or maybe that did happen in 2007, but it is a large number of people who would have been rejected authorization for medication under that program.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, to conclude my remarks, I just wanted to reiterate that this particular bill was really dealing with pharmacists and allowing them the opportunity to be able to fill prescriptions in the Province that were issued by physicians who would not necessarily have a licence to practice in Newfoundland and Labrador. That was necessary, of course, for a number of reasons, which have been outlined. I know for me, in my own district, it will make a tremendous difference to my constituents, because we went through a process last year when the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program had changed and more people became eligible for drug coverage because the threshold limits were increased. Of course, because they were eligible they wanted to get their discount on their drugs, but because they were getting the services of the hospital in Quebec they were being prescribed medications by doctors in Quebec and they were not permitted to be able to get those prescriptions filled in the district. Therefore, they could not get the reduction under the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program, and it was a real hassle.

In fact, we spent a lot of time on that issue, between the Department of Health and between the health boards, between the pharmacies, even in dealing with the health authority in the Province of Quebec which, by the way, still has that restriction. In fact, they have not lifted the prescription, so if it worked the other way around the people of Quebec still could not get their prescriptions filled.

As it is now, a person who lives in my district will be allowed to go and see a physician, or seek services there, as opposed to having to go to St. Anthony, which would be a plane trip away, to see a specialist for the same thing, which would cost them more money to be able to make the trip. They can actually go and still seek the services in Quebec, have their prescriptions filled now in Newfoundland and Labrador, when this bill comes into effect, which I think is this summer, in August, and then they will be able to also avail of the co-pay subsidy that they get under the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program.

I am sure, as well, that it will be a help for the commuter workforce in the Province. Many people in this Province commute to other parts of Canada to work. In the past, if they got ill when they were in Alberta or Ontario or somewhere else and they were prescribed medication, they could not come back home and have that prescription refilled. They would have to again go see a physician and do all the work that is required to be able to transfer and have new prescriptions issued in order to get it filled in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Of course, the story that really, I think, alerted a lot of people to this issue was the story back in September 2008 when a young lady from the Burin Peninsula, from Marystown, came home from Alberta for a vacation and, in fact, decided to stay for a longer period of time than she had intended and her medication ran out, and she needed to get a prescription filled. Of course, in Alberta you can walk in and get a prescription filled. It does not matter whether the prescribing physician is licensed in that province or not, but in Newfoundland and Labrador she could not get that prescription filled and she had to go through all of the hoops, I guess, of having a doctor on the Burin Peninsula call a physician in Alberta, where she was from, in Fort McMurray, to be able to have a new prescription issued to her in order for her to get medication when she was visiting and on vacation here in the Province.


So, Mr. Speaker, it is a bill that will certainly alleviate a lot of these obstacles and a lot of those factors that have been prohibiting people from readily accessing medication. In fact, outside of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Province of Quebec - we were the only provinces in Canada that still had that restriction. In fact, I think it was Nova Scotia who passed amendments to the legislation probably about a year or so ago, leaving ourselves and Quebec as the only two provinces that did not allow for the prescribing of medications by physicians who did not have a licence to practice in the Province, but all of these physicians do have a licence to practice in Canada and now they will have the ability to be able to use those prescription to have them filled at pharmacies in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I still do not understand why the minister did not go a bit further in his amendments to the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Act to include amendments to the legislation for the management of medication, because I do think that this is a very important one for pharmacists as well. It gives them a little bit more flexibility, but more so than anything it defines in legislation what they can or cannot do in the prescribing of medication themselves.

I know that this is something that is doable. I know that it has been an acceptable standard of practice in most other areas across the country, and why the bill tonight that we are debating is not also bringing forward these amendments for pharmacists I do not know, but I would guess that we will be back here in the House of Assembly probably a year from now making more amendments to this bill that will allow for pharmacists in the Province to be able to manage medication, and be able to do so knowing what their legislative powers are; because, as it is right now, because they are subjected to a vigorous auditing process, many pharmacists are afraid to give out those couple of pills or medications to a patient to tie them over for a couple of days until they can get a new prescription written, or they are certainly afraid to make any changes to a prescription like the change I talked about earlier in just taking a prescription that is for a capsule or a tablet and being able to prescribe it in a liquid form, if that is what the patient was requesting.

The reason they are afraid to do that - a lot of them - is because of the auditing process that is in place. So, government should either consider being more lenient with regard to the auditing process and allowing some flexibility there, or they need to make amendments to the act to allow for the management of medication by pharmacists in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, there are other components of the bill that we would have liked to have seen amended tonight, that were not brought in or introduced by the government, but I know that government is well aware of them, and I know that the minister is well aware of them, because when I asked him questions about them in the House of Assembly he certainly knew exactly what I was talking about. I am not sure that anyone else on the other side, however, knew what I was talking about, or what he was responding to, but he certainly did have a clear indication of what I was referring to and was very familiar with the issue. So, Mr. Speaker, I thought that when he indicated there were amendments coming forward to the Pharmacy Act to reflect what we are debating tonight, I thought at that time, although he was not saying that they were going to amend it to also include the management of medication for pharmacists, I thought they might at that time because it was an opportune time for them to be able to do that.

The other side to this, too, is that there has been a lobby by pharmacists looking for this. In fact, the head of the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Association has written the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association. Those letters were actually sent to the Department of Health, and they were also a part of a lobby to have this done.

I am sure the department will get to it at some point. It is unfortunate that we are not getting to it tonight, because it would have been a good opportunity to make those amendments and it certainly would have been better for the pharmacists

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS JONES: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member, by leave.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly appreciate the co-operation of the government, but I will have the opportunity in Committee later this evening to speak to this bill some more and I will take an opportunity at that time to conclude my remarks.

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

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

I do want to make just a few comments with regard to this bill, An Act To Amend The Pharmacy Act.

I will not go through a lot of the details that both the minister and the Leader of the Official Opposition have gone through. I think the bill itself is very straightforward and self-explanatory, although we have had explanation from both sides now with regard to the bill, so I think we all have a clear understanding of what the bill itself is about. It is obviously absolutely necessary, especially with the migratory workforce that we have in the Province that we certainly ease the ability of people to have prescriptions filled.

I would like to point out, with regard to pharmacists being able to fill prescriptions, it is not just the issue that this bill is dealing with; and this bill is dealing, of course, with the whole issue of pharmacists being able to deal with prescribers who are outside of our Province, and having prescriptions that have been written outside the Province recognized. That is pretty straightforward, and the bill is straightforward. Obviously, I have no questions about the bill, and no objections, but the bill itself does make us think about the reasons why people in the Province are having difficulties with their own prescriptions. It has to do with the issue that has been raised already by the Leader of the Official Opposition around medication management, but I do want to speak to some of the issues around medication management that I did not hear her say in particular - although she might have - because they are real to our people.

While the issue of being able to have prescriptions from outside of the Province filled because of the migratory workforce in particular, and that is one of the factors - there is more to it than that, but that is a major factor - the issue inside of the Province is an issue that the pharmacists are quite concerned about. In our discussions with the Pharmacists' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador they have certainly raised it, and I would like to be a bit more specific about it because of the discussions that we have had with them.

It is the issue of prescriptions they get that are for more than one month, like three month prescriptions, which are quite common. Pharmacists are quite concerned about the patients whom they service who do not have the ability to pay for three months of prescriptions up front, and that has to do both for people who pay totally for their prescriptions, for all of their prescription and it also has to do for low-income people who are on the Access Plan or the Assurance Plan. The difficulty there is the co-pay; the co-pay, for example, for the Access Plan can be anywhere from 20 per cent to 70 per cent of the total prescription cost. When somebody has a prescription for three months having to pay, for example, if the co-pay were 70 per cent of the prescription cost, having to pay that becomes very prohibitive.

The pharmacists, if they try to deal with the situation of the patient that they are dealing with and if they make a decision to maybe only dispense one month at a time, then they could become penalized through the audits that they go through. This is not acceptable. I think I know - I think government does know that this is an issue for pharmacists. It is an issue that I think they are talking to government about and it is one that does have to be taken care of. The reason why I am bringing it up in relationship to the bill, we talked about the migratory workers, and that has to do with bringing in prescriptions from outside but inside, because of the nature of our health system – and it will always be this way because of the size of our population - many patients have to go to centres for their care.

For example, many people from different parts of the Province have to come into St. John's or they may have to go to Corner Brook, or up in Labrador they go from the coast to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, for example. The issue is that they may be getting a prescription from somebody in St. John's and going back home, to the Burin Peninsula or to the Bonavista Peninsula. Sometimes they are getting a prescription for three months because it is going to be three months before they see that doctor again, because they are coming back. So the issue of the multiple month prescription is a very serious one, both from the perspective of the patient as well as from the perspective of the pharmacist who really does want to help people; that the pharmacist in the community do know the people and they do know what they are going through.

So, it really is an issue and it is something that I would really hope government will get hammered out with pharmacists, but then it connects, of course, with the whole thing of our drug prescription program. I know it has been expanded over the years, I know that, but it is still inadequate. The co-pay is still too high. The cap runs, here in Newfoundland and Labrador, between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of a person's income. Whereas, national studies that have been done say that it really should not be any more than 2 per cent of an income, and some provinces require even less than that. So there is still a way to go with our Prescription Drug Program.

I really would like to see the provinces and Ottawa continue talking with regard to a pharmacare program. I know provinces cannot do this on their own, it does have to be part of a federal-provincial program. I encourage this government to continue that discussion on the federal level with the federal minister and the provincial and territorial ministers, because we are going to continue to have this need escalate as our population gets older. We continue, as well, to have many drugs and treatments that are not covered.

Part of the issue is the whole issue of supplies that go with some of the diseases. Diabetic strips, for example, which are so important for monitoring diabetes, these are not covered by our health care program or a pharmacare program. The diabetic pump supplies for adults are not covered, and they can cost from $6,000 to $6,500 a year. So we have a long way to go in meeting the needs of our people, and pharmacists are in a very interesting position because they are the ones who see people in their real life at their counters. They know people's incomes; they know everything about them in small communities in particular.

Even in larger communities, I know in my own life, I deal with one pharmacy all the time. I have been dealing with that pharmacy for years. My mother dealt with them. They knew our family. They know who you are, and that is the way it should be. They really are an essential part of the health care system. They are part of that whole continuum of people who deal with us in our health care and they should be as much a part of the discussions with government as any other group in that health care system.

I do encourage government, very seriously, to work more closely with – I do not know how closely they work with, so I am not making a judgement on that, but to listen more closely to what the pharmacists are saying about medication management. I do not care if we do have to come back next year to deal with it. I would like to see us come back. If it is not here this time, I think it is an issue that does have to be dealt with and I encourage the Minister of Health to seriously look at this. If he has something to tell us tonight about discussions that he is having and how often they have discussions with the Pharmacists' Association, I will be very happy to hear it.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I actually did not intend, and do not intend to have much to say on the pharmacy piece. My colleague, the Leader of the Opposition is out right now. I just sort of wanted to prolong the situation, I guess, until it allows her an opportunity to take her seat. That is my purpose. Now, if the minister wants to move on to something else and allow her a chance to get back in, that is fine too. I do not intend just to delay the process for no reason whatsoever.

She will not be speaking on this bill anymore, of course, but it is on the next piece of legislation. My colleague for Port de Grave is arranging that.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we concur.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services speaks now he will close the debate on Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Pharmacy Act.

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the members opposite for their comments. I gathered from the thrust of their comments there are a number of things that they would like the bill to include and be expanded beyond what we are proposing here. However, the thrust of the bill itself and what we have included in the bill and the amendments to the act, I gathered from the comments opposite that there is support for what we are doing here. Obviously, there are some commentaries about what we might do in the future and some enhancements that we might make; a lot of comments around the Prescription Drug Program itself, how it is administered and some of the ways in which we provide services to the clients who are covered.

Beyond that, Mr. Speaker, I thank them for their support for the bill. As we get into committee, if there are some very specific questions that they want to pose I will answer them for them at that time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Pharmacy Act be now read a second time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Pharmacy Act. (Bill 12)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 12 has now been read a second time.

When shall Bill 12 be referred to a Committee of the Whole House?

MS BURKE: Today.

MR. SPEAKER: Today.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Pharmacy Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 12)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, earlier today in our session we had been debating some other bills and one was stopped because the fire alarm went. I cannot remember if it was bill –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS BURKE: It was Bill 9, so we will continue. There was some time left on the clock, the Leader of the Opposition had been speaking on that and we will return to that bill at this time, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The continuation of second reading of Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act.

I recognize the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Unfortunately, I was just starting to get into the real debate of the bill actually, when the fire alarm did go off. I think at the time I indicated that the Minister of Finance would have gone out and pulled the alarm. I want to apologize for that, Mr. Speaker, because when I went out after, the first one I ran into in the hall was the Minister of Health. So, I am not sure, it might have been either one of them. Seriously, Mr. Speaker, there was nothing alarming to be worried about in the building and I do not think any member pulled the alarm.

Mr. Speaker, we were speaking on this particular bill, and Bill 9 is the Act to Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act. At the time I was talking about the importance of education in the Province and the importance of education to students in general. I guess we all know that it is an educated society that really prospers the greatest at the end of the day. That is why successive governments over the years have always tried to provide for the highest levels of academic learning and encourage the highest levels of academic learning that we could possible do in the Province.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, even going back to the early days when Newfoundland and Labrador first became a Province and became a part of Confederation with Canada, one of the first acts of this House of Assembly was to establish Memorial University. In fact, it was the first act of the House of Assembly, was to establish the Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, but we did not stop there in terms of establishing institutes of higher learning in the Province. In fact, Mr. Speaker, at the time, when that act was proclaimed in the Legislature, it was under the leadership of Premier Joey Smallwood. Others may have very varying views about Joey Smallwood, but he saw the benefit in having an educated people in this Province, and I am glad he did because many governments after have benefited from having a population of people that have been very educated, very determined and very able to launch new industries in a time of change.

Mr. Speaker, not only did he establish the act of the Legislature to set up the university, but he also established all of the community colleges right across the Province. In fact, in places where some do not exist any more today because they probably have been closed out, but back in those days he saw the benefit of bringing post-secondary education to all the different regions of the Province and set up the community college system or the trade school system, I think it was called back then, in which campuses were built all over the place. Some are still existing today and operating under different and new names, in places like Seal Cove, Grand Falls, Lewisporte, Stephenville, St. Anthony, and Goose Bay. In all of these places where there was a college of trades that was set up to ensure that people did not just have to move out of all the bays and inlets and coves and harbours around this Province and leave the precious life that they were so proud of and the precious places that they were so proud of, but they could educate their children and educate themselves exactly where they lived in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, right from the beginning as a Province, right from the beginning as legislatures in this Province, it was seen that education was one of the most important components that would form the foundation of success in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, it did not start there. In fact, Joey Smallwood, who at the time was the Premier when these institutions were set up, was also a common, ordinary folk in Newfoundland and Labrador, a man who walked the railway tracks, a man who organized unionized workers, labourers across the Province. He also understood from those journeys that there were many people in this Province who could not afford to send their children to university, he understood that. He understood, Mr. Speaker, at that time in Newfoundland and Labrador it was not unusual to see a family that would have sixteen or eighteen children in it, not unusual at all. There may even be colleagues here in the House of Assembly who came from large families. I know I have had colleagues before; I remember Roger Grimes once telling the story of seventeen of them in the family. Mr. Speaker, there were a lot of large families in Newfoundland and Labrador and it was not unusual.

In fact, in those days there was normally one income in a household - one income - and in a lot of cases that one income came from working as a logger or as a fisherperson or as a labourer. Most of them were construction workers who worked on the railways, worked on the highways, and they were one-income families, so it was often difficult to look at sending your child to university, and that was the reason that they brought in a system in the Province of free education, a free education for a period of time. It was under that free education that a lot of the bureaucracy that I have known in the years that I have been in this building had the opportunity to get an education, to get a university degree. In fact, if you go around departments of governments today, it is that generation of people that are looking at retiring now from the public service or have already retired, but it was that generation that got educated under the free university education system.

Mr. Speaker, that is something to be proud of, as a Province. It is something to be proud of, as a Province. I wish that today in Newfoundland and Labrador we were in a position to offer free education to our students. I wish that fiscally we were able to go out - I do not care what government it was - I wish that today we were in a financial position in Newfoundland and Labrador to once again say to the youth and the children of this Province that we want you to be educated and we will pay for that education, but I also know realistically that we cannot always do the things we want to do. I know that we have fiscal responsibilities that we have to live within. So, sometimes, even though the desire is there and the want is there and even the need may be out there, you are not always in a position where you can meet all of those demands.

Mr. Speaker, is there more that we can do? I think there is a realization by all of us that there is more that we can do, and I will get into talking about that in a few minutes, but I think it is something to be proud of, as a Province, that there was a time in our history when we sought out and placed education as one of the top priorities and main pillars for the foundation of building this Province, and I am very proud of it.

I never had that opportunity, but I am very proud for those who did. All of those I have met who have told me the story of how they accessed free education in this Province, they have all been good, enlightening stories. They have all been stories of people who probably would have never had the opportunity, and that is what I find good about it. I have watched some of those individuals who had the opportunity for that free education, who rose to the top of their professions, and they rose to be very successful in the fields that they were in. It would have been unfortunate if they would have never, ever, had that opportunity. That is why it is important to foster the potential that we have in our young population. It is important to do that. While today we may not be in a position to give them free education, we are in a position to do many other things.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, in 1999 we saw the first tuition freeze being implemented at Memorial University. I remember it well, actually, here in the Legislature, when the decision was made and the announcement was made to look at a tuition freeze in the Province. Again, it was at a time when many people felt that we were not in a fiscal position to be able to offer a tuition freeze at a university. It was at a time when many people thought that we were running deficits in the Province and therefore we should not be looking at extravagant expenditures like that, that we should not be looking at freezing tuitions.

I remember that there were critics at that time because they felt that government was not in a fiscal position in 1999 to be bringing in that kind of an action to freeze the tuition of students in the Province, and to offer Debt Reduction Grants, and to offer enhanced interest relief at that time for students and student loans, because that is what was offered at that time. Those programs served a lot of people in this Province. They served a lot of students in this Province. In fact, Mr. Speaker, at the time that this tuition freeze was first announced, Dr. Art May was the president of the university. I remember his quote and I will read it to you. He said, "No tuition increase is the best birthday present that government could ever give to Memorial University students on our 50th anniversary as a degree-granting institution."

That was what the president of the university said at that time. Mr. Speaker, that was the beginning of a trend to freeze tuition rates for students in this Province, and I am proud to say that to this day tuition rates have been frozen in this Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: Because of us.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, they had been frozen long before the government member over there indicates that they froze them. They were frozen in 1999, they were frozen in 2002, and they are continuing to be frozen in this Province, and so they should. So, Mr. Speaker, it was one of the first bolder moves, I guess, made in the interest of students in the Province for a long time.

The other move was in 2002, when Newfoundland and Labrador students were allowed to convert their student loan into a non-repayable grant. That was a good program, and is a good program. In fact, I can read at least two or three press releases from the government ministers opposite when they came into office. The first one was by the current Minister of Fisheries, when he was the Minister of Education, announcing that they would continue with the non-repayable grant, the new Debt Reduction Grant.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS JONES: That was in 2002, and I have the press release right here, Minister. I have yours there, too, that came in after.

Mr. Speaker, in 2002 it allowed Newfoundland and Labrador students to take their loans and convert them into non-repayable grants. Mr. Speaker, how it works is this: Debt Reduction Grants were earned on a semester-by-semester basis and students were notified. They did not have to apply, and there were provisions made to accommodate the students. They had to do so many courses in so many semesters. Each year it was reviewed. Obviously, they had to pass those courses in order to be considered for a Debt Reduction Grant. That was another program that came in.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, over the years since 2002 there have been millions of dollars spent, millions of dollars spent, to convert loans in this Province to students into grants - millions. In fact, when the government opposite came in they continued with the program. I have a press release here that was issued by the then Minister of Education, who today is the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, when he first came out and announced that they would continue with the program, and that they would, this year, offer relief to so many students in this Province that totalled x number of millions of dollars.

Mr. Speaker, there have been a number of things and initiatives that have been done, but certainly was it enough? That is always the question. Was it enough or is it enough? I do not think it is ever enough. I do not think it is ever enough, when you look at the value that you are getting for the money that you are investing, because every time that you are investing in education, and investing in these students and investing in these young people, you are getting a return. You are getting a huge return as a Province.

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of other things I want to mention. Even though there were initiatives with regard to interest relief, even though there was an initiative with regard to debt reduction, or taking loans and converting them into grants to reduce the amount of debt that students would incur, although those programs did exist, although there were freezes put on tuition, the reality is that student debt continued to climb. Although there was some relief, student debt continued to climb.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, in January of this year student loan debt in this country surpassed $13 billion. Can you imagine? The youngest, brightest minds that will lead and shape this country, in January of this year had loans that surpassed $13 billion in Canada. Just put your head around that. The total Canada Student Loan debt was increasing faster than $1.2 million every day, faster than $1.2 million every single day in this country.

When I read that, I had to stop and read it again, back in January, because I said this cannot be right. It cannot be right that the youngest, most brilliant minds in our country, those who will lead the industry, the jobs, the business, who will lead governments in this country, are the very people today who are saddled with over $13 billion in debt that they have to pay out. Is there more that we can do? Absolutely, there is more that can be done, and there is more that the federal government can do as well.

Student loans are not a one-way street. Student loans are just not loans from the provincial government. When a student goes out and borrows money, they are borrowing under the federal loans program and under the provincial loans program. So it is not just one loan; it is not just one level of government. Now, those loans are consolidated in terms of they are contract agreements with the banks, but they pay interest on two parts of this loan. They pay interest on the federal portion of the loan and on the provincial portion of the loan.

There is more that the federal government can do as well. In fact, when the federal government is talking about stimulating the economy of the country, what better way to stimulate the economy of the country than to give the young, educated people of this country a break? What better way to stimulate the economy? They are the people who are going to shape the industries of tomorrow. They are the people who are technologically inclined to pick up where the next generation is going to be. They are the people who are going to pave the way for new industry, industry that most of us have never even heard of yet, and that is the reality. We are dealing in industry today that our parents never heard of. We are dealing in industries today that ten years ago none of us ever heard of. That is the kind of progression that we are making in society. So what better gift can you give to the young minds of this country than an opportunity to be relieved from debt so that they can be investors, so that they can be people who are creating the new opportunities? So there is more that the federal government can do as well, but they have not done it.

They did give some break to students that come from low-income families. In fact, Mr. Speaker, if a family of four - this was back I think about two years ago. At that time if you were from a family of four and your income was less than $35,000 a year combined in the country, well then you would be eligible for some increased benefits or grants by the federal government. That was the extent of the program, and my guess is that captured a very small audience in the country. I would say that captured a very small number of students in terms of students who were able to access more money or increased money over a period of time.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to share with you now a couple of stories and comments from other students because this is the reality of what students are dealing with. As I said, in January of this year when the statistics were released that every single day in this country students were climbing by $1.2 million more in student debt. That was the reality in January of this year in this country on a daily basis. Students in this country were taking on another $1.2 million in debt.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I was reading an article back at that same time in January that was in The Telegram. It was an article by a young fellow by the name of Ryan Lane, and this is what he had to say. He said: student loans; just saying the words makes me cringe. Occasionally, he said, I have nightmares about handing over my first pension cheque to make the final payment on my student loan. Now can you imagine that? Can you imagine, a young person today who is just finishing their education, who has a job - in fact, this young fellow lives in Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove and has just gotten a job. He said: every time I say the word student loan it makes me cringe because when I close my eyes all I can see is me passing over my pension cheque, meaning his old age pension cheque, to make the final payment on his student loan.

Now there is an analogy for you, Mr. Speaker. There is a big statement on how students are feeling when they come out of school and they have this kind of debt. You have to think about it. You have to think about it, right? You have to think about it. This is an individual, Mr. Speaker, who for his education and his wife's education, they had to borrow $90,000. They borrowed $90,000 so that he and his wife could have an education in Newfoundland and Labrador. They were paying on that student loan for eight years, and after eight years of repaying the loan they were still only down to $70,000. Imagine! This young man probably wants to start a family. Maybe they have started a family, I do not know, but they go to school, they get an education. It cost them $90,000 to become educated. They get out of school, they get jobs, they spent eight years repaying their student loans and they still owe $70,000 on those student loans. As of a couple of months ago, they still owed $70,000. That is just an idea; that is just a small idea.

There are hundreds of stories like this, Mr. Speaker, right across the Province where there are students every day borrowing, borrowing, borrowing in order to get an education. Do you know something that this young man had to say as well? He also had to say that if I did not borrow and I did not get that education I would not have the job I have today. That is really important, because although he had to borrow, although he knows they are saddled with debt – hopefully, he will not have to use his last pension cheque to pay his student loan like he is having nightmares about - but the reality is, Mr. Speaker, they recognize the importance of an education and they recognize that if they did not do what they did, they would not have the jobs that they have today.

Let me share another story with you, Mr. Speaker. This one was published January 15, 2009. It was by a lady by the name of Linda Brown, who lives here in St. John's. This is what she writes. She says, I am a young Newfoundlander. I have been up to my eyeballs in debt from student loans ever since I finished university and I cannot seem to find a job that pays a decent wage, let alone one where I can actually use the skills I spent honing at school.

I say to the Member for Mount Pearl – is it?

AN HON. MEMBER: Mount Pearl South.

MS JONES: The Member for Mount Pearl South, if you read the newspaper you would know exactly what I was talking about. She finished university, last year I think it was.

Anyway, he can go and get the article and he can read it, but she just graduated from university in the last little while. The article was in the paper a couple of months ago. She lives here in St. John's, not in Mount Pearl. So if she did live in Mount Pearl, I would say to her, her member knows nothing about what she is going through because he did not even read the article. I am sure her member, who lives in St. John's, would have read the article, especially the Member for St. John's Centre because I am sure he reads all the articles. He knows what is going on, but the Member for Mount Pearl South does not have a click what is going on, not a click.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, this is what she writes: I am a young Newfoundlander and I have been up to my eyeballs in debt from student loans ever since I finished university. I cannot seem to find a job that pays a decent wage – we have all heard this story - let alone one where I can actually use the skills I spent years honing at school. Sound familiar? I count myself quite unlucky to be in the same boat as so many other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians my age, and because of the circumstances I have just outlined, I am seriously considering leaving this Province some time this year if my situation does not improve.

How many times have we heard it, Mr. Speaker? How many times from so many students? Let me read you this part because it is a long article, but let me read you this part. She says: Finally, why not make it a little easier for young people to get their foot in the door of the professional world? Many employers want their perspective employees to have several years of experience before they will even consider them for a job.

Mr. Speaker, that is true. We all know that is true. I have heard it over and over again from young people that I have come in contact with who went to school, who have studied hard, who have been good students, who have gotten good grades, who have finished with student debt and student loans and cannot get a job in the field that they have studied because they do not have experience. How many times have we heard it? How many times have we heard from young people who say: I cannot get a job because I have no experience, every time I apply it is someone else who gets it who is more experienced than I am.

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate, but can you imagine the level of frustration that these young people are going through? Can you imagine after you have just spent five years of your life in university where you have just come out with all of this debt in student loans and all of a sudden you want to get out there, you want to make some money for yourself, you want to get a job, and then you cannot get a job. So you end up having to take whatever job you can find, something that is not in your field of study, something that does not pay you the kind of wage that you had hoped to be able to get. Can you imagine the stress and the frustration? Can you imagine what that must be like for these people? Of course you can. Of course you can imagine it. If you did not understand it you would not be bringing in this bill tonight. You would not be bringing in a bill that is going to give them a little bit of relief. Mr. Speaker, the relief is going to help them but is it going to solve all the problems? Absolutely not!

That is just another story, Mr. Speaker, and there are so many that we can continue to go and talk about tonight when it comes to this particular bill.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Education on a point of order.

MR. KING: I just want to raise a point, Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition is going on about graduates being unable to gain employment in their field, on and on and on and on. I just want to draw her attention back to a bit of information that I relayed earlier in the day when I spoke, this is factual, that based on a recent survey of graduates of College of the North Atlantic 95.5 per cent of the graduates are employed in the field for which they were trained.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

I recognize the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister does not have to interrupt on frivolous points of order. He gets to close the bill tonight and will have an opportunity to speak at that time.

Mr. Speaker, why doesn't he give Linda Brown a call here and tell her about those statistics that he got from the College of the North Atlantic? That might stop her from moving out of the Province. That might just deter her from leaving when the minister calls her and quotes her those statistics, because those statistics are not going to pay this woman's student loan and her bills, I say to you, minister, when she cannot get a job in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, he might want to keep that in mind, because you can spin all the statistics that you want. Believe me, Mr. Speaker, I have done it myself. I have done it myself and I admit to it, but the reality is that people cannot live on statistics when there are real situations. Do you think that this woman actually ran to the media and told her story about her financial debt, her financial situation, the fact that she might have to leave this Province, the fact that she cannot get a job because she just wanted to go out and talk about it to someone? She did it because it was real to her. She did it because it reflected her circumstances. The minister can give her a call in the morning. He can give her a phone call in the morning and quote her the statistics from the College of the North Atlantic and see if that is going to pay her bills at the end of the week.

Anyway, my guess is that is not going to pay her bills, but it is nice to know. It is nice to know, I say to the minister. It is nice to know that we are graduating more young people who are employable and finding jobs. There is nothing wrong with that, but you also have to realize that a lot of this depends upon the field of study they go into in terms of where the demand for jobs is at that time and where it is not. All of those things become very relevant in the course of a career for many of these young people.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to take the opportunity now to speak a few minutes about some of the contents in the bill itself because if you look at the language that is used in the legislation, the language says that it will be setting lower interest rates or eliminating interest for student loan agreements and setting the effective dates for those lowered interest rates or eliminated interest except where a judgement of the court has been made with respect to a student loan agreement.

The language in this bill is very important. It is very important, Mr. Speaker, because it does not say we are eliminating interest as a part of the bill, and that it is fixated. It says that we are setting lower interest rates or eliminating interest.

Mr. Speaker, let me just tell you how this bill came about, because I think it is a story worth telling. It all started with some lobby by students at the university. It all started in 2006, actually, and it came from a young fellow by the name of Travis Parsons of Grand Bank. He was a Memorial University graduate, and he started out launching an on-line petition urging government to waive the interest on student loans. That is how all of this started. Mr. Speaker, this was a year before the last election.

As you know, in the last election the government came out and said, well, we will have a look at student debt ideas; we will have a look at the ideas that you are having - but this was a year after this young fellow who was a graduate from the university, who was originally from Grand Bank, had already launched this on-line petition. In fact, Mr. Speaker, it was on-line for two years. It was in 2008, and it was in November of that year that the university, the Marine Institute, and the College of the North Atlantic, all got together - I remember it and you will remember it as well – and they held a big news conference. They were calling upon the government; they wanted the government to listen to the debt issues that were facing students. They wanted government to be aware that students were having trouble with high loan payments. In fact, Mr. Speaker, they were hoping that the Province would be able to step in; they would be able to help them pay off some of the debt that they had, and help them get a better start.

Anyway, all of this was launched by the Federation of Students. They then took over the big petition campaign, and all the representatives from all the colleges, the universities, the trade schools and the Marine Institute, all across the Province, went out and got this petition going. In fact, do you know when they started the petition? They said we want to get about 5,000 to 10,000 names on this petition.

At the end of the day they had 12,000 names on this petition and they presented it to the Minister of Education at the time. They had 12,000 names on this petition, and they came in to present it to the Minister of Education. They started their lobby efforts with the government, and guess what? They were successful. The government responded and held a round table with all of the students. They responded to 12,000 students who took it upon themselves to go out and to take on an issue in this Province and to get a petition signed. They were at it since 2006, and it was in 2009 when the minister sat down with these students. It was in January of this year, because there was a big media release that came out from the government. My God, I don't know why they didn't take out ads on it. They created all this media around the fact that they were going to sit down with the students, after two years of lobbying and 12,000 of them had signed the petition.

As a result of it, Mr. Speaker, we have gotten to the bill that we are debating here tonight, and that is a bill to eliminate the interest on the provincial portion of the student loan, and to increase the amount of financial assistance that students can access up front in non-repayable grants that are not based on need. Government has capped the amount that they put into this program at $5 million for this year, and that is what brings me to the language in the legislation. Now we are going to get into the legislation.

What the legislation states is that the government will set lower interest rates or eliminate interest. It does not say that they are going to just eliminate interest. The difference is this: Under this particular legislation that the government is bringing in tonight, they still hold some control over the applicable interest rates. Although they say they are going to eliminate it this year and they are putting $5 million in, they are capping it, in order to be able to do it, the act itself does not now eliminate the interest rate but rather it provides for the power for government to eliminate it or to not eliminate it at any time. If government decides to use this power through the enactment of the regulations pursuant to the act, in the future they can decide that interest rates are going to apply to student loans a year from now or two years from now.

People should not get a conceived notion that, because they are eliminating the interest on student loans in this Budget, that it is written in the act that interest will be forever eliminated, because that is not the case. Under the current legislation, and the way that it is written, government is retaining the power to be able to, at any time, make changes to that without ever having to come to the House of Assembly, without ever having to make an amendment.

That is why we are concerned, Mr. Speaker, because what happens when the market comes back? What happens when the interest rates start to rise again? Will the government then maintain their commitment to eliminating interest rates when the cost increases?

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, if they were going to eliminate the interest rates, and they were committed to eliminating the interest rates forever and eternity, as long as they were in government, why didn't they write the legislation that way, so that any government that comes after them, who decide that they are no longer going to eliminate interest rates, they would have to come back to the House of Assembly and change the act? As it is now, any government that wants to decide that they are not going to provide interest relief, or eliminate it, they do not have to come back to the House of Assembly to do that any more. The act is leaving them with the power to do as they choose, Mr. Speaker.

The other question is: What about other circumstances under which government would potentially reconsider this commitment in the future? We do not know what the budgets of future governments are going to be. We do not know how long the government opposite is going to run deficits, large deficits, larger than we have seen in our history, larger than any in a government that I was a part of, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, how long do we know this government is going to run deficits? How long will they be able to maintain this kind of a commitment if the circumstances change? Is this the reason why they are leaving an out in the legislation: for them to make adjustments whenever they want? I would have liked to have seen a bill tonight that would have said eliminating interest for student loans, not setting lower interest rates or eliminating them. I would have liked to have seen the act state unequivocally that we are going to eliminate interest. Therefore, any government ever coming into this House, whether it be five years or ten years from now, any other government would have never been able to charge interest rates without coming to the Legislature to amend the bill.

That would have been real protection for the people of the Province, for the students of this Province, but we will not be standing in the way of this legislation because of the fact that it leaves it open for government's discretion to change their mind. We would never stand in the way of any piece of legislation that is going to afford students to have more money in their own pockets, so we will be supporting this bill. We will be supporting this bill, and we will be doing so in the context that eliminating interest, provincial interest, on student loans will be a long-term commitment of the government opposite. Despite the circumstances they might find themselves in, or despite the changing conditions, despite all of those factors, I hope that they will maintain their commitment to eliminating the interest.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I am fairly near concluding my comments. There is so much more that I could talk about, because students have been through so much when it comes to student loans in this Province. In fact, they even changed the bankruptcy laws in the country a few years ago. I did not talk about that much but I should mention it. Mr. Speaker, they did change the bankruptcy laws in the country a few years ago to prohibit students from being able to claim bankruptcy in the country; just another way of harnessing them with debt. In fact, they have been subject to all of the laws that have prohibited bankruptcy on student loans. In fact, most students with debt have been criminalized - that is how they feel in this country, that they have been criminalized - and that they are faced with the same type of a penalty as those who are convicted of fraud. That was the law that was passed around bankruptcy and as it related to students in the Province.

Anyway, I could go on much longer because we all know that in the absence of students who have to shoulder the burden of debt it is their parents who have to shoulder the burden of debt as well. We all know that. How many times have we seen it, even when parental income has been taken into consideration, where some students do not even be eligible for grants or student loans because of what their parental income is, and where parents themselves have had to go out and borrow money and mortgage their houses in order to ensure that their children get an education? Sometimes it is not just the students who are shouldering the burden of this debt for an education. Oftentimes, parents are doing it as well.

Mr. Speaker, there are lots of things that you could talk about in the context of how student debt is affecting the educated young people of our Province, and what could be done to help them alleviate that burden and that stress, but I think I have made my point on this bill for tonight. I am nearly out of time, so I will conclude my comments.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak this afternoon. Did I say this afternoon? Sure, it is 1:30 in the a.m. We have been here for quite a while. It has been a very interesting day. It has been a long time since I have been allowed to be out this late, actually.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand this morning and speak for a few minutes on this very important piece of legislation before us, Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act. It is a great moment for education, a great moment for students in our Province, because, effective August 1 of this year, that is August 1, 2009, interest on the provincial portion of student loans will be eliminated.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, before I go on with some comments I have written down and am prepared to speak on, I just want to pick up on one thought I had when the Leader of the Opposition was speaking. I might add, Mr. Speaker, that the Leader of the Opposition has spoken a lot tonight. She has a lot of stamina; I would like to give her that. She was talking about the first Premier of Newfoundland. She was talking about Joey Smallwood, and when she talked about Joey Smallwood she talked about the fact that he understood - she said he understood - at the time that parents were poor and families were large, and that was at a time when his government provided for free education.

I had one thought, Mr. Speaker, in line with that. I thought: Yes, maybe Mr. Smallwood did understand that, but there were certainly a few things he did not understand. If he understood a little bit more about hydroelectricity and the Upper Churchill we might have free education today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, I have a background in education. I was a mathematics teacher.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that.

Being a former educator and a mathematics teacher, a lot of times when I do my thinking I think in terms of numbers. What I want to do in the next few minutes is throw some numbers out there, and I want to ask you and talk about what these numbers mean. The first number is fifty-six, $56 million. What is that?

AN HON. MEMBER: That is my age (inaudible).

MR. VERGE: It is more than my age. That is a figure, Mr. Speaker, that we have invested in education to maintain a tuition freeze in the post-secondary institutions up to 2011 and 2012.

How about this figure: $2,632? That is the cost of one year's tuition currently for a full-time student at Memorial University. Now, compare that to this number: $3,276. Well, that is the average cost of tuition in Manitoba; $4,530 for Prince Edward Island; $5,040, that is the cost of tuition in B.C. How about $5,643, Mr. Speaker? That is Ontario. How about this one, $5,932? Just across the Straits – that is the average cost of tuition at a university in Nova Scotia. In Newfoundland, $2,632, and $5,932 in Nova Scotia. That is $3,300 a year. That is how much cheaper it is in Newfoundland. That is a savings of $16,500.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: In fact, Mr. Speaker, just compare it to the Canadian average. A university program costs Newfoundland students $10,460 less in tuition alone to attend a university in Newfoundland compared to the average across Canada. That is amazing.

How about this number, Mr. Speaker, 44 per cent? That number reflects how much lower student tuition is in our university than it is across Canada. Forty-three per cent is how much lower, on average, tuition costs at colleges in this Province as compared to the Canadian average.

Mr. Speaker, $14.4 million is the amount provided in Budget 2007 to provide up-front grants and interest rate reductions for our post-secondary students. Fourteen point three per cent, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, is how much we are increasing our up-front repayable grants to students who need financial assistance.

The number, 49,000 – and we have heard that here this evening from some other speakers - is the number of students we expect, from the passage of this bill, will have extra money in their pockets, because the interest has been eliminated on the provincial portion of student loans.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: How about a small number like fifteen? It sounds small, but do you know what fifteen comes from? That is the number of months that a MUN student, borrowing at the maximum, will cut off their student loan payments providing they keep the same payments and amortize throughout. They will pay off their loan fifteen months earlier as a result of the passage of this bill.

Seven thousand is the number of students who received up-front grants this year. Nine thousand is the number of students we expect will benefit from increased up-front grants from hereafter.

AN HON. MEMBER: A great minister.

MR. VERGE: A great minister. I have to agree with the hon. member who just said that, a great minister.

Mr. Speaker, 70 per cent represents the new amount of a student spouse's discretionary income that will be considered as resources to be used toward the student's education during their studies. The old number was 80 per cent. This will make it easier for married families in university or colleges as they will not be required, from now on, to contribute as much toward the student's income.

Two hundred, that is what we expect, is the number of students who are expected to benefit from the reduction in the expected spousal contributions. A large number like $270 million, that is our annual investment in Memorial University of Newfoundland; $92 million, that is this government's annual investment in the College of the North Atlantic. A number like $18 million, that is what we are going to invest to build a new campus in Labrador West; $62.7 million, I say to the Member for Port de Grave, is going to be spent on renovations and construction of new residences at MUN; 27,399 -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. VERGE: No, you are wrong, Sir - the number of post-secondary students enrolled in a course of study in this Province, 27,399. Education is indeed a valued commodity in this Province, Mr. Speaker.

Now, how about this word: prime? Prime is the amount of interest that the Province of Alberta is charging on the provincial portion of their student loans. Prime plus zero point five, that is what is taking place in Quebec and Nova Scotia. Prime plus one, that is what students pay on the provincial portion in Ontario; prime plus one-and-a-half, Manitoba; prime plus two, Prince Edward Island; prime plus two-and-a-half in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and B.C. I have one more number for you. Listen to this number, I say to colleagues in the House of Assembly: zero. Zero, that is the number that reflects how much Newfoundland students pay.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: That is our interest rate. That is our percentage, the only province in all of Canada to eliminate interest on the provincial portion of student loans.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to wrap up in a couple of minutes. In conclusion, I just have a few things. When the former Minister of Education made the announcement on the elimination of interest on student loans, the provincial portion, it was a great day. It was a big announcement. It is something that caused a lot of excitement in the House of Assembly and out in the whole Province. As a matter of fact, it caused a lot of news throughout the whole country. CBC carried the story. I was looking on their Web site, actually, and I pulled off a piece, a quote, from Daniel Smith. Daniel Smith, of course, is the provincial chair of the Canadian Federation of Students. He was quoted as saying this, "We're extremely excited about this." He said, "It's like the finance minister said - this is going to ease the burden of student debt for students of Newfoundland and Labrador. Almost 50,000 people who currently fall under the student loan portfolio here in the province are going to be in a much better situation coming out of this." That is from the president of the Canadian Federation of Students.

Mr. Speaker, sometimes when stories are put on Web sites there are sometimes some comments that follow. Some of them are anonymous, but I went through and found a couple of quotes and I am going to read them, about this particular story. This quote says, "Wow! Wow! Wow! Great news for you guys! I live in NB and have a student debt load of $42 thousand. I'm paying it back at $768/month." This particular person, who is from New Brunswick, says, "If interest was eliminated on my loan, I'd be one happy individual! Congrats to all student loan holders and congrats to the Govt of Newfoundland for caring and helping your future professionals."

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Another quote said this, "Thank you to the Williams government for this new move to eliminate interest on NL student loans! Even though my loan is almost gone, I'll still save a lot of money and get that loan paid off even faster. Yay!"

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, as an educator, and I guess I consider myself not a former educator but an educator, as I spent twenty-two years involved in education, when I look around my district I think of all the students who will be coming - well, if they are going to go to university they are either going to come here or go to Corner Brook, or they are going to go to one of the colleges - the fact that they can avail of this. Those who are in need, the greatest need, and they get loans, they are going to have no interest to pay on them. They will be able to take advantage of increased up-front grants, they will be able to take advantage of back-end grants, and it is a good system. It is a great system and I am certainly appreciative of it, first of all as the member for the district, and as a parent I am appreciative of it. Tuition has been frozen for a number of years, we have a commitment to freeze tuition up to 2011-2012, and as a parent of a child attending university here in St. John's I certainly appreciate the fact that I do not have to fork over, over the next five years, about $16,000 in extra tuition. If my daughter decided to go to university in Nova Scotia or if we lived just across the way, just across the water, that is what I would have to pay as a parent: $16,500 more in tuition for my daughter to go university in Nova Scotia and do a five year program.

I am excited about this. I am thankful to government for bringing in this initiative. I applaud it and I congratulate both the former Minister of Education for bringing in the initiative, and the present Minister of Education for carrying it on and keeping it up.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Collins): If the hon. minister speaks now he will close debate.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Indeed, it is a pleasure to be able to close debate. I must say, first of all, I want to thank all of my colleagues and members opposite for the spirited comments that we have had back and forth this evening, and the tremendous amount of support for our bill and for what we are trying to do for our students. It is always energizing and engaging to have the opportunity for members of the House to stand up and share their points of view.

