December 14, 2009           HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS       Vol. XLVI   No. 39


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Before we proceed with regular routine proceedings, I have the pleasant task today of formally welcoming a new member who has been duly elected in a by-election. The new member is Mr. Sandy Collins, representing the District of Terra Nova. I have been advised by the Clerk of the House of Assembly that Mr. Collins has taken the Oath of Office and the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown as required by the Constitution, and has signed the Members' Roll.

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present to you today, Mr. Sandy Collins, the new Member for Terra Nova, who claims the right to take his seat.

MR. SPEAKER: Allow the hon. member to take his seat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: I would also like to extend a special welcome to the family of the hon. Member for the District of Terra Nova who is seated in the Speaker's gallery.

Today the House of Assembly would also like to welcome two special guests joining us for today's session in the public gallery. They are: Mr. Jerry Dean, Mayor of Botwood; Mr. Scott Sceviour, Deputy Mayor of Botwood.

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Today we welcome, as well, the following members' statements: the hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North; the hon. the Member for the District of Ferryland; the hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave; the hon. the Member for the District of Topsail; the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East; and the hon. the Member for the District of Bellevue.

The hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to congratulate Rufus Genge and his family from Anchor Point on the launch of their fishing vessel: KMKA Voyager.

The Genge family has been fishing at Anchor Point since William Genge built his big house some 200 years ago. Rufus Genge, who is now seventy-two, started out as a boy in a trapskiff and stayed with the fishery all his life. He says the launch of the KMKA Voyager is not only a dream for him and his father, but also represents the future for his son, Theodore, and his family.

Mr. Speaker, this modern sixty-nine foot dragger was built on the beach in Anchor Point by owners and operators, Theodore and Rodney Genge; master boat builder, Warne Marsh; boat painter, Darren Fillier, Jason Sharpe, Dave Simms, Grant Simms and Calvin Clark.

Built for the future, the KMKA Voyager has increased fuel efficiency and stability and is built to endure the harsh conditions of the Labrador Coast. It has also been named for the future as KMKA stands for Theodore's grandchildren: Kaitlyn, Matthew and Kyle Genge, and Aiden Hughes, who will no doubt carry on the legacy of the Genge family with fishing off the Northern Peninsula.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in congratulating the Genge family on this remarkable accomplishment, and extend best wishes for continued success as they now prepare the interior of the vessel for their first trawler load in the spring.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to recognize and congratulate the Town of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove on receiving a Tidy Town award. Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove is a picturesque community steeped in unique traditions and history bordering the Atlantic. It is one of the first fishing villages in Newfoundland and Labrador, with its rich fishing history dating back to the 1600s.

This award recognizes the outstanding efforts that the town has made in preserving the natural and cultural heritage of their town and residence. I have experienced on many occasions the devotion of the town's major, councillors and volunteers and the pride shown by residents of the area. This past summer, the weekend of August 4–6, I had the opportunity to attend the Arts and Heritage Festival in the town. This festival was a weekend of activities showcasing the arts and heritage of the town, which was a huge success.

The Tidy Town Program contributes to the promotion of our wonderful Province and the involvement of residents to take action and become actively engaged in beautification efforts to improve our communities.

The Town of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove and its residents have, and I am sure will continue to work tirelessly to make improvements to their town to make it vibrant for future generations.

I ask all hon. members of this House to join me in congratulating the Town of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, on Friday, December 11, I had the honour of joining the Premier, as well as the Member for Kilbride and the Member for Mount Pearl North at the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Ceremony.

The event took place at GlenDenning Golf Club where forty-one awards and six certificates of recognition were presented. All achievers were participating in the award under the special needs initiative.

The following achievers from the District of Port de Grave were presented with their awards. In the bronze award: Jonathon Dawe, Coley's Point; Jonathon Gushue, Spaniard's Bay; Ryan Maynard of Shearstown; Laura Vokey, Spaniard's Bay. The silver award: Miranda Brown, Shearstown; Calvin Galway, Clarke's Beach; Paul Milley, Clarke's Beach; Dylan Noseworthy, Bay Roberts. In the gold award: Shawn Dawson of Clarke's Beach, and Bradley Rose of Coley's Point. All achievers were from the Ascension Collegiate School.

Truly an event to remember, Mr. Speaker, as all participants so proudly received their awards. Each of them have, and will continue to work hard, as they accept and meet new challenges.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in extending congratulations to all those involved in making this event such a tremendous success, and in particular, to the forty-one achievers who received such a prestigious award. To all involved: Take the Challenge, Live the Achievement.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Villa Nova Junior High School in Conception Bay South has a long history on the beautiful shores of Conception Bay. It is located next to historic Manuels River and provides a quality education to over 600 students in Grades 5 to 8.

In September 2009, Today's Parent magazine named Villanova Junior High as one of the top twenty schools in Canada. Readers nominated schools in a range of categories developed by a panel of teachers, parents and education experts. Editors with the magazine poured over submissions to make the short list.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Barry Jenkins, Principal of Villanova Junior High, made the cut. Having previously worked in the information technology field, equipping classrooms with computers and interactive whiteboards has been a priority for Barry. He was also commended for his attention to detail, his willing to collaborate, his concern for each and every student and his timeless leadership.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this hon. House to join me in congratulating Mr. Barry Jenkins on being selected by Today's Parent magazine as a passionate principal, and Villanova Junior High School for being selected as one of the top twenty schools in Canada.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUCKINGHAM: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize 100 years of dedicated public service by the Last Post Fund which ensures that no eligible veteran is deprived of a dignified funeral, burial and headstone for lack of financial resources.

The Last Post Fund was started in 1909 in Montreal by a small group of volunteers dedicated to the ideal that veterans receive the respectful recognition at the end of their lives that they have earned with their service and sacrifice.

Throughout its 100-years history, the Fund's ideals have expanded internationally and it has arranged burials and grave markers for over 145,000 veterans in over eight countries.

In 1921, the Last Post Fund began to receive regular government financial assistance and since 1995, the Fund has been administering the Funeral and Burial Program of Veterans Affairs Canada. It augments this program through private donations.

Mr. Speaker, the Last Post Fund recognizes the importance of honouring those who served our country and keeps their memory alive for future generations. In Newfoundland alone, this past year, the Last Post Fund has helped over 100 families of veterans with funeral expenses.

Mr. Speaker, my attention today is not only to recognize the contributions of the Last Post Fund but also to inform the public and members of this House of this valuable public service for our eligible veterans who meet criteria.

Therefore, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating the Last Post Fund on 100 years of doing the right thing, for in the end, isn't that what really counts?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to honour four town councillors in my district for their long-term service award.

Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Allison Temple of the Town of Norman's Cove-Long Cove has twenty-five years of service. She has fourteen years as the mayor, one year as deputy mayor, and a councillor for fifteen years and is presently still serving as a member of council.

Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Mary Hackett of the Town of English Harbour East has served on that council for twenty-five years. She has served as mayor for three years and as a councillor for twenty-two years. Mary is still serving on the council of English Harbour East today.

Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Rebecca Hickey has served on the Town Council of Terrenceville for thirty years. She had sixteen years as mayor and fourteen years as a deputy mayor. Mrs. Hickey left office with a record to be commended and is still an active member of her community.

Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Theresa Clarke, a councillor of Terrenceville with thirty years of service is still serving with the Town Council of Terrenceville. She is a very committed volunteer to her community.

These four ladies are commendable leaders in the communities in which they serve. They generate a lot of energy not only on the town councils but for numerous organizations throughout their community.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members of this House to join me in congratulating these four remarkable ladies and thanking them for their many years of service on council, but also for their countless dedicated hours to other volunteer organizations that they serve throughout their community.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this hon. House to acknowledge and thank our Province's health care professionals for their hard work and dedication over the last number of weeks as our Province experienced the second wave of H1N1 infection.

With only six weeks having elapsed since we started to feel the effects of the H1N1 virus in our Province, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that approximately 333,967 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been vaccinated, which equates -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: - which equates, Mr. Speaker, to over 66 per cent of our population. This is indeed a great accomplishment and one which is unparalleled in the rest of this country. While we believe we have reached the height of what we might see for this second wave of the pandemic, we must continue to remain vigilant in preventing any future spread.

Mr. Speaker, a number of our residents in this Province have been affected by the H1N1 virus. While most experienced mild illness, there were others who were hospitalized. Mr. Speaker, unfortunately H1N1 resulted in the loss of life. We cannot forget those Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have been so gravely affected by this virus. I extend my condolences to the families and friends of these individuals.

Mr. Speaker, immunization is our best line of defence against the H1N1 flu virus, and it is effective in reducing severe illness and death. Even after a large second wave, many people may not have been infected and therefore they will remain susceptible to infection unless they are immunized. For this reason, Mr. Speaker, I am encouraging all residents, if they have not done so already, to roll up their sleeves and get the H1N1 flu vaccine. The more people vaccinated in our Province, the better chance we have of avoiding any future waves of illness.

While we experienced some early bumps in the road with immunization clinics, we adopted plans along the way to accommodate the vaccine shortage. I commend all of our health care workers for their professionalism and dedication, Mr. Speaker, in rolling out the vaccination program with success, and providing quality care for our residents. I am very proud of the team effort by all.

I would also like to thank the residents of our Province, Mr. Speaker, for taking the threat of H1N1 seriously and lining up to receive the vaccine, and for having patience with the process. Everyone pulled together with a united effort to protect our families, friends and neighbours.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the minister for a copy of his statement today. Mr. Speaker, we too want to recognize those individuals in our Province who were out there dealing with this crisis and administering medication to patients. We know, Mr. Speaker, that being on the front lines was not always an easy job, especially in days when vaccines were short and line-ups were long, but I think they showed their commitment and their dedication as professionals in caring for the people of our Province, and, Mr. Speaker, we are pleased to recognize that and to congratulate them.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to recognize and congratulate the minister today, who handled this issue in a very difficult time in the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, any time there is a pandemic in a province, there is never any written procedures or rulebooks as to deal with a lot of these things, and it really depends upon the leadership that is often brought to the issue. I want to recognize the minister and Dr. Faith Stratton and those people who advised them in the professional field in this Province for managing this through a very difficult time, and ensuring the life and safety of the people of our Province.

Mr. Speaker, even though we have lost some individuals as a result of this sickness, I, too, want to offer my condolences to those families, and to say to the minister that sometimes there are always things that we can never help, no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we work, to ensure that all the proper protocols are in place.

Mr. Speaker, I think Newfoundlanders and Labradorians by far are proud, not only of the people who work the frontlines but also of the people who managed our Province through this crisis.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. I am very happy to join with him in thanking the health care professionals who worked so hard to get people immunized. I join with the Leader of the Official Opposition for thanking the minister for his role in that as well. I am glad that he does recognize and acknowledges that government, that there were bumps in the road as they got the whole program underway and that government has learned from those bumps, and I guess the professionals in the system as well.

Armed with the knowledge from H1N1, government will be able to correct the problems identified in the 2007 report on pandemic planning that was done by the Department of Health. I know the minister will recall that the report stated that we have limited, quote unquote, surge capacity in our health care system to deal with pandemics. I would be interested in knowing how the government will deal in future with the demands placed on community health nurses who were taken away from their regular work, and they had to be. I am not saying it should not have happened, but they did have to be taken away from their regular work in communities to work on immunization. It did mean the temporary cancellation of some very important community services, such as programs for pregnant women and new mothers. So I look forward to hearing more from the minister as they do future planning for meeting similar circumstances for dealing with regular programming while pandemics or like emergencies have to be dealt with.

I, too, would like to pass my condolences to families in the Province who did lose loved ones. I pass that on also to those who lose loved ones from the regular flu as well because as we know, influenza, whether it is the H1N1 virus or other viruses, is a killer. I know the government will continue to do everything in its power to lessen the possibility of deaths from any flu.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I hope my critics are as nice as the last two who just spoke; I can assure you of that.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to update you on recent discoveries pertaining to archaeological dig in Cupids, and plans to celebrate that community's 400th anniversary in 2010.

Mr. Speaker, Cupids is the birthplace of English Canada; the site of the oldest English colony established in this country. In 1995, archaeologist Bill Gilbert and his team from the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation discovered the original site of John Guy's 1610 Cuper's Cove Plantation and, since that time, more than 145,000 artifacts have been unearthed and catalogued. The team has discovered the remains of the dwelling house and storehouse built by John Guy in 1610, three other early seventeenth century structures, evidence of a blacksmith's shop, a cemetery, a stone defence wall and, just this fall, what may be the remains of a gun battery.

There is also a will, Mr. Speaker, recently discovered in the British National Archives, of a man named James Hill, perhaps one of the first Cuper's Cove colonists, or most certainly a direct descendant. The will, written at Cupids, and dated March 4, 1674, provides valuable information about Cupids in the seventeenth century.

These discoveries have brought even more media attention to Cupids, following last month's visit of their Royal Highnesses, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. All this bodes well for the planned Cupids 400 celebration in 2010, which will include a number of special events and activities, and culminate in week-long festivities to be held August 17 to 22.

Mr. Speaker, the Cupids 400 celebration is not just a plan to mark an historic event. This will be a significant milestone in the history of our Province; one that we expect will boost tourism and generate future economic opportunities. This is a chance for us to showcase to the world the rich history, heritage and culture which exists in Cupids and throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Province has, to date, budgeted more than $3.8 million towards this anniversary event and activities, and in the construction of the Cupids Legacy Centre. The centre will be the future home of the Cupids museum, the archaeology lab, and interpretative exhibits focusing on our early English history. It is an investment in Cupids; an investment in the economic future of surrounding areas, and, indeed, an investment in ourselves.

Mr. Speaker, it is high time the true significance of John Guy's Plantation in Cupids was recognized provincially, nationally and internationally, and I invite all of my colleagues in this House to promote this upcoming occasion at every opportunity, and to celebrate with us in 2010.

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 advance copy of his brief.

It is not only important, of course, for the Town of Cupids - which indeed it is, and I understand the town residents there are very, very proud of this event - it is indeed a significant event for the Province, and this Province has had a long history of celebrating historic occasions. We have had the Cabot celebrations, we have had the Bob Bartlett one this year, we have had the Marconi celebrations, and the Access North celebrations. All of these, of course, not only do they recognize a particular event but they also are great economic generators. They create employment. They bring money into the area, and hopefully this one as well will bring thousands of visitors to our Province and to the Cupids area.

Congratulations to all those involved and may it be a roaring success.

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

Cupids 2010 is an extremely important anniversary, not just for us here in this Province but in the whole North American context. We only have to look at sites such as Williamsburg in the United States and Louisburg in Cape Breton to see how important it is to celebrate and promote our own site here in Canada internationally and as well in our Province.

One of the ways to help us understand our heritage better is, one, to take advantage of archeologically sites that we have in the Province and bring our children through our school system to these sites. The other is to do more teaching of history of Newfoundland and Labrador in the school system, starting with compulsory Newfoundland and Labrador history on all levels, from elementary to high school. We also need to ensure that the schools have the resources to take the students to the historic sites that we have here in our Province, some of which are under provincial management, some under federal management. We have such a rich history.

The minister is very interested in history, as he said in his interview on Saturday morning. Good work, minister, in your interview Saturday morning. I hope he takes this interest to new heights, both in his department and working with the Minister of Education.

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.

On Friday, government announced that significant fabrication work originally scheduled to be completed in this Province related to the Hebron project had been cancelled.

I ask the Premier today: Was Nalcor a part of the decision as an equity partner, and if not, when was government made aware of this loss of work?

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, as equity partners we have said many times we have a right to sit at the table, and Nalcor was at the table with the partners when this decision was made. The Province was first notified that this change was being contemplated, Mr. Speaker, in September.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister also stated that the operators will have to complete an equal amount of work within the Province or pay an equivalent amount of money to the government.

I ask the minister: Where in the benefits agreement is this outlined, and if it is contained in the agreement why do government need to make further amendments to the original contract?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, when we negotiate these benefits agreements we negotiate very specific pieces of work that have to be done here within the Province, and very specific percentages of work. I do not have the agreement with me, so I cannot give her the number within the agreement to where this section is referred. Overall, we know very clearly and have very definite goals in our benefits agreement. When it became necessary to modify the project and therefore have an effect on the amount of work that was to be done here in the Province, there is a sub-agreement that allows us then to go back in and renegotiate new benefits to replace the ones that are being lost.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe the minister could provide those sections of the agreement to me after Question Period.

Mr. Speaker, there are often different opinions between companies and governments as to the value of expected work and how much needs to be replaced or paid out in the form of compensation when these things happen.

I ask the minister: What was the assessed value by the government of these cancelled contracts and can she disclose that amount to me?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As to the whole benefits agreement, I will certainly provide to the Leader of the Opposition the pieces of it that are not commercially sensitive once the day moves on.