Certainly, as I try to close debate, I am going to try to respond to a couple of comments that were made, to a couple of questions that were raised by members opposite in particular, and I will try to provide some summary comments from my perspective on the bill.

First of all, I want to respond to the Education critic for the Opposition and certainly thank him for his comments relative to the good piece of legislation that we are bringing forward. He certainly was very positive towards the legislation and I thank him for that.

I also want to reference, the member opposite made a comment about the interest of the Opposition in bringing questions to the Legislature here, and sometimes they get criticized for it, but certainly from their perspective they do it with the best of intentions.

I want to say to all members of the House that I think we all appreciate Question Period. We all appreciate that it is important that people bring issues to this House and raise issues that are important to the public, but I would remind members opposite that it is important to be factually correct when you are going to make statements in a public Legislature, to be factually correct so that the public who are listening and tuning into this are not misled, and led to believe something that is totally incorrect and not true.

I will just point out, as a matter of public record, that the Leader of the Opposition did, in fact, make some statements in the House over the past few days about a fire at a school in St. John's, and the fact that the fire alarm was not working, and that the Department of Education and the school board were neglectful in their duties.

I just want to remind people that it was confirmed on the news tonight by the St. John's Fire Department and two independent consulting firms that, in fact, the fire alarm was working and that there were other reasons why things did not happen the way they thought they should have.

I say, Mr. Speaker, we certainly appreciate comments and questions in the House, but we ought to try to keep it at a level that is factual so that we do not mislead the public when we do bring things here.

Mr. Speaker, the Opposition critic did raise a good point on the federal portion of student loans. I thank him for that, and I do confirm for him that we have, in fact, been lobbying the federal government and will continue to that. We do not see a lot of support from them on this particular initiative. It is not the only initiative that we do not see a lot of support from federal government, but this one in particular is important to us and I thank the member opposite for his comments and we will continue to lobby on that.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I would just like to remind the hon. member that he just used the words misleading the public. It is not prudent language, parliamentary language, and I ask him to withdraw that remark.

MR. KING: I certainly will, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I ought to have said a little bit reckless with the truth. That might have been a better phrase. I certainly withdraw the previous comment.

Mr. Speaker, the NDP leader as well made some comments that were certainly very supportive of the bill, and I thank her as well for that. Again, she referenced lobbying the federal government and, as I said, we certainly intend to do that.

A couple of comments I want to make are around the issue the NDP leader raised with respect to students having trouble and being a little bit harassed by collection agencies and institutions. I want to say that certainly we do not condone that, as a government, and we have policies around those kinds of things within the Department of Education. We continue to provide support to students. We have a toll-free number and we have client service agents who do work with them to help them through that process. Certainly, if there is anything we can do to improve that process, we certainly do give that commitment: that we will continue to work through that and work with the Canadian Federation of Students.


I do remind all members, of course, that we do have to work within privacy legislations and we are somewhat restricted in what can do there, but we will certainly work towards that.

Also, the Leader of the New Democratic Party made a comment of rural versus urban. I want to reaffirm that our commitment as a government is to make student access and to reduce student debt for everyone, and to make education accessible and affordable for all students. That is a goal that we did set out to follow and we will continue to do that.

Also, Mr. Speaker, to make sure no one is misled, the leader talked about the fact that it tends to be students from lower income families who tend to borrow more money and therefore get saddled with more debt. While that may be true in some instances, I want to remind the leader that the Debt Reduction Grant actually tends to apply a greater benefit to students who borrow more money, because if you borrow a maximum you have the opportunity, through a Debt Reduction Grant, to get your entire student loan written off. So it is not as clear-cut as the member opposite might tend to read into the program.

The Opposition House Leader had a couple of questions, and I am going to try and respond to those as I understood them. If I have misunderstood, I am sure, in Committee we might have a chance to dig in further.

The first question, as I understood it, from the bill, was whether or not the interest on student loans, the interest on the provincial student loan, would be eliminated on loans where a judgement has been issued and rendered by the court.

Mr. Speaker, the answer to that is no. If, in fact, we have gone through a collection process where a judgement has been rendered by the courts then the matter is out of our hands and is within the responsibility of the courts, and the interest elimination does not apply.

I want to just talk a little bit about the collection process for a couple of moments, because it is important that people understand the number of steps and the distance we have to travel from the time a student gets a loan until they actually might go into a collection process.

First of all, after graduation, a student will have a six-month grace period before they have to make any payment whatsoever on their student loan. We also have repayment assistance, where loans can be repaid over a term of fifteen years. We have interest relief for students who find themselves in difficulty and needing assistance. We even have loan forgiveness. It is only if a student has gone through all of those steps and gone nine months without making either payment or either attempt to pay whatsoever on their loan that it actually goes to the next step of heading towards the courts. I want to make sure people understand that: that it is not a clear-cut process of getting to the point where the court tends to try and collect the money on our behalf.

The second question raised by the House Leader for the Opposition was with respect to section 1.(4). To paraphrase, for the member opposite, what that intends to say is that for all students who are currently in contract with us for a student loan, with today's legislation that the interest will be eliminated, they need not sign another contract with us. Rather, the contract that they had with us with the current loan will stand, and we will automatically eliminate the interest on that loan.

For my colleague, the Minister of Business, I say to the House that is, in actual fact, part of our red tape reduction. There is no need to go further into the paperwork and administravia, so there is no need to redo it; we will simply eliminate the interest for students and they will maintain the same contract that they currently have.

Mr. Speaker, the Opposition Leader also had a few things to say, or perhaps more than a few things, and I want to respond to some of them because, as I have said before, some of the comments were interesting and informative, and some others were maybe somewhat straying from the facts, perhaps might be the best way to phrase that to make sure that I am not unparliamentary, Mr. Speaker.

I want to agree, first of all, with a number of the comments that were made with respect to our students, and the importance of our students, and the students being the future leaders. There is no question about that, and that is why, as a government, we continue to invest in our students and we continue to invest in our educational system. We continue to invest in the K-12 system to prepare our students as best we can so that when they move out of the K-12 system every door that we can possibly have open for them is open for them, and the future is theirs to be had, and post-secondary options are available to them. So I certainly want to concur with her on that, and I think we all concur that if we were able to do so we would want free education for everyone.

Mr. Speaker, we have to live in a reality. When you are in government, when you sit with the government, there is a reality that you live within the fiscal framework that you have, and resources are limited, but we all recognize that this legislation that we are bringing forward today is the best that the Province has ever seen. It is the most generous that we have ever seen to any student in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we have already acknowledged that it is the best student aid package in the country, bar none. I say, Mr. Speaker, we are doing a good job here, and that is being recognized by many.

I offer for members opposite just a little summary from the release from the Canadian Federation of Students, who represents all the students in this Province to us, and represents all the students in the Province as part of the Canadian Federation of Students on the national scene. Mr. Speaker, their conclusion of their comments: In times of economic slowdown, funding high quality and affordable post-secondary education is one of the best investments the Province can make in its economy - a quote from the Federation of Students. With experience showing accessible university and college education is best achieved through increased government funding, reduced tuition fees and a full system of up-front, needs-based grants, there is no question that prioritizing post-secondary education is the right choice for government to make – the Federation of Students, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Almost 50,000 students and graduates will benefit from this announcement - words from the Canadian Federation of Students. As well, this increase in grant funding will help to reduce the overall student debt that students will carry upon graduation. The Canadian Federation of Students, I say, Mr. Speaker, their words, not ours.

Their conclusion, from the Federation of Students: by continuing the tuition freeze, increasing core funding for our public college and university, expanding upon the up-front grant program and eliminating the interest rate charges on student financial assistance, the provincial government has clearly listened to students - clearly listened to students, Mr. Speaker - and their families, for the need to increase accessibility to post-secondary education and reduce student debt in the 2009 Budget. This is from the Canadian Federation of Students, Mr. Speaker; their words, not mine.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, we have come a long way. There is no doubt about that, we have come a long way, and members opposite have referenced this, and I do not mind repeating, it has been a struggle, there is no doubt about it. I can quote, for example, tuition fees starting in 1989 at Memorial: $1,280; $1,344; $1,544; $1,700; $2,000; $2,150; $2,312; $2,670; $3,150; and $3,300, during the years prior to our government. Mr. Speaker, we have frozen the tuition fees, since we have been in power, at $2,550, a reduction from what we received when we came to power, and we have frozen the fees, so I say we have come along way, there is no doubt about it.

We only need look at the Opposition Leader's comments about Mr. May, the former president of the university. There is no doubt that Mr. May had a lot to say. I offer, for example, in 1994 correspondence between Mr. May and the university, where the members opposite cut the university by $4 million in their operating grant. In 1995 Mr. May had a lot to say as well when the reduction, I believe, was somewhere in the area of $3.6 million.

AN HON. MEMBER: What did he say there?

MR. KING: He said: Your actions are irresponsible and inappropriate. Not my words - Mr. May's - irresponsible and inappropriate, and may lead to the cancellation of courses.

This was in 1995, Mr. Speaker, and he says: We run the risk of being penny-wise and pound foolish.

Mr. Speaker, I will end with this one. Mr. May says to the Education Minister of the day that this kind of central micromanagement of an institution as large as this cannot be ongoing.

I say, Mr. Speaker, finally, just to conclude on that point, in 1996 there was a further reduction to Memorial of $3.6 million. There is no doubt, Mr. Speaker, and members opposite are correct, that we have come a long way since the 1990s. There is no question about that.

I say to members opposite, we, too, get comments. I am probably the only minister today who is going to hire extra staff because we cannot keep up with the volume of calls we are receiving.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: I say to you, not only do they receive letters, but we receive letters. I receive letters from students telling us how well we are doing and what a wonderful program we have on this side of the House. I receive letters from students telling us what it will mean when their debt is reduced at the end of their program. I tell you, Mr. Speaker, we all receive letters, and we all have good stories to tell.

AN HON. MEMBER: I bet you Dean MacDonald is home taking notes tonight. He is home taking notes tonight. I tell you, Dean MacDonald is home taking notes tonight.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I will not belabour the point; I think members opposite get the point. We are fifteen minutes in, at 2:04 in the morning. I will try and draw some of my comments to a conclusion.

This is indeed a great day for students in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The student aid package that we are introducing and talking about tonight is the best in the country. We have increased our up-front, needs-based grants, and by doing that, we are reducing the amount of money students have to borrow. At the end of the day, when students graduate - I quoted a figure earlier today of some $17,000 for a student from a family of four with a family income of $70,000 based on a five-year university program – they will owe $17,000 less on the provincial portion than they would have prior to the reforms we brought forward.

This is indeed a great, great announcement for students, and certainly we are very proud of the reform, Mr. Speaker. We pledge to continue to work with the students, we continue to listen and we continue to do our best.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I thank all members opposite and members on this side of the House who spoke, and thereby bring conclusion to the debate.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act, 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 Student Financial Assistance Act. (Bill 9)

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

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

MS BURKE: Today, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Today.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 9)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, continuing with the Order Paper: earlier today we had called Bill 8. We will continue the debate on second reading of a bill, An Act Respecting Chiropractors, Bill 8.

MR. SPEAKER: The House will now reconvene the debate, the second reading of An Act Respecting Chiropractors, Bill 8.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Chiropractors." (Bill 8)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the members opposite.

I will not be long and will close the debate very quickly, but I want to thank the members opposite for their comments with respect to the bill. I think the Opposition Leader has highlighted the significance of this bill and the rationale for our passing it. We wanted to have it introduced in the House and have it passed.


I think, Mr. Speaker, this again is consistent, as I said earlier. What we are proposing to do here is consistent with the other bills that we have introduced that deal with the self regulated professions within the Province, and is consistent with the White Paper recommendations to make changes in these legislations, to ensure that there is a greater transparency, greater accountability, and there is greater public participation in a process that deals with the management of and the disciplinary procedures associated with professions such as chiropractors.

With that short comment, Mr. Speaker, I will now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 8, An Act Respecting Chiropractors, 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 Respecting Chiropractors, Bill 8.

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a second time. When shall this bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House? Now? Tomorrow?

MS BURKE: Now, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting Chiropractors," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 8)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to call from the Order Paper, Order 15, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Research And Development Council Act, Bill 20.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 20, An Act To Amend The Research And Development Council Act, be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Research And Development Council Act. (Bill 20)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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


It is my pleasure to stand tonight to speak to Bill 20, An Act To Amend The Research And Development Council Act.

Mr. Speaker, as most people in this House would know, yesterday was a very important day for the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development because yesterday we marked the official launch of the Research and Development Corporation. Yesterday, when we made that launch we had a press conference and we had a number of the local business community and the academic community come together with us, and while at that press conference I indicated that it is the work of all of the individuals, Mr. Speaker, government, business and the academia, that is bringing the Province to the forefront in a number of exciting areas. It is important that we have a Research and Development Corporation, Mr. Speaker, because we need to be making sure that, as a Province, we position ourselves so that we are able to take advantage of some of the things that we have here in this Province, some things like the fact that we have our oceans, the fact that we have some brilliant minds, the fact that we have a founder population in terms of genetics and genetics research, the fact that we have a burgeoning and a growing aerospace industry, and the fact that we can do oceans monitoring. There are all kinds of things that we can do.

The reason why we need to have a Research and Development Corporation, Mr. Speaker, is because when we look at the numbers, the statistics, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador unfortunately up until this point has not been doing very good in terms of how much money we have put into research and development. We spent, according to the latest statistics, about $173 million on research and development in our Province. That might sound like a lot of money, Mr. Speaker, $173 million, but in actual fact it ranks us in the bottom third of the provinces in R&D spending across the country. It turns out to be about 0.9 per cent of the GDP of the Province, the Gross Domestic Product.

To give you some perspective on that, Mr. Speaker, to give you some context on what that number means, most of the provinces of Canada, and Canada on average, spends about 2 per cent of GDP on research and development. A lot of the industrialized nations in the world spend about 2.5 per cent of GDP on research and development, and some of the leading countries in the world spend about 3 per cent to 4 per cent of GDP on research and development.

The point I am making, Mr. Speaker, is: Up until this point in time, we have been spending less than 1 per cent when the rest of Canada has been spending 2 per cent and some of the leaders in the world in terms of research and development having been spending 3 per cent and 4 per cent of GDP on research and development.

Mr. Speaker, we are going to change that. We have indicated that we want to move from less than 1 per cent to, hopefully, 2 per cent in the coming years. What we have done to help us with that is we have created, as I have indicated, a Research and Development Council. We actually passed the legislation here in the House of Assembly in the fall sitting, and we have some amendments that we are going to be making to it. I will speak to those a little bit later, Mr. Speaker.

What we have done by creating the Research and Development Council is we have, for the coming year, through Budget 2009, the year 2009-2010, we have given the council $25 million to be able to start its work, Mr. Speaker; $25 million. That $25 million basically is broken down into some operating money, some money for new programs, new R&D type programs which we are hoping will stimulate the R&D work in this Province. It is like seed money, Mr. Speaker, money that we are trying to put in to stimulate R&D activity in the Province. To continue some of the very successful initiatives that we had in previous years, we have put $10 million in to make sure that we can continue with those initiatives.

We have been poor performers in terms of research and development in the past, Mr. Speaker. We have made a decision, as a government, and we have made it in consultation with our business and academic community, that we need to change that. We have made a commitment to grow the amount of money that we spend on research and development, and we have allocated just over $25 million in this year's Budget to do that.

Complementing that, Mr. Speaker, is money that will come from our business and corporate community. For instance, last night when we were at the assembly we had for the academic and business community relating to the launch of the Research and Development Corporation, I spoke to, for instance, some representatives of some of the oil companies. They are very excited that we have taken the approach we have taken, because research and development is very important to the oil and gas industry.

One of the gentlemen I spoke to last night indicated to me that his company has over $100 million that they want to put into research and development and they are happy to see that the Province is willing to put some focus on research and development. They are looking forward to working with the Province on identifying priorities. They are looking forward to working with the Province and the academic community on developing those priorities and making sure that we all do better and succeed as we move forward.

We are going to have our own money, Mr. Speaker, we are going to have money that we are going to take from the corporate community that they are going to offer up and give up, and we are also going to be able to leverage other monies. How much will we leverage? We don't know at this point, but I can tell you that historically it is not unusual for us to see that for every dollar we invest we can leverage $5, $10, $15 more from other sources. By putting in the money we are putting in there is a very good likelihood that we will generate four, five, six, ten times more money from other sources. Our money will act as a seed or as a catalyst to generate more monies that we can put into research and development.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the Research and Development Corporation, I just want to give a little bit of history, I guess, as to where this came from and why we think it is important to do. I have told you we need to do it because we need to be putting more money in based upon what other jurisdictions are doing. Some of those jurisdictions that we looked at were all of the other Canadian provinces. Every other province in Canada has a research and development corporation or council or something like that. We were the only province in Canada that did not have one, so we were a little bit late coming to the game, but we are there now. We looked at all of the other provinces and they all have one, a research and development arm in one form or another.

Mr. Speaker, we also looked at what other jurisdictions had across the world. We looked at countries like Finland, Norway, the United States, and the United Kingdom. We looked at what they were doing, and we took the best practices from each of those and incorporated that into the Research and Development Council that we are creating. We looked at what everybody else was doing, we talked to a lot of those other jurisdictions and said: Tell us what is working for you, tell us what you have some difficulty with, and we will try and incorporate all of that into what we are forming to make sure that we do it the best possible way that we can do it.

We have done that, Mr. Speaker, we have taken that information, we have incorporated what we found out, the good, the bad and the ugly, as they say, and we think that we have come up with a really good model. We think that we are going to benefit from the model that we have put together.


Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier that I am the minister of the Department called Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. In terms of innovation, nothing could be more critical to innovation than research and development. Research and development is something that we believe is very, very important for us, as a government, to be involved in because it helps grow the innovation side of what it is we are doing here. It helps companies that want to be innovative be able to expand on the innovativeness that they have because we give them the kinds of information they need through the research and development that we are doing.

Research, Mr. Speaker, if I could define it to you, I guess, is about ideas. Research is about creating ideas, thinking up ideas, and development is about applying those ideas. When we talk about research and development or R&D, a lot of people refer to it as, we are talking about ideas and we are talking about the application of those ideas. Sometimes we will have some winners and sometimes we will not be so successful. I will not call them failures, Mr. Speaker, because I do not think it is a failure if you try something and it does not work, I think it is a learning experience.

A lot of the people who I spoke to last night from the academic community and the business community made that point to me. They wanted me, as a government representative, to understand that when we invest money into things, into R&D, into ideas and the application of ideas, that not all of those things are going to work, not all of those things are going to come to fruition, and not all of those things are going to be successful. They wanted to make the point that I should not, nor should government, consider that it was a failure. They wanted to make the point that they believe, and I believe, I concur with them, that it is about learning from the things that you have done. You use it as a learning experience and you move forward and you grow from that.

Mr. Speaker, we are going to use the Research and Development Corporation to be a catalyst for change in the Province. We are going to ask that it do a number of things for us relative to R&D. One of the things that we are going to ask that it do, we are going to ask that it strengthen the focus, the quantity, the quality, and the relevance of the research and development that we are doing in this Province for the long-term economic benefit of the Province. Understand, Mr. Speaker, that when we do research and development activity, we need to have it coordinated. With all due respect for people in the past who have done research and development, they have been off doing their own thing. It has been a bit of a scatter gun; not that there is anything wrong with that, Mr. Speaker, but from a provincial perspective we want to make sure that we get the most bang for our buck that we invest, and the Research and Development Corporation will allow us to focus the research and development that happens in this Province to tie into the kinds of things that we are going to prioritizing as a government, the kinds of things that we want to move forward with, like our oceans development, like our genetics research that we will be doing. We want to make sure that the monies we put into R&D are being focused in the priority areas of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Research and Development Council will help us do that, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, relative to the bill that we are discussing here tonight, Bill 20, the bill has a number of amendments to the Research and Development Council Act. Clause 1 of the bill will amend section 2 of the act to expand the definition of research to include social sciences and humanities. The reason we wanted to do that was, we wanted to make sure that we broadened the definition of research. We were a bit concerned that the definition of research in the original bill talked about science, engineering and technology, but we felt we needed to broaden it to include the social sciences and the humanities. We wanted to make sure that the social sciences and the humanities were not ignored, so we are going to include that in one of the amendments that we are making to the bill.

Another amendment, Mr. Speaker, is that we are making a name change. The bill, when it was originally passed, identified the council as being the Newfoundland and Labrador Research and Development Corporation, NLRDC. That was done in December. One of the things that we found in the consultations that have been held throughout the Province - there have been eleven meetings, eleven consultation processes, throughout the Province over the last number of months, and there have been, I believe, 200 individual meetings with companies and groups. A vast number of those consultations brought forward the point that the name, Newfoundland and Labrador Research and Development Corporation, was a bit of mouthful, so we are going to change the name of that. We are going to give the Lieutenant-Governor in Council the right to change the name or to name the corporation. The Lieutenant Governor in Council or the Cabinet of government will be able to change the name. We are going the name to the Research and Development Corporation.

Another amendment that we are seeking here in Bill 20 this morning, Mr. Speaker, is, we wanted to make sure that we could amend the act to provide for a term of appointment for board members of up to three years. The original act allowed for board members to be appointed for three years, a fixed term of three years. We are changing that, a very subtle change, but the amendment is that board members can be appointed for up to three years. The reason for that is we want some staggering of people on the board. We want to stagger the terms of people on the board so that there is some continuity. Some people will leave and some people will stay. You may change half the board and leave half the board and then you will do that again in three years time. We will stagger it. By allowing to appoint people to the board for up to three years, we are allowing for that staggering of board members to occur and for continuity of board members to occur, Mr. Speaker.

The last amendment, Mr. Speaker, that we are looking for is clause 4 of the bill which basically adds a new section to the act respecting the duty of care to be exercised by directors and officers of the council, similar to the duty imposed upon the directors and officers under section 203(1) of the Corporations Act. Basically, this is a minor amendment which removes the reference to section 203 to clarify the interpretation of the section so that the language of the Corporations Act will be introduced directly into the Research and Development Council Act. We are going to make sure that we put it right into the act itself.

Mr. Speaker, these are four amendments that I would consider to be fairly minor in terms of what they do. I do not think they are going to be really significant ones. The amendments to the Research and Development Council Act are outlined in Bill 20. I have given a little bit of background about why we have created the Research and Development Corporation, the Research and Development Council. I talked a little bit about the monies that we will be putting into it, the kind of work it will be doing, and why we are seeking the amendments, Mr. Speaker.

At this time I will take my leave and have an opportunity to listen to members opposite and other people speak to this bill and come back again a little bit later and answer any questions that may be posed.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words with respect to Bill 20.

Joe is gone to bed. Anyone who knows my friend Joe, of course: I have been referring to Joe now since 1999, and he exists by the way, Joe exists. He is an avid watcher of the House of Assembly proceedings. He pretty well knows the process, what goes on, first reading, second reading, committee, and so on. He has been through all of that over the years. He emailed me to say that he had to go bed, that he could not take it any more, but not because the speeches were not interesting. He thought the Leader of the Opposition, in particular, made some very, very interesting points. He stayed up about an extra three hours just so he could listen to her because he liked her comments.

Mr. Speaker, we are here this evening, this morning actually, 2:27 a.m., because this is our new family-friendly House of Assembly. This was the government, of course, that committed to do business in a proper fashion, you would not be abusing the circumstances of the House, you would work your regular days, for example, particularly if there was no big urgency to get a piece of legislation passed. We are at second reading here. We have had a very productive day. I do believe this is the sixth piece of legislation that we dealt with today and we have done second reading on.

Mind you, we have only been in the House twenty-three days since the session started back in March. We had a two-week Easter break and we are back here now for the last week or so, ten days, and the government, for some reason, feels it is necessary to stay up until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning to get some legislation done. I would not know if that might have anything to do with the fact that they want to duck out of here next week because the nurses are going to go on strike. I would think that probably has something to do with it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: These bills, of course, are very interesting. We are all going to have our opportunity to speak on them, but it is very interesting to see that you have to do it at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning; and we are so concerned about the public knowing what is going on and being open and transparent.

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

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

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I know the Opposition House Leader is certainly addressing the time, but we are in the debate at second reading of a particular bill, and the debate should be relevant to the topic of the bill that we are discussing. On a point of order, I would like to say that I feel that the conversation or the debate at this time is not addressing that topic.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader, to the point of order.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, we did have, no doubt, a ruling from the Chair that gave us some guidance as to relevancy, and I certainly think it is relevant, if we are discussing the Research and Development Act here, Bill 20, if we talk about how the process of getting that into law is unfolding here. The fact that we have to do it –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: The fact that the government feels the urgency to do this piece of legislation at 3:00 in the morning tells you something.

AN HON. MEMBER: Two thirty.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Two thirty in the morning. It tells you something, Mr. Speaker. It tells you that the government has an agenda and their agenda has nothing to do with the need or the urgency to get this legislation through.


Mr. Speaker, I feel it is totally relevant why we are here in this House of Assembly, the people's House, at 2:30 in the morning, 2:30 exactly, to discuss a piece of legislation that, if the people want to know what is going on, we have televised proceedings for that very purpose. The minister got up and gave an excellent presentation of why these amendments are here on the R&D. No question! He did an admirable job of it, but guess what? Nobody in the Province probably heard him because we are 2:30 in the morning. That is why, and that is why it is sad, Mr. Speaker, when the government chooses to do that.

We have heard in the past about the old hobnail boots and so on, strategies that different governments have adopted from time to time on pieces of legislation, and here we are tonight experiencing it again, for no reason, Mr. Speaker, other than to hide from the nurses next week. That is what this is all about. It has nothing to do with relevancy. It has to do with trying to push something through now so that you do not have to be here next week to deal with it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

The Chair has provided rulings in the past on relevance. The Chair has been somewhat lenient this evening. However, I will bring all members' attention to Standing Order §659 of Beauchesne where it states, "The second reading is the most important stage through which the bill is required to pass; for its whole principle is then at issue and is affirmed or denied by a vote of the House. It is not regular on this occasion, however, to discuss in detail the clauses of the bill."

That is one issue that I wish to raise because we have, on times, through the course of this evening, gone into clauses of bills on the issue of relevance. We have ordered on relevance, and I do find that the comments by the hon. the Opposition House Leader were not relevant to the particular bill we are debating. I would ask all members of the House to be cognizant, for their cooperation, and to keep their comments relevant to the bills that we are debating.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate your ruling.

Of course, I do have some things I would like to say in response to the minister's comments in second reading, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, we don't have much of an audience, I guess, to listen to this most important piece of legislation, because research and development, of course, is a very important thing.

I have a few questions I would like to pose to the minister, as is the purpose of second reading. As the Speaker alluded to, second reading is probably the most important part of the process in here, because you get to look at the principle of what it is you are doing.

As the minister alluded to – I guess he was correct when he said that we did pass this last September. There is no question. We had a bill in this House that was numbered Bill 70 back then in September, and that, of course, is now recorded in our Statutes as chapter R-13.1. That is how it is now noted, because it is no longer in the bill stages. It became a piece of legislation that was assented to.

I don't think the minister was strictly correct when he said we never had one before. Albeit we might not have had a research and development piece of legislation before, we certainly, in this Province, had a Research Council. Not only was it in the 1990 Statutes, we had it for so long, back to the 1960s, that our research council was reported in the 1970 Statutes. So, it is not the first time that the Province has had a research council to work with.

I do understand that it has been pretty well disbanded in the last number of years. Even though we have had it kicking around for forty years, it wasn't properly focused, I guess. I don't even know if they had a membership. I don't know what the last board appointed to that council would have been. It is not strictly correct to say that we have never had it before.

It was presented in such a fashion as if the government came up with some new, clever, visionary type of creation here, called a Research and Development Council. That is not correct, of course. That is part of the spin package again, and we get a lot of spin from this particular government, there is no doubt about it, because even if they didn't create or invent it, they will certainly take credit for doing so. We have seen that time and time again.

Another question I don't know the answer to – I have looked, and I would appreciate the minister's assistance in this regard actually – is, I can't determine whether that piece of legislation was ever proclaimed. I am not trying to be technical here or anything like that, but it deserves an answer. I have checked and on every website in the government, it says that Bill 70 that created the new Research and Development Council was indeed assented to. I do believe the date was December 18 of last year. That is what is noted.

I can't find anywhere that that act was ever proclaimed. I have checked; we had the research staff check. I checked with some people in the House here, and I cannot see where that was ever proclaimed. Maybe it was and I missed it, but if that is the case there is a whole pile of people who missed it, I say.

It would be nice to know that, because we are starting here from a premise that we are passing some amendments to a bill that was done back in December on the assumption, of course, that it is operational now. To my knowledge, if it has not been proclaimed it is not operational. That is the number one point I would make. The other reason I think it is relevant in terms of whether it was proclaimed or not to date ties into one of the clauses of that Bill 70, we will call it, because there was a clause in Bill 70, and I believe the clause was clause 28 – yes, clause 28 says that this act comes into force on a day to be proclaimed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. That is my question there; I cannot find that it has actually been proclaimed.

The second piece, why I think that is relevant, is that clause 27 of Bill 70, which we did in December, says the Research Council Act is repealed. Now that is, of course, referencing the original Research Council Act that I just alluded to, that we have had as far back at the late 1960s. So the question is, if we have not proclaimed this act then that means the old Research Council still exists. That is the way I understand the process works.

Now all of this hinges, of course, on whether it is proclaimed or not. If it is proclaimed, my comments here obviously would not be relevant because this would have actually started, but if it has not it means that we are still living, as we speak, technically, under the old Research Council Act, because the act that we have supposedly put through this House in December is not yet the law, because it does not become the law until it is proclaimed.

That is interesting and it is also important, I think, because yesterday the minister referred to a press conference that he had. I have a copy of the press release that came off the government Web site, where the minister announced yesterday - he said: a new Crown entity for improving the Province's research and development capacity was announced today.

I took that announcement to mean that the council yesterday was fully operational, fully effective, and in business. That is what I took that to mean. Of course, that is not the case if this R&D act was not proclaimed; because, how could we say it is up and running and officially operating if that act that created it was never proclaimed?

I am just wondering if the minister can verify for me, because I think we have a serious issue here in terms of practical, or not practical but actually legal, technical, passing of amendments to something that has never been proclaimed.

Some people might think that it is not that important, but it is very important. It is like I pointed out the other day to the Minister of Municipal Affairs on the City of St. John's Act dealing with the pension piece. I asked the minister at that time: How can you pass this bill and you do not have any retroactivity clause in it? People pooh-poohed that idea and said: You do not need that. What is that all about? That's silly.

Well, guess what folks? The Minister of Municipal Affairs, in the course of this session, is going to introduce an amendment putting in a retroactivity clause. So sometimes we do raise issues here which are relevant, and that was one such issue that was raised. It was relevant, the minister listened, and it is not the first time in this session.

We had an earlier case where the Minister of Finance, in the course of a piece of legislation, Bill 2, I do believe it was, the Revenue Administration Act, when again we pointed out something to the minister and he took it into consideration and he came back and proposed an amendment. So this process does, on occasion, work the way it is intended to work.

I think that is a very relevant question. We are dealing with Bill 20, and I would suggest that Bill 20 should not even be here, and we should not be dealing with Bill 20, until we have made the former Bill 70 actual law. If it was, no problem, my comments, as I say, are irrelevant, but if we have not proclaimed it I do believe we have an issue; because you cannot change something - which we are doing here - we cannot change provisions of an act that is not really the law yet. You can only come in here and change an act if that act is, in fact, law, proclaimed. So I think we might have a procedural issue here if the former Bill 70 is not indeed passed.

I am sure the minister can have someone in Legislative Council, or whoever is responsible for the administration of these things, check that information out. I do think it is important. I think it is important enough that we should not be voting, or closing debate on an issue, even, until we know the answer to that question. I think that is serious enough, because we would all look pretty foolish if it is not proclaimed and if we are here amending something that does not even technically exist. I think that is a very relevant consideration.

Again, I say that the government, in terms of spin, I come back to that point because in the same press release yesterday, May 13, I quote paragraph two where it says, "Our government has long recognized the need for greater emphasis on R&D activity in Newfoundland and Labrador and today's announcement marks an important step toward addressing that need."

As I say, we have had an act since the 1960s dealing with the Research Council, so we are not creating anything new here. This is not some brainchild that this Administration came up with and said, oh, we are going to do this. They added two words, basically, "and development" - and very little else, I would submit.

That comes to the issue, too, of the minister made note of the fact of best practices. No doubt that is the intent when they started out back in December and we came here with Bill 70, but it is pretty obvious, as well, that it was a bit of a hasty job, if I might say so. Here we are, not five months removed from putting that bill through in the House, and we are back here today amending it. Now, I would submit that if the proper thought process had been put into it in the first place we would not have to be back here this quickly. Here we are, back here now, four or five months later, amending a bill that we only passed in the House in December. I suppose you could put a spin on that, too, and say: Oh, gee, that is great government again. We recognized it just as fast as that and we are back here that quickly trying to get it changed.

If I am correct on the proclamation piece, it shows a number of things. It shows that you did it in haste, obviously thinking that you needed it quickly for some reason or other, and here we are back here now. We recognize that there were mistakes - because we put it through, probably, in haste - and meanwhile we have not even followed the proper procedure, if that is the case, to pass it or to be here now trying to correct the mistakes, so that is an issue. That is one problem we have with this issue.

The minister made mention of the fact that we are putting $25 million into the Research and Development Council this year. Now, of course, that is a tidy sum of money. It does not compare much to what we see happening in other jurisdictions in Canada. I think the minister alluded to what percentage it is, less than 1 per cent, no comparison to what most of the other provinces do. That is on a percentage basis, but when you get into the dollar basis it is even less. When you look at it, we pale in comparison to what we see happening in some other jurisdictions like Ontario, for example. I believe, actually, it is the same statistics that the minister had. The minister alluded to some statistics about how much we put in compared to everybody else. We are at the bottom of the pack, pretty well. We are in the tail end of the race, shall we say, when it comes to putting money into R&D in this Province, vis-à-vis other places.

Just to give an example of how important the private sector is when it comes to R&D, I looked at the statistics, for example, and they break them out in sectors when it comes to, like, communications and telecom companies. Research In Motion, for example, that one company alone, last year, put $178 million into research and development. Seven times what we, as a Province, are putting in, that one company put into R&D last year.

Another sector, for example, the telecommunications services industry, Telus Corporation put $130 million into their R&D last year, one company. Again, we pale in comparison when we talk about $25 million. The software and computer services business, IBM - one company, IBM - put, last year, $360 million into their R&D, just one company. That is in Ontario, by the way. That is not what Research In Motion and these companies did across Canada. That is just what those companies put in, in the Province of Ontario. That is not to say they did not put it elsewhere.

In the life sciences investment industry, for example, in that area you have a lot of pharmaceutical companies, biotechnical type companies, and they invest, of course, because that is their lifeblood, particularly pharmaceutical companies. It is expensive, very, very, expensive, to do the type of research and development that they do. GlaxoSmithKline Inc., for example, which is a major pharmaceutical company in Ontario, they put in $177 million last year.

When you start looking in the Province of Ontario and where we fit, and I realize they have a much larger business base, they have a much larger population base and so on, than we do, and we pale in comparison when it comes to population as well, but when you add up all of this money that is in Ontario that we do not have, you can see why it is nice if you could get a piece of the pie.

For example, the minister alluded to meeting someone last night at the reception, or function, from the oil business who talked about having some money and hopefully going to work out some arrangements whereby they can make an investment here. Hopefully, it is going to be a case where we just did not create it but we can go that next step now and actually have these companies operate in our Province, and there are several of these oil companies that actually invest here.

We talk about, for example, this Province got into the issue of equity shares when it came to the offshore industry, and should it be part of these packages that R&D is a requirement? For example, under the Hebron deal I think the company committed to do so much research and development here. I do not know the exact details; there was not a lot of detail around the Hibernia announcements. That has sort of been kept under wraps, and God knows when we will see the details on that. Anyway, we, as I say, do not really compare right now but I guess you have to start somewhere. You have start somewhere, and at first there has been recognition by the government that the Research Council we had obviously wasn't adequate so we started to create the new one. Hopefully we are going to do it properly, and we have to start somewhere by putting the money in.

I am just curious, as well, and this comes to the next point about the structure of our R&D Council. Because if you look at it closely, the definitions that are in our R&D act that we passed last December, it is very similar in wording to another piece of legislation that we put through this House that was very controversial. I am referring, of course, to the Energy Corp legislation that now has since become Nalcor. That bill went through this House. They created, again, a corporation, a Crown corporation, that was going to deal with all of the energy concerns in the Province. You will recall there were certain things in that piece of legislation that caused a lot of concern by people, not only in here, not only by the Opposition parties, but people outside, observers who - for example, it was said in that particular act that everything was secret. You go back and look at it, the definition of what fell under the definition of commercially sensitive information; that was hot and heavily debated here. We have the same definition, I think, word for word from the Nalcor piece, now put into our R&D legislation.

The whole issue of: Would anybody in the Energy Corp even have to go through the public tendering process? Of course, the answer was no, because there was a clause in the Energy Corp bill which says no, no, they do not even have to go to public tendering.

Now, for everybody else in the Province there is a Public Tender Act, but for some reason or other they excluded Nalcor, which was the creation of that energy bill, from public tendering. A lot of people had some concerns about that, and really the government never did – never did! – in this House give a satisfactory explanation as to why Nalcor was exempt from the Public Tender Act. You see, this is the government that has always touted itself as being open and transparent, and this act, I would submit, is anything but, again, because it is patterned after the Energy Corp. In fact, it has an identical clause in here when it comes to public tendering saying that the Research and Development Council is not subject to the Public Tender Act.

Why, in the name of God, if we have $25 million of taxpayers' money into a Research and Development Corporation, some operational money, some seed money, as the minister said, why would this act not be subject to the Public Tender Act? What could be so sensitive that you wouldn't make that body comply with the laws that, until Nalcor, everybody else had to comply with?

It seems like a lot of the legislation that this government is drafting in the last number of years is geared to secrecy, is geared to non-disclosure instead of the professed mantra which was disclosure which was openness and accountability and transparency. This government preaches one thing, but it passes legislation that does exactly the opposite. The Nalcor piece was one and now we have this bill here which is another.

Those comments were made back at Christmastime when we passed that particular piece of information.

Some people can question the, I don't know if logic is the right work, the wisdom, probably, of some of the approach we are taking here. For example, the old corporation that existed that will be repealed by this piece of legislation, it had a mandate specifically to publish research results, which is pretty much consistent with the idea of making ideas available to the public sector and the private sector, so that the private sector could develop them and make something out of them. That was the whole purpose of having research done, so you could encourage the actual research and the results would become public.

Academics, for example: I mean, the world over publish the results of their research so their peers can test it and see if it is a good idea, see if it is a bad idea, and improve upon it. We have taken the exact opposite here. We are not approaching this from a research and development perspective whereby we necessarily want to encourage people to create an idea and then give it to whomever to get the best out of it. We are saying: Yes, we will put some money out, we will encourage people to develop ideas, but guess what? Once you have them, we are in charge of the information, we are not telling anybody else about it. They have even put provisions in here to prevent people from finding out anything about it. Now, that seems to fly in the face of what normal, conventional research and development was all about, so that is an issue.

The other piece here - and I do not think this is playing with words at all – is, the minister, in paragraph five of his press release yesterday, said that the corporation will operate at arm's-length from government, but with responsibility to provide advice and leadership within government. I do not think that is an accurate statement at all. I think that is really a big piece of spin, because arm's-length implies that it is not controlled by government, it is aside from government, it is independent. For example, the Chief Electoral Officer's office is supposed to be arm's-length from government. That was severely questioned, of course, when that went through here with the appointment of the current CEO, Mr. Reynolds, hotly debated, and again hotly debated recently as to some decisions that he made in recent weeks in the media and publicized.

The reason I say that is: How can you say that it is arm's-length from government when the government, the Cabinet, appoints the CEO? They even go further. The Cabinet must approve every single staff member? That is hardly a free-thinking board of directors when you absolutely control who is on the board. And the government to suggest that constitutes arm's-length, sure that is something like the situation at Memorial University that we saw on the president's issue. The government, of course, put so many people on the Board of Regents. We had the tussle when the former Minister of Education, the Government House Leader now, interfered in the process for the selection of the president. She got her knuckles rapped soundly in the public domain, not only by academics but by anybody who respects our University setup and the independence of our University.

What happened in that case? Apparently it is going to be dealt with differently now, because I saw the response, actually, of the new Minister of Education the day he was sworn in. One of the reporters asked: What is your position on the MUN selection piece, on the presidency piece? What is going to happen now? Will you be having any input into that? Well, he almost swallowed himself whole. He did not know how to answer the question. I watched him and I think we have a copy of it somewhere upstairs. He almost swallowed himself whole because he did not know what to say. Thankfully for him, the Premier happened to be there because the conversation took place and the interview was taking place down at Government House where he had just gotten sworn in. The Premier stepped in and said: No, no, we will not be getting involved in any more interviews at Memorial University.

Maybe that sent a signal, of course, that: We are going to restrain ourselves now. We understand that we overstepped our bounds in what we did, we did not handle that properly and so on, so maybe we are going to act a bit differently in the new selection process. That is the indication I got from it, but we will see now how government acts as the process unfolds in it, and whether they do, in fact, let it unfold properly as it should without any government interference; certainly when it comes to an interview process piece.

There was actually a recommendation, I do believe, in that regard from the Board of Regents, a special committee that they struck suggesting that the legislation as it currently exists should be changed. I do not know if government is so gracious, or accepts their error, the error of their ways and how they handled that. I do not see that legislation coming forward any time soon. Of course, that is not current for them. That would not be necessary because the biggest problem with that is it would have to be an admission by government that they were wrong. You can be sure, sure as the sun is going to come up sometime in the next 365 days –

MR. SPEAKER: Order please.

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

I ask for the relevancy of the discussion to the Research and Development debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader, to the point of order.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the relevancy of this issue is I am trying to show that the bill we are debating, Research and Development, is not an arm's-length transaction, a creation, as the minister stated in his press release. As an example of that, I am showing why the Memorial University situation has an identical type setup in terms of how government controls it. That one did not work. That one was not arm's-length, because the government's actions in what they did in the presidency piece demonstrated that it was not arm's-length. I am trying to show that unless we get a change in what is here now this corporation is not going to be at arm's-length either. I am using it for purposes of comparison.

I am sorry if I offended the Minister of Education and the government, because they seem to be very, very thin skinned tonight when you say anything that questions what they are doing at all. I do believe that is the process of second reading, to probe the issue and to point out questions so that the minister can be prepared to give me an answer when he is ready to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Relevance is often very difficult to determine and debate is often wide-ranging. The Chair, when it is more than evident that relevancy is in question, will make a ruling on relevancy, but in this particular case I find it difficult to determine whether or not the comments of the Opposition House Leader were relevant, therefore I would find them acceptable.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I would suggest the minister swallowed himself whole again.

MS JONES: Second time.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: The second time in his brief tenure.

Anyway, back to my point again. That is exactly why I am comparing it to that point, because the government claims, number one, always to be open and transparent and they use language that is not what is reality. To say in a press release that this council is going to be arm's-length when you know yourself that the legislation we are dealing with here says: We, the Cabinet, will appoint the CEO. We, the Cabinet, will appoint all the board members. We, the Cabinet, will even pick the staff. They are not even leaving it to the discretion of the Board of Directors who they might appoint to pick the staff. They actually pick the staff.

How can you try to profess, even, that you are in any way open and transparent? How can you say that the Research and Development Council is going to be arm's-length? As I say, we have a perfect example in this Province where government said on the one hand that something was arm's-length, Memorial University, they operate at arm's-length, and then they turned around and by their very actions in interfering in the president's selection did not do it.

All I am saying is, you cannot have your cake and eat it too, as the Minister of Finance and Premier were saying today in the course of the nurses' piece, and likewise with the government when it comes to the language they use. Either it is or it isn't and you should not try to make something of it that it is not. I suggest that is certainly not the case here for the minister to be saying that, because when people get on to you, because they see it as spin, they do not respect probably what it is you started out to do

This is a good creation, by the way. There is nobody who disagrees that the Research and Development Council is a good thing, but do not try to make it something that it is not. Let reality show what it is. The government created it; the government is absolutely going to control it. They are going to control who runs it, they are going to control who is on the board, they are going to control what staff it has, and they are going to protect every piece of single scrap of information that is created. That is hardly arm's-length. You have ruled out anybody who might want to ever have a look at what is inside of there. There is no accountability when it comes to how you spent you money, not a piece. Nobody is ever going to be able to question it. Not a soul is ever going to be able to question it. It won't see the light of day. If something happens and you want to keep it under the rock, it is under the rock and that is where it will stay. We saw that in the Energy Corp and this bill is patterned after that. There are a lot of processes and procedures and pieces to this animal that are identical to the Nalcor situation. That was a case where we ruled out the Public Tender Act applying, and we ruled out the Auditor General being able to go in there and reveal any information or check out the information. He could go in but he had to keep his mouth shut. He could never comment on it publicly. Those were the words or words to that effect: He can come in and look but he can't comment on it publicly.

The Information and Privacy Commission: If you make an FOI request and you go into this R&D company and you ask for information, he is restricted, can't do it, forbidden, don't touch, hands off.

A lot of people looking at this kind of thing say: Just a minute now. Maybe your motives are great. You are going to put some money into a Research and Development Council that hopefully is going to find some information and come up with new ideas that are going to be beneficial to this Province, maybe some private industry, maybe for government themselves to decide that we want to take it and use it, create some program with it, or go down a certain road when it comes to an economic development opportunity. Maybe that is coming, but I would suggest that the true intent of a Research and Development Council is broader than just looking after the government's interest.

Research and Development Councils generally have a two-fold purpose. Yes, you can use it to try to focus where the government would like to see the research and development be, but you also use it, and the information that it creates, so that other private industries in the sector can make use of it.

That brings me to my comment about: The minister said he met with this person in the oil industry. What are the mechanisms on that? Is Joe Blow, the President of Exxon Mobil, who says, I have $100 million that we can use for R&D - how is that going to work? Is he going to say, I put my $100 million in along with what you are going to throw in? What happens to the information after? Does the government own the information? Is Exxon Mobil prohibited from making use of it? I don't understand and I can't figure out the process of how that is going to work.

We can say, on the one hand, that we can attract all of these companies to put money into R&D along with what we are putting in as a Province, but if you set up and restrict how the information desk developed can be utilized, why would they ever invest with you? Why would they ever? Why would ExxonMobil, who spends millions by the way, billions of dollars on research and development, why would they ever go percentage with a government on a research and development project that they cannot make use of? My reading of the act is, that is exactly what it does now.

I do not know how we are supposed to get around that angle, because we could have a situation where, yes, we have a research and development council but we do not get any money from anyone else to help us with these initiatives, because they use the money themselves and do the project themselves.

I noted as well, when we were going through the figures there talking about oil companies, Imperial Oil, for example, put $73 million themselves in Ontario into research and development; just to use it as a comparison to the minister's reference to someone in the oil industry. Why would Esso put a chunk of money into research and development here unless they have some assurance that they can make use of the information? That is why they put this money in.

I would appreciate some explanation, if the minister has it, as to how they envisage that type of system working. I can see the $25 million. In fact, I do believe included in the minister's announcement yesterday were a couple of pieces of information where they are actually going to spend some of that money that they put in. There was one program called the R&D Vouchers who are going to offer up to $15,000 for small and medium size enterprises to improve access to local, national and international expertise and research facilities, and a second one called R&D Proof of Concept where again they would put some money into the project. I can see, if government is driving the initiative and has a particular thing they want to do, government takes its money, they put it into the project, and the results belong to government. I just do not understand how it is going to interact when it comes to private industry, particularly with some of these, I think, very restrictive usages and utilization that can be made of the information once the project is done.

I also note, from the investment sheet in Ontario again, Abitibi Bowater last year in the Province of Ontario - and we used to have an Abitibi Bowater here until some months ago and that is gone too - Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. spent $150 million in the Province of Ontario last year on research and development. Now, I would not think they are going to be investing any money here in research and development any time soon given the piece of legislation that we passed back in December where we expropriated all of their assets. It is unfortunate that, as a result of doing one action sometimes, it has an adverse reaction on the other side.

Again, I think the act is very secretive. Mr. Speaker, I use comparisons to show why I think this is secretive and why the government is saying one thing but doing something else. There are lots of examples. They talk about being open and accountable, which they are saying is a great idea, they preach about all of this openness and whatever when it comes to R&D, but we know that there are provisions in this very act which say anything but openness and accountability. We had examples, numerous examples here, even in the last couple of years. Forget about what happened in the first term of this government, from 2003-2007, but just looking at 2007 onwards. You talk about not being open and not being accountable!

The Sir Wilfred Grenfell piece: We did an FOI some time ago concerning the government's intended granting to Grenfell of university status. We were concerned. We asked questions in the House several times. Where is it, because it was announced a couple of years ago. There is some money put into the budget this year to do certain things? I questioned the Minister of Finance when we did the Estimates on the issue and so on. Yet, we put in our FOI request and we got three sheets back. On the top of the first sheet it says: Briefing note, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. Everything else on the front page is blacked out and on page two there was a big x through, nothing but an x, and on page three there was a big x through and nothing but an x. We said: Well, that is a great piece of information. That is really openness and accountability. Government cannot tell you they have a professed policy of going to do degree granting status to Grenfell. They do not give any straight answers in Question Period on it. They give you a briefing note that has three words on it that you can read, and they preach that it is open and accountable. People are not fools.

It is like I asked in Estimates, another example: the ambassador, the ombudsman, the man who replaced Mr. Rowe as our emissary to Ottawa. I asked a question of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs when I did the Estimates. I said: Can you tell us who this person reports to? Is there anybody at all who has any idea? Does he write a report for anybody? No! He is up there, it costs us $400,000 a year as a government, and he does not write a report to anybody. Does he give the Premier one even? It is the Premier who appointed him. Apparently that is who he is working for. We said: Has he ever, ever given a written report? Guess what the answer was? No. Not required to. Does not do it.

I do not know of any other job on the face of this earth where it costs you $400,000 to do it; public funds, by the way. This is not a corporation spending money. This is public funds: $400,000 a year and he does not answer to anybody. In fact, we used to get on to him. I used to call him Dr. Feelgood, because he used to make all of the politicians who went to Ottawa feel good. Other than that, we never saw what he did. The Minister of Justice straightened us out there a few weeks ago. He does do something, because the Minister of Justice stated in this House a few weeks ago, in answer to a question, that, yes, he did. He booked an appointment for me when I went to Ottawa. He set it up for me to see somebody.

I do not know if he is just Dr. Feelgood anymore, or if he is also a secretary now, because people going to Ottawa need a meeting, and he calls around and books your appointment for you. I would think that could be done down here without going through the expense of $400,000, but that is the government. Now whether or not we get the bang for your buck, that is anybody's guess, and we will see.

I had the pleasure of meeting him one day actually. I had asked lots of questions in the House about him. I was doing a bit of shopping downtown, and I think he must have been offended because I was asking all these questions. He introduced himself to me. I knew the man on sight, but I did not actually see him until that day. He introduced himself to me and told me: Well, this is what I actually do. He still did not have a very detailed answer for me as to what he does. You going to tell anybody publicly about that stuff? No, I do not do that. To my knowledge, to this day, he still does not report it to anybody.

I found it unique tonight, too, talking about openness and accountability again. Somebody mentioned the word across the House in debate on one of the other bills, and one of the ministers said: We do not have briefing notes anymore. You are darned right the government ministers do not have briefing notes anymore, because the Opposition members were utilizing freedom of information laws to try to get copies of the briefing notes, and the government said: We are going to fix that. We do not want to give them anything, so therefore we will not do them, and they cannot get under FOI what does not exist.

I remember before the policy changed and they took all of their briefing notes away from them, there were ministers who came in here with suitcases lugging their notes in; big suitcases lugging their notes in. They could hardly carry them. They had to get staff, sometimes, to help them bring their notes into the House. Now they come in and they do not have a thing. It must cause an awful lot of pressure on them, because they have to memorize everything now in their heads, because they are not allowed to have briefing notes anymore.

By the way, that is an acknowledged change by this government. What would you call that? Is that a government that is open and transparent, that is prepared to release whatever information - no problem, we will not hide anything from you. Never mind, there will not be anything put under the rocks under our watch. You ask and you shall receive. What did they do? They turned around, Mr. Speaker –

AN HON. MEMBER: Relevance, Mr. Speaker, relevance! Ruling.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I must be hitting a few raw cords again, Mr. Speaker. Soon as you get them riled up they start to talk relevance. Well, I have a lot of other relevant things I am going to say, because I still have a few more comments on this particular piece of legislation.

MR. HICKEY: Point of Order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Labrador Affairs, on a point of order.

MR. HICKEY: Mr. Speaker, I fail to see the relevance of some of the comments the Opposition House Leader is making here this evening.

AN HON. MEMBER: This morning.

MR. HICKEY: This morning, this evening, it does not make any difference. We are going to be here till dawn anyway.

MR. SPEAKER: Relevance has already been brought forward a couple of times earlier here tonight with the hon. member and his commentary on Bill 20. The Chair does not mind somebody straying away, and it is difficult to stay on the topic when you make a couple of statements, but to go and spend the past two or three minutes talking about the Province's representative up in Ottawa and to talk about the Access to Information - the Chair was looking at and reading Bill 20 and the explanatory notes and I say to the hon. member, I would ask if you would kindly keep your remarks relevant to Bill 20. If you read the explanatory notes-

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: If you read the explanatory notes, it is clear and concise that the commentary that the hon. member was providing was clearly not in tune with the spirit of Bill 20.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Of course, I always respect the rulings of the Chair and I will do the same right now.

I have lots of comments to make, of course, about R&D. I do not want to offend the sensitivities of any government members by saying anything that is not relevant and not talking about research and development.

I say to the Member for Exploits, he has an awful lot to say, Mr. Speaker. You talk about relevance! I thought there were rules here as well that talked about interfering with people. Maybe if he has so much to say he should stand on his feet.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member if he has concluded his remarks?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, he has.

MR. SPEAKER: Any further debate on Bill 20?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: I ask members for their cooperation. Has the hon. member concluded with his debate?

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: The light is not on, Mr. Speaker. I can't talk if I am not recognized.

MR. SPEAKER: I saw the hon. member sit. I did not know if the hon. member had completed or not, but I call the hon. Opposition House Leader.

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

I sat, with all due respect, because you had called it to order. I understood the rule was, if you call it to order I am supposed to sit down until you rule. That was why I sat down.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I will get back to my comments here on research and development. The piece of legislation we have here, of course, is not overly long, Bill 20. It is not an overly long piece. It only has a couple of clauses in it, actually.

You alluded to it, but I did not get the full explanation of the Corporations Act piece. The new clause here now says, the Corporations Act does not apply to the council. I am just wondering what the relevance of that is and the rationale as to what we did there or what you are doing with that. I do believe you said it was not a very significant one, but I am just wondering if you could give a more detailed explanation of what we mean by that.

I was going to ask you, as well, the question about the change in the appointment clause, clause 7, subsection (1), but you did explain that. As you said, it is a very subtle change and it does allow now for, instead of just having to appoint somebody for three years, by putting in the provision up to three years, you get that flexibility that you want. That was a question that I had, but I certainly appreciate your explanation of it in that regard.

Again – and I am about to conclude, Mr. Speaker - I come back to my basic premise here. The problem with Bill 20 is whether or not we are trying to amend an act that is not really the law. That was based on the fact that I cannot find anywhere in the government records and documents - we are here now saying we are going to amend what was Bill 70 - I cannot find where Bill 70, which we passed back last December, was ever proclaimed. My understanding is, if a bill was not proclaimed it is not law. If it is not law, why are we here, in Bill 20, trying to change an act that does not exist? I think it is a relevant question. Maybe everybody has missed it or whatever, but I cannot find the proclamation piece.

As I suggested - I am not sure if the Government House Leader heard at the time - maybe the answer is quite simple. Maybe the minister has the answer for me and he can clarify it. I would suggest, if the minister does not have the answer, that it would not be appropriate for us to clue up second reading on this, because the whole nub of what we are doing here - maybe we should not be having the debate if the bill that we had should not be here. I am not sure if the Government House Leader was available when I said that. As I say, if the minister can clarify the issue quickly, not a problem.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

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

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

I do not know if I can say that I am pleased to be speaking to this at 3:21 in the morning but at least we are here and so I am going to speak to it.

The bill, of course, we are dealing with, Bill 20, is An Act To Amend The Research And Development Council Act. I do say that I have to echo the question that has been asked by the Opposition House Leader with regard to amending an act that I do not think has been promulgated, and I will be waiting for an answer from the minister on that as well. We have searched and we still find the bill form of what we passed in December in preparation for an act, but I am not sure that we have had an act promulgated. I, too, have a question of process with regard to amending an act that has not been promulgated, so I am sure that an answer is going to be ready for us when we finish the second reading, I presume in committee we will probably get some answers.

I understand the reason for the amendments, I think, because the amendments, of course, have to deal with the new status of the research council as a Crown corporation. I am interested in, and I really do not know how to get at this, I am really interested in how it is anticipated that the council or the corporation is going to set its focus for research. We have a lot of research going on in the Province. I agree with the minister when he talks about the percentage of our GDP that goes into research and development. It is not as much as happens in other places and it does need to improve. When I say we have a lot of research going on I am not meaning that we do not need more research. What I am saying is that the research we have going on, which is everything from marine biology right through to research in medicine, to medicine offshore, to forestry, we have quite a bit of research going on, most of it is centred around the university and the College of the North Atlantic, the Grenfell Campus as well as the St. John's campuses and the Marine Institute and the lab down in Logy Bay, and the botanical research as well. We have quite a bit of research going on. We also have research in humanities and social sciences at the university.

I really am interested in getting a better understanding from the minister as to what the expectation is with regard to the Research and Development Corporation in focusing research for the new corporation. With the amendment, amendment 1(2)(g), we have a broadening of the definition of research from the original bill that we passed last December. Research now means research with respect to science, engineering and technology, social sciences and humanities. The whole breath of research has been broadened by putting in social sciences and humanities. I do not have a problem with that. My problem is trying to figure out what government's goal is, because government is setting up this body, and government has control over this body. So, does government have some kind of a goal in mind? Does government have a vision that it is going to be sharing with this corporation or is the corporation just going out on its own and determining, by working with other of the agencies, what the focus is going to be? I can think of a whole lot of things that I would like to see research focus on.

This bill is a housekeeping bill to bring the bill that we passed in December up to the reality of the new corporation. It is a housekeeping thing. I have to see that in the context of Bill 70, because, of course, this is part of Bill 70. It is an amendment of Bill 70. When I look at Bill 70 everything is put in such a general way I still cannot get a sense of what the hope is for this body. When I look at the object of the council in Bill 70 it says, "The object of the council is to strengthen the focus, quantity, quality and relevance of research and development undertaken in the province and elsewhere for the long-term economic benefit of the province by promoting, stimulating and supporting the effective utilization of science and technology by industry, government, academic institution or other organizations and, for this purpose, to undertake either singly or in conjunction with others, the research, development, surveys, investigations and operations that may, in the opinion of the council, be appropriate."

It is a mouthful, and it does not help me get a sense of focus. I guess I would really like to hear from the minister what is the vision from his department, what is the vision from Cabinet, with regard to the Research Council. Research councils are wonderful. I absolutely believe in them, I support them wholeheartedly, and I think it is really good to make sure that we have research that is focused and research that is meeting goals of the people in the Province. There is no doubt about that. I am very proud to say, for example, that it was fifty-two years ago that Premier Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan set up the Saskatchewan Research Council. He was a person who was definitely ahead of his time in many, many ways, and I am sure that a lot of where Saskatchewan is today is because of the fact that they have had a research council all this time.

What is it that we want? Do we want this research council to look at where we are at this moment in time and how we are going to move from here to somewhere else? Do we want it to look at rural Newfoundland in particular? Do we want to look at how rural and urban go together? What is it that we want? Adding social sciences and humanities: Where did that come from? I am not saying it should not be there. I am just wondering: Why did that get added in? I am glad when I see it there, because I think, wouldn't be great if we had research into how we can move ourselves as a Province with the economy that we now have into having social programs that will be more universal in meeting the needs here in our Province.

How does one fit a child care program into our economy, such as the child care program they have in Quebec? How does one fit a total home care program into our economy, such as the one they have in Manitoba? This is the kind of research I would be interested in, but I, as an individual, even though I sit in this House, will not have input into that council. I heard the minister, in his opening remarks - I was not here but I was upstairs in my office and I did watch what he said - I heard him talk about consultations that have happened. I think he mentioned that something like 200 people have probably been consulted with at this moment. I would like more information on that consultation. I would like to get a better idea of where the council is rooted or where the corporation, I guess, is rooted. Where is it going to be getting all its information and how is it going to be connected with the other research bodies that are going on? How is it even going to be connected with things that are not exactly research bodies, like the Rural Secretariat? It is not a research body but it is certainly a touch stone of what is going on in the Province, especially in rural Newfoundland and Labrador but not only because the Rural Secretariat has a whole region here on the Avalon Peninsula as well, which includes St. John's, so it is more than just rural. Where do the other pieces that government has in place, and the piece that is in the minister's own ministry, like the Rural Secretariat, where does that fit into the picture?

I did ask some of these questions at the Estimates meeting and today I went over the discussion and some of the answers but they were quite vague and I really did not learn that much with regard to where this is going. I really would like the minister to be able to be a bit more concrete with us, give us a better idea of where this is going.

When we had the discussion in the House in December about Bill 70, I pointed out, for example, something like the Alberta Research Council. The Alberta Research Council spearheaded the tar sands research, but I think that the Alberta Research Council was really weak when it came to looking at the environmental and sustainability issues around what it meant to develop the tar sands. How do we ensure that if we are going to have a council here, and we are going to have it, we have it, that our council does not make errors like that? How are we going to ensure that we bring together all of the values that we would like to see in our Province? If we are going to look at, for example - I do not know what the corporation will look at but if we are going to look at, let us take central Newfoundland as an example, redevelopment there using the forestry resource but what are alternatives, what are different things that can be done with the forestry resource? If we were to do that, will we put in the element of environment? Where do environmental concerns fit in this? Where are issues of sustainability? How are we going to make sure that a renewable resource continues to be a renewable resource? I am just putting out ideas because it is hard to know where to go, and maybe this is the kind of discussion that is going on inside of the corporation right now.

I would like to know, what is the status of the corporation? We had staff people with the minister at the Estimates meeting who could speak somewhat to the corporation, but as far as I can see there is nothing in place yet and I need that confirmed. It is hard to know where to go.

We are investing. The government has put, already, $25 million into the corporation. This is the money of the Province; this is the people's money. I think people are going to want to know what it is that this money is being invested in. I really do think that the government owes it to the people of the Province to let them know more clearly what their vision is for this Research Council or this Research Corporation, Research and Development Corporation, to use the full term, what the vision is, what their hopes are, and to set up a system whereby people will get notified on a regular basis, with some kind of reporting, what money is being invested and what is the research that is going on.

I am not asking that reports would give details of every step, but it would be good for people to know if the research that is going on is research into social sciences or it is research into humanities or it is research into alternatives to the use of forest resources, et cetera. Once again, we just do not have any kind of concrete information whatsoever. I just find everything very, very broad and everything very vague.

I, too, have a question that was asked by the Opposition House Leader and I ask it, too, of the minister to share with us two things. I understand that not being subject to the Public Tender Act is the same that was in the bill for the Energy Corporation, but I would like a further explanation of why.

I have one more question around that, which I wanted to ask, and it has to do with the Corporations Act. I am not clear on why the Corporations Act does not have a role to play in this corporation. I know it is similar with regard to the Energy Corporation, but there are many more clauses from the Corporations Act that do relate to the Energy Corporation. With this one, the only clause that would relate is the one that has been put into the amendment, which is 13.1 of Bill 20. There are a few more clauses when it came to the Energy Corporation, from the Corporations Act. Why is the Corporations Act not relevant for this corporation, for this Crown corporation?

I think I have put a number of questions to the minister, Mr. Speaker, and I have also spoken, I think, rather directly to some of the concerns that I have with regard to the direction that this Research and Development Corporation is going to take.

I thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

If the hon. the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development speaks now he will close the debate on Bill 20, second reading of An Act To Amend The Research And Development Council Act.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I did take some notes while the hon. members opposite were speaking, and I will try to capture the questions and points that they raised, as best I can, and hopefully answer to the best of my ability this evening some of the things that they did bring up.

Just as a minor point, the Opposition House Leader spoke to the fact that he felt we were not doing anything new here; this was not something that we created; this was something that was already in existence, and he referred to a Newfoundland Research Council that had existed back in the 1960s.

Generally speaking, I would say to you, he is correct in that; he is accurate in that. In actual fact, there was a Newfoundland Research Council that was established back in the 1950s – actually, it was in 1952 - and then there were evolutions of that, I guess, in the 1950s, 1960s, and right on up through.

I did not intend to portray that what we were doing was something new. What I was attempting to show to the people of the Province was that this was something that we recognized was not being done in the Province. Even though we did have a Newfoundland Research Council, it was not something that was active or being done actively, and upon looking at other jurisdictions we determined, by doing that cross-jurisdictional analysis, the kinds of things that we needed to put into a new act to be able to effectively do the research and development work that this Province needs to have done to help us move forward and move into the future.

It is not new, and I will be the first to admit that. It certainly is not new. What it is, though, is something now that we have taken the time to try and construct in such a way that we are doing the best possible job we can in moving forward on research and development activity in the Province by looking at what has been done in other jurisdictions. I just wanted to make that point of clarification, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the other point that I had noted that was asked or was brought up, actually, by the Opposition House Leader and the Leader of the NDP, was the question as to whether or not the previous act, which back in December we referred to it as, in the fall sitting, when we were doing it, I believe it was Bill 70, if memory serves me correctly - Bill 70 it was - and as the Opposition House Leader had indicated, it is now referred to as Chapter R-13.1 because we now have it as a piece of legislation that we have dealt with here in the House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, the act actually has not been proclaimed and does not need to be - it is my understanding - proclaimed. We can have our debate here in the House this morning on this, we can discuss the amendments, and it indicates in the act that we dealt with in December that the act comes into force on a day to be proclaimed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, and we can do that at some point. When we do that, the amendments that we are referring to, which we now know today as Bill 20, it actually says those amendments come into force on the day that the Research and Development Council Act comes into force. So, a lot of concern and a lot of worry, really, over nothing, because the process that we are following is quite appropriate and we are doing exactly what it is we can do.

Mr. Speaker, the other point that I want to reference was that it was asked by the Opposition House Leader, or insinuated by the Opposition House Leader, that somehow we had made some mistake with the original Bill 70; that we now had to come back to the House and do some more changes; that we had somehow rushed it, or we had somehow done something that was not correct.

Mr. Speaker, what I would suggest to the hon. member opposite is that we did, in December, pass the bill, give assent to the bill; and, as I indicated, we did go out and do a number of consultations. We spoke to a lot of people throughout the Province. There were eleven –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having difficulty hearing the hon. minister. I ask members if they would take their conversations outside the House.

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

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The point I was trying to make is that yes, we are here in the House five months later making some amendments to the act, but I think it is important that we do those amendments when we are told by the people who we are working with in our community - the academic community, the business community, the research and development community - that there are things they would like to see changed. We are living in a time, in our world, where things happen quickly, where things change quickly. We only need to look at the economy to see the kinds of changes that have happened with the economy over the last few months, and how the world has been turned upside down in some ways. So we, as a government, are committed to making sure that the legislation we have is appropriate for the time that we are living in. We have been told by the people that we are working with in our community that we need to make some of these changes, and we are more than happy to come back and do it.

As was indicated in the number of meetings that I had yesterday with representatives of the business and academic community, they are quite happy with the way that this government is moving forward with this legislation and feel that it is a very appropriate piece of legislation, a piece of legislation that will certainly assist them in what they are trying to do, and, most importantly, assist in the economic development of this Province, and that ultimately is what we want to do: to make sure that all residents of the Province share in the economic prosperity that can come from the research and development that we will be carrying out.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Mr. Speaker, the other point that I just wanted to reference was that I did reference, in my opening remarks to this bill, some of the investments that were being made, that we as a government were making, and some of the investments that other groups were making. The Opposition House Leader did reference some other companies, some large corporations in other areas of the country, and the monies that they were putting in.

I think it is important that we understand that this is a starting point. We are starting, as a government, with a $25 million infusion into the Research and Development Council. That is something that the community, based on the consultations that we have done, have indicated they feel will be adequate to allow the council to do the work it needs to do in its first year, but that is not all of the money that will go into research and development in this Province. I think it is important that the people who are out there watching this, and I am sure there are many of them out there this morning watching us, it is important that they understand that the $25 million that we are putting in will be leveraging money from private corporations, money from conglomerates, money from other sources of government like the federal government, the research arms and research divisions within the federal government, so that $25 million will grow to be a lot more than $25 million.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, and I may not find it right now while I am just here looking, but the research and development of the Province over the last few years has been about $30-something million. I forget the exact amount, but I know it was $30-something million, and we actually leveraged with that $30 million somewhere just around $100 million, so about a three-to-one investment on our money. We ended up investing $30 million and ended up attracting and gathering another $100 million, for a total of $130 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: So, certainly the money that we are putting in is going to be important in leveraging other money and we will be able to do a lot with that.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the structure of the corporation itself, there was some reference to the Energy Corporation, and some commentary about how it was sort of closed and secretive, and all that kind of stuff. I am not going to spend a lot of time on that, because that actually is the original bill that the Opposition House Leader was referring to, but in terms of the openness, in terms of what it is we do with the monies that we invest, and who owns the intellectual property that will be created by this, or who knows the rights to the information, there is, under clause 20 of Bill 70, a section there, section 20, that refers to ownership, and who owns the work, and how the work will be owned, and how the council will control it, and who the council can provide it to, but there is also a section 21 that refers to commercially sensitive information.

The council can share its information, and it can share it where it wishes, with some caveats. The caveats have to do with things like: If it is going to harm the competitive position of one of the corporate entities that we have partnered with, we are not going to share that information because you do not want to harm the partners that you are doing research with. If it is going to result in some financial loss or financial harm of one of the people, or one of the companies that we are partnering with, we certainly would not do that. If it is going to interfere in some negotiation process that might be ongoing, we certainly would not want to share that information.

So the reasons for the protections are not to hold back things or to hide things from people, Mr. Speaker, it is to protect the people that we will be doing some of our partnering with, some of the businesses that are out there that are investing the money, matching the money and putting in their own money to match the money that we put in. It is to protect their investment, to protect the intellectual property and the intellectual capital that we will be generating from the research and development that we will be doing. That is what we doing there, Mr. Speaker, and that is clearly outlined in the bill and is available for anybody to see.

The other thing, Mr. Speaker, that I think is important that I mention has to do with the fact that the financial structure of the corporation – again, the allegation across the floor of the House was that somehow secretive, Mr. Speaker, somehow again, the people of the Province would not know what their money was being spent on, would not know what it was all about.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I will just refer – this is a public document, people in TV land can certainly look up this information. It is section 17 of the act. The former Bill 70 refers to an audit and financial statement. It says: "The auditor general shall annually audit the financial statement of the council." This is not a financial statement that the council will be putting out. This is a financial statement that the Auditor General of the Province will be allowed to come into the council and audit the financial affairs of the council. I think that is fairly open, Mr. Speaker. The Auditor General comes in and does that through all other government departments. It is a process that we have in place that works well. The Auditor General produces a report each year, talks about compliance, talks about non-compliance, and the Auditor General can certainly do that with the council. Section 17 refers to that, Mr. Speaker.

The other thing that I want to refer to is in section 18 – just to go a step further, I will just read to you, Mr. Speaker, if you will bear with me, a line or two here. It says: Where, during the course of an audit, the Auditor General becomes aware of an improper retention or misappropriation of funds by people working with the council, or some other activity that may be an offence under the Criminal Code - and on and on it goes, Mr. Speaker. What it says is that where that happens the Auditor General is to provide a report to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council in confidence. So that is to the Cabinet. The Auditor General, if he finds anything wrong, will report to Cabinet about that, to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council on that.

It also says, Mr. Speaker, that when he does that he will also - the Auditor General will also report under subsection (2) as if he were an officer of the House of Assembly. So, it will come to the House of Assembly as well. The Auditor General has the opportunity to audit the books of the corporation and if he finds anything wrong, he has an opportunity to report any wrongdoings or anything that he finds that he is not happy with.

So there is openness and accountability there, Mr. Speaker. It is not a matter of trying to protect or to keep secretive. It is a matter of trying to make sure that the partners we are working with have the protection they need to be able to enter into government's world and we as a government have the opportunity to be able to enter into the corporate world. So we have been able to provide that balance, Mr. Speaker. We are living in a complex world and by living in a complex world we need to be able to make sure that we have the processes in place to be able to balance that complexity, and I think we have been able to do that. I believe we have certainly been able to achieve that.

Mr. Speaker, another point that I was asked to clarify - and again I will do my best on this one. It has to do with the Corporations Act. In the original bill it did say that the – and if you will bear with me I hopefully will find it for you fairly quickly. Here it is. Under section 3 of Bill 70 it says: the Corporations Act, except for section 203, does not apply to the council.

What we are saying is that the Corporations Act, except for one particular section, does not apply. So one section does and a whole bunch of the Corporations Act does not. We just thought it would be easier, Mr. Speaker, if we just eliminated that and took section 203 of the Corporations Act, the section which we want to have apply, and wrote it directly into the act. That is what we are going to do, basically. So we are taking section 203 of the Corporations Act and we are writing that right into the act. That is basically what we are trying to do there, Mr. Speaker. We just tried to simplify it. It really is the same thing. We are just trying to simplify it a little bit.

Mr. Speaker, if I could, the Leader of the NDP, the Member for Signal Hill–Quidi Vidi had some discussion about focus and being able to set the focus and how would we determine priorities. I do not want to put words in her mouth but I am trying to paraphrase what I understood she was asking me. How would we determine priorities within the council and how would we ensure that those priorities, provincial priorities, were things that were to the benefit of the Province while we are out working with all these other entities, these academic entities who have their own reasons for doing their research and development and these corporate entities who would have, I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, very specific reasons for doing their research and development.

At this point, Mr. Speaker, my answer to that would be – and again, I say to you, we are in the infancy here of what we are doing with the council. We have already had eleven consultations around the Province where groups can come in and talk to the council, and we have had some 200 – I forget the exact number – some 200 meetings with individual groups, organizations, businesses, individuals, whatever the case may be, who are interested in the work of the council. It is from that that we have been able to try and identify our priorities.

In going around the Province and having these consultations and meeting with these people, the kinds of things that have risen to the top, in terms of the priorities that we have heard, have been oceans and energy. Now, there are others, I will say to you, Mr. Speaker, but oceans and energy tended to be the two things that a lot of people felt we should be into. Genetics would be another one, as an example, aerospace and so on. I do not want to leave the House with the impression that there are only two priorities. There were a number of them, but oceans and energy certainly rose to the top in the discussions that were held by the Research and Development Council.

Those priorities are also priorities of the government, Mr. Speaker. We have made them our priorities because of the fact that we have heard it out in the communities. We have been very careful in terms of trying to match, as best we can, the priorities of government with the priorities of the research and development community that is out there. As we evolve and as we go forward, we expect that those kinds of things will happen. There will be natural focusing of the kinds of things that we as a Province feel are important, matching up with the kinds of things that we think the research and development industry out there is going to feel is important.

An example of that, Mr. Speaker, would be the genetics centre that we have just recently supported in Budget 2009. There is going to be a new genetics facility built on the Memorial University campus, which was identified by the university, the academic research community, as being something that was important to them. They went looking for funding from various levels of government, including ourselves, and we identified the fact that genetics research was important to the Province. We have supported that, as did the federal government, as did the university, and we will have a genetics centre built because of the fact that we have been able to identify it is a common priority of all of us. So that is the kind of thing we are going to be doing.

Given that we are nearing the end of my time, I will conclude my remarks there. I hope it provides some insight into the questions that were posed. If further clarification is needed I will certainly do my best to try and explain as we get through committee stage.

So I will take my leave now, Mr. Speaker, thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise on a point of order at this time based upon the information that the minister has provided. I spoke in second reading on this issue and I brought up the issue about whether or not the bill that we passed here in December had indeed been proclaimed, and the minister has been kind enough to provide me with the answer to that and that is that it is not proclaimed.

Now, with all due respect to the minister, I do not think it is his call to make the decision that the process here in regards to this is okay. I think that is a call that has to be made by the House. The minister said it is his understanding that it is okay. In my view, it is not okay and it is absolutely inappropriate for us to be debating and voting on a bill in this House when we know that the very act that they are attempting to change does not exist. That is the bottom line.

We went through a process here in this House, and the process of making a law is pretty clear. It comes into this House, it goes through certain stages, and at the end of the day it is assented to in the House. It only becomes law when it is proclaimed. In fact, that is very clear. It says in section 28 when we passed it back in December, on December 18, I do believe, it says: this act comes into force - in other words, comes into existence. This act comes into existence on a day to be proclaimed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.

Now the minister has confirmed here that this act has not been proclaimed. Here we are now – it flies in the face of logic that we are here in this House tonight with Bill 20 trying to change an act which does not exist. That is contrary to all basic premises of democracy. You cannot do it. It is not possible to do it. How can you make a change of an act that does not exist? Bill 20 that we are dealing with here, it is very clear that is what it is. It says: we are here, we are going to change the former Bill 70. Well, Bill 70 does not exist in law to change it. I said that raises problems, and I will put some context around it, Mr. Speaker.

We have Standing Orders, for example, that deal with numbers of things in this House, procedurally, decorum, whatever else. There are a whole pile of things that we have, we designed ourselves, as to how we are going to run this House of Assembly, our House of Assembly. We also, when we do not have rules around it, we resort to other jurisdictions, whether it be the Canadian House of Commons or the British Parliament. We resort to parliamentary text on the subject, the Beauchesnes of the world and so on, but in all of those treatises, in all of those commentaries that you have, it is assumed - not assumed, it is necessary, it is obvious - that when you do something in this House from the point of view of passing legislation, and that by the way is the principle purpose of this House, not Question Period, not anything else, the principal purpose of a Legislature is to pass laws. This Legislature passed a law back in December, but it is not a law because it is not proclaimed, and the very act, section 28, said it is not a law until it is proclaimed. I did not make that up. Section 28 said that it does not exist. Now we have the minister here trying to suggest that we can come in here and deal with the existence of Bill 20 as if the former bill exists.

There are two other pieces that tie in with it, Mr. Speaker. For example, the minister's announcement –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I am not suggesting that there was anything nefarious here. I think it has been an oversight, but it is an oversight that cannot be overlooked once it is found.

For example, the minister's own press release yesterday talks about this council as existing. This council does not exist. The commentary of the minister here tonight, and all the public commentary, is that the old Research Council is gone. It is not, because the old Research Council could only be gone once the former act that we passed here in December was proclaimed.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member if he would conclude his remarks.

The Chair, I think, and the House, understands the situation and the concern that he is raising. I ask him now if he would conclude his remarks and the Chair will listen to commentary from other members, will give him an opportunity to speak again, and then we will come back with a decision.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Another relevant piece to this - and I think it is important that you have all the information; I pointed out why I think that it is, and there are several pieces to it - number one, the government, I think, accidentally overlooked this and they did so in their, I think, innocence.

The other piece is: We passed a Budget in this House on Tuesday. Within that Budget there was an expenditure of funds to the tune of $25 million. Now, that is a fact. We passed a bill here Tuesday night, I do believe, when we finished with the Budget debate. Where did that $25 million go? Where is that $25 million? It says in the Budget documents, that everybody voted on here, that it went into this council, and it is a council that does not exist. Now, unfortunately, it may lead to a delay, it may lead to some other kind of proper way to go about it, but we cannot ignore the basic principles of democracy.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Is there further commentary on the point of order that was raised by the hon. the Opposition House Leader?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is certainly my understanding that, as the House of Assembly, in this debate, we can certainly debate what is before us, whether or not the original bill had been proclaimed. It is my understanding that the amendments will come into effect once the act is proclaimed. It is also my understanding that this is not precedent setting for the House, that we are doing this, that this has happened and similar amendments to acts that had not been proclaimed have been debated in the House before.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, our point is simply that this is not the first time this has been done in the House, and the amendments that we are debating tonight will not come into effect until the original bill has been proclaimed anyway.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

This House will take a brief recess and the Speaker will rule on the point of order that is brought forward.

This House now stands in recess.

Recess

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader raised a point in questioning whether we can make an amendment to an act which has not been enforced or proclaimed. He is referring to the Research and Development Council Act.

The Chair has listened to the debate put forward by the hon. the Opposition House Leader, and the response by the Government House Leader. The Chair rules that the existing Research and Development Council Act has been passed by this House of Assembly. It has been brought here, it has received first and second reading, it has gone through Committee, it has received third reading, and it has been signed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. While it is not enforced and not proclaimed, that still does not stop this Bill 20 from amending the act before it does become enforced.

The Chair rules that Bill 20 is in order and we should proceed with the vote.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 20 be now read a second time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Research And Development Council Act. (Bill 20)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 20 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 Amend The Research And Development Council Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 20)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Natural Resources, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bills 8, 9, 12, 14, 15, 17 and 20.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that this House now resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider certain bills, 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): The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Chairman, we will call Bill 8, An Act Respecting Chiropractors.

CHAIR: The Committee is now to begin debate on Bill 8, An Act Respecting Chiropractors.

A bill, "An Act Respecting Chiropractors." (Bill 8)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I certainly wanted to rise in Committee to have some comments with regard to this bill, and also some questions with regard to the bill itself.

First of all, this particular bill, An Act Respecting Chiropractors, is a regulatory bill that looks at self-governance of the chiropractic profession in the Province. This is a standard that has been occurring across a lot of different professional sectors within the Province and it resulted out of a White Paper on occupational regulations that was completed, actually, back in 1996.

Mr. Chairman, after that time there was a process that was undertaken to look at the self-governance level of different professional associations. In fact, in the last three or four years in particular we have had bills come before the House of Assembly that have been similar to this that also talked about a self-governing process for dentistry, for physiotherapy, and for other professions as well. I think we even looked at organizations like architects, engineers, psychologists and veterinarians, and there were probably many more.

Mr. Chairman, I think this is an important piece of legislation simply because it gives a degree of trust and comfort to the public that there is proper regulation within this particular field of medical services, and it is a field, in fact, which provides for a great deal of medical services within the country. Actually, it is probably the third-largest primary health service that is delivered to people right across the country and third only to medicine and dental services.

Mr. Chairman, we realize the importance of it and we also realize the importance of it to chiropractors themselves. Although we have fifty-three chiropractors who are practicing in the Province, either through clinics or individually, it is also comforting for them to know that if there ever are allegations made toward them that there is a process set up, an appropriate process, in which they will get a fair hearing. So fairness is very important in this piece of legislation.

Mr. Chairman, just looking at the licensing and regulation part of it, we already know that chiropractic is a self-governing profession, and that each provincial regulatory body will have the authority to grant licences to practice chiropractic in this Province.

Mr. Chairman, in all provinces, the minimum licensure requirements include graduation from an accredited chiropractic college. It also includes a minimum of three years of pre-professional university-college, studies. Also, it requires that these chiropractors write a Canadian standards exam and be tested through the Canadian Chiropractic Examining Board, and also through the provincial licensing board there is an exam process as well.

That is important to note, because anyone who is seeking this service in the Province can have comfort in knowing that chiropractors not only have to go through a vigorous licensing practice in Newfoundland and Labrador, and be able to pass those examinations, but they also have to do a national standards exam as well, and they have to be able to pass that. In addition to that, there is a certain amount of education required in terms of looking at their accreditation and providing them for licensing.

Mr. Chairman, in this Province there are a lot of people who seek the services of chiropractors, there is no doubt about that. In fact, in Canada last year there was something like $8 billion paid out in chiropractic services.

As you know, most people who have been unfortunate enough to be involved in accidents and workplace injuries, sometimes especially injuries that affect the back and affect the shoulder, the neck, and those kinds of things, they often require the services of a chiropractor. Some of them end up doing physiotherapy, others end up having to have surgical procedures, but a lot of people can go through a rehabilitation therapy that can be provided through chiropractic services.

We also know that in this Province there are a large number of people who suffer from pain like this, and suffer from back pain, especially lower back pain. In fact, Canadian statistics indicate that 50 per cent of the people who seek the services of a chiropractor actually suffer from lower back pain.

In addition to that, there is a large sector of the population who seek the service, who also suffer from neck pain and shoulder pain, and certainly constitute about 20 per cent more of the visits that you see at a chiropractor on a regular basis.

Mr. Chairman, this bill changes the legislation for chiropractic to increase the transparency and the accountability of the practice. It is a very detailed bill. In fact, not only does it increase transparency and accountability but I think it allows for people who use the service to have a great deal more confidence in the services that they are providing.

Chiropractic is relatively new in this Province. The first pieces of legislation were not proclaimed until 1990, which was long after chiropractic services were provided in other provinces around Canada. I think the first chiropractic services were provided in Canada in 1923, and it was first passed in the Legislature in Alberta. That will tell you that we were nearly seventy years later, in Newfoundland and Labrador, before we actually brought in legislation for the practice of chiropractic services in the Province. We were a lot further behind most of the other provinces in Canada in being able to do that.

Mr. Chairman, in this bill there are several legislative changes, as I have indicated. One of those changes is the board that deals with chiropractic services. Originally, under the legislation, a board was composed of five people who were appointed by the minister. Three were chiropractors, two were non-chiropractors, and they represented the interests of the public.

What this bill does, Mr. Chairman, is increase the board size to nine people in total. Six of those people will be elected chiropractors. Now, I am not sure how they are elected. I am assuming that they are elected by the chiropractic association themselves, through some annual meeting or some function that they would have. There are also three non-chiropractors who are appointed by the minister, and I guess they will not require any particular qualifications to sit on this board. I do not know; maybe the minister can outline if there are specific qualifications that they would be looking for in people they would appoint to serve on this board, but there will be three people who will serve.

Mr. Chairman, there are some new additions in this bill as well. Those additions have to do with the annual report on the activities of the board, as well as presenting audited financial statements. I am just having a look through the bill in terms of where that is outlined.

Mr. Chairman, it says that the board shall prepare and submit to the minister, not later than six months after the end of its financial year, a report on the activities of the board in the previous year, and the board's audited financial statements for the previous financial year. It also states that the minister shall table a copy of the annual report and the audited financial statements in the House of Assembly within fifteen days of receiving them.

That will be good, because they have a policy as well of tendering and releasing documents within thirty days but we have never seen that happen. In fact, we usually have to wait a year and then file under Freedom of Information to get those documents. What this act clearly outlines is that they would have to be submitted to the minister within fifteen days after receiving them, if the House is sitting, and if the House is not sitting then within fifteen days after it begins to sit.

So, if the corporation decides that they are submitting the annual returns and the financial statements, say, in January, at the end of the year, and the House of Assembly does not sit until March, then the minister does not have to release or tender those documents until the House of Assembly does sit, and then he has to table them within fifteen days of the House sitting.

If, for some reason, this board that is being set up does not comply with the regulations then the board is guilty of an offence and liable under summary conviction to a fine of $1,000.

I am sure that the chiropractic board in the Province do not want to find themselves in a situation where they are not complying with the legislation, and find themselves in a position where they have to pay a fine. I certainly hope that would not be the case, but I guess in every situation you have to provide for those kinds of safeguards.

Mr. Chairman, a couple of other changes are outlined in the act, and one is with regard to professional corporation. It allows for one or more chiropractors to incorporate a corporation to provide chiropractic services. As well, it outlines the details of a corporate registry, a corporation of annual licence, and the effect of incorporation, and that the act still applies to - even though that is there and it is addressed in the act, it does still apply to individual chiropractors, and the liability of a chiropractor under that corporation as well as misconduct of a professional chiropractic corporation.

Mr. Chairman, what it says is that this corporation shall be incorporated under the Corporations Act and it shall meet all the requirements of the Corporations Act, and a corporation shall not provide chiropractic services unless it is registered and licensed under this act.