The answer to the second part of her remarks is the same, Mr. Speaker. We have expertise within our department that is used on a regular basis to determine the benefits, the types of work, the person hours involved and so on. We have not released the amount of money concerning the part of the project that now needs to be redesigned because it is commercially sensitive information, particularly at this time, Mr. Speaker, when we have tenders being let.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would beg to differ with the minister; that the assessed value of cancelled contracts would be sensitive information at this point and we would certainly expect that that information could be made public.

Mr. Speaker, the value of fabrication work and materials is one aspect, but there are also the value of salaries and wages that would be paid out to employees who would have worked on these contracts as well as the spin-off effects. In fact, Mr. Speaker, there was supposed to be a pre-drilling program associated with the project that would have created significant direct and indirect benefits for local drilling and supply service companies.

So, I ask the minister: What value will the proponents be expected to replace, only the material cost on the contracts or will they be expected to compensate for all of the associated salaries and benefits of displaced workers, as well as the spin-off benefits from cancelled programs like the pre-drilling program?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question because it is only under this government that very specific commitments have ever been negotiated with regard to our offshore. Previous to this government, all previous governments did was commit to best efforts to do certain types of work. We have ironclad, fast commitments. We allow the project operators the flexibility to do the work, and to do the work properly and in a timely way, and the value that is assigned is not only with the fabrication materials but it is also with the labour that is required to do the work, Mr. Speaker. So, all of that has been taken into account.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the minister again: Would this also pertain to any of the spin-off benefits or contracts like the pre-drilling program? Will there be compensation for the cancellation of that program?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When we contemplate the benefits that are associated with the project we contemplate the direct benefits. Spin off is not something that we count in the benefit to the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to point out that while a certain amount of benefit will be lost in the Hebron project with regard to the pre-drilling template, the operators will identify opportunities within the project itself to make up that value or a cheque will be made payable to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to be used in a construction project, thereby creating more employment and more work for the people of Newfoundland that has something to do with offshore oil and gas.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

One of the communities that have expressed concern with these cancelled contracts is the Town of Marystown. This is an area where the shipyard, in particular, was expecting a significant amount of the fabrication, and obviously, depending upon it.

I ask the minister: What impact will this have on communities like Marystown, in the shipyard, in particular, and its workforce? What is the estimated loss to the local economy in that area, and can they expect, as well, to be compensated for this loss of work?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, some of these questions are better put to the operators to explain the scope of work, the magnitude of work, the kind of expertise that is required and the kind of services that are going to be required to do this work. All we can do, as a government, is negotiate an offshore oil and gas project with specific benefits around the kind of work that is required to construct. In this case, Mr. Speaker, modification needs to be made in order to reduce delays and proper execution.

In terms of speculating who would have gotten contracts, what kind of benefits that would have meant to other communities, is beyond the scope, I would say, Mr. Speaker, of not only the partners, but the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. What we are doing, though, is ensuring that the commitments that were made by Hebron in terms of fiscal expenditures, the monies that they were going to spend around –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS DUNDERDALE: – this work in the Province, Mr. Speaker, are going to be spent here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Without going to any of the other partners, I think government should definitely know what they can be compensated for and what the economic loss will be in the Province, in particular, to areas like Marystown.

Mr. Speaker, with a different development concept, there often come potential delays or changes in development timelines. I ask the minister today: Does government expect that there will be any associated delays with the Hebron project timelines now that the configuration has been changed?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have been told by the partners that there will be some time loss, but that would be very insignificant and there will not be any great delay to the development of the Hebron project.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Earlier in this session, we asked government to move quickly to settle a strike taking place on the Burin Peninsula that is having a significant impact on fourteen NAPE workers and the fourteen disabled clients that they assist through the supported employment program. These workers have already agreed to government's monetary template, but are striking to stop Treasury Board's attempt to remove them from the provincial government's classification system.

I ask the Minister of Finance today: Are you willing to allow these workers to remain in the classification system and to end this strike before Christmas?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, the employer, the government and NAPE all value the work that these work facilitators and job coaches do in Marystown, indeed, what the job coaches do in Bay St. George and in Stephenville and all over Newfoundland and Labrador. Government has been supporting employment corporations for over twenty-five years.

Mr. Speaker, this dispute is about compensation. The government in this particular case, because of the Public Service Collective Bargaining Act, government is named as the negotiator; they are not the employer. These job coaches are not employees of the public sector, they are not our employees but in this case the employer has made a very fair and generous offer in excess of 20 per cent. We feel that is more than fair and generous in the circumstances.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister also knows that even though funding is provided to a non-profit board to run these programs, that they have no involvement in settling these outstanding issues. It is government's demand right now to remove these employees from the classification system that is provoking the strike.

I ask you, Minister: Why are you continuing to insist that fourteen employees be removed from the classification system when no other bargaining unit was asked to do the same in this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, there are many organizations in the Province that offer valued services which are complementary to core services that government provides. These services can best be managed and can best be delivered by community-based organizations.

Classification, Mr. Speaker, in the end result, is all about compensation. Compensation in this case has to be fair and reasonable. The employer in this case has, in fact, made an offer which most people in these very uncertain economic times would accept is more than fair and reasonable.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The issue is not around monetary salaries, they have already accepted that, it is really around the classification system and where that leads them in the future.

Mr. Speaker, what is unfortunate about this is that there are a number of disabled clients who are caught in the middle and can no longer work without these facilitators being there with them everyday.

I ask the minister: Instead of causing such disruption in the lives of all of these individuals, why will government not continue to move forward leaving the agreement around classification systems in place? After all, it was you, Minister, and your government who demanded that it be there two years ago.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has said in this House on a previous occasion that government demanded this. Government did not demand this; this was something that the union had asked for.

All of these organizations that provide these complementary services which are complementary to the core services that government performs, there is a number of them: group homes, transition homes - Stella Burry, for example.

The employees of those organizations, as I have said repeatedly in this House, are not employees of government, they are not public servants. Therefore, the negotiation, the compensation is provided by the employers, not by government. They are not public servants. I know that NAPE continues to try to argue that they are, but the fact is they have not been for twenty-five years.

The offer made is fair and generous in these circumstances.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

These workers still fall within the collective services bargaining act which is the responsibility of government.

Minister, while other employees have this clause in these agreements I have no idea why government is insistent in keeping these workers in the street, keeping disabled people off their jobs when you could easily fix this and allow for them to continue having this clause in their agreement.

Again, I appeal to you today: Will you not do that and settle the strike before Christmas?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, some of these employment corporations are, in fact, unionized by NAPE and certified under the Labour Relations Act. In this particular case, they happen to be certified under the Public Service Collective Bargaining Act which means that government has a role, but the role is as negotiator, whereas NAPE is a negotiator for the employees, the Collective bargaining division of government is a negotiator for the employer corporation.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, 20 per cent over four years is, in these times, a fair and generous offer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

On Friday, the Minister of Justice stated that a review of the probation system would be launched after significant monitoring issues were identified.

Minister, why was the individual recently apprehended in Ontario on a murder charge not being properly monitored by our probation system, and have you initiated an investigation into that particular incident?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out from the beginning that our probation officers are very professional people, well-trained and doing a great job. I have met with a number of them over the last few weeks and I am impressed with their enthusiasm, the positive outlook and their work ethic, so this review is not a disciplinary matter, Mr. Speaker, having to do with the probation officer. This is a review to examine the whole probation system to determine if there are systemic challenges or concerns in the probation system that we can work on and improve to make conditions better for the probation officers that we already have.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I wonder if the minister could tell us: What is the current process for tracking down people on probation who have not reported to their probation officers?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: My understanding of the system, Mr. Speaker, is that there are various methods of monitoring the person under probation. The whole purpose of probation, Mr. Speaker, is to rehabilitate the releasee and integrate that person back into society.

The hon. member, as a lawyer, and a former Attorney General would know full well that these methods include visitation through probation officers, visitation to the houses, the homes of the individuals, electronic surveillance, and so on. When someone slips through the probation system or is unaccountable for, an arrest warrant is issued. After all other attempts are made, Mr. Speaker, an arrest warrant is issued and the police are contacted.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Back in May of this year, we asked the former Minister of Justice questions regarding inadequate monitoring and workload facing our probation officers when we had another tragic death that occurred in this Province as a result of someone who was not complying with his probation orders.

The former minister, in May of this year, said at that time in this House that he would undertake a review of the system. Here we are now in December and another minister is saying they are going to do the review. Was the review done six months ago, and if not, why not?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, following the reference of the hon. the Opposition House Leader, a number of things happened in the system to address some of the adjustments that were needed in probations with regard to hiring new people, moving people around, spreading caseloads and that sort of thing. So, a lot of things happened as a result of that.

Mr. Speaker, this probation - violations of probation happen every day. All the probation officers in the world are not going to prevent probation violations. You go down to the Atlantic Place any time, any day of the week, Mr. Speaker, the docket is filled with probation violations. It is the nature of the business. Our attempt is to try to reduce it and integrate people back into society, but we are never going to completely eliminate violations of probation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

With all due respect to the minister's answer, I would say the job that the Justice department has to do is to make sure that our probation system is working properly, not say that we are going to be accepting of things that do not work out.

I ask the minister: Since May of this year, when the former minister undertook to the do the review, has there been any specific investments in monitoring bracelets? Have any new probation officers been hired in this Province, and if so, how many, and how much?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, there are thirty-six adult probation officers in this Province, including three temporary ones. At the end of the November, an additional adult probation officer was hired in Grand Falls-Windsor to help alleviate the caseloads up there. Prior to this hiring, he had been assisting with cases in Grand Falls-Windsor.

The caseload average is between fifty and sixty, Mr. Speaker. Numbers vary from region to region. Gander office has two officers, and some realignment of caseloads have been made in Central Newfoundland, because you can use the office up there to move in that particular locale.

Mr. Speaker, this review is made in response, as the member mentioned, to an incident that happened recently. Mr. Speaker, this government is in the business of responding. It responded to the Lamer Inquiry, it responded to the Cameron Inquiry, it responded to Decades of Darkness, it responded then, it is responding now and will respond in the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

We are well aware that government responded to the Lamer Inquiry, but it was not this government, it was the former Liberal Administration that responded with the Lamer Inquiry.

Mr. Speaker, my last question for the minister. Minister, on Friday past, you committed to doing a review of the probation system. I ask you at this time, Minister: Would you commit to having this review done arm's-length from the Department of Justice rather than just having an internal review?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the hon. member this is not an internal review. There will be an external reviewer appointed. We do not have the name yet, but it will be hopefully in the next few days.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There has been two failed attempts at contracting out used tire collection, transportation and processing recycling functions with private operators. While talks have apparently gone nowhere, the cost of storing tires has escalated and actual recovery of used tires has decreased.

During the Estimates in May 2008, and again, during the Estimates in May 2009, the Minister of Environment stated that an announcement was imminent on the used tire program, and we have heard nothing since.

I ask the minister: What is the status of that deal you were going to announce over a year-and-a-half ago?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is correct; there have been two failed attempts to tires and they have happened while that government was in power. That is why it is so important that when we do this, we do it right and take our time and do it right.

This is a problem that all jurisdictions are dealing with throughout North America. New Brunswick have their problems; Nova Scotia just recently announced tire derived aggregate. As you know, we just recently announced a new CEO for the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board and when he was in to have the first meeting with me, I asked that this be top priority.

We are working on a solution to the problem. There are a few roadblocks along the way, but it is very important that we do this right so we do not end up with the two failed attempts that the previous government ended up with.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, I guess I just got the announcement, and I will get to the question I am going to ask in this year's Estimates.

The Auditor General noted that since the inception of the Used Tire Recycling Program, the MMSB has spent close to all the money in storage costs. Storage costs are increasing each year and there are questions as to whether the tire recycling program may pay out more money than it collects in revenues.

I ask the minister: Is government planning to raise existing tire levies to afford the rising cost of storing tires?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, the fee that is paid for tires is not only for storing tires. Yes, $900,000 is spent towards storing tires, but that is also for the unloading, the proper storage according to fire codes, as well as having twenty-four hour security on-site at the Placentia site.

You also have to remember too, Mr. Speaker, that some of this money goes toward collecting tires at over 600 locations in this Province so that when the plan is announced, all of the tires will be in one location. It will be a great start for the new operator who will be using these tires.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, there has been frustration expressed over the lack of programs to recycle tires from ATVs, forklifts and others off-road equipment. Although government has made an exemption for tires, or that is my understanding, to be sent to landfills, many landfill operators do not accept them.

I ask the minister: Has government made a decision on how to deal with those tires?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, while considering the tire plan for the future, we are also considering all options for ATV tires and off the road tires, or OTR tires. Once that plan is released, that will include those two types of tires as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to follow up with our Minister of Tourism on the questions on Thursday. In February of this year the Province released a long-term tourism strategy entitled: Uncommon Potential - A Vision for Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, which resulted in a changed mandate for our four destination marketing organizations.

Mr. Speaker, this change in mandate resulted in the elimination of a position of marketing co-ordinator on the Northern Peninsula, which I referred to on Thursday. In a news release on the weekend, the Executive Director of the WDMO stated that the contractual position was not renewed because the WDMO was forced to decide what it could afford and what its mandate is.

I would ask the minister today: Why was it necessary to change the mandate of the western DMO, thus resulting in the elimination of this position?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. Last year we put in $175,000 to the western DMO to offer professional marketing advice to all sorts of groups in the Western Region, and I hope I get a follow-up question because I have to get into a couple of e-mails that were sent to me on the weekend reminding us of what a great job we are doing, in particular in his area of the Province.

Thank you very much.

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, it was a year ago today that the Burin-Marystown Community Training and Employment Board and its job coach employees reached an agreement and notified government of the agreement within the ultimatum deadline announced by the then Minister of Finance for reaching settlements under the 20 per cent wage offer of 2008. Mr. Speaker, they presented an agreement in good faith, based on the Public Service Collective Bargaining Act under which the workers are certified.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Why a year later his government has not ratified the agreement reached by the board who employs these workers and the union that represents them?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, the union in Marystown-Burin is certified under the Public Service Collective Bargaining Act. Under that act, the only difference under that act is that government is a negotiator; we are still not the employer. Negotiations have taken place. They have gone on for a long time. The employer has made an offer, which I indicated earlier, is an offer that most people would think would be fair and generous, and that offer is available to the union to accept on behalf of the employees that they represent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is a disingenuous answer by the minister when he knows there is a request by them to have the letter with regard to classification taken out of the agreement that was made back last December. So, it is really and truly a disingenuous answer.

Mr. Speaker, the workers in question are a group of predominantly female workers in rural Newfoundland who earn little more than minimum wage and provide support to persons with disabilities who are also being greatly disadvantaged by this strike and who are now also sitting at home instead of working. Mr. Speaker, the Premier has shown great concern for people with disabilities, especially through his sincere support of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier, if he will look into this issue and give leadership in getting this stalemate resolved for the good of the workers and their clients?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I certainly do have, as do all members of Cabinet and caucus, the greatest empathy for people with disabilities, as do all members of this hon. House. This is a matter that we have certainly looked at in great detail; that Cabinet has considered in great detail. It is unfortunate, the circumstances that have taken place, particularly at this time of the year, which is a very difficult time of the year. However, the offer that has been made is consistent with the template that was put forward, and it is not just simply a template. It is an offer that was made by this government during very, very difficult times. When the world economy was very uncertain, where we did not know where it was going. It is an offer of 20 per cent, which compounded works out to be 21.5 per cent; which by any national standards, right across the country, is a very, very generous offer. So it is not something - it is not a decision that we have taken lightly. It is always difficult when it affects innocent parties, for want of a better term, but it is a decision that we stand by and that we have certainly very seriously considered.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this government is playing a game with these workers and their employer. On the one hand, they are demanding that the workers give up items that other public sector workers were asked to give up, half their sick leave, market adjustment and extended earning loss. On the other hand, the government is saying that the workers are not really public sector workers – and the minister insists on making that statement – and should not be eligible for classification. The government cannot have it both ways, Mr. Speaker.

So again, I ask the Premier, right now in this season of hope, the season that we call Christmas, if he will do the right thing and get government back to the table and get this dispute resolved before Christmas comes, because this is disgraceful what is going on?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the NDP can say it over and over and over again, but the people who work with these organizations out there in society – and there are many of them who perform a valued service, which government supports, and government supports it by providing these organizations with funds. The work they do is of great value, and in many cases the services they perform are better managed and delivered by a local community organization, but they are not, and I have said this over and over again, they are not public service employees. That is the difference here, but in this case the employer has offered 20 per cent which is a more than fair and generous wage.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

MR. T. MARSHALL: A question of privilege, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board rising on a question of privilege.