Mr. Chairman, the corporate registry piece is a new addition to the bill. It was not in the old bill, which I have a copy of here and had an opportunity to look at. The old bill, which was first introduced in 1993 or something, has been amended several times since then. The last time it was amended, in fact, was in 2006. Mr. Chairman, this section that I am going to talk to right now was not in the old bill, so it is a complete new addition to the legislation, "The registrar shall maintain a register of professional chiropractic corporations in which shall be entered the names of corporations permitted under this Act to provide chiropractic services." in the Province.

Mr. Chairman, just because there are fifty-three chiropractors who are licensed in the Province does not mean that there are fifty-three different practices. Some of these chiropractors can set up a practice under a corporation. There can be more than one that works out of this corporation, or under this corporation, so it does not necessarily mean that there are going to be fifty-three individual chiropractic associations in the Province. In fact, what it means is that each person would still have to be licensed as an individual chiropractor, even if they fell under this corporation register.

Mr. Chairman, under 14. (2), "The board shall direct the registrar to register a professional chiropractic corporation that establishes that (a) all the voting shares of the corporation are beneficially owned by and registered in the name of one or more chiropractors and there is no restriction on the right of each chiropractor to exercise his or her vote as he or she wishes to;".

It also goes on to talk about other aspects of the corporation, and I will read it into the record because it is new. They talk about the non-voting shares that are owned by a natural person, "all the directors of the corporation are chiropractors, and there is no agreement restricting the powers of the directors to manage the business and affairs of the corporation in relation to the practice of chiropractic."

It also states, Mr. Chairman –

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that her speaking time has elapsed.

MS JONES: Thank you.

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

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

I just want to take a few minutes with regard to Bill 8 in Committee stage, and to say that I hope I will remain within the rule of relevance; however, at 4:30 in the morning my eyes are usually in hibernation by this time.

Mr. Chairman, I just want to make a few comments. We know that this piece of legislation is more or less a housekeeping issue with regard to many of the pieces that are put forward, similar to what we have seen done with bills for the architects, the engineers and psychologists and so on, and we know that this bill will come into effect on October 1, 2009.

I just want to go through a few of the clauses in the bill. I am not going to repeat what my hon. colleague from Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair went through, but I just want to touch on a couple of them.

One is with reference to the board. I know she read out how many members are on that particular board, those that are appointed and those that are elected. I just want, for the record, to note that the board shall also, from the elected members – that is how their chairperson and their secretary and treasurer are selected.

Also, Mr. Chairman, under (5) a member may be elected for a term within the by-laws not to exceed three years, and they may be eligible for re-election, but they shall serve not more than nine consecutive years.

One of the other issues I want to note is with regard to the meetings. I think this is the same with all of the legislation that was brought forward for the other groups in the last session of the House. With the chiropractors a quorum is a total number of five, but at least they must have one of the appointed members. I think that is very important, that a quorum would not just entail all chiropractors; it would have one of the individuals who were elected as well.

On page 26, an appeal to the Trial Division, I think this is very important, as well, because the board or a respondent may, within 30 days after receiving notice of a decision, also go to the Trial Division.

I guess this is similar to what we see with various other groups and organization, whether it is the EI, the CPP, or WHSC. At least if someone gets a decision back they have a timeframe and they can go forward with regard to an appeal process.

One of the other items is on page 29, section 44. When I read this I was somewhat taken back and I was wondering why it is listed as it is. The chiropractor I know, I am sure everyone else just calls him doctor such and such, by the last name, but apparently there are restrictions on the professional title. It says, "A chiropractor shall not, in conjunction with his or her name, or to designate his or her profession or calling, display or make use of the prefix or title "Doctor" or the abbreviation "Dr.", unless at the same time…." they use the word chiropractic or chiropractor. Maybe a little later, when the minister responds to some of the comments, he can probably elaborate on that for me.

A couple of the other issues, and just briefly: I think it is very important that there is also a complaints and disciplinary panel. This would consist of five chiropractors who are not members of the board, and as well the minister can appoint two members to that particular panel. I think that is very important, because from time to time we hear in all professions that there are complaints that come in from the general public and we know it is very important that there is a process where those individuals can go and list their complaints and hopefully their problems can be taken care of.

One of the other items, Mr. Chair, is the allegations. It outlines the method for allegations to be made against chiropractors, the effects of filing allegations, and the powers and protocol of the complaints and authorization committee.

Adjudication tribunal, process for a hearing, information that can be used as evidence, what happens in the case of a guilty plea, as well as the powers of the adjudication tribunal: I think that is very important for the individuals who see a chiropractor from time to time.

We know, Mr. Chair, that this is a very professional occupation. Those individuals are listed now and I guess there are fifty-three of them in the Province. We know that the process they go through, the work that they do, is being regulated more now then ever before, and it is good to see that they have this piece of legislation. I think the prior legislation - this is more detailed than what it was before.

The only other item that I want to touch on, Mr. Chair, is with regard to de-registration and suspension. This outlines what happens when a chiropractor is allowed or directed to surrender his or her licence, what happens when a chiropractor fails to comply, and the process for a rehearing.

Mr. Chair, those are the comments I have to make with regard to the various clauses, and I will give an opportunity to someone else to speak.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will just finish up on the section that I was on with regard to the corporate register before I get into my other comments. As I said, this section of the act is new, and it was not included in the old act.

Mr. Chair, just to pick up where I left off, I was talking about the register, to register a professional chiropractic corporation. In doing so, it has to establish certain parameters and I was getting into what those parameters are as they were listed in the act. Anyway, it outlines that all of the persons who will be practising chiropractic as employees of or on behalf of the corporation are chiropractors, meaning that they cannot be of any other profession, which makes perfectly good sense, in my opinion, even at this hour of the morning.

Mr. Chair, the articles of corporation also restrict it to providing chiropractic services and related matters, which means that you cannot incorporate a business as a chiropractic business and then try and deliver another service that is not related to that profession, such as dentistry, through that same corporation or be able to sell crafts through that same corporation. It has to be relative. It either has to be connected to the practice of chiropractic or it has to be relative to that practice. For example, you could have things like massage therapy that would go hand-in-hand with it. You could have physiotherapy that would probably go hand-in-hand with it. You would not, Mr. Chair, be able to have a craft business that would be operating under the same incorporated company as a chiropractic business, although you might be an individual who has businesses in both sectors. There has to be an element of relativity between those businesses. If there isn't, then you certainly cannot incorporate it under the same Corporations Act.

Mr. Chair, the corporation has to be in good standing. The corporation has complied with other requirements for registration in the regulations made under section 38. Just to let you know what section 38 is, section 38 outlines a whole list of regulations that the board may, with the approval of the minister – and these are regulations around a number of things, the licensing of a person, the competency, and educational requirements. All of these particular things are listed as regulations under section 38. When we get to that section of the bill I will be able to read all of those into the record for you. That would not be a problem.


The corporate register shall be made public in accordance with section 11 and a copy of the register shall be available for inspection. It also states that, "The board my enter into a reciprocal agreement with a chiropractic board, association or other body having responsibility for the registration and licensing of professional chiropractic corporations in another jurisdiction for the registration of corporations from that jurisdiction in the register of the board." You are not restricted, Mr. Chair, to just this Province and to corporations that would be incorporated just under the Newfoundland and Labrador Corporations Act, but you could also be affiliated with these corporations that are listed in other provinces as well.

"Notwithstanding subsection (2), the voting shares of a professional chiropractic corporation may be held by (a) an executor or administrator of the estate of a deceased chiropractor to discharge the duties of that position; or (b) a trustee in bankruptcy to discharge his or her duties as trustee in respect of the corporation or a chiropractor, for no longer than 180 days, or a longer period where a registrar permits."

Mr. Chair, although under section 2 of the act - and I read it there earlier - it outlines specifically who can hold shares and that is has to be a chiropractor or a person who is practicing chiropractic work in the Province, however they do make provisions under section 14(5), that if there were a problem with voting shares and that these shares were left to an administrator of an estate of a deceased chiropractor, then they would have the ability to be able to discharge their duties. Also, if it were in a case of bankruptcy, then it would be left to the appropriate trustee to manage the corporation at that time. There is a restriction on it and that they can only do it for 180 days and only longer where the registrar permits them to be able to do it. I am sure there would have to circumstances which the registrar would look at before they would authorize an action like that by a corporation, because usually, as you know, the rules are pretty strict.

In terms of the annual licensing, Mr. Chairman, I think it is important to point out that, "A professional chiropractic corporation may apply as well for a licence to provide chiropractic services in the Province and the board shall issue the corporate licence provided that (a) the professional chiropractic corporation is registered under this Act…," which I just read and explained; or they would also ensure "… (b) the application is accompanied by a licence fee which may be established by the board; and (c) and that the professional chiropractic corporation continues to meet the requirements for registration set out in section 14 and other requirements for being licensed which may be set out in this Act and the regulations made under section 38."

Again, section 38 is fairly detailed. I do not know if maybe I should read it, because there are a lot of pieces to this that pertain to section 38. Mr. Chairman, section 38 is on page 26 of the bill. In fact, "The board may, with the approval of the minister, make regulations." A lot of the different sections of the bill, as we go through, make reference to section 38 because that is the regulatory piece of the bill. What that talks about is respecting the licence of a person to practice as a chiropractor, including issuing different classes of licenses and for the renewal of licenses.

It also, Mr. Chairman, has the ability to make regulations with the approval of the minister to prescribe continuing competency and education requirements related to licensing. It has the ability respecting the requirements of a chiropractor to carry professional liability insurance. They have the ability to make regulations respecting the registration and annual licensing of professional chiropractic corporations. They also have the ability to make regulations respecting the use, maintenance of, and access to X-ray facilities, and the type of X-ray procedure or service which may be requested or prescribed by a chiropractor.

Also, Mr. Chair, they have the ability to provide regulations and make regulations respecting alternative dispute resolution for the purposes of section 20 and 37 of the procedures for that resolution, and we will get into those in a few minutes. They also have the ability to make regulations to prescribe time limits for events in the disciplinary process, in sections 20-37, including time limits for the filing of an allegation, the resolution of an allegation by the registrar, and the conduct of an investigation, if one should be launched, and the consideration of an allegation by the complaints authorization committee following completion of an investigation.

This is very important, Mr. Chair, because timeframes are always important around these things. We have known of many cases in our bureaucratic system where people have made application or appeal, and those things have gotten delayed, have taken a long period of time, simply because they have not had tight time constraints.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The member's time has elapsed.

MS JONES: Mr. Chair, I will conclude my comments shortly.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words with respect to Bill 8 in the committee stage.

I did not actually speak in the second stage on this particular bill, but in listening to the minister give some explanation, and listening to my colleagues and the leader of the NDP, I think some very points were made. It certainly raises some questions, and I am not certain that the minister has answered them all yet, but surely, as we get into the details here in the committee stage, there will probably be some more specific questions asked and some explanations requested. I certainly have some for the minister.

Probably the best thing is to go through and identify, at least at this point, the particular questions that I have.

I refer, first of all, to clause 3, that says what this act does not do and who it does not apply to. We know, as a general principle, this is an act which deals with the regulation of, the licensing of, and provides for the self-regulation, the self-governance by chiropractors. It is not new, of course. We have had many bodies in this Province who have operated for years and years. They had their own structures, and they realized over time that the structures they had were not particularly amenable to the practice. The other piece you get of course is the public oversight piece, because in the past a lot of people felt that albeit these people were dealing with the public on a day-to-day basis, a lot of times there was no public oversight. There was no involvement.

How did the public have a level of confidence, for example, that everyone was properly licensed, was properly regulated and had paid their fees, was a duly certified chiropractor in this particular case and met the professional qualifications that were involved and so on? Over time, of course, most jurisdictions and our own tried to catch up with that and make sure that the need that the public has to have a confidence in the profession, whether it be whatever profession, that there was proper regulation around that group, because you are indeed dealing with the public and the public does have and ought to have and continue to have an expectation of a certain level of service and professionalism from the groups that they deal with. So that is, no doubt, what this was all about.

I have seen in this House, it takes different times - I understand it has taken a long time in some instances for the groups themselves to get their heads totally around where it is they want to go. There obviously has to be consultations back and forth between that group and the government in order for it to find its way here in the form of legislation. Sometimes that takes a long process because the groups themselves of course want to make sure that they have allowed a reasonable opportunity to their membership to have input. So it is a give-and-take, it is a to and fro and it often takes a long time to get it to that point.

Now we have had dentists, for example, which had self-governance in place. We had the Law Society, which governs the activities of lawyers, in place. We have passed, I believe in the last couple of years here, similar types of self-governing legislation on accountants, on physiotherapists, on architects, engineers, psychologists and veterinarians. From my recall and reading of some of these pieces of legislation, there are a lot of similarities between them but there are also some subtle differences sometimes and sometimes not so subtle differences, which take into consideration the particular circumstances of the group that is being regulated.

There seems in some cases to be – I do not know if a higher standard is the right word but – yes, a higher standard that is placed on certain groups than it is on others. In this particular case here, we know who it does apply to. It applies to chiropractors. We know who chiropractors are because it spells out in this act what you need to have in terms of professional academic qualifications to become a chiropractor but then it goes on to say who is not covered by this act. I am wondering if the minister could answer that question for me when he gets an opportunity, particularly in relation to section 3. I will read it, it says: "This Act does not apply to or affect (a) a medical practitioner registered under the Medical Act, 2005; (b) a physiotherapist registered under the Physiotherapy Act, 2006; or (c) a registered nurse or a person authorized by another Act or regulation to carry out services which would be considered as chiropractic under this Act."

I am wondering if the minister can explain to us exactly what the purpose is and the function is of that particular clause, because the old tenure of the legislation of course is to talk about chiropractors and them regulating and governing themselves and licensing themselves. Why was it necessary to have such a clause here saying that these particular groups were not covered any more than it would say lawyers were not covered by it? I am just wondering why the specifics of that? Why is a medical practitioner not covered? Why is a physiotherapist not covered? Why is a registered nurse not covered? I do not know the answer to that and I am just wondering. I am curious as to why that might be the case. Is it because medical practitioners are also in a medical field which might do some things that could be interpreted as a chiropractic event, or a nurse, for example? I would appreciate some explanation of that, as to why we are excluding people from this act. If we have defined well enough who is included, I would not think we would have to do a negative and exclude somebody unless there is a particular reason and I cannot follow the logic as to why we would do it that way.

Anyway, I am sure that the minister will have an opportunity to provide some commentary and answers around that piece. That is the whole purpose of committee work, of course, is to raise these questions, because not only do we get the public sometimes asking you what some of this stuff is about, you often get the people who it governs themselves asking what it is all about. I have had lots of calls from physiotherapists, for example, who, albeit, not even at the time, maybe weeks or months later reads the act and says: What is that all about? Where did that come from? Of course, we are not in a position to explain any of that to people if we do not have an understanding of it ourselves. This is the time and the place and the appropriate place for those questions to be raised so that the minister can give the explanations of what is involved here. So that was my first, shall we say, specific concern and commentary I would like the minister to provide to us.

I would also move on then to clause 4, and I am giving this in a generic sense now because we are going to call each of these clauses in turn, I realize that, but it is probably easier to throw them out now and the minister can respond to them whenever, of course, he wishes to.

Under 4, particularly 4.(1) it says, "The Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractic Board is continued as a corporation without share capital for the purposes of Part XXI of the Corporations Act." I am wondering if the minister can explain to us what that is all about? What exactly does that mean and why is it necessary to put it here?

Going on then to subsection (2), of course, it deals with the structure of the board that is being created here and the membership on the board. I notice here in clause 4.(2)(a) and (b) it talks about there are going to be nine members on this board that is going to govern the chiropractors. Of course, there are three appointed by government and there are six who are selected by the chiropractors themselves.

One thing I like about that is unlike some places where government has the domination, shall we say, or the majority say in how some boards function, government here has recognized that it is maybe inappropriate to have the dominating control of these types of professions. Here the very numbers, for example, the fact that we have six people who they themselves pick and they choose who is going to be on the board. It is not a government that decides who sits there. Six members of their own group of professionals; all certified themselves, of course. They had to be valid, certified members as chiropractors and licensed. They get to be the majority vote on the board that governs themselves. I think that is quite appropriate. The government is only going to appoint three persons to that particular board.

When it comes to making any by-laws, as long as you do it then in accordance with the overall act and what you are legally allowed to do once this act becomes law, as long as the board does everything on the up and up when it comes to complying with the law, they themselves decide from a by-law point of view what is an acceptable process for them to follow. That is important, I think, because we have had some instances –

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Actually, I was discussing section 15.(1)(c), and in doing so, they were making reference to the regulations that were outlined under section 38 of the act. I was discussing what authorities that the minister had to make regulations around this particular bill. In fact, I was almost through most of them, and I will certainly finish where I left off.

The minister does have the authority to regulate when responding to a complaint and respondent at each stage of the process. That means that in this whole bill there is opportunity for people who have issues regarding chiropractic to be able to take those issues and bring them to a level of appeal where their concerns are being heard. What this says is that during that process, which is called the complaint process, the minister has the authority to outline at each stage of that process the time limits, any other regulatory pieces in terms of when this should be heard, when a complaint should be dealt with and so on.

It also means that the minister has the authority to regulate the conduct of a practice investigation. That refers to section 24.(1). We have not really covered that section yet, but he does have the authority to make regulations regarding any investigations that would be carried out. He also has the authority to regulate the appointment of an adjudication panel and the regulations that would be affiliated with that. He also has the authority to prescribe regulations with regard to the conduct of a hearing and the filing of a decision or order by an adjudication panel following the completion of the hearing.

Notwithstanding subsection (1), Mr. Chair, the minister may make regulations to prescribe time limits for events in the disciplinary process under sections 20 to 37, of which we are going to get into now in a minute because we are still dealing with section 15, but where the board does not do so in a time period the minister considers reasonable. So these are some of the things in which the minister has the complete authority to regulate, to be able to issue regulations.

Mr. Chair, I want to speak a little bit about section 16 right now because again, this is a new section, a new part of the act that has been added, and it talks about revocation of licences. A licence that is issued under section 15 – the section that I just discussed – may also be revoked by the board, but there are only certain conditions under which the board can revoke that licence, and that is in the cases where the professional chiropractic corporation ceases to meet a requirement for registrations or licensing under the act. That is one reason and one condition under which they can choose to revoke a licence of a corporation.

The other reason under which they can revoke a licence of a chiropractic corporation, Mr. Chair, is if the professional chiropractic corporation contravenes this act, or the regulations. The regulations, as I stated, are all of those issues in which the minister is entitled to put regulations around. We do not know, at this stage, what all of these regulations are, but what we do know is that the authority does exist for the minister to be able to regulate at that level.

The other time, Mr. Chair, in which a licence of a chiropractic corporation can be revoked by the board is at a time when a chiropractor is disciplined; disciplined under sections 20 to 37 in respect of chiropractic services performed by him or her as an employee of, or on behalf of the professional chiropractic corporation. I think that is pretty simple, Mr. Chair, but hard to follow if you do not know the sections of the act which pertain to sections 20 to 37, but we are going to get into that because that is where all the disciplinary process exists. That is where the appeal processes exist, the tribunal processes exist, and all the sections under which both the public and the chiropractors themselves can have a sense of fairness in being heard.

Mr. Chair, we will be getting into those sections between 20 and 37, which are very important parts of this particular bill. Before we do that, I want to talk about section 18, which outlines the liabilities for chiropractors in the Province. A chiropractor who provides chiropractic services through or on behalf of a professional chiropractic corporation is liable to a person in relation to the provisions of those services. Mr. Chair, what they are saying is, if you are a chiropractor and you are providing chiropractic services through or on behalf of a professional chiropractic corporation, although there is a corporation that is incorporated, you are liable to a person in relation to the provision of those services to the same extent and in the same manner as if the chiropractor provided those services as an individual. That liability is not affected because of the chiropractor's relationship to the professional chiropractic corporation as a shareholder, a director, an officer, an employee or another capacity.

Mr. Chair, this is very important under section 18 of this bill, because what they are saying is that although a chiropractor is individually licensed to practice in this Province, and although they are a part of a chiropractic corporation, a corporation that has to be incorporated under its own laws, that has to be incorporated following the Corporations Act for the Province, although that is the case, in the instance that there was some service that was being provided through that professional corporation, it is not the corporation who bears the liabilities, it is not the shareholders, it is not the directors or the officers, it is the actual chiropractor. It is the same liability issues that exist when you are just an individual chiropractor practising yourself in your own operation as an individual.

I could set up a chiropractic business. I am not right through the act yet, but I think I could actually operate completely out of my own home if I wanted to, and be licensed to do so. In doing so, there are liability issues and liability issues that would have to be followed. If there were any issues, I would have to incur those issues as an individual chiropractor. Just because I join a corporation, and just because I join a group of people as part of a corporation, does not mean that I would have the ability to be relieved from any liabilities. It does not mean that that corporation then takes on those liabilities. In fact, Mr. Chair, the same liability issues pertain to me, as an individual within a corporation that is licensed to practice chiropractic in the Province, as pertain to me if I were part of a corporation.


Mr. Chair, section 18 which talks about these liabilities pertains really to the individual whether they are on their own as an individual chiropractor or if they are part of a larger corporation, if at any time there is any liability to a person in relation to the provision of those services - is what the bill says - to the same extent and in the same manner as if the chiropractor provided those services as an individual. That is basically what this section speaks to.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that her speaking time has lapsed.

MS JONES: May I, by leave, Mr. Chair?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS JONES: Okay. Thank you.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

It is nice to see the co-operation from the government members; keeping everybody here until 5:00 in the morning and then when they want leave to actually talk about it they will not let you talk. Anyway, we will get an opportunity to speak here, Mr. Chair.

I would like to go back to clause 4 that I finished off my last few comments on, talking about the composition of the board. As I indicated, there are actually going to be nine members on this particular board, six of whom are chiropractors and three of them who will be appointed by government.

That is good to see, because you get some public involvement on the board and you get some oversight by members of the public who are not impacted directly as a chiropractor. They will be able to look at it from a distance and see if this group of people called chiropractors are actually acting within the scope of the law, following the by-laws that they passed, making sure that their by-laws are indeed pertinent and accurate. So you get that oversight piece.

I notice it says expressly and explicitly in clause 5(1), "The minister shall appoint as members of the board 3 persons who are not chiropractors who are suitable to represent the public interest." Now, that deserves to be looked at a little bit closer than that. We know that the number is there. It says three, the same as it says up in subsection 4(2)(b), so we know the number. I find it unique, I guess, that it is pretty clear they cannot be chiropractors, but the usage of the words ‘who are suitable to represent the public interest', now I do not know what kind of detail is around that. What would constitute a person suitable from the public to sit on the chiropractors' board? I am wondering: Does government have any set guidelines that they use in that respect? How does a person, for example, who might be interested in being on one of these boards - and we realize government has an appointment process, they have an appointments committee, and so on - but how would somebody who wants to be a member representing the public on the chiropractors' board go about submitting his or her name for consideration?

What guidelines are there that this person might resort to or look at to see if he or she is a quote ‘suitable' person? The act says you have to be suitable to sit on the board, and I just do not know. I am at a loss to figure out what is suitable and who determines that. I guess the Cabinet or the minister determines what the suitability is. It will be interesting to see if there is any explanation around that, as to who is suitable.

In addition to talking about this membership and who are or are not suitable candidates and how you go about putting your name in the mix for consideration, I would ask the minister, again in this context of the board appointments and everything - and this is all coming under clause 4 when it talks about the creation of the board and who sits on the board and who appoints the members to the board. They talk about the continuation, and it says that the Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractic Board is continued as a corporation. I am assuming that means there is already in existence a chiropractic board that has a certain set of rules around it and that has a certain membership piece around it. Is that being continued? Is that what it means when it uses the word continuation here? It says, it is continued as a corporation. How does that tie in with the board membership at the present time?

For example, the minute that this act is made law, does that mean that the current members of the chiropractic board are gone? Does it mean that they are continued? Because that is the word that is in this particular section, that they are continued. Does it mean they are continuing, or, upon the proclamation of this act, does subsection (2)(a) and (b) click in and the government will have three new members ready and the chiropractic board will select six? Is this a start date for the new board, based on these new rules, once it becomes law, or is the current board continued with its current membership?

I am assuming, maybe incorrectly - but maybe the minister can tell me - if that is the case that the current board is continuing, as this clause says, it seems to be an inconsistency here. We are saying they continue, but yet you are saying that the membership is going to change. That seems to be a little bit inconsistent. It does not say anything about: We will appoint a new board. The corporation is continued, but upon proclamation of this act we will go about creating a new membership for that council or that board. That is not clear here at all, as to who is there. If they already have a chairperson, for example, what happens? Does he or she get the flick because this becomes law, and we have to go back and do the selection process over again, or will the actual board composition continue as it is? It would be interesting to get an answer to that.

Moving on a little bit further here, I notice in clause 5, I already dealt with the section dealing with the government appointing three members who are quote, suitable, but in subsection (2) it talks about a person appointed under subsection (1). That suitable person who the government is going to put on there, these three people, they are going to be sitting on this board. The government has selected them, made a determination that they are suitable to be there. It says that that person will hold office for a term of three years and is eligible to be reappointed.

We just dealt with Bill 20 in the House earlier tonight, when we talked about the R&D Council. In that particular case, there was a specific amendment being put forward so that it provided for staggered terms, i.e., rather than appoint somebody from point a, the starting point, and they are there for three years and then they go, the government deliberately decided, in the case of the R&D Council, that they want it staggered. The wording they used in this Bill 20 tonight was very specific to provide for that staggering of membership.

I am wondering: Why is it not consistent? We have the R&D Act which talks about staggering the membership yet we have the Chiropractors Act which does not provide for the staggering. I am wondering if the minister could give me an explanation around that. Why would we have two different membership lives, shall we say, based on two different circumstances? I agree in principle with the principle of staggering them, rather than clean out the board totally and then you have no carry-over experience and so on with the process and how the operation is run. It makes great sense to stagger your board so that you appoint a person but you do them at different points in time so that you have that continuing experience always on board. The principle is a great one, but I am wondering why we used the principle in R&D but we did not use the principle in the chiropractors. Is this something new that has come upon us? Because if it is and that is the way that government now has chosen to go, and they feel that having staggered membership is the appropriate way, maybe we should not be looking at this subsection (2) here in this fashion because it is totally contrary to what we already have in the (a) and (d). Of course, governments like to be, I would think, consistent in the application of their policies, and that is certainly inconsistent right now.

The minister will hopefully give us an explanation as to why that happens. I pose that seriously because we are in committee stage here and so on, we are taking the time to debate these things and we are taking the time to raise these questions. They are not frivolous questions. This is the whole purpose here, so I would like to think that at some point the minister is going to rise and give us some explanations or answers to the questions that we are raising here.

The other thing is, I notice, moving on to subsection (5) of clause 5 actually, it talks about: "The board shall pay the expenses of a person appointed under this section in accordance with guidelines established by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council."

CHAIR: (Osborne): Order, please!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Leave, Mr. Chair?

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

CHAIR: By leave.

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

I would like to continue for a few moments, if that is okay, and certainly finish off that commentary on subsection (5). As I said, it talks about payment of the board expenses. Now we know who puts the members on the board. The chiropractors themselves select six and the government appoints three. Obviously, in any kind of board that you have, you have expenses and people have to travel. I would think not all of the persons who are appointed as chiropractors are going to come from one particular area. For example, you are not going to have the board consist of all persons from Corner Brook. I would think that is part of the consideration of who you appoint: that you actually would like to have a geographic representation. You might want to have gender balance or gender representation on this board appointment. Those are usually the standards that are used by governments, so I would think that kind of rationale and logic would apply. It says here that those expenses will be paid in accordance with the guidelines established by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.

I am wondering, does that mean the same guidelines that members of government currently use vis-à-vis travel expenses and so on? Has that been anticipated and dealt with right now? Is that ready to roll when we pass this act now, as to what these expenses will be? I am wondering is that standard throughout all of these different pieces of self-governance legislation that we have imposed.

I ask the question because, what if - there is no opportunity here for the association themselves to decide what might be appropriate. We have a system here where it is not a case of this board is going to sit down and decide, okay, this is our job, these are our obligations, these are our responsibilities, but we know that we are going to have certain expenses. We are going to allow them to govern themselves; yet, we are not letting them have any input into what is an acceptable expense.

Obviously, there are rules and guidelines around reasonable use of expenditures, I would think, but why is it that the government is not letting them use their own common sense to determine what expenses ought to be reimbursable?

They might have particular circumstances, as chiropractors, that government does not have in its guidelines, different needs that need to be solved. Obviously there is no point here, or no situation here, where this group can decide for themselves what is going to be appropriate, so it seems to be a back end way. You are saying on the one hand that we are going to give you a board of six of your own, and three of us, which would seem to indicate that the chiropractors are in control of the board, but really you turned around then and you put caveats on that; because, even though you only put three there, you have limited what they can do in a lot cases, particularly in this case when it comes to the expenses.

Of course, subsection (5) of clause 5 ties in with clause 8(1) (d), because that section 8(1) (d) reads as follows, "the payment of travel and other expenses of elected members of the board…." It talks about what the board can do. It says, "(1) The board may make by-laws not inconsistent with this Act respecting… (d) the payment of travel and other expenses of elected members of the board…."

You are telling them on the one hand, in clause 8, that you can make rules and regulations around the payment of travel and other expenses of elected members of the board, but then you have limited it back in clause 5 by saying that is okay provided you use the government guidelines. Now, there seems to be something inconsistent there. We are going to let you govern yourselves. We are going to have six of you in control but you are limited in what you can do for the expenses. Now, either we trust them or we do not trust them.

I will take a break at this point because my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, would like to have a few words as well, but I will come back because I would like to tie this expense piece in again. There are lots of clauses here that talk about the financial responsibilities of the board, and I set the groundwork here, hopefully, in this session, talking about who sets the travel expenses, the fact that government controls the guidelines of the travel expenses, and I did that deliberately, because when I come back after my colleague has had a few words I would like to get into where the reporting piece comes into all of this, because there is a fairly extensive reporting requirement here, not only from a financial point of view but also from an information point of view.

I will certainly take my leave at this time, Mr. Chairman, and I will come back after my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, has had a few words.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have been listening very attentively to my colleague, who is raising some very good points with regard to this bill, and section 18, which is the section that I was on when we last finished. Mr. Chairman, just for interest, there are fifty clauses, actually, in this bill, but we are at section 18 and we are talking about the liabilities of chiropractors in the Province.

Mr. Chairman, we were just finished talking about the fact that even though chiropractors today in the Province, under this new legislation, Bill 8, will have the ability to be set up as a corporation, as a chiropractic corporation, my colleague is into talking about how that corporation will work, and what parameters they will have under that corporation.

This bill allows them to form a corporation for the benefit of delivering chiropractic services to people in the Province but it also speaks to the individual practice of chiropractic services, and it also speaks to the liability that goes along with performing those services. So, just because a chiropractor decides that they are going to be a part of a corporation, that chiropractor is still individually liable for any and all services that they provide. In fact, Mr. Chairman, it goes on to say under section 18(2) that, "A chiropractor is jointly and individually liable with a professional chiropractic corporation for all claims made against the corporation in connection with the provision of chiropractic services by the chiropractor." So, they are not off the hook. You cannot hide behind the incorporation of a chiropractic company or corporation. You cannot hide from it. Even if the corporation has claims made against it, those claims are still a liability of the individual and they have to jointly share that liability with the corporation.

In this bill, Mr. Chairman, a chiropractor includes a person who was formerly licensed under this or another act to provide services. Because, as you know, this act is actually amending a former act, or replacing a former act - Bill 14, I think it was - so this particular Bill 8 is bringing in some completely new regulations as it pertains to that, and they are being very specific with regard to the liability issues.

In the case of misconduct of a professional chiropractic corporation - this is important, and section 19 speaks to this – a chiropractor is liable to be disciplined under all the sections of this bill, from section 20 to section 37, for the actions or conduct of a professional chiropractic corporation while the chiropractor was a shareholder, director, officer or employee of that corporation.

So, Mr. Chairman, if there was a case of misconduct of a professional chiropractic corporation then the chiropractor again is liable to be disciplined. The chiropractor is also liable to be disciplined for the actions or conduct of a professional chiropractic corporation if at any time that chiropractor was a shareholder, director, officer or employee of that corporation.

Mr. Chairman, "(2) A chiropractor shall not be liable to discipline under subsection (1) where he or she proves that he or she did not know and could not reasonably have known about the relevant actions or conduct of the professional chiropractic corporation."

Mr. Chairman, even through they are a shareholder, even though they might be a director, an officer, or even an employee of the corporation, normally they would be held liable for any actions or conduct of a professional chiropractic corporation unless - the caveat here is - unless the chiropractor is able to prove that they, he or she, did not know and could not have known about the relevant actions or conduct of the professional chiropractic corporation that they either worked for, that they were a shareholder in, that they were a director of, at that particular time.

Mr. Chairman, section 19(1), if you were to read it alone, it looks like if you are in any way affiliated with this chiropractic corporation then you would have to be liable for any actions or conduct that was ongoing. It did not matter if you were an employee, if you were a director on the board of directors. Maybe you were one of the shareholders of this corporation, or you were an officer of the corporation. Well, under section 19(1), if you were to look at it, then you would definitely be liable for the actions and the conduct of the corporation; however, if you read on, under section (2), basically what it says is that they shall not be liable to discipline if they can prove that they did not know and had no reasonable way of knowing the relevant actions or the conduct of the professional chiropractic corporation.

Mr. Chairman, that is important because, if this person is a director and there is some action or conduct and they are being looked at under this corporation simply because they might hold a position of director or they might be an employee within the corporation, then they do have the opportunity to make their case to show that the liability should not extend to them. In order for that to happen, they would have to prove that they had no knowledge and they had no reasonable way of having any knowledge of what was happening within the corporation, and what was happening with regard to any actions that were being taken, or conduct being taken, by the professional chiropractic corporation.

Also under that section, under 19(3), it reads, "A power of inspection, investigation or inquiry that may be exercised in respect of a chiropractor under section 24 may be exercised in respect of a professional chiropractic corporation or its records in connection with an inquiry under subsection (1)."

Mr. Chairman, what that really means is that if there are liability issues, if there is an investigation that is launched, if there is any inspection that needs to take place, if there is any inquiry that may be exercised in respect of a chiropractor, then they would have to exercise - that professional chiropractic corporation would have to reveal all if its records in connection with that inquiry. They cannot refuse to do it.

If that person is in any way affiliated with the corporation - it does not matter if they are a practising chiropractor or if they are just a shareholder or if they are a member of the board of directors - if they have any kind of information, if they have any records whatsoever, and there happens to be an inquiry or an investigation that is launched, then they have to provide all of the records in connection with that inquiry, and that would come under the new laws. That is something that they will have to do.


As well, Mr. Chairman, a professional chiropractic corporation is jointly and individually liable with the chiropractor for all fines and costs the chiropractor is ordered to pay in connection with an inquiry.

Again, what this means is that if the corporation, after an inquiry or an investigation is completed, after all the records have been provided and all of this has been reviewed, at that time, Mr. Chair, if the corporation –

CHAIR: Order please!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will by leave.

CHAIR: Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: By leave.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS JONES: You are going to need it to get all of these bills.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

A professional chiropractor corporation is, as I was saying, jointly liable with the chiropractor for all fines and costs the chiropractor is ordered to pay in connection with the inquiry. Basically, what that means is that if there is some kind of action or conduct on behalf of a professional chiropractic corporation, and that corporation has to go and have an inquiry done or an investigation done, once that is completed and all the information is provided - say, for example, there are going to be fines, and the costs the chiropractor is ordered to pay in connection with that, then that cost has to be shared both by the individual and by the corporation.

Mr. Chair, it is not a case where an individual chiropractor can hide behind a corporation. It is not a case like that. It does not allow for that. If the corporation is in default and has to pay some kind of fine as a result of some conduct and once the investigation is completed, then it is not just the corporation that is on the hook for all these fines and penalties. In fact, Mr. Chair, that cost is jointly shared and the individual chiropractor also has to bear a part of that cost.

Mr. Chair, that would (inaudible) speak to any cases of misconduct of a professional chiropractic corporation. Of course, that section of the act includes any person that would be licensed to practice within the Province under this particular act.

The next sections of this act are new sections of the act. It is important to note that because we are into section 20 now. Section 20 is a new section that has been added in this act. It actually takes in a number of sections, in fact. I think a lot of it is actually new, but this deals with a number of things. It deals with allegations, it deals with complaints, it deals with conduct deserving, it deals with professional incompetence, conduct unbecoming of a chiropractor, incapacity or unfitness to practice as a chiropractor. It deals with acting in breach of this act, it talks about the regulations or the code of ethics; it talks about costs that have incurred by the boards, which is another section.

Mr. Chair, I will take my leave right now because I know my colleague has a number of things that he wants to outline with regard to the clauses of this bill. I will let him do that and then I will take the opportunity to go through sections 21 to 38, because they are the sections that actually deal with all of the different allegations and complaints that could come against a corporation or an individual that practices chiropractic in the Province. It is important to note how those would be handled, the different appeals committees and tribunals that will be set up to handle them and how those committees will be composed.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate another opportunity to have a few words with respect to the chiropractor's act of 2009. It is obviously important because if it were not important we would not be here until 5:38 in the morning, having been here since yesterday at 1:30 p.m. So it is obviously very important and the government feels it is necessary to give full, complete and open debate to these pieces of legislation. I am sure all the chiropractors in Newfoundland and Labrador are probably on edge wondering if when they wake in the morning if they are actually going to have the bill that they needed.

I understand this has only been in the works for some years now. In fact, my chiropractor, who is a lady in Stephenville, and she was the former President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractic Association, she has been in the profession for quite some time. I am not sure, I think she was actually the first female president of the chiropractic association and she had a lot of input into this bill. From my conversations with her, and of course some treatments that I had some years back with her – this was on the go then – I did not see it as being of such scorching importance that there was an expectation that the government felt it necessary to stay up all night to get it passed.

Anyway, that leads me to a comment in terms of section 6.(2). It is good to see that in this piece of legislation the government has actually provided for the use of technology when it comes to conducting meetings. That is pretty unique, because most people's concept of how a board would work is there is a head office somewhere. We know there are going to be nine members on this board, six chosen by the chiropractors, three chosen by the government, and obviously they are going to have meetings. They need to have meetings because this law will require that they make the bylaws that are going to govern themselves. They are going to decide upon the licensing requirements and the registration requirements for all of their members and so on. So there has to be meetings. Most often, and I would think not all of these members or board members, either the appointed ones from government or the elected ones from the chiropractors will necessarily all come from the same location. Common sense would indicate that they would not.

I suppose you could have a situation where all nine persons came from the Avalon region, since that is the biggest concentration of chiropractors in the Province. I heard someone mention today a figure, I thought it was fifty-four that we currently have registered in the system. I suppose it is conceivable that all nine members of the board could come from the Northeast Avalon area. I would think there is a good possibility that some of them might be from outside.

Notwithstanding, even if they all did come from here, the piece about the technology is pretty unique. I do not know if it existed, I cannot recall if that piece was in all of the other self-governing legislation that we brought forward in the past number of years here. I noticed it here, and it seemed to make a lot of sense. It says: "Except where prohibited in the by-laws, a member may, where all the members consent, participate in a meeting of the board by means of the telephone or other telecommunication device that permits all persons participating in the meeting to communicate with each other."

That is, of course, a recognition that in this day and age we have the technology, not only by telephone, but we have the technology that would permit the meeting to be conducted without necessarily having to travel. That is important, of course, because in a lot of cases if you do not have a lot of money in your bank account, yet you want to operate and run efficiently, the least amount of money that you have to spend on expenses. I alluded to that the last time I was speaking, about expenses being incurred and who sets them.

Travel expenses, for example, have to be governed in accordance with government guidelines and so on. I discussed that. Surely, by permitting this technology to govern attendance, it is a move forward. It is a very positive move because you may have a member, for example, who is from Stephenville. Sometimes it is not going to make practical sense for that member to have to travel all the way to St. John's if that is where the other eight people are, for example, just to have a meeting that may only have two or three items on the agenda, particularly if the agenda items are not earth shattering. Sometimes it is basic; you need to do some housecleaning stuff. Sometimes you need to have administrative issues that you have to get resolved and it might not be necessary to take a flight or drive all the way across the Province and incur fairly substantial expenses. I certainly know. I come from out that area myself and I can tell you, and the records in the House of Assembly show that the travel costs that I incur on a yearly basis getting back and forth from my district on the southwest tip to St. John's are substantial. It is not only the air flights, of course, which cost you in excess of $500 today for a return trip, there are also the mileage expenses that you have, plus if you are here you have to stay overnight. There are your hotel expenses, there are food costs.

It is a fairly serious cost involved in having members on this board if they are not all from the one area. So having the legislative authority to permit them to attend the meetings by way of telephone or video conferencing, for example, makes a lot of sense. Now I know we do have video conferencing that is used in a lot of other forums, and it makes sense. If you can see the person, if you can hear the person, if you can authenticate that that is the person who is the member, why would you require them to travel great distances at great expense if you did not have to? We use it, of course, in our court systems quite often.

The Minister of Justice alluded to the fact that he had done a tour, I believe it was, he talked about Goose Bay and he saw first-hand a video conferencing system work when he was up there. That is another example, of course, where instead of having to bring lawyers and judges, accused persons and whatever, and sometimes even witnesses long distances at great expense, you use video conferencing because that helps alleviate some of the cost. It makes sense to have it in these self-governing bodies for the very same reasons. It is about doing the job, of course, but allowing it to be done in the most efficient manner possible at the least expense that you can get it done.

I know in the case of video conferencing - the Minister of Justice sort of alluded to it, when he talked about seeing it in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, as if it were something new. It probably was for him, I guess, because he practised in the capital region here most often and probably did not have as great a need for it. Coming from Southwestern Newfoundland, Port aux Basques area, I can assure him that the system has worked effectively for some years actually. We have had it out in Port aux Basques - I know I personally was involved in some video conferencing things back five, six years ago. So the courts are certainly into the technological piece. It is good to see now that government, in this newest legislation that we are bringing forward, acknowledges that it is a proper way to do business. It is an appropriate way to do business so that persons can do their job but they do not have to leave home.

The other thing is it is the convenience to the board member. You have a situation, for example, if the member who wants to help out the association, who is a very concerned practitioner, who wants to be involved from the governance perspective with their body, but yet the distance might be a deterrence to them. For example, I know the lady in Stephenville, she is very active in her community, she has a family, a very active family, a young family, but yet she is very concerned and very interested about all of the activities surrounding the chiropractors. In fact, she served a term or two as president of the chiropractors. So someone like that who might be very interested in being involved, but it takes a lot of time away. I know, personally, I met her travelling when I was travelling back and forth, back in the time frame from 1999 up to 2003. I met her several times travelling in here. Sometimes she had her kids with her. Of course, that gets tough when you are trying to work, you are trying to raise your family, and yet you have to do the travel.

Having video conferencing available to someone like that allows you to accomplish what you want in terms of the governance piece but at the same time allows these people who have very active lives to be involved in the governance without necessarily having to leave home; very practical, makes sense. So I commend government for including that particular clause here. The whole world, of course, nowadays pretty well functions on the technology piece in any case. So it is nice to see that it is acknowledged. It is not brand new any more. It is not necessarily blazing any trails. It is a fact of life, and we have it. So I would suggest it is a wise thing to do –

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

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

I understand my colleague has a few more comments so I will reserve my other comments until a later time.

Thank you.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Actually, I was looking at section 20 when we last concluded. This is a new section of the bill and it actually deals with the allegations and complaints of any conduct, whether that is professional misconduct, professional incompetence, conduct unbecoming of a chiropractor, incapacity or unfitness to practice as a chiropractor, and acting in breach of the act. Mr. Chairman, this also takes into consideration regulations around the code of ethics.

First of all, any of these sections, if any of these things are alleged with regard to misconduct or professional incompetence, or conduct that is unbecoming of a chiropractor, or if it is deemed that a chiropractor is not in a capacity to be able to practice, then all of these things can be referred to and dealt with through mechanisms that are set up.

Mr. Chairman, an allegation would have to be filed, and that means it has to be filed in writing and has to be alleging that a person has engaged in conduct deserving of sanction. Also, a complaint may be made, and this means that a person is either making the allegation as outlined in section 22, which I will get to in a minute, or there has been some other form of misconduct or breach that falls within and pertains to the act.

First of all, they also look at things like the cost incurred by the board. This would include out-of-pocket expense incurred by or on behalf of the board, amounts paid by the board to adjudication tribunal members as remuneration and for expenses, and the actual cost of legal counsel for the board and the adjudication tribunal.

Mr. Chairman, under this section you would see a disciplinary panel. This means the panel of persons appointed under section 21, which I will tell you about in a minute, in terms of who will make up this panel and how many members will be on it; and, in this case, respondent means a chiropractor or former chiropractor against whom an allegation is made.

Mr. Chairman, first of all, let's look at the complaints and disciplinary panel. If you were to look at this particular panel, which is outlined under section 21, it says that the board shall appoint at least three of their members, at least one of whom is a member appointed under section 5 to constitute a complaints authorization committee.

So, Mr. Chairman, the first thing they would do as part of this disciplinary panel is that the board would go ahead and they would appoint a committee, at least three of their members, at least one of whom is a member appointed under section 5, and they would then constitute this particular committee.

For those of you who do not remember what section 5 was, this was the section that dealt with the appointments that could be made by the minister, in terms of the flexibility that they held and so on, so one of these people could be appointed to serve as part of the disciplinary panel, and the board then shall appoint the other three members to constitute the panel.

Also, it states that the registrar is not eligible to be a member of the complaints authorization committee. I can understand that. You would not want to have the registrar, the person who is supposed to be neutral in all of this, in carrying out the business of the board, to have the ability to be a member of the complaints authorization committee.

Mr. Chairman, the board shall appoint the chairperson and vice-chairperson of the complaints authorization committee from the persons appointed under subsection (1). Basically, this was the original group of people that were being appointed - so many by the chiropractors and so many actually being appointed by the minister - and that board shall then appoint a chairperson and a vice-chairperson of the complaints authorization committee, and those people would come from the four members who would make up the disciplinary panel.

In addition, the board shall also appoint at least five chiropractors who are not members of the board, one of whom shall be appointed to serve as chairperson, and the minister shall appoint at least two persons who are not chiropractors to represent the public interest, who shall together constitute a disciplinary panel.

So, Mr. Chairman, the board will have the opportunity to appoint at least five chiropractors who are not members of the board, and one of those members will be appointed as well to serve as a chair. So, out of those five, one would serve as the chair and, in addition to that, the minister would have the option to appoint at least two people from the public, and they would be people who are not chiropractors, so they would be able to appoint those two to represent the public interest, and they would make up the panel itself.

It also states the one of the members first appointed to the disciplinary panel, one half shall be appointed for a term of two years and the remainder for a term of three years, and all subsequent appointments of members to the disciplinary panel shall be for a term of three years.

I see what they are doing. The first year what they will do is half of the people who are appointed, of the seven people, half of those people will serve for a two year period, the remainder will serve for a three year period, and then after that all of those who are appointed will serve for a three year period. Of course, the reason for that is so that they would have staggering on the board so that at the end of the three year terms you would not have everybody on the board actually leaving; you would have an opportunity to have others there to be able to replace them.

Notwithstanding the expiry of these particular terms, a member of the disciplinary panel continues to be a member until he or she is reappointed, or his or her replacement is appointed. So, even though a member may be appointed to this board, some starting off for a term of two years, and others who could be appointed for a term of three years, once that term is up it does not mean that they vacate the position. In fact, what the act says is that they would continue as a full board member, and they would continue until such time as they were either reappointed to that board or until such time there was someone else appointed to replace them. Only then would their actual appointment be what they would consider to be terminated.

Any person who is appointed to this disciplinary panel will also have the option to be reappointed. They also have the option to be reappointed. So, just because a person is appointed and serves a term of three years, they also have the option to be reappointed for another term.

Members of the disciplinary panel also shall serve on the panel without payment for their services, but may be remunerated for service as a member of an adjudication tribunal and paid their travel and other expenses associated with the work of that tribunal by the board.

So, Mr. Chairman, just because they are appointed as a member of the disciplinary panel, and serve on that panel, they will not get paid for it. They will be appointed to serve without payment for their services, but they may be entitled to be reimbursed for service as a member of an adjudication tribunal.

That means that if they have any travel, or they have any other expenses that could be associated with the work that they need to do as part of that tribunal, by the board, then they could be reimbursed for that service.

Also, Mr. Chairman, under section –

CHAIR (Collins): Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that her speaking time has elapsed.

MS JONES: May I, by leave, Mr. Chairman, clue up section 21 of the bill?

CHAIR: Does the speaker have leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, the complaints authorization committee and the adjudication tribunal –

CHAIR: Does the speaker have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, leave.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, by leave.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Under section 21(9) the complaints authorization committee and the adjudication tribunal appointed under section 25 – which we have not gotten to yet – and a person appointed by either of them may summon witnesses and require those witnesses to give evidence, orally or in writing, upon oath or affirmation, and produce the documents and things that either of them considers necessary to the full investigation.

Basically what they are saying is that if there is a person, those people who are appointed, that they form this particular adjudication tribunal, and those people who form the complaints authorization committee also will have the authority to summon witnesses if they need to, depending on the case, I guess, and the investigation and the inquiry that is going on. They will have the ability to summon witnesses, and they will have the ability to require those witnesses to then give evidence, whether that evidence is orally or in writing, but they will have to give that evidence, and they will have to give it under oath or affirmation.

If there are any documents - say there is an inquiry going on, it is being heard by this tribunal, or it is being heard by the complaints commission, and there are any documents that are associated with that practice, then they are also required now, by legislation, to produce those documents and any other information that is necessary in order for there to be a full investigation and hearings of an allegation or a complaint.

Mr. Chairman, obviously that is self-explanatory because, how could you possibly have an inquiry or a complaints commission or a tribunal into an issue without having all of the information, without ensuring that all the documentation affiliated with it is presented, and without ensuring that all of the information necessary to the investigation and to the hearing of the allegation is presented and made available?

Mr. Chairman, the next session speaks to allegations under section 22, and I know that my colleague certainly had some comments that he wanted to make with regard to those sections of the bill, and some previous sections that he had talked about, so I will take a few minutes now and let him discuss those particular issues.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

I am sorry, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

It is getting early and we have been here for some time, so it is understandable why you might make a mistake from time to time in identification of the speaking member.

Anyway, I appreciate another opportunity to have a few comments on this particular bill. I had a few e-mails, actually; some people e-mailed asking what we were doing open so late here, and what stage were we at now. I explained to them that we were actually in the Committee stage, and what happens in the Committee stage, the fact that you can go clause by clause, if you wish, and discuss the thing in detail.

They wanted to know how come it takes you until 6:00 in the morning to get it done. I explained to the person that is not the call of the Opposition members as to when you do it. How long this place stays open, and what book of business gets done, of course, is totally within the prerogative of the Government House Leader.

Normally, of course, you have a conversation and you work those things out; but, for whatever reason, the Government House Leader chose not to consult and decided that she wanted to get a certain book of business done, did not ask for any kind of agreement. That is totally her prerogative to do that. For the life of me I cannot figure out why; insisting upon having certain pieces of work go through second reading and committee stage, even if it takes all night. I personally am at a loss to understand the rationale, even when there has been no request that we get it done.

I do not recall ever an instance, since 2007 or since I have been here actually as Opposition House Leader, going back to 2003, I cannot think of a time when a request was made and I was asked to agree to something that I disagreed with. I do not recall any time that the Government House Leader ever said to this member as Opposition House Leader: We would like to do a, b, c or d. Will you agree to it? Normally that has been done. I cannot think of an exception when it has not been.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member to keep his comments to the business at hand which is the detailed discussion of the bill.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Chair.

I just thought it was relevant that the general public, of course, have an understanding of why we are doing it. It is a legitimate question. This is the people's House and the question was asked what we were doing here until 6:00 o'clock in the morning. I thought it was relevant and pertinent that we give that explanation as to why we are here. I can certainly refer to the act, of course, and get back to the details that we have here.

I left off talking about section 8 and what the act provides, what can and cannot be done under this particular piece of legislation once it is passed into law and proclaimed, and who actually has the right to do it. Section 8 pretty well sets it up. The act has all kinds of clauses outlining the structure of the board and the membership on the board. The question, of course, becomes: Once you have that board in place, what can the board do? What power do they have? What authority do they have? What can they deal with? It is pretty explicit here. I have been looking to see if there is anything that might have been left out, but it seems to be pretty comprehensive.

"The board may make by-laws not inconsistent with this Act …" That makes sense, of course. Why would you want a board that could make by-laws that were inconsistent with the act? That flies in the face of logic, as to why you would have an act in the first place. The board can make by-laws respecting, "(a) the holding and procedure of its meetings." That makes sense, of course. You have to have some procedure. You have to have some process. Here in the House of Assembly we have a process, a certain way to do things: when you start, when you finish, and at what stages you can do certain things. Regardless if it is a House of Assembly or if it is the Chiropractors Association, they need and ought to have that process outlined. What this provides, of course, is, it allows them the right to set up their own process. It is not an imposition of a process upon them. It is saying to them: Look, once you are formed go off and decide amongst yourselves what you think is the best way to operate. That makes a lot of sense.

It also deals with the appointment of committees and the duties and responsibilities of those committees. That is important as well because I do not think there is any board that I am aware of that can successfully and properly do everything themselves at the board level. I will give you an example. For example, the law society of which I am familiar with: They have different committees. There is an education committee that might deal with issues of continuing education. It is not fair, I would think, to expect that a board could deal with every single issue. What this provides for is, they can have an education committee if they want and they can constantly review what are the academic requirements, for example, that a board should have in order for a person to be a qualified practitioner of chiropractic services in this Province. That can be a committee, an education committee.

There are also, of course, discipline committees. What happens if someone does something that is untoward, that is not proper, that is contrary to the public interest, or that affects somebody's rights, for example? It might be a serious legal issue. There could be a committee, and there usually is a committee that deals with those issues and decides; what is the process going to be when something like that happens. Rather than have the full board, these nine people have to deal with a discipline issue for example, you can have a properly constituted sub-committee that deals with disciplinary issues. That way they can give a lot of detailed attention to it but yet it does not consume the time and the efforts of the whole board in order to get that done.

There are different types of committees that you can have. Again, it does not say you have to do anything in particular. It does not prescribe what the duties are or the committees are. It says to these people: You are self governing, you decide yourself what it is you want a committee for. You decide yourselves, as the practitioners of that particular trade, what it is you want the duties of that committee to be and how many people are going to be on it.

Also, under that section, of course, the board makes bylaws respecting the election of members of the board under section 4(2) and setting the terms of office. Section 4(2), of course, which I referred to earlier, deals with the appointment and the election of members. We know that there are three members who are appointed by the government. We know that there are six members selected. It just says in 4(a) that you can elect six from amongst yourselves, but it does not get into the details of how that election is done. It does not say it is in writing or it has to be a secret vote. It does not say anything about how you do it. What you do here, of course, is you are allowing this board to set down the rules, the terms and the conditions surrounding the election process. A little later on, they actually get into detail, and they talk about how you can have mail in ballots, for example, and so on. That is important, because, again, it is a recognition by governments that these people are responsible enough individuals that they can decide themselves what kind of process they are going to use; all subject, of course, to the fact that it should not be inconsistent with the basic principles as outlined here in the act.

Another one talks about the employment and remuneration of staff and consultants. No doubt, with any group, whether it is a government or a pharmacist or a physiotherapist, there are expenses in running your operation. You sometimes might have a staff member employed. Most of the self-governing professional groups that I am aware of have executive directors, for example, they have researchers, and they have some staff component. Somebody needs to be empowered to make the decisions and the bylaws surrounding the hiring of these people, deciding what they get paid, deciding what the terms and conditions of their employment are, deciding what their work conditions are, and so on. That is left, again, in this particular act, to the board themselves.

I missed the one here about the payment of travel and other expenses of elected members of the board. I commented, of course, that it is all subject to the guidelines that the government use for travel, but it still leaves some piece to the board themselves to decide who is going to travel, what the travel regulations will be, and so on. That is important, that they have that right to do it themselves. They know their business the best, and as long as it is done in accordance with good, sound financial and moral and ethical responsibilities, it should be fine.

Number (f) talks about, actually, a code of ethics. We are certainly all familiar with that. Most groups do have a code of ethics. Some do not enshrine it in writing, but it is an important, I think, piece of having a code of ethics that it is enshrined, it is a part of your bylaws, and there is a recognition when you sign on as a part of that group that you are accepting of that code of ethics. For many, many years, we did not have a code of ethics here in the Province, but we recently went through Chief Justice Green's report that dealt with the issue of MHA allowances and so on. He recommended that we should have, as MHAs –

CHAIR: Order, please!

The member's speaking time has expired.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Leave, Mr. Chair, to clue up on this point?

CHAIR: Does the member have leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.

CHAIR: The member, by leave.

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

Just to clue up on this particular issue: As I was saying, we recently went through, in this Province, Judge Green's report. Chief Justice Green he is now. He was at that time the Chief Justice of the Trial Division. He has since been appointed the Chief Justice of the courts in the Province, the Court of Appeal. He is the Chief Justice of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador now which is certainly an elevation for him in the job that he formerly held. In my view, again they could not have picked a better person to do it. We are all aware - it is online and it is published on websites - what his report was and, in fact, we created a new law, we passed it here, I do believe it was in the last sitting before the election in 2007. We took his recommendations.

He actually drafted the law. He did not just say go off and say: Do it yourselves. He is so comprehensive in what he did that he drafted the law and said: Here is what you should use to govern yourselves. Now, he could not have and did not have every single detail spelled out in it. The code of ethics, for example - there were lots of suggestions. People like the Clerk, who are permanent employees of this House, they had to get involved and in some cases finalize and polish what needed to be done and then, with the new Management Commission, of course, see that it was passed.

That is what they are allowing here. They are saying, if you are a chiropractor on a go-forward basis and you are a member of this, you should have a code of ethics as well. It is very important because it does not just tell you what you have to do to become a chiropractor and how to get your licence to practice, but it tells you how you should conduct yourself. All of this is publicly driven, by the way. That is what is behind all this. It is about your representing yourself to have certain skills and certain capabilities and you are telling the public that. You are saying, I have a licence to do this, and you are holding yourself out to be capable of certain activities and certain actions and certain treatments, I guess, is the right word. The public have a right to know that.

Part of that, of course, is you have to conduct yourself ethically. They use words here, for example, that the code of ethics, not only should you have one but there are certain specifics which must be contained in their code of ethics. That is a pretty detailed piece. For example, it says, "a code of ethics which shall include (i) a definition of "professional misconduct" and "conduct unbecoming". It is pretty comprehensive when you tell them, not only that you have to have a code of ethics but they have gone so far here in this legislation as to say at least two things that you have to have in there. That is pretty important, because it is a recognition that: What does conduct unbecoming mean? What does professional misconduct mean? I, as an outside observer, might think that it means one thing. You, as a member of the public, might think it means something else. I believe the reason it is here, of course, is so that the public have an assurance that ,yes, there is the concept that applies to the practitioners of chiropractic work that you must be professional. It is by implication. If you say that you must deal and define what is professional misconduct it tells you pretty well what you cannot do.

Just so there is no misunderstanding that different people might have different views of what is misconduct, they tell you to spell it out. Who better to decide what should be professional misconduct for chiropractors than chiropractors? They have an expectation of what should be acceptable to them, but tied in with that, of course, is you have the three government-appointed members. That is where the public oversight piece is there again. Because the chiropractors, for example, say they put a very lax definition of what is professional misconduct. Someone might say: Well, that is not very fair. They got together themselves and they decided what was misconduct, and they set the bar pretty low for themselves. Make no wonder! Because they are defining what is and is not acceptable by them in their profession.

We have covered off against that and this legislation covers off against that, because it is not the chiropractors themselves who are going to get to decide what that definition is. Yes, they are going to have input. Yes, there are five of them who are on the board who get some input into that bylaw, but do not forget that the other three government appointees are there. We already know from the definition of it that they had to be suitable people. I would think that the government definition of suitable appointees to the board would include people who are capable of deciding what would be an appropriate standard for professional misconduct.

It is good to see that there are linkages here between the whole process of creating the guidelines, creating the self-governing board, but at the same time allowing for interplay between the chiropractors and the public oversight piece.

Mr. Chair, I am down as far as section (f) here now in 8(1), and my colleague, I understand, would like an opportunity to comment on a few other issues so I will return and continue this issue later.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Monsieur le président, comme ministre des affaires francophones, dans la province je pense que c'est important aussi que les résidents, les citoyens de notre province ont l'opportunité aussi de partager dans ce débat ce soir. Je pense que c'est notre droit aussi de parler la deuxième langue. Ici au Canada c'est la deuxième langue. Mais nous avons dans ce gouvernement un département des affaires francophones. Mais nous avons des résidents á Saint – Jean, sur la Port au Port, sur la péninsule, au Labrador, qui parlent français. C'est vraiment populaire dans nos écoles, c'est vraiment populaire à l'université.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: On a point of order, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

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

The Member for Grand Falls is speaking, I assume, in French. I don't know the language myself, but I am assuming it is the French language. She certainly has proficiency in that area.

I do not speak French myself and I do not understand French. I am not sure if she is addressing her comments to me. She was looking at me and nodding as if she were trying to communicate with me. Just for the record, I do not know if I am expected to respond, and I cannot, of course, because I do not understand the system. I would just think, albeit she is proficient in French, if that is the case and she is trying to communicate with us, she should at least have enough respect to speak in a language that we understand.

Thank you.

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Chair, having a country with two official languages and having some members, at least one member, who is a francophone who sits in this House and having others who are bilingual, I think that it shows extreme disrespect and possible discrimination if they are not allowed to speak in the language of their choice when we have two official languages in this country.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, to the point of order.

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

I have no problem with any member wanting to speak a language, but I think, as a member of this House, if we are debating a piece of legislation it is only respectful that at least everybody have an opportunity to understand it.

I have indicated I am a member, I am a full-fledged, eligible, bona fide member of this Assembly. Yes, we may have two languages in Canada. That is not the standard that we function with here. Yes, in the case of ceremonial events we have had commentary from the Member for Port au Port, for example, when he speaks on certain occasions, and the member from Central. I have heard her use French before. I have no problem whatsoever with the usage of another language in this House here. It is the people's House and whoever is here has a right to speak in whatever, but if we are going to be using a language for the purposes of debate, I think it is only proper and necessary and respectful that everybody have an opportunity to understand it.

Not only the French language got used here; we had the former member, for example, from Torngat who spoke in a language other than French and other than English on occasions, but it was always in a case of when it was a ceremonial event.

Mr. Chair, if we are going to be subjecting the debates in this House to the French language which members over here do no understand - the Leader of the NDP does - I think it is only fair that if the House is going to permit that, that you provide the transcription services that we can use. In Ottawa, for example, yes, they can use either language in the House of Commons, that is acceptable, but there is also provision made for the members who do not understand, that the House provides the transcription services immediately. There are listening devices and the transcription is taking place simultaneously while the person is speaking.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Chair, because there are no translation devices right now, I still think that if we do not allow our members to speak in the official language of Canada, one of the official languages of their choice, then I feel that it is discrimination for them.

However, the member who is speaking in French will also translate and do her speech as well in English. If it happens to go over the ten minutes, we would certainly like leave for her to do that, but she will deliver her speech in French and in English, the same speech.

CHAIR: Order, please!

To the point of order: The House can certainly look into translation of any language that is spoken in the House. It is quite obvious that we are not able to do that immediately. Having said that, there is nothing to stop a member of the House from speaking in one of the official languages recognized by Canada. Both languages are recognized in different parts of the Province as well, and there have been third languages that have been recognized in this Province spoken in the House.

Having said that, I do understand from the Government House Leader that the member speaking is prepared to deliver her debate in both languages.

I will recognize the hon. the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment.

MS SULLIVAN: Merci.

Alors comme j'ai dit je pense que c'est important dans cette assemblée d'avoir l'opportunité de parler aussi à nos résidents qui sont francophones dans cette province. Il y a dans quelques régions de notre province une population qui fait partie de Terre-Neuve qui sont des Terreneuviens, les Labradoriens et ce sont des personnes aussi qui ont le droit d'être entendu dans ce parlement.

As I said in French, we have a population in this Province who speaks French. I think it is important to recognize the population, whether that population be in St. John's, whether it is on the Port au Port Peninsula, whether it is in Labrador, or whether it is our students who are in our French immersion programs, to have opportunity to hear and understand debate in this Assembly.

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

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

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

On three different occasions tonight members on the government side chose to rise on a point of order with respect to the issue of relevancy. You, in one particular case, ruled in favour of the suggestion, on another you ruled against it, and there was another Speaker at the time who ruled that it was also irrelevant.

I would submit that the comments being made by the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans as to what language is used in here have nothing to do with this bill that we are debating here tonight which deals with chiropractors. Now, unless the member can justify some reason as to why she should be talking about why French can or cannot be used here, I do not think that is relevant. There may be another occasion to do it but certainly not in Committee stage, which by the way is very, very specific as to what you can and cannot talk about on a clause by clause basis, and the Opposition members has restricted themselves completely and totally to discussions of clause by clause in the Committee stage.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I will ask all hon. members, when debating any bills in the House, to try and keep their remarks relevant to the bill that is being debated.

I will recognize the hon. the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment.

MS SULLIVAN: Merci et je le ferai. Alors nous sommes en accord avec cette nouvelle organization. Pour moi et les personnes qui sont sur ce côté de notre assemblée nous sommes en accord et nous avons vraiment grand respect pour ces professionels les chiropracticiens.

We are certainly very much in agreement with this new organization. For us, on this side of the House, we see these professionals, these chiropractors, as very respected members of the professional organizations of this Province.

Il ya un processus similaire qui est suivi par les autres professionels comme les médecins, les travailleurs sociaux, sociales, et se sont mis en marche les réglements et les régles comme le code d'éthique.

There are certainly similar processes that are followed by other professionals, and we speak in this case about our doctors, we speak about our social workers, and they too have set standards such as a code of ethics.

C'est important de mettre en marche leurs propres règles et règlements aussi et pour la plupart par les autres chiropracticiens dans cette province mais aussi les deux représentants pour de publique.

We need to be able to ensure that they too are able to set their own standards, to have their own rules and regulations overseen by a board which mostly is run by their peers but with two representatives from the public.

Nous sur ce cotê de l'assemblée nous avons vraiment une valeur pour le travail, pour le pratique de ces personnes dans notre province. C'est important d'avoir cette profession, ces professionels, ce groupe dans notre province. Il y a beaucoup d' exemples.

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MS SULLIVAN: Est-ce que je peux avoir quelques minutes de plus? Leave?

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Absolutely.

CHAIR: The hon. member, by leave.

MS SULLIVAN: Merci. Thank you.

To go back and just review again, because I will try to do it sentence by sentence. I would like to –

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I wonder if everybody in Grand Falls-Windsor got that, (inaudible).

MS SULLIVAN: Many of them did actually.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I am sure they did.

MS SULLIVAN: I would certainly hope that he is not insulting the people from Grand Falls-Windsor, but I am going to leave that alone for the time being; to say that they are not able to understand.

We really value –

MS BURKE: Point of order.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: A point of order, Mr. Chair.

There has been a ruling that she will speak in both official languages, and to hear her being called a fool for speaking in French - we have many people in this Province who are francophones and a lot more people who are studying French immersion. I attended a high school graduation in Stephenville last weekend and the ceremony was half in French and half in English.

Mr. Chair, to be called a fool in this hon. House because you are speaking one of the official languages - there are many, many students in Newfoundland and Labrador who study French through our French immersion programs. It is something that government has invested in, in this Province, and if nothing else, Mr. Chair, I really think there is an apology owed to the hon. member for being called a fool for using French.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: To the point of order, Mr. Chair.

There will certainly be no apology from this person for anything that I said here in this House, none whatsoever, because none is required and none will be forthcoming. I say that, Mr. Chair, because this is all about making a mockery of this House.

We have been here, Mr. Chair, since 1:30 p.m. yesterday. The government has a book of business that they wanted to do, and they have gotten frustrated now. There has been no attempt by anybody to suggest how they want to handle this situation and just as a tactic – everybody in this House respects both languages and every language that is spoken in Canada. Let's not be foolish. You would not be a public servant, you would not be a representative of elected bodies, if you did not respect both languages. We are all Canadians, we all live by that, but there is a time and a place for everything.

I have no problem if the minister wants to stand up and use French. I have already said, if she wants to use French, go ahead, use French, but make sure she does the respectful thing and a least let the rest of us here understand what she is saying. It is not only the Opposition members. I would venture a guess that there are members on the government side who do not understand; surely they would like to know as well. What foolishness we are getting on with here now. Maybe they are a little bit frustrated, I guess, because they are not getting their way today.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The Chair also heard the comment and I would ask that the hon. the Opposition House Leader withdraw the comment.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: (Inaudible) the comment if I had said it, but I did not say it. I said you are making a fool of yourself, Mr. Chair. I did not call a person a fool. I said you are making a fool of yourself and the people of your district by saying that. I did not call the minister and the representative from Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans a fool, and the record will show that. I would ask that we look at Hansard, if that is the contention here.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I would ask again for the hon. the Opposition House Leader to reconsider and withdraw the remarks.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Chair, in the interest of getting on with some sensible activities here and to stop this foolishness that is going on, I will withdraw whatever you want me to withdraw, because this is nothing but pure delay tactics on the part of the government again. If we are here to do some business, let's do it. What do you want me to withdraw? I will withdraw it if it pleases the Chair; whatever.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The Chair did hear the comments that were referred to by the Government House Leader and I would ask that the hon. the Opposition House Leader withdraw the remarks.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Chair, in the interest of advancing the work of this House, I withdraw the comment that I made that the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans was making a fool of herself. I withdraw that.

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Merci. Thank you.

Comme j'ai dit nous avons grande valeur, nous plaçons grande valeur sur ces professionels dans notre société,

We really place high value on these professionals in our society.

Moi je connais personellement beaucoup de personnes, des personnes qui ont été impliqué dans des accidents par example qui ont dans quelques instances eu les services de ces professionels, pour eux c'était vraiment essential d'avoir ces services et çe c'est pourquoi c'est important pour nous de reconnaître et d'avoir un certain respect pour ces professionels.

In conclusion, I simply needed to have said that we certainly place great value on these professionals. For us and for me, personally, I have known many people who, through an accident or whatever, have needed the services of these professionals. They do very good work and we are very proud that we have legislation that can support them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR (Collins): The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Mr. Chair, in getting back to the clause by clause again in the bill, we are now on clause 22.

Clause 22 has to do with allegations and that is allegations that could be made against a chiropractor or against anyone in this case, and I guess we all know what allegations are. It is just like us standing here today and making an allegation against the government and saying to the government that: We think that you have an hidden agenda, we think that you want to get all of this legislation through the House by Tuesday so you can run and hide before the nurses take to the street on Wednesday. That would be an allegation, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to stick to the issue at hand which is debated clause by clause.

MS JONES: Mr. Chair, I am speaking to clause 22 which has to do with allegations and I am giving an example of what an allegation could be in terms of making allegations against people and having to have those allegations investigated to see if they are founded on truth or fact or fiction, or whatever the case may be.

I was using an example, Mr. Chair, in the House to express what an allegation was, and of course an allegation could be a number of things. For all we know we could make an allegation right now that the members opposite all have bids on how long the three or four of us are going to last over here before we throw it in and go catch a flight home for the long weekend. That might be an allegation, and then it would have to be proven to be true or it would have to be proven to be false.

Well that is the same thing, Mr. Chair, in the practice of chiropractic services. When an allegation is made it can be made orally, it can be made in writing. For example, I could write down the allegation that I just espoused orally against the government, saying that I think they are trying to jam legislation through the House of Assembly so they can run and hide from nurses. So, I could write it down or I could express it orally, but once it happens an allegation has been made, and once an allegation has been made then there is a process that has to occur and that is the process that would occur within chiropractic services.

The same process could occur in other services as well, because we do feel that the allegation that I just used as an example is a real allegation. The allegation that I just used as an example under section 22 of this act, implying that government has a hidden agenda, that government is putting the hobnail boots to the Assembly, keeping people here for two days into the long weekend to get a couple of bills through committee, could be just that, an allegation. It could be factual. It could be fiction.

Well, when you are in the practice of chiropractic, Mr. Chair, people can make allegations as well. They can make allegations against the corporation that you are a part of as a chiropractor. They can make allegations against you as the chiropractor for the service that you are delivering. When they make that allegation, it either has to be proven to be false or truthful, and in doing that there is a process, Mr. Chair. There is a process.

First of all, Mr. Chair, when an allegation is made it has to be filed, and it has to be filed with the registrar. 22.(3) "Where the registrar has been informed that a chiropractor has been convicted of an offence under the provisions of the Criminal Code or a similar penal statue of another country or has been suspended by a governing body of chiropractors in another province or territory of Canada or another territory or country for reason of professional misconduct, conduct unbecoming a chiropractor, or professional incompetence, the information shall be dealt with by the registrar as an allegation.

(4) For the purpose of subsection (3), a certified copy of the record of a conviction or findings made or the action taken by an external regulatory body constitutes proof…" as I said, there has to be proof, "… in the absence of evidence to the contrary, of the conviction or findings made or the action taken by that body, without proof of the signature of the convicting justice or person purporting to have signed on behalf of that body."

Mr. Chair, when you are making an allegation you have to document that allegation. Just because you make it, it does not mean that it could be true. It could very well be false, but there is a process that has to be followed. There are many examples of allegations, many examples. Every single day allegations are being made untowards a government, towards a company, towards a corporation, towards individuals and there are many examples that can be used, Mr. Chair, many examples that can be used. When you make an allegation it then has to be proven, and depending on the act under which an allegation is being made, depending upon the profession, depending upon the process, every single one could be dealt with in a different way.

For example, Mr. Chair, in this House of Assembly there are certain allegations that do not have to be investigated, simply because if they are made in a manner that is unparliamentary then they are withdrawn. For example, today when the Minister of Education made an allegation in the House of Assembly that someone was providing misleading information. In fact, what the minister was doing was calling someone dishonest, calling someone a liar in essence in saying that they were providing incorrect, nonfactual information to the House. That was an allegation that the Minister of Education made, but that allegation did not have to be investigated because it was unparliamentary anyway. It was made in a fashion using words that could not be spoken in the House of Assembly and the minister had to withdraw his comments. So there are different ways in which allegations are handled. This act defines how allegations are handled when they pertain to an individual chiropractor who practices in the Province or practices as part of a corporation. That is what this act does.

Also, Mr. Chair, there are other allegations that oftentimes do not warrant being investigated. It does not mean that they cannot be made; it does not mean that they cannot be made orally or in writing. Just like when I said earlier that the only reason we are here for a couple of days into the long weekend to get a few bills through committee is because the government has an agenda to close the House by Tuesday and go into hiding –

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member again that she is skating over the line, playing with the rules a little bit in terms of relevancy in this debate. I would ask her to keep her comments within the confines of the details of the Chiropractors Act. She is clearly not doing that. So I ask the member, please, to keep her comments in line with the rules of debate in committee.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Just for the information, I am debating section 22.(1), (2), (3) and (4), which deals with allegations, how allegations are made, what constitutes an allegation, how an allegation is investigated, how it is dealt with, and it is dealt with in all different fashions, and I am just giving a couple of examples. Unfortunately, every time I use an example that pertains to the government I get ruled out of order, but if I use an example that applies to anybody else in the world, I am not ruled out of order! So it is really hard to -

CHAIR: Order, please!

I have given direction to the member on the rules of debate in committee. I am asking her to adhere to those rules.

MS JONES: Yes, Mr. Chair, and I am trying to adhere to the rules.

Sometimes when you debate legislation on a clause-by-clause basis you have to give examples. In fact, for the entire night I have been giving examples of how things are done in every single clause. It is just unfortunate that under clause 22 of this particular act, Bill 8, I chose to use an example that was relevant to the government and, of course, that was not acceptable. So I will try and use another example when dealing with allegations under this particular act.

It is always good when you debate legislation and you are debating any clause in any act to be able to take that and explain it in a way where you can use examples, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time speaking has expired.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

May I, by leave?

CHAIR: Does the speaker have leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.

CHAIR: By leave.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Anyway, once an allegation has been filed, regardless if it is the example I used or if it is another example that could pertain to a chiropractic operation, when that allegation has been filed it appears before the registrar, and where it appears to the registrar, after notifying the respondents of the allegation, the allegation may be resolved satisfactorily. Where the complainant and the respondent consent, the registrar may attempt to resolve the matter.

Basically, what they means, if I could try and explain it without being ruled out of order is this. When there is an allegation that is filed, and that allegation is either provided, say, in this case, in writing, it is given to the registrar. Then the registrar will notify the respondent of the allegation of what it is. They will also notify the complainant and they will try to resolve the matter. They will try and resolve the matter at that level before it goes any further.

It is just like, when I used the example, Mr. Chair, of making an allegation against the government. There is not a process for that, but this act defines a process to deal with allegations that would be reflected upon in the practice of chiropractic services. So, when I make an allegation against government members, as I did earlier in an example like that, because there is no process, one of two things would happen in that case. You would either agree to resolve the issue, both parties would agree that what is being alleged is indeed correct, or in fact they would disagree that what is being alleged is incorrect.

Under this act, Mr. Chair, it is not that cut and dry. What happens under this particular act is that when an allegation is made and it is received by the registrar, then the registrar would inform the respondent, who in this case is the chiropractor. They would inform that chiropractor that there has been an allegation made against you. Then they would sit down with that chiropractor and with the complainant, the person who made the complaint, the person who made the allegation in the first place. They would sit down with both of them and they would try and resolve the issue, because it is in everyone's best interest if you can resolve the issue at that particular level.

So an effort would be made, Mr. Chair, to be able to do that, but what happens when that issue is not resolved satisfactorily at that level? What happens when both the respondent, who happens to be the chiropractor under this particular bill, and the complainant cannot come to a satisfactory resolution? What happens at that time? Well let me just tell you, because the bill outlines all of this stuff. It deals with any and all possible situations that could arise. In fact, Mr. Chair, what it says is that where there is an allegation that is not satisfactorily resolved by the registrar after they have communicated with the chiropractor, after they have communicated with the complainant, after that, and if the issue is not resolved, then what happens is that they shall refer the allegation and all of the other allegations to the complaints authorization committee.

Mr. Chair, we talked about the complaints authorization committee in the last section. Now if you forget what it was I can go back and go over it again, but we already talked about the complaints authorization committee. It is committee that is set up of chiropractors and public people that are appointed and some who are elected. What they do is they hear those complaints. As part of that complaints authorization committee, if you really want me to go back and go over it again I will, but I will try briefly to explain it to you. That is, under that committee any information that is required to help them make that decision with regard to that allegation it has to be provided. If there are any documents, if there are any records, if there is anything whatsoever on file then that has to be provided.

The other thing is, is that they have the ability to call witnesses. For example, if there is another chiropractor that can be called in to give their expertise on this particular situation, they have the authority to call these witnesses. In addition to that, Mr. Chair, they are mandated by law to disclose any and all information that they may know with regard to this case. So that was what the complaints authorization committee was about. Now maybe later I will go back and read it over again in more detail and give you another briefing on it, but that is the gist of what it is.

What happens, Mr. Chair, is this, because I think it is very important that people understand. Especially when you are seeking professional services in this Province, it is very important that people understand what rights they have; what rights they have if there is a case or a situation where they feel that they have an allegation to report. It works like this. You make the allegation, you can make it orally or in writing, it goes to the registrar. It is then up to the registrar to call together the respondent, which is classified under this act as being the chiropractor, and to call together the complainant, to get these two people together and try and resolve this issue to their satisfaction.

When they cannot do that, Mr. Chair, then the registrar has to take this allegation to the complaints authorization committee. Then the complaints authorization committee has the job and the responsibility of investigating the matter. In the course of carrying out that particular investigation, they have to provide all information that is relevant to this particular case. In addition to that, the registrar shall inform a complainant and the chiropractor of the referral of the allegation to the complaints authorization committee. For example, when this registrar goes in and sits down with the chiropractor, and sits down with the complainant, and they cannot resolve this issue around the allegation that has been made, then the registrar has to inform these two individuals that they are now going to take this to a complaints authorization committee, which would be the next step in terms of hearing these particular allegations.

Now, I know my colleague wants a few more minutes on a couple of very important issues in this bill, so I will let him get into that. Then I will come back and talk about the complaints authorization committee, how that committee works, how it is set up, and how complaints are heard, allegations are heard when they are not resolved between the complainant and the respondent, who happens to be the chiropractor, and then it becomes referred to this board or committee. I will outline to you how that process works and what happens when that allegation is received by the board, and how they deal with it and the process by which they deal with it.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR (T. Osborne): The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I do indeed have a few other comments I would like to make on some of the clauses of this particular piece of legislation that we have been on now for quite some time. I appreciate the fact that government is allowing us the opportunity to do that. We are here on Bill 8 dealing with chiropractors now for some three or four hours.

As I said, I did not realize of course when we started that it was so important to government that we have all these bills taken to certain stages tonight. Once the government embarks upon that - and that is their priority. I fully agree with that. That is their priority as to how the business of House is and what kind of timely fashion is conducted. So we appreciate the opportunity to have a complete, full detailed debate on it, which brings me back to section 8 where I left off a few moments ago.

I was talking, at that time, about the code of ethics and the fact that based upon Justice Green's report we ended up with a new act here in the House that dealt with a whole pile of things concerning the activities and the actions of MHAs and how we ought to conduct ourselves on a go-forward basis. One piece of that of course was a code of ethics. I think we actually do – I do not think, I know. We actually have to sign now, when we get elected, forms saying that we will comply with the code of ethics. That was never a requirement before. So it is not only the MHAs based upon certain events which have changed the circumstances and the laws and regulations and bylaws applicable to them, it is happening in a lot of professional organizations as well, such as the chiropractors.

I alluded earlier to the establishment of committees, and this section 8 permits the chiropractic board to establish committees. One example – I gave examples of different kinds of committees, the disciple committee, the education committee, and I omitted to mention that usually, nowadays, in self-governing bodies one of the most important committees that are struck by boards would be the audit committee. That again leads me to the Justice Green report to give an example of how that was done in the case of MHAs.

The new management committee was structured around the fact that Justice Green said there should be a new management committee that replaced the IEC. As a part of that, he gave specific instructions that there should be an audit committee. It never existed before. Financial oversight was an issue of course. So he prescribed the set up of the management committee and also specifically dictated that there should be an audit committee established under the rules as well.

The Member for Topsail actually chairs the audit committee and she of course was a former auditor general herself. So far we have had under that committee – I am not sure how the chiropractors are going to run the show but I can certainly say that under that audit committee we have had a fair number of meetings. There has been a lot of organizational stuff done. Most of it or all of it is in the public domain because it has been reported on by the chair of the audit committee, through the management committee, which is publicly televised. That has been done on a couple of occasions now at least, with reports being filed.

A very comprehensive piece, actually, was dealt with in a recent meeting of the management committee. There is actually a manual that members of the audit committee must live by. So you talk about how detailed things are becoming these days. It is not only the establishment of the audit committee itself that was dictated by Chief Justice Green. The audit committee took it upon itself to design an appropriate piece of work and rules that should govern their conduct and what their responsibilities are and how they are evaluated.

I happen to be a member of that audit committee as well, and I was surprised. I had never been a member of an audit committee before and it was great to learn because it was a new facet to being an MHA. I had no idea as to how it was supposed to work or what the obligations might be as being a part of that committee. So it is great to see that these committees will be struck under the chiropractor piece here, and as I say, there are all kinds of these committees to do that.

Mr. Chair, I would like to move along now to another section if I could, and that is section 9. We talked here about the establishment of the board. We have talked about the creation of committees by the board. We have talked about a code of ethics that the board might have and so on, but under section 9 they talk about the reporting requirements. That is a pretty significant piece there because it is just not in this act prescribing what you must do and can do as a self-governing body of chiropractors but it also puts some pretty onerous responsibilities on you when it comes to financial statements.

For example, under this section the board shall; it does not say may. It does not say: decide yourselves if you want to. The law will require that, 9.(1) "The board shall prepare and submit to the minister not later than 6 months after the end of its financial year (a) a report on the activities of the board in the previous year; and (b) the board's audited financial statements for the previous financial year." Embedded in that, of course, is a lot of detail. For example, it is pretty clear that they just do not run off and do a willy-nilly financial statement. It says they have to be audited. Again, it is a pretty prescriptive, restrictive situation whereby you have to account to the public through this audited financial statement what you do with the money you have collected. Obviously, I would think we are not dealing with a great deal of money here. I would think what has happened, based upon my reading of this particular act, the chiropractors source of income will be from the fees that they charge each year.

Whether you are a member of the medical association or the physiologists association or the law society, there is a fee that you paid to be a member, and part of it is so that your board, which governs you, can have some resources to do certain things that you need to do, even simple things sometimes, operationally, like mail outs. You may have a piece of information that you want to get to your membership. Something as simple as that, you need to have the money to be able to do that. You may, for example, want to put off a continuing legal education course. Mind you, most of those things as they occur are charged on a one-off basis. Depending on what the cost is, you would normally bill the member as those costs would come about, but you still have the fees.

It says in here, in another section, that the board can decide what their fees are going to be. I would think common sense would indicate they would take a number of things into consideration when they decide what is an appropriate fee. Obviously, they do not want to burden themselves to the point where you impose a fee that is unreasonable or unnecessary, but you at least have to have enough to pay your bills. For example, if you as a group are going to have paid staff, if you have an executive director for your association, you are going to have to charge a far more substantial fee than if you do not. I am not sure what the chiropractor association intends to do. Do they intend to have an executive director? I know some associations, based upon larger memberships, do in fact have skilled, dedicated staff members to conduct and administer the business of that association or that governing group. The law society, for example, has several people: researchers, they have a director of education, a director of complaints, and so on.

It depends on the group, because I would think there is a big difference in the fee you would charge. If you are going to pay for that stuff and you only have fifty-four practitioners in the Province, if you are going to get into having paid staff and you are going to have rented accommodations and so on, you are going to need a fairly substantial fee in order to pay for those things. If it is substantial, of course, you are imposing that burden on your very limited membership of fifty-four people. I guess, practicality comes into play again. Will the chiropractors need paid staff? Maybe they can get by with part-time staff. Again, that is a decision that they will have the right to make. They will make that decision and they will decide what the fees are that they need to charge in order to conduct the activities that they wish to conduct.

Section (a) talks about the activities of the board and (b) talks about the audited financial statements. I do not know, maybe the minister can give me some clarification when he responds to some of the things we have put forward tonight. The word ‘activities' in 9(1)(a), are they talking about all of the activities of the board in that report or are they just talking about the financial activities of the board? I will explain what I mean by that. Earlier today when we were debating the Legal Aid Act I made reference to the annual report of 2007-2008 that was filed by the Legal Aid Commission. In that particular report they talked about all of their activities. They just did not talk about their financial information, they talked about what their plan was, they talked about different projects that they had on the go, and so on. I do not know, maybe the minister can clarify: Is the report that would be filed under clause 9 similar to the reports that many government agencies are providing today under the accountability and transparency laws?

As we are aware, we have had as a government now, for some years, a transparency law. Depending upon how you are classified and how your board or your agency or your department is classified, you have to provide certain information to government in a report. Sometimes they are called an activity report. There are different classifications that would be used. I am wondering if that is what this clause 9 is addressing, if that report will be both their activities and their financial piece or just strictly their financial piece.

CHAIR : Order please!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Leave to clue up, Mr. Chairman?

CHAIR: Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

CHAIR: The hon. member by leave.

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

I appreciate the indulgence of the government members for allowing us an opportunity to discuss this. We realize that this legislation is certainly needed and needed within a timely fashion, obviously, since we have been here for fourteen hours. Anyway, I will continue.

Just to go back to clause 9, subsection (2), Mr. Chair, that ties in again with the reports. Once we have the report, the question then is: What happens to it after that? Where does it go, who has to deal with it, and are there any responsibilities imposed on anyone to deal with what is being reported? We know it has to be sent - according to subsection (2), the minister shall table a copy of the annual report. The first part I talked about, submitting the report: the report actually goes from the chiropractors' board to the minister.