MR. T. MARSHALL: A point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: A point of order, the hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the NDP released a press release recently in which she said that I personally had said over and over again on a number of occasions that the amount of money being offered in the Home Heating Rebate Program was a small amount of money.

I would ask the Leader of the NDP to bring forward - I certainly do not recall ever saying that. I would ask the Leader of the NDP to bring forward examples of where I made those comments.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Tabling of Documents

MR. SPEAKER: I am happy to table today the independent review and evaluation of the actions of Fraser March with respect to the decision to remove him from the Office of the Citizens' Representative. The report has been prepared and presented by former Mr. Justice O'Neill.

Further tabling of documents?

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 63.(3) we move the following private members' motion for this Wednesday. Moved by the Member for Burgeo & La Poile, seconded by the Member for Port de Grave:

WHEREAS two official inquiries have been recently conducted in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador involving the preventable fatalities of citizens; and

WHEREAS the principal function of our modern civil justice system is to make whole through monetary and non-monetary compensation any person injured by another's negligent or intentional actions, whether they are of a physical, psychological, financial or property nature; and

WHEREAS unlike other jurisdictions in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador's principal legislation and regulations governing civil compensation are deficient in that they do not allow family members of a deceased person, whose death occurs through negligence, to claim damages such as grief, loss of care, guidance and companionship; and

WHEREAS unlike other jurisdictions in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador's legislation is deficient in that it does not permit the family members of a deceased person, whose death occurs through negligence, to claim consequential economic damages suffered, such as a family member not being able to return to the former employment due to the loss of a deceased person;

BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly call on government to strike an all-party Select Committee of the House of Assembly to review the deficiencies in the Fatal Accidents Act, and the Survival Of Actions Act, and make recommendations the Select Committee feels appropriate to amend those acts.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I give notice, under Standing Order 11, that I shall move that this House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 15, 2009. Further, I give notice, under Standing Order 11, that I shall move that this House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. on December 15, 2009.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Natural Resources, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Accountability, Integrity And Administration Act, Bill 54.

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

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded by the hon. the Government House Leader to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Accountability, Integrity And Administration Act, Bill 54, and that Bill 54 be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 54 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. Minister of Natural Resources to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Accountability, Integrity And Administration Act", carried. (Bill 54)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Accountability, Integrity And Administration Act. (Bill 54)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 54 has now been read a first time.

When shall Bill 54 be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 54 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 Finance and President of Treasury Board, to ask leave to introduce a bill, An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act, Bill 57.

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

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded by the hon. the Government House Leader to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act, Bill 57, and that Bill 57 be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 57 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. Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act", carried. (Bill 57)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act. (Bill 57)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 57 has now been read a first time.

When shall Bill 57 be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 57 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 Natural Resources, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Order Of Newfoundland And Labrador Act. (Bill 58)

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

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded by the hon. the Government House Leader to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Order Of Newfoundland And Labrador Act, (Bill 58), and that Bill 58 be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 58 be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Natural Resources to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Order Of Newfoundland And Labrador Act", carried. (Bill 58)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Order Of Newfoundland And Labrador Act. (Bill 58)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 58 has now been read a first time.

When shall Bill 58 be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, on the Order Paper, I am going to move to the third readings.

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, that Bill 46, An Act To Amend The Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. the Government House Leader: Would that be Bill 46 or Bill 47?

MS BURKE: Bill 46, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 46.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 46, An Act To Amend The Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act, be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act. (Bill 46)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 46 has now been read a third time, and it is ordered that the bill do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 46)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, that Bill 47, An Act To Amend The Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act No. 2, (Bill 47), be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 47, An Act To Amend The Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act No. 2, (Bill 47), be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act No. 2. (Bill 47)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 47 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act No. 2", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper". (Bill 47)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. the Minister of Government Services, that Bill 48, An Act Respecting Condominiums, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 48, An Act Respecting Condominiums, be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act Respecting Condominiums. (Bill 48)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 48 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting Condominiums", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 48)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. the Minister of Education, that Bill 55, An Act To Implement Labour Mobility, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 55, An Act To Implement Labour Mobility, be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Implement Labour Mobility. (Bill 55)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 55 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Implement Labour Mobility", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 55)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that Bill 56, An Act To Amend The Government Money Purchase Pension Plan Act, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 56, An Act To Amend The Government Money Purchase Pension Plan Act, be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Government Money Purchase Pension Plan Act. (Bill 56)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 56 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Government Money Purchase Pension Plan Act", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 56)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works, that Bill 60, An Act To Amend The Rail Service Act, 2009, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 60, An Act To Amend The Rail Service Act, 2009, be now read a third time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Rail Service Act, 2009. (Bill 60)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 60 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Rail Service Act, 2009", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 60)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I call from the Order Paper, Order 12, second reading of Bill 51.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 51, An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act And The City Of St. John's Act, be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act And The City Of St. John's Act". (Bill 51)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to bring forth An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act And The City Of St. John's Act, Bill 51.

This act will provide authority to the councils in those cities to require property owners to attach civic numbers to their buildings and their homes in a form approved by the cities. Now this amendment, Mr. Speaker, it is about public safety because certainly having the ability to insist that these numbers be placed on buildings and homes will improve public safety for emergency response personnel. As well, these numbers will clearly identify locations of homes and businesses and would improve navigation for residents and tourists alike.

Now the City of St. John's has requested an amendment to the City of St. John's Act, which would permit the St. John's city council to require owners of property on city streets to attach the civic number established by the city to any buildings on their property. Currently the City of St. John's cannot require property owners to number their buildings. However, all municipalities in the Province do enjoy this power as the Municipalities Act, 1999 provides this authority and the authority to regulate the size and format of the numbering.

The councils of the City of Mount Pearl and the City of Corner Brook have similar powers to those of municipalities under the Municipalities Act, 1999, but their acts were based upon the old language used in the 1979 version of the Municipalities Act and need to be modernized to clarify their authority.

Mr. Speaker, it is basically housecleaning and just addressing a particular omission which would give the powers to these cities to again take care of the size and format of numbering on homes and buildings.

Mr. Speaker, other provinces provide the authority to their municipalities to require the numbering of buildings and houses within municipal boundaries and to regulate such numbering. This regulatory power is certainly not new for municipalities throughout Canada. The proposed amendment would comply with the request of the City of St. John's and would clarify the powers of the cities of Corner Brook and Mount Pearl to regulate civic numbering.

Mr. Speaker, the amendment would also make all municipal statutes the same in relation to those provisions and ensure that civic number regulations are clear and simplified. In addition, the amendment would improve navigation for residents and tourists and would improve public safety of area residents through increased efficiency in emergency response situations.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I leave the amendment now to the debate of the House, encourage my hon. colleagues to support this amendment and I would certainly welcome any comments regarded to

such.

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, and I thank the minister for his comments.

This bill, while it is a simple bill on the surface, is an important one, Bill 51, An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act And The City Of St. John's Act. As the minister has indicated, it has to do with the naming and numbering of streets. He also indicated that it is important with regard to safety issues. It certainly is because whether we are talking about fire services or ambulance services, or even municipal services in an emergency and people wanting help from their municipality in an emergency, being able to find a residence or a building of any kind quickly in an emergency is extremely important. Not just having buildings designated with numbers, but having those numbers displayed on the buildings is extremely important.

I guess that is what the City of St. John's wanted, is something that was very clear, that said to them and would say to others that they have the authority not just to enumerate, but also to make sure that the numbers are clearly on the buildings, whether they are residences or anything else.

As I have said a number of times in the House, and I am glad to have this opportunity to say it again, this is an extremely important step in the Province toward the use of 911 – the emergency number. We know that we have very little 911 coverage in the Province and this issue around numeration of houses is extremely important, and numeration of all buildings is extremely important in rural Newfoundland where people have not been used to having numbers on their houses, and in some cases, even having street names.

I remember when I was campaigning in Terra Nova, I went to a man's house, and I checked his name, and I said: Is this your address? He said: Well no, that is not the name of this street. It turned out that he still called the road that he lived on by a name that went back maybe ten years since it was officially the name of the road, and the municipality had given that particular section on the road a whole new name. He did not even know that that section of the road had a whole new name, let alone know what the number of his house was.

So, there is going to be a lot of work that has to be done around numeration. It is not going to be difficult for the cities of St. John's, Corner Brook and Mount Pearl because this is more of something that has been done in urban setting. Yet, we still have places in all of those three, especially in Corner Brook and St. John's, I would suggest, where you still have parts of the city and the external parts of the city, the older parts, that at one point were actually more rural than urban, where people may not have had numbers. So, it is something that is important in the urban settings, but it is extremely important in the rural.

I assume work has started with regard to discussions between the provincial government, transportation and works, the emergency services and the municipalities, the smaller municipalities in the Province. I know discussions have been going on; I do not know if they are going on at this moment. We do need, as well, for transportation and works to give leadership with regard to working in municipalities in the rural areas with regard to getting road, street and number identification. If we are going to get a fully operating 911 service in this Province, it cannot happen until we get the street road naming and building enumeration in rural Newfoundland because the service will mean nothing if you cannot give the emergency operators whatever the emergency is, the information they need to find to a place.

Mr. Speaker, I think that is all I have to say on this. This is important, and I look forward to the day when transportation and works and the minister, whether this minister or another one comes forward with a full plan from government with regard to the naming of streets and roads and numeration of building in rural Newfoundland and Labrador as well.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to kind of reiterate some of the comments that the Leader of the NDP has made as well in that, certainly in terms of fire protection and ambulance services and 911, having numbered streets and units would be very important. All of us, I am sure, have travelled – in the larger buildings and so on - to different cities and so on, trying to locate somewhere, and often the number is not visible and it becomes somewhat of a frustration trying to locate the place that you are looking for. So I would certainly suggest this would be a good thing.

In terms of the City of St. John's, subsection 140.(1) again, where advisable, changing their names; I guess obviously being able to do that would be important to the city. Again, I am just supporting the bill and the changes and commending that it is coming forward at this time.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs speaks now he will close the debate on second reading of Bill 51.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you to my colleagues for joining in, in the debate with regard to the amendment. As I pointed out, Mr. Speaker, it is a housekeeping item I suppose, but it goes a little bit deeper than that because as was pointed out by the members opposite, that it is about safety, it is about identification, it is about emergency response. I think we all have agreement that this ability should be instilled in the acts of the three cities and give everyone throughout Newfoundland and Labrador the ability to provide the numbers, not only provide them but also to make sure that the format is a proper one for identification.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will sit down.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 51, An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act And The City Of St. John's Act has now been 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 City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act And The City Of St. John's Act. (Bill 51)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 51 has now been read a second time.

When shall Bill 51 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 City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act And The City Of St. John's Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 51)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Order 13, second reading of Bill 52.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 52, An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act, The City Of St. John's Act, The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act And The Municipalities Act, 1999, be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act, The City Of St. John's Act, The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act And The Municipalities Act, 1999". (Bill 52)

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

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is a second housekeeping act to amend The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act, The City Of St. John's Act, The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act and Municipalities Act, 1999. This amendment would grant municipal councils the authority to choose whether to charge simple interest or compound interest on overdue municipal taxes.

Mr. Speaker, all towns in the Province are governed by the Municipalities Act, 1999. Three cities are governed by their own acts. Councils have the authority, as provided in section 107 of the Municipalities Act, 1999, to charge interest on overdue tax accounts, as long as the council passes a resolution establishing the rate of interest to be charged and when the interest is to be applied. The City of Mount Pearl also has the power, through section 131 of its act, and the City of Corner Brook has this power through section 132 of its act. The City of St. John's is permitted to charge interest on overdue tax accounts in section 85.1, and section 261(3) of its act, as well as section 23 of the City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act, a special act governing only that city's taxation.

Mr. Speaker, for overdue tax accounts, some municipal councils in the Province charge compound interest while others charge simple interest. The ability to charge compound interest would have a positive financial effect upon municipalities who choose to charge compound interest on tax arrears. The 2008 decision of the Court of Appeal in Happy Valley-Goose Bay versus Cabot ruled that the wording of section 107 of the Municipalities Act, 1999, limits town councils to charging only simple interest on overdue taxes. The statutes governing Mount Pearl and Corner Brook, at section 131 and section 132 of their respective acts, have the same wording as the Municipalities Act and would be interpreted in the same way. The City Of St. John's Act provides for compound interest in section 261(3). However, section 85.1 of the City Of St. John's Act and section 23 of the City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act are silent on whether interest may be simple or compound.

Mr. Speaker, the proposed amendment would provide all municipalities in the Province and the Cities of St. John's, Mount Pearl and Corner Brook, with the option to charge compound interest on overdue taxes. Without the proposed amendment regarding interest charges, municipalities in the Province are limited to charging simple interest on overdue accounts. This amendment modifies existing legislation to provide municipalities with additional flexibility, will ensure that municipalities can charge compound interest, can continue to do so, and reduces the financial impact of tax arrears among municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage my colleagues to support this amendment and welcome any comments from hon. members.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Minister, given the court ruling on this matter, of course, it is necessary for such an amendment in the three cities acts, as well as the Municipalities Act, to clarify the charging of either simple or compound interest. While compound interest is certainly not in the best interest of the taxpayer, it obviously can be an incentive for those who are in arrears of their taxes to pay off their bills more quickly since, as time goes on, they obviously will owe more and more. The monthly interest and daily interest, whatever, will accumulate and increase. There is a physical power in this type of interest, and municipalities appreciate this wisdom. The value of imposing compound interest for municipalities is that, of course, they generate more money from their coffers, as the minister has suggested. So there is a twofold interest, I guess, in that.

Municipalities, as we know, are increasingly taking on more and more responsibilities and as such are being asked to assume the costs related to those roles and services and so on. Obviously, the burden becomes paralyzing for the other municipalities if the taxpayers of their districts and the municipalities are not paying their taxes and so on. Certainly, in that light, it offers that flexibility and hopefully, probably more and more importantly, not necessarily just a tax base for the municipality but an encouragement to the taxpayer to try and keep current with their municipality and so on. So, yes, I would see this as a good move and would certainly support the bill.

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

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

Again, this bill is a bit of a housekeeping bill, Bill 52, amending the three city acts in the Province, along with the municipal taxation act. As the minister explained, there was a court ruling with regard to the Municipalities Act that made this necessary.

I have to say that I do have problems with municipalities charging compound interest. I guess it is good for them to have the power because there may be circumstances where it is a penalty that is absolutely needed to bring somebody who is in arrears into compliance, but there are times when people who are in arrears on payments – municipalities - are going through financial difficulties, there are times when there are people who may be on fixed incomes and there are reasons for the fact that they are in arrears. For me, it is problematic that municipalities actually can charge compound interest, which can be a very heavy burden sometimes and become more than just a penalty but become something that could also be even life-changing for people who might have compound interest charged on them.

I guess the only thing I would want to say - it has to happen; there has been a court ruling. The changes have to be made because of the court ruling, and for that reason I will vote for the bill, but I would hope that municipalities would use their power very judiciously when it comes to charging compound interest, and to be sure that in any case that they decide that compound interest is the thing to be used, that it is for something very serious and for something that is not going to put an undue burden on the back of the person who may be charged the compound interest as well.

I know that the provincial government has no power to tell the municipalities what to do with regard to that. They have the power to charge interest. That is now being specified into a simpler compound, and I just want it on the record that I do hope, as I said, municipalities will not use their power injudiciously and would use it with a sense of justice and fairness.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

If the hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs speaks now he will close the debate in second reading of Bill 52.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I certainly appreciate the comments from my hon. members, and agree that it is housekeeping, but we do hope that any power that is enshrined in acts is used in the interest of justice, not injustice, as the Leader of the NDP has certainly pointed out.

The charging of compound interest is a standard commercial practice and, of course, the acts were leaving things open to interpretation. This clears that up, identifies and establishes the options, and there is a choice that they can use, and we hope that they will - the municipalities will - act accordingly.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would indicate that my remarks conclude and we will move forward.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 52 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 City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act, The City Of St. John's Act, The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act And The Municipalities Act, 1999. (Bill 52)

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

When shall Bill 52 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 City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act, The City Of St. John's Act, The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act And The Municipalities Act, 1999", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 52)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Order 14, second reading of Bill 53.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 53, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act, be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Members Of The House of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act". (Bill 53)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, it is my duty today to get up and speak and introduce amendments to the Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act. As I said the other day during debate on the government's defined contribution plan and money market purchase plan, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador offers I think it is six pension plans for its various employees. I indicated they were the Teachers' Pension Plan, the Public Service Pension Plan, the Government Money Purchase Pension Plan, and the Uniformed Pension Plan. This one, of course, is the Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act, which is the pension plan for members of this House. The other one, of course, is the Provincial Court Judges' Pension Plan. I believe that is all of them.

This originates in the report of Chief Justice Green, which we have always referred to as the Green report, in which he recommended that for new members coming into the House at that time that there be a new pension plan for those members - a different pension plan which he said would be a defined benefit-type pension plan - and that it would apply to the new members who were elected in the forthcoming General Election; and he was referring to the election of 2007. The existing Members of the House of Assembly, those who were already in this House, were to be grandfathered under the old plan.

Chief Justice Green's recommendation was that a commission be set up - a commission that was known as the Members' Compensation Review Committee. That committee, after the following election, was to be an independent committee that would review and make recommendations concerning the salaries paid to Members of the House of Assembly - and pensions as well; in fact, all benefits that Members of the House of Assembly were receiving.

The committee was set up and they made recommendations in the report. The committee was set up as Chief Justice Green had recommended. It consisted of Mr. Joe O'Neill, who is a retired civil servant and now active in the private sector; Ms Cathy Bennett, who is the owner-operator of a number of McDonald's restaurants in St. John's; and a Mr. Brian Barry from Central Newfoundland. They would be the committee, an independent committee, to be called the Members' Compensation Review Committee, to conduct an inquiry and prepare a report respecting the salaries, the allowances, the severance payments and pensions to be paid to members. The report came out after public consultations were held, and there have been a number of recommendations regarding the pensions for Members of the House of Assembly.

I think we will recall, first of all, that at one point the salaries paid to Members of the House of Assembly consisted of the salary portion, and another portion called the tax-free allowance. Chief Justice Green recommended that the tax-free allowance be eliminated and, instead, the salary increased by an equivalent amount.

The Members of the House of Assembly Pension Plan was amended back in 2007 to limit pensionable salary for existing members to 81.2 per cent of the actual salary. This neutralized the impact on pensionable salary of replacing the tax-free allowance with an increased taxable salary. The pension of the Members of the House of Assembly is now not based on their total salary; it is based on an amount called the pensionable salary, which is equal to 81.2 per cent of what the total salary of an MHA is.

The amended definition assumed at the time that only existing Members of the House of Assembly would be covered by the plan; because Mr. Justice Green, or Chief Justice Green, had recommended that a new plan would be devised, as I said earlier, for members who would be elected for the first time to what would be the Forty-Sixth General Assembly of the House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I believe there are four recommendations with respect to the pension, and these changes will affect members elected for the first time after December 31, 2009. In other words, the Members' Compensation Review Committee really did something different from what Chief Justice Green recommended. Chief Justice Green had recommended that the new members elected would have a different pension plan, but the committee has recommended that all members elected in 2007, and all members elected up until today, including the new Member for Terra Nova and the new Member for The Straits & White Bay North, would also be grandfathered into what I will call the current plan.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. T. MARSHALL: I mentioned the new Member for Terra Nova, as well, who will also be grandfathered into the current plan, but there will be a new plan for all members who are elected after the end of this year, or new members who are elected after this legislation comes into effect. The changes will be – well, first of all under the current plan, maybe it will be better for the sake of understanding if we talk about what is under the current plan and then compare that to the changes that have been recommended.

Under the current plan, the benefit accrual rate is 5 per cent a year for the first ten years and it is 2.5 per cent per year for the next seventy years, to a maximum of 75 per cent of pensionable salary. That will change. For the new members coming in, that will now be reduced to - the benefit accrual rate will now be 3.5 per cent per year for twenty years. This will have the affect, Mr. Speaker, of providing a maximum of 70 per cent benefit after twenty years instead of the current 75 per cent.

It should also be noted that before a Member of the House of Assembly can qualify for any benefit, for any pension whatsoever, the member requires at least five years of service in order to have the pension vested, and service in two General Assemblies. So I should correct what I just said. The member has to serve for five years of service, and service in two General Assemblies in order to qualify for the plan.

As I said earlier, that as a conversion to the new system resulted in a higher pre-tax salary, Justice Green did recognize the importance of incorporating this new salary into the MHA pension benefit formula. He recognized that would have resulted in higher pension benefits for members than under the former system. So in order to mitigate that and to ensure the pension would not be higher, he recommended that effective from July 1, 2007 that only 81.2 per cent of the new taxable salary would be considered pensionable. This act was amended. Members will recall that this act was in fact amended during the last session to provide for this limit on the amount of the pension.

The limitation was transitional in nature, Mr. Speaker, and it was intended, as I said earlier, to apply to members subject to the current plan. Consequently, it is necessary to amend the definition of members' pensionable salary to include full salary for members elected after December 31 of this year. That is those members who will be subject to the new pension plan.

Mr. Speaker, the current plan also says that an MHA who is vested under the pension plan, which is five years service plus two elections, will not qualify for an unreduced pension. Well, right now it should say, I believe, to qualify for a pension under the current plan the MHA has to serve for five years, be elected in two elections. The age of service, I think a combination of service in the House plus age has to equal sixty before the person can receive an unreduced pension.

In the changes that are in this amendment, a vested MHA will not qualify for a pension until they actually reach the age of fifty-five. So in that case, we do not have a situation where someone who is only forty-five, with fifteen years of service in the House, who qualifies for a pension. Now to receive a pension under the new legislation, the MHA will have to at least attain the age of fifty-five. I believe that is similar to the other pension plans that government has for its employees.

With respect to a reduced pension, it will now provide that an MHA will qualify for a reduced pension if they attain the age of fifty, but the amount of the pension will be reduced by 6 per cent for every year the age is less than fifty-five. I believe that is similar to what is offered in the other government pension plans and it is similar to the Canada Pension Plan. I think we all know, under the Canada Pension Plan you will receive 100 per cent of the benefits under the Canada Pension Plan at age sixty-five. You can get the Canada Pension as early as age sixty but there is a 0.5 per cent reduction in the amount of the pension for each month earlier than sixty-five that you take the plan. If you accept the Canada Pension at the age of sixty, it will be worth 70 per cent of what you would have received at the age of sixty-five when you get 100 per cent benefit. I understand that actually you can also defer taking the Canada Pension Plan until age seventy, in which case for every month over sixty-five you get a 0.5 per cent bump up as well. Of course, what is the right thing to do? It depends on how long you are going to live. If you start taking the Canada Pension Plan at age sixty, obviously you are going to get it for a longer period of time than you would if you waited until you are age sixty-five, depending on your life expectancy.

All these changes, I believe that is the last one. All these changes will be effective as of the date of the amending legislation. They will apply only to MHAs elected for the first time after the effective date. Members elected for the first time to the forty-sixth General Assembly, in spite of what Chief Justice Green recommended, will participate in the current plan. I believe there is amendment, as well, to make sure that current members are treated consistently. So it is necessary to amend, as I said before, the definition of the salary. As the members who are elected for the first time to the forty-sixth General Assembly will also be grandfathered into the existing plan, and new members elected after the effective date will be subject to the new arrangements.

Mr. Speaker, I think that simply is what is contained in the amendments. Again, these amendments were not determined by the people in this House of Assembly. They were determined and recommended by an independent commission of three people who conducted public consultations and they made their recommendations to the House of Assembly Management Commission and the Management Commission has written to the government suggesting these recommendations, which government is now bringing forward. I would say that I look forward to the comments of hon. members and I would urge passage of the legislation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words on Bill 53.

As the minister mentioned, we had the review of course by the Members' Compensation Review Committee. It has been public knowledge. It has been put out there on the airwaves and on the Web site and so on, consisting of persons who were very well-known in Newfoundland and Labrador, a lot of bureaucratic experience; Mr. O'Neill, who chaired that committee, as well as some very well-known businesspeople on the committee, Ms Cathy Bennett being one and Brian Barry being another. They did not have a lot of time to do the report.

The Management Commission, pursuant to what Chief Justice Green had said, there had to be such a committee and the Management Commission and the Speaker, of course, struck the committee and that is who was on it. They did the necessary work. They did public consultations. People had an opportunity to appear in person. They could make written submissions if they wanted and so on, and that was done. It was well advertised. Some people thought it was poor timing as to doing it during the summer months but I believe because of the requirement to get it done, unfortunately that is when it did take place. Everybody was certainly allowed an opportunity to make their views known to the committee. A bit slow when they started off in terms of the number of people who came forward to speak, very poor attendance, but as it picked up speed there seemed to be more and more people who did in fact attend.

The committee came back with four recommendations, as I say, filed their report and there has been a meeting subsequently. They just did not submit their report. They actually appeared before the Management Commission. I am personally a member of that, as Opposition House Leader, as is the Government House Leader is a member of it. It is chaired by the Speaker of the House.

The committee, all three of them, did indeed appear before the Management Commission, which is a publicized, televised meeting as well. There was rapport back and forth between the committee members and the Commission members to get any further clarification that we felt was necessary on the four recommendations.

What we have here today, of course, in Bill 53, is the legislative result of one of those pieces that was dealt with. Basically, there were four recommendations that the committee dealt with: one was on salaries; one was on pensions, which we have here today; another one had to do with severance; and another one had to with certain MHA allowances. Of the four, this is, as I say, one piece of it. The salaries one will be dealt with again in this House, openly. It will be done -Bill 54, which was circulated today, that deals with the salary component piece and the commission recommendation about the 8 per cent rollback, that will be done in this House sometime this week, I would assume. The Government House Leader has given notice of it today, it has been circulated and so on, and so we will probably be doing second reading and debate on that particular bill sometime before this session is out.

There has not been a lot of time lag here. The committee came forward, put their report out there, met with the commission, ironed out any details that we needed, figured which one needed legislative amendments, for example, the salary component. That has now seen its way to this House by way of Bill 54, and Bill 53, of course, was dealing with the pension piece which they brought forward.

It has been a very open and transparent process that has taken place. A lot of people, of course, in the general public, that was one of the problems and the issues that were identified by Chief Justice Green a couple of years ago when he did his report on the House of Assembly, had to do with a lot of times when things got done in this House, whether it involved monies paid to MHAs, monies paid to officers of the House, travel allowances, pensions, salaries and so on, that it was done sort of under the cover of darkness and nobody ever heard or saw how it was done. It was not an open and transparent process. In fact, there was often, in the past, money bills dealing with MHAs that were passed in this House that were all done in one day. There were cases where you would have first reading, second reading, committee reading, third reading, everything done lock, stock and barrel in one day. Chief Justice Green said that was not proper, that was not open and that was not transparent. You ought to give notice of it what you are going to do. You ought to let the public see, by way of the bill, what you are going to do. The debate on itself should be open, which it is now; we have televised proceedings. Anybody in this House of Assembly is free to stand up and voice their opinion on how they feel about this particular piece of legislation concerning the pensions.

Nobody here is impacted by it, by the way. Everybody who currently sits in the House of Assembly, including the two members recently elected in the by-elections, they are covered under the old pensions act. A lot of people felt that was a pretty rich pension scheme, gold-plated, I believe was the words that some people used, including Chief Justice Green and some members of the commission.

What they have done now, the basic principle that has been changed is, under the old act, a member would get 5 per cent per year on your pension to go towards your pension. That has been changed now; it has been reduced from 5 per cent down to 3.5 per cent. So that piece has changed.

I would encourage anybody in the public who wants to see the bill, you can get it on-line and you can access it by way of the Internet. Feel free to read it, any concerns that you have. This bill is not going to be done in one sitting today. It will come up again either later today in committee or certainly for third reading. I would encourage, as a member of the Management Commission and a Member of the House of Assembly, anybody who reads it, who has any concerns with this Bill 53 regarding the recommendations on pensions, feel free, e-mail your member, e-mail a government House member, e-mail this member; anybody you feel that you want to voice your concern to, so that it is indeed an open and a transparent position.

As I say, it does not impact anybody here. There were no changes made to the pensions of anyone who sits in this House today. That is not because we, members in this House, decided that. That was a decision of the independently selected Members' Compensation Review Committee, and I would like to make that clear as well. They were at liberty to do whatever they wished in terms of the pension plan that existed and this is what they chose to do on a go-forward basis. Effective January 1, 2010, anybody who comes into this House of Assembly, that is what the plan is going to be.

I again, encourage anyone – there will only be two of the four recommendations that the committee dealt with coming before this House. It is this one that deals with the pensions. It is the one that deals with the salaries, which I say we will be seeing hopefully tomorrow sometime by way of Bill 54.

The other two issues, one dealt with severance and another one dealt with a number of allowance issues for MHAs. They will not be coming forward in this House because they did not require legislative changes. That is not to say that the process for those will not be open and transparent. They will be dealt with by the management committee. They will be dealt with through televised proceedings, so people again, will have - and I encourage them to watch the debates on that. Any input again, this is a democracy, you have access to it, voice your opinions and any concerns or comments that you might have. We will be seeing those coming forward later.

I understand that there is some issue, even by the Members' Compensation Review Committee members themselves on the severance piece. They made a recommendation, but based upon their visit here with the Management Commission and some questions that were asked back and forth, they, themselves, had some concerns about how they had worded the recommendation on severance. There were some privacy issues that might have been raised there, for example, because it talked about getting severance based upon certain circumstances and whether a person was or was not seriously ill. So, those questions have not been resolved yet, but they will be, as I say, in an open process, eventually, through the Management Commission.

Mr. Speaker, I think it has been dealt with in a timely fashion. This was not the case of it was delayed. The earliest opportunity – the House was not open when the commission submitted its report. It was dealt with in a timely fashion by the management committee. No changes were made to it. Nobody has tinkered with it or changed it in any manner. Exactly what the Members' Compensation Review Committee recommended is what has been put into this piece of legislation. As I say, it is not a case of whether you are for it or against it; the bottom line is we are following absolutely to the T what the compensation review committee recommended.

So we will, certainly in the Opposition ranks here, be voting in support of this piece of legislation, because, again, it is in fulfilment. Justice Green said how we should go about dealing with this issue. The compensation review commission has now said how we go about dealing with it. So we, as a House of Assembly, no doubt will be supporting this particular bill.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I am happy to stand and speak to Bill 53, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act. This act is important, because when we first received the report from Chief Justice Green, which resulted in the act that we now have, the accountability act that sets the rules for everything that we do here in the House of Assembly, one of the things that Chief Justice Green spoke to was the issue of pensions. We were in - not I, personally, but the House itself - a bit of a limbo for two years, that people had been elected in 2007 and had no idea what their pension plan was, because the recommendation from Chief Justice Green really put everything on hold with regard to people who had been elected from 2007 onwards and because he wanted a Members' Compensation Review Committee to be set up and that committee would be the committee that would make decisions with regard to the future pensions of MHAs in the Province.

Now we have in our Accountability Act, we have details with regard to the Members' Compensation Review Committee, the fact that this committee has to be set up in every General Assembly. Initially, in the first act that we put in place, based on the recommendations from Chief Justice Green, there was no definition as to when the Members' Compensation Review Committee should be set up. Just that during every Assembly there should be a Members' Compensation Review Committee set up to look at the issues of salaries, to look at the issues of pensions, to look at the issues of other recompense that is paid to MHAs for expenditures that they make in the context of their work.

This committee, finally this year, almost two years into the life of this General Assembly, this committee finally got put in place. Now if one goes in and reads the legislation under the Accountability Act, one will see that the committee gets set up by the Assembly. It is the Speaker though, who, in consultation with the leadership of the parties in the House, comes up with the members who will sit on that committee. I have to say, there was a full consultation process carried out with the Speaker and the three parties in the House, and I obviously was part of that. The results of that consultation were then brought to the Management Commission for final approval by the Management Commission.

So certainly, the setting up of the committee and the way in which it was set up was done very well according to legislation. Unfortunately, legislation did not say how soon into the life of the Assembly the committee should have been set up. I personally would have liked to have seen it being set up earlier than it was. I think that notion of trying to set it up early in the life of an Assembly was understood by the committee itself, because of the committee's recommendation that when we go into the next Assembly, the forty-seventh Assembly which will happen in 2011, they have recommended, and it is in the recommendations that we are voting on. They have recommended that the committee be set up within the first six months of the Assembly.

I was really quite happy to see that recommendation from the Members' Compensation Review Committee; that the committee in the next Assembly be set up early on in the life of the Assembly. I think it is very important. I think if we do that as well, we can ensure the next time that it gets set up in a timely fashion so that the work that is being carried out is not being carried out over the summer. The timing will be excellent actually because the election will be in October of 2011. The six months brings us into mid-winter. Hopefully, the committee could get set up even before six months and they could actually have the public part of their work finished long before the summer season hits people and people will not be travelling, et cetera.