I am assuming that is going to be the Minister of Health and Community Services, because page 1, the heading page on Bill 8, indicates it is the responsibility of the Minister of Health and Community Services. That would seem to make sense. It is a health related type of activity, when we talk about chiropractors, and, of course, all of the health related type occurrences and operations in the Province could and should, I would suggest, come under the Minister of Health, as they have it. In any case, the board, once they have the report prepared, passes it on to the minister. The minister – and again, there is no discretion in this – the minister cannot decide what he is going to do with it, of his own volition. Under subsection (2) of clause 9, it says, the minister shall table a copy of the annual report and the audited financial statement. That implies, again, going back to my earlier comments, that there are two pieces to this, an annual report and a financial statement which must be audited. There seem to be two things that the chiropractors' board is going to have to give to the minister.

The minister, then, shall – no discretion – he shall table a copy of that report and the audited financial statement here in this House of Assembly, within fifteen days of receiving it, if the House is sitting. If the House is not sitting, he must do it within fifteen days after it next begins to sit. That makes sense, because the whole premise of this bill talks about self governance, but within the context of public accountability and public oversight.

We have seen, from the earlier comments that I made, that on the board itself and the activities you have public involvement, other than just chiropractors, because you have the three government appointed members. We also know, now, that you just cannot keep the activities silent, because this section requires that a report be filed saying what you did. You just cannot take your board, sneak off into the sunrise and not file any report. Once a year you have to file a report. So that way there is a requirement to keep the public informed as to what your activities were and particularly what your financial situation was.

The fact, Mr. Chair, that it comes back to the House of Assembly, because in our democratic system of course, the House of Assembly is acknowledged by all to be ultimately the most open, democratic and transparent process that exists in our democratic system. This is where the laws themselves are made. So what a better place to take your public reports than back to the place that created the law in the first place, which is, given our current state of technology, open to easy public access.

For example, we are here, and we have been here for the last fourteen hours, and anybody in this Province who is desirous of it could be watching us and I am sure some did. We have access to that. So the report does not get lost. Nobody takes it any more and shoves it on a shelf and nobody knows what happened to it. There is a requirement here that it has to come here. I do believe, in fact, that not only does it come here, that the House actually - I think you can access them on-line. I think most of these reports are actually put on-line if you want to. If not, I am certain that you are aware you can check the government Web site to find out that it has been filed. That is all possible. There is no problem with that, but of course – and the fifteen day thing. That is pretty clear cut. I would think the reason for that, and I agree with that wholeheartedly, and that is sort of the template that government has used in a lot of its legislation when it comes to the tabling of it.

Now we know that sometimes there has been a difference of opinion, of course, between different members and whatever as to the timeline. Government undertook in its other policy commitments, I do believe the phrase used then was thirty days. The government said within thirty days of receipt of a report that it had commissioned they would have it reviewed and they would put it out to the public. Now we all know that has not happened all the time. There have been lots of questions in this House about how government gets a report, hides it on the shelf or under a rock so the public does not see what is in it. We, as Opposition members of course, spend a lot of time here trying to convince government to give it to us. Let us have a look. Let us see what is in it, and of course government says we need more time. That is the usual answer.

I asked the Minister of Natural Resources for several reports: Yes, we have it. Thank you very much. We are having a look and we will get it out to you. It is not the case here with the chiropractors. It is not going to happen for the chiropractors. Even the minister cannot hide from the responsibility, the requirement that he is going to have to table that report. You might do it in some other instances where a department has commissioned a report or a study of some kind, whether it be like how many schools in the Province have been tested for mould and that kind of thing. Because they commission it you might not have to do it, but that is different here. We have an absolute direction right here as to the timelines involved.

For example, it says fifteen days. So the minister gets it and if the House is open he or she must bring it to this House within fifteen days. Once it comes here, that big table sitting here in the middle of the House, they actually use the words, it has to be tabled. For the interest of those watching, that is the table right there that that report will be filed on. Then it is free and clear for everybody in the world to see it. Some might think that is not an important consideration as to why the public should have access to it.

I will give you an example again, just as a comparison, Mr. Chair, as to why I think it is important that the public know it exists, can get access to it if they wish and take whatever course of action they decide that they want to pursue. That is another regulated group in this Province. That of course is the embalmers and funeral directors. That is another act that is very similar in its requirements in terms of the board, the membership on the board, how they make their bylaws, self-governance; another very similar type of group. Of course, that was important because I alluded here in the House some time ago when I gave an explanation of an incident that had happened on the West Coast where there were no regulations.

I say this again as a demonstration of what happens when you do not have the openness. In that particular case, there were certain individuals - there was an individual in the Province who was involved in the funeral business, these pre-sold funeral plans. He sold many of them but there were no laws around what he had to do particularly with the money. There was an assumption, of course, and he told everybody that the money was being held in trust, but we found out later that hundreds of thousands of dollars had disappeared. He, of course, was charged and actually pled guilty, I do believe, to the offence some time later in a court. He is not living in the Province anymore, but it is pretty upsetting.

That is why you can see why public accountability, such has been prescribed here in the Chiropractors Act, is an essential. It is not just a nice thing to have. It is an essential thing to have, because you can put the rules and regulations around the conduct of these people and you can see, at least on an annual basis, what they did or did not do. They must, for example, file reports showing how much money they collected, how they put it in trust, who it is in trust with. Very prescribed circumstances as to how it can be used and people will know that. So that is why it is very important, Mr. Chair, to ensure that these reports come to this board.

The last comment I would make is on section 9.(3). It reads: "Where the board fails to comply with subsection (1)…" which talked about filing the report and the audited statements, "the board is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $1,000." So this is not going to be just a reporting requirement that has no teeth. There is actually a pretty severe monetary penalty imposed if you do not comply. The board itself could be charged and convicted, and if convicted be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000. Now that is a pretty significant piece. It shows as well that the government, in passing this particular piece of legislation, wants these groups who are self-governing to take these legislative requirements very seriously. Not only do you have to do a report but you also have to file a report in a certain place and you have to make sure it is done in a certain way, it is audited. You have to make sure that it finds its way back to the House of Assembly and if you as a board do not do that, you are going to get charged. You are going to be convicted. You are going to pay a fine.

Mr. Chair, that completes my comments on section 9. I will have of course some other comments on up to the other forty-four sections that we have but I understand my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, would also like to have a few comments now.

Thank you.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am going to talk about section 24 for a moment. Actually, we are doing relatively well. There are only fifty sections in the bill and we are nearly halfway through. So, we should not take much longer.

In fact, Mr. Chair, if you look at clause 24, what it deals with is the complaints authorization committee. Now, when I spoke last I talked about clause 23, which was filing allegations and what happens once an allegation has been filed and the process by which that allegation is being dealt with. Well, what happens is that it appears that after a registrar has been notified, then they must notify the chiropractor of an allegation. Once that is done it is up to that registrar to sit down with both the chiropractor and the complainant to try to come to some satisfactory resolution that both of them can agree upon. Of course, when that does not happen, the next stage is for them to file an allegation. The registrar must then file the allegation to be heard by the complaints authorization committee. That is where we were the last time. Anytime there is an allegation and the registrar cannot resolve it between the respondent who is the chiropractor and the complainant, then they have to refer it to the complaints authorization committee.

Mr. Chair, first of all they have to notify the parties that they are going to send it to that committee. When it reaches that committee, what happens next is that the committee then has several options. The complaints authorization committee has several options. One of those options is to refer the allegation back to the registrar for a full investigation or an alternative dispute resolution in accordance with the regulations. That is one option that they have available to them. I fail to see how that would be a productive option, all the same, because the registrar has already tried to resolve this and deal with it with the parties that were in question. If they could not do that and they could not resolve it at that time, then, Mr. Chair, obviously to refer it back to them for some kind of a dispute resolution is probably not going to be the most satisfactory option.

There are other options that are available to them, as well. Mr Chair, one of those options is to conduct an investigation itself or appoint a person to conduct an investigation on its behalf. This is one other option that is available to the complaints authorization Committee. They can make a decision to have this allegation investigated. They can also choose to investigate it themselves as a committee, or they can choose to hire someone, an independent person, to go and do that investigation.

Mr. Chair, those are the two options they have available, but there is also a third option. That is for the complaints authorization commission to conduct a review of the respondent's practice, meaning to conduct a review of the chiropractor's own practice, or the conduct of the corporation under which they are a shareholder, director, employee, or whatever the case may be. Mr. Chair, they have that option as well.

The other option they have, Mr. Chair, is to ask the chiropractor to appear before their committee, to appear before the complaints authorization committee. That is another option that they have.

There are a number of options here that they have. There are a number of options that are available to them. Let us take a closer look at what those options are. We know that there are four of them, so we are going to take a little closer look at what those options are, Mr. Chair.

First of all, Mr. Chair, when it comes to the complaints authorization commission, they have the power to say to the registrar: We have looked at this allegation and we are going to resort it back to you. We are going to send it back to you, as the registrar, and we want you to do an investigation, or we want you to look at an alternative dispute resolution that could be put in place to resolve this. That is one of the options they have available.

The other option they have, Mr. Chair, is to conduct an investigation. They have the option to do the investigation themselves, as a commission, or to appoint someone to do that investigation. They also have the opportunity to conduct a review of the chiropractor's practice and of the corporation of which they are a voting shareholder, or an employee, or a director, or a shareholder, whatever the case may be. They also have that option available to them.

The other option they have, Mr. Chair, is to say to that chiropractor: We want you to appear before our commission, at which time they would have the opportunity to question and examine the allegation as it was made, to be able to look for clarification from the respondent.

Mr. Chairman, we also look at two options. Once the complaints authorization commission chooses one of those options and the investigation gets completed or a decision gets made with regard to that allegation, then the complaints authorization committee will rule that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the chiropractor had engaged in conduct deserving of sanction, or they will rule that there are reasonable grounds. In the case that the ruling would come down that there are not reasonable grounds, then the committee shall dismiss that entire allegation and they shall give notice in writing to both the complainant, the person who made the complaint in the first place, and to the respondent, the person who is the chiropractor according to this law. They shall give notice in writing of the dismissal of the allegation. That is one of the options that the complaints authorization committee does have.

First of all, if the allegation comes to them they have four options in how they deal with it. They choose one of those options. Once the issue has been resolved and a ruling is made on it, that ruling can be made in one of two ways: One, they can rule that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that anything was done wrong, or they can rule that there were probable grounds. If they rule, Mr. Chairman, that there were no reasonable grounds on which to believe that the chiropractor had engaged in any kind of misconduct or was deserving of a sanction, then the committee can automatically, without doing anything else, dismiss this allegation. In dismissing it they would have to contact the respondent and they would have to contact the complainant and tell them that: We have dismissed this allegation.

What happens, Mr. Chairman, in a case where there are reasonable grounds, when the complaints authorization committee goes through their process and deems that they are of the opinion that there were some reasonable grounds to believe that a chiropractor had indeed engaged in conduct that was deserving of sanction? Then, the allegation is considered to constitute a complaint, and the committee may do one of these three things: they may counsel or caution the respondent; they may instruct the registrar to file the complaint against the respondent and refer it to the disciplinary panel; or they may suspend or restrict the respondent's right to practice.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The member's time has expired.

MS JONES: By leave, Mr. Chair?

CHAIR: Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

CHAIR: The member, by leave.

MS JONES: Mr. Chair, I had an e-mail about an hour ago from a nurse in the Province who told me she was just getting off work from a twenty-four hour shift. I would say most of us have been on the job twenty-four hours by now. I would not want to be prescribing medication, it is bad enough to be debating a piece of legislation. I say to hon. members, I do not think I would be too good on the IV right now.

Anyway, Mr. Chair, I will try my best to muck my way through the important legislation that has to be done. We are doing the chiropractors act. The government has the hobnail boots out, so we will try our best. I guess I should be thanking my lucky stars that I am debating Bill 8 at this hour after being on the job for twenty-four hours myself and not having to hook someone up to an IV right now.

Anyway, Mr. Chair, as I was saying, under the complaints authorization committee, once they do find that there is a case here, that there are some reasonable grounds to believe that a respondent has engaged in conduct that is deserving of a sanction, then the complaints commission has three options that are available to them.

First of all, they can counsel or caution the chiropractor who was involved, that chiropractor who they believe for some reason has conducted some form of misconduct in the providing of services in the Province. They can counsel the individual, Mr. Chair. They can also instruct the registrar to file the complaint against the respondent and refer it to the disciplinary panel. We will get into that now shortly, into the disciplinary panel. What that means is that, if a chiropractor in the Province were found of some kind of misconduct, then it is not necessarily up to the complains commission to decide what the repercussions would be. They can make the decision, but they can also refer it out to a disciplinary panel who will determine what form of discipline is most appropriate in a case like this. That is the other option that they have available to them.

The other option, Mr. Chair, is to suspend or restrict the respondent's right to practice. The commission does not have to go to a disciplinary panel for that. They do not have to go to anybody for that. In fact, as a commission, they can automatically decide that because of the findings against this chiropractor, we are going to restrict that person and restrict their right to practice in this Province. We could suspend their licence. That is one of the things that they could do.

They have those options. They have those three options available to them.

Mr. Chair, I would think, if they were to choose the first option - the first option meaning that if there was an allegation and it was reasonably found that there was some misconduct around that chiropractor, one of the options, the first option here, would be to counsel that chiropractor - I would think that that is the least severe of all the sentencing that they could pass down. My thought on it would be this: That they would do this depending on the leniency, depending on what the significance of the misconduct was, because that would be a very lenient sentence, I would say.

The second sentence, Mr. Chair, would be a case that would be much more severe, I would think, a case whereby they would decide, as a complaints commission, that they would refer it out to a disciplinary panel. That panel would sit down and look at all aspects of the case, look at the kind of misconduct that was completed, look at the circumstances around it, and then, as a panel, they would make that final decision. That is another option that is available to them.

As well, Mr. Chair, they have a third option available, and that is to suspend or restrict the chiropractor's right to practice, obviously the right to practice in this Province. I do not know; I guess every province has its own criteria and regulations. Anyway, they do have that option as well, to not go to any kind of a disciplinary panel, to not do any kind of counselling with the individuals involved. They have the option to just outright revoke their licence, therefore prohibiting them from practising in this Province, so that is another option that they have available to them.

Under this section as well, section 24(4), a person conducting an investigation can also ask the respondent to meet certain things.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR (Collins): Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: First of all, Mr. Chairman, in conducting an investigation, the individuals can ask the chiropractor or the respondent who is in question, they can ask them first of all to undergo an examination, if they consider it necessary, and that examination would be arranged by the registrar. They can ask the individual to permit the registrar or a member of the complaints authorization committee or a person appointed by the complaints authorization committee to inspect and copy the records of the respondent and other documents relating to the subject matter of the investigation. What that means is that they can inspect and copy all of the records in relation to this chiropractor, and any other records that might be relative to the subject matter of the investigation.

Mr. Chairman, the other thing they can do under this section is, they can require another person to permit the registrar or a member of the complaints authorization committee or another person appointed by the complaints authorization committee to inspect and copy records and other documents related to the subject matter of the investigation. Once that request is made, those people must comply with the sections of the act. That is basically the gist of section 24 of the act. There are a couple of more pieces to it, but I think those were probably the most important ones.

There is also a format whereby the complainant whose allegation has been dismissed, as I talked about earlier, that this committee could dismiss an allegation altogether, but, if they do, the complainant, the person who filed that allegation, would have the opportunity to appeal it within thirty days after they have received the notice. They would appeal the dismissal to the Trial Division by filing a notice of appeal with the Registrar of the Supreme Court.

Even if the decision of the authorization committee was to say that there is no complaint here and we are going to dismiss it, the person who filed that complaint would still have the option for an appeal, and they could appeal to the Trial Division of the Supreme Court. So it is not as cut and dried as one would think. There are a number of processes that have to be followed throughout this bill. There are a number of processes that are indicated by government that would be necessary in carrying out and legislating the practise of chiropractic in the Province.

Mr. Chairman, I am going to end my comments there and leave it to my colleague to finish off on the sections that he was evidently speaking on. When I come back, I will look at how the tribunal is going to work and what the adjudication process for that is.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

Again, I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words on the Chiropractors Act, Bill 8. It is good to see that the Member for Lewisporte commented after I sat down the last time and said: You are soon going to need to shave. He has a great sense of humour, of course, and I probably will need a shave before it is all done.

Again, there are things that have to be done from time to time, of course. We all realize, in this House, given the numbers situation, it is tough physically when you only have three or four people in Opposition. Sometimes it calls for an extra little push to get some things done when it is that serious, and make sure that these things get their proper consideration, of course.

There is obviously, at the end of the day, a physical limitation as to how long one can speak and so on, but we will try our best. We thank the government, of course, for their co-operation, seeing that it was good to stay here all night to give us that opportunity to do that. In fact, I am very pleased to see how many government members have been on their feet addressing this important issue. They feel it is so important to keep the House open all night and yet I do not believe, since we have started this debate on Bill 8 in Committee, we have heard from one single - and I am interested, I would love to hear from them, but this will happen from time to time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

Mr. Chairman, I am assuming, if some of the members have a problem, instead of shouting, they would rise on a point of order if they want to address the issue; otherwise, it will be the Chair who gives me direction and guidance. I just remind members of that. There is a format and a process to follow here.

Back to the Chiropractors Act, clause 10 again, I never had much opportunity to get into it the last time; I was into the reporting piece that we had. Clause 10, of course, the generic description to the side of clause 10 just talks about registration and licence. It is interesting, if you give it a close reading, just how the section works. Because we have been talking here about the creation of a board which would make the by-laws for the governance of the chiropractors, and talking about fees they are going to have to pay, and how the fees get set, the discipline and committees and all of that stuff, but clause 10 is interesting because it establishes a right for a person in certain circumstances. I would like to just explain that. For example, if a person pays a fee, if that person "(b) holds a degree or diploma in chiropractic from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, a university or college within Canada recognized by the Council on Chiropractic Education (Canada) or another program that the board considers to be their equivalent; (c) has passed Canadian Chiropractic Examining Board examinations; and (d) meets those other requirements which may be prescribed by the regulations", the board shall licence a person - shall.

In other words, it is not a case whereby this board might decide that we do not want Joe or Jane to be a member, a practising chiropractor in our Province, for some reason. It may be a frivolous reason, a very frivolous reason, and they just make a decision that we are not going to let that person in; we are not going to let that person ply his or her trade in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This section, of course, does not permit that, because it says shall. In other words, if you meet the qualifications, if you have the proper academic standing, if you have your fees paid, you wrote your exams and you passed them, they cannot refuse you. That is good, too, because that makes it a right, if you have gone through all of these years of training only to come out and find yourself and someone says: No, we have enough people now. We think fifty-four is a good number. We do not want more chiropractors, because the more you have the more it cuts into the business. For example, if you have thirty chiropractors practising in St. John's versus 100, the thirty are going to make less money, because if you have 100 practitioners – obviously, there is only so much work to go around.

You could find a situation where a board, for self-preservation purposes - for example, keep the money pool or the revenue source at the highest maximum level, and that, of course, is done by keeping the numbers down - you might find a board which takes that into consideration sometimes and says we have enough, but that cannot happen. That is good, too, because it gives these practitioners that absolute right to be protected. You meet the standards and the board must let you in.

Going on in section 10(3) it talks about a very important condition that is a part of receiving a licence. I am referring here to the issue of professional liability insurance. It exists in just about every profession that I know of. If you are a practising lawyer in the Province, for example, you must have professional liability insurance. If you are a doctor in this Province you must have professional liability insurance; and, sure enough, in subsection (3) section 10 it says a chiropractor must have professional liability insurance.

That is for a very good reason, because if the public is being treated by these individuals, what if something goes wrong? You are in someone's office, for example, you are trusting to a certain skill level of that person. Yes, they are registered. Yes, they have all of the licensing done, the fees paid, the examinations and everything done, and they have their licence and they are practising, but what if that person does something that is absolutely negligent? I will just give you an example. What, for example, if they were intoxicated in the course of rendering the chiropractic service to you and, instead of fixing your neck, they broke your neck? You would be pretty concerned about that. You would want to know that in that circumstance you would want somebody, at the end of the day, who is going to pay you for the damages you incurred. That is what this professional liability is all about. You get your licence, yes, but in order to get your licence you shall provide proof that you had the professional liability insurance coverage in a form and an amount that is satisfactory to the board.

I understand it is fairly substantial. Most people who are involved in these businesses - I know doctors, for example - just do not have a $10,000 insurance policy. The damages that result when it comes to medical negligence cases, or in this case chiropractic cases, would usually probably be quite more substantial than that, so the form and the amount of the policy is usually pretty high, and it is great protection for the public again.

If you did not have it regulated and you had a situation where chiropractor A, for example, says: I am going to do the smart thing and I am going to get insurance because we live in a pretty litigious society today, and no matter what happens you are likely to be sued - so you have said to yourself, I am going to do the smart thing and I am going to get myself insured - but, like most groups in society, not everybody does the smart thing. You may well have a situation where chiropractor B says: I am not going to pay $5,000 a year for an insurance package. Why should I do that? I can make better use of that money somewhere else. It costs $5,000.

They are very expensive, these insurance packages. I know the enrolment in the Law Society, which takes in a big chunk of it, was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $10,000 or $11,000 when I last paid a fee for the Law Society, so you are talking pretty substantial fees for the liability coverage.

Some people would be apt, if they were not forced to, to not put the money into that protection, so you are forcing them to protect themselves but at the same time you are affording the protection to the public should something go wrong. That is a very wise thing to do, of course.

At the end of the day, yes, if you did something wrong you may have to pay a deductible, but I will tell you it is a lot easier, I am sure, to pay a deductible than it would be to commit a terribly negligent act, for example, and find out that you have to pay somebody $1 million and you do not have it. The likelihood of recovery, number one, would probably be fairly limited. What assurance would you have that any chiropractor that you are going to go to is going to have that kind of personal wealth and asset that they could pay a judgement like that without the insurance? So it is a good safety precaution to have there.

Mr. Chairman, moving along here to section 11 - before I go to section 11, I notice, too, that there is a tie-in between section 11 and section 14(3). Section 14(3) talks about the corporate register, and this is a register that this chiropractic board is going to be required by law to keep and maintain, and that contains a list of all of the practitioners who have been licensed in the Province; it is a registry. It says, it "…shall be made public in accordance with section 11 and a copy of the register shall be made available for inspection under that section."

So again, you are visiting the Province, for example, or you live in one area of the Province and you are visiting another area and you get injured, and you need to see a chiropractor. Now you do not know probably, what the level –

CHAIR (Osborne): Order, please!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: By leave, Mr. Chair?

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

CHAIR: The member, by leave.

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

You do not know, in those circumstances if you are visiting an area, you do not particularly know if the person you are going to visit, what the standard might be of that person. You might not know even if they are a licensed person.

So the thing is, how do I get an assurance, as a member of the public, that the person I am going to go and entrust my body into to get some chiropractic treatment, how do I know that he or she is a properly, duly qualified person? Of course, that is how we know. Because there must be a register maintained, and you, as a member of the public can call the chiropractic office and say: Listen, I was going to see John Doe on LeMarchant Road. They are advertising themselves as a chiropractor. Are they a bona fide licensed, registered chiropractor? That person will tell you. So it is not a case of you cannot find out. Again, you notice the connection here. This is all about allowing the group to make the rules that govern themselves but at the same time, make sure that the public has protection. Whether it be by way of insurance, whether it be by way of knowing that the person you are seeing has the qualifications that you want them to have.

Now, if you flick back to clause 11 again, because I said there was a tie-in between eleven and fourteen, which I just referenced. 11.(1) talks about "The registrar of the board shall keep a register and enter the names of all persons licensed under this Act." So that says specifically what the registrar must do. It says, 11.(2) "The register shall be open to inspection by a member of the public during normal business hours at the office of the board."

After reading some other sections and referring to them earlier tonight, talking about the advances in technology and so on, I was a little bit surprised to see that particular section there saying that the register would be kept at the board's office and normal business hours. I would think nowadays - any governing group, of course, with the technology we have today, that that register would also be accessible by way of the Internet and the Web.

Most groups that I know, for example, the Law Society, if you want to know if someone is a practicing member of the Law Society, you can actually go on the Web, Google them, and right there on their Web site is a list of all the lawyers, maintained and properly registered and licensed to practice law in the Province. I would think, even though it does not say here, that there is a requirement on the chiropractic board to do that. I would think that common sense would prevail and this pretty well, everything is accessible on the Web these days, that that would be a practical common sense thing that the board would do.

I also had a question of whether or not the section talking about the registrar and the existence and keeping of the register in 11.(1) and in section 14.(3) is in fact repetitive. I do not know if we need them both. It seems to me that it is already covered off in 11.(1) and I do not know why we would need to repeat it again in 14.(3). Now maybe there is some reason for that. That is the purpose of course of committee stage is to pose these questions for the minister who hopefully will have the courtesy of responding to these concerns. We have not been here for three or four hours and raised these questions only to find that the minister at the end of the day is not prepared to give the answers. So I am assuming that the minister would in fact be prepared, will give those answers.

Mr. Chair, I understand my colleague wants to have a few more comments on some sections. I do have several other things I would like to say but I do not want to hog the show here so I would certainly be pleased to sit down at this point and allow her an opportunity to advance her concerns.

Thank you.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to have a few more words with regard to Bill 8, an act regarding chiropractic services in the Province.

Actually, I wanted to talk a little bit about the tribunal that will be set up as a part of this particular act under section 25. Mr. Chair, section 25 is for the purpose of dealing with complaints referred to the disciplinary panel. I talked about that just before I sat down a few minutes ago. Anyway, in terms of how that panel will work. First of all, we already established that when there was a case of misconduct that was founded on behalf of a chiropractor in the Province that the committee actually had three options. The authorization complaints committee had three options.

One of those options was not to make a decision themselves to take away the licence or to remove the person from their profession, but one of those options was to refer the allegation and the findings of the wrong doing to a disciplinary committee, or a disciplinary panel. That panel, as it is referred to in the legislation, would be made up of a chairperson, and appointed from it an adjudication tribunal consisting of three people, whom two of those people shall be chiropractors and one shall be a representative of the public interest.

So, Mr. Chair, this tribunal that would be set up to deal with disciplinary actions of a chiropractor who was found to have some wrong doing, some form of misconduct, then that tribunal would consist of three people. That two of those people would be chiropractors who are licensed to perform chiropractic work in the Province and one shall be a representative of the public interest. The chairperson of the disciplinary panel shall appoint one of the chiropractors to an adjudication tribunal to be the chairperson.

So, Mr. Chair, once this is set up, once it is referred to a disciplinary committee to make the decision – because for some reason, under the authorization complaints commission they have found a chiropractor to be in misconduct. Therefore, they have made a decision not to send them to a disciplinary panel to determine what the final repercussions would be. I am just telling you that once it goes to that panel there is a chairperson that is appointed. In addition to that, from that panel will come a tribunal, and that adjudication tribunal will consist of three people. Two of them will be chiropractors, and one of those chiropractors will be appointed as the chairperson for the panel and for the tribunal. So one of those three that would be appointed, one of them would become the chair of the adjudication tribunal and they would be appointed by the disciplinary panel.

Mr. Chair, that is basically how that part of it works. Once the committee is established – we already know now. We have already been through all of the steps and we now know that there is an allegation. We now know that that allegation was serious enough that it was founded by the authorization commission on complaints. We know now that that committee, who had three options to deal with it, have referred it to the disciplinary panel. We know now that the disciplinary panel is made up of one chairperson and that chairperson then sets up what is called an adjudication tribunal. Under that tribunal there are three people. Two of them must be chiropractors; one can be a person, citizen at large. Out of those three people the disciplinary panel will appoint one of them to be the chairperson.

Now I am sure you are following all of that, Mr. Chair, a rather complicated process. It goes through three different levels of appeal, of which two committees are set up under another committee. So maybe I will run through it one more time because it is rather complicated. Maybe I will run through it again.

This is under section 25 of the act. In fact, this is the first time I talked about section 25 of the act. I have actually had, altogether now, six-and-a-half minutes to talk about section 25 of the act. What that says is this, when a complaint has been dealt with by the authorization complaints commission, that when they have dealt with that complaint –as I said earlier, if they find there is no misconduct on behalf of a chiropractor then they would just dismiss the allegation altogether. But, in a case where there is some findings of wrong doing then they have three options in terms of how to deal with it. What I am talking about now is one of those options in which they would refer it to a disciplinary panel. Of course, once you refer it to a disciplinary panel, we need to know how that panel was set up.

This is how this panel is set up, Mr. Chair. First of all, you have one person who is the chair that is appointed to the disciplinary panel. Then that chair, in conjunction - I think it is with the minister. I think this is somewhat unclear. I think the minister is going to have to clarify that for me. Anyway, when that happens then they shall appoint - note, the disciplinary panel shall appoint them an adjudication tribunal, and on that tribunal there will be three people. It will be two chiropractors and one citizen at large. Out of those three people that are appointed to the adjudication tribunal, then one of those people will be appointed by the disciplinary panel to serve as the chair of that committee. That is basically how it will be set up.

Now that they are established, how do they hear an allegation? How do they hear a complaint of misconduct? Well, let me tell you how that works. Hearings are very important. In fact, most hearings are pretty standard, I would think, because I have been before tribunals before. I have been to a lot of hearings over my career in politics and a lot of them are very much the same. So I would think this one is pretty standard, but let's have a look at how it is going to be done, how these are going to be heard.

Mr. Chair, where a complaint has been referred to the adjudication tribunal that has been set up and just established and where these complaints have been referred, the parties to a hearing are the board and the respondent - and we all know who the respondent is. It is defined in the act that the respondent is actually the chiropractor themselves. The parties to a hearing are the board, the very board that dealt with the allegation early on, the respondent who happens to be the chiropractor, and a party may be represented by his or her counsel at a hearing.

So, Mr. Chair, when they go in for these hearings, they do not necessarily have to go and represent themselves. If I am a chiropractor and I am being accused of misconduct, then I have the option to legal counsel. I have the option to have legal counsel that is present with me.

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Maybe I will just, by leave, clue up this one section. I am almost done with this section, actually.

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: The hon. member, by leave.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am actually dealing with the process of hearings, and I am nearly through the process. Basically what I was saying is that how a hearing works is that these hearings are first of all heard by the adjudication tribunal, which is the three people I had just talked about, and during a hearing also present would be the board and the respondent, who happens to be the chiropractor, and they would have the opportunity for legal counsel, if they so wished, and those could be present as well.

Mr. Chairman, once that hearing is conducted in public by the adjudication tribunal - and it may exclude the public from a hearing or part of it, but that is really up to them. They have that decision to make, but it is a pretty fair process, I have to say, that has been put in place here.

It also goes into talk about all the evidence that can be submitted into these particular hearings. It tells you as well what the powers of a tribunal would be, and how much power they have in terms of presiding over these particular decisions. It also outlines what the rights of the respondent are, of that particular chiropractor, and what right they have in terms of accessing legal counsel, being able to respond to the complaints, being able to obtain any kind of medical treatment or counselling that they would require, so all of these things are provided for under the act.

There are also some other things that are dealt with here which are fairly important, and that is de-registration and the suspension of a licence. Remember I said earlier, back under section 24 of the act, one of the options that this authorization complaints committee would have available to them would be the option of dismissing a chiropractor or revoking their licence. Section 31 actually speaks to that particular process, so if they were to make that decision under section 24 of the act then they would also be able to take that licence, and there is a process by which a person's licence can be suspended.

Mr. Chairman, it also talks about, in this act, some of the fines that can be imposed, if there were fines that were needed to be outlined or made. There is also a clause here that allows the board or the respondent to make appeals to the Trial Division of the Supreme Court. I guess that would be in cases where they were not happy with the outcomes, or they were not necessarily pleased with what those outcomes would be, so they would have the opportunity for that final appeal.

Mr. Chairman, there are also other sections in here that deal with the regulations of the board, and those particular sections have a number of regulations that are outlined. In fact, there is well over a page of those particular regulations. I outlined them for you earlier tonight, when we were dealing with another section under this particular act, so I will not go through them again. I could go through them again, because maybe members might have forgotten them by now, because that was probably about 5:00 o'clock this morning. That was probably about 5:00 o'clock this morning so I could probably go through them all again, because they probably do not remember them now.

Maybe I will do a little quiz on the act here now, on Bill 8. I tell you, it is a long bill. There are fifty clauses in this bill - fifty clauses - and I am only up on clause 25. I have been at this for hours, trying to get through clause by clause in this bill.

Mr. Chairman, most of the bills we have before us only have a couple of clauses in them to debate in Committee, but this is one of the ones that are a bit more complicated. It is almost a full revision of the act, in fact. The old act, I think, when I looked at it, had about eleven pages in it, and it had maybe about twenty clauses in it. The new act has about thirty pages in it, and about fifty different clauses. If we were debating the old act I would have been finished now, long ago. I would have been finished long ago.

Anyway, no joking, this is an important piece of legislation. I have learned an awful lot, in going through this act, about how chiropractors will have to operate in the Province; I can tell you that.

Mr. Chairman, there is no doubt that if I ever were to change professions and become a chiropractor at this stage, I would say I could do training in the new act. I could provide for all of them what the regulations are that govern their practice. One thing is for sure, there will be no shortage of conversation the next time I have to go visit my own chiropractor. The next time I have to visit my own chiropractor we will have lots to talk about. I will be able to tell him what is in section 14, section 20, section 24 and section 25. I can also tell him that under section 38 is where they govern and regulate the entire industry. I think I should go through all of those regulations, Mr. Chairman.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you have twenty-five done?

MS JONES: I have twenty-five done, yes. I have twenty-six done. Twenty-six deals with hearings. Twenty-seven just has to do with evidence, so I am not going to deal with that because we all know what evidence is.

Actually, twenty-eight is an interesting one. I do not know if my colleague was going to touch on this, but number twenty-eight deals with a guilty plea. If there was a chiropractor who was guilty, and was charged with a guilty plea -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS JONES: Mr. Chairman, I see some of my colleagues walking in, a fresh morning, like a breath of fresh air coming in the door, all ready to go. Perhaps I will get to sit down and take a break now, and the hon. minister can get up. She looks so grand there this morning, looking like a breath of fresh air. I suppose she bought us all coffee; it is out in the back room.

Of course, my colleague and I would have trouble going out to get coffee here this morning. You can hardly make it up the road to Tim Hortons and back in ten minutes but we could try, I suppose.

Mr. Chairman, I am going to take a few minutes and let my colleague go through the sections of the act that he was dealing with under the corporation and the establishment of the actual chiropractic corporations, and how those corporations would work.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I listened with rapt attention to the comments of my colleague. I guess it is pretty obvious that after all night, all day, here since yesterday at 1:30 p.m., she may be getting a little tired and so on. That is understandable, but it is great to see that she is a real trooper in the sense of her dedication to the job. We have this Chiropractors Act here and we want to get it done, and the government wants to get it done, so it is great to see that she is taking the time to do it, notwithstanding that she is tired.

Obviously there are physical limitations on people, as to how much you can do, but we will try to do our best, and we have been trying to do our best, of course, and see how things work out. I would not want to jeopardize her health or anything. I have too much respect for her for that, and I certainly would not want to infringe inappropriately or unduly on the officers of the House, so I am sure we will clue things up as soon as there is a reasonable opportunity to do so. We have several other bills that we need to address, but I will certainly just finish off what I have to say at least on this particular bill for now and we will see where that takes us.

I would like to go back now to section 13. That is an important one because it deals with a professional corporation, and years ago that did not exist. If you practised in this Province in certain professions you were not allowed to incorporate. The fear, of course, was you were out as an individual so therefore you were the skilled person. You were the person who rendered the service, whether it is legal, chiropractic or medical, so therefore you should bear responsibility and have the onus of conducting yourself in a certain manner and you could not hide behind any corporation.

You take any company, for example, you can get incorporated under the Corporations Act. If you, for example, run a corner store and you have it incorporated, and the land and the store and all the employees are employees of the corporation, if Mr. or Mrs. walks in and happens to slip on your floor and they want to sue you, they sue the corporation as opposed to the individual. It might be John and Jane Green, for example, who own the company - they might be the sole shareholders of the company - but that did not work that way in the case of a lot of professions.

That was a disadvantage to some people, in ways, to professionals, a big disadvantage, because being incorporated provides certain corporate benefits to people. There are some tax benefits in particular that you can avail of, if you have a corporation, that you cannot necessarily avail of if you were not incorporated, so it was good to see that they found a compromise: How can we do this in such a way that you can be the professional who renders the service but at the same time you can establish a professional corporation to run that business for you?

It very clearly, specifically, described how you can do that. I know, personally, that a lot of doctors, for example, in the Province have taken advantage of that now. There are lawyers who have taken advantage of those provisions, when it comes to corporate entities and professional corporations.

It is good to see that even though you established that professional corporation, you cannot get rid of your responsibilities that you render. For example, in section 17(2), it says, "The relationship between a professional chiropractic corporation and a patient receiving services from or through the corporation is subject to the laws relating to the confidential and ethical relationship between a chiropractor and his or her patient."

So, even though there may be a professional corporation in existence, if I, as the chiropractor, rendered a service, there are lots of things I must have done for the protection of the client. For example, I alluded earlier to the fact that they must have had a professional liability insurance policy in place. You also now have an insurance under this clause 17(2) that albeit it might be a corporation that I make my appointment with and so on, my records and files – albeit they are in the hands, technically, of a professional corporation - the confidentiality privileges that I would normally have vis-à-vis me and that professional chiropractor still stand and still exist for the corporation. You cannot have a chiropractor who says: Oh, well, I did not do that; the corporation did it - if there was a breach of those confidential privileges.

The professional person, albeit yes, you can take a benefit of the professional corporations, you cannot abscond from your responsibilities that you have when it comes to certain basics in our laws, like privacy laws, confidential laws and so on. There is that balance and trade-off there.

I notice, as well, in section 18 - and it bears reading, actually, because it is a very significant one - "Notwithstanding a provision to the contrary in the Corporations Act, a chiropractor who provides chiropractic services through or on behalf of a professional chiropractic corporation is liable to a person in relation to the provision of those services to the same extent and in the same manner as if the chiropractor provided those services as an individual and that liability is not affected because of the chiropractor's relationship to the professional chiropractic corporation as a shareholder, director, officer, employee or in another capacity."

Again, this is to make sure that the persons who render the service, the chiropractor, albeit he has a professional association or corporation that runs his business, is still on the hook, personally, when it comes to the services that he provides. He cannot hide behind the corporate veil, as they say. He cannot say: Well, that was the company that rendered the service to that person and I am off the hook. It does not happen that way. Yes, you can have your professional corporation, but, no, you cannot get rid of your professional responsibilities and liabilities. If something happens you are still on the hook.

Mr. Chair, it is a very, very comprehensive act, as we have seen from the Leader of the Opposition in her commentary. I deliberately did not get into the areas that she did. She covered more of the latter sections in the act talking about the tribunals and discipline and how the tribunal was formulated and so on, and how those issues were dealt with. Discipline and appeals and so on are quite frequent in any kind of profession. No matter what you are practicing, there is always somebody who has a level of discontent sometimes with the service that they received. It might be over a bill that they were charged, it might be a case of the services, they figure there was some negligence involved or they were treated rudely, and this provides a way, of course, for anybody who has complaints of that nature to have their concerns heard and to get them dealt with by the board.

Mr. Chair, I am going to jump now to section 48. It is a big jump from section 18 to 48. The principle reason for that, of course, is – I am not saying I am not going to go back again, but I jumped to section 48 because I noticed, as I was sitting, on the back page actually, I noticed with interest that I had asked a question of the minister some four hours ago about a certain provision in clause 3, and lo and behold, I found the answer in section 48.

I realize the minister, of course, did not give me the answer I was looking for yet. I am sure he will, but he will not need to now because I found the answer myself to that particular question. That dealt with the issue of the transition piece. I said: What happens, for example, if we already have an existing board for chiropractors? We are now creating a new chiropractors act, we are going to get rid of and repeal the old chiropractors act, and my question was: What about the board? Is there a transition period? Are we going to start from scratch with the appointment of a new board for the new entity, a corporation's board? What happens to the members who are already on the board? That is a very important thing, because if you do not deal with those things and lay out how they get dealt with, of course, you will have problems when it comes to transition. I am pleased to see that it is covered off. It seems to be covered off very well, in fact.

It says in section 48(1), "The members of the board appointed under the Act repealed by this Act…" In other words, the members who are appointed under the old chiropractors act, "…continue as members of the board" - that is the board of the new act – "for the purpose of this Act until an election is held under this act." There is no question anymore about who sits on the board. Whoever was there before, they will be there once this act becomes law, but it goes a little bit further. That looks after the fact that we do not have a drop dead provision whereby just because you passed the act and you repealed the old one that you do not have a board in existence. You needed some transitional piece and that is where it is.

Then it talks, of course, about the election and when the first election will be held. It says, "An election for members of the board shall be held within 6 months of the day this Act comes into force." The old board moves on under the new act but they are not there forever and a day. There has to be a new election, as outlined within this new act, within six months. That is pretty clear as to what happens.

Again, I already went through that. There is no need to repeat myself in that regard. We know that there are going to be nine people on the board at that election time - excuse me, six people on the board who are elected actually, and there will be three appointed.

It says, "The minister shall appoint the members of the board within 30 days of the election referred to in subsection (2)." It says right here that this act comes into force October 1 this year. That means you go six months out from that, October, November, December, January, February, March, and by April 1 of 2010 the new board must have had its election. Then it goes on to say that within thirty days of that election the government must put their three members on the board. That is pretty clear as to what happens, and it is a pretty comprehensive transitional piece. It ensures the chiropractors that they have some continuity. It is not a case of, we are going to pass an act, they are left in limbo, and they did not know who was going to be governing and administering their affairs in the meantime. Of course, it is up to them who they want to elect. Maybe the same people they have now will offer themselves for election. That is up to them, solely and wholly up to them, as prescribed here in this legislation.

Mr. Chair, those are all the comments that I have with respect to this bill in committee. We have posed a substantial number of questions to the minister. I do not know about the Leader of the Opposition, if she has any further questions or not, but we certainly made our facts, our concerns, known with respect to the Chiropractors Bill, Bill 8, and we look forward to the answers that the minister might be in a position to or kind enough to provide us with in due course.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

A bill, "An Act Respecting Chiropractors." (Bill 8)

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 50 inclusive.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 50 inclusive carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

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 Respecting Chiropractors.

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 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, we would like to call Bill 9.

CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 9, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act.

A bill, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act. (Bill 9)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

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

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

I think I can speak. I just had some coffee and I have been waiting to speak to this bill.

Last night I did speak to this bill in second reading and raised a number of points. There were some things that the Minister of Education did respond to when he spoke and some of these I would like to raise again. I have some more questions on a couple of points that I would like the Minister of Education to respond to.

Of course, I am speaking to Bill 9, and Bill 9 has to do with amending the Student Financial Assistance Act. The amendment is an amendment that recognizes that the government, in the budget for 2009-2010, did budget and make a decision to budget for eliminating interest for student loan agreements for students in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The amendment that they had to make was that in various parts of The Student Financial Assistance Act permission is given to the government to set lower interest rates, and wherever that phrase is in the act the amendment is adding, after setting lower interest rates, the phrase "or eliminating interest for". This is the intent of government, to eliminate interest on the student loans that students and post-students hold in this Province.

Of course, what the interest is that will be eliminated is only the provincial interest, because that is all this government can do. In last year's budget it did lower the interest rates. For two years in a row, I think the government lowered the interest rates, and this year made a decision to eliminate the interest rate based on positions taken, both by my party and lobbying done by the Canadian Federation of Students.

In addressing this bill last night, I raised a few points, and one of the points I raised was that there are people who have student loans who continue to be harassed by collection agencies, and the harassment goes to quite an extent. It is quite insulting, and it is quite difficult for people who are being harassed. The Canadian Federation of Students are finding that because of new privacy laws, they are not as able to advocate for the people who are getting these harassing calls, et cetera, from collection agencies. I brought up the point of the need to create an ombudsperson office to deal with student debt repayment issues, so students are able to pay back without issue.

When the minister responded to us in second reading, he made a response to this point that I had raised. I do not want to put words in his mouth, but my memory is, and I took some notes, that the minister said he was aware, and the Department of Education was aware and is aware, of this issue of the behaviour of collection agencies and what people who have student loans sometimes go through. He did say that in his office they do take calls of this nature, and there are people who can deal with calls dealing with this.