I think we have learned a lot from the first round of the Members' Compensation Review Committee, having it for the first time and seeing how it worked. I would hope that any of us who are part of the process in 2011 will ensure that it happens in a more timely fashion than it did this time. Not in terms of the work of the committee itself. They did their work in an extremely timely fashion. It fit within their 120 days. They did everything. We, I think as an Assembly, should have had that committee set up earlier on. I think it was a bit stressful for members themselves who had been elected in 2007 for the first time, because they were a new member they had no idea what their pension scheme was. I think the public wanted to see the committee set up because those who follow the work of the Assembly, they read the acts and they know what is going on.

Many times I had been asked: so when is the Members' Compensation Review Committee going to be set up? Anyway, it finally did get set-up. The report came in, in a timely fashion. I think the report did try to be faithful to what they heard from the public. I think that even though they had some disappointment with regard to how many people turned up in person to speak to them, and they did have written submissions as well and people who spoke to them on the phone. I think they would have liked to have seen a much bigger turnout. On the other hand, the issues were out there in the public in a very large way during the work of the committee. I think through the media, they also received - there was quite a bit of impact on the committee in terms of everything that was out there in the broader media, and people taking part in the Open Line shows and letters to the editor, et cetera. So I think there were many ways in which they were gauging the public understanding and the feeling of the public with regard to the work they were doing and the recommendations that they would come up with.

So, a few comments; obviously, I will be voting for this bill. I think the committee did a very fine job in trying to be fair and tried to listen to the public. What I am pleased about is that the committee did continue recommendations with regard to maintaining a pension plan in the way that we already have a pension plan and did not recommend moving into payments into RRSPs, which I do not believe is the best way to plan for our futures. Pension plans are secure. They give us a security, and certainly in the public service sector they do. Unfortunately, in the private sector there are people who suffer desperately because of the fact that their pensions do not have security. Especially in the case of workers who work for a company that goes bankrupt, for example. Something we know that workers in Grand Falls-Windsor are concerned about right now with regard to AbitibiBowater, and in Canada on a national level, workers with Nortel are going through.

We are lucky. People who work for the public sector and people who are elected officials, we do have security with our pensions. I think we all recognize that it is a bit of a privilege. Not everybody has the security of pensions that we have. At the same time, I do believe in secure pensions. That is why I am very pleased that on a national level – and by national, I do not mean federal. I mean that all the provinces together, and the territories, along with the federal government, are looking at the whole issue of pensions for people in this country and trying to find a way that everybody has better security and better resources coming in through pension plans.

We know that the Minister of Finance will be meeting, I think, on the seventeenth of this month with territorial and provincial and federal ministers to talk about pensions. It is an extremely important issue. Some of the ideas that are being brought forward are extremely important.

We do have a public plan in Canada called the CPP, the Canadian Pension Plan. Quebec, of course, has its own pension plan. We always say the CPP-QPP, the two together. This is an extremely important plan because everybody, the majority of people in this country, do get some form of cover under the CPP-QPP. As a matter of fact, 93 per cent of Canadians are already members of the CPP-QPP pension plan that we have in this country.

The problem is that we need to increase that plan for the sake of some people only have that plan. Where I am in a privileged position, I have that plan; I will also have some pension when I retire as an MHA on top of that plan. Some people only have the CP and OAS when they turn sixty-five. I think we have a responsibility, not just to take care of our own pensions, as we are doing here today in approving the recommendations of the committee - and I would like to point out to anybody listening that it is the recommendations of the committee and I think they tried to listen to a broad group of people in coming up with those recommendations. It is not important enough just for us to be concerned about passing this bill here today; it is also important for us to worry about the pensions of people in this country.

There are some recommendations that are being made, and I think that will be ideas that will be brought forward for discussion on December 17 when the finance ministers meet. One of those recommendations that will be coming forward is that the top monthly benefit for the CPP-QPP be doubled. That would mean the top benefit would go from $908 a month to $1,817 a month. That, along with OAS, would certainly give a much more liveable retirement for Canadians.

One of the things that bothers me though about something that we do here in this Province, and not all provinces do it, is the different ways in which we have clawback of CPP. I think clawback is absolutely – I just think it is wrong because whether it is the CPP or whether it is another pension, if one has, for example, let's take the public service sector - the public service sector workers pay into that pension, they also pay into the CPP or the QPP if they are in Quebec, but I am talking about our own situation here and now. The worker pays into both, pays into both the Public Service Pension Plan that they are part of, as well as the CPP. They make their payments, it is their pension plan, it is there money in both cases, with contributions from employers, we know, but it is their money in both cases. For us to have the situation of clawback where we penalize somebody who is getting another pension be clawing back money from the CPP, I really believe that clawback is stealing money from the worker. It is absolutely unacceptable that we use clawback of CPP here in this Province. I think it is something that has to be changed and it is something that has to be reversed.

The other thing that is a concern for me around pensions that we do not have to worry about here as elected politicians, as people who have a secure pension plan, I worry about people in our Province and in our country who have underfunded pensions. Again, it is a discussion that is taking place on the federal level in Ottawa. I know that the federal parties are having a lot of discussions around the whole thing of having funded pensions and protecting pensions. The New Democratic Party, for example, has what they call an NDP Workers First Initiative in Parliament, and it has secured some protection for unpaid wages when employers go bankrupt, but they want to see a move towards workers' underfunded pensions to the front of the creditor line –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: – so that when a company goes bankrupt –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that we are debating Bill 53, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act, and ask her to keep her comments relevant.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think then I would wrap up what I am talking about, because maybe you will call me out of order for some other things I wanted to say; I think they all fit in. I think it is important for us to recognize that pensions are important. We are voting on our own pension here, and for some, it is a pension they will be getting - the first time they are becoming eligible. Some of us have been eligible for a longer time than others, but it is also for us to recognize that it is not just important for us to have secure pensions, but we have a responsibility to make sure that everybody else has security around their pensions as well. I would hope that all of us, and I am sure we do, as we look at what we are voting for ourselves today, that we recognize, we probably have family members, we probably have children, nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters who do not have the security of the type of pension that we are voting for ourselves here today.

I still think it is important that we did not come up with the recommendations that we are looking at in this bill. The recommendations came up from a totally independent committee, and that committee did try to reflect what was happening both here, as well as in other jurisdictions in Canada. I think they have done that.

With that, I thank the Speaker for the opportunity to speak to this bill, and I look forward to voting for it.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board. If he speaks now, he will close debate.

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

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

I think everything that needs to be said in this debate has, in fact, now been said. I will summarize the discussion by saying what the current plan is: That the existing plan provides a pension, and provides for an annual accrual rate of 5 per cent a year for the first ten years, and 2.5 per cent from years eleven to twenty, with a maximum accrual of 75 per cent. The amount of the pension, the current pension, is based on the average of the best three-year salary and MHAs entitled to pension benefits, when his or her age plus service is equal to 60 per cent, provided that the MHA has been elected twice and has served a minimum of five years in this House. There is no indexing of MHAs' pensions. I want to make that very clear. There is no indexing of MHAs' pensions, nor is there any stacking of the CPP benefits. The CPP is integrated with the members' pension.

As I mentioned a number of times earlier, it is noted that it is consistent with the recommendations of Chief Justice Green. The amount of the MHA pensionable salary has now been reduced to 81.2 per cent of what the total salary is.

The changes that are in the amendments, as set out in this bill, are that the accrual rate, the benefit, the accrual rate will be reduced. As I said, for years one to ten the accrual rate will be reduced from 5 per cent to 3.5 per cent, and in years eleven to twenty the accrual rate will also be 3.5 per cent for a maximum of 70 per cent as opposed to under the current pension which is 75 per cent. So it will be reduced by 5 per cent.

Also, in terms of eligibility, right now under the current plan a pension is payable when a member's age plus service equals sixty. Under the amendment, no one will be able to get an unreduced pension unless they attain the age of fifty-five, and in terms of a reduced pension there is no provision in the current plan for a reduced pension, but under the new plan for new members elected after December 31, 2009, a vested MHA who has reached the age of fifty may elect to take a reduced pension which shall be reduced by 6 per cent for each year the member's age is less than fifty-five.

It will be interesting to members to note - and I am sure it will be interesting to anyone who is watching this debate on television - that of the 115 members who have served in this House since 1989, less than 1 per cent has more than fifteen years of service. Seventy percent have less than ten years of service, and 39 per cent have fewer than five years of service. So the overall average life of an MHA is seven point five years. That is because we have to apply for our jobs every four years and the people cast judgement upon us.

With that, Mr. Speaker, knowing that this originated with the Green report, knowing that these are the recommendations of an independent committee, knowing that this is happening with full debate in the House of Assembly before the TV cameras so everything is available to the people of the Province, I urge second reading of this legislation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 53, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances 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 Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act. (Bill 53)

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

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

Now? Tomorrow?

MS BURKE: Now, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 53)

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 51, 52, 53 and 59.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to review Bills 51, 52, 53 and 59.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Kelly): Order, please!

We are now debating Bill 51, An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act And The City Of St. John's Act.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act And The City Of St. John's Act". (Bill 51)

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 and 3 inclusive.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 and 3 inclusive carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clauses 2 and 3 inclusive 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 City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act And The City Of St. John's 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: We are now debating Bill 52, An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act, The City Of St. John's Act, The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act And The Municipalities Act, 1999.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act, The City Of St. John's Act, The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act And The Municipalities Act, 1999". (Bill 52)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clauses 2 to 7 inclusive.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 7 inclusive carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clauses 2 through 7 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act, The City Of Mount Pearl Act, The City Of St. John's Act, The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act And The Municipalities Act, 1999.

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: We are now debating Bill 53, An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances Act". (Bill 53)

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 4 inclusive.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 4 inclusive carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clauses 2 through 4 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 Members Of The House Of Assembly Retiring Allowances 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: We are now debating Bill 59, An Act To Amend The Occupational Therapists Act, 2005.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Occupational Therapists Act, 2005". (Bill 59)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Leader of the Opposition raised a question the other day that I would now like to speak to. During her comments, she referred to the fact, or having a question as to the second part of the bill, and referring, Mr. Speaker, to removing provisions requiring referrals to an occupational therapist from legally qualified practitioners or others identified in the legislation. The Leader of the Opposition wanted to know the implications of removing that and why it happened.

Mr. Chair, essentially what happened is that this section of the act requiring referral is an obsolete limitation on the practice of occupational therapy. Clients do not need a referral, Mr. Chair, to see an occupational therapist. The present section says that a person shall not practice occupational therapy except upon referral of a person to the person by a legally qualified medical practitioner or another person authorized by the regulation to make a referral.

Mr. Chair, there are no regulations authorizing other persons to make referrals. Other Canadian jurisdictions that regulate occupational therapists place no such limitations on this practice. Occupational therapists in this Province, Mr. Chair, engage in the practice of providing services to clients without referrals. So, this means that occupational therapists are currently practising in violation of their governing act. Essentially, what we are doing is amending this, Mr. Chair, to be consistent with the practice in the rest of this country and consistent with the practice in this Province as it deals with the requirement of referrals to medical practitioners.

Essentially, what we are doing, Mr. Chair, is by removing the requirement for referral by a legally qualified medical practitioner, this will allow occupational therapists to practice in the current environment of occupational therapy without forcing them to engage in a violation of the act.

To put it simply, Mr. Chair, the current act, as it is now framed, does not comply with the practice in this Province or in other jurisdictions in this country, and what this amendment will do will allow for the consistent approach across the country and also in this Province.

Mr. Chair, that is the answer to the question raised by the Leader of the Opposition.

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clause 2.

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 2 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Occupational Therapists Act, 2005.

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: I move, Mr. Chair, that the Committee rise and report Bills 51, 52, 53 and 59.

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise and report Bills 51, 52, 53 and 59 and ask leave to sit again.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Carried.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): The hon. Assistant Deputy Speaker and Member for Humber Valley.

MR. KELLY: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bills 51, 52, 53 and 59 carried without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of the Whole reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed him to report Bills 51, 52, 53 and 59 without amendment.

When shall the report be received, now?

MS BURKE: Now, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, report received and adopted, bills ordered read a third time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we would like at this time to ask leave to introduce a motion that we did not introduce when you called Notices of Motion earlier today. So we are wondering if we could have leave to introduce that motion at this time.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Leave.

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

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce the following resolution:

WHEREAS section 7 of the Child and Youth Advocate Act provides that the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, on a resolution of the House of Assembly carried by a majority vote of the Members of the House of Assembly actually voting, may remove the advocate from office or suspend him or her because of an incapacity to act, or for neglect of duty, or for misconduct; and

WHEREAS subsection 8.(1) of the Child and Youth Advocate Act authorizes the Lieutenant-Governor in Council to suspend the Child and Youth Advocate; and

WHEREAS following correspondence sent to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council by the Speaker of this House dated August 17, 2009 expressing concern about the operation of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council suspended the Child and Youth Advocate; and

WHEREAS on September 9, 2009, this hon. House voted on a resolution to extend the suspension of the Child and Youth Advocate to provide her, as she had requested, an opportunity to respond to the concerns raised by the hon. the Speaker; and

WHEREAS the Child and Youth Advocate provided her response in a submission to the Clerk of the Executive Council dated September 30, 2009; and

WHEREAS the submission of the Child and Youth Advocate has not adequately responded to the concerns raised by the hon. the Speaker;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly concur in the removal from office of the Child and Youth Advocate by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council for misconduct.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With that, from the Order Paper, we will go to Address in Reply.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I am very happy today to stand in this House and speak for a few moments in regard to Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne of 2009.

Newfoundland and Labrador is not what it used to be five years ago. I spoke in this House on many, many occasions and reflected back in the past in regard to the financial situation that we found our Province in when we took government in 2003, and the absolute unwavering leadership that was shown in this Province in regard to the Premier, in regard to the Cabinet at that particular time to address those very, very important issues in Newfoundland and Labrador. With that, we have seen strategies developed. We have seen some very, very careful planning to get really the best bang for our dollar in regard to the way we were investing in Newfoundland and Labrador, creating employment and also addressing some of the social needs of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I reflect back on those many, many times because we cannot forget where we came from, because we certainly learn from those things. That drives us forward in regard to what we are trying to do for the Province in this day and age, and also in regard to reflecting on the global recession that some people say we are coming out of, some people say we are out of it and some people say that we are not entirely out of it at all.

We faced those fiscal challenges. It was only last week that the Minister of Finance gave an economic update and reflected on when we took government our net debt was $11.8 billion and now we are down around $7.5 billion. I do not know if everybody in this House, and I do not know if all the people in Newfoundland and Labrador really know what that means in regard to reducing that debt, that was rising at $1 billion a year when we took government. You have to reflect back on those things. Not only just to reduce that net debt by any portion of that $1 billion on an annual basis, but to actually eliminate it and actually pay down the debt is absolutely phenomenal. It is phenomenal in regard to what the Premier has done and what government has done for Newfoundland and Labrador.

I also have listened carefully to some other members, the members across the House in regard to the Opposition talking about and speaking to Address in Reply as well. Some of their statements in the House reflect down on rural Newfoundland, and we forgot rural Newfoundland and Labrador and the like. What this government has tried to do, number one, is take care of all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I say that in a way that we tried, this government tried to take care of not only all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, we took care of them regardless of stripe. We did not care what they were. We have invested in districts that are certainly not Progressive Conservative districts. We have a school going up in the hon. the Leader of the Opposition's district, being built, a brand spanking new school. We have made investments in various other districts as well.

I remember back, and I was involved in a by-election in The Straits just a little while back. I went from door to door and I enjoyed it, because it is certainly a different way of actually campaigning as compared to my district in Gander, which is kind of an urban small town. You meet people on a very personal basis. A lot of the questions that came at me at the door and people forget about is: What have you done for me? I used to reflect back on that and say: well, listen, we reduced personal taxes and put, I think about, maybe $11 million back into the hands of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We eliminated the 15 per cent retail sales tax on insurance, which put $94 million back into the hands of people in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have eliminated school fees, which if they did not have children themselves, I would venture to guess that they actually have grandchildren, putting money back into the hands and the pockets of people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have reduced and eliminated school fees, as well, and that kind of thing, which put a lot of money back into the hands and the pockets of people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In personal income tax, the first reduction, I believe, was $155 million back into the people's hands and the pockets of Newfoundland and Labrador. The second reduction was, I think, somewhere around the $75 million mark. This annualized over to $230 million in regard to putting the money back. These are the kinds of things that we have done, in the Poverty Reduction Strategy and these kinds of things, and the Home Heating Rebate and whatnot. I am sure, and I would not want to speak for the Minister of Business. He would like very well to have a business, some type of investment, a foreign investment, in each and every one of the communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I am sure I heard the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development talking only last week in regard to where his investments go. Lo and behold, I believe the percentage was somewhere around 70-odd per cent are in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Businesses are owned by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who want to expand. People who are out there in small communities who are trying to not only make a living and have a successful business, but also to employ Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

I remember when I was up on the Northern Peninsula. I went up on the Northern Peninsula back in the early 2000s, somewhere around 2000, 2001. I will tell you now; I went up from Deer Lake to St. Anthony. Yes, and I heard my hon. friend from Lake Melville mention last week that the road was so bad that the truck drivers had to actually drive on the wrong side of the road. Now, that concerned me because the Highway Traffic Act is under my department. So I do not want anybody out there driving on the wrong side of the road. What I was told by truck drivers is that some of the truck drives, as soon as they left a certain area down by Deer Lake they had to take out their false teeth and put it in their top pocket because they would fall out of their mouth going up over that road to the Northern Peninsula.