I guess what I want to know from the minister: Is the minister saying that he has somebody in his office that plays the role of an ombudsperson? Is he saying that this is something that is a formal role that is advertised by the Department of Education? I would like to have that information.

He did indicate, just as the Canadian Federation of Students has indicated to us in my office, that maintaining and protecting privacy is also an issue for the people in his office. I am wondering how they deal with that. I do know that in my office, when my constituency person has to deal with a government agency, has to advocate with a government agency, for example, with HRLE, on behalf of a client, she can get the permission to have information from the client, like the client's HRLE number and that kind of thing, in order to deal and advocate on a client's behalf.

I am wondering, in the Department of Education, number one, is there somebody playing that kind of a role as the minister said, is there somebody dedicated to it? Is it something that is advertised? Then, the third question is: How difficult is the privacy issue for his staff in trying to advocate for people with loans, who are, and continue to be, harassed by collection agencies?

CHAIR (Osborne): The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will try to respond to your questions, for the member opposite, and if I do not, you can readdress or respond.

The first question you raised with respect to someone playing a role, what I had said last night - and I do not know if I will repeat the same words, but I will try and paraphrase - was that we do provide a service through a toll-free number to assist students who are to the point where they are gone through to a collection agency. What I also had said is that going to the legal process is a measure of last resort. There is a whole series of steps that we go through in working with students and trying to solicit their cooperation to get them on a repayment schedule and ensure that they do not get to that place in the repayment process. So we do, yes.

The answer, I guess, to the first question is, yes, we do have a number of individuals, no one dedicated, what we called an ombudsman, to use your phrase if I might, but we do have client service officers who do provide a service to advise students and help them along. Those have been investments on behalf of government over the last number of years within the Student Aid Division. I think you might see some reference in past Auditor General's reports to that effect encouraging us to do that as well.

Secondly, I cannot speak right now to exactly how that is advertised but I will endeavor to get that information over the next couple of minutes for you. I think that was the second one you asked.

The third question you raised with respect to privacy, that is a challenge for us, just as you identified in dealing with your own constituents. There is a process by using a consent form, where we can have clients give consent, but it does become complicated. In the instance where it goes to a court judgement or a collection, it becomes even further complicated because you are talking about the engagement of a third party. The challenge there is it essentially gets taken out of the hands of government and the Department of Education once a court and a court judgement comes into play.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank the minister for his response, and I look forward to the further information he is going to gather.

I am also wondering: Does the - and he said it is the Student Aid Division - does the Student Aid Division keep records of how many calls they handle with regard to this issue and do they in any way track agencies? For example, if individuals are having a very tough time with a collection agency, are there particular agencies out there that are behaving more obnoxiously than others? I use the word obnoxious deliberately because the behaviour is quite obnoxious. As a matter of fact, some time last tonight or this morning, one of the MHAs, actually the MHA for Kilbride, came and spoke to me and said that he recently had the kind of experience that I had talked about, where a constituent called about the way that person was being treated by a collection agency. It was quite similar to what I had described, as well, in absolute insults to the person. I think, in the case of the MHA for Kilbride, he was told the agency said: Well, surely your mother has a house. Can't your mother take a mortgage out on her house? That was similar to what I had said the person had been told.

I am wondering if the Student Aid Division does take these calls, is there any tracking of agencies? You know, maybe there is one agency that is worse than another. Is there anything, then, the Student Aid Division and the department can do in complaints to those agencies, or are they a law unto themselves? This is going to continue. We may take the interest off their loans, but they still have loans to pay.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Again, I think there are two questions. I made a couple of notes, so I will try and hit the points you raised.

The calls that come into us as a complaint, they are tracked. I cannot tell you if I can give you a number today, but they are tracked in a database, first of all.

Secondly, the agencies who are engaged are contracted through us. There is fairly strict high-level criteria that we expect them to reach before they are engaged in a process, and some of the new positions, for example, that I referenced in my previous answer, were put in to deal with this.

I guess there are a couple of points that I need to make fairly strongly to you and to the people who are paying attention to this.

One is that we do treat it very seriously, and certainly we do not want to see that kind of thing happening. Number two, we do encourage students, in instances where this is happening, to call us and to let us know. I, personally, have had calls where we dealt with those kinds of issues.

A couple of messages, I guess, if I could paraphrase again: one is we do track them; two, we expect a high level of service through the agencies that work with us, and to do that we have established criteria that we expect them to meet; and three, we take it seriously and we encourage students who have concerns of that nature to call us, and we will intervene and try and intervene on their behalf and make sure that we, as much as possible, alleviate the problems. It is certainly not acceptable to us that abuse of that nature would be occurring.

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

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

Just one more point then, so I am clear. The minister, then, is going to get information with regard to the calls. You will get information on the calls, and you will get information on – I cannot remember the second point – oh, advertising. How well is this toll-free line advertised and where is it advertised? Those are the two things I will expect to hear on from the minister. I just want to confirm that.

With regard to the big issue in general, I would like to reiterate something that I said last night, and again that I had some feedback from other members in the House saying they thought that was a very good idea. The minister did respond to this last night, but I would like to bring it up again, and that had to do with pressuring the federal government to eliminate their interest on their portion of the loans, which is 60 per cent of the loans. The minister did say last night, in response, that this was something that his department and I think the government was interested in doing. I guess I would like to hear from the minister, what thoughts does he have about what kind of pressure can be brought to bear, how can this be done, would it be at meetings of ministers of education on the provincial and territorial level along with whoever is responsible in Ottawa, as well in the federal for post-secondary, or is it with First Ministers. How would the minister see this happening, this putting the pressure on the federal government to remove their interest section on their part of the loans?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

For the member opposite, first of all, to confirm, yes, I will get some information on the number of calls, as best I can; and number two, information on advertising you have asked for.

I guess you have really hit upon a number of the ways that I think we need to focus on, and perhaps I will just elaborate on that and maybe add to it. Certainly, I think, in my capacity as a Minister of Education for the Province, it would be incumbent upon me to advocate, first of all, directly with the federal government, as best I can, through our regional minister. Secondly, I think it would be important to advocate through the other ministers of education, both in Atlantic Canada and across the country. Third, I think the Premier, any chance he gets - and I am certainly aware that he would and has advocated with for us through the First Ministers Conference with the Prime Minister.

The other two pieces - perhaps you said these, but in case you did not - the other two pieces I think would be important. The Canadian Federation of Students is a very, very powerful group. I know in our own personal experiences here, both my experiences and I think I can certainly speak on behalf of Minister Burke, we have had some good relationships and the kinds of dialogue we have had with them have been very productive. They have been very co-operative, yet very frank and very direct in what they would like to see happen. I think, as a collective group across the country, they can have a very powerful voice and be a very powerful advocate in trying to move this issue forward on the national level.

The other one would be more of a general public advocacy engaging parents and the public to show their collective support for addressing the student aid issue on a national level. From my perspective and from the government's perspective, we feel we are moving in the right direction, as I have said many times in the last twenty, twelve, eighteen hours, whatever it has been. We have brought some good measures in and we have it recognized as the best package in Canada at this point in time, and we want to continue to build upon it. There is still only going to be so far we can take our piece of student aid, as you all recognize across the House. The other piece has to come from the federal government.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I again thank the minister.

I just want to make a couple of final points on this issue. I do recognize what the government has been doing with regard to post-secondary education and I encourage the government to continue on the path that it has been on. He mentioned the Canadian Federation of Students and the strong lobbyist that they are which has been attested to by the fact that we have this bill in front of us this morning, this bill dealing with the elimination of the interest rates.

One of the things that the CFS is still pushing for, and I agree with them in what they are pushing for, is getting rid of tuition totally as has happened in countries in Europe, for example, as happened in Ireland. They did commission, actually, a Decima pole, I think it was last year, which found that 58 per cent of those surveyed strongly agreed that we should not have tuition and another 25 per cent said they somewhat agreed. You had 83 per cent of those poled saying that tuition should be free.

I would like to speak to the issue of students who live outside of main areas and cannot commute and have to move in to where the post-secondary institutions are, and we know we have a lot of those in this Province, but we do not enough doing it as I indicated last night. We have a very small percentage of people outside of the commuting distance who actually come in to our post-secondary institutions. The problem for them is - yes, our tuition is low there is no doubt, but for those who do not live commuting distance one of the prohibiting factors is the cost of living because they either have to live in residence or they have to rent et cetera. I know government is concerned about this, I know we all are, but I really do want to put out on the table that it is one of the things that we need to look at for our young people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, that they get aid in being able to come in and being able to live where the post-secondary institution is.

In some places rent is very high. We know Labrador West is one area where this past year, in particular, rent was very high and I was glad to hear, about two weeks ago after I raised it in the House, I think it was somewhere in the media I heard the minister pointing out that his department is talking with the CFS and I think the municipalities and the college in Labrador West with regard to the housing issue. For the minister it is not a deal issue, it is a live issue that they are looking at. I am glad to see that.

I will come back again to the issue I did raise last night, and I have raised a number of times, that increasing needs-based grants, especially for rural students who cannot commute and have to move into the centers in order to get their education - needs-based grants would really help them with their cost of living.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am going to respond just to one of the two pieces of information that I committed to get for you. On the advertising piece, at the K-12 level we do a number of things. We have people who attend career fairs throughout the Province in various regions where high schools come together for a day or two to promote careers. We attend those. We visit individual schools, officials from our office visit them and promote the program and talk to student about it. We do presentations to students. We also engage guidance counselors, and you may recall in the last twelve or fifteen months we introduced career counselor positions which work with the system but they are external to the school system. We also avail of those positions to promote the student aid program.

In the post-secondary system we use, predominately through the Canadian student union and the localized campuses, and also we advertise in newspapers, both provincially and in the local newspapers in the regions.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Just a follow-up question: For the sake of those who are carrying the debt loads who are no longer in the educational systems, who are now out there with their jobs and they are the ones who are being harassed quite a bit, is the information with regard to the student assistant line, that toll-free line, clear, that people like those as well who are no longer students but carrying the debt loads that they can be serviced by this line?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Yes, that is predominantly why we do the public advertising.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I certainly want to have a few words in committee on this particular bill. I listened to the questions that were being posed by my colleague, the Leader of the NDP, and the responses from the minister. So I will certainly try not to duplicate any of those particular questions as I go through the particular bill.

Anyway, Mr. Chair, first of all, I think it is fair to say that students in the Province have been asking for some form of financial relief around student debt and it certainly has been a huge burden that they have had to bear over quite a long period of time. In fact, it was only in January of this year that there was a report released nationally which talked about student debt and talked about the fact that student loan debt for young Canadians in this country had surpassed $13 billion annually. In fact, it broke it out to indicate that in this country today student debt is increasing by $1.2 million every single day. That is a huge amount of increase and debt for students to have to carry. We have certainly bared witness to it here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We know of many situations and stories in which students have had to incur a huge amount of debt in order to be able to get an education. Mr. Chair, realizing, they themselves, that without an education it is going to be much more difficult for them to find employment in this Province.

Mr. Chair, a couple of the questions that have been raised have definitely been around delinquent student loans and what happens when these student loans are being referred to collection agencies. I am sure we have all had to deal with circumstances like that as MHAs. In fact, I am learning tonight from the minister that there are actually some client services that have been set up for these students. I do not know how many students out there who are actually aware of it because I can honestly say that most of the students that have called my office and the cases that we have dealt with have certainly not indicated that they have gone through any kind of a client services person to help them deal with their debt situation. So I think that if that service exists it needs to be clarified as to what the role is and the mandate of that service is and how students are able to access it.

For example, Mr. Chair, I have dealt with, actually two or three different cases only recently of students who had been out of school for an extended period of time, who had accumulated debt in order to get an education, and unfortunately, the sad story that we have heard many times, they were students who came out of school and could not find jobs in the area that they were trained to work in. Because they could not find jobs in those fields, they end up taking other jobs, any job that they could find, not relative to the field of work that they were trained for, and in fact, with a lot lower income.

It was those gaps with no employment between school and getting that job where they were not able to always pay off their student loan at the rate that was required. Then there were other circumstances in which they did get a job, but it was not a job that paid well. They had to balance their everyday living expenses and their cost of living and their ability to be able to pay down the debt that they had accumulated in trying to obtain an education. As a result of that, Mr. Chair, oftentimes they missed payments. Oftentimes they had no money to actually meet their payment obligations, therefore, as a result of it, their account ended up being delinquent and they were referred to collection agencies.

Mr. Chair, some of these individuals told me that even in their workplace they were being constantly called by collection agencies trying to get money out of them. Now, unfortunately for them, this does not always sit well with your employer. It is not always conducive to the environment that you work in. Such was the case with one particular student that I had dealt with in particular, in which they were in an environment where, for one thing, they were not always permitted to be able to take calls at work and they were doing the kind of job where they could not always just leave what they were doing and take a phone call, but yet these collection agencies would continuously call them, continuously looking for money, continuously harassing them to try and recover the money that was owed.

Now some people might say, well they borrowed the money to get an education. It is just like people borrowing money to do anything else in their lives, and therefore they should have to pay back that money. I do not pose any great argument to that opinion, but what I do pose is this, is that students often have to put themselves in debt in order to get an education, and most of them do not mind doing that when they know the reward at the end of the day is going to be a job in the field that they have trained in, is going to be a career move for them that will derive them some financial independence. That does not happen in every case. Not every case of every student who will go to university or college or some other educational institution will be able to find a job after in the field they have trained in. Not all of them will be able to find a job that will allow them to be financially independent and to meet their commitments, especially their commitments with regard to student loans.

I know the minister quoted earlier, statistics on the number of people who find jobs coming out of colleges and trades facilities or training institutions. I think that is wonderful, Mr. Chair. It is wonderful, because obviously these individuals were training in an area and doing a trade in an area where there has been some high demand. More than likely in the construction trades area, where there has been demand for workers in those particular fields.

Mr. Chair, I can name – in fact, I cannot name on my two hands the number of people that I know, the number of young people that I know who have graduated either from university or college or a trades program, who have not been able to find a job in the field that they trained to work in.

So, there are a whole number of cases and incidences, but one of those incidences I did quote earlier when I spoke to this bill. It was one that was written back in January of this year by a young woman here in St. John's. This was a young woman who talked about how she had been up to her eyeballs in debt from student loans ever since she had finished university. She talked about the fact that she could not find a job that paid a decent wage and she could not find a job where she could actually use the skills that she had spent years trying to acquire. She said this is not an insular story to me; this is not just me that this is happening to. This is a story that sounds familiar, that is all too familiar amongst students. She actually said she counts herself as being unlucky to be in the same boat as many other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians her age.

Mr. Chair, she went on to say something else that is very important in this Province, and that is she went on to say that because of her circumstances she is seriously considering leaving the Province some time this year. I think we need to address that, because what we have seen in this Province over the course of time is students who are graduating from trades and university programs are going outside of the Province more to look for jobs and have gone outside of the Province in tremendous numbers over the past few years. What we are seeing is that they are going because they can make more money elsewhere. They can make more money, a higher income whereby they can pay down their debt, the huge debt that they have accumulated in trying to get an education.

So, Mr. Chair, we have all seen that trend. One of the reasons today that we have a shortage in the Province -

CHAIR (Collins): Order, please!

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

MS JONES: By leave, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

CHAIR: By leave.

MS JONES: Thank you.

Mr. Chair, the Member for St. John's (inaudible) said she is going to stay till 1:00 o'clock on Sunday, I think she just said. I have been in this suit two days now and as a rule, Mr. Chair, I like to wear a clean suit every day but I guess if I have to stay here until Sunday without changing, I guess so be it, but I am going to tell you it will not be a pleasant experience. I suppose, Mr. Chair, I will just get a little taste of what it is like for all those nurses in the Province who have to work shifts back to back and never get the opportunity to go home and change their clothes. Like I said earlier, I guess I should be thankful that I just have to stand and debate legislation and I am not expected to put an IV on someone after twenty-four or twenty-six hours on the job like many of the nurses in the Province do.

Anyway, Mr. Chair, speaking of nurses, let's talk about the number of nurses that have left the Province simply because of factors attributed to student loans and student debt.

CHAIR: Order, please!

We are not speaking about nurses in Bill 9; it is the Student Financial Assistance Act.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am speaking about the Student Financial Assistance Act and the fact that a lot of nurses who have debt have left this Province to work in other provinces, and we all know that.

In fact, Mr. Chair, is was only about a year ago that we were over at the Fluvarium. We were over at the Fluvarium and the nurses gave a presentation to the Members of the House of Assembly. In fact, I sat that morning next to the Minister of Health himself, who was there to listen to what nurses had to say that morning, to listen to their presentation about the shortages in the Province. One of the things they talked about was the number of young nurses that were leaving the Province to take employment elsewhere. One of the things they talked about was the ability to be able to recruit and retain nurses once they come out of nursing school in the Province.

Mr. Chair, actually, it was only a while ago that I was out in Corner Brook, in fact, at the hospital in Corner Brook meeting with nurses. I met with a number of students from the nursing program in Corner Brook. Students that were going through school, obviously had obtained student loans, had debt themselves, and in the discussion I learned a couple of things. One I learned was that several of them were going out of the Province to go to work. When I asked them why they were going out of the Province to go to work, they said because we can make more money. We can pay our student loans off at a more rapid rate than we could if we stayed in Newfoundland and Labrador. That was one of the reasons they gave for it, Mr. Chair. Again, one of the reasons today why we are on the eve of a strike is because we have not been able to retain the number of young nurses coming out of our nursing programs in the Province in order to maintain the complement that we need in the system, and because we have been unable to do that is the reason we find ourselves in the situation that we are in today.

Mr. Chair, it is not only nurses who are leaving the Province. We have seen it as well over the years with social workers. We have seen it with people who studied engineering in particular. In fact, in the last four years that I sat to do the Estimates for the Department of Natural Resources I have noticed several things, that there has been a consistent shortage of geologists, of engineers, of archaeologists - is it? Yes, archaeologists, or a –

AN HON. MEMBER: Archaeologists?

MS JONES: One of them, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS JONES: I know there was a shortage of geologists and –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS JONES: What is it, Kelvin, the rock guys?

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Geologists.

MS JONES: Geologists.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Mr. Chairman, I have been on the job now for twenty-seven hours. I must say, if I happen to get one profession mixed up in that period of time, members will have to forgive me.

In going through the Estimates in the Department of Natural Resources in the last three or four years, one of things I did notice is that there was a shortage in a number of occupational areas. One of those areas was in the area of geology, and others were in the area of engineering, in which there were specific positions where they had been unable to recruit people to fill those positions simply because of the demand that existed in the industrial sector, because government could not compete with industry and many of the people who were graduating from these programs were going to work in the industrial sectors because they could make more money. Therefore, that meant they were moving to wherever the jobs were, and in many cases, as we all know, that ended up being in Western Canada for a period of a few years, where we had a lot of people coming out our trades and colleges and universities who were going out there to work because they could earn more money.

I have also known a lot of people who went to the Northwest Territories, and went to the Yukon Territory, and to Iqaluit, to the Nunavut Territory, simply because they could make more money working in those particular regions of the country than they could make here at home. That way, they could pay off their student debt at a much more rapid rate.

Mr. Chairman, the interest relief that the government is bringing forward now for these students will definitely be beneficial; there is absolutely no doubt about it. If I was a student today and I was being told that I was going to get this break, I would be extremely pleased about it. I guess it is going to be a matter of time before we weigh out whether that particular move alone will be enough to help students rise up out of the debt that they have found themselves in, whether it will be enough to allow students, once they are out of school for a period of ten years or twelve years, that in that period they would be able to at least pay back the loans that they have, that they are not saddled for the rest of their lives with student loans that would prohibit them from probably being able to get a mortgage on a house or delay them in starting a family, because that is not healthy for our society either. Those things are not healthy for a Province like ours either.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that she is speaking on leave. If she could clue up her remarks, she will get the opportunity to speak again.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am almost finished my remarks. I have just a couple of questions for the minister.

First of all, the clauses that were amended in the bill were amended to say that government would be setting lower interest rates or eliminating interest. That was what was set out in Bill 9 under paragraph (1) and paragraph (2) - there are actually three paragraphs in the bill - but in each one of them the language is the same. The language says that the government is setting lower interest rates or eliminating interest.

My question to the minister is this: Why would you not say directly in the legislation that you were just eliminating interest? Why was that not the language that was used? Because, if this is a long-term commitment for government, why would they not make the language so that it is permanent?

The way the act is worded now, under the current legislation, government still holds control over the applicable interest rate on a year-to-year basis. Government, under this language, is leaving the option open for them to either eliminate the interest rate or to make a change in that at any stage that they would want. So, Mr. Chairman, government could decide to use this power through the enactment of this particular regulation pursuant to the act, and in the future there might be other conditions that would effect a change, and this permits for a change in that particular perspective.

For example, we could find out that years down the road there would be another government, a different Administration, that might want to come in and decide that they do not want to eliminate interest on student loans, but they would never have to come back to the Legislature to make that change. This language would allow them, would allow any government in the future that decides that they do not want to eliminate interest on loans, to absolutely change their mind. They would not have to come to this Legislature for an amendment to the act, from what I understand, Mr. Chairman.

I would have just thought that if the language was different then it would require additional changes of the legislation before anyone could do away with that policy, which would make for a much healthier debate in a democracy, I would say to the minister. So maybe there is another reason why they chose to couch it in that language. Maybe government is unsure of its own commitment to this program, and that if we continue to run deficits over the next two years that government themselves may have to pull back on this particular recommendation.

Mr. Chairman, maybe the minister can give us an explanation as to why the language was written in that way, as opposed to writing it in a way that would be more defined in saying that we are just eliminating the interest on the loans, as opposed to leaving the option there for government to use its own power and discretion to make changes around that at any time that they would want to.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, that is the longest ramble I have ever heard for about a five-word question about the language in a piece of legislation, I say to the member opposite, and I am suspect there will be follow-up to my answer.

Let me just say, first of all, having listened to the speech of the member opposite earlier in this particular session about the support for youth in the Province, and the value that we place on youth in the Province, and the future of the youth, and what they mean to us, it is extremely, extremely, disappointing for me to hear a member opposite stand up and cast a doubt on what we are introducing today to be the best student aid package in the entire country.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: It is extremely, extremely, extremely, disappointing, and I hope for those who may be out of bed now and paying attention that they are seeing this as well, because it is extremely disappointing.

The answer, Mr. Chairman, is very simple. First of all, the legislation is not changing, is not any different than it was, because we do not need to do that. Secondly, even if we were, any government who wishes to change the legislation, as the member opposite knows, government has the power to change the legislation when they want, so there is no need to do as she is suggesting. Third, this particular legislation brings with it the decision to make zero interest, as we have already announced. Should this government or another government desire to change that, they would have to come back to the Legislature to introduce a new interest rate on student loans.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I, too, have been without sleep for twenty-seven hours and I missed a sheet that I had here that I wanted to speak to. The minister may or may not wish to address it afterwards, at least to verify that what I am saying is correct.

I think it is important to make something clear about the language in the two amendments. The language that I am referring to is not amended language; it is what was in the original clauses. I am going to read them because I think it is important, because anybody, especially somebody who has a student loan, who might be interested in going on-line and reading what we are dealing with, and reading these clauses, may have a question. It has to do with, the first one, "1(e.1) setting lower interest rates or eliminating interest for student loan agreements and setting the effective dates for those lowered interest rates or eliminated interest, except where a judgement of the court has been made with respect to a student loan agreement." That phrase, I know, has some people a little bit confused.

Then, when you come to the second paragraph, which is 16(1)(e.2), what is said there, and I will read the whole thing, is, "setting lower interest rates or eliminating interest for debts owed to the Crown or the corporation as a result of the Crown or the corporation fulfilling the obligations of a borrower under a student loan agreement, and setting the effective dates for those lowered interest rates or eliminated interest, excepting debts that are owed to the Crown or the corporation as a result of a judgment of a court." Now, reading that could sound like anybody in a situation of having a judgment of the court would be exempted from the zero interest rate; but in discussions with people in the Department of Education, in the study that we ourselves have done of the two clauses - and I am pointing out that the wording that I am indicating can sound problematic is in the original act, and that is: except where a judgment of the court has been made or excepting debts that are owed - that wording can sound problematic. However, the wording does not apply to the normal case of a person in default, and by that I mean somebody where the file has been sent to a collections agency but the person is in contact with the agency and is making payments; so, has been in default, has been sent to an agency, but communications are happening and payments are being made. For that person, zero interest rate applies. That is my understanding, and I think it is important to make sure that my understanding is correct.

Then, with regard to the other exception, excepting debts that are owed to the Crown or the corporation as a result of a judgement of a court, this refers to someone who has been in default for almost seven years, the statute of limitations length of time, with no contact and no payments made, and government has no ability to collect. In such a case, the Judgement Enforcement Act then takes effect and the case goes out of the Student Loan Corporation into the court system.

Now, it is true that at that point it is the judge who has the right to set the interest rate, but my understanding is there is a general sense among those who deal in this issue that it would be highly unlikely for the judge to go beyond the zero per cent interest rate since that is what the Province will now be demanding, and that it is not usual for the judge to make a judgement more than what the interest rate is that has been set.

I wanted to put that out to make sure that my interpretation is correct, because once we vote on this and people read it, I think they are going to want assurances that they do not have to worry if they are in either one of these two situations.

Again, some may be wondering how this is going to work with the federal government. I did make reference to this last night but I am going to say it once more. Again, it is my understanding that the student financial assistance corporation is the body that has the right to negotiate with the federal level to reduce the provincial rate, so there is a process that allows that reduction of the provincial rate even down to zero to happen between the Province and the federal government. That right, actually, is inherent in the integration of the two student loan programs that happened in 2003.

I thought it was important to make those points for greater clarification. If I have made any errors, then I am sure the Minister of Education will correct me.

Thank you very much.

CHAIR (T. Osborne): The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am just going to conclude the comments that I had with regard to this particular bill. I think my colleague did have some comments, though, and I am sure he will be back shortly.

Mr. Chairman, obviously, the reason that government is making the move to introduce this particular interest relief for students in the Province is as a result of a couple of things. One is the campaign that was launched by students themselves in the Province. In fact, the campaign to do this started back in 2006. It was in the fall of 2006, and I think I indicated this earlier, that it was actually a graduate student of Memorial University, who happens to come from the district that the current Minister of Education now represents, who was out and launched a campaign and actually put a petition on-line to petition the government to look at if there was support there for interest relief on student loans.

Mr. Chair, that was when most of this started. In fact, it was two years after that when the Federation of Students actually got involved with this. The Federation of Students launched a petition campaign as well. They had representatives, of course, on the Federation of Students that came from the colleges, the universities, all of the different learning institutions, such as the Marine Institute, College of the North Atlantic, Memorial University, Grenfell College and so on.

I remember it well actually, Mr. Chair, because they did hold a news conference. At that news conference they called upon government in order to bring awareness to the fact that students today were experiencing some really high student loans and had really high loan payments to contend with. They also highlighted, at that particular news conference, that there were a lot of graduates who were having to leave the Province in order to earn more money to be able to pay off their student debt. This was basically the situation that they were going through.

Mr. Chair, at that time when they set out to get these names on a petition, they had said they were hoping they would get at least 5,000 or 10,000 names on a petition and they ended up getting actually 12,000 signatures. That is a lot of support in one particular select group to make a change. That was a lot of support. Not only did they end up getting 12,000 signatures, they also got the attention of the government. They got the attention of the government with the actions they took in the lobby that they launched.

In fact, Mr. Chair, the previous Minister of Education sat down at a round table with these students and listened to what they had to say. One of the things they did discuss at that time was looking at tuition freezes, looking at the creation of up-front needs based, non-repayable loans. They were looking at how they could get additional funding for debt reduction grants and they also wanted to see a cut in the interest rate on student loans. These were all the options that they were looking at and they were considering, and that was being considered at that time.

At the end of the day, Mr. Chair, government chose to go down this particular road. This is the option that they did choose. In fact, I think they had to do something because you have to realize that this is a government that was experiencing surplus budgets. While they were experiencing surplus budgets, while that was going on, obviously there was a situation where students in the Province did not have any surplus whatsoever, had no surplus. In fact, all that they had was debt that was climbing. All they had to look forward to was leaving school wondering if they were going to get that job they had trained for and if they were going to be able to pay back that money.

All of this was happening at a time when government was, every other day, every other week, out there in the media having a press conference talking about the surplus amounts of money they had and talking about, they were going to do this with the surplus, they were going to do that with the surplus, they were going to have a have-status party. All while they were talking about these things, the students were racking up more and more debt in the Province. Obviously, they decided they were going to take action; they were going to take things into their own hands. If they were not going to be recognized by government because of the hardship, they were going to take themselves to the doors of government and look for that recognition, and that is what they did. Being smart, aggressive, assertive young people who knew they had a great campaign that they could launch, that they would do it, and look at the results they have gotten because of all of that.

Mr. Chair, will this fix all of the problems? Of course it will not. There is nothing that can fix all of the problems I guess, other than if we were to give free education. I talked about that earlier in my commentary, which I believe was probably yesterday. Although it was the same parliamentary day, I believe it was yesterday that I talked about that.

Mr. Chair, that was when I talked about having a free education. I would think that every member in this House, if they thought it was possible and that we were in a fiscal position as a Province to be able to do it, would want to give free education to every student in this Province. I do not know why anyone would not, but obviously you have to look at the realities of what we can afford and what we cannot afford.

Some people may say: Can we afford not to give free education to students? There is a good argument in that, as well. There are others who will say that interest relief is the most that we can offer. Then there are others who feel that a level of accountability is healthy for all individuals. That if students do have to borrow small portions or small loans, there is an accountability to their education. There is an accountability for them to perform and to make sure that when they start programs, they finish programs and things of this nature. So there are lots of different arguments that could be made for and against it, but I think the real argument comes at the end of the day when you look at the fiscal position that the Province is in and whether they can sustain a free education system over a long period of time.

My thought is this, Mr. Chair, we would have to be much wealthier than we are today, I would think, to sustain it over a long period of time. Does that mean that there isn't more that we can do? Maybe there is, but I think the objective always has to be to ensure that when students are graduating in this Province, that they have the opportunity to work here, that we do not have to read articles about students who cannot find a job. That has to be a primary concern.

I think as well, Mr. Chair, we need to find incentives to keep them here so that they are not going away to other provinces where they can make more money because they have to pay off a large student debt. Maybe there are other ways. We have done it for nurses and doctors, where we have offered incentive bonuses towards their education if they stay and work in the Province. Maybe that is something we could look at in other particular fields as well, in that if a student trains in this Province and they take a grant or monies towards their education, that they would sign on to performing those duties in the Province, in a workplace for a period time. It may not work with all occupational areas, because as I said earlier, some of them cannot find jobs, but it may work for many of the areas as an additional incentive.

Mr. Chair, there are many other things that you can do as well, and I am sure that as time goes on students themselves will continue to be more vocal and bring forward recommendations to government as to how they would like to see changes made. This one was certainly one of the ones that they brought forward, along with a whole host of other options for government to consider. I guess at the end of the day, this was the one that they felt was most feasible for them and could still provide a good savings and a good return for students in the Province.

CHAIR: Order, please!

Are there any other speakers on this bill?

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act." Bill 9

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clause 2.

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 2 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance 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 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 Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, from the Order Paper I would now like to call Order 9, Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Pharmacy Act.

CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Pharmacy Act.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Pharmacy Act." (Bill 12)

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

A couple of things with regard to this bill. Actually, I spoke to this bill earlier in the evening, or yesterday at some point, but this particular bill looks at one very fundamental change. That particular change is to allow prescriptions to be filled in the Province while that prescription is written by a physician from outside the Province, or I should say a physician that is not licensed to practice within Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Chair, this is a bill that we certainly support. We honestly see the merits in government bringing it forward. In fact, it is not a day too early for my liking, because this is an issue that I have been dealing with in my district for the last year-and-a-half in particular, after the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program changed mostly. People became eligible because of the income thresholds changing, became eligible for co-pay amounts on their medication.

In the past, Mr. Chair, because they were not eligible for those co-pay amounts, they were actually using the services of a hospital in the Quebec side of the border. They were obviously getting prescriptions issued by physicians in that area and they were getting them filled there. All of a sudden, when the drug program came in and the thresholds increased and more people became eligible, they started to realize that if I get my prescription filled in Quebec I am not going to get my drug subsidy. So now I want to get my prescription filled in Labrador. The reason they could not get it filled in Labrador is because the prescription was being written by a doctor who was working in Quebec in a hospital and did not have a licence to practice in this Province.

Mr. Chair, at one point I even had one of those doctors that was serving – actually, one of those doctors in Quebec at that time, 30 per cent of their patients were from my district. I actually had that physician come into St. John's and meet with people in the Department of Health to look at how they could become licensed, although they were in the Province of Quebec, to be able to prescribe and issue prescriptions in Newfoundland and Labrador. So that was one of the things we did explore, but in light of the fact that there were changes coming in the act that would allow for that through this particular mechanism, I do not know if that doctor ever pursued it.

That was on incident that we ran into, but there were other incidents. There were actually incidents that had dominated the media, of people who came home on summer vacation and ended up staying longer than they had intended to. They wanted to get a prescription filled in this Province. They went in and they could not get it filled because that prescription had been prescribed by a physician from another province.

Mr. Chairman, there were other factors as well. We had a huge commuter workforce in the Province. A lot of these people, when they were working outside of the Province, in Alberta or Ontario or British Columbia or the Northwest Territories or in the United States, wherever they were, they were having to get the services of a physician and they had prescriptions that were issued in those particular provinces. When they came back home they were not able to get them filled at our local pharmacies. In fact, Mr. Chairman, we were one of the few provinces in Canada that had not passed the regulations to allow for non-licensed physicians in the Province to be able to prescribe medications and for those particular prescriptions to be filled by pharmacists. The only other province that had not done it was Quebec, and to date they have still not done it.

Mr. Chairman, we certainly were happy to see the amendments in this particular bill. One of the things that we did not see in the bill was amendments to the legislation to allow for medication management by pharmacists. I am going to speak to that for a few minutes, because that was one of the issues that was raised to us by pharmacists in the Province who certainly felt that they wanted the opportunity to be able to manage medications, the same that is being done in most other provinces across Canada. In fact, Mr. Chairman, some people might look at it and say it is a major factor to allow this. Others might look at it and say it is being done already, so what is the point? It is already being done. I know of many cases where people have walked into a pharmacy and their prescription was expired and they could not get an appointment for two or three days to get a new prescription, and the pharmacists would give them some medication to tie them over. They might say: Why do we need to amend the legislation to allow a pharmacist to do that? Because they are already doing it.

Well, a lot of them are doing it but there are also a lot who are not. There are a lot who are not because the legislation is not clear in terms of what the penalty would be for them if they were ever reported as part of an auditing system. That is the fear that many of them have. Therefore, they stick to the letter of the law and they do not go outside of it. There are others who may give you those three pills that you need to tie you over for the weekend and you come back on Monday and get your prescription filled.

Mr. Chairman, this is the kind of change that they were looking for in medication management that would have to occur under the legislation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Act, the same act that we are amending this morning.

Why that was not included, I do not know. In fact, changes have been made in nearly every province in Canada to do this. In fact, just recently in both New Brunswick and in P.E.I. they made it legal for pharmacists to do medication management.

These pharmacists, you need to be clear, are not looking for the ability to write full prescriptions, but what they are looking for is the ability to be able to manage the prescriptions that they are given. That means that when you run into a case, like I said, where someone runs out for a day or two, that would be the issue, but there are also situations where there may be someone who comes in with a prescription, as I said earlier, for a capsule, or something like that, or a tablet, and when they get to the pharmacy to get it filled they would rather have that product in a liquid, or something of that nature. Then, Mr. Chairman, it would be up to the pharmacist to make that call under the clause that would have been in the act under medication management.

For some reason the minister did not choose to go down that road and make the amendment in the legislation to reflect that. I do not know why, but I would like for him to explain it to me when he sits down, because I did ask him the same question in the House of Assembly and I never really got an answer at that time either. It is important to pharmacists.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS JONES: I got an answer, but not an answer to that question, I should say. There is always an answer. It may not be the answer to the question that you asked, all the same.

Mr. Chairman, I would have guessed that this would have been something that the government would have easily been in support of. I may be wrong, and there might be other factors that I do not know about, but I would have sensed it as being one of the things that they would have supported, and they would have seen merit in supporting, to allow for that kind of flexibility.

Mr. Chairman, one of the reasons that a lot of pharmacists do not want to get into doing this without having the legislation amended to reflect it is because of the audit process that they are subjected to. Most of them probably will take a chance. A lot of them will not, and it is because every year every pharmacy in this Province is subjected to an audit. When an auditor goes in, they take out the case files and examine all of these case files, and they match them up with what the pharmacist gave out and what was originally prescribed by the physician. If they find that there is some error in all of this, then they also have a responsibility, as an auditor, to report that, to report if there were any errors. After that is reported, there are two things that can occur that are permissible. One of them is that government can ask that they pay back the cost of whatever that prescription was. If it was $5 or $55 or $500, they –

CHAIR (Collins): Order, please!

I would like to remind the hon. member that her speaking time has expired.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I will just, by leave, clue up. I am almost finished, actually.

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: By leave, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: One of the things that they can do is: government can require that they pay back the cost of that medication and that they also pay the dispensing fee.

The other thing that can happen is a more severe action that can be taken. The minister corrected me in the House in Question Period and said that there are no fines. I guess, in essence, he is probably right, it is not a fine, but there is a penalty; there is a billing that can occur. Now, whether you want to call it a fine or a penalty or an invoicing for services that should not have been rendered in some way, I do not know what you want to call it, but it is defined in the legislation that a pharmacy who has errors, that government could take an action that would be as severe as clawing back 5 per cent of the total cost that was billed to government by that pharmacy, and that could be a substantial amount of money.

In fact, when we looked at numbers, we looked at just 1,000 prescriptions that could be filled in a year - 1,000 difference prescriptions at one rate or another - that could even total up to $1 million in a year, for example.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is a stretch.

MS JONES: It could be up to $1 million in a year, Mr. Chairman. Expensive prescriptions, expensive medication, all of those high-cost drugs, I say to the minister.

Mr. Chairman, regardless of whether it was 1,000 prescriptions or 4,000, we all know that pharmacies fill more than 1,000 prescriptions in a year. We all know that. They probably fill more like 5,000 or 10,000 in a year, but it would not be unusual for them to be billing government at a rate of about $1 million a year. If government wanted to, they could implement this clawback of 5 per cent and bill the pharmacy for that amount of money. That would give you an idea as to why they would be reluctant to take a chance, without having the legislation clarified.

I ask the minister if he could explain to me why the medication management was not incorporated in this bill, and if there will be further amendments to the act to reflect those particular changes that pharmacists have been looking for.

CHAIR: The hon. Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words with regard to Bill 12. I did not speak to this particular piece of legislation in second reading. I did note, however, with interest, and listen to the commentary that was made by the Leader of the Opposition in second reading, as well as by the Leader of the NDP. It is good to see in these cases just how much research has been done on these issues.

You come into the House sometimes, of course, and it is a pretty jam-packed schedule. You have lots of legislation on the Order Paper and you have to prepare for all of this stuff. I was astounded, actually, to see that both the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the NDP have the information that they need in order to debate this legislation, at their fingertips. It is quite obvious that you just do not come in here unprepared. These members of the House have certainly had their homework done and been able to speak about it and the issues that are existent and impacted by this particular piece of legislation on a very informed basis, and not only deal with the specifics of what the bill says but can talk about how it will impact other issues that the bill does not address, that maybe someone might have looked at these two particular sections here in isolation, without realizing the impact that it might have on other issues that exist in the Pharmacists' Association.

I would like to direct a few questions as well to the minister. I have not had the opportunity earlier to address it, but I have read now the two particular sections that we are dealing with here in Bill 12, and maybe he can educate us a bit more once I explain where the concerns rest and why we have these concerns.

That is the purpose, of course, of Committee stage: we are dealing with the specifics here. In second reading we dealt more with the principle of the bill, whereas now we are getting down to the meat and potatoes, shall we say, and looking at the exact wording in the clause. What does this mean? What does that mean? Does it achieve what it is that you want it to achieve by bringing forth this amendment and so on? So, there are a lot of considerations here. The debate quite often, as we have shown time and time again in this House in debating legislation, it is only because you point out these details that sometimes you come upon something that was not intended by government.

I say, in fairness to government, when that has happened and it has been so obvious that there was an oversight and so on, the government has taken the time and taken the efforts normally to see that it is addressed. I will give one example, Mr. Chairman.

We have another bill here which we will be debating in Committee later today. I refer to Bill 14, which deals with the City of St. John's Act. There is a case where we were in second reading - the Minister of Municipal Affairs is responsible for the carriage of that particular bill - and this member, in second reading, posed a number of question, concerns. I had read it, understood where government were saying they wanted to go, and why they wanted to go, and why they needed to go there, because it was jeopardizing and impacting the current situation where certain people who were entitled to certain benefits could not get them or were not getting them.

We knew what the objective was, but unfortunately there was nothing in that particular piece of legislation which said or would have had a retroactive clause in there so that it could look after the needs of these people; because the problem, of course, happened years ago. In fairness to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, it is good to see that she is going to bring forward an amendment in that regard as we move forward with this thing today.

That is the purpose of second reading, and it is great to see that government sometimes are co-operative. Not always, but sometimes they are co-operative. Sometimes we have our differences of opinion and we just do not see eye to eye. I am certainly not right on everything I say. I propose a solution sometimes, but every now and then wisdom strikes the government and they accept what I say as being legitimate and they do move on and get it done.

Dealing specifically now with this particular bill we have here, Bill 12, I noticed - and I guess we here in the Official Opposition, anyway, had a bit of an edge, a bit of an advantage, when it comes to understanding what is behind this, and how the pharmacy sector and the people who are pharmacists in this country are impacted. I speak, of course - because we had a pretty good adviser, if you want to get some information when it comes to pharmacists.

The former Member for Humber Valley, everyone knows, who was a member of this House, is a pharmacist by trade. That is his profession, also in the home care business and so on, but as we speak, he is currently, today, the President of the Canadian Pharmacists Association. It is a pretty good resource to have at your fingertips when the government brings forward amendments on Bill 12. You do not have to worry about finding out what the background is, what is the context, how does this impact the pharmacists, how does this impact patients and so on. So, I am very pleased to say we have had the benefit of someone's counsel like that, who is himself a pharmacist, who operates on the national scene.

The minister talked about one of the clauses here, for example. What it says is we have a situation right now that if you have a prescription that is given by someone outside of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and you have that prescription, it was properly given to you in Ontario, for example, or Alberta, and you have that prescription but you happen to come down here and you need your prescription done, the fact is no pharmacist in Newfoundland was allowed to fill that prescription, not allowed to do it. Now it was done, obviously, by a proper medical person in the other jurisdiction, Ontario or Fort McMurray or wherever, but the law was and did not provide for a pharmacist in Newfoundland to carry out the filling of that prescription. Now you can imagine what kind of problems that created. We are one of the few provinces in Canada that did not have that provision and proviso.

Now, assuming that the skill levels of a pharmacist here are pretty well standardized with the skill levels of a pharmacist in other provinces of Canada, assuming that the medical persons who write these prescriptions in the first place - because pharmacists do not write the prescriptions, the pharmacist only fill the prescriptions. So assuming that the physicians who write these prescriptions, anywhere in Canada, are similarly qualified to practice their profession, it does not make a whole lot of sense that Dr. John in Ontario writes a prescription but pharmacists down here cannot fill it. You can see what problems that caused, and I think we have already had related a few stories, a few incidents of how impractical the current state of the law is, and I will give you an example.

For example, we all know here in this Province that we have a very highly mobile workforce. We have thousands of people in this Province who work in other provinces. The obvious one, of course, that comes to mind is people who work in Alberta. They fly out, they work for their prescribed period, two weeks, four weeks, a month or whatever and they come back home again. Their families are here. They bring their paycheques home here and they spend their money here. They are normal human beings who have the needs of normal human beings, and from time to time they need a prescription. From time to time they get sick. They have to go see a doctor and they have to get a prescription, and guess what? They always do not get sick when they are home here. Sometimes they are working out in Fort McMurray, for example, and they get sick.