When I went to the door, and I think - maybe take some credit, but what I used to say to most of them was: Listen, before you vote next Tuesday take a ride down to Deer Lake and a ride up again to St. Anthony before you vote, because I think if you took the population base of St. Anthony and divided it into all that new tarmac, that blacktop, you own at least a couple of feet of that, that is yours. That is yours. I said you deserve it because you are really driving on cow paths up to that particular point. That was an investment in you, the people of the Northern Peninsula into rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Our investments in infrastructure this year, which a lot of it again is in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, in regard to provincial roads it is up around $1 billion. Maybe it even crept over $1 billion. I am not sure if it is a little under, a little over, but it is somewhere around the vicinity of $1 billion that we are spending on infrastructure, spending this year in this Province. Most of it is being tendered, most of it is being let, and a lot of the work is done, creating around 5,400 jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador, mainly in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. These are the kind of things that we do.

I remember one time I was in this House, maybe in the spring session, I said, in regard to the recession stimulus packages and whatnot that the Obama Administration and the federal government were announcing and various other governments across Europe were announcing, well we were way ahead of the ball in that because we had our infrastructure stimulus package all announced in the spring of 2005. We have not lost sight of that stimulus package because, really, we experienced a recession of our own right in Newfoundland and Labrador because of mismanagement of our finances previous to this government taking government in 2003. That is what I see. Regardless of the dollars that you have, you have to strategize how you are going to spend it, you have to be very careful in regard to your investments, you have to get the bang for your dollar, but on the other side of the coin, you cannot forget your social requirements and your social responsibilities to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This has been shown time and time again in regard to this government. We have shown time and time again our social responsibilities; we never lose sight of that.

I hear some hon. members in regard to some of our investments in Nalcor, some of our investments in regard to the oil industry, solid investments, and good, wise business investments. I have heard time and time again over the years – and many of you and all of you here in the House of Assembly and the people of Newfoundland probably have heard it too, each and every one of you - you have to invest a dollar to make a dollar. That is exactly right. That is how you expand your economy where you can address those issues in regard to the social challenges that we have across the Province in little places across Newfoundland and Labrador, anywhere from the Northern Peninsula, anywhere from the West Coast, anywhere from the Northeast part of Labrador. That is the kind of things that we do.

Yes, we would like to be, I suppose - and everybody would like to be - everything to everybody at any given time. We would like to have all the problems solved in Newfoundland and Labrador, have them all solved today where nobody has to address issues such as poverty. Everybody has a good job and all of that kind of stuff but, Mr. Speaker, that is not reality. That is just not reality in regard to anywhere in the world really because you will always have those challenges. Certainly, I would want to speak for each and every member in this House of Assembly that is the reason why you are here, because you want to make a difference. You want to make a difference to those people out there that are actually struggling. Sometimes you have to help the industries in order to help the people that are struggling because you have to expand the places of business, the industries in order for them to be able to address those issues and hire these people and give them meaningful jobs. Then, they can go home and be happy each and every night.

You certainly have to be cognizant of every dollar that you have and every dollar that you would invest. We have seen some major, major changes in Newfoundland and Labrador and there is a heightened awareness of Newfoundland and Labrador too not only across Canada, and a respect for Newfoundland and Labrador, but elsewhere, across the globe. In the United States, you hear people talking about Newfoundland and Labrador.

I remember one time - and I go down South mostly every year. You meet people from the US and you say that you are from Newfoundland and Labrador and they say: What part of Vancouver is that? Now, they know exactly where Newfoundland is situated. They know exactly the natural resources that we have. They know that we are an energy powerhouse in developing energy that will help the Eastern Coast of the United States. These are the kind of things, so we are well-respected. In regard to anything that you do in the world, the first thing you have to gain is respect, even as a business person. If you are not a respectable business person, you do not have a respected business, more than likely you will not do well; you will be out of business in short order. Certainly, that reflects and transpires to the Province as well.

This government, under the leadership of the Premier and going out there and fighting for Newfoundland and Labrador in regard to anything, especially on the energy side and anything really that affects Newfoundland and Labrador in a derogatory manner, in a negative manner, he will fight for each and every Newfoundlander and Labradorian. He expects each and every one of us in this House of Assembly to do the same, to fight for Newfoundland and Labrador. That is essentially what we are doing, we are standing up, we are being counted and we are actually making a difference in regard to Newfoundland and Labrador and its place in society.

If we reflect back again in regard to the by-election up on the Northern Peninsula. Sure, the Premier said in regard to his press conference that night and that kind of stuff and some days after: Yes, we would love to win that district. That district is certainly dear to our hearts. We invested $130 million-odd into that district and we see it. We learned some valuable lessons in regard to that as well because the rank and file person out there, the voter of Newfoundland and Labrador, tend to forget all the good things that we have done in regard to the past budgets and addressing the fiscal situation that we found ourselves in, in regard to reducing personal income taxes, eliminating taxes on the auto insurance and that kind of stuff. You know, they forget that.

So you have to get to each one of the doors. You have to do that, and you have to talk to people when you are out. I do it myself in regard to when I am out to the grocery stores and whatnot, and I try to remind them, because God forbid, if we lose the leadership that we have right now, that is certainly the envy of all of Canada, as I have travelled within the country itself, I have heard time and time again: God, we wish we had a Premier like yours. So God forbid that we would lose him as a leader at this particular time. I will say this, that some point in time, I suppose a lot of people expect that we will lose him, but my idea of it all is that we should mummify him and keep him in the seat and do not let anybody know in Newfoundland and Labrador that he is dead. I think under just having him here, we will do much better than if we had somebody else in that chair. So I will say that there as well. I have said that, actually, publicly at times. I say it with some type of jest, because I am not sure if he would want to be mummified and put in that chair, but in the meantime, I would like to have him there myself, because I have all the admiration in the world. I will go back again to the admiration that I had for the particular Cabinet, the spring of 2004 and the Budget thereof.

I remember that was a hard budget. It affected a lot of people. A lot of people, when I was elected, you are thinking about all the good things that you can do; that is all you are thinking about. You are thinking about all the good things you do, but that is not reality either, as an MHA, sometimes you cannot accomplish it, you just cannot do it. The money is there in the Budget, actually there are reasons why maybe you cannot accomplish it. It might seem as logical as anything to you, but you just cannot do it, because it just does not fit the full strategy, the full picture. Everything has to fit the full picture.

There have been major things done in my district in regard to Central Newfoundland. We have made some great investments in Central Newfoundland now with the challenges that we have with the AbitibiBowater closure and that kind of stuff, which includes my district too, because we have a number of contractors in that area. Glenwood itself was founded on the forest industry, and certainly, were affected by that closure as well.

I reflect back in regard to the provincial roads program. When I started in 2003, we will talk about another cow path that people had to drive on, and that was the Gander Bay Road. The people down in Bonavista North, down in the Isles that came to Gander and that kind of stuff to support the economy there and the particular businesses, had to drive on a cow path. Again, the truck drivers had to put their false teeth in their top pocket in order to keep them in one piece or they would lose them on the floor or whatever it was, but right now I can say that over the last couple of years alone each and every kilometre of that particular road, which is very, very important to that sector of Central Newfoundland, each and every kilometre is repaved, re-topped except only another six kilometres. That is all that is left into it, which is very important, not only to us but important to Bonavista North. The Member for Bonavista North certainly recognizes that too, as well, because at times people from Gander will go down and visit tourist attractions or whatever it may be, going down to buy fish or whatever it may be. So it is all a give and a take area.

Then you look at the Trans-Canada Highway; the Trans-Canada Highway two years ago was recapped between Gander and Glenwood, which is very important because most of the people in Glenwood and Appleton work in the Gander area. So the road was - the Trans-Canada Highway was in poor condition so that was recapped. This year, which is still in my district, the whole Trans-Canada Highway between Lewisporte and Glenwood are now all recapped. This is major, major, major investments that are very, very important to me as an MHA and to my district.

The James Paton Memorial Hospital; the redevelopment is still under development. We have made investments in regard to the hospital in Grand Falls-Windsor which is really two partners in regard to providing quality health care to all the people of the region, all the Central Region. You have to think about that, because both of them are on both ends of really the region itself, the Central Region. So it is very important that they work in partnership and we keep investing. Not only have we invested in infrastructure, we have invested in new equipment, CT scanners and the like and endoscopy units. We have invested in a cancer treatment centre in Grand Falls-Windsor, another one in Gander, and dialysis in both places and mammography, state-of-the-art mammography, too, as well; big, big investments.

Education; there has been investments in my district in regard to Gander Collegiate. I remember about twenty years ago under the Liberal government there was temporary classroom units put in and twenty years later, lo and behold, they were still there. Anyways, this government saw that was not fit in regard to educating our kids. So they were removed and a new piece was built on and certain other things were done to that school as well. St. Paul's is being upgraded as well. Gander Academy is being upgraded as well. The CONA college has some upgrades there in Gander as well, and I can go on and on and on in regard to that.

My district has done well under this government. The sewer treatment plant out in Appleton-Glenwood, the water treatment plant in Gander, just to mention a few. We have done well. Municipal infrastructure money and the new cost ratios that came in, let's talk about that for a second in regard to rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Most of those rural communities now are only looking at a 90-10 split. They are affordable. They can do it, and I have seen things like that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: For every $100, they only have to (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER (Kelly): Order, please!

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

MR. O'BRIEN: Could I have an hour by leave, Mr. Speaker? I am just getting wound up. They are sitting there with bated breath. They are listening to every word, hanging on to everything that I am saying here, Mr. Speaker.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MR. O'BRIEN: I will clue up, Mr. Speaker. Well, clue up in regard to the – I am making too much sense for them. They do not want to listen to me any longer and they are probably even thinking about crossing the House, Mr. Speaker, because we are doing so well over here.

In regard to that municipal infrastructure money; I was out in Springdale, down in Baie Verte, down in King's Point, and one of the aspects and the things they brought forward - but they appreciated me coming. Number one, they wanted to thank me, from a government, as a government, as a minister of the government, in regard to that piece of work because it enabled them to expand and address some of the issues in regard to some of the services that they have to provide the residents, that up to this time they could not get it done.

These are the kinds of things when I get kind of hot under the collar in regard to people saying that we have not done anything for rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Well, Mr. Speaker, I will end by saying this, we have done a lot for rural Newfoundland and Labrador, but I will also say this, we will do a lot more for rural Newfoundland and Labrador in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is good to have an opportunity, the first time in this session, to get up to speak in the House to Address in Reply. I would like, at this time, to congratulate the new Member for the District of Terra Nova, and as well, the new Member for The Straits & White Bay North.

I know in February, 2007, I was elected in a by-election. It is certainly great to get out to knock on doors for the first time and to experience that electoral process and democracy in motion. Again, it is a great tribute to be able to be elected by people in your district. They chose you to be their spokesperson and to bring their concerns into the people's House, into the House of Assembly. It certainly is a privilege.

As I said, I think in the day when I gave my maiden speech, it is a noble profession. It has been quite a pleasure for me to represent the people of Ferryland District and I thank them again for giving me that opportunity. We are halfway through this term and it has been an enjoyable experience and worked on a lot of initiatives with community groups, individuals, towns, you name it, Mr. Speaker. There are a whole range of issues that you are dealing with; broad range. It is certainly enjoyable and it is a good learning experience, no doubt.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the Speech from the Throne, any Speech from the Throne, it is a vision of the government. It is where you need to go, where you want to go, where you have come from over the past few years in government, and what the direction is and where you believe you need to go for the people. Not just for the short term, Mr. Speaker, but for the long term; long-term vision, visionary.

This Speech from the Throne talks about things like sustainability. That is what this government represents. Sustainable futures, not just for our urban centres but for rural Newfoundland and Labrador and to make good public policy decisions now that ensure our communities are sustainable. Will the communities be the same as they always were? No, not at all; there have been changes in rural Newfoundland, certainly in my district since the closure of the cod fishery in the early 1990s. We have changed, but we have changed in regard to – in this government since 2003, government policy is directed towards rural Newfoundland on sustainability and on in rebuilding rural Newfoundland in terms of infrastructure.

We know through our natural resources we are developing - certainly seeing a lot of wealth being developed from them now. This government has taken the important step in terms of long-term sustainability to reinvest in our rural communities, our rural regions, to make sure there are options there; either industrial ones or from a residential point of view so people have options in their communities and in their regions, which is so important.

Mr. Speaker, I think I spoke of the word optimism. I think optimism is something in Newfoundland and Labrador that is alive and well. Alive and well because of this government and the actions that have been taken since 2004 and things we have done. One of the big ones over the last couple of years is the fact that we are no longer on equalization. Newfoundland and Labrador have taken our rightful place in this federation. People are looking to Newfoundland and Labrador now and what we are doing and the success we are having. That is very important in terms of the optimistic outlook that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have, knowing that we can make our own way. We are generating our own revenues, we are providing our services. In terms of contributing, we are a have Province in terms of this country. We are finding our way and doing it quite well under this government and certainly the leadership of Premier Williams.

Mr. Speaker, a lot of the initiatives that were talked about in the Throne Speech are a continuation of what this government has started. We look at things this year, over $800 million infrastructure investment and that is at a time when, globally, we know there has been a recession. Things in various parts of the world, basically due to commodities, the commodity markets were tied heavily to natural resources. There have been some struggles certainly in that area in terms of the mining sector. We know forestry - even in our fishery there are challenges.

With that alone, this government took the initiative that because of the prudent financial decisions we have made over the past couple of years, we were well positioned to be in that position where we could invest to stimulate the economy in these tough times to get us through this period so when the economy bounces back, which in some respects in the US and other parts of the world it appears we are on that road, it will bounce back and the effects on us will not be as great as it has been in other parts of the country, certainly other parts of the world. We have known that Saskatchewan, along with Newfoundland and Labrador - often by economists and others - have weathered the storm fairly well and doing well because of decisions that have made prior to the global recessions and during it. So we are doing well.

Mr. Speaker, a number of initiatives. I have mentioned infrastructure investment, as well in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and talked about poverty reduction. Today there was a report by the hon. Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment in terms of the government's Poverty Reduction Strategy. No doubt, we saw today and heard that it is indeed helping, is working. We are seeing a reduction in the number of people on Income Support. There are a greater number of people who are transitioning into the workplace from Income Support. That is attributed to the programs that are being developed by this government in terms of transitioning people into employment, various other programs, social programs that are of assistance to them.

This government, Mr. Speaker, is ensuring that the wealth, good economics that we are experiencing here, that no one gets left behind. We make sure that those in society that needs a helping hand gets that helping hand for things like transitioning into employment, into the workplace, whatever it is, and, no doubt, the Poverty Reduction Strategy is working and we move ahead with the next phase of that over the next number of years.

Mr. Speaker, again other investments we have seen, investment in education, unprecedented. I know from my district, meeting and talking to young people certainly in post-secondary in terms of the freeze on tuition in our post-secondary institutions. I mean that is held in high regards right across this country. It is not only in Newfoundland and Labrador, but now we are next to Quebec in terms of the lowest tuition fees in the country and it is a tremendous benefit to our people in terms of training, in terms of accessing education which is so important to our young people as we move ahead as a Province, economically and socially. So our young people can access education, and certainly, as we know, it makes for a brighter future and a well skilled workforce as we move ahead.

We see things like the interest on the provincial portion of the student loan was removed – another incentive by this government. Once again, looking to what we can do to enhance our young people in terms of them make that transition to post-secondary, and certainly on to career-related choices.

One of the things I had an opportunity to be involved with when I was Parliamentary Secretary to Human Resources, Labour and Employment, was the Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy. That process was, again, probably unheralded, in terms of what happened, where government actually went out, consulted with young people, consulted with young people here in Newfoundland, in Ontario, and in Alberta – those that had gone off to work. We wanted know - it was not government telling young people here is what you need to do, here is government policy, you need to follow it, it was an engagement process where government went out, asked young people, youth: What is it you need to make this Province a province of choice? What are the kinds of things we need to do as a government? What we heard back were - and I was part of that – some of the things we are already doing. Things like, I talked about post-secondary, in terms of incentives, in terms of tuition freeze, reasonable education, able to access education, transportation to education. Environmentally sound conservation policies, in terms of what our young people what to see, the type of world they want to see and type of province and country they want to see. Those initiatives were very important to our young people.

What was very unique in one of the sessions we had, one young person said: It is great to see a government that comes and asks us what do we think, and based on that, you take that, you bring it back and you develop public policy. Not only today, but as you move forward, you make them fully aware that it is a dialogue and it is a consultation process that is going to continue, and we need to hear - they are the leaders of tomorrow, and they need to be part of, as we move forward, public policy in whatever area it is in, Mr. Speaker. So that is key, Mr. Speaker, in terms of Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy, and that will continue on as we move forward over the next several years.

Mr. Speaker, also with government, I think it is very important we have taken a lead role in research and development with the recent development corporation, in terms of ocean technology and other biotechnologies. I think any time any industrialized country, if you look in terms of progress and where they move, you look at research and development – R&D is extremely important, any province, and country, in terms of how you develop expertise and knowledge, the post-graduate level, post-secondary, so forth and so on. It is just so important, and it is good to see the Province is certainly taking a lead role in that area, which pays dividends and makes us an expert in various areas, and helps in the attraction of research and in the area of academia as well.

Mr. Speaker, another initiative of this government, and I have certainly seen it in my district, is our concept of an energy warehouse. We are looking at an energy plan which was announced a few years back. The whole picture, whether it is wind development, hydroelectric, various other forms of energy development, we want to make sure that we have the capacity, we have natural resources, but we will build that capacity overall to make sure whether it is industrial or residential, we make the best opportunities we have for our residents and for industrial development.

In my own district, in Fermeuse, we have a wind generation plant now that is up and operating; nine wind turbines at twenty-seven megawatts that is hooked into the main grid. Certainly, from an environment and conservation point of view as well, we look at the reduction of the amount of oil that is burned at the Holyrood generating station and it looks at the big picture. In terms of investment, I know from speaking to business people in the region, in terms of that project, a tremendous spinoff in terms of transportation, accommodation, and those types of things. Certainly, it is a tremendous benefit to Fermeuse and the surrounding area. As I said, that is up and operational now, but once again highlights the government's commitment to its issue of its energy warehouse and a long-term energy strategy.

I will speak to the Lower Churchill development and some of the initiatives that we are working on there in terms of moving that project forward. No doubt, probably one of the most underdeveloped, or one of the last, biggest underdeveloped hydroelectric project in North America and just part of our plan as well.

We are looking at 2041, it is not short-term, and it is long-term in terms of our kids, their kids, in terms of the next thirty, forty years, where are we going to be. That is why this government, I spoke up in terms of being strategic and looking forward, the Speech From the Throne, it all ties together in terms of being sustainable, sustainability of our communities and Province, and certainly long-term in terms of a strategy of dealing with things like energy and we move down the line through the years ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few minutes just to talk about some of the initiatives in my district in terms of working with communities. We often hear some critics speak of rural Newfoundland. Amazingly, they may say we are not doing anything for rural Newfoundland or we are not investing in rural Newfoundland, and nothing can be further from the truth.

I also represent a portion of my district, the Goulds area, Big Pond and Middle Pond, which is part of the City of St. John's, so it is a unique cross of representing a portion of the largest city in the Province and yet representing two rural Newfoundland fishing communities, other communities which have needs which are being upgraded through things like water projects, road enhancements, community enhancements in terms of buildings and those types of things, Mr. Speaker, which are so important to the community and the fabric of our culture.

Mr. Speaker, as well, I will just touch on a couple of major initiatives in terms of tourism in the region, and supports to business and that sort of thing. The Colony of Avalon, certainly over this year, even though we had a global recession and the speculation was that tourism would be down, we were over 21,000 visitors. I just met this morning with a couple of representatives of the board, and the executive director, and we had an 8 per cent increase over prior years. That is fantastic, Mr. Speaker. That is good for the region, because it gets people into our region – over 21,000 - a tremendous spinoff.

Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, Portugal Cove South. A while back, I was up to the AGM in Portugal Cove South. Again, a tremendous initiative, we had an extension to the boundary in terms of the reserve this past year, recognizing the protection of those very rare, over 600-million-year-old fossils at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve. We are looking for UNESCO designation, a World Heritage Site. A process is in place; the Province has invested in that for the human resources and other needs that are required to get that done, and we are moving toward that.

Just recently, the Royal Ontario Museum was up and basically did a copy of those fossils, which will appear at some point in Ontario, in the Royal Ontario Museum; great exposure for it, great opportunity, and great investment for the region. In Joggins in Nova Scotia, they just recently got a designation about a year ago, and there are about 100 visitors per day in terms of visitations. So you can imagine, too, smaller rural communities, especially down on the southern Avalon, the type of investment that would be in terms of the community which has been struck hard over the years, certainly, but it is a tremendous investment, a tremendous opportunity, and this government is investing in it and we are working hard to see it happen, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank those volunteers who are involved with these non-profit groups and the boards. They do a tremendous job. They give a lot of time, they advocate, and they do the groundwork. I know the group in Portugal Cove South, even before the designation was there, they were out protecting the fossils to ensure that they could be developed at a future time, and were working toward it.

Mr. Speaker, I talked about investment in rural Newfoundland, and what this government has done. I will just speak on a couple of items, in terms of my district and investments being made, and what we are doing in terms of the smaller communities.

As I said, I have twenty-two communities that are less than 3,000, and some less than 100. With this government's initiative in terms of a 90-10 municipal split, in terms of what they have to pay, it has been a tremendous asset to my communities, the ones I represent, in terms of what they can do. I look at areas like St. Shotts, in terms of putting in a close to $300,000 new water system. That is on its way now, and has been tendered, and that is work that is being done.

I look at Trepassey, in terms of breakwater that was approved, and needed some assistance with that. That is underway now, or close to, a number of initiatives like that. We have invested, in the last couple of years, about $2.2 million on Trepassey Barrens and within Trepassey itself, to make sure the infrastructure is there and we can develop as we move forward.

In Portugal Cove South, another water project has just recently been approved, and they are in the process of going through it now, over $200,000. Those are small communities, Mr. Speaker, small communities in rural Newfoundland and Labrador that this government recognize and is not going to turn their back on. We are going to invest and we are going to upgrade them, and we are going to make sure the people living there have the services they require. That is the commitment this government continues to make, Mr. Speaker.

Right along, in the Town of Renews with the Regina Mundi Complex and cultural centre, just recently over $350,000 to upgrade that facility. Like I said, it is a cultural centre and it is so important to the region to make sure people have the place, and they identify where they are in their communities. That is important and we are moving forward with that too, Mr. Speaker.

In Ferryland, just recently we had half a million dollars approved for the Town of Ferryland, in terms of upgrades to their town roads. We are continuing to do that, to build on the roads. As well, just recently we had a new fire truck, a new pumper truck – $240,000 announced - to serve Brigus South to Aquaforte, in terms of making sure that the services are there for the region. I was up and met with the fire department, and they are certainly quite pleased. They are quite pleased in terms of the new pumper truck, and they are certainly looking forward in the next year to having that available to provide the services that are needed for the area.

Mr. Speaker, as well, we are seeing on the lower end of the shore, certainly, an increase in residential growth, and this government is working toward making sure we meet those challenges that come with that; but that is a good thing, and we will handle that.

Certainly, there are a few things in Mobile. My predecessor certainly worked on building a state-of-the-art school in Mobile. This year, or last year I guess it was, the final phase of that was completed, over a $12 million Grade 7 to 12 high school in Mobile, state-of-the-art, a great facility. That is built and completed now. The last, I guess, the multi-purpose field was just fenced recently, and it is, yes, state-of-the-art, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in Witless Bay as well, at St. Bernard's, we have invested $150,000 for a new roof. This year, due to the residential increase in young kids in the area, we have also engaged in - and it is started now - an $800,000 extension, three classrooms being built on, to meet the needs of the area. Again, Mr. Speaker, this is a government that is looking at what is needed, and stepping up and certainly meeting the requirements. The Town of Witless Bay, Mr. Speaker, over $3 million in terms of investment in road improvements and upgrades for the town; once again investing in the infrastructure that we need to invest in, in rural Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, as well, in the Town of Bay Bulls, working with the region from Bay Bulls to Bauline, I have to give compliments to the area and the volunteers. They created a Bay Bulls to Bauline Athletic Association a number of years ago. We received one of four regional recreation directors, through the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, and they ran with that and created a non-profit group, and ran with that. We have seen activities for our youth, for our seniors, you name it, right up through, and it is certainly tremendous. As a part of that, we advocated for a new lifestyle centre - that was just recently announced - close to a $5 million building that will be built. The first tender, I believe, is given for that, and it has started already. It is a tremendous asset for the region, and that is underway.

I look in the area of Goulds. Once again, we did upgrades to the primary school in Goulds – a new roof. That is underway and was completed over the last little while. Working with my colleague from Kilbride, we have seen a new soccer pitch just about completed, next to Goulds arena. We are working with the City of St. John's on a multi-capital work state-of-the-art soccer pitch, which is so needed, again, in the region of Goulds, which is growing. We have seen upgrades to the Southern Shore Highway in Goulds, as well, working on a number of initiatives there.

I guess my point is, Mr. Speaker, with all of that, those are initiatives that this government continues to work on. I am certainly pleased, as MHA for Ferryland, to be able to work with the community groups, the towns, to continue to work with this government. I think we are in the right direction. Certainly, the leadership of the Premier has been outstanding, and no doubt will continue to be. It is a privilege to represent the people of Ferryland District, and I certainly look forward to it. With that, I conclude my remarks.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair recognizes the hon. Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

It is certainly a delight for me to stand here today and speak on this issue this afternoon. Before I do, I know we have two new members in the House and I want to congratulate them. The Member for Terra Nova, who I spent a bit of time with in the last few weeks knocking on some doors out his way and meeting an awful lot of real, real good people. I always say, I never go somewhere in Newfoundland and Labrador that I do not fall in love with the landscapes. You go down that Eastport Peninsula and go out in places like Burnside, it is absolutely beautiful. I can see why people actually build homes and stay there and be there as much as they possibly can. I know there are a lot of seasonal homes there, but I can tell you, I can understand why they love to be there. The view of the ocean is certainly breathtaking. I have a friend of mine who just told me he had bought a piece of land in Sandy Cove. I can certainly see why he did it as well, again with a view of the ocean. It is a remarkable spot to be in, and I want to welcome the new Member for Terra Nova.

Of course, I also want to welcome the Member for The Straits & White Bay North. A gentleman who has been tormenting me with a few questions in the last few days, but I am certainly glad. It gets me on my feet and broken in and learning the ropes, as well. I certainly want to congratulate him. I, again, spent a fair bit of time down that way knocking on doors, too. As he reminded me yesterday, I did not win any awards down there. That was a fair comment and a good dig, and I am sure I owe him one for that. I want to welcome him here to the House –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FRENCH: I certainly want to welcome him here to the House. I know that this government was committed to the district before you became the MHA and left a big legacy down there over the last number of years when it comes to pavement and so on, and some things further to come down the road, I am sure you will see in the coming days. So again, congratulations.

A couple of things that we raised in the last couple of days, and I want to get into a little bit of the marketing stuff. Recently, my colleague asked me some questions concerning the Western DMOs, or Destination Marketing Organizations. I thought I would talk a little bit about them, just for the information of the House and for the general public out there. I guess, Mr. Speaker, it would be fair to say that this group came about as an arm's-length organization from government, from consultations actually, that started in 2004. It was a tourism product development strategy and it was funded by ACOA, was the group that funded it at that time. With consultation throughout the industry, it came up at that time that what we should do and the direction that we should take is to have DMOs.

I think in 2007, the Western DMO was first started off. Well, at that time I believe, I stand to be corrected – no, I have it here actually. Tourism, Culture and Recreation provided $50,000 in 2008, and $50,000 in 2009 for the Western DMO, and INTRD has provided $125,000 this fiscal year in 2009, and that was to initiate and start the Western DMO's marketing plan. Prior to that and still in existence is my understanding, there were twenty-eight regional marketing organizations around the Province. The member opposite would be very, very familiar with the Viking Trail Tourism Association. A group that markets, I guess the Northern Peninsula would be fair to say.

So what they decided to do, Mr. Speaker, because of the global marketplace that we are in now, I mean it is no secret, if you are hove off down in California looking for a spot to go you have to offer a package. We are competing in an international market. We are competing with places like New York. The big, beautiful City of New York, that offers an awful lot of things. We are competing against all the other provinces in our own country, Mr. Speaker. It is all about offering people a unique opportunity and not taking away from the regions of the Province. It is very important that I say that, because this is not about eliminating jobs in rural Newfoundland. It is very much the opposite. It is all about creating jobs in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

We have established now four marketing organizations. They have professional people in them. We have a marketing officer and a manager for marketing. I will get into it a little bit in a few minutes, but there is no secret how successful our marketing has been over the last number of years and it has taken off in leaps and bounds. That is why our provincial stakeholders thought that these marketing arms that are created, an arm's-length group from government, would be ideal. So, us in consultation with the ACOAs of the world and local industry and local groups, decided that this was the way to go, with everybody buying in and we would market as a region.

As well, Mr. Speaker, these people who work in the DMOs, Destination Marketing Organizations, also work with individual groups, individual associations, individuals tours, or whatever the case may be. They do not come up with a plan for the region and forget about the small people along the way. Actually, the small people all become part of the big, major plan. Like I said, when you are competing internationally now for this market, it is important that you offer a package. As beautiful as Gros Morne is, it is so much better when we market it with L'Anse aux Meadows, and it is so much better when we market it with the French Shore and Conche. So there are all kinds of things we can tie together to make a significant impact, versus doing it individually. That is how these DMOs came about. They came out of a 2004 consultation with all stakeholders. They are an arm's-length organization of government, certainly funded by many, many entities from the federal and provincial side.

I think the discussion we were having earlier about a reduction in staff. It is certainly not coming from the provincial government's reduction in funding. In actual fact, we have funded, I think it was the $175,000 I mentioned. We continually fund the Western DMO that amount of money. So I am thinking, and from some research that I have done, the position that was removed, or that the hon. member referred to, may have – and I am still no expert in what happened to that position, but my understanding is that there was a federal program that was applied for that was not funded again. That came from the Viking Trail Tourism Association. Anyway, so that was the issue. It was unfortunate, but it certainly does not take away from our provincial government's commitment to continue to fund our DMOs throughout the Province. Like I said, it is something we continue to do, and this came about because of consultation with the industry. This was not a flippant move by government. This was something that was well thought out, well planned and well researched.

Mr. Speaker, just to let on, this whole thing came from the Northern Peninsula and the Viking Trail Tourism Association, but it is important for people to note the amount of money that our department has put into that region actually provides hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to a variety of things. We have west coast based theatre, music, literary festivals, community events, heritage initiatives, things like the Writers at Woody Point literary festival. It is a significant event for our writers across the Province, and indeed now becoming more nationally known as well. Of course, as the hon. member would know, things like the St. Anthony Iceberg Festival, which is something else this Province contributes to and our department in particular.

Mr. Speaker, seeing I am on the list of accomplishments, things that we fund. I just want to point out some other things that our department funds on the Northern Peninsula to enhance our culture and enhance our cultural tourism as well. I guess the most significant thing that we have done in the shortest amount of time, is in 2009 we have had two new advertisements. I will read a little letter in a few minutes complimenting us on these advertisements. They feature L'Anse aux Meadows and Gros Morne National Park. So this is media buys that we as a government go out, our marketing division does, goes out and buys this and shows it all over the world. We target markets in Europe. We target markets in the U.S. and, of course, we do our own marketing here in the country as well. So this is just one example of a way we took an area, like the Northern Peninsula in this case and the Viking Trail Tourism Association brought them to the next level. Working with them, Mr. Speaker, and taking two significant, and two of the proudest things, two of the most beautiful things we have, probably, or as beautiful as many others here in this Province, and selling it on a worldwide stage.

As well, Mr. Speaker, we gave $174, 000 to the St. Anthony Basin Resources Inc. to help implement its tourism plan. We gave $86,757 to the White Bay Central Development Association to construct a bridge leading to the underground salmon pool near Roddickton, Mr. Speaker, and a place that I had the fortune enough to go myself and visit before the bridge was there. I think I had long rubbers on the day I was there, so it is good to know that you can do that now and walk over a bridge to get there.