They go on their job site or in the community where they are living, they make an appointment, they see their doctor, and that doctor in Alberta who is a legitimate practicing physician under the laws of the Province of Alberta, he issues a prescription. It could be for an antibiotic, for example. John comes home. He does not get it filled in Alberta. He has to catch a plane because his three weeks are up or whatever, and he ends up back here in Newfoundland. He has his prescription. It was a legitimate doctor in Alberta who wrote it. He comes back and he goes to his hometown, say of Marystown, and he cannot go to the Shoppers Drug Mart in Marystown and say: fill this for me. The pharmacist is not, by law, permitted to do it.

So, that is the kind of thing you see right now. We have these commuters who go back and forth to work outside of this Province on a regular basis, sometimes their family are with them, sometimes their friends are with them, and they cannot get these prescriptions filled. That does not make a whole lot of sense. The system is intended and should be efficient. It should help people who have problems. People who need legitimately to get prescriptions filled, it should not be a hindrance to them, and we have had that for years and years.

As I understand it, this is not new. This issue has been known for quite some time. I understand there is a gentleman Rowe, who works with the pharmacy board, he has made this known to government before, of course, and finally we see that it hits the floor of the House of Assembly for debate and passage. I do not think anybody over here in the Opposition is going to be opposed to the passage of this. I think that was made quite clear in second reading. It is a good thing because it is a motherhood thing; it is a common sense thing. Of course, you have a responsibility if you are in Opposition not just to question for the sake of questioning. You have to be supportive of things -

CHAIR: Order, please!

I would like to remind the hon. member his speaking time has expired.

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

Leave?

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

CHAIR: The member by leave.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you.

Mr. Chair, just to refer to the second incident here of the circumstance whereby you need that kind of common sense to apply; people, for example, who are sent out of the Province for specialists appointments. We have had a lot of cases where you cannot be seen here because either the specialist is not here or because there is an overload in the specialists here. So therefore, in order to get prompt treatment, you get referred to a specialist, for example, in Halifax.

In a lot of cases what happens, these people go out, they get their prescriptions when they see their specialist, and they come back into the Province but they cannot get it filled. Now the irony of that, the unfairness of that is pretty obvious. They went out of this Province because they could not get the medical treatment here for some reason. It was all duly sanctioned by the referring doctor here and a referring physician here. They saw the specialist wherever it was in Halifax or Toronto, got the required treatment that they need. Like most people, I guess, once they got treated for what they went for they came home. They did not even contemplate going down to the drugstore in Ontario where they say they had their specialist appointment and filling the prescription. Usually you ask: Can I get this filled at home? Oh yes, that is a pretty common drug. I am sure they got that down in Newfoundland, too.

Physicians by the way, in other jurisdictions, thought that could be done easily too. It was only after some of these instances came about, when people got home here with their prescriptions from their specialists that they found out they could not get it filled by a Newfoundland pharmacist, that they said: Whoa, just a minute. What do I do now? Do I have to go back to Ontario just to get a prescription filled? That is how this thing started to work through the system. People became aware that these nonsensical applications happened.

Another example, Mr. Chair, people travelling to Newfoundland and Labrador. We so often tout what we have as a Province when it comes to tourism. We spend millions of dollars encouraging people to come here. By the way, I have already complimented several times in the House, the Minister of Tourism. It seems like in the last couple of years the tourist dollar, in terms of the ads and stuff that we are getting back for the attraction, a fantastic job. It seems to be very eye catching. I believe that will encourage people to come here, but again, common sense takes over.

Some of these people who come here, they have ongoing prescriptions. They are not all healthy people who come here, albeit they are travelling. They often have prescriptions for things that they need to get filled. They come to this Province with the assumption, the expectation that, not a problem. If I am in Port aux Basques when my prescription runs out, I will go to the drugstore in Port aux Basques and get it filled. What is the big deal? I can go down the street in Toronto where I live and get a pharmacist to fill it, a renewal, so why can't I go down to the pharmacist in Newfoundland? Surely, pharmacists are pretty well all qualified equally, and live and operate and work to a pretty well standardized format in the country, so why can't I do it? But, as we say, you cannot do it.

So that is just three circumstances, Mr. Chair, where you cannot get a prescription filled, and it does not make a lot of sense. The gentleman I referred to actually, Mr. Rowe, who is with the pharmacy association, he of course took the concerns. He wrote a letter. He just did not sit on it, because people were bringing these complaints to him, these impractical suggestions to him. So he wanted to get something done about it, and that is how come we ended up with it here. He took it to Dr. Young, I believe, who is registrar of the College of Physicians, took it to Mr. Ritter, who is with the NLMA, discussed the issue and said they needed to have it addressed. It is very pleasing to see that the minister has now brought forward this bill to actually address it. It is not really controversial. As they say, it is a lot of common sense. The Province of Ontario and Nova Scotia, I do believe, already got it done. Once it became known, it was done and not a problem.

Just to show how drastic the impact was on some people, I am not sure if the Leader of the Opposition referred to it, or the Leader of the NDP, I think it was both probably. They talked about the example that became public knowledge and was in the public domain. That involved a lady, Ms Hynes, who came home from outside the Province. The lady had encountered, over the course of time, some fairly, very serious medical issues. She had battled ovarian cancer, she had suffered a stroke, she had a double mastectomy, and of course, she had the need for certain prescriptions to deal with her illness that she had. The battle was tough enough as it was for that lady, but when she gets here, of course, she finds out that there is no provision to renew her prescriptions.

Now, that is obviously a situation that cries out for redress. It is just not an acceptable practice to see that kind of thing happen, and she took it public. The headline said: prescription policy dismays former resident. No doubt, it would dismay you. She had enough stress, I guess, with dealing with her own medical circumstances. She did not need to have any added stress simply because the law did not keep up with the times in the Province and see that it was addressed.

Before I sit down, Mr. Chair, just one little comment as well, and that is about the particulars. That is on clause 2, it talks about clause 24.1 - is the number that they have attached to it - because you have a situation where we are changing the law to say that a pharmacist can fill the prescription. It says, "A pharmacist may dispense a drug pursuant to a prescription authorized by a prescriber licensed to practice in a province or territory of Canada other than Newfoundland and Labrador," and this, I think, are the operative words, "if the pharmacist has taken reasonable steps to ensure that (a) the prescriber is licensed and practises in Canada; and (b) the prescriber belongs to a class of persons who, if licensed in Newfoundland and Labrador, would be entitled by law to prescribe that drug in Newfoundland and Labrador."

The question I pose to the minister is the use of the word reasonable in that particular clause. Now, any of us, of course, with any familiarity with legislation is aware that the use of a word like reasonable is a pretty subjective standard. It is not what we would call an objective standard where there is certain criteria.

I ask the minister, has there been any thought put around that – somebody used it, obviously, reasonable. So what constitutes reasonable? Basically, it is saying that a pharmacist must do reasonable things or take reasonable steps to ensure that (a) and (b) are both done; (a) that the person who prescribed it practices in Canada; and (b) that the prescriber belongs to a class of persons who, if he had been here, would be able to do it.

So what constitutes the reasonable steps that a Newfoundland and Labrador pharmacist must undergo to make sure that he has passed that guideline and passed that test? It does not say here. It does not say what the reasonableness test is. Now, in a lot of other cases of course we use the word reasonable in legislation. In criminal law, for example, we use reasonable, probable grounds for making an arrest. Reasonable and probable grounds for charging somebody. Reasonable and probable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed.

We have the benefit in the criminal law system that there is a lot of jurisprudence in case law that has been adjudicated over the years, which has brought a more defined meaning to what reasonable means in certain circumstances. There are literally thousands of cases in the country where you can go and find out how the courts at different levels and different circumstances have interpreted what the word reasonable means. We do not have any language around this word here, and I am somewhat surprised. I wonder what the consultation piece was between the pharmacists association and the government with respect to the usage of that word, because it leaves it pretty loosey-goosey.

Somebody is going to make that determination that the Newfoundland and Labrador pharmacists acted reasonably in doing (a) and (b). Who is that person who determines that it was reasonable?

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member he is speaking with leave. I ask him to clue up his remarks. He will get an opportunity to speak again.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Sure, no problem. If the government members are prepared to give me leave, I have no problem if they want to –

CHAIR: Does the member have leave?

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: If somebody wants to speak –

CHAIR: Some more leave.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Okay, I will just clue up.

My colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, I do believe, wants to have a few more words on this issue anyway so I will not hog the stage, as they say, and belabour the point, just to say that I will come back to this point when I speak again, and hopefully the minister will have some information on it for me on the word reasonable: the context of it here, the guidelines of it here, and who makes that subject of determination. Because we have seen, as the night went on and the morning wore on, that the Minister of Education got up in response to questions and commentary from the Leader of the NDP and provided the answers. That is very helpful because not only does the viewing public who are viewing this see and hear what the concerns are that the members are raising but you sort of get a reasonable – before there is too much time lag you get the minister giving an explanation. In fairness - and complimentary, actually - to the Minister of Education, it was very enlightening and helpful that he was capable and able to give the answers that he did in such a timely fashion.

I need only say, of course, we raised fifty to sixty issues throughout the night that involved the Minister of Health, but so far we do not have any answers to them. Maybe he is saving them all up. I hope he has been keeping notes, because we certainly kept a list of all of the questions and we certainly hope that he is going to give us all the answers.

Anyway, that is very helpful. That particular one – reasonable - I would think the minister should be in a position to give us some kind of answer by the time we return, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR (T. Osborne): The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


I guess the minister is going to reserve his comments for the end, because we have asked a tremendous amount of questions around this bill in the last number of hours that we have been debating the bill but we have not gotten any answers yet. I am sure we are going to get them, because the minister has come into the House and he is all bright-eyed over there. He is all perked up and ready to go. So are some of his colleagues. There are a few of them who had a lot of "Hear, hear!" going about 1:00 o'clock this morning, but I am not hearing too many coming out of them now, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: That is right. You have to pick it up a bit. I have not heard the Minister of Labrador Affairs give a "Hear, hear!" in the House since about 6:00 o'clock this morning. I have to get him on the go over there, because I would not want him to lose his voice box. The only opportunity he gets to speak is to say, "Hear, hear!" Sometimes, though, he does say, "What a minister!" Every now and then he will pipe in, "What a minister!" Now, it does not matter what minister it is.

Anyway, Mr. Chairman, we are here debating an important piece of legislation. In fact, this piece of legislation on the Pharmacy Act is so important that the government had to keep the House open all night to get this bill passed. They could not start the long weekend in Newfoundland and Labrador; they could not close the Legislature to start the long weekend, because they had a pressing bill to amend the Pharmacy Act that they had to get through the House before they could close.

I can understand that, though, Mr. Chairman. It is an important bill, an important piece of legislation. I can understand why I have been on my feet now for about twenty-seven hours. Debating legislation is important, very important. I just thank God that I am not a nurse this morning. I just thank God I am not a nurse who has had to work a twenty-seven-hour shift and try and administer health care in the Province. At least I can come in and speak to a bill, express my opinion over and over again, and make sure that they clearly understand it.

Now that I have them all awake, now that I have revived the government caucus in the House of Assembly, now that they all have their taps to the floor over there again, I will tell them what I think of the bill, because I do not think they really heard me the last ten times when I spoke on this piece of legislation. Now that their taps are to the floor and they are wide awake, they know that this is an important bill, and they know that the comments that we made and the points that we raised are very important, because we did have an opportunity to consult with pharmacists in the Province prior to debating this particular bill and we had an opportunity to sit with them and to hear some of the concerns that they have had.

Actually, the former colleague of mine that the minister is referring to is the president of the Canadian Pharmacists Association in this country, I say to the minister. He is the president of the Canadian pharmacy board in this country; a very successful man, I might add. I say to the minister, he is a very successful individual in his career, in his business, and as a pharmacist in this Province, and has certainly risen through the ranks in the field of pharmacy, and certainly today presides over the pharmacy board within the country, and I think we should be proud of that. We should be proud every single time a Newfoundlander and Labradorian is able to rise to the position, a leadership position in this country. Mr. Chairman, obviously some members opposite cannot put their political bias aside, not even for a successful pharmacist from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Anyway, Mr. Chairman, I would like to take a few minutes to speak to some of the clauses in this bill, because this particular act is making an amendment that has been asked for, lobbied for, and certainly an amendment that has been recognized by government as being a necessary amendment. One so necessary that we have spent the entire night, in fact, going through this bill and other bills, I must say, in the health care sector, because we spent at least five or six hours going through a bill dealing with chiropractors in the Province, practically a new act - being defined as practically a new act - that outlined a number of changes in terms of how that particular field of medicine will be administered in the Province.

Mr. Chairman, this particular Act to Amend the Pharmacy Act - first of all, I have to say I was a bit surprised because back about two weeks ago in the House of Assembly I posed a number of questions to the minister with regard to changes in the Pharmacy Act, and one of those changes that we asked about at that time was including in the act a section that dealt with medication management. This is a section that has been incorporated in legislation in pharmacy acts right across the country. In fact, Mr. Chairman, almost every province, I think, now has made provisions to allow this and, as I said earlier, two of the provinces, New Brunswick and P.E.I. in particular, recently made the changes. That was the reason I had asked the minister in the House of Assembly a couple of weeks ago if they were prepared to implement this type of process in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In fact, not to be disappointed by the minister, he stood in the House and certainly gave an answer to the question. It was a very long answer and, in fact, did not even address the question, I say to the hon. minister. He answered it. He gave a detailed answer. In fact, Mr. Chairman, his time expired in answering the question. He had to be asked to sit down in the House because he had used up all of his time, Mr. Chairman, but in doing so he never once addressed the question that I had asked him.

Mr. Chairman, what he did say at that time is that there was legislation that was coming to the House. Of course, that is the legislation that we have right now. That is the legislation that we have before us right now. Mr. Chairman, when that legislation did come forward I said, well, obviously he is going to include amendments in the act to reflect this, and that is the reason he is not answering it in the House of Assembly. He is avoiding the question because he does not want to indicate to us the change that government is bringing forward in this act.

Mr. Chairman, that was not the case either. In fact, the real story here is that these particular clauses have, in essence, been completely omitted from the act altogether. I would like to ask the minister, in the limited time that I have to speak on this particular bill, as to the reasons why he is not bringing forward those amendments. I would like to know if there is a reason why they are not looking at it; because it has been asked for by the pharmacists. In fact, Mr. Chairman, we know that Mr. Rowe, who is very engaged in the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board, has made requests for this. We know that this has been supported by others in the field. We know that pharmacists themselves have already said that they deal with issues around medication management on a regular basis and they are not clear, under the current legislation, what the implications are for them and they want to have it clarified. They want to have the clauses written in the act.

I do not think it was too much to be asking for. Since the minister was going to bring forward legislation anyway, to deal with the issue around having physicians who were not licensed in the Province be able to write prescriptions –

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am almost concluded my remarks, so I could ask for leave.

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: By leave.

MS JONES: Mr. Chairman, basically what they are doing here - and they could have incorporated the two amendments into the one bill. The amendment that they are bringing forward is to allow physicians from outside the Province, or physicians who are not licensed to practice in Newfoundland and Labrador, to be able to write prescriptions for people, and those prescriptions be filled by pharmacists in the Province. It is something that is needed, as I said earlier when I spoke to the bill, something that we have been asking for, something that people in the Province have been asking for, and certainly something that the minister has seen as being important and needed to be changed.

What we do not understand is why they did not take the amendments a little further, since we were bringing in changes to the Pharmacy Act anyway, to reflect some other things that people were looking for.

Mr. Chairman, I guess I will conclude my comments there and I will let the minister provide a response to us on those particular questions.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

A little bit of confusion here. So many of us are popping up and down to have a word, of course, we are jumping to try to get into the queue. Anyway, I thought at that time that the minister was going to rise. That is why I hesitated in getting up, because the Leader of the Opposition, of course, has been asking him to comment on some of these issues and so far there have been no answers forthcoming. I am sure he will. He always does. In Question Period, for example, he is always very forthcoming these days and gives very detailed answers to his stuff, and that is appreciated.

I would just like to comment, as well, on the pharmacy piece again, and particularly the issue of the medication management. It has been referenced by other members in this House, and it is not dealt with in this particular legislation.

Like the Leader of the Opposition, I am just curious as to why government, who was aware of this issue - it is another one of these common sense type problems that could be solved, or a problem that could be solved with some common sense, I guess, would be probably the better way to say it, but yet it was not addressed here. Was that just an oversight? Does it mean, because it is not here, that government have not decided yet which course of action they think they ought to use to deal with that issue?

The issue, of course, just for anyone watching who would like to have a better understanding and appreciation of what it is we are talking about here, when we talk about medication management, for example, probably the best way to deal with it is to give a couple of examples of what would happen.

For example, my understanding is, and one of the examples I was told about is, if your mother's prescription, for example, runs out on Christmas Eve and she needs a few pills to tide her over until she can get back to her doctor and get a prescription, right now, it is illegal for a pharmacist in Newfoundland and Labrador to do that, even if it means just a few pills to tide her over. The way the system works is the pharmacist can only fill what has been prescribed, albeit there might be a solid history as to the prescription of that medication to that individual over a course of weeks or months or years, even though it is to tide them over, even though pharmacists are professionals who we expect and call upon to exercise some form of judgement in everything they do actually when it comes to a very serious business and a very serious skill level required, and that is to fill prescriptions, yet it cannot be done.

I do not know how this works in most places around the Province, but my experience when it comes to pharmacies these days, is they are all pretty technologically advanced when it comes to recording and documenting what has been done. Obviously, there are lots of cases too where some people try to avoid or evade the system and get drugs improperly, and that has been issues too, and we see those things coming up in court cases a lot of times. In your usual, average case, we will say, there is generally a paper trail that exists. By that, I mean if you have – at least I know in my hometown, for example, if you go see your doctor and he gives you a prescription and you take it to the local pharmacist, the pharmacist has a computer system that documents who you are, has all your history in there over the last number of years that you have ever been prescribed, knows who your doctor is, has all of your former prescriptions and everything recorded. I was amazed actually the first time I went to – because you forget about, from time to time, you might get an antibiotic this year for some issue and you get some other kind of pills over the course of years. I was amazed when I was talking with my pharmacist and I was getting a prescription and he had everything. He had the history on me. Every pill that I have taken in the last fifteen years, pretty well, he had it in the system, back as far as when they first invented computers.

Now, that individual for example, he is a trusted, licensed, skilled pharmacist. Surely, if he has that level of documentation on my medical history, if he knows firsthand who my doctor is, he knows what I have been taking and what my condition was and why I had the prescription in the first place, now I think a bit of common sense would suggest he is not going to do something rash. He or she is not going to do something that is going to jeopardize their licence to practice as a pharmacist in this Province. Even looking at the legislation we have here, it is okay to say in this bill that we have here today, that a pharmacist – it is okay for them to use reasonable steps to ensure whether we comply with the law on the one hand, and that is the government's words, not mine, reasonable steps. Yet, on the other hand, when it comes to exercising reasonable judgement in the case of giving somebody a couple of extra pills, it is not okay to exercise that judgement.

I think there is a disconnect here somewhere as to why this could not be done. We have a couple of givens here. We know, for example, that the pharmacists' association definitely want it done, that is a given. We know that the information has been brought to the attention of the department, if not the minister, certainly the department, over the last number of months, if not years. We know that the government has taken the time – they took these issues out when it comes to, the earlier ones I talked about, when it comes to if you have a prescription that is given by an outside doctor, they are going to make the provisions now so that a pharmacist here can fill it, which you could not previously do. So they took the time to address those commonsensical issues, and yet this other issue that was on the burner, up-front, not on the back burner, up-front and in their department and known about, talked about, discussed and yet they would not bring it forward, and that raises questions. Again, hopefully the minister will answer the question. Maybe there is a simple answer. Maybe he is going to say: We overlooked it, we forgot about it. Maybe that is his answer. Maybe he might say: We just have not decided yet what we can do on that particular issue. We have to have more consultations or more discussions. It might be that simple, but right now it is certainly not there and it is not clear.

I come back again to the clause we have here, and that is the use of the word reasonable again. We are talking about a situation where we are trying to make the system be practical for users. Is there anything more solid in terms of language that we could use to put – albeit we want to get rid of the unusual hassles that exist simply because somebody outside the Province makes the prescription that a pharmacist here cannot do it, but we are talking here about the onus being on the Newfoundland and Labrador pharmacist to decide that the person who wrote the prescription was, number one, a practicing physician in the other jurisdiction, and that that person who resided in the other jurisdiction belonged to a class of persons that was capable and entitled by law to prescribe that drug.

Now, maybe a bit of information from the minister as well, an explanation as to, what does he mean when he says: the prescriber belongs to a class of persons? That is pretty uninformative, no explanation around that piece. That is the purpose, of course, of committee stage here, is to get some explanation around these things so that we can have an idea. It is no good to tell the pharmacists after this becomes law: Oh, this is what we meant, and that is what we meant, or something else was what we meant. That is the whole purpose here, so that there is at least some guidance to these people out there. The minister gets up and says: this is what we mean. This is what the use of the word reasonable means.

Then, that pharmacist, who becomes aware - and they will become aware of these changes, of course. As soon as this gets done the pharmacists' association will make sure that this new law is circulated amongst all of their membership. That is one of the things of course that your representative body would do, is make sure that you are aware of these new laws. It would be very helpful, I would suggest, if in addition to just sending out the print, black on white law, that if there are open-ended words here, subjective tests that the pharmacist is going to be expected to comply with, any information you can give that might assist that pharmacist in making that determination would be most helpful. That is all we are asking here, Mr. Chair, in terms of that definition because it is not defined now.

A couple of other issues as well ties into the subjectiveness of this and the reasonableness. I am wondering if the minister can tell us why it only refers to a physician in another province or territory in Canada. What about if there are prescriptions in other countries, for example, the United States? We live in a pretty global economy today. I would not think it is unusual that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians sometimes go for treatments in the United States. In fact, I know they do.

CHAIR: Order please!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Leave, Mr. Chair?

CHAIR: Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I understand I have leave, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you.

Yes, just to finish on that point. We have it restricted right here now to physicians who live outside of Newfoundland and Labrador but they must be resident of another province in Canada or they must be in a territory. I am wondering why that restriction would be there? Because there are a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who do not just go to Toronto, for example, or Halifax for treatment. There are a lot of Newfoundlanders that go from time to time to the United States for treatment, especially when it comes to a lot of the transplant services and so on. It happens quite often.

We often hear about fundraisers on the go throughout this Province where some individual needs something done. It is a special type of need; it cannot be done in Canada. Arrangements are made to do it in the United States, and they go and they get it done. Yet, this bill is not going to help those situations.

A person, for example, who goes to the United States for a lung transplant - and we have had that. We had the case, I do believe, of a very well-known Newfoundlander and Labradorian, a gentleman who owned – Mr. Dobbin, who is deceased, God rest his soul. There is a case of a gentleman who left the country and went down to the United States. He had to wait quite some extensive time. I read the book that he wrote actually, wherein he described it and the ordeals that he had in order to get that done. He had to wait an extended period of time in the States, and sure enough, he got it done. So there is a precedent of a Newfoundlander, Labradorian who had to go to the United States to get it done.

When you have that kind of major surgery done - in that particular case, I believe it was one or if not both lungs transplanted at the same time - there are a lot of medications involved. He just did not go to the United States and get the surgery done, he came back to Newfoundland. Now I am assuming that he would have encountered the same issue. If he had prescriptions prescribed, written by his physician in the United States, he had to get those filled here and he would have run smack into this law.

So I am wondering why we would restrict it to another province of Canada or territory? I think that is a legitimate question, because not only do people leave this Province to go to the United States for treatment, but looking at the comparisons, what is the difference if we are talking about a physician in another province or territory who has reached a certain standard of acceptability and practice and licensure in a province of Canada? Surely, the physicians who practice in the United States, they have similar type qualifications needed, they have their medical boards, they have their licensing boards.

I am sure that a legally, authorized, licensed, trained, skilled physician in Mount Sinai or in some hospital in Boston or New York, I am sure they have equivalent standards of physician skills to a doctor who is working in Toronto. Yet, we do not allow that here. We treat it almost as if - the United States is a foreign country all right, but it is a foreign country whom with we do a lot of business, number one; who is our best neighbour with whom we have a free trade agreement. We have a free trade agreement with them, that is okay, but yet we are not prepared to go far enough to suggest that the United States doctors can do this.

To use another example, talking about the United States, we have all heard of the snowbirds, folks. We have all heard of them. Of course, I am referring to the many thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who leave on an annual basis and go down south. A lot of them have properties down in Florida, in the Southern States. They are retired, a lot of them. They leave and they go down, and they spend an extended period of time down in the States each and every year. They have their doctors down there. They have their illnesses down there, the same as they would have if they were home. Yet, if their doctor in Florida gives them a prescription and they come home – the weather smartens up around here and they come home around April or May month for the summer, they cannot get that prescription filled here because an American doctor in Florida wrote it.

Now, if they happened to have wintered in Winnipeg, they could do it. That does not make a whole lot of sense. If we are talking about making a situation that makes life easier for people, why would we distinguish between a Canadian doctor and a United States doctor? I do not know about anyone else in the House, but I certainly feel confident enough that the United States medical system is regulated and licensed at least to a standard equivalent to what we have in Canada. When it comes to the issue of, as we see here, coming back to the issue of the pharmacist here who must prove – I have not gotten into the reasonableness piece – that the prescription that he filled, he must prove that that prescriber is licensed and practicing in Canada.

By the way, I noticed too, they do not say territory in that piece. Up in the top part of the body, they say, "A pharmacist may dispense a drug pursuant to a prescription authorized by a prescriber licensed to practice in a province or territory of Canada," but yet, when they get down to (a) they do not use the word territory. So I am wondering to the minister, why would we not have said it down there? There is obviously some legal distinction between the use of the phrase province, and the use of the term territory. I am wondering, if we used it up in the first part of the clause, why would we simply not put it in there? Because otherwise you are going to end up with somebody saying: Oh my God, someone in the Northwest Territories was the doctor who prescribed that. Albeit they are referred to in the top piece they are not referred to in (a), so I am wondering why we would not put it down in the (a). If our intent is to let anybody who is a prescriber in a province, or anybody who is a prescriber in a territory, then it ought to be there, and I am pointing this out again.

Government members, I appreciate your encouraging me to go on but this is legitimate. Those are the kinds of questions we are posing to the minister, because they are questions that beg an answer. If we are going to do this, we ought to do right, so we are looking forward to some of these answers.

The other thing is, in that case, it talks about taking reasonable steps to ensure that the prescriber is licensed and practices in Canada. I come to that reasonableness piece because –

AN HON. MEMBER: I withdraw leave, Mr. Chairman.

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

I appreciate the leave that was given by the government members here. I do not want to outstay my welcome. I appreciate it. Unfortunately, they chose to withdraw leave.

Thank you very much.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Pharmacy Act." (Bill 12)

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clause 2.

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 2 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Pharmacy 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 Acting Government House Leader.

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chairman, referring to the Order Paper again, I wish to call Order 11, Bill 15, An Act To Amend The Legal Aid Act.

CHAIR: The Committee is now ready to debate Bill 15, An Act To Amend The Legal Aid Act.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Legal Aid Act." (Bill 15)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words. I spoke quite extensively in second reading on this particular bill. I am not sure if it was today or yesterday but it was all the same day, I guess, under the parliamentary calendar. We have been here since 1:30 yesterday, so when I say earlier I mean we spoke to it today. Some time in the last almost twenty-four-hour period since we have been here, we made references to it. I would like to pose a couple of questions again to the minister.

We talked in second reading about the need for the legal aid system. The Minister of Justice was quite helpful in his commentary, when he spoke and introduced the bill in second reading, and gave quite a bit of statistical information.

I happen to have with me the 2007-2008 copy of the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission report, which was filed with the minister, and I understand subsequently filed in the House here, which contained a whole pile of information. It told about how many offices we have in legal aid in the Province, told us how many staff we have, and our Legal Aid system has grown quite comprehensively in the last number of years – a very, very good growth.

We have offices now located – I think back at one time you had them in St. John's, Central, and one in Corner Brook, and I think that was about what you had, starting off years ago. Of course, the need was there, and as the resources became available and the government could afford, the government put more resources into the system. One of the consequences of that was not only in different programming that was adopted by government but also the administration piece grew, and the offices, the number of offices, increased throughout this Province so that many more geographic regions were represented over the course of time, rather than just Western, Central, and the Eastern Region.

We have them now in Gander, we have them in Clarenville, and we have them in Marystown, for example. We have a new system. The minister explained today, it is not in this report, but we have them up in Wabush. I indicated, when we chatted, that a friend of mine, actually, from Port aux Basques is actually working, operating and running the Legal Aid Office in Wabush, which has recently opened.

All of this leads to an access to justice, and that is what it is all about, because it is no good to have a justice system, it is no good to have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms in this country, if, when you get into trouble, you do not have some way to see that your rights are upheld.

It is all about being able, in the time of trouble, if you get into trouble, that your rights can be preserved; you have some way of not just being left hanging. There is a lot of stress usually associated when this happens, but it is a way of making sure that if you do not know the law, hopefully there will be someone there to help you through that. It could be something simple. It might be a minor offence or whatever. We are all subject, from time to time, that we get offences. It might be something like a speeding ticket. It might be talking on your cellphone, for example, when you are driving. It could be something that, albeit it is an offence, it is not an earth-shattering offence. It is not something that somebody is going to call you a reprobate over, versus, of course, if you commit serious crimes like home invasions, if you commit murder, and that kind of stuff. Regardless of what it is, if it is an offence, if it is a law, you ought to have someone explain it to you what that law is, and help you through the system if you have to go through a system.

Unfortunately - and I say this, it is unfortunate, very unfortunate - and the minister alluded to this today as well, the federal government have absolutely given up on their responsibility to properly fund the legal aid system of this Province - absolutely.

There are a lot of things, of course, that the current Conservative federal government have done that we might disagree with from time to time, and it has not only been the Conservative governments. You have to call it like it is. There have been federal Liberal governments who failed to uphold their responsibility to properly fund the system. I referred to some of these stats and statistics today.

When we started the legal aid system, the Government of Canada – because, by the way, most of these laws are Canadian made, government, federal laws. If you want to talk about the Criminal Code, for example, I would say about 80 per cent to 85 per cent of what goes through our court system here - we know that Provincial Courts are the workhorse of the system. About 95 per cent of everything that happens from a justice point of view, court point of view, happens in Provincial Courts in this Province, and about 80 per cent or 85 per cent of what happens there is federally made law, the Criminal Code being the principle one; and, of course, you have a lot of other statutes. Somebody could be charged with fishery violations. I know I prosecuted fishery violations for eighteen years. That is a federal made law. It could be the Aeronautics Act, which I also prosecuted. It is not a frequent crime committed in Newfoundland, of course, but it happens. We had several offences that occurred.

The point is, you have these federally created laws; people run afoul of these laws. We acknowledge as a country that we need a legal aid system that properly functions, but yet the federal government who made those laws do not fund the system, the legal aid system, so they can properly deal with the problem. Now, that is an absolute abrogation of your duties and your responsibilities. You talk about downloading. The federal government says: Here are all the laws that you are going to be subject to as residents of this country. Here are all the rights you have, vis-à-vis the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but you are on your own pretty well to deal with it. Don't look to us for any help when it comes to legal aid.

That is the point it has gotten to. The minister thought, in fact, that it has gone from 90 per cent in the early 1980s to the federal government now, today, only funding 16 per cent. Can you imagine? They are responsible for and create 85 per cent to 90 per cent of the laws that end up needing the legal aid, and yet they only put in 16 per cent of the funding that is required. What a totally abject situation.

I sympathize with the minister who gave great detail in second reading as to who he met with, what federal ministers he met with. He was not satisfied only to meet with the Minister of Justice. He met with the gentleman Stockwell Day, who is responsible for public protection, as I understand it, or security. Not only that; he also approached the Minister of Finance. He referred to his name, but his name escapes me right now. He is a federal MP. It is not Mr. Flaherty, that is the current Finance Minister, but it was the former Minister of Finance. I applaud the actions of the Minister of Finance for doing that. He just did not go whining and bawling to the federal Justice Minister. He actually took the extra step and went to the Minister of Finance, who holds the purse strings, and said: Look, can't you do something to improve this situation?

We all know, by the way, you go back to the history, we had the Liberal government in Ottawa, the Paul Martin government, that for years in the 1990s, the late 1990s, bragged about all the surpluses they had. Every year they would say, we think we are going to have a surplus of x numbers of dollars, maybe $1 billion, and when the truth was known and the figures came out it was usually three or four times as much, but did they ever take the time or the opportunity to put any of that surplus money into the legal aid system? No. They downloaded it onto the Province.

I did that same walk as the minister did. I did the same walk, did the same talk. I was Minister of Justice and went up and met with the federal Minister of Justice numerous times. Minister Cauchon from Quebec was the federal Minister of Justice at the time, and it fell on deaf ears.

Now, a lot of things in this Province, of course, we talk about the current state of relations between the Province and the federal government. I do not think this has anything to do with this. This is simply a case of the feds have turned their back on the legal aid system. That is all this is. It has nothing to do with personalities. It has nothing to do with how a certain Premier or a certain Prime Minister who might feel towards each other. This has been going on long before the current Premier ever got involved in politics, long before the current Prime Minister ever got involved in politics, so it is not something rooted in personal feelings or animosities and they decide to use it against each other. This situation has existed for years and years and, in fact, decades, but the fact that it has existed does not make the situation any easier.

I commented today about the Legal Aid Commission that we are fortunate enough to have, because unless you have the proper steering group in place who can give you some vision and give you some guidance as to where you want to go, you can put all the money you want into something, you can try to improve the system as much as you like, but it is not going to happen - you can even have the money sometimes and it still will not happen or it will not happen properly, in a timely fashion and proper - if you do not have the vision that it takes to get it done. In that regard, of course, we are very fortunate to have a Legal Aid Commission that has some pretty good persons on it.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I would like to remind the hon. member his speaking time has expired.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

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

I thank the government members for offering leave, but I notice the Leader of the Opposition would like to have a few more words on this particular issue, so I will take my seat now and allow her to speak.

Thank you.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I certainly do want to have a few words on Bill 15, An Act To Amend The Legal Aid Act.

Legal aid is a very important service to many people in this Province. In fact, it provides for a justice system for many people who cannot afford a system under any other circumstances. In fact, there are many families in this Province, and individuals, who often find themselves having to go before the courts, whether it be on child custody issues, whether it be on other issues that pertain to family situations, who often do not have any resources whatsoever to be able to retain legal representation in the courts of this Province.

What legal aid does is it provides that judicial representation. It provides that legal representation so that people get to have their day in court, regardless of their financial situation. That would be the ideal. It is certainly the intent of what the legal aid services provides. It is certainly what most people expect, but it is a far cry from what is reality.

For example, Mr. Chair, if you look at the statistics – I think this is for the last fiscal year, or the year before, I should say I guess, because we are into 2008-2009. This would have been 2008-2009, this is 2009-2010 - you would look at the fact that there were over 7,500 people in this Province who requested assistance from legal aid. That is a large percentage of people who needed the representation and legal representation within the court system. That was the number of people who made application to be able to receive legal aid. Of these 7,585 people who made an application to get legal aid services, of these, less than 4,000 were provided with a full service. Less than 4,000 were provided with a full service. That was for a number of reasons.

There are obviously criteria under which legal aid services are assessed to see if people can access those services. There are certain factors that are taken into consideration, such as the nature of the representation, along with factors such as the financial abilities of the individual or of the applicant to be able to provide for services themselves. The other piece, I guess, would be the availability of legal aid representation, because oftentimes there is a huge caseload. Oftentimes, there is going to be more demand than they are able to meet.

So, Mr. Chair, that is basically what legal aid is in the Province. What this bill does is it looks at amending the act in terms of substituting a few words. It is no big, major change, but it really is the substitution of a few words.

For example, Mr. Chair, the first amendment was made under section 48.(1) of the act. The first amendment involved the substitution of the word only in that section. For example, I will just read into the record, because what the act previously read was this: that the area director may grant legal aid to a person otherwise entitled to it in a summary conviction proceeding under an Act of the Parliament of Canada or of the Legislature where upon conviction there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earning a livelihood. That is basically the phrase that was written in the old act.

What is being proposed under this act, Mr. Chair, is a change. This is the change. It says, under section 48.(1) "The area director may only grant legal aid…" May only grant legal aid, this is the correction. In the first one it said area director may grant legal aid to a person otherwise entitled to it in a summary conviction proceeding. This one says: "The area director may only grant legal aid to a person otherwise entitled to it in a summary conviction proceeding under an Act of the Parliament of Canada or the Legislature where he or she is of the opinion that (a) there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earning a livelihood upon conviction." Again, they are restricting the availability of granting legal aid to a person by just changing that one word in section 48.(1) of the act.

The other thing, Mr. Chair, it says as well that: "The area director may only grant legal aid to a person otherwise entitled to it in a summary conviction proceeding under an Act of the Parliament of Canada or the Legislature where he or she is of the opinion that (b) because of extraordinary circumstances, it is in the interests of justice that the applicant be represented by counsel." So, Mr. Chair, that is really the change. The change is in adding the word only.

Now, Mr. Chair, this also says that for the purposes of paragraph 47(d), and that is 47(d) in the original bill. It states: "an offence that may be tried on indictment or on summary conviction shall be considered to be an offence triable on summary conviction until the time that the prosecution elects to proceed on indictment." That was number (2) of section 48, and what that spoke to was section 47(d) of the original act. In bringing in Bill 15 to amend clauses in that original act, it was important to clarify paragraph 47(d) and to outline that.

Mr. Chair, basically, the word only, as a substitution suggests that there was more room for the director to make considerations on individual cases in the old legislation. So, what this does is it provides a restriction. The interpretation of that particular paragraph now provides a restriction because it was interpreted that under the old legislation, because the word only was not there it gave the director more discretion. It obviously gave the director more discretion.

So, Mr. Chair, it should be under this particular legislation, by adding the word only, it means that they are placing more restrictions on those who can qualify, or that would be the way we would interpret it. Because by substituting that, you are telling the director at this stage that they can only grant legal aid to persons who fall within these two categories and that it is the opinion that there is a likelihood of imprisonment. So if it is someone who is more than likely going to go to prison, or they have lost all means in which they can earn a living upon being convicted, then in a case like that you would be eligible for legal aid.

The only other circumstance that is listed, Mr. Chair, in which the director may only grant legal aid to a person, is because of an extraordinary circumstance. Now I do not know how extraordinary circumstances are defined in this bill, but I am sure my colleague, when he stands to speak, will certainly be able to enlighten us as to what extraordinary circumstances are.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I would like to remind the hon. member that her speaking time has expired.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Could I get time to clue up my comments?

CHAIR: Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: The member has leave.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ten minutes goes awful quickly when you are trying to make some important points on a bill, I must say.

This particular piece talks about conditions under which a director may only grant legal aid, and I was talking about extraordinary circumstances. I am not entirely sure, from this bill in front of me, in fact, what those extraordinary circumstances would be. Maybe it is outlined in the longer bill or the original bill, and maybe someone could clarify that as we go through.

Mr. Chair, when there are extraordinary circumstances, I guess that are defined by the original legislation, then it is in the interests of justice that the applicant have representation, only then will the director have the ability to grant legal aid. That change could restrict some people from being able to access the service. I think there would have to be careful evaluation of that under the particular legislation, and I think that there would have to be some consideration given.

I just cannot help but look at the old legislation on legal aid and to know that the service would not be granted unless there is a possible defence to the charge, unless there is a likelihood of imprisonment or loss of means of earnings, a livelihood upon conviction, only in the case that there are in existence circumstances that would serve to mitigate the severity of the penalty that may be imposed and because of extraordinary circumstances it is in the interests of justice that the applicant be represented by counsel. Now under new legislation, only (b) and (c) would be considered.

Mr. Chair, obviously, again, another important bill. I would be interested to know if by substituting the word: only, in this bill if we are indeed restricting people from accessing legal aid services because if we are, that is an important consideration. As we know, out of the 7,500 people that made application for legal aid services there was less than 4,000 of them that were granted full service. So there were over 3,500 people who had to go without service, even without the amendments to the act. So with this new amendment, will there be more people that will not be able to access that service and will be shut out? We will be looking for some clarification I guess from the Minister of Justice on that before he closes the committee portion of the debate.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few more words with respect to Bill 15. The section we are dealing with here, to be called section 48, talks about area directors. What happens in the process of course, is these offices that I alluded to earlier that are situated in different places around the Province, Marystown, Wabush, Corner Brook, Gander, Central for example, they all have a person in charge and that person is the area director. What we are saying is that the area director – you make an application and somebody decides if you meet certain criteria to get legal aid. What they are saying here is that the area director can only decide under certain circumstances whether you get legal aid or not. Now, it is pretty broad - and I appreciate, by the way, the minister's explanation of yesterday when I said there were four earlier classifications and he explained that no, there are only two now but nothing has been left out and deleted because they are both now included in the one. So I appreciate that explanation. I obviously had not read it clearly enough and carefully enough yesterday and I appreciate his straightening me out on that issue.

You talk about what the area director can and cannot do. The word only is very crucial here, because he can only consider it if there is a likelihood of imprisonment. Now, when we are talking about summary conviction offences, and that is what we are talking about here; we are not talking about indictable offences. We are talking about in the case of a summary conviction offence, which are the lesser type of offences versus indictable, which are the more serious type of offences, that in those circumstances, summary conviction proceedings, he has to look at a range of things and he has to formulate an opinion. He has to decide, for example, is there a likelihood of imprisonment? Under a lot of summary conviction offences, imprisonment is not always the case; in fact, to the contrary. In a lot of summary conviction offences if it is a first offender, there is no imprisonment, generally speaking. So, he has to weigh the circumstances. This individual A, who is looking for coverage, is he a first-time offender on a summary conviction charge, or is he or she someone who - albeit, if they are charged with summary convictions here, they might have a record as long as their arm. If that is the case, of course, the lengthy previous convictions, if there is a conviction on this summary conviction proceeding, the judge who is doing the sentencing is going to look at that history. So in that case, because it is not a first offender, you are talking about a person who has been in extensive trouble with the law and has an extensive record. He may well be facing likelihood of imprisonment.

The area director has to look at the circumstances of the individual who is applying for the legal aid to see what the prospects of that imprisonment might be or the likelihood of it. The other thing he has to look at is: Will there be a loss of earning, loss of means of earning a livelihood upon conviction? Because a lot of times in our system, if someone is before the courts and they are charged with a summary conviction offence, if the judge is going to incarcerate that person, for example, or impose conditions on that person, or a conviction leads to automatic consequences which might impact that person's ability to make a living, that is a circumstance that the area director will look at and make a decision, again. Because there might be a very good possibility then that he would say: okay, we cannot leave these people destitute. That individual destitute, because it is not only him who is impacted and his earnings compromised. If he goes off to jail as a result of a conviction, there might kids, there might be a family that is impacted by that. So we might, in those circumstances, consider that he is going to get legal aid.

Now, likely he has to apply some subjective judgement to the (b) part of this. It says, "because of extraordinary circumstances, it is in the interests of justice that the applicant be represented by counsel." Now that is a circumstance where you would have to know the specifics. In other words, he cannot judge it in advance. He has to know, the individual has to apply and the individual has to outline what the circumstances are. It might have nothing to do with the imprisonment piece. It might have nothing to do with the loss of earnings piece. It might be some circumstance that the area director says: look, the ends of justice would be served here by appointing counsel for this particular individual.

As I say, that is a subjective judgement based upon that area director having all of the information that he or she can have. I say she, but I am not certain if there are any area directors in the Province, actually. In any case, the area director, regardless if it is a male or a female, has to make that decision. It seems in that case to be a little bit restrictive in terms of legal aid. I was familiar with the system of course but a lot of people are under the mistaken impression in our Province that legal aid only applies to criminal cases. Actually, we discussed this yesterday, and I had a few e-mails myself from someone saying: My God, I was not aware of that. Was not aware that you can, in certain situations, access legal aid in this Province, and it has nothing to do with criminal law. It could be a family law matter.

In fact, we have several initiatives of the Legal Aid Commission in the last number of years that deals with things vastly different than criminal law. For example, we have mental health projects, we have the Aboriginal project, we have the French speaking project. We have family and child legal aid services. We have established that in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. We have a system in Central and last year they established a system in Western. So that is not criminal related. That is legal aid which can be accessed and it deals exclusively wi