As well, Mr. Speaker, $57,000 in season extension initiatives along the Viking Trail, including $20,000 to support the inaugural Iceberg Festival in St. Anthony that I mentioned just a few minutes ago. We put $36,000, Mr. Speaker, to restore Bide Arm's first structure, the Ashton House. It was actually floated, I think, to Bide Arm, if the story corrects me, and is now standing there in good stead, Mr. Speaker. It took them a bit of a while to do the work, but I certainly want to congratulate the people of Bide Arm, some of whom I know personally and worked on this file.

Mr. Speaker, we did $30,000 to the Town of St. Anthony toward a project designated to establish a 500-metre trail called Fish Point Walkway, that I am sure the hon. member is aware of as well.

Mr. Speaker, aside from that, we had $18,780 committed in visitor information centres in St. Anthony, Gros Morne and Hawke's Bay, all in the area where the hon. member earlier was referring to, that we were making cuts to jobs and taking away from tourist initiatives in that area. I can say to the hon. member, in all honesty, that is not where we are as a government, that is not where our department is, and certainly, Mr. Speaker, that is not where we are going. I can assure him we have done everything in our power to increase tourism throughout the region, the region he is referring to, and we continue to, and continue to work with the partners involved, Mr. Speaker. That is so important. If do not work with the partners involved, well you are in trouble, because these are the people who are on the ground, that know what is happening and know what needs to be done.

Just on that note, Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, after our few questions last week, I did have an e-mail and the e-mail was written to me, actually, by the chairperson of the Viking Trail Tourism Association. Mr. Speaker, I am supposed to speak with copious notes, but if you would allow me I will just reference a few little pieces of the letter. It goes on to say, Mr. Speaker, (inaudible) sent this letter addressing our disappointment with ACOA. So, Mr. Speaker, it was ACOA they were referencing and who they were disappointed with for not funding the project that the provincial government was being blamed for the other day. It had nothing to say about the Department of Tourism, I read on. I have been here for twenty-five years and I am most happy with the marketing efforts that your department has provided.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: More is always better, but what we received because of Millennium celebrations alone was wonderful. The ads for Viking Trail are awesome and we appreciate your support your department can provide. It also goes on, Mr. Speaker, to reference Minister Dunderdale who had visited her, personally, and how much she had appreciated it and talked business with the Deputy Premier.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is the kind of endorsements that our office and our department have been getting because of our commitment to tourism in this Province. Like I said, Mr. Speaker, to me, those kinds of endorsements do not sound like a group of people in marketing cutting jobs. That sounds like people who are quite happy with what we are doing. We have our bumps in the road like anybody else and I am sure we will to the end of time, but we are getting it right here in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, we are getting it right here in this Province and we are going to continue to.

Just to add to that, Mr. Speaker, here are some phenomenal numbers and you have to remember now, of course, that in the last twenty-four months and a little better, we have been in a worldwide recession. Some people say it is the biggest since the Great Depression, Mr. Speaker; however, it is very, very important that we realize that in this Province $847 million goes into the provincial economy from tourism in this Province. We are coming to $1 billion. Before long, we will be $1 billion industry in this Province and that is very, very significant.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, our uncommon potential-tourism vision calls for doubling that by 2020. I can assure you if I am left in this portfolio in 2020, we will be doubling those numbers. I am not so certain I will get that chance, but if I am, I will certainly be here to gloat about it at the time.

Mr. Speaker, we also have almost 13,000 direct jobs in the tourism industry, and as I referenced earlier, some tourism initiatives on the Northern Peninsula. We have tourism initiatives right throughout our Province to The Big Land in Labrador, from east to west, north to south here on the Island portion and in St. John's as well, but this is a significant number of jobs. I can assure you that a good many of those jobs, Mr. Speaker, are in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and some of them very, very good paying jobs.

Just to stay on that, last year non-resident spending increased by 1.5 per cent. You take that in perspective, when we are dealing with a worldwide recession, I would say the great number of the countries involved or provinces involved their tourism dollars have declined significantly. To be frank with you, our overall numbers are up, but marginally, certainly not up like we would like to have them. I think our projection next year is to be up 1 per cent. In the meantime, we saw a huge decline in our boats and our yachts coming to our shores, Mr. Speaker. So the cruise line business has been down; however, the rest has picked up enough to show an increase this year.

Mr. Speaker, these are just some of the things, some numbers that we have been pulling off in the worse of times, so it is important that we steady the course, continue on as we are going and I certainly look forward to being part of the department as we continue down this road.

Mr. Speaker, when I hear that we could be doing something to limit tourism in a region or an industry and then my colleague from Twillingate actually tells me that their numbers are up there. They have restaurants in their area up over 12 and 15 per cent, Mr. Speaker. There is another region of the Province that is experiencing growth in the tourism industry because of the investments we have put in, in advertising and marketing and the way we have strategically marketed as well, which is certainly very, very important.

Mr. Speaker, this did not happen by accident. This happened because we went out and we consulted. We consulted with groups like Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Speaker, they are very professional in their manners. I have had the opportunity, not yet to meet with their executives, but I have certainly met them on the fly, we will say, on occasion. I am looking forward to continuing that relationship that we have, Mr. Speaker, and agree to do things like we did during the last year, and that is market aggressively outside our Province to make sure that our numbers stay up and stay consistent.

Another thing that we took, Mr. Speaker, was to engage in non-marketing opportunities through our social media networking. As we all know in this room, our social network marketing is so, so important today where people are on Facebook, on different forms of the Internet, Mr. Speaker, and that is where the majority of people now plan their trips, sitting behind a computer at home. So, Mr. Speaker, it is so important for us to continue to expand on some of the initiatives in our broadband initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, that is all I have to say on tourism. I hope my hon. colleague for The Straits & White Bay North is now more informed on the Western DMO. Like I said, it is certainly not a slight; it is certainly not a rollback. It is actual fact, Mr. Speaker, and money has stayed the way it is. To quote the President of the VTTA: It is ACOA's funding that made the job go away. If the Leader of the Official Opposition would like a copy of the letter, I am sure the president of the association would be more than glad to share it with her and explain to her, as she has explained to me in the e-mail, and she reminded me that it had nothing to do with that group at all, this line of questioning. The criticism was not directed at government whatsoever. They were more than delighted with our recent ads, Mr. Speaker, and the recent growth in the area in tourism. Like I said, Mr. Speaker, I will continue to work with them.

I have to remind the House one more time that right now we are in over fifty awards because of tourism marketing. I recently, when walking through the department, ran by one of the staff's doors and they actually have a collage of pictures on the wall of all the different places, not only nationally but internationally, who are copying our awards. Places all over the world are taking our initiatives and our awards and copying them because they know the results we are getting. Mr. Speaker, I do not take that as an insult, I certainly take that as a compliment.

I thank you very much for this time, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

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

MS JONES: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to ask the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation if he could table the e-mail or the letter from which he was reading from and quoting from in his comments?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for the District of Port au Port.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CORNECT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is indeed an honour and a privilege, Mr. Speaker, to stand in this hon. House of Assembly, the people's House, to reply to the Speech from the Throne which was delivered by His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor John Crosbie on March 25 of this year.

MS JONES: (Inaudible).

MR. CORNECT: Mr. Speaker, the hon. Opposition Leader had her twenty minutes earlier and I would ask her for her respect so I can deliver my message here this afternoon.

I stand here today, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of the great cultural District of Port au Port. Certainly, I want to thank the constituents and the residents of the District of Port au Port in electing me to be their representative in the House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, when the Speech from the Throne was delivered, we were in the wake of a turbulent economic time that was felt worldwide. We weathered that storm pretty good, and we can attribute this accomplishment to the leadership and the management by this government and indeed by our Premier.

In the Speech from the Throne we talked about staying the course, and in 2003 we were faced with great challenges. We were in a very serious, serious situation. One that needed attention and leadership, and we delivered. We set forth a plan, Mr. Speaker, a blueprint as to where we wanted to go to take our Province. We needed to grow the economy and create long-term jobs. We needed to diversify our economy that will lead us to self-reliance, and Mr. Speaker, masters of our own house. We are doing this, Mr. Speaker. We are managing the affairs of the Province in a responsible way, in a way that the people of the Province approve.

In February of this year, Mr. Speaker, this government announced the increase in infrastructure spending for this year - an increase of over 50 per cent from last year, which made it a record $800 million in total infrastructure spending for the year 2009. Mr. Speaker, some of the areas where we spend: $277 million for transportation infrastructure; $156 million for educational facilities; $167 million for health care facilities and equipment; $103 million for municipal infrastructure; $28 million for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing infrastructure; $20 million for justice infrastructure, just to name some, Mr. Speaker.

Our government, Mr. Speaker, focused on projects that were ready, shovel ready, and would be ready fairly quickly. We acted quickly, Mr. Speaker, as well as this stimulus money, we knew that this stimulus money meant projects getting completed and putting people back to work and putting money in the pockets of our people.

In my district, Mr. Speaker, we have seen money for provincial roads, municipal water, municipal roads and repairs to schools. These projects and the initiatives bode well for the overall improvement of our communities and our Province.

Mr. Speaker, we look at our natural resources in the Province. We can be proud that now we are managing it properly and we are at the table with the players so that we can maximize on the share of the wealth so that we can continue to grow the economy, diverse the economy, implement good and sound programs for our people and continue to invest the necessary funds to health care, education and poverty reduction.

Mr. Speaker, I was appalled earlier this year when the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the NDP criticized our government for investing $20 million in the onshore oil and gas exploration on the West Coast of our Province.

MS JONES: (Inaudible).

MR. CORNECT: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is yapping away, it must be close to Christmas.

How dare the Opposition parties, Mr. Speaker, to refute the fact that we are willing to take the risk that this funding will provide companies to explore and drill for oil and gas in rural communities on the West Coast of this Province? This exploration will provide us and the oil and gas industry valuable information and data that will hopefully one day lead to commercial drilling in our rural communities.

Even in the exploratory stages, Mr. Speaker, there are many benefits to our communities and to our people. Jobs are created, Mr. Speaker, directly with the oil rig, spinoffs are huge as bed and breakfasts, housing, and equipment are needed. Mr. Speaker, it encourages others to get involved in the oil and gas play. I know firsthand how much hope and promise it instills in our people.

In the Town of Cape St. George, as oil and gas exploration continues, they did hit oil and gas of its purest kind, Mr. Speaker, and the people in my district are hopeful and encouraged that as more exploration continues that a find will be found; if not in Cape St. George, Mr. Speaker, hopefully in Parsons Pond or Flat Bay or Robinsons.

Mr. Speaker, we just launched our Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy. A strategy that will see government do whatever initiatives necessary to attract and retain our young workers who are important to our Province, and move forward and prepare for the opportunities that lie ahead. They will be for us, partners as we chart the course for a bright and energetic future.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, we worked hard to reduce poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have committed to over $132 million, this aimed at initiatives as we continue to eliminate poverty. Mr. Speaker, we are leading the country. We are the cutting edge with our initiatives to reduce poverty. We are the envy of the country and hopefully, other provinces will be following suit so that we can eliminate poverty in the whole of Canada. Since we introduced our Poverty Reduction Strategy we have provided adults with disabilities living with families the same board and lodging supplement as those living with non-relatives.

We expanded the eligibility for the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program to include low-income residents with the addition of the access plan and the assurance plan. We expanded the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Plan to enable thirteen to seventeen-year-olds in low-income families to receive the same coverage as children and youth in families that receive income support. We are committed to increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour by July of 2010 and I am proud to say that January 1, 2010 it will be up to $9.50. We are committed, Mr. Speaker, and we will deliver.

We have increased labour market participation for persons with disabilities. Also, we expanded to thirty days the period prescribed for exemption and overlap of benefits as an incentive provided to income support clients who want to go to work. We also expanded to more areas of the Province and increased the overall level of support for the community youth network. We also provided free textbooks for all students in the Province from K-12. We have increased the instructional grant provided for schools to cover prescribed materials by eliminating fees. We implemented an affordable housing program for both seniors and persons with disabilities in this Province. We have increased funding for the Kids Eat Smart Foundation. We expanded on the adult education program as well. We established a provincial homeless fund. We established a supportive living community partnership program as well, and provided a job start benefit to support clients who need income support for work. Mr. Speaker, these are just some of the initiatives under our Poverty Reduction Strategy, something that I am very proud to be a part of on this team.

Mr. Speaker, this government has placed a high priority on the quality of education of our students and has made significant investments, especially in my district. Since 2007, approximately $1.6 million was spent on projects, roof repairs, window replacement, brick and siding, skilled trades' equipment, electrical upgrades and so on. Mr. Speaker, all ten schools in my district had work done. Work that needed to be done, I may add.

The Provincial Roads Improvement Program, Mr. Speaker, is part of our government's infrastructure strategy. This year the program is valued at over $70 million and it is an important piece of infrastructure in our Province. I am proud to say, Mr. Speaker, that over the last three years nearly $3 million was invested in my district for road improvements.

I want to take some time, Mr. Speaker, as well, to congratulate the Towns of Cape St. George and Lourdes who celebrated their fortieth anniversary as incorporated municipalities this year. The Town of Kippens celebrated theirs just last year. I certainly want to take this opportunity as well to thank the many volunteers in those towns whose determination and commitment make all of our communities proud and productive. Also, I want to congratulate the Kippens Whaleback Seniors Club on their thirtieth anniversary and the Seniors Leisure Club of Port au Port West on their twentieth anniversary. These are two very active and vibrant groups that promote wellness and participation among our seniors.

This year, Mr. Speaker, marked as well the thirtieth season of the Stephenville Theatre Festival. Congratulations are certainly in order for its longevity, success, and its vibrant and successful productions over the years.

Mr. Speaker, when we delivered the Budget in April of this year we had projected a time, we had forecasted a deficit of almost $750 million. Just last week, my hon. colleague the Minister of Finance and the President of Treasury Board gave us a financial update and said that now we are forecasting $443 million deficit for the year 2009-2010. An improvement of $307 million over the Budget forecast. That, again, is reflective of the management and the responsibility that this government takes as a priority to get our house in order.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to talk about health care for a little bit. In health care alone, a record $2.6 billion is being invested for health and community services. In our Budget we talked about an additional $3.5 million this year to hire three new salaried physicians; $2 million to advance professional development activities in the regional health authorities to enhance their capacity to address workforce recruitment and retention needs; $1.6 million to expand the School of Nursing by ten seats, the School of Pharmacy by twenty seats, the School of Social Work's bachelors' program by fifteen seats and the Social Work masters' program by fifteen seats, and $450,000 to create a social worker for the fast track program. Also, we are investing $16.5 million, $24.6 million annualized to support a $1.71 per hour increase in subsidy rates for home care support workers.

In speaking about health care, Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not give kudos to our government for investing in a sixty-four slice CT scanner at Sir. Thomas Roddick Hospital in Stephenville. As well, in Budget 2009, we are committed to putting an endoscopy unit in Sir. Thomas Roddick Hospital in Stephenville.

Also, in our Budget and in our Speech from the Throne, Mr. Speaker, we said that we were committed to the creation of a new department with the responsibility for Child, Youth and Family Services. I am very happy and proud that this department is now set up and underway. I am very proud as well, that the Premier, our hon. Premier, has named my colleague, whom I share the Town of Stephenville with, the hon. the Member for St. George's-Stephenville East, as the Minister Responsible for Child, Youth and Family Services.

We also in our Budget talked about violence prevention. We allocated $100,000 for the Multicultural Women's Organization to support the integration of multicultural women. We also increased funding for the eight women's centres across the Province; $304,000 to support a Specialized Family Violence Court; $94,000 for enhanced employment readiness services for women; $60,000 provided to Rigolet to help in planning for a safe house in that community; $100,000 for a Province-wide media campaign to prevent male violence against women.

Mr. Speaker, these are initiatives in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, as I may add. When we hear the Opposition criticizing our government for not taking care of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, we are neglecting rural Newfoundland and Labrador; nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, in infrastructure money, infrastrucute spending, 80 per cent of monies in spending is allocated to communities in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CORNECT: I may add, Mr. Speaker, that a lot of the members in the Opposition are in rural Newfoundland and Labrador and we are investing in spending in those communities as well, but we never hear the Opposition talk about those investments.

Mr. Speaker, to conclude, I want to say that I am proud to be part of this team, this caucus and this government that has the vision and the foresight to bring prosperity for our Province. Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, what we have done in six years? Give us another ten and I tell you, this Province will be tops in the country and particularly in North America.

Mr. Speaker, let there be no doubt about it, the facts speak for themselves. The budgets and our blueprint for the Province says it as well, that rural Newfoundland is definitely a priority of this government and I tell you, Mr. Speaker, rural Newfoundland and Labrador, the whole Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and its people are a priority to this Province, and a priority to this MHA. I am proud to stand here, to be on this team that takes care of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you.

Merci, Monsieur le Président.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move, seconded by the hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services that this House do now adjourn.

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

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow, being Tuesday.

